Ursula Biemann

Swiss video researcher and artist Ursula Biemann has long been interested in the ecologies and uneven distribution of the Earth’s resources, peoples, and information. For this project she is joined by Paulo Tavares, a Brazilian architect and urbanist who studies the politics of space and indigenous resistance in the Amazon, in Forest Law (2014), a two-channel video-installation and photo-text assemblage.

This collaborative project draws from research carried out in the oil-and-mining frontier in Amazonia — one of the most biodiverse and mineral-rich regions on Earth, currently under pressure from the dramatic expansion of large-scale extraction activities. Forest Law enters in conversation with parts of the tropical forest zoned for this sort of impact following a series of landmark legal battles that are unfolding in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where nature has been declared a subject of rights. A particularly paradigmatic trial in which the forest was brought to Court for the first time, has recently been won by the indigenous people of Sarayaku based on their cosmology of the living forest.  Forest Law dwells within this territory. The project emerges from di­alogues between the authors and their practices, the camera and the forest, and, most importantly, with the many people whom we encountered while traveling through Amazonia in November 2013.

Forest Law is a synchronized video projection shot with two cameras, a photo-text assemblage unfolding the background to these cases, and a book. Taken together, the collection of personal testimonies and factual evidence expose the multiple dimensions of the tropical forest as a physical, legal, and cosmological entity. Speculative and essayistic, and informed by multiple disciplines, this installation attempts to forge ties that bridge, disrupt, and slip through the partitions that define our systems of knowledge and the modes by which we perceive, represent, and relate to the world of which we are part.


Ursula Biemann’s work was published in the September 2015 issue of GeoHumanities

Biemann, U., 2015. The Cosmo-Political Forest: A Theoretical and Aesthetic Discussion of the Video Forest Law. GeoHumanities, 1(1): 157–170. DOI: 10.1080/2373566X.2015.1075359

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