Stefan Laxness investigates communal forests in the north of Spain and their potential for eco-sustainable transformation

Stefan Laxness, currently a resident artist at LABoral Centro de Arte, is developing a project called "Learning from the commons: A keystone towards a rewilded future

Published: Aug 19, 2020
Stefan Laxness investigates communal forests in the north of Spain and their potential for eco-sustainable transformation

Image: courtesy of the artist

 

Stefan Laxness, currently a resident artist at LABoral Centro de Arte, is developing a project called "Learning from the commons: A keystone towards a rewilded future", in which he investigates the potential for large-scale environmental restoration and the consequences it could have on the way in which we inhabit and occupy our territory. This project was chosen in the third call of the EMARE program organized by EMAP European Media Art Platform, a European network whose goal is to foster and diffuse the production of works by emerging European media artists.

Laxness is undertaking research work into communal forests in the north of Spain and Portugal, especially in the regions of Galicia and Asturias, and the possibilities of these territories to minimize or even reverse the damage inflicted on the natural environment. After observing the lack of a participative spatial project in the field of environmental restoration, Laxness focused his attention on Galicia’s montes vecinales en mano común or "communal forest". The montes vecinales are small, traditionally autonomous, parish lands which in recent years have used collective decision-making to restore the diversity of their forest.

The project Learning from the commons: A keystone towards a rewilded future proposes turning a network of territorial common holdings into a critical framework for re-inhabiting our rural territories and generating participative projects for environmental restoration.

Laxness is interested in environmental activism involving the development of open-code technologies for environmental detection, for which he has created his own cameras to record the rate of photosynthesis in plants. Attaching the cameras to a simple helium balloon, he undertakes a series of individual and collective "sensorial strolls" through rural Spain in order to discover and record the processes of deterioration of the land and rural depopulation. The very instability of the balloon, subject to changes in the environment, make it a mediator or a device between Laxness and the land. Moving slowly through the undergrowth, carefully negotiating the spatial threshold of communal land, private property and abandoned fields, these “strolls” afford a vision close to the land.

In collaboration with Fundación RIA and Laboratorio Ecosocial de Barbanza, Laxness records the collective action of maintaining and looking after the communal forest. His work seeks to register and reflect on the consequences of a collective project of environmental restoration.

The project Learning from the commons: A keystone towards a rewilded future is part of Laxness’s current research residency at LABoral during the months of July and August. The result of his research will be included in the Vida futura exhibition at LABoral Centro de Arte, scheduled to open on 3 September, which will address the interferences, alterations and changes taking place in life today.

Stefan Laxness

The artist and spatial researcher Stefan Laxness works with architecture. He is a former project leader at the 2018 Turner Prize nominated research agency Forensic Architecture (FA), a multidisciplinary research group based at the University of London that uses architectural techniques and technologies to investigate cases of state violence and violations of human rights around the world. The Forensic Architecture agency is an interdisciplinary team made up of architects, academics, artists, software developers, investigative journalists, archaeologists, scientists, lawyers and filmmakers.

In addition, before joining Forensic Architecture, Laxness exhibited at the Antarctica Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2017 and has investigated the changing landscapes of the borders of China and Central Asia.

EMAP European Media Art Platform

EMAP European Media Art Platform is a European network whose goal is to foster and diffuse the production of works by emerging European media artists.

With the support of the European Union, this platform offers, through the EMARE European Media Artist in Residence Exchange programme, residencies for artists who work in the fields of digital media including Internet and computer-based artists, filmmakers, and those working in media-based performance, sound or video as well as robotics or bio-art.

The platform is made up of 11 European cultural institutions: Ars Electronica Center (Linz, Austria), Bandits Mages (Bourges, France), Foundation for Art & Creative Technology (FACT), (Liverpool, UK), IMPAKT (Utrecht, Netherlands), Kontejner (Zagreb, Croatia), LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial (Gijón, Spain), M-Cult, (Helsinki, Finland), Onassis Cultural Centre (Athens, Greece), RIXC (Riga, Latvia), WRO Center for Media Art Foundation (Wroclaw, Poland) and Werkleitz Centre for Media Art (Halle (Saale), Germany).

EMARE includes a grant of €3,000, a production budget of €4,000, free accommodation, travel expenses up to €500, free access to the technical facilities and media labs within the host institution, consulting with production experts and a public presentation as well as the option to take part in the various exhibitions to be held at the festivals organized by EMARE members in 2018-2021.

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