Introduction to In Forest Intervals / Responding to the Forest’s Call by Annika Enqvist and Andria Nyberg Forshage
by Annika Enqvist
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?
IN FOREST INTERVALS
by Andria Nyberg Forshage
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.
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 Elzén, which 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.