Temporary Forests

Temporary Forests

Trees have long been a symbol of the anthropocene era, known as the period where human activity is the biggest impact on the environment. There is even a single Sitka spruce tree on Cambell Island in the Southern Ocean which is regarded by scientists as the marker of the start of the anthropocene. This tree’s rings record the radiocarbon of above ground atomic bomb tests, showing 1965 as the official start of the era. Deforestation is also a growing concern, as it impacts the environment on a huge scale as forests act as carbon sinks and also are habitats to millions of animals. This land clearance happens due to the growing need for land, whether for agriculture or industry, all linked to growing populations and mass consumption. All of this, as well as the visual growth of trees, is why they are growingly being used in installations about the environment. By putting trees in unorthodox locations people are able to challenge their perceptions and appreciation. Urban forests are also beginning to grow in popularity, with cities such as Paris planning on planting trees near its four most popular historic sites.


Forest for Change by Es Devlin // London Design Biennale 2021

Created by Es Devlin, the Forest for Change is open at Somerset House until 27 June 2021 as part of the London Design Biennale. This Biennale looks at the world-changing power of design, under the theme of ‘Resonance’. The idea for the forest began when Devlin was told that trees had been forbidden from the courtyard at Somerset House for 250 years. She then wanted to “counter this attitude of human dominance over nature, by allowing a forest to overtake the entire courtyard.” The immersive installation sees 400 trees from 23 local species in the courtyard, and was created in collaboration with landscape designer Philip Jaffa, and urban greening specialists Scotscape. As visitors walk within the forest they listen to an immersive soundscape by Brian Eno, Cheryl Tipp and the British Library Board. The centre features totems which each represent the 17 United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development. These goals show ways to engage and alter our behaviour towards climate change, poverty, inequality, health, and justice, and are part of an ambitious plan agreed to by all nations to create a better and fairer world for all by 2030. The installation is partnered with Project Everyone, a not-for-profit organisation who work to promote engagement and progress on the Global Goals.



Invocation for Hope by Superflux // Vienna Biennale for Change 2021

The theme for this year’s Vienna Biennale for Change is “Planet Love: Climate Care in the Digital Age”, which imagines different species coming together for a shared banquet in a post-Anthropocene future. Design studio Superflux have also created a forest in an unusual space, an indoor exhibition space at the Museum of Applied Arts. The room is filled with 415 dead black pine trees from Austria’s Neunkirchen region which were damaged during forest fires. The studio collaborated with the local forestry and fire departments to salvage the trees. At the centre are 27 living trees, shrubs, mosses, grass and lichen planted around a circular reflective pool. Due to careful planting and conditions, such as grow lamps, these will continue to grow through the exhibition. This growth and life acts as a juxtaposition to the black damaged trees, as a way to reflect on humans impact on nature. While the living oasis also shows hope. Superflux has designed the exhibition to live on after the event, in order to offset the carbon emissions created in making it. The living trees will be donated to schools and the burnt ones will be turned into compost.



For Forest by Klaus Littmann

Back in 2019 Swiss art curator Klaus Littmann planted a forest in a football stadium in Austria as a “memorial” to the environment. For Forest was created from 300 trees to replicate a European forest. The installation idea is taken from the vision of artist Max Peintner, where he imagined a dystopian world where trees would exist like animals in a zoo back in 1971. For Forest is also intended for people to reflect, and to have a personal experience. The constant changing of the forest also allows for people to return, witnessing the life of the trees. Although no animals of insect life was introduced, the hope is that they will find their way into the forest. Once the exhibition ends the trees will be re-planted on a plot close to the stadium, and a wooden pavilion will be built alongside them to act as an education hub for visitors and students.




Es Devlin

Somerset House



Klaus Littmann