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.

Meetings and Events

Fri 15 Mar 24

Eight Degrees: exhibition at Bildmuseet

Working Group members Gerd Aurell, Toms Kokins and Edith Marie Pasquier are participating in the Eight Degrees exhibition of contemporary art on the forest at Bildmuseet from 15 March 2024 until 12 January 2025. More info here.

The exhibition brings together contemporary art exploring our complex relationship with the forest, ranging from ideas of an inviolable intrinsic value to the conception of something to be utilised, such as an economic asset or a space for recreation. What is a forest? And what pressing questions about it are relevant here and now?

Through photography, film, sculpture, drawing, textiles, sound, and installations, the artists invite us to reflect on the forest, observed and depicted from various perspectives and with diverse experiences. Their works provoke questions about tradition and future, forestry practices, land conflicts, biological diversity, and the forest as a sacred space.

The exhibition title Eight Degrees references Jörgen Stenberg’s eponymous poem.

Thu 25 Apr 24 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm

Fires of the Forests of Norrland

The Geopolitics of the Forest Group will host artist and researcher Ignacio Acosta along with forest ecologist and historian Lars Östlund to discuss fires and land stewardship in the forests of Swedish Norrland. Ignacio will make a presentation based on his research focusing on “understanding Indigenous land stewardship” and “the negative impacts of the nation state disrupting traditional Indigenous ways of managing the land, where burning is one important aspect.” As expert respondent, Lars will co-moderate a follow-up conversation with Ignacio, chaired by Luis Berríos-Negrón.

Lars Östlund is Professor at SLU’s Department of Forest Ecology and Management. He is focusing on “forest history” where he works to try and understand the relationship between people and the forests from a long time perspective.

Ignacio Acosta is an artist and researcher based at Uppsala University’s Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism, working in territories under pressure from extractive industries. He leads a FORMAS funded project ‘Indigenous perspectives on forest fires, drought and climate change: Sápmi’ based at CEMFOR, Uppsala University. He is part of Traces of Nitrate, a UK AHRC funded collaborative visual research project based at the Royal College of Arts and the University of Brighton. Please see more on Ignacio’s project on forest and fires in Sápmi at:

More info on Ignacio’s research:

For more details contact UmArts research coordinator Clara West at

Fri 1 Nov 24

Geopolitics of the Forest Symposium

The Geopolitics of the Forest Working Group will be hosting a symposium about their research at Bildmuseet in conjunction with the Eight Degrees exhibition. Details to follow.

Wed 8 Nov 23 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Green Dreams and Workforce Realities Workshop

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 Conference

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

9-10 November 2023, Uppsala, Sweden.

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 Closing research event

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 Colloquium

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.

A transhemispheric panel debate about forests and riparian zones in the context of decolonial action, geoengineering, and global warming. The presenters will address different perspectives in art and science research related to hemispheric structures and epistemologies of forests in the context of black imaginaries, ecosystem functions, riparian zone restoration, ethnobotany, and indigenous mythologies. The presentations lead to consider forms and actions that may provide fruitful differences between repair and reparations, conservation and mitigation, remediation and re-mediation. The context is also set to challenge so-called ‘geoengineering’, as technoscience and ideology, hopefully suggesting other pathways through which to transition-away from global warming through concern with, and processing of, climate injustice.  The visual, technical, and emotional languages of the session will offer dialogues with the Earth, particularly in manners in which geography, geology and colonial memory are being revised and treated through: geopoetics and geo-aesthetics; biodiversity as force to resist and diverge from global warming; by scientific research and technical restorations of forests, rivers and their riparian zones that consider ancestral legacies; and the repositioning of hemispheric perspectives.

Karla Claudio Betancourt is a Puerto Rican artist working primarily in sculpture, illustration, text, photography, and video. Her practice is guided by research on ethnobotany and indigenous mythology, history and plant knowledge. She carries independent and collective investigations under various project names, including “el matojal” and “la recolecta” studying, among others, the potential of local soils and wild plants for food, medicine, and as raw materials for craft or construction. She has collaborated with educators, botanists, chefs, artisans, activists and other artists in the island by facilitating workshops and creating low-cost publications to preserve/disseminate plant knowledge. Both her collaborative and personal practice are guided by the belief that “living diversity in nature corresponds to living diversity in culture”, as activist and ecofeminist Vandana Shiva states in her book “Monopoly of the Mind” (1993).  For more information see

MADEYOULOOK is a Johannesburg based artist duo between Molemo Moiloa and Nare Mokgotho, operating since 2009. The works of MADEYOULOOK take as their point of departure everyday black practices that have either been historically overlooked, deemed inconsequential or simply had limited rigorous engagement, particularly within the formal houses of knowledge production. These works encourage a re-observation of and de-familiarisation with the everyday and the spacing of black imaginaries. In reworking and interrupting how we view ordinary black lived experiences and the everyday, we are ‘made to re-look’ and question societal relations. MADEYOULOOK then makes a claim for everyday black lifehood and relationality as constituting knowledge and having the ability to model ways of practicing and being. These everyday practices have the potential to bring about different perspectives to enable epistemic shifts and create new possibilities. For more information see

Eliza Maher Hasselquist is a Lecturer and Ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Umeå. Her research focuses on the historic, current, and potential future impacts of forest management, and the forest sector in general, on waterways and their associated wetland habitats. Her background in natural resource management, and use tools from community ecology, stream ecology, biogeochemistry, and hydrology leads her to test hypotheses about ecosystem functioning and biological communities in applied systems. Her study of the effects of ecosystem management on waterways and wetlands include: instream management actions like restoration of geomorphic complexity or simplification with forest drainage ditch maintenance; different land management practices adjacent to waterways in terms of why and how to leave riparian buffers; and how forestry practices in peatlands, typically associated with forest drainage, can be improved to meet water quality and quantity goals. For more information see

Lina Polvi Sjöberg is Associate professor at Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, and is a Researcher in fluvial geomorphology with focus on rivers and streams at Umeå University. Her research is focused on how streams in northern Sweden form and develop. She is interested both in how physical processes like sediment (e.g., sand, gravel, cobbles) transport and how the ecological processes and characteristics recover after restoration. Many streams in northern Sweden that were impacted by timber-floating through channelization have been restored during the past 10-20 years. Since restoration is a disturbance in itself, it can take time for aquatic and riparian organisms to recover. Part of her research examines which physical factors, such as the local geomorphology, geomorphic complexity, and larger landscape-scale factors, affect how the ecology of streams recover after restoration. For more information see

Luis Berríos Negrón is a Puerto Rican environmental artist and experimental architect concerned with the forms and forces of global warming. His research and practice has focused on the greenhouse as a support structure to colonial memory. In 2021 he undertook an artists’ residency at the Para La Naturaleza environmental NGO post-hurricane reforestation project in Puerto Rico. As a Research Fellow at UmArts in partnership with Umeå School of Architecture and Bildmuseet, Luis is researching the tree nursery as subset of the greenhouse to investigate and contrast perspectives between Scandinavia and the Caribbean, offering transhemispheric perspectives that aim to rethink reforestation and biodiversity beyond colonial enframings.

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 is a curator at Bildmuseet. She has an MA in Art History and Museology from Umeå University and has been working at Bildmuseet since 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 & Displacement Working Group Joint Meeting

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

Welcome Meeting & Forest Walk

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.

Thu 1 Jan 70