Observatory Case

Open Urban Forest

The scale of human impact on the planetary ecosystem has been so profound that talking about pristine and untouched nature is more of a romantic and colonial vision of the savage than a meaningful abstraction. Yet, we tend to forget that our own bodies – flesh and bones – are not less natural than they’ve been millennia back. The natural and the artificial are intertwined like the rhizome of the moss that covers the walls of our houses and the barks of the park trees. 

Open Urban Forest (image credit: Michal Mitro)

Open Urban Forest planted at ssesi.space is a six-month research project exploring how the human and the more-than-human work with and around each other. These explorations are situated in the specific context of a nature-reclaimed communal garden located on the steep hills of the Svratka river in the city of Brno, Czech Republic. The research seeks to pave the path for meaningful communication and cohabitation of various agents that occupy and utilise this garden space. The Open Urban Forest research strategy is to approach the site and its actors through the prism of four expert teams with Michal’s additional guidance as he has been visiting the site regularly for the past eight years.

The experts involved in this inter-species conversation are: 

AVA collective: sonic enthusiasts, explorers and flâneurs who re-search and re-shape the  environmental sounds, combining live sonic feeds as well as field recordings with an open palette of post-club tendencies.

d’Epog: a post-dramatic theatre company whose performative interventions explore given space across extended time scales often elevating the invisible features and dynamics of the given context.

Ing.arch. MArch Jan Kristek, Ph.D and his architectural class: Jan is leading a studio at Faculty of Architecture, Brno University of Technology that explores various shapes of architecture as well as the ways architecture shapes the social and urban fabric of given space. He is currently serving as a dean as well.

Associate Professor, Ing. Radek Pokorny, Ph.D: head of the department of Forest Planting and Nourishing of Mendel University in Brno. He is an ardent advocate of both sustainable and pragmatic approaches to forestry.

MArts Michal Mitro: (main project author): his role in the project is to guide and facilitate the guests as well as process and curate their findings

The experts in the team are asked to use their distinct knowledge, tools, and skills to elaborate on the aspects of the Open Urban Forest space. The research is thus structured loosely and allows a lot of space for subjective preferences, focus and attention to detail. The team agreed to openly acknowledge their active and transformative role in the environment rather than positioning themselves as “objective observers”. 

The bourgeoning garden forest is shaped by a multitude of human-initiated contexts such as traffic infrastructure extension, drought, and municipal urban planning. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly feral. Throughout the project duration, guests experts from fields of architecture, forestry, visual arts, field recording, and performance art will visit the forest and conduct their research. These guests are invited to observe, analyse, abstract, and speculate on meanings and datasets that the forest conveys to them, or to which they happen to incline. Equipped with unique tools, knowledges, and viewpoints we hope to jointly shape an inter-subjective representation of the forest that would reflect its stacked and multifocal nature. We hope that, by doing so, we can set an inviting and supportive base for the interspecies dialogue and reinforce dynamics that would make the space open, urban, and forest.