In Forest Intervals / Responding to the Forest’s Call

Can you sense the Forest Calling? Let this programme take you through overlapping intervals of past and present futures, as a chronicle of travel between a capital city, an exhibition, and a specific piece of forest – a public artwork. Through an assemblage of movements, soundtracks, histories, temporalities and relationships with other life forms, we emerge as participants and collaborators.

In Forest Intervals / Responding to the Forest’s Call is a full-day public programme engaging ecological and relational entanglements within Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzéns work Forest Calling – A Never-ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge.

Through the project, the forest – located on the historical grounds of Fogelstad estate – is lifted out of its predetermined context and becomes a kind of resistance to the Western teleological concept of time. The forest lives on in a different temporality, where a time axis from the Fogelstad group is allowed to continue instead of being broken through clearcutting. By allowing the forest to remain, the anthropocentrically predetermined, profit-driven cyclical temporality that the forest is part of today, is instead broken.

Contributors: The Association Forest Calling: Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzén (SE); Maria Thereza Alves (BR); Katarina Bonnevier (SE); Åsa Elzén (SE); Becoming-Sensor: Natasha Myers, Ayelen Liberona and Allison Cameron (CA); Merete Røstad (NO); Pella Thiel (SE)

Contributions take the form of audio lectures, soundscapes, live performance, text, and mutual activations.

The work is one of twelve awarded projects within Public Art Agency’s nationwide open call Lokala konstprojekt, in which locally engaged art projects, initiated by artists or art organisations, were invited to apply for collaboration on mutual knowledge development (2018-2020).

The program includes a visit to the exhibition Notes on a Fallow – The Fogelstad group and earth by Åsa Elzén, curated by Joanna Nordin, at Sörmlands museum.

The public programme is produced by Public Art Agency Sweden/Annika Enqvist and Andria Nyberg Forshage in collaboration with Malin Arnell, Åsa Elzén and Joanna Nordin/Sörmlands Museum – part of Region Sörmland.

Introduction to In Forest Intervals / Responding to the Forest’s Call by Annika Enqvist and Andria Nyberg Forshage.

[Note: this text is a transcript of the audio piece (2020)]

Welcome onboard our journey.

My name is Annika Enqvist, Head of Public Programmes at Public Art Agency Sweden. Today, we will travel together to experience the work of a number of artists, curators, activists and scholars, who have been invited to contribute to this programme in order to take the notion of Forests on a walk.
I would like to start by giving you some background to why we are here today.

Public Art Agency was founded in 1937 as a government agency under the Ministry of Culture in Sweden. Amongst the projects we have produced during these 80+ years are important artistic comments on the development of Swedish society.

The organisation was founded at a time when the Swedish welfare state was in a phase of rapid change and growth. Today, we are in another phase of intense change and there is a great need to find new ways to formulate the idea of the public and the role of artists.

The core of Public Art Agency is exploring and developing the interaction between contemporary art and public space. We work with an explicit aim to develop and further increase the possibilities for artists to work in new fields of society.

For us, public art encompasses all forms of contemporary art shown in public spaces or art that address the idea of publicness. Hence, public art operates on relational and conceptual levels as well as consisting of physical objects. Similarly, public space does not only consist of build environments, the streets and squares, but also the social and mental space formed by exchange of ideas and critical reflections. And of course, outside the urban norm as well, in forests for example.

A democratic ambition is at the foundation of our mission, a belief that art has an important role to play in society and should be accessible to everyone. That art not only enrichen society but has a role to challenge us, our views and values. That it brings existential, sensuous, tactile and aesthetic qualities and stimulate us to reflect on society, on power structures, on histories and how we relate and behave to one another and to the more than human.

Part of our job is also to think and rethink how memory art-works or memorials can be created in an experimental way in the intersection between art, architecture and landscape, and how art can negotiate and relate to placemaking, history making, politics and norms.

Who and what to remember and in what way? Who and what to morn or celebrate? And last but not least what is forgotten and why. For what is made unseen and forgotten is sometimes more telling than the sculpture on a pedestal in the middle of the town square.

The idea of today’s programme starts with the public art work titled:

Forest Calling – A Never-ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge by the artists Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzén.

In fact it started already two years ago, in 2018, when we at Public Art Agency Sweden organized an Open Call reaching out to self-initiated public art projects run by artists, curators and non-profit local art organizations to collaborate with us with an aim to develop new ways of thinking and doing around public art and the notion of publics.

The projects all chose their own place, situation, concept and defined which publicness they were to explore before submitting to the open call. It has resulted in 12 ongoing collaborative pilot projects whereof Forest calling is one.

In this particular work a piece of woodland of some 3 hectares, located close to the lake Aspen in Julita, Katrineholms Municipality) is rented for at least 50 years from 2019.

The forest is related to the iconic pacifist, feminist and environmental activist group Fogelstad, who among other things ran the Women Citizen’s School at Fogelstad (1925-54) and who was strongly involved in the so called “land issue”, which can be said being part of a further discussion about ecology and sustainability.

In the work Forest Calling, the artists are exploring the possibilities of securing a legal protection for a forest previously owned by Fogelstad farm.

A legal document is formulated (A Forest Agreement), draws up the guidelines for what it can mean to ensure an agency or a subjective agent for the forest and its survival into the future.

Here, the forest becomes a monument — an on-going, transformative, and performative public artwork – that both honor the practice of the Fogelstad group and becomes part of contemporary politics regarding designed living environments.

Hence, today’s programme has been developed and co-curated as a collaboration between Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzén, Sörmlands museum with Joanna Nordin and Andria Nyberg Forshage and me, Annika Enqvist at the Public Art Agency.

And my colleague Andria Nyberg Forshage will soon continue this introduction by going through the themes, theories and thinking that informed us and our contributors in making this programme.

So to end I just want to mention that along the way from Stockholm to our first stop there is presentations to listen to in headphones. We will let you know when it’s time to start to listen to a piece so we can do it together.

We are also honored to have some of the contributors to the programme along with us on these two buses. We have the artists Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzén, Katarina Bonnevier, researcher, artist and architect as well as Pella Thiel, ecologist and representative of the network Rights of the Forest. Please take the opportunity to approach them with questions when convenient.

Our first stop after about 1,5 hours on this bus is at Sörmlands museum where we will take part of live presentations, see Åsa Elzen’s exhibition Notes on a Fallow – The Fogelstad group and earth, before we continue our ride to the specific piece of forest, the public artwork Forest calling.

So do you hear the forest calling?

Forest Calling, by Annika Enqvist


In Forest Intervals

by Andria Nyberg Forshage

One. Intervals

We travel in forest intervals, catching glimpses through the trees and windows. We move and are moved by a continuous movement grasped in discrete parts, demarcated as hectares, meters, dates or minutes. As we pass by, we can point to each in turn: a forest, a city, a road, a museum, an agency, an artwork, another person, a self, an us, we, or, wait, what, who?

Each item on the list is bound up by definition, backed by power – but when looking for their boundaries, we cannot help but blink and miss. Where does a forest end? A forest has no single definition. It stretches across groups of trees, through private properties, public domains, common senses and institutional belongings.

Some well-known and deeply troubled demarcations include the lines between public and private, human and non-human, self and other, nature and culture. At each side of these lines, we might find forests: they can be gatherings or resources, familiar or strange, left out or fenced in, planted or primeval, or all or none of the above.

Regardless, at each dividing line, at every interval – an excess appears, which carries over, crossing demarcations with the force of an addition or subtraction; the force of an escape.

Two. Programme

Feminist scholar Donna Haraway, with a characteristic turn of phrase, inverting every line at once, wrote in 1992 that “nature is the place to rebuild public culture.” In this public programme, exploring and revolving around the public artwork Forest Calling – Never-ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge by Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzénwhich engages with a forest as a place, participant, contaminant, co-conspirator and collaborator, we might hope to gain a sense of what Haraway was advocating.

As a programme, In Forest Intervals / Responding to the Forest’s Call is a hybrid, involving human and more-than-human subjects, manual and motorized movements, offline and online platforms, in different modes of time and access. I am very happy to present a range of contributions in the form of audio presentations, soundscapes, texts, performance, and mutual activations. The programme intertwines art and research, making knowledge sensuous and senses knowledgeable.

In the first interval, with Rights of the Forest – Rules for a Wild Relationship, Pella Thiel, of Rights of Nature Sweden, elaborates a proposal of nature rights into an ethic of relations, revealing our interdependence with the wild.

The collaborative works of Becoming-Sensor for a Planthropocene by Natasha Myers, Ayelen Liberona and Allison Cameron, then engages an expanded human-plant sensorium to sow seeds of resistance to the Anthropocene.

When we reach Sörmlands museum, after coffee and instructions for social distancing while visiting the space, Åsa Elzén and Joanna Nordin will give an introduction to Åsa Elzén’s exhibition, Notes on a fallow – The Fogelstad group and Earth, with a special film screening.

Following the lunch, we return in groups to the exhibition for a performance by Katarina Bonnevier, titled NIGHT TIME TREE CULT.

After this, we depart again, heading for the forest.

In this interval, Merete Røstad’s Dancing Forests and other stories provides artistic research into the work Forest Calling, developing a notion and an aesthetic of the participatory monument, asking how memory and the public interact.

Before we arrive, Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzén give a presentation of their project Forest Calling – Never-ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge, after which we land and head into the trees.

In the last interval of the day, upon our exiting the forest and returning for the city, Maria Thereza Alves brings what she notes as “an interruption” in the trip, bringing us voices from the struggles against deforestation of the Atlantic Forest: her own, and those of Romulo and Maria das Dolores of the Oliveira family, entwining issues of language and land use in the ongoing resistance to European settler colonialism.

The Apocalypse as Revelation by Pella Thiel

[Note: this text is a transcript of the audio piece (2020)]

By the time the Fogelstad women (*1) were gathering on their carpet, the growth-based industrial society was about to enter into its crescendo: the so-called Great Acceleration. After the second world war this society, our society, went extracting resources at a furious speed and efficiency, consequently, by the end of the century, running up against boundaries at a planetary scale. The signs are now everywhere: just as Elin Wägner, ideologist of the Fogelstad group and maybe the world’s first ecofeminist, foresaw. I can’t express it with more clarity than she did in 1941:

The world can be conquered now, we have come that far. But never the splendour of it. When the conquest of the world is complete, its splendour is also gone. With this understanding of the situation, one fears nothing more than that the firm Western civilisation Inc., as after the first world war, would try to resume its principles, albeit after more grand, modern and more continental design. Even if the disputes between the shareholders of the firm could be cancelled before the whole project was compromised, everything would not be well. The vision of humankind, perpetually and restlessly busy with taking advantage of every spot and every seed, to find every source of energy not yet used, makes one flinch. It may be theoretically possible that the male intelligence would succeed in such a task. But that dream come true would just mean that we would faster win the world and loose its splendour. The question is if we are living in the beginning of civilization or in the end of the era of domination. All times are simultaneously endings and preparations. Our surface is characterised by dissolution, closure, but underneath preparations for something new is underway. But while you stand in the middle of something, you are unable to assess how fast or slow this shift is happening. Posterity can understand a process as fast and concentrated, which to us seems broken and confused, slow like the sleepless hours before daybreak.”(*2)

She was before her time, Elin Wägner. I believe she was one of the few who sensed that we were nearing the end of the era of domination. A century ago, she described where we were heading, where today the splendour of the world is running through our fingers as seas acidify, starlit skies get dissolved by artificial light and 200 species go extinct – every day. The Earth is not even enough for our conquest – mining of the Moon is on the agenda. And the forests? We are felling the trees faster than they can grow. There is a lot of trees in Sweden, but we scarcely have forests anymore. And the rainforests are burning.

Sometimes it feels as if we are living through the apocalypse.

Apocalypse; the word means revealing, unveiling. What is being revealed? Maybe the paradigm?
According to physicist Frithiof Capra, the ecological, economic and social crises we see today is not separate phenomena, but consequences of a crisis of perception. We perceive the world as separate from us, and humans as superior to the rest of Life. We perceive Nature, forests, mountains, all living beings as our property, as “resources” for us to measure, use and manage. We cannot respond to the forest calling. We cannot even hear it, as according to our paradigm there is no one there. The trees, the soil, the woodpeckers, the moss – they are mere objects. This perception is so ingrained in our culture that it’s almost invisible. And so we industrialise the landscape. Convert forests to plantations and call it ”development”.

This misperception has been instrumental to a paradigm of control and domination. A conquering culture. Not until the paradigm is falling apart is it revealed. When the attempts to control, to domesticate, the living world has taken us to a very chaotic space. Where catastrophic events like fires, floods and storms make the notion of control seem foolish and vain. Nature cannot be governed. And so we wake up to a world which is complex and alive and hence uncontrollable. Wild. There are more-than-human subjects with interests and needs to take into consideration.

The revelation: we are alive in a living world.

2. The Dance of Life – what is a Forest?

It is time for a radical shift in perception. Radical in the original sense of the word: coming from radix, the root. And a revolution has been taking place in the scientific understanding of forests. Forests are not a mere collection of trees (or cubic metres of wood if you ask the forestry industry). They are living, communicating communities, where trees of different species have evolved to live in cooperative, interdependent relationships with each other. Underground fungal networks, mycorrhiza, connect the roots of trees and make sharing of water and nutrients between them possible. About a third of the energy the trees gather from the sun, goes to feed these fungi – a totally different life form! They form a wood wide web through which trees communicate. They send distress signals about drought and disease, for example, and other trees alter their behavior when they receive them. These messages are chemical, hormonal and slow-pulsing electrical signals, much like our nervous system. New research indicates that trees also hear, smell and taste.(*3)

Forests are the most biodiverse systems on Earth. The trees and fungi form a kind of superorganism, creating a home for countless other species. An ever changing, ever evolving web of relationships, like a dance of Life. When I studied for my masters degree in forest ecology at the turn of the millennium, what we today understand about forests as living systems was simply not known.

What else don´t we know, that we don´t know?

3. Rules for a wild relationship

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Albert Einstein

So where do we go from here? In the Apocalypse, when the veil has fallen, when we see the world in a different light, what do we do? Can we imagine a healthy relationship with the living world? How do we transform the systems and institutions of our paradigm to make them able to relate to Nature, to listen to the forest?

Robin Wall Kimmerer, botanist of North American indigenous heritage, writes about how her third year students in environmental science were asked to rate positive interactions between people and land. The median response was: none. “I was stunned, she says. How was it possible, that after twenty years of education, they cannot think of any beneficial relationships between people and the environment? … As the land becomes impoverished, so too does the scope of their vision. As we talked about this after class, I realised that they could not even imagine what beneficial relationships between their species and others might look like. How can we begin to move forward toward ecological and cultural sustainability if we can’t even imagine what that path feels like?”

She continues (quoting Gary Nabhan): “It not just the land that is broken, but more importantly, our relationship to land. We can´t meaningfully proceed with healing, with restoration, without re-storyation. In other words our relationship with land cannot heal, until we hear its stories.”(*4)

A new story of the land, of Nature, is now emerging. A worldwide movement, inspired by indigenous ways of knowing, is re-imagining the relationship between humans and more-than-human beings. Acknowledging that not just humans, but all of Life, has the right to exist and thrive and that this right can be enshrined in law, this movement is beginning to transform how we collectively perceive Nature.

Ecuador was the first country to include the rights of nature in the Constitution, in 2008. Their example has been followed by many others, with rivers, mountains, lakes and forests as legal persons with rights in Mexico, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Uganda, USA and many other places. In Colombia, a group of children and youth sued the State for not addressing climate change by allowing deforestation of the Amazon forest, thereby threatening their right to life and health. The case went all the way up to the Supreme Court where the judge agreed with the children, but said he could not protect the forest as it did not have the right to exist, according to law. Since he was the judge of the Supreme Court, however, he used his super-powers, and decided that the Amazon forest of Colombia had the legal right to exist. I have met this judge. I asked him if he was criticised; how brave he had to be to do such a thing. He said that yes, it was a controversial decision – but sometimes you just have to do the right thing. (I thought about Pippi Långstrump when I heard him: some things you just have to do, else you are just a small piece of dirt).

These are just a few examples of how the Rights of Nature framework is developing fast worldwide. In Sweden I was part of drafting a parliamentary motion last fall on Rights of Nature in the Constitution. The motion proposes a new article in the Constitution:
Article 26. Nature, including ecosystems, natural communities, and species, shall be guaranteed the following rights and freedoms:

1. rights to naturally exist, thrive, regenerate, evolve, and be restored; and
2. freedom to exercise, enforce, and defend these rights and freedoms.(*5)

The human rights are defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, right in the beginning of the Great Acceleration. Maybe the most important international agreement we have. As soon as Rights of Nature is mentioned, an anxiety arises: if the rights of Nature is acknowledged, might not human rights be compromised? This fear is a symptom of the perceived separation between humans and nature. As there is no human health, indeed no human life, without Nature, human rights are meaningless if the rest of nature is right-less. Rights of Nature helps us perceive humans as parts of a living whole. From our first breath to our last, we are totally dependent on Nature. Our inhalation, or inspiration, is the exhalation of the forest. It is a conspiration. We are breathing together.

Our current legal, political and economic systems do not reflect this understanding.

The greatest threat against human rights is the destruction of our larger selves, our living whole. To find our way to a culture which is healthy, capable of living in peace with the Earth we need urgently to find rules to balance the rights of humans with obligations toward nature. Rules to support us in governing ourselves in relation to the living world, instead of trying in vain to govern nature. To make it possible to listen and respond to the forests it is time to balance the Declaration of Human Rights with a Declaration of Rights of Nature.

Rights of Nature as a vision, an idea, a framework is very practical and concrete; our legal systems are capable of working with rights of lakes and forests, just as they do with human constructs like corporations. Simultaneously it is paradigm-shifting, as it challenges the fundamental idea of separation, control and domination. It does it through law, which, according to South-african lawyer Cormac Cullinan is like the DNA of our society, with a direct influence on values and norms; what we collectively deem as important or non-important, right or wrong. When we change the DNA, everything else is also subject to change.(*6)

The women of Fogelstad gathered to effect change, share their true stories and create a space to imagine what it might mean, as a woman, to be an agent in society. We now need spaces, carpets to sit on, to imagine what it would mean if forests were agents in society. To listen to their call and learn from the trees, about long time perspectives and mutually beneficial relationships, about the wide web we are a part of that nurtures us and sustains us. To create rules for wild relationships. To re-storify the land.



*1. A Swedish feminist group active in societal debate around land, womens right to vote and other things and founders of a Women’s Citizen School at Fogelstad (active 1922 – 1954) with the purpose to educate women in their new rights and responsibilities as citizens after women suffrage had been achieved in 1921.

*2. Väckarklocka, 1941, my translation


*4. Kimmerer, Braiding sweetgrass, 2013.


*6.  Cullinan, Wild law, 2011.

Becoming Sensor for a Planthroposcene, part I, II, III by Natasha Myers, Ayelen Liberona and Allison Cameron

[Note: this text is a transcript of the audio piece (2020)]

Part I. Let the trees lead (or, Seeds for a Planthroposcene) (2020)
Text and voice: Natasha Myers
Field recordings and composition: Ayelen Liberona and Natasha Myers
Editing and Production: Yuval Sagiv
Recording: Geoffrey Siskind

Part II: Becoming Sensor in Sentient Worlds (2016)
Field recordings and Composition: Ayelen Liberona & Natasha Myers

Part III: Sounding Out an Urban Oak Savannah (2017)
Field recordings: Allison Cameron, Ayelen Liberona & Natasha Myers
Composition: Allison Cameron

Description: These field recordings were made in the Spring of 2016 at the eastern edges of High Park, Toronto’s 400-acre pleasure park, just where a major throughfare cuts through an ancient oak savannah. These lands are the sacred hunting and foraging lands of the Wendat, the Anishinaabe Nations and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. For more information see Toronto’s Indigenous Land Stewardship Circle ( Becoming Sensor ( is a research-creation collaboration focused on the work of detuning settler stories about these lands, and tuning in to the sentience of the land and its many relations.

PART I: Let the trees lead (or Seeds for a Planthroposcene)
By Natasha Myers

The forest calls. Let yourself be lured into its depths so you can become otherwise alongside this involving collective of becomings. Ingather with all those who grow together in these woods: you too can learn how to become an accomplice to the plants, conspiring with them to grow livable worlds.

To feel the immensity of this collective of beings and happenings that is a forest, it is necessary to let go of what you have learned about plants and trees. Forget what you have been taught about the distance between you and a tree. Detune your colonized sensorium that limits what you can see, hear, feel, imagine and know. Queer the mechanizing and economizing norms that designate plants and trees as ecosystems services and extractable resources.

Remember: You are of the plants. The plants breathed you into being. They articulated your sensorium, teaching you all about taste and smell, and inspiring your aesthetics with their materialities, forms, and colours. And they can teach you much more, if you let them.

But first you must vegetalize your sensorium. Entrain your tissues to planty sensitivities. Let vegetal sensibilities inform your sensory organs. Awaken the visual and kinesthetic dimensions of your imagination to expand your morphological imaginary. Let go of your bodily contours as you try on the forms, movements, and attentions of plants and trees. By cultivating your inner plant, you will be able grow a forest within you, negating that abyss we all too often assume there is between plants and people. Get caught up in the involutionary momentum that propels plants and people into relation, and you will soon start to perceive affective ecologies taking shape among the thicket of relations all around you.

As you step into the forest, let the trees lead. With a soft gaze, let yourself be pulled from your heart to follow the gestural happening that is a tree. Follow them from their roots, up to their branching limbs. Trees are slow dancers; they are creative, exploratory creatures improvising with one another, and with light, gravity, and vibration. Who are these trees dancing with? Follow their limbs curving, bending, and swooping. Let the branches pull your body with them, upwards, spiraling, sweeping. Move with and be moved by them. Let the pull of these limbs inscribe new arc lines through your fascia, activating spiraling energetic cords, rearticulating your anatomy, torqueing your expressions and gestures.

Now, draw your attention down to the roots of the trees, just where their trunks meet the rich earth. Feel yourself beginning to root alongside them, diving downwards into the soil. Extend yourself into the cool, moist earth. Feel your strength as a downward thrust that inspires an upward lift. Experiment with gravitropism. Feel the rush as you redistribute your awareness through this tangle of roots that branch and branch and branch until they reach the width of just a single cell. Find one of your root tips. Taste the wet, metallic soil; smell that musty gradient of decaying matter flush with minerals. Propel yourself towards the source. Experiment with your strength. Push yourself up against the soil; grow through minute crevices between crumbling pieces of earth.

Now multiply this sensation. Feel two searching root tips. Then four. Can you extend your awareness to five? What would it be like to sense thousands of root tips extending through the soil? Feel the rush as you expand your awareness to millions of sensitive root tips. Dive downwards and run outwards, drawing water and nutrients in and up through all of them simultaneously. Now hook yourself into a thickening mycelial network of fungi, microbes, and other roots all around you. Feel your whole root system humming with an electric charge. Feel the energetic thrill of connection. How far can you extend your awareness? Run with it, in every direction.

Begin to draw your awareness back up your trunk, and into your branches. Feel what it might be like to leaf from those million-fold centres of indetermination. Budding, leafing, flowering, and fruiting. Your generous meristems, generating matter. Mattering delicious. Mattering elixirs. Mattering creatively, inquisitively, artfully, and expressively.

Feel the play of light and shadow across your leaves. The surface of each one of your leaves is a visual organ registering and remembering minute shifts in light intensity. Your leaves are filmic media, recording colour movies of the lush, shifting light patterns around you. You can “see” the shimmering shadows other plants cast as they list and play in the wind. What can you sense now?

Slowly come back to your breath, and to your body. What has changed?

And consider this: perhaps it is by cultivating your inner plant that you too can begin to form solidarity projects with the trees. Use your freshly vegetalized sensory dexterities to get on their side. Consider yourself at their service. Gather yourself up with the plants to form a Planthropos, a collective entity made of plants and their many relations, one in which people all over the world get committed to the work of growing livable worlds.

Indeed, such a Planthropos is the guide we need to break the frame of the Anthropocene logics that leave us alienated from our most important allies. And so, if the Anthropocene names an epoch after singular agents bent on earthly destruction, perhaps it is time to seed a Planthroposcene, a scene, episteme or way of doing life in which we all learn how to conspire with the plants.

Read more about Becoming Sensor.

Exhibition: Notes on a Fallow – The Fogelstad group and earth

[Note: this text is a transcript of the audio piece (2020)]

An introduction to the exhibition: Notes on a Fallow – The Fogelstad group and earth, Sörmlands museum (30 May 2020 – 26 Jan 2021) by Åsa Elzén, curated by Joanna Nordin

Welcome to Sörmlands museum, and to the exhibition Notes on a Fallow – the Fogelstad Group and earth” / “Träda – Fogelstadgruppen och jord, by the artist Åsa Elzén. My name is Joanna Nordin and I am the curator of contemporary art here at Sörmlands museum, and I’ve had the great pleasure to curate this exhibition.

The past collects, not only in archives, but in sediments and soil, in atmospheres, and in bodies.

This exhibition is a continuation of Åsa Elzén’s long-term work with the legacy of the Fogelstad Group, a feminist initiative formed here in Sörmland in 1921, most well known for running the Women Citizens’ School at Fogelstad. Within her work Åsa Elzen explores the group’s lesser known practice in ecology and resilience.

We live in a time in need of wild re-imagining and we need help. Whether it be through new forms of storytelling, through changing how we understand and connect to the world we are a part of, through rewriting laws, or through rediscovering ongoing yet overlooked practises.

In this time, on many levels, of course it is also of great value to take a closer look behind us, with renewed interest and curiosity, and pay close attention to what came before us. I found working with Åsa on this exhibition to be such a time. A time for deeper understanding, for exploring and unveiling new knowledge of our shared local history, for cross-temporal connection and community, and for unexpected consolation.

Finding out how the early women’s movement in Sweden, particularly the Fogelstad Group, were not only thinking in new and radical new terms of collectivity in reshaping, changing and rebuilding modes of politics and rights within our democracy. But that they, in hands-on and experimental, poetic and artistic ways, at the same time – were doing this in terms of thinking about our relationship with earth, and how to shape our collective future.

Elisabeth Tamm and the Fogelstad group were active at the dawn of industrial agriculture, and they were deeply critical of what they saw coming, such as chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and farming on an increasingly larger scale but with less biodiversity. The group, far ahead of their time, embraced a way of thinking where they argued that no single issue can be solved on it’s own, rather they strongly believed that everything – political rights, peace, environmental concerns – is part of the same elaborate weave.

This exhibition is an expanding and interdisciplinary project, where boundaries between historical materials and artworks are often fluid. The exhibition includes new works by Åsa herself as well as works by the artist Maja Fjaestad, Fogelstad day labourer and photographer Axel Fredriksson, and by the Fogelstad barn forewoman and sculptor Maren Holebakk. A majority of the materials within this exhibition doesn’t come from institutional collections or public archives, rather it is materials that have been brought back from a form of public oblivion, loaned in by private individuals connected to, or descendants of, the Fogelstad group.

To leave land fallow means to allow it to lie uncultivated in order to regain its fertility.

In 1919, farmer Elisabeth Tamm at Fogelstad Estate commissioned a carpet from Maja Fjaestad, with the desire that it be based on a fallow, in line with her belief in what we now call organic farming, sustainability and resilience. Maja Fjaestad conceptualized Elisabeth Tamms idea and designed the pattern, and the carpet named A Fallow was woven at the Fjaestad sisters’ weavery in Rackstad. The carpet was placed on the floor in the library at Fogelstad, where it lay until the end of the 1960s when worn and brittle, it was put up in the attic after being literally worn down by the first wave feminist movement (and their dogs).

“Fallow” is a very old term used in agriculture and means uncultivated land or ground harrowed to be left unseeded, to rest, as a way to avoid soil depletion.

To let the soil rest implies rest from human production, and instead allow time space for other life.
Fallow. Earth that is lying fallow, earth that is resting; recovery, regeneration, pause, others’ time, other life.

For a long time, conditions of ownership oscillated with the rhythm of the fallow. When the land was set aside to fallow, the ownership was shifted from individually owned or cultivated land to collective pasture, where all animals and people were allowed on it. When the land was taken out of fallow, it returned to private ownership. And so on. And so on.

I think of the impact of the fallow in agriculture, but also as a way to relate to different scopes and formations of time, memory and history. A help to come to terms with both planetary and personal exhaustion. The fallow as a sort of time-space consolation. I think of fallow praxis and fallow mode as ways of slowing down, listen to and connect with other life, more than human life, ongoing world-makings and to past practices that we can learn from. Fallow mode also implies actively to take a step to the side. The fallow is a site of ambiguity and contingency. There is always the risk / hope that the land lying fallow is not re-captured into the circuit of production for only human ends. It is the first step of letting go. It messes with the teleological, linear perception of time, with its focus on progress and economic growth that makes up the foundation of both normative historiography and leads to ecological devastation.

The fallow also figures as a site of contestation; To understand the rapid industrialization of agriculture one can look at how the fallow has been disciplined. As production rate has increased, fallow time-space has been suppressed. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides have made it obsolete. We don’t have patience to wait for the earth to regenerate. A bit like taking drugs so we can sleep less and work more.

Still in practice in organic farming, the fallow has re-gained recognition as a way to increase biodiversity. Fallow-ish spaces have also re-appeared in conventional farming, as injunctions from above within environmental policies. Now with new names such as ”ecological focus area”, ”minimum share of agricultural area devoted to non-productive features”, ”minimum set aside”.

I was drawn by the fact that Elisabeth Tamm, when visualizing the floor of her library in 1919, wanted to honor the fallow, that awkward in-between with bad reputation, rather than a successful result, for example a rich crop.

In a letter thanking Maja Fjaestad for the carpet she writes: ”I think of a fallow as the symbol for someone’s life’s work, a work that is forgotten and hidden yet nonetheless necessary as a component, however small, of the great whole, in whose course we find the coming sowing and harvest.”

I imagine Elisabeth and Elin Wägner walking around on the fallow-carpet in the library talking and thinking about not only ”peace on earth” but ”peace with the earth” that also became the title of their book. Working, reading out loud drafts of the book. Did they also lie down on the fallow-carpet, perhaps to rest or contemplate formulations, or roll around, intoxicated by their collaboration and other shared passions?

Numerous people involved in early democracy-, women suffrage-, and environmental struggles spent time on the fallow-carpet and everybody that attended courses during the 30 year life of the Womens’ Citizen school at Fogelstad gathered on the fallow-carpet. There was a lot of dancing too.

Did the participants in the much lesser known Women’s Barn and Livestock School at Fogelstad also spend time on the fallow-carpet, or did they prefer to tread the fallows outside? This school was run by Maren Holebakk, who takes up a lot of space in this exhibition, as well as in my heart. The courages young queer woman who in the early 30s walked all the way from the West coast of Norway to Fogelstad, where she participated in both the Women’s Barn and Livestock School and the Citizen School. She came to stay at Fogelstad all her life, working as ”barn forewoman” and as teacher at the Barn and Livestock School. Maren was also an artist. When out working the fields she collected clay from the grounds. From the clay-earth she sculpted portraits of people she met at Fogelstad, and especially of her students. Maren liked the quality of unburnt clay, the direct contact with dried earth, and didn’t fire her sculptures. This makes them fragile, and seemingly, many of them are lost. For years I have been searching for Marens sculptures to perhaps find out more about this elusive school. To my joy some of them re-appeared this spring, but due to corona-restrictions we couldn’t bring them here. But at the same occasion Marens private photo albums re-appeared and they are here, brought down from years spent in an attic, and generously loaned to us. One of them is full of small photographs of these clay sculptures, and the other two depicts life at the Women’s Barn and Livestock School, desires and collaborations in and with the earth at Fogelstad.

JOANNA NORDIN: Today, the earth at Fogelstad is still full of clay. Earth remembers and calls memories forth.

The fallow carpet from Fogelstad is too brittle to step upon. In line with feminist methodologies of making transcripts of withering texts or letters, with the intent to decipher and save them for the future, Åsa has made a transcript of the carpet. Consisting of re-cycled fabrics this work becomes a site, to re-think and re-vistit some of the practices of our predecessors and let them emerge in current times.

To quote curator Lisa Rosendahl about Åsa’s work: “The use of the term transcript, rather than copy, proposes a historiographical process interwoven with the present: by reworking the original, a contemporary reading of the piece becomes a visible part and continuation of its history.”

The fallow is a time-space of collectivity with and in the soil.

And if it weren’t for the pandemic currently sweeping the world, we would have invited you all to come share the space of this carpet with us and further dwell in these worlds. Instead you are welcome to do this in your own time, and in safe distance. And on that note, we now invite you to spend time in the exhibition.

Thank you.

Åsa Elzén and Joanna Nordin

Näshulta, 24 augusti 2020

Night Time Tree Cult by Katarina Bonnevier

[Note: this text is a transcript of the audio piece (2020)]

Welcome dear listeners.

I am Katarina Bonnevier and this is “Night time tree cult.”

It is late afternoon, you are invited to follow me and the queer couple Fylgia and Devinez into the woods . Fylgia moves habitually, makes a towering, competent impression. She has a washed out purple cap, rubber boots and a well-worn knife in a leather case on her belt. It is her forest, she is a forester and she knows every tree here. She knows them like we know the books in our bookshelves. Devinez seems petite next to Fylgia. With fluid clothes, a long skirt, soft leather beak shoes and a juniper walking stick she would look apart in any time or place, but also strangely appropriate, timeless. She has been around, started out as a journalist but these days her calling goes beyond any categorization. Fylgia’s voice is low and mater of fact as she says:

The best hour in the forest is at dusk, that is when I can move here completely invisible amongst the shadows. Keep out of the way from humans. It is a particular kind of stillness filled with newly awakened night creatures; wild boars and their piglets, an owl hunting, angels dancing across the moss.

It is a mixed forest, leaves, needles and lichen, scrubs, wicker and stems. Now, in the late summer, bracken, sloe and birch has shifted to yellow, the lingonberries shine bright red in small clusters along our path. Both Fylgia and Devinez moves without hesitation, I have a hard time keeping up with them and feel clumsy in relation to their smooth strides. Do they even touch the ground? They watch ahead, the terrain is part of their physiques. I have to look down to avoid stumbling over roots, rocks and sticks. (You, my dear listeners, may choose how you move across the landscape in this imaginary ramble. Maybe you flutter about like forest pigeons?). Fylgia stops and sweeps with her hand.

Here, next to the mountain, two hundred years ago, here was a peat quarry, do you see the indents in the moss? (The surface of the land is slightly undulating, it is possible to apprehend some overgrown barely noticeable trenches.) Nowadays the grouses have their play dates here in spring time.

Devinez takes a deep breath, like she tastes the air, and nods slowly. She is pleased. The ground is wet, stark green and nutritious. I silently praise my hiking boots, my mind drift away, the boots have been my companions for almost ten years. They can handle snow and sludge, and in the summer they guard against the heat and thorns. Sometimes I wear them when I lecture. In the lecture hall they serve as a reminder of the outdoors, climbing over slopes of shingle stones, keeping your feet dry through a jåkk. Whether it is on moss, gravel, concrete or carpets, I stand firmly on the ground. There is no great difference. I stand above the ground I tread on. The boots support me and make me cope with anything. I become self-assertive in my boots, I develop a queer dyke’s body. In bold strides, I walk around the city blocks in my best boots. If anyone wonders, I have the right to walk here, early or late, and be who I am. The boots fit well in a concrete wilderness. But, hang on, let’s get back to the living wilderness.

While pondering my boots I have kept on moving. If we turn and look back on the path I just took across the peat moss, my foot prints have made small puddles in the wet land. The imprints plant a suspicion in my heart, I recall a radio interview with author and artist Tove Jansson and hear her voice in my head: ‘Tredje gången du går över mossan dör den’ [The third time you step on the moss it dies]. The moss did not ask me to come here.

Devinez and Fylgia have started to climb the rock-strewn slope ahead of us. Let’s catch up with them. Panting I throw Fylgia some questions: How do you see your role as a forester? I mean, it is how you make your living, isn’t it?

Well, we do not affect the vegetation in this area, we do not thin out, we do not remove trees felled by storm. Most of our property have plantation forest, mainly fir-trees, but we have a relatively large amount of mixed forest. The farm is 406 hectares, of which 260 hectares are production forest. About 15% of our land is left to its own demises, becoming a natural forest, such as the one we are in right now. We are able to do this because of the FSC-certification, the 15% is requested in order to get the label. Our forestry is FSC-labeled, which means that sustainability perspectives on environmental issues and cultural herritage are part of the business.

Fylgia’s cellphone starts to ‘moo’ – someone is calling.

Ja? Ah-hum, kolla i verkstan, jag tror den ligger vid tryckluften.(She hangs up). Sorry.
I am studying so called “alternative” ways of cultivating and harvesting, like permaculture, stratified forestry, to chop without felling areas and so on, to change system, but we’ll see. It is a family business and my dad is convinced that we couldn’t afford such methods. A hippie bluff for the wealthy, he says. He said that about solar power as well, and now we sell to the grid. Well, eventually we’ll have the knowledge, skills and arguments… and possibly, some official funding.

I am impressed by Fylgia’s reasoning, her long-term commitment to change and compare it to my own restlessness. As we keep climbing upwards I continue to debate with myself, I want to have… ‘ha ordentligt på fötterna’ [wear sensible shoes] – I mean to rely on arguments that are built on diligent research. Metaphorically, that is. Practically speaking, the feet should be kept dry and strengthened by double layers of socks. Boots properly laced and with solid soles. Reinforced toes and waxed seams. A technology that creates a microclimate around the foot, separating me from nature and from the surface of the ground. My boots shield me from the terrain, but also urge me to go outdoors. I can forgo the roads, even the trampled paths. Move freely. High in spirit and brave. Yet perhaps I step on herbs and small bugs that way. The soles make me into a settler parading in colonial boots. The conqueror’s clumsy way of walking through the land differs from those already living here. I feel a lump in my solar plexus. Devinez is looking at me, as if she has heard my thoughts she says:

If humankind were not so lazy and restless we would live in a heavenly garden, with, and not on top of, this planet. You know my name. It is a call. ‘Devinez’ [Imagine]. Imagine otherwise. Desires have a strange power. We need a vision of a world with meaning in order for the power of desire to come alive again. Imagination carries a direction towards the system shift we need, from a domination with ruthless devastation where nature is cheap to a nutritious soil where everything, even people and places, form parts of a living organism.

A squirrel is passing our way, jumps into a tiny spruce and is gone.

These pines look small, but they are ancient. I made a core sample on one of the stems, the annual rings where so dense I had to use a magnifying glass and the tip of my knife to count – it was more than 450 years old.

The ancients know. Tales that are in themselves old, tell of even older times when wishes still helped. Let us listen.

We sit down on a silver grey log that has fallen across the granite rock, the wood is soft, no bark left. A flock of doves fly in, when they land they undergo a metamorphosis and turn into figures, so breathtaking I find no words to describe them (of course, they are you my dear audience, in your most magical appearance). The fluttering settles as the darkness descends and the nightfall lesson begins. It feels completely natural that the trees starts to speak:

Our old ones stand in cracks in the bedrock, gnarled and twisted by the wind, with growth rings thin as paper. Our root systems can become extremely old, on Fulu Mountain there are spruces whose roots have been working their way through the earth for over 8000 years. Old Tjikko is 9550 years old, zie is the known world’s third oldest living organism and the world’s oldest individual tree clone.

We sprouted and put down roots, my clan and I. In the way of humans we have received names, they call us birch, aspen, oak, hazel, spruce and pine. Our types are common in this part of the world, in fact we trees and forests make up the basis for a culture common to the whole region. At the same time each one of us is absolutely unique. We’re like humans, or possibly better than humans.

Hear, hear. Dear trees you have a support system so perfect any economist twist their hands in envy. Could you please tell us about your wise, longsighted and fruitful ways of operating?

Your rustle with your flatter… Well, in the fall before we birch and aspen shed our leaves we drain some important substances and save them under our bark until spring. Other substances fall to the ground with the leaves, but that’s okay, because they macerate during winter and is sucked up again from the dirt by our roots. We birches are pioneer trees creating brush and groves, growing quickly and easily when the ground is laid bare by clear-cuts, storms, forest fires and such. After that we come, the spruces and pines, durable and tough, growing up in already dense forests and are often allowed to stand for a hundred years or more since our fine lumber builds communities (we others must accept being thinned out).

One should think it over before one chop down one or several trees in group. The trees that are left standing feel bad, some branches dry out and it is not like you pick yourself up and widen your crowns. My guess is that it depends on the wind and that you, just like we humans, have to adapt, get used to stand alone.

When you fell a tree, any tree, you are sure to be messing with important contexts down below in the hidden layers of soil. Namely, here we have relationships from the root system of one tree to the other. It is not like each tree provision in isolation nor prepare nutrition solely in their own kitchen. The bigger trees with a root system that is more branched out, take up nutrition and feed the weaker trees down below, while from the non-soil perspective of rootless beings it might look like they hinder and shade the smaller ones.

If this collective system rapidly is troubled by lightning or axe so a large network of roots dry up, then we spruces and pines who are also suffering, while you humans rant: “Well, now you have a place in the sun, grow up!
You build a whole philosophy on this idea about the battle in nature for a place in the sun, which in its turn serve as a foundation for the theory of the necessity of war and the survival of the fittest.

We humans behave as if we have forgotten that when strength comes up against weakness, it triggers a desire to protect. In fact people love weakness; otherwise the human infant would not stand a chance. Life is the gift the strong give to the weak. Voluntary sacrifice of the strong plays a larger part in the preservation of life than the strong who extort power over the weak. If the powerfully built carries the load, the tiny can skip ahead and scout out the terrain.

So true. Life has developed through collaboration rather than competition. Through flocks, crowds, coalitions, confederations and companionship between all living creatures on earth: humans, fishes, angels, the hind in the pasture, the trees in the groove and the flower in the field. Living organisms and nonorganic material, forests, oceans and mountain ranges all are part of a dynamic system which creates the biosphere and sustains the possibility for life on the planet.

To emphasize their claim the trees catch a cloud of bad scent and pour it over us. Its filled with the suffocating words from a choir called THE WAR MACHINERY, I think we all have heard those words a thousand times.

‘The principle of battle leads nature. The trees combat in the woods, the animals fight for food, the humans conquer, everyone wants a place in the sun!’

That is what they say. Those who do not know the secrets of the trees.

In the stillness after their speech we can hear the grass grow. My skin, every part of my being is listening. Slowly I start to perceive a faint but enormous all enclosing, almost silent vibration, what, or, who is that? There are words that come from underneath my feet, roll through my every cell.

I, the earth, have a self-interest. I am capable of acting out of my own interest. I am a living organism. I live by the beat of a heart.

And this, dear listeners, is where our imaginary walk in the woods ends.

Thank you.

Presentation of Forest Calling – A Never-ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge by Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzén

[Note: this text is a transcript of the audio piece (2020)]

Today is the 10 of September 2020, and it’s around 3 pm. We are sitting on two busses that take us, 50 people, through the landscape of Södermanland. In about 40 minutes the bus will let us off for the second time on this journey. This time it will be on a dirt road located at Fogelstad Estate’s grounds, close to lake Aspen in Julita, Katrineholm Municipality.

We will get off the bus and walk down the dirt road for some 15 minutes before we will enter the 3.7 hectares in the form of a triangle, which is in its becoming – a public artwork, a forest, and a habitat for endless and endless dead and alive vibrant matter.

From a Swedish forest policy perspective, nothing makes this specific forest different from the nearby forest areas. It’s all defined and used as production forest. Less than 10% of the forest in Sweden qualifies as ”old-growth forest” and it is debatable whether we even have forest that can be defined as ”primeval forest”. From this perspective, we will step into a timber-, paper- wood pulp material factory – a machinery of national pride and of property value. A historical document. A history of labour and efficiency.

We, Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzén, have made a cut. A cut in the deforestation plan. Entered into a 50-year long lease agreement. The lease makes it possible to take the forest out of production as a means to secure its agency and survival in infinite future.

As in many older production forests, life in boundless variations still emerges, world-makings are on-going. We have not yet carried through a species inventory of the habitat. No one has, so no key biotopes are, as of yet, declared, and thus, there is no biotope protection. Our hope is that within the coming 50 years the 3.7 hectares will qualify as an “older natural forest-like forest” worth protecting.

We will move in multiple directions. Triangular formations. We take a step away from the forest at the same time as we take a step forward and make a claim for the forest and it’s contaminated collaborations and processes.

A few days ago the World Wide Fund for Nature, released a new report that points out that species and ecosystem services of the forest are at stake. If politicians don’t act forcefully to stop this negative development, it risks hitting Sweden hard, both environmentally and economically.

The report highlights the effects of historical and contemporary forestry. Although Sweden reports to the EU that the habitat in 14 out of 15 different types of forests are not favorable to biodiversity, the equivalent of approximately 32 000 football fields of biologically valuable forest is clearcut annually.

According to the SLU Species Data Bank, almost 90 percent of the forest’s 2041 red-listed species are negatively affected by forest clearcutting. Many of these species are likely to become extinct unless the ambition of forest politics is strengthened. To achieve this, Swedish forest politics must be changed.

In 2016 as part of YES! Association/Föreningen JA!, we fly to New York to finalize the Hannah Arendt Memorial Smoking Porch as part of the project SMOKING AREA, which began in 2012. We want to honor the German-born Jewish American political theorist Hannah Arendt by installing a commemorating plaque at the porch of the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College, upstate New York.

The plaque includes the quote “It is beyond doubt that the capacity to act is the most dangerous of all human abilities and possibilities.”

For Hannah Arendt, action and speech create a space between participants, which can find its location almost any time and anywhere. It is the space of appearance. The space where I appear to others, as others appear to me. By mounting the commemorating plaque we propose that the porch becomes a space of appearance – a space stripped of some layers of legislation, a space for negotiating, engaging, testing and acting.

Later we walk around in New York City’s commercial gallery district, Chelsea. We enter and exit a few different galleries. We visit A.L. Stainers exhibition 30 DAYS OF MO:)RNING at Koenig & Clinton Gallery. Stainer states: “Hi, I’m going to do my best to satisfy the gallery’s needs in the midst of our anthropocentric crapitalist global implosion.” We sit down, listen to Stainer reading from eco phaggy books.

Hot flash! The pang of sadness directs us away from Chelsea, to other spaces, to other gatherings. Other growing places. Greener areas. Rooftop vegetable gardens in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and beyond.

Back home read more of what Stainer read to us; Anna Tsing’s book The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins.

Again, we are back in forest life. Latent or on-going hopefulness can be discerned. Glimmer noticed yet again. We never forgot, but during a decade of intensive collaboration and shared life, we never really talked about our childhood forests.

On 21st of April 2018, Malin writes an email:

Dear Åsa, Check this out!
And a link to Public Art Agency Sweden’s call for artists to apply for funding for local art projects.
Maybe something for our continued interweavings:
The “fallow” meets “care” perhaps, somewhere on a remote place in the middle of the periphery of the local?
Hug, Malin

On 23rd of April 2018, Åsa answers:
Exciting! Let’s roam around on Friday’s skype meeting. By the way, I have re-joined The Swedish Artists’ Association, KRO.
Hug, Åsa

We decided to make a call for “commitment, care, and connectedness in the midst of uncertainties”. We write an application. We call our project Forest Calling – A Never-ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge.

Part of the forest, we soon will engage through, was planted during farmer Elisabeth Tamm’s time as owner of Fogelstad. Some of it, in particular as part of the scattered swamps, was already there, evolving for a long time.

Together with pedagogue Honorine Hermelin, workplace inspector Kerstin Hesselgren, physician Ada Nilsson and writer Elin Wägner, Elisabeth Tamm founded the Fogelstad group in 1921. The group came together through the common struggle for peace, democracy and women’s suffrage. They ran the Women Citizen’s School at Fogelstad (between 1925–54) and published the political weekly periodical Tidevarvet (The Epoch). The group was politically engaged but independent of any political party, and strongly committed to ”jordfrågan” (”the earth issue”), that today can be understood as being part of a larger discussion regarding social, economic and ecological resilience.

The forest becomes a monument — an on-going, transformative, performative public artwork. When the forest is understood as a public artwork it is lifted out of its predetermined context and becomes a kind of resistance to the Western teleological concept of time. The forest lives on in a different temporality, where a time axis from the Fogelstad group and their struggle for ”peace with the earth” is allowed to continue instead of being broken through clearcutting.

”Peace with the earth”, refers to a book written by Elisabeth Tamm and Elin Wägner, published in 1940. A quote from the book: “In contrast to today’s ideal: mechanization, specialization, and speed, we are consciously proclaiming the ideals that we believe will be tomorrow’s: Independent activity – versatility – patience”.

How do our actions relate to colonial history? We started to call the 3.7 hectares of forest that we are negotiating around our forest. What does the feeling that this is our forest, our piece of land, do with us, with the forest?

What is our obligation to the forest? Our responsibility? Who should we listen to? Something whispers that it is completely impossible to own “nature”, to own land. Making a profit on the commons, the land, is a loss of our future.

Pay attention to the multitude of communicative registers – sounds, smells, behavior, the flowering trees, the seasons, the coming and going of birds, insects, and other creatures, the howling, and the silence too: all the myriad communication of living beings as they sing up themself and their connectivities.

Here Forest calling provides space for different desires and dependence formations. We imagine a queer continuum, or a continuum of ecosocial desire. Desires in the forest, desires within contaminated collaborations, and among more-than-human life forms, our desire to be part of a larger time-space and to a different future.

Elderly loggers share memories of relationships, collaborations (and coercions) among worlds of the forest, timber horses and human beings. The timber horses had a way with the forest, a deep know-how regarding snow, orientation and other life. During the summers they were set free. They roamed the forests in packs and rested in large circle formations during the nights, heads turned outwards, like rays of the sun. For some months the domesticated horses turned wild.

The horses and loggers worked hard during the winters with hand saws, and were badly paid, by the tree. When the chainsaw was introduced during the 50’s the pay per tree went down, and to make the same wage as earlier the loggers had to fell many more trees. After another few years, the chainsaw also became obsolete and was replaced by larger extremely efficient machines.

For our eyes we see a diagram from the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden visualizing the “Productivity development in the forest, cubic meter per day’s work, 1950-2007”. The curve starts at 2 cubic meter per day’s work and rises at 45 degrees for the following few years, then steepens, going almost straight up to 26 cubic meter in 2007. The speed and scope of this industrial expansion of forest destruction is hard to grasp.
“It is beyond doubt that the capacity to act is the most dangerous of all human abilities and possibilities.”

Most of us learn to ignore the multispecies worlds around us. Projects for rebuilding curiosity are essential work for living with others. We are contaminated by our encounters.

Right now we are curious regarding the vibrant life of spruce bark beetles. Dancing, leaving elaborate patterns, or messages, that nobody can ignore. Do we want to follow them in their dance? Are they our allies in advocating: ”The forest shall be renewed in accordance with mixed forest principles.” stated by the Women’s Organization for World Order in 1937, that so strongly influenced the Fogelstad group.

“Landscapes are not backdrops for historical action: they are themselves active. Watching landscapes in formation shows humans joining other living beings in shaping worlds.”

“Everyone carries a history of contamination; purity is not an option.”

“Entanglement burst categories and upends identities.”

“Almost all development may be co-development. In contrast to earlier focus on life as internally self-organizing systems.”

When we arrive, you will not get a map of Forest Calling – A Never-ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge. Instead we invite you to follow us in carrying out a series of un-certain exercises.

We will guide you mostly in silence. We will move along the triangular border.

Is a map always inextricably intertwined in anthropocentric, colonial practice? Most likely. What about bird perspective? Call humans into creatureliness and connection. Seeing a landscape from above, like a bird?

At lucky moments we half-whisper, half-shout and point to the sky: ”Look, an eagle!” We want to share that we have discovered a bird. But at that moment the bird has already watched us for a long, long time. Not only in the singular encounter between two individuals, also as species.

When Hannah Arendt taught us about the ”space of appearance”, she, or at least we, considered this only in regards to other human beings. But if the forest is the space of appearance, the space where I appear to others, as others appear to me? Where action and speech create a space between participants, which can find its location almost any time and anywhere? The forest watches us already and we look back, meeting the eyes of the forest. Do we dare to keep our gaze steady?

On the other hand, can we even talk about forests separated from us?

Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzén

Bredäng and Näshulta, 8 of September 2020

Welcome to Intervall 5, Activation through Forest Calling – A Never-ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge.

For those who don’t know, I am Malin Arnell and this is Åsa Elzén.

We will now walk down the dirt road for some 15 minutes before we will enter the 3.7 hectares in the form of a triangle, which is in its becoming – a public artwork, a forest, and a habitat for endless and endless dead and alive vibrant matter.

We invite you to follow us in carrying out a series of un-certain exercises. We will guide you mostly in silence. We will move along the triangular border.

If you wish not to join us in the forest you are welcome to stay here or walk along the dirt road and meet up by the buses in an hour. Any questions regarding this?

Please, keep your phones on flight mode.

Ok, let’s start walking. Keep the distans.

We walk down the dirt road.


Please spread out.

We will now enter through this passage, which we today call corner 2, and we will collectively move towards corner 1. We will move in silence.

We will take the lead and find a walking pace which will make us be able to be back here, on this spot, in 45 minutes.

We invite you to follow our pace and multiply our actions, for example as we sit down we suggest you also sit down. Where the forest allows us to spread out we will do so, and when we need to go through some kind of passage we will walk in a line, one after the other.

We hope we can make these choreographic moves smoothly by paying attention to each other and the surroundings. Try to keep the distance of 1,5 meters in mind. Do not drift away from each other, so keep the distance no more than a few meters to the person closest to you.

We will try to move as if we are part of one body.

Pay attention to the multitude of communicative registers in the forest – the sounds, smells, our behaviors, the trees, this specific season, the coming and going of birds, insects, and other creatures, and the silence too. Let your breathing find a slower pace. Engage.

Embrace what you meet as if you were in love with them and behave that way, with curiosity, vulnerability, and trust.

Please follow us, in a line, one by one to begin with.

We spread out and walk over the hill and down to the forestry road, where the swamp begins there is a passage where we all have to walk in line, and before we reach corner 1 we sit down.

During the next part of the walk we will move towards corner 3. During this part we would like you to contemplate the border we are walking along – in regards to different perspectives of the border, what are those perspectives and what do they do? Note for ex animal paths crossing the border.

Now when our bodies has been closer to the ground for a moment, and we have maybe felt the wetness from the moss we will continue our movement by first standing up one after the other and walk up to the tree with the white mark over there, one by one, to get a view over the cleared passage along the border between these two properties.

We follow each other along the cleared passage and further through a swamp until we will arrive somewhere that might feel like a glade.

Please remain in silence and engage in the surroundings through the task.

We walk in a line downhill and through a larger swamp, until we are on the other side where the spruce bark beetles are living.

Let’s stop here and spread out again.

Over there you see the 3rd corner of the triangle, but we will stay here for a moment. On the other side of that small hill is a recently clear-cut site.

Here you can see the vibrant life of spruce bark beetles (granbarkborrar). Notice the light, the green grass coming up in the moss, smell the smell of the resin, which is what the spruce trees use to protect themselves from the invasion.

We will now start to walk back to corner 2 where we entered into this forest. On the way we invite you to take a closer look at the elaborate patterns, or messages that the spruce bark beetles have left on the tree trunks here.

After that we will continue walking along this border. We will pass a triangular stone on our left side. We don’t want you to walk up to it, but rather ”meet the gaze of the triangular eye” as you pass.

Please follow us, first spread out like a blurb, until we again will walk through the passage of the swamp in a line.

Please remain in silence. Pay attention to your breath and the movement of our collective body.

Åsa walks along the swamp and Malin takes the outer curve. Passing the triangular stone, walking up and down the small hill, with the many animal paths, before once again, the group line up and pass through the swamp. Then we continue to walk, now we spread out even more, over the field until we get closer to the road.

Let’s stop here.

Before we leave the forest we would like to invite all of us to hug a chosen tree.

When you find your tree, close your eyes and pay attention to the hug. You might have hugged a tree before, think back shortly at that moment. What is different now?

Don’t rush, stay in the hug for a while.

After the hug you are welcome to follow us out of the forest and back to the dirt road. When back on the road our activation of Forest Calling – A Never-ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge ends, and we will walk back to the busses.

If you would like to stay in silence while walking back to the busses you are welcome to do so, but we also invite you to share with others some of your thoughts and feelings from the day so far, during the walk.

Thank you!
Go and hug a tree!

Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzén
Bredäng and Näshulta, 9th of September 2020

Dancing Forests and other stories by Merete Røstad

[Note: this text is a transcript of the audio piece (2020)]

Can a forest be a participatory monument?
Let me take us to the forest with an exercise to open our senses through the act of radical listening. This exercise will let us explore listening by activating our very own embodied sound archive. Embodied sound archives are the summary of all our encounters of sound throughout our lifetimes. Let us imagine that our personal sound archives (are the soundtracks of our lives) and that they create a narrative of all our experiences. Listening is a method in artistic practice and research in the public sphere that has the potential to be a shared experience as well as an individual one.
Let us explore, getting to know our “Embodied Sound Archive” by entering the forest. While you are listening, I will guide you into the forest. Before I start explaining what makes a participatory monument, we will begin with a listening exercise to practice our relation to the forest.

Let’s start with exercise. Think of a forest environment that makes you feel safe:

  • What sound memories does the forest open up?
  • Are you thinking of a single moment or several ones?
  • Are you in the company of others?
  • Do you hear voices or noises made by human or other than non-human sounds?
  • Close your eyes and listen.

(sound fades in)
Let’s continue to keep our eyes closed and listen as I share my entry into my embodied forest.

Experience the Sight of
green, brown, deadfall, fallen trees, logs, branches, twigs, fallen leaves, ferns, underbrush, moss, shrubs, berry bushes, pine needles, pine cones, acorns, insects, rabbits, birds, squirrels, mice, foxes, spider webs, deer, sun-dappled, shady, stones, shafts…

Experience the Sounds of
branches creaking, feet shuffling through detritus, squirrels chattering, leaves rustling, wind whistling disturbing the leaves, birds singing, insects humming and churring, rustle of animals rooting in the underbrush, scrabbling of lizards on tree bark, limbs …

Experience the Smell of
trees,pine, wildflowers, earthy smell, animal scents, rotting wood, fresh, stale, damp, wet, scents on the wind from nearby places, water, wood smoke, mud, wild mint, herbs, decay, bogs, stagnant pools of water …

Experience the Taste of
earthy air, sweet and sour berries, nuts, mushrooms, seeds, bitter, mint, gritty, relish, savour, sample, salty, acidic, sweet, flavorful, sour, flavourless, mild, nutty, raw …

Experience the Touch of
rough tree bark, falling leaves, branches slapping, uneven ground, knobby roots underfoot, sticky sap, underbrush that tangles and grabs, braking twigs, the prickle of nettles, slick leaves, twigs snagging at hair, scratching the face, the tickle of hanging moss, spider web strands on the skin, soft staws and soft moss…

We have entered the forest, four hectares in size.

We’re ready to listen to the lecture that investigates the sustainable nature of participatory monuments. It’s through the lens of ecology and artistic research in the public sphere, that is, in public space and the public imagination, employing “Forest Calling – A Never-Ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge”. Besides, this lecture examines how places and spaces in relation to participatory experiences are transformed into works of art. Forest Calling seeks to expand the understanding of the forest as a participatory monument by exploring it as an embodiment of sensorial sites and as an extended social vocabulary. The forest is in many cultures recognised for its connection to human and other than human co-existence. The forest has a specific assemblage of symbioses, histories, temporalities and our relationships with other life forms as well as with human movements. Researching the examination of historical and scientific material, we translate lived experiences into an archive of methodology and a vocabulary of site and place. We contend that the more we delve into the extended field of art in public spaces, the more we can glean an understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. Accordingly, one has to look at the politics of place and space by focusing on our shared experiences as witnesses in the public sphere.

Therefore, an artwork such as “Forest Calling – A Never-Ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge” investigates how we choose to recall and activate memory play as an integral part of art and art-making. It requires informed ethical practices on how we relate to one another and our environment. Moreover, for artists working in the public sphere, this offers the opportunity to probe further the role of the artist in the social realm. Artistic research into place and space in the public sphere has challenged my own understanding of art and memory as well as that of participants and collaborators. I find that art-making and thinking about art-making is itself an approach to research. It’s the lens through which thinking occurs. Consequently, my investigation into the understanding of future, past and present remembrance and forgetting in the public sphere has been based on “Forest Calling – A Never-Ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge”—which has explored the potential of the performative monument and led me to discover and define the term “participatory monument.” I have set out the following points to clarify this term.

The participatory monument:

  • Brings the public into the work, engaging them as participants through interaction with remembrance and forgetting.
  • Can include anyone interested and willing as a participant.
  • Activates memory and contributes to forming collective memory through participation and dialogue.
  • Is not based on a scripted dialogue and does not direct participants’ behaviour or movement.
  • Includes participants as witnesses, observers, and contributors.
  • Has a framework that is temporary and time-limited in nature focused on critical material and a social situation at the time initiated.
  • Is not defined by or limited to particular media, materials, or technology.
  • Gives the artist a role in creating a situation, place, or event that open up an exchange between the narrative material in the work and the participants.
  • Requires the artist to be present in the making of the work and to be available and connected at every stage of the process.

I consider of “Forest Calling – A Never-Ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge” to be a participatory monument. Firstly, because of the participatory nature of Forest Calling, and how it only becomes activated through participation.

This is my experience with participatory monuments, both in my own works and in others, this is true whether you are experiencing the work on-site or online. Moreover, a participatory monument can be present in both public space and sphere, depending on the form of engagement, because the artwork only becomes activated through public participation. Participants are the carriers of collective memory and activate the public space or public sphere through the sharing of their art experience with others. In my opinion, this demonstrates how the participatory monument empowers its participants. The participants’ presence makes the knowledge of the artworks actual, thus activating them and demonstrating how art can be part of the discourse on remembrance and forgetting in the public sphere.

Secondly, because participatory and socially engaged art brings the public into the art-making by expanding it to include trans-disciplinary inquiry and collaboration, what I term a participatory monument must also incorporate ethical processes into the methodology and framework of art-making. Participants must each be treated with due ethical consideration, and transparency is a crucial component in working with memory. This is how we engage on a personal level, developing a shared understanding as to how the information they provide will be used, and confidentiality is a must when working with the public. The participants’ consent must be obtained before their contribution is presented as you choose to enter the forest and engage within on its own premises; the right to terminate the participation can happen at any time. Thus, it is essential to make clear the conditions and to get agreements at every level about the material gathered through the collaboration and to discuss how their participation will be presented. It is a contract the artist must honour when working with collective memory and site.

Importantly, in turn, the direction of the work must be informed exchanges with participants futures, past and present.

To enact this contract requires active listening. So, thirdly, I have found that such acts of listening require patience, resilience and tolerance. It’s the open exchange with the participant that allows for difference to be embraced and consciousness to grow. Presence is a form of embodied translation of language.

Finally, I have realised that memory can be imagined as a light reflected through a prism, reflecting parts of history, but never the whole of it. Participatory monuments are an attempt to use this “prism” as an attempt to understand memory through art-making. If we cannot remember the past, it is often said, we are condemned to repeat it. I believe that remembrance without gleaning greater understanding can also be destructive and condemning. We still understand too little about the ways in which identity, gender, and class differences inform our collective consciousness. There remains a critical need for an ongoing inquiry into our cultural, colonial past and ongoing colonialism through modes of remembrance and forgetting. We have yet to fully open up history beyond the convention of being told from more privileged positions and that, too, is to the detriment of others. By inviting participants into the artwork, Forest Calling activates a different way of practising memorialisation by opening up like a prism to reflect light into the darkest corners of our shared histories past and present.

While many artists in recent decades have addressed forms of participation in public spaces, we must remain active, ever vigilant, in rethinking the past in the present, bringing more enlightened perspectives into not only academic discourse but also daily life and our collective consciousness. We must encourage further investigations into the field because we find there is an urgent need to redefine the artist’s role and position in this public discourse. As artists, our inner worlds and reflections are translated into artworks and meet the public through the experience of art. The participatory monument is a contribution by artists consciously working in participatory and socially engaged art, as well as to past, present future participants in the public sphere.

“Forest Calling – A Never-Ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge” reflects on how we investigate and interpreted collective memory and remembrance as artwork and practice in the public sphere, that is, in public space and the public imaginary.

In addition, it expands on and examines how remembrance and memory are transformed into works of art. A Participatory Monument seeks to expand the understanding of consciousness by exploring it as an embodiment of sensorial practice and as an extended social vocabulary. Memory resides in our everyday social relationships, movements and behaviour as well as in memorials and traditions of remembrance. Accordingly, as we look at the politics of remembering and forgetting by focusing on our personal experiences as witnesses in the public sphere. “Forest Calling – A Never-Ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge” examines a site, historical material, and translates these lived experiences into an archive of methodology and a vocabulary of remembrance and forgetting.

“Forest Calling – A Never-Ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge” brings out hidden histories of marginalised voices and ways of co-existence in the public sphere. When entering the forest of “Forest Calling – A Never-Ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge” I want you to be confronted with a set of very specific questions: What materialises when human and other than human histories and memories collide? Who are the guardians of the forest as a living archive? Which of our memories are the ones worth keeping? If we could erase the most painful ones, should we? Before you think of answers, I have found one key question to help the critically enter the work. It is an intimate question with no short answer: Whose story has the right to be retold and remembered? “Forest Calling – A Never-Ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge” is a participatory monument, activated by storytellers and listeners–witnesses in time.

Through the act of presence “Forest Calling – A Never-Ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge” enables us to understand our desire to create an inseparable bond between memory and sites. I think artworks can encourage us to share and reflect upon our memories, histories and experiences. Sharing how we perceive moments in time and deepen our co-existence, which, in return, build relations, empathy, and a greater understanding of our personal and collective identities. We all remember and memorialise differently, and our interpretations of our memories expand our evolving knowledge and transcend our differences.

Making art is a powerful way to contextualise memory and express them to others. Through listening to our environment, its sounds become part of our consciousness. The experience of presence can be empowering because it makes us reflect on our own memories and connected them with specific moments in our own lives.

Working with memory is painful. It’s hard, and it makes you very vulnerable because it’s nature is emotional. Working with sites of memory in public space is a demanding process. Recounting memories that reflect all of us is a shared responsibility, to create awareness of representation and, at times, its absence in public space. So “Forest Calling – A Never-Ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge” calls for awareness of every living being.

In our lifetime, we experience countless monuments, sites of memory—all of which are works in honour of memory.

For me, “Forest Calling – A Never-Ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge” is a reminder of our shared responsibility, and that it is crucial that we explore new ways of co-existence. As participants in the participatory monument, we are all storytellers, narrators, and witnesses of another temporalities and readings of sites of memory. Its time to protect the forest’s agency and viability for an infinite future that allows re-thinking and acting to reimagine the world through the fabric of our overlapping narratives.

The Atlantic Forest: Rings of Strangulation are cultivated, the Earth Ruptures and the Hills Collapse by Maria Theresa Alves

[Note: this text is a transcript of the audio piece (2020)]

Coigbâcete recou:  is a Tupi word which means: Strength, as we say, Comes From the Forest

I would like to thank Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzén for asking me to contribute a talk for their exhibit, Forest Calling – A Never-Ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge.

My work usually develops out of interactions with the physical and social environments of places I live in or visit for exhibitions or residencies. Out of respect for the important work and history of the Fogelstadgruppe I would have liked to have spent some time in the forest in Fogelstad so that I then could speak. But Covid 19 has changed this.

Therefore, I will speak about the Atlantic Forest in Sao Paulo  from where I am from in Brazil. And this will be an interruption in your trip.

I have divided the talk into three sections each titled with a Tupi word from the original peoples, the Tupinamba whose territory this was. It is part of a work of mine, Metaplasmos which are bronzes of fruits and seeds of the Atlantic Forest – it is the beginning of an Abecedaire of Tupi, the language of the Tupinamba and which is no longer spoken in Ubatuba but which had defined a way to think and see the world precisely there and no where else.

Coigbâcete recou:  is a Tupi word which means: Strength, as we say, comes from the forest.

The Atlantic Forest runs along the coast of Brazil but also goes inland covering a total of 16 states and meandering to Argentina and Paraguay. 34,000 hectares  of the forest continues to be destroyed each  year. Only 11 percent of the original vegetation remains.

I was born in the midst of where it was made to no longer exist – in the city of Sao Paulo. Like many others, my parents had left the country-side to find jobs in the big city. When I visit what I still consider ‘back home’ – the towns of Sao Luiz do Paraitinga and Ubatuba in Sao Paulo,  I take a bus from the city to Ubatuba via Sao Luiz. In a bus ride of a few hours the history of colonization of the land is revealed.  During  the 70s I remember the large expanses along the highway of orange-red earth looking gutted and exposed from the recently cut forest. Much machinery was involved in cutting, packing and reshaping the earth to make  new settlements for workers needed in the growing industries, such as the automobile manufacturing facilities, of Sao Paulo. Then after another hour or two, there comes the sad barren hills of the countryside.  Earth collapsed by erosion bleeds purple here.

The forest around Sao Luiz do Paraitinga, like many non-indigenous settlements in the area,  was cut down first to grow coffee which removes in about seven years all nutrients of the earth.  When the earth weakens and coffee can no longer be grown sugarcane is planted.  After sugarcane could no longer be grown, the damaged earth can still support forage grasses planted for cattle. The free range cattle trample up and down the hills, pounding the earth down. Compaction of the soil does not allow water to be absorbed by the earth.  This results in erosion. It also results in Voçoroca, in Tupi it means rupture of the earth. Water becomes trapped in some layers of the earth and having no where to go due to compacted soil, eventually pops up and collapses.

The cattle which came had seeds on their bodies from an African savanna. These seeds dropped upon the forest-less human-weakened earth and large spikey bushes grew. Cattle that ate the sharp leaves died from internal damage. Ranchers set fire to remove this bush from their land. It is a plant from the savanna where fires are common. To survive it has developed a long root  that guarantees it remains alive while fires rage on the earth on top and it has learned to  sprout quickly back after a fire. The forest plants cannot compete. These bushes took over the damaged earth and as a result  cattle ranching all but ceased in Sao Luiz.

I thought that  at that moment the forest could return.

But eucalyptus trees were planted. It now grows in orderly rows throughout the region. It is a tree that has learned to survive droughts in its native Australia by extracting as much water as possible from the earth to the detriment of all other neighbors. In the earth that was pounded down by cattle and where water cannot be easily absorbed, the roots of the eucalyptus tree finds what moisture it can to survive and thus causes further erosion of the earth. I have seen a plantation in Sao Luiz with the earth collapsing around the very roots of these trees.  The eucalyptus is grown to make toilet paper.

The forest here does not return.

There is a former ranch now eucalyptus plantation that can easily be seen on the right side of the road. In a small area between the steep slopes of the hills, the remnant of a forest survived for centuries. It was too steep to grow coffee or sugarcane and no  cattle could reach it to forage there. But it is perfect for  growing eucalyptus trees. But now, it is no longer permitted to cut down the forest. It is such a small plot of native trees on that ranch and yet it remains an affront against the non-indigenous land owner. There is a killing method called The Ring. Eucalyptus trees are planted to encircle a native forest. Eucalyptus trees grow fast. They will eventually choke the native forest trees. In plain sight – a public secret.

Rains still come,  but the earth has been made impenetrable to the water after the forest was cut, and the remaining earth pounded down by cattle hooves, torn apart by the ensuing voçorocas and erosion, and then sucked dry by the eucalyptus trees. The torrential water does not stop for the earth sealed against it and instead runs quickly down the hills.

A few years ago it rained very much – as it sometimes does. The water rushed down the hill with no vegetation or trees to stop it. The water  rushed down the hill of pounded earth. The water gushed into the river which rose up. This river met with another river which had also risen up. Together they rose higher and higher and the town was flooded. Its historic colonial town center – a monument to slavery – destroyed.

It is famous for its carnival now, which was the government’s solution when the town was going bankrupt after cattle ranching ceased. They said ‘dance the carnival’. ‘To dance in the carnival’ had been prohibited by the catholic church since 1930. We learned to dance the carnival. Hundreds of thousands of tourists now flood the town of a few thousand inhabitants during carnival.  Property prices have gone up.

Aimõbucu in Tupi means: To linger in order to postpone as one wishes.

On the bus from Sao Luiz do Paraitinga to Ubatuba which is on the coast, after passing The Ring Death Trap Plantation, and well maintained stately colonial homes which were worked by enslaved labor until 1888, one begins to climb the serra  – the mountain. The Serra do Mar State Park halted somewhat the ongoing destruction of the forest in the late 70s.  And where the park begins a war continues to rage. The non-indigenous owner of half of the hill refuses to let one tree grow there  – it is an offense to him.  On the other half, the state park begins and so does the forest.

For many years I would hold my breath going up afraid to find that destruction would continue. But for the last decade, I allowed myself to breathe thinking that a moratorium had been reached. But  two years ago, the road was littered by uprooted vegetation and neatly cut wood piled on the side of the road. A new road was being  cut into the mountain to allow access to yet more tourists.

The invasion from Europe came directly to Ubatuba resulting in the genocide of the original peoples, the Tupinambas,  those who survived either were pushed further up the coast,  or attempted to remain hidden in the forest – hunters were sent to find them and either enslave them or kill them. The words that had been developed over a millennium for the thousands of endemic plants of the Atlantic Forest are almost non- existent. We know these plants now almost only with scientific latinized words or in the words-sounds of  the conqueror’s Portuguese.  The Guarani communities are reduced to three reservations and must continue to struggle for land demarcation.

In the 80s, I met one of the two forest rangers of Ubatuba. They are responsible for inspecting and protecting 332,000 hectares – usually on foot. I asked the ranger how did he get interested in the environment – as at that time in Brazil it was not a known concept. He explained that when he was required to do his obligatory military service  Brazil was a military dictatorship. He had refused to torture prisoners and was punished by the army by being sent to the forest. He has grown to love the forest. And is its fierce and incorruptible protector.

Aicoabeeng is a Tupi word which means: To offer something to someone in friendship or as a good upbringing.

There are many histories of resistance in Ubatuba. It is where the Portuguese were forced to sign their first treaty with indigenous peoples promising to not enslave the Tupinambas. Not much later, the Portuguese would  break this treaty  and resume enslaving indigenous peoples. Their descendants struggle for visibility and land. It is where quilombos, free Black communities of runaway slaves existed in the midst of slavery. It is where leftists were hidden as the army hunted them in the 60s.  It is where some protection, although under constant threat still exists for the forest.

I admire the de Oliveira family in Ubatuba very much – generations of activists for land, labor, educational, cultural and environmental rights. I have asked two members to talk each about one incident that involves this forest.

Romulo as a young man was a union organizer with his father Senhor Pedro. Now he is a retired engineer having worked for the water company of the municipality. He tells the story of the burning of the Corcovado mountain peak in Ubatuba. This is the highest point of the mountain and because it was of difficult access had much pristine vegetation. It is said that some youths climbed up and set off fire works and the peak of Corcovado burnt down.

“So lets begin the story. It happened on Saturday very early in the morning. I had gone into town on Friday, drank some beer, danced. Came back at around 3 – 2:30

in the morning. I was sleeping. Lacerda was a good friend of my father, mother and of us. I was half sleeping – half drunk. All of the sudden I am standing up. Someone had grabbed me by my chest and stood me up and said to me, ‘Come with me. Come with me. You are the only one I trust to carry the food. The others are too weak to carry it and maybe they will even eat it all before we arrive there. You are coming with me to Corcovado now.’ I was still drunk and numb from sleep and thought alright and started to walk out with the sack to the van and dropped it in. There was me, Lacerda, Valdemar, Little Son who was the son of a man called Son,  Little Son Fragoso, Marcio, my brother and Jair, and also my nephew Rodrigo who must have been 7 years old. I do not remember what year this is exactly. We left at dawn in the van and passed the Monkey Waterfall and stopped at Fundão. We could still see stars – I think, the planet, Venus was out. We took out the gear from the van and me with that cargo on my back. It must have weighed 30 kilos. To climb in the middle of a forest with that weight is hard. I was dizzy and half drunk with sleep but relaxed and not even worried about the heavy weight just worried about  the kids. We started to walk into the forest towards Corcovado 6, 7 maybe 8 kilometers away. We began to walk. After two hours, Jair and Marcio gave up on the walk.  Then, what are we to do?  They left their clothes, their kit. As we were planning to sleep on the Corcovado we had to take a mattress,  and blankets. They left this kit. Then we continued  with our walk. Lacerda took out a fish pie and aroeira juice. Lacerda was a guy who knew much about the forest. He made teas from different plants and had vast knowledge of what they were for. If I had known more I would have learned much more from him than what I learned. And we continued to walk to Corcovado. Along the way we saw a tapir, but at the time, we did not have a photo camera, we saw many tufted capuchin monkeys and birds. But what called my attention most was the plants. So many flowers, not a great quantity  but a great variety of flowers. A flower with exuberant colors followed by one with 3 or 4 colors. It was an explosion of colors but with few colors and  all so interesting. And trees of so many different shapes. It was very beautiful that walk. This trail is closed and no longer in use.

After several hours we arrived at Corcovado at about 4 in the afternoon. It started to rain. It rained. As we were high up, Corcovado  is  1700 meters above the sea. The weather is totally different from down here – although we are in the same municipality. It was very  cold, a constant drizzle and very humid. Valdemar and I put Lacerda, Rodrigo and Little Son to sleep together. All the clothes we had we wrapped around them, so that they would be warm. Especially Lacerda and Rodrigo. And they remained dry and warm. Valdemar and I remained standing. Jumping up and down until dawn. Jumping so that we would not get so cold because it was cold. For us from down here it was too cold. And morning comes. And the surprise. We look at the Corcovado and it is all burnt. Like looking at a football field full of charcoal. It was not smoking as it burnt down days before. A few days before, or five or six days before there was the fire on Corcovado. And so in the early morning, Lacerda says, “Grab the sack with food.” I opened it and it was only seeds. Some days before, Lacerda had walked around the forest, he knows everything here in Ubatuba. He walked the forest and gathered seeds, all types of seeds that he found along the way. He gathered all the seeds he could. He asked people who lived in the forest, far from town to gather seeds. I know we arrived there with thirty kilos of seeds. To arrive with 30 kilos – that is a lot of seeds. And then he grabbed that sack and said, “We are going to replant this place.” Imagine I think this is between 88 or 84. No one talked about the environment. Very few people thought about it. And there we had gone to replant. Even the way we replanted – mixing seeds. I knew nothing about that. I would learn about this way of reforestation just about a year ago. We sowed the seeds all over amidst all of that charcoal. Imagine a football field filled only with charcoal. It was turf, turf burns continuously for 2 to 3 days from underneath. And we sowed all of those seeds, me, Lacerda, Valdemar and Rodrigo – so happy. He was laughing and laughing. I never saw a little boy of 7 so happy. Little Son Fragoso also was there. We sowed it all. Then Lacerda said, “It is now time to leave.” He went up there only to do this. “

Some decades ago I spent time with Senhor Teofilo in Saca das Bananas in Ubatuba. He is a Caiçara, a local resident of indigenous descent. He talked about the local beings of the area.


Some Trees in Ubatuba

Bastão, Bauva, Bicuiba, Brejaúva
Caeté Banana, Caeté Imbira, Candiúba, Canela
Castanha, Cedro
Guaraguãtá, Guarecica
Palmito, Peloteira
Samambaia, Sexta-Fios, Sibiuva
Tarumã, Tocu

Some Animals in Ubatuba

Cabrito do Mato, Cachorro do Mato, Cutia
Gamba, Guatika, Guaxini
Lebre, Liraninha, Lontra
Onça, Ouriço
Paca, Pirara, Preguiça
Tamanduá, Tatu

Maria das Dolores is Romulo´s eldest sister.  She has taught children for more than 40 years as a schoolteacher in the public school system in town and in the rural zone. Before we begin with her talk. I would like to tell a short story that Dolores once told me years ago. A neighbor who made a precarious living gathering paper and cardboard on the street to sell, would save his money and buy caged birds and walk to the forest to free them.

Dolores explains about the destruction of the forest:

Today, Ubatuba has about 80 percent of its forest preserved but there are some areas which continue to be settled or devastated due to different reasons such as housing, condominiums, roads, public concessions, and craftwork. In 2002 to 2003 I went to work in a rural school with pre-teen children. It was a beautiful place surrounded by the Atlantic Forest. Although it was a rural area, there was not much rural activities. The majority of the parents lived through the exploitation of the forest – they made craft objects with wood. This neighborhood has become known and later named by a mayor as Rota do Artesanato, Craftwork Route. Soon after I began working there, the interests of the children and the activities of their parents caught my attention. But it bothered me. It always happened that early in the morning when classes began the sound of saws or axes echoed throughout the forest. This caused me immense discomfort and concern. That was when my school project began. I  thought it would be interesting to talk with the parents in order to together develop a project to cultivate native tree seedlings especially those that the parents were removing from nature to make their craft objects: wall decorations, bowls, key chains, wooden spoons and other things.

I wrote up the proposal and showed it to the director of the school where I worked, who also became enthusiastic especially with lectures and meetings for and with the parents. The parents who worked with craft and their children began to be committed to the project. In the lecture by a biologist, the parents were able to understand the importance of the replanting of each tree that they removed from nature. As well as understanding the life cycle of the trees that they used so much as their raw material. We made a greenhouse of seedlings of the native trees which the parents were removing from nature. The project consisted of several points: to come to know the Atlantic Forest in order to understand her. A commitement to replant a seedling for each tree cut down. To understand the cycle of life of the trees they preferred to cut so that they could choose to cut down those what were already condemned. To select seeds and to bring them to our greenhouse. To use all the material removed from nature by making smaller objects, to create new types of craft objects that would add value to the raw material that they removed. The following year they closed the school due to lack of funds. It was cheaper for the municipality to transport the students to schools in other communities. Today, the area as well as the craftworkers are living abandoned.

Some Birds in Ubatuba

Alma-de-Gato, Andorinha, Anu, Aracari,
Baitaka, Beija-flor,
Caçaroba, Carapeá, Colero, Coriabu, Coruja, Cuhuria
Jacu, Juriti, Juruna,
Papagaio, Papo-Banana, Passaro-Preto, Pato d’Agua, Pavó, Periquito, Pica-Pau
Tesurinha, Tico-Tico, Tié, Tifela, Tijitica, Tiriba, Tubaca, Tukano
Uru, Urubu

And Senhora Benedita’s, Dolores’s mother’s, favorite the bird called, Sairá.

By Maria Thereza Alves
For Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzén

Forest Calling is one of twelve awarded projects within the Public Art Agency’s nationwide open call Lokala konstprojekt, in which locally engaged art projects, initiated by artists or art organisations, were invited to apply for collaboration on mutual knowledge development (2018-2020).

The public programme is produced by Public Art Agency Sweden/Annika Enqvist and Andria Nyberg Forshage in collaboration with Malin Arnell, Åsa Elzén and Joanna Nordin/Sörmlands Museum – part of Region Sörmland.