Andere Wälder

<Discussion and Video, eng. + dt.>

Barbara Marcel and Maren Mayer-Schwieger
Sunday, June 6, 2021
2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Location: Open University, Urfahrmarkt area


The woods are dense and full of poetry. They are places full of (hi)stories. To become a hero, one must go into the woods and complete their adventures. Robbers, witches, woodsman, and other outlaws inhabit this same forest, which exists beyond the boundaries of society and, therefore, is the home of outsiders. Yet, the forest is not just the counterpart of culture. The home of lumber and paper production, the forest is associated with cultural hegemony, colonial conquest, and slavery. At the latest in the 19th century, the forest itself was regarded as a means and object of cultivation. While it is supposed to exalt the romantic soul as the pastoral ideal, forestry cultivates it as a national economic resource. Only later did folk ideology and the conservation movement come together in the “German Cultural Forest.” Let us assume, the forest dieback in the 1980s became the symbol of the dark side of progress. In that case, it appears that with today’s global forest fires and deforestation, the forest as topos of cultural history has come to an end.

Maren Mayer-Schwieger speaks with Barbara Marcel about her project Golden Tone, which explores the historical cultural landscape of the western Harz mining region and the special history of the breeding, training, and trading of canaries. Between the heavy metal-contaminated hills and fallen spruces, Marcel’s video essay probes the layers of the mythological and anthropogenic forest in the iconic landscape of the German Harz region. Marcel and Mayer-Schwieger discuss the complexity of forests, their density, and the poetry of their descriptions that often thematize the forest as a counterpart to culture, a place that is simultaneously romantic and ruined. Which woodland stories can we (still) tell each other today?


Barbara Marcel (1985, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) is an artist and filmmaker interested in the cultural roots of nature and the troubled heritage of colonial imagery. Marcel graduated in Film Studies in Rio de Janeiro, holds an MA from the Art in Context Institute at the Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK), and is currently a Ph.D. candidate Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. She is a research fellow of the Heinrich Böll Foundation and lives in Berlin since 2009.

Maren Mayer-Schwieger is a research assistant at the Department of Media Theories at Kunstuniversität Linz. Her dissertation Der andere (im) Oikos. Eine Genealogie ökologischen Wissens explores the (hi)stories and practices of ecological knowledge. In addition, she researches sensor technology, environmental aesthetics, and potato beetles. Maren Mayer-Schwieger has taught at several (art) universities such as HGK Basel, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Leuphana University Lüneburg, and Ruhr-University Bochum.