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Eight Degrees / Contemporary Art on the Forest

2024-03-15 to 2025-01-12

Matti Aikio, Malin Arnell & Åsa Elzén, Gerd Aurell & Micael Norberg, Toms Kokins, Norrakollektivet (Anja Örn, Fanny Carinasdotter, Tomas Örn), Elia Nurvista, Uriel Orlow, Edith Marie Pasquier, Jörgen Stenberg and Lena Ylipää.  
This exhibition brings together contemporary art exploring our complex relationships with the forest, ranging from ideas of an inviolable intrinsic value to the conception of something to be utilised, such as an economic asset or a space for recreation. What is a forest? And what pressing questions about it are relevant here and now?  
Through photography, film, sculpture, drawing, textiles, sound and installations, artists, an architect and a storyteller invite us to reflect on the forest, observed and depicted from various perspectives and with diverse experiences. Their works provoke questions about tradition and future, forestry practices, land conflicts, biological diversity and the forest as a sacred space.

Artworks in the exhibition

Matti Aikio
Peurakaira, 2024
Three-channel video installation (19 min)
Sound composition and harmonium: Maja S. K. Ratkje
Viola: Marte Ingeborg Haltli

The video installation Peurakaira is a poetic and meditative portrait of – and a tribute to – Peurakaira, one of the most ancient old growth forests in Finland. In the 1990s, the Finnish state forestry company Metsähallitus announced plans to carry out felling work in the forest. However, the local Sámi community protested, arguing that the forest is essential for reindeer herding. With the help of human rights lawyers and in cooperation with forest activists from Greenpeace, they managed to stop the planned logging – at least temporarily.

Matti Aikio is a Sámi artist and an activist with his roots in Finnish Sápmi. Through his art, he explores the legacy of Nordic
colonialism and the intersection between contemporary Western society and the Sámi people. He has a background in reindeer herding, and often raises issues of land rights and sustainable land use.

Aikio has a master’s degree in fine art from the Academy of Arts in Tromsø, and has exhibited at the Helsinki Biennial, OFF Biennale Cairo, the National Museum of Finland and Oslo’s Henie Onstad Kunstsenter. He was a 2022 Ocean Fellow at TBA21–Academy and a 2022–2023 Sámi Fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics.

The artist would like to thank Kone foundation.

Malin Arnell & Åsa Elzén
Skogen kallar – Ett oändligt kontaminerat samarbete eller Dansandet är en form av skogskunskap. Utsträckning: Spillvirke, 2024
[Forest Calling – A Never-ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge. Extension: Waste wood]
Installation and process-based work

North of Umeå, artists Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzén came across a large pile of waste wood intended for generating district heating. They came up with the idea of taking some of the pile out of production and returning it to the forest; taking it from an industrial cycle focused on human needs and returning it to the life cycle of the forest’s swarming life.

Initially, the idea was to display the pile as a monumental installation in Bildmuseet’s exhibition hall during the exhibition, but the waste wood turned out to be too infested with black mould. The pile will therefore be returned to the forest in May 2024 instead, at Kullar & Klang in Vännforsbäck. There, the sculpture can be visited, and over time it will decompose and become living space for plants and animals. The site is located within the Vindelälven–Juhttátahkka Biosphere Reserve.

The exhibition hall features a table built from the waste wood, a photograph of the original pile of waste wood, a model of the intended installation at Bildmuseet, a photograph of the site where the wood will be placed, and the text Spill spill spill [Waste waste waste].

The artists consider the new work as an extension of their public work Skogen kallar – Ett oändligt kontaminerat samarbete eller Dansandet är en form av skogskunskap [Forest Calling – A Never-ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge] in Julita, Södermanland. There, they took a piece of forest land out of production through an artistic-legal intervention to ensure its survival in perpetuity. A fifty-year lease has been signed as an initial step in the commitment. The forest is located next to the former Women Citizens’ School at Fogelstad and was previously owned by one of its founders Elisabeth Tamm.

Malin Arnell and Åsa Elzén have collaborated since 2008. In addition to the Forest Calling project, they have also worked together as part of YES! Association/Föreningen JA! (2008–2018). Arnell is based in Stockholm and Berlin. They investigate collective processes within a performative sphere. The artistic practice is anchored in a queer feminist and posthumanist stance for an expanded ecological sensitivity. Arnell was awarded her PhD at Stockholm University of the Arts in 2016. Elzén is based in Näshulta, Södermanland. In her work, she explores the concept of ‘the fallow’ in relation to temporality, the climate crisis, declining biodiversity, and queer feminist and more-than-human historiography.

The artists would like to thank forest curator Moa Sandström, Kullar & Klang, Sävar såg - Norra Skog and Holmen paper.


Gerd Aurell & Micael Norberg
Tankar i hatten, 2023
[Thoughts in the Hat]
Installation: kitchen sofa, drawing and film (29 min)

Tankar i hatten [Thoughts in the Hat] is about the musician and activist Magnus Sjögren. The work tells his love story, describing love for another human being but also love for the forest. The film includes thoughts on being in the forest, as well as reflections from the 1970s that could have been taken from contemporary debates on forests and energy production.

The small calypso orchid reappears in the film as a significant creature, and is depicted in a wall drawing in the exhibition space.

Umeå-based artists Gerd Aurell and Micael Norberg have worked together to create the new work Thoughts in the Hat. Aurell mainly works with drawing, film and installation. She is interested in the performative aspect of drawing, often resulting in large-scale wall drawings or drawing performances. Norberg works with text, video and photography in an artistic exploration of his surroundings and personal subjects. Through archives, stories and introspection, he explores the connections between events in his life and the thin line between the personal and the private.


Toms Kokins
Sweden’s Timber Empire, 2024
Installation: Map, drawings, booklet

In the project Sweden’s Timber Empire, architect Toms Kokins examines the consequences of Swedish companies buying forest land abroad. The exhibition presents some of his preliminary research in the form of a series of drawings and a booklet with quotes from interviews. His main hypothesis on Swedish forest ownership is presented as a map that has clear parallels to Sweden’s expansion during the 17th century, when its territory extended far beyond its present-day national borders and into neighbouring countries.

Kokins has mapped which Latvian forests are owned by Swedish companies and has examined what it means for people there that ‘their’ forests are now owned by Swedes. Through interviews with a wide range of different actors, including forestry company representatives, local politicians, beekeepers and environmentalists, he explores transnational links between industry, ecology and culture.

Kokins is a Latvian architect who teaches at Umeå School of Architecture and carries out research funded by UmArts at Umeå University and SLU Future Forests. His practice ranges from architectural commissions to spatial multimedia experiments and international multidisciplinary workshops. In his teaching and his research, he experiments with resource-conscious and context-specific architectural tools and methods to empower communities and investigate hidden narratives relating to the environment, culture and identity.


Gestaltad natur, 2023
[Designed Nature]
Series of six photographs

In Norrakollektivet’s series of photographs, we encounter traces of ecological forest restoration. At first glance, the images appear to depict a wilderness. On closer inspection, however, they emerge as a man-made nature. Traces of intervention bear witness to involvement in a nature that is constantly changing.

The Designed Nature series is based on the idea that nature is almost always influenced and shaped by humans. For example, forests are planned, planted, thinned and drained. But nature is also shaped by conservation projects that aim to restore natural values, for example via managed forest fires, by preserving and creating dead wood, and through other interventions. Norrakollektivet explores the aesthetics and the ideology that govern the restoration of damaged ecosystems.

Ecological restoration aims to restore natural processes and – ultimately – natural flora and fauna, and to encourage bio-diversity. This also raises questions about what is natural. What should nature return to? Ecological amnesia refers to the fact that the memory of nature is lost from one generation to the next, and that there is a general lack of reliable sources on how nature has changed. New aesthetic expressions and values are therefore becoming part of the contemporary forest, shaped by biologists’ initiatives to help nature recover.

Anja Örn, Fanny Carinasdotter and Tomas Örn have worked together under the name Norrakollektivet since 2016. Previous projects have investigated and highlighted the consequences of mineral extraction for people and nature, based on the Aitik mine near Gällivare. Norrakollektivet has exhibited at Havre-magasinet in Boden, Norrbotten’s County Art Museum in Kiruna, ArkDes in Stockholm, the Sune Jonsson Center for Documentary Photography in Umeå, Moderna Museet in Stockholm and Kunsthall Trondheim in Norway. The group is represented in the collections of Moderna Museet, Sweden’s National Public Art Council, Region Västerbotten and Umeå Municipality.


Elia Nurvista
The Route, 2024
Batik print on textile

The Frontier, 2020
Sculptural group: glaze on stoneware

Elia Nurvista investigates and depicts the ecological, economic and cultural consequences of oil palm plantations in Indonesia. Using sculpture and batik-printed textile, she recounts the colonial history of cultivation and its legacy today: land conflicts, forced displacement and the Indonesian landscape that has been shaped by plantations.

The oil palms in The Frontier have human feet, symbolising how people are affected by the plantations. For example, Nurvista’s own grandparents were forced to move with their family from Kalimantan to Java. The textile The Route tells the story of the exploitation of people and nature, and of encounters between indigenous people and colonisers.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil, which is used in both food and cosmetics. The oil palm is originally from the African continent but was introduced to Indonesia by Dutch colonisers who saw opportunities in cultivating the plant there. In turn, the batik technique was brought from Indonesia to Africa, where it became established.

Nurvista lives and works in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Her interdisciplinary work uses various media, often with a focus on food, and examines power structures and social and economic injustices in the world. In 2015, she established Bakudapan, an interdisciplinary group that studies food from socio-political and cultural perspectives. Nurvista is also part of Struggles for Sovereignty, a solidarity platform for land, water, agriculture and food initiated by Bakudapan and Bodies of Power/Power for Bodies.


Uriel Orlow
Dedication, 2021
Five-channel video installation (3:21 min)

Reading Wood (Backwards), 2022
Installation: wooden objects, wallpaper, photographs and sound (6:45 min)

The video installation Dedication is a tribute to the symbiotic processes that take place out of sight beneath the ground, between plants and fungi among the root systems of trees. Mycorrhiza is the interaction between the mycelia of fungi and the roots of trees or other plants. Thin fungal threads penetrate the roots and help the plant to absorb water and minerals, and the fungus receives carbohydrates from the plant’s photosynthesis in return. In recent years, research has shown that this symbiosis also enables communication between trees. They can send a kind of warning signals, for example about insect attacks or drought.

In the installation Reading Wood (Backwards), Orlow considers the human view of trees against the backdrop of a colonial and personal history. Taking a wood library in Lisbon – a library of 10,000 wood samples – as his starting point, the artist questions what happens when the forest becomes a library intended for human consumption.

Uriel Orlow is an artist and a teacher based in Portugal. His artistic work is research-based, often in dialogue with other people and disciplines. His projects address topics such as the legacy of colonialism, spatial manifestations of memory, social and ecological justice and plants as political actors. Orlow’s work has been shown in numerous exhibitions around the world, including the 54th Venice Biennale, Manifesta 9 in Genk, Manifesta 12 in Palermo, and biennials in Berlin, Dakar, Kochi, Taipei, Sharjah, Moscow and Kathmandu. He has had solo exhibitions at the Castle of Rivoli in Turin, Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen in St Gallen, Kunsthalle Mainz and State of Concept Athens. In 2023, he won the Swiss Grand Award for Art/Prix Meret Oppenheim. In 2002 he graduated with a PhD in Fine Art from the University of the Arts London. He teaches at Zurich University of the Arts, the University of Westminster in London and the Maumaus ISP in Lisbon.


Edith Marie Pasquier
That Other Night, the Wolf’s Night, 2024
Installation: C-print on aluminium, 16mm film, multi-channel sound (7:22 min) Editor: Rodrigo Cañas
Voice: Michael Schneider
16mm Camera and Photograph: Edith Marie Pasquier

The work portrays an encounter between a wild wolf and a human, from two perspectives. The wolf’s gaze - anchored in dichromatic vision shifts what is seen. The human gaze – grasping to reassure what really happened. How brittle are the impressions that we carry with us – do they occupy, distract and obstruct the image of what is seen? As night passes, the image dissolves.

With a background in sound, performance and writing, Pasquier has developed a visual and sculptural language in her conceptual approach to photography and moving image. Pasquier suggests the poetic image is the political image. Her practice encompasses the radical moment of the encounter and how a close listening to multi-species brings forth a moment to reflect and attend to the urgent ecological and social issues of our times. She suggests the poetic image is the political image. Her practice encompasses the radical moment of the encounter and how a close listening to multi-species brings forth a moment to reflect and attend to the urgent ecological and social issues of our times. 

Pasquier has received photographic and moving image awards and commissions from institutions in Sweden, the UK and the USA. Her work is held in private and public collections in the UK and Sweden.Pasquier received her Doctorate in Photography in 2019 from the Royal College of Art and the Victoria & Albert Museum funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Scholarship. As a writer she has contributed to numerous international art publications and catalogues. Her work is held in private and public collections in the UK and Sweden. Currently, Pasquier is Associate Professor at Umeå Academy of Arts, Sweden. Previously, Pasquier has worked in contemporary opera, live performance and in political journalism and film media.

The artist would like to thank the Bullmark wolf, the Junsele wolf; Michael Schneider, Large Carnivore Manager, Länsstyrelsen; Janeth and Ingemar Säfsten in Skarda, Västerbotten, and Roy and Gage from Bayeux.


Jörgen Stenberg
Samklang, 2023

Audio work (9:45 min)

In a poetic audio work, joiker, storyteller and reindeer herder Jörgen Stenberg creates an image of what constitutes a sacred place in Christianity, before contrasting this with places in nature that are sacred to him and in the Sámi religion. Through speech and joiking, he critiques those who claim the right to define what is – and is not – a sacred site, which has far-reaching implications for the preservation and destruction of these places.

Stenberg is an Ume Sámi joiker, a cultural worker, an oral storyteller and a reindeer herder, and is active within the
Malå Sámi community. He often collaborates with associations, cultural institutions, artists and filmmakers. His joiking was heard in Carola Grahn’s installation A Cry from the Expansesat Bildmuseet in 2014, and in the 2016 film Sami Blood. He released his own solo album Vuöllieh in 2013 and has won the Sámi Grand Prix song contest twice, in 2014 and 2022.


Lena Ylipää
Arv, 2024

Drawing on wall, text in booklet

In Arv [Heritage], Lena Ylipää reflects on what it means now that she and her sister have inherited their childhood ‘picnic and whittling forest’ and are now tasked with managing it. What does this place mean to them? And how should they relate to traditions and the future?

In a large-scale wall drawing, we meet the artist and her sister in the forest, as well as two ‘pine sisters’ that take up space with their trunks, branches and burrs. Parts of the surrounding landscape are made up of handwritten lines of text. In the accompanying booklet, the artist formulates her thoughts during a visit to the forest. She writes about the forest’s time perspective, which is very different to that of humans. She writes about getting to know her forest. She asks how it is possible to own a forest, and what feelings it evokes. She also writes about a kind of modern-day reckless deforestation, whereby companies that want to use the land for something else – without understanding the different meanings of the place – stir up emotions and create conflicts with their requests.

Ylipää’s art originates from a place in the northern parts of the Tornedalen region from its history and its present. Her work plays out between forests and mining pits, between nation-state and multilingualism, in everyday life, in traditions and in events. Ylipää mainly works with drawing. This offers a way of seeing and describing in depth, incorporating both the small details and the larger sequences of events. Her careful drawing leaves time and space for thought, which also becomes text. The search for a line provides new insights that are formulated in words during the process.

Ylipää has a master’s degree from Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design, and in recent years has exhibited at Havremagasinet in Boden, Konsthallen in Luleå and Skissernas Museum in Lund.



Eight Degrees / Contemporary Art on the Forest is produced by Bildmuseet with support from The Swedish-Finnish Cultural Foundation. The exhibition title references Jörgen Stenberg’s eponymous poem.

Interview with Gerd Aurell & Micael Norberg
Interview with Lena Ylipää
Interview with Malin Arnell & Åsa Elzén
Interview with Toms Kokins
Jörgen Stenberg "The forest is life for me"
Lena Ylipää "The forest is like a family member"