Working Group

Geopolitics of the Forest

Clear Cut, Umeå Summer 2022. Photo: Ele Carpenter

The Geopolitics of the Forest working group meets regularly to share their research on the geopolitics of the forest across art, architecture, political science and landscape ecology. The group are exploring how to develop holistic and interdisciplinary understandings of the human / forest relationship that can represent multiple, overlapping and conflicting interests. They aim to develop a shared critical space for new collaborative artistic research projects which deal with the ethical complexities of forestry in relation to the climate crisis, to reconsider the language and aesthetics of sustainability.

The meetings investigate multidisciplinary approaches to the human and nonhuman entanglements of the forest in Northern Sweden. Research questions investigate the ethical aesthetics of different kinds of woodlands and their material and geopolitical networks.

The Geopolitics of the Forest Working Group is chaired by Luis Berrios-Negron, UmArts Research Fellow in Art and Architecture. Members include: Gerd Aurell, artist; James B. Brown, architect; Sofia Johansson, curator; Toms Kokins, architect; Lars Östlund, forest historian; Edith Marie Pasquier, artist; Janina Priebe, political science; Moa Sandström, Sámi studies; Per Sandström, landscape ecologist, and many others who come to share their research, practices and ideas.


Wed 8 Nov 23 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Green Dreams and Workforce Realities

The workshop welcomes scientists from SLU, Umeå University, and Skogforsk to explore future research collaborations. It focuses on defining “green dreams” in Swedish forests, delving into ideals linked to sustainability, environmental, and economic concerns in the industry.

The workshop will address the evolution of labour in Swedish forests, examining diversified roles and the composition of the labour force, including local, migrant, and gender perspectives. It further explores labour conditions, rights, and stakeholder involvement. Additionally, it considers migrant labor regulations and aims to strike a balance between environmental goals and labour needs in the Swedish forest industry.

The Workshop will take place in Uppsala and Umeå titled ‘Green dreams and workforce realities: Swedish forests and forest labour’, and is run by the SLU Future Forests platform.

In Umeå we invite researchers including artists, architects, designers and scientists who would like to come together to remotely join the Uppsala workshop and have our own dialogue about the questions raised in the workshop and our future research collaborations. More info here and booking details here.

Thu 9 Nov 23

At the Vanguard of Colonialism

At the Vanguard of Colonialism: Global Perspectives on Timber Colonialism during the Age of Industrialization

9-10 November 2023

Toms Kokins will present his research on Sweden’s contemporary Timber Empire at this online conference taking place at the University of Uppsala, Sweden.

Thu 26 Oct 23 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Toms Kokins Presentation

Toms Kokins will present his research project artworks investigating Sweden’s Timber Empire at the UmArts Research Studio. This will be the last chance to see the work before it is de-installed to get ready for the next Small Visionary Project event. We are pleased to announce that Toms will present his project at Bildmuseet in 2024.

We invite members of the Geopolitics of the Forest Working Group and related researchers to join us for an informal gathering at 4pm, with hot drinks and ginger biscuits.

Wed 6 Sep 23

Repairing, Mitigating, Remediating

Repairing, Mitigating, Remediating: a transhemispheric colloquium on forests and riparian zones in the context of decolonial action, geoengineering, and global warming.

Presentations by: Eliza Maher Hasselquist (Ecologist, SLU, Sweden), Lina Polvi Sjöberg (fluvial morphologist UMU, Sweden).

Teleconference performance talks by: MADEYOULOOK (artists, South Africa), and Karla Claudio Betancourt (artist, Puerto Rico).

Organised and moderated by Luis Berríos Negrón as part of his UmArts postdoctoral research fellowship with Umeå School of Architecture and Bildmuseet.

Sat 26 Aug 23

Tankar i hatten, Film screening: KF Huset, Nordmaling

Tankar i hatten (Thoughts in the Hat) 29 minutes. A film by Gerd Aurell and Micael Norberg.

The film circles around the relationship between a man and the northern forest. We meet Magnus Sjögren, archeologist, musician and activist who walks with us on winding gravel roads and tells us a love story from the past. When Magnus was in his twenties he was searching for a place to stay and he was told about an empty cabin outside Vuollerim. He drives there full of anticipation but when he arrives the curtain moves and someone peeks out. ‘Thoughts in the Hat’ is a film about love, between two human beings, but also between a man and the forest. In Magnus´search for the rare northern orchid Nornan, these two tracks intertwine.

Supported by an UmArts Small Visionary Project award.

Directors: Gerd Aurell and Micael Norberg.

Producer: Gerd Aurell

Camera: Micael Norberg

Editing: Micael Norberg

Sound: Daniel Westman

Music: Magnus Sjögren and Norrlåtar

Thu 4 May 23

Forest Working Group Meeting 4

The Forest Working Group Meeting, UmArts Research Studio. With presentations by Sofia Johansson and Per Sandström.

Sofia Johansson will present her ongoing curatorial work for an exhibition about the Forest which will open at Bildmuseet in March 2024. It will be a group exhibition about human relationships to the forest and their political and ecological entanglements.

Sofia Johansson is a curator at Bildmuseet. She has an MA in Art History and Museology from Umeå University and has been working at Bildmuseetsince 2010.

Per Sandström will present ongoing research material in map form about the design and realisation of Umeå region’s ‘renoduct’ (bridging infrastructures facilitating reindeer migrations across human obstacles). As published in The Guardian  “ “In a changing climate with difficult snow conditions, it will be extra important to be able to find and access alternative pastures,Per Sandström, a landscape ecologist at the Swedish university of agricultural sciences, told the broadcaster (SR). Global heating is having a devastating impact on Sweden’s 250,000 reindeer and the 4,500 indigenous Sami owners who are authorised to herd them, with some winter grazing lands still recovering from unprecedented droughts and wildfires.”

Per Sandström (PhD) is a landscape level, wildlife biologist/ecologist. He is an Associate Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) where he leads and participate in several projects addressing land use impacts and planning, usually in relation to reindeer husbandry. His research cover diverse and often multidisciplinary approaches incorporating both scientific, and indigenous and local knowledge systems.

Fri 19 Nov 21 9:00 am – 12:00 pm

Forest Working Group Meeting 3

Umeå School of Architecture, Conference Room.

Presentations by: Madeleine Eriksson on Forest Labour, and Moa Sandstrom on Sami art activism and the forest.

Discussion with Per Sandstrom, Ele Carpenter, Gerd Aurell, Toms Kokins, James Brown, Sangram Shirke, Robert Mull, Amalia Katapodis, Sofia Johansson.


“Finally, aside from the obvious conclusion of our study

that new and drastic forestry methods should never be

applied on a broad scale without thorough analysis of the

long-term effect, it is also clear that a too homogenous

cadre of like-minded professionals working across commercial

companies, state agencies and even universities is

dangerous. This might still be the case in Swedish forestry”

Lars Östlund , Sandra Laestander, Gerd Aurell, Greger Hörnberg (2021) The war on deciduous forest: Large-scale herbicide treatment in the Swedish boreal forest 1948 to 1984.

Thu 28 Oct 21 9:00 am – 1:00 pm

Forest Working Group Meeting 2

9am -1pm UMA Conference Room and group lunch

Presentations by: James Brown, Architecture and the Forest; Per Sandstrom, SLU, Landscape Ecology; Toms Kokins, UMA, Swedish Timber Empire.

Discussion with: Moa Sandstrom, Per Sandstrom, Gerd Aurrel, Edith Marie Pasquier, Francesco Camilli, Toms Kokins, Ele Carpenter, James Brown.

Fri 17 Sep 21

Forest Working Group Meeting 1

Online meeting followed by mushroom walk in the Gammlia Forest where we found a beautiful Carl Johan or Porcini mushroom for supper!

Presentations by: Gerd Aurell, Camilla Sandström, Moa Sandström, James Brown.