Forest Encounters, European cooperation project (2023–2025), explores and proposes diverse imaginaries, concepts, and practices around the questions: What and how can we learn with and through the forest? What are and could be human encounters with forests? How can we better coexist with the forest? What role art and culture can play in this? What kind of forest do we wish for and need in the future? What do we need to make that happen?
The project is a cross-disciplinary collaboration between partners from Slovenia, Austria, Belgium, and beyond, and aims to develop a multifaceted understanding of diverse values, meanings, challenges, and perspectives related to forest. Bringing together the disciplines of art, forestry, and the humanities, the project approaches the forest as a site where we can explore ecology but also as a site of diverse and often conflictual policies, and social, cultural, and economic practices.
Forests cover approximately 44 % of the total landmass of the EU (Eurostat, 2020). They are crucial for the mitigation of the climate crisis and the preservation of biodiversity. Forests function as an important public space, especially in cities and their proximity. They offer, as we realized acutely during the Covid-19 pandemic, a necessary space for regeneration and recreation. Forests also provide important local economic resources, and significantly contribute to the cultural identity of many EU member states. However, the forest is also important as a value in and of itself, but forest ecosystems are becoming more and more vulnerable and threatened by the effects of climate change, urbanization, and economy-driven deforestation.
The growing urgency of the environmental and climate crisis forces us to rethink our relationship with forests. The Forest Encounters project acknowledges both the human and other-than-human perspectives, the rights of humans to nature and the rights of nature and – through artistic research projects, workshops, storytelling, symposia, publications, and exhibitions – aims to contribute to a more inclusive and close-to-nature future.
Partners: Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory, Ljubljana (lead partner); Institute of Spatial Design, Faculty of Architecture, Graz University of Technology; and OUT OF SIGHT, Antwerp
Creative Europe Programme – European Cooperation Project