Moulding Nature – Discursive Struggles Over the Environment

26 August 2023 26 November 2023

Group exhibition
Project rooms, Färgfabriken

Curators: Nico Carpentier, Daniel Urey and Emilia Rosenqvist
Designer: Irene Straccuzzi

Participating artists: Katrīna Neiburga, Hanna Ljungh, Maja Smrekar, Soraya Poulin, Paula von Seth, Tessa Joosse

Other participants: Inger-Helene Gråik, Christina Åhren, Annica Kvint, Anders Kling, Karin Kjellson, Torun Hammar, Samuel Michaelsson, Alexandra Björnström, Anton Ståhl, David Garcia, Elin Markstedt, Emil Tjännström, Fredrik Tåg, Joakim Karlsson, Mattis Skogsskir, Niklas Fjellborg, Niklas Viklund, Pernilla Renfors, Theres Karlsson, Ulrica Rahula, Ali Minanto, Lena Ylipää, Viktoria Birgersson, Katarina Brunnström, Gabrielle, Fredrik Emilson, Manuel Vason, Borut Peterlin, Hana Jošić, Anže Sekelj, Borut Peterlin, Ada, Baxus and Afra

Moulding Nature raises questions about how we perceive our environment. In video works, collages, photos and installations, artists and other participants explore how different discourses* affect the way we give meaning to nature and the role of mankind in it. Discourses that often are in conflict with each other and compete for space, sometimes even fight each other.

The exhibition is part of a project on environmental communication where researchers have identified voices, positions and ideologies that can be linked to the discussion about nature and the environment. These are illustrated through an ideological map developed by Nico Carpentier (with a design by Irene Straccuzzi), which, together with selected works of art, gives a multifaceted and deepened picture of the struggle about how the world around us can be interpreted.

A large part of the visual material in the exhibition has been produced through co-creative activities, where people from different geographical and social contexts participated. The result is a number of installations that highlight the many layers of interpretations, voices and conflicts of interest that characterize landscapes, forestry, gardens and urban environments.

*Discourse can be described as “a filter” that affects how the conversation is conducted and how different phenomena are perceived within an area. From a social sciences perspective our relationship to reality is maintained or controlled through various discourses. For example, if you believe in God and part of a religious discourse, you perceive the world in a different way than someone who is an atheist and part of an atheistic discourse.

About the art works

Maja Smrekar (with Manuel Vason, Borut Peterlin, Hana Jošić and Anže Sekelj, Borut Peterlin, Ada, Baxus and Afra)
K-9_topology: Hybrid Family, Ecce canis & Autoportrait // !brute_force (photo)

The series of photographs visualize the symbiotic potential of human-nature relationships, and the intimate connection between human animals and non-human animals. As a set of representations of natureculture, Smrekar’s work shows the entangled interdependence of nature and culture where humans can only be humans through the interaction with nature, transferring nature from a position of constitutive outside to a constitutive inside. The series also communicates an egalitarian ethos, where, for instance, strength is not an exclusivity, but shared throughout all realms of our world.

Maja Smrekar (b. 1978) is educated in sculpture and video at The Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana, Slovenia. As an artist she has been using her voice to speak on ecofeminism, inter-species relationships, posthumanism, technology and ideological structures in society. Her artistic work is inspired by ecology, ethology, AI, robotics, biotechnology, reproductive medicine, molecular biology etc
Artist´s webpage

Hanna Ljungh
Vedergällning (Retaliation) (video 04.46 min)

The video is a tribute to a scene from Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, activating the latter film’s narrative of the tension between paganism and Christianity. In Bergman’s film, the destruction of the birch tree ends with the extraction of twigs, which are then used in a purification ritual right before the revenge killing of the three herdsmen, by Töre, the father of the women they raped. Here, the tree serves as a dramatic symbol for the vulnerability and destruction of youth, but also for the human relentlessness in instrumentalizing and utilizing anything, including nature. These are meanings that Ljungh’s video cannot escape, even though the actual usage of the birch twigs has been removed from her video. Still, at the same time, the focus on human destructiveness is combined with a demonstration of nature’s resilience, as it takes the human actor in both films considerable effort to eventually destroy the birch tree.

Hanna Ljungh (b. 1974) has an education from Parsons School of Design, New York and Konstfack, Stockholm. She is based in Stockholm, where she works with film, photography, sculpture and installation. Her work reflects upon and questions the fine line between what we call human and non-human forms of existence and the complex relations between them. 
Artist´s webpage

Katrīna Neiburga
Pickled Long Cucumbers (video 11.07 min)

The video locates humans, in different capacities, in the forest. The opening birth-like scene, where the soil produces, or releases, a male and female, suggests a strong emphasis on synergism and rootedness, but the video simultaneously undermines the simplicity of a return-to-nature, showing the entanglement of nature and culture (or natureculture), which also implies the impossibility of shaking off culture and civilisation. Using an anti-romantic perspective, the video shows the characters searching, with a combination of bewilderment and perseverance, for an unreachable balance, where both nature and culture produce obstacles that disrupt what appears to be a simple life of a family in the woods.

Katrīna Neiburga (b. 1978) is educated at Art Academy of Latvia and lives and works in Riga. She has received many awards, including the prestigious Purvitis Award, and has represented Latvia at the Venice Biennale. Neiburga’s main medium is video and she uses the camera with a socio-anthropological interest in everyday day life zooming in and revealing unnoticed or ignored phenomena.
Artist´s webpage

Soraya Poulin (photography by Ali Minanto)
Urban bird (collage)

The art work is a reflection on the positionality of pigeons in urban landscapes, which brings in several elements. On the one hand, the work refers to the struggle between birds and humans, where pigeons are constructed as problematic – a pest that needs to be eradicated. Here we find a critique on anthropocentrism and its hierarchization, that disconnects nature from culture (creating a dualist structure), and positions humans and their cities as privileged and superior. But the art work also emphasises the co-habitation aspect, driven through the pigeons’ agency, who are not that easily discarded. This brings in a more entanglementist, synergetic and egalitarian perspective, where pigeons are seen as also entitled to the urban spaces, symbolised through the parodic re-enactment of a pigeon exhibition, playing with the limits of anthropomorphic representations. 

Soraya Poulin (b. 1996) is an artist, graphic designer and illustrator based in Sion, Switzerland. 
Artist´s webpage

The image show The Wetland  by Paula von Seth.

Paula von Seth
The Forest Owners – Balancing Acts for Women Family Forestry (installation) 
Participants forest owners: Viktoria Birgersson, Katarina Brunnström, Lena Ylipää and Gabrielle
Participant artist: Lena Ylipää
Thanks to: Mia Vendel, Fredrik Emilson, Ann Frössén and Viktor Nilsson

The installation combines four photographs and texts, co-produced with female forest owners, integrated into different types of tree artifacts. These different representations of the forest elucidate the tension between utilization, responsibility and care, and the complexities of production and protection in environments where capitalist interests are prevailing. It is a demonstration of the multi-layered nature of human relations with the forest that the conservation of nature entails. Structured by material ownership, and ethics of care, deep affective and aesthetic relations, in search of the balance between utilization and non-intervention, between taking and giving. 

Paula von Seth (b. 1971) is an artist, art educator and university teacher. She has several educations, including from the University of Fine Arts in Umeå, Konstfack and Lund University as well as SLU, where she studied agronomy with a focus on rural development. Von Seth has solid experience from art education work and studied creative work with sustainability issues in focus. Her contribution to Molding Nature is part of an ongoing research project at SLU.

Tessa Joosse
Ugly selfie (video 03.02 min)

Both a parody and a call to action, the video analyses online media representations of nature, critiquing the consumerist and instrumentalist perspectives that nature selfies communicate. In particular, the video is an argument against geo-reductionism, or the reduction of the multitude of spaces to a limited number of options, thus hiding the diversity and complexity of nature by casting it in the role of beautified background. The video simultaneously calls upon selfie producers to visualize the damage done to nature by humans, and to stop denying the urgency of treating the planet in a more just and respectful manner. The video argues that the production of these “ugly selfies” will diversify the representations of nature, and thus support a more geo-pluralist approach to nature.

Tessa Joosse (b. 1974) is a filmmaker and artist who lives and works in Amsterdam. After her studies in sculpture and installation art she has made many art-installations and theater backdrops for different companies and venues amongst others for the Operadagen Rotterdam and November music. In 2010 she won the prize for best short film at the international festival for environmental film in Paris, France. Her work has since been shown in many festivals and museums.  
Artist´s webpage

Silencing and Unsilencing the Garden (installation) 
Alexandra Björnström, Anton Ståhl, David Garcia, Elin Markstedt, Emil Tjännström, Fredrik Tåg, Isabella (no surname added), Joakim Karlsson, Mattis Skogsskir, Niklas Fjellborg, Niklas Viklund, Pernilla Renfors, Theres Karlsson, and Ulrica Rahula
In cooperation with Skellefteå Konsthall and Urkraft Skellefteå.

This participatory art project is centred around the concept of silencing/unsilencing nature, where – through the method of photovoice – different perspectives on the garden were produced, critiquing the silencing of nature through anthropocentric interventions and simultaneously strengthening (or unsilencing) nature, through the development of empathic stakeholdership that also allows for the acknowledgement of synergetic human-nature relations, but also nature’s agency, and in particular its capacity to resist human oppressive and destructive practices. This acknowledgement produces a posthumanist perspective, which is grounded in a fundamental egalitarian vision.

Silencing and Un-Silencing the Landscape  (installation)
Inger-Helene Gråik and Christina Åhren 
In cooperation with Gaaltije – Saemien museum

The installation integrates a series of contradictory layers that all provide meaning to a particular space, combining a multitude of different significatory repertoires. This articulation also symbolizes the impossibility to give a full closure of meaning to this space. It remains impossible to fully capture, fully comprehend and fully control. The intersection of indigenous and Swedish voices and representations turns this into a post-colonial installation, where the different layers all have to co-exist, and the colonial past, with its oppressive power imbalances, now co-exists with the contemporary era, without the past having disappeared, but also without the past still being the past.

Renderad framtid (Rendered future) (installation)
Annica Kvint (journalist), Anders Kling (architect), Karin Kjellson (architect), Torun Hammar (architect) and Samuel Michaelsson (architect)

The participatory project reflects on the architectural practice of rendered images which intend to make the not-yet-visible visible. These images are highly ideological, showing future human interventions in urban landscapes, creating idealised worlds that not only privilege the city but also romanticize the urban. Through the combination of rendered images and their parodies, the installation takes a firm geo-pluralist stance and offers a critique on cityism and anthropocentric dualism. At the same time, the art work demonstrates the limits of representation itself, by pointing its ideological, contingent and unstable nature.

Further reading

Discursive Struggles Over The Environment
An introduction by Nico Carpentier, Extraordinary Professor at Charles University, Prague

The exhibition is part of the research program Mistra Environmental Communication, and more specific the program for research concerning media and arts, lead by Nico Carpentier, Extraordinary professor at Culture and Communication Research Center, Charles University in Prague. 

Färgfabriken has initiated several co-creative activities within the program based on different themes; garden, how nature is “silenced” and rendered pictures as desinformation about the future. These activities took place at different locations in the country in collaboration with Skellefteå konsthall, Virserums konsthall, Gaaltje Saemien Museume in Östersund, Färgfabriken’s Youth Council and a group of architects. The exhibition Moulding Nature is created from results of the research and material from the co-creative activities together with selected artworks. 

Top picture: Moulding Nature design by Irene Stracuzzi. Still image from the filmed performance Vedergällning, Hanna Ljungh, 2007, 04:32 min. Courtesy of Filmform.

With support from