Living with Plants: Mini forest as Communal Reforestation

Daily life in the 21st century takes place in and through plants - in cities, in the countryside, by the roadside, in monocultures and out of place, out of town.

Finland's 'Everyman's Right' is living proof of this: the right to enjoy, experience and explore landscapes and sensescapes is enshrined in this tradition. It is older than the cultural layers of regulation and privatisation, and it continues to challenge them. Since 2019, the artist Nina Backman has taken this right of the people a provocative step further: she has made it possible to donate small plots of land in the cities of Porvoo, Mänttä-Vilppula, Savonlinna in Finland, and Stettin in Poland for a kind of communal reforestation - the so-called Minimetsä or Mini forest. Other Minimetsä are currently being planned for the cities of Helsinki in Finland, Porto Allegro in Brazil, and Tromsø in Norway.

Can we create Minimetsä in other European or Nordic cities – such as Copenhagen? In the talks and conversations of the day, we ask: How are researchers and artists in overdeveloped countries exploring the relationships of contemporary cultures to the trees and bushes, the mosses, herbs and forests they live in? What habits or obsessions drive everyday cultures to consume, use, enjoy or disregard plants? Can habits of smelling, seeing, touching and eating these co-creations be changed?

We invite colleagues from companies, tourism, logistics, trade or industry, as well as public, governmental and research institutions that could offer a small plot of land for mini forests, to join us and start thinking and planning!

Please sign-up for the event.


10:15 Welcome and coffee
10:30 Holger Schulze Introduction: On the Nanopolitics of Plants
11:00 Nina Backman Presentation: Minimetsä: From Contemporary Art to Sustainable Future
12:00 Lunch break
13:00 Louise Isager Ahl Presentation: Call the plants by their name!
13:45 Coffee break
14:00 Dehlia Hannah Presentation: Plant Criticism
14:45 Coffee and cake
15:00 Nina Backman, Dehlia Hannah and Louise Isager Ahl Roundtable
15:45 Q&A - General discussion
16:00 Thank you for today



Finnish artist Nina Backman works for roughly a decade now within the Finnish everyman’s rights concept or Right to Roam: first with the Silence Meal (since 2013) that transforms notions of gustatory and olfactory experience while eating a full meal – and most recently with inventing, accumulating, and actually planting a number of Minimetsä / Miniforests (since 2021). In both work series Backman crafts a peculiar environmental setup for societal purposes following sensory sensibilities.

This introduction to the workshop and to Backman’s work discusses how her artistic interpretation of the Right to Roam proposes to transform given infrastructures and societal dispositives as a sensory critique that questions the nanopolitics of the 21st century.

Holger Schulze is professor in musicology at the University of Copenhagen and principal investigator at the Sound Studies Lab. His research moves between a cultural history of the senses, sound in popular culture and the anthropology of media. He was visiting professor at the Musashino Art University Tokyo, at the University of New South Wales Sydney, and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. He produced radio features for Deutschlandfunk Kultur, and collaborated with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin. He writes for Seismograf, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Merkur, Positionen. Recent publications include: Sonic Fiction (2020), The Bloomsbury Handbook of Sound Art (2020, co-ed.), The Sonic Persona (2018).



How does contemporary art relate to a sustainable future? What are the roles of artists and museums in our times? By exposing us to new ideas and perspectives, does art have the power to change the way we think and act? Can art inspire us to make positive changes in our lives and in society as a whole?

From Contemporary Art to Sustainable Futures invites to a journey into the past and present of Finnish art and culture - from Finland’s Golden Age to contemporary art practices. Woven throughout our exploration ideas of silence and nature – all closely linked to Finnish traditions of art, design, and traditional culture. One internationally celebrated example of this deep nature-oriented is the Silence Project, and the Million Trees to Finland initiative which aim to reflect on the links between contemporary art and sustainability. The Silence Project is an ongoing initiative that highlights the significance and impact of silence, space, and nature in Finnish culture. It also focuses on questions about value and identity and is inspired by the Finnish “Everyman’s Right”, a tradition that gives everyone respectful access to the natural environment, including privately owned land.

Nina Backman is a Finnish artist, performer, curator, and founder of the Silence Project. She was born in Helsinki, Finland, and originally studied Performance Design at the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts in the UK. The hallmarks of silence weave through Backman’s art, leaving traces of a veiled depth. In challenging the space between installation, performance, and visual art, silence is integral to the artistic process. Backman exhibits internationally and her work can be found in both private and public collections. She has collaborated widely in the field of art, performance, film, and theater. Her works have been exhibited at Flagey – Cultural Center, Gallen-Kallela Museum, Punkt O Gallery 15, Aedes Architekturforum, and Berliner Festspiele, among others. Her Silence Project won the prize for Most Innovative Social Art Initiative – Europe by the European Enterprise Award in 2023.



Once upon a time it was crucial for humans to be familiar and able to recognize the plants around them. Plants are essentialfor our life here on earth as they provide us with oxygen to breath, building materials for our homes, clothing, medicine, and food for our tables. However, the knowledge of plants in the Western world, and our ability to recognize even the most common species around us have decreased dramatically in the past decades. We are in the middle of a global biodiversity crisis, and it is pivotal that actions must be made to stop the collapse before it is too late. We will have to change our ways, but it is a daunting task to try and tackle such a monumental problem. However, we can help each other, and we can start small. My suggestion is for all of us to start local by paying better attention to the greenery around us and not just the most exotic of species. Getting to know your local species brings the joy of recognition and hopefully also new knowledge and ideas on how to better care for and protect the nature around us.

Louise Isager Ahl is a Danish botanist and researcher with a PhD in Biosystematics from the University of Copenhagen. For the past 9 years she has been working at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, on a range of plant-related projects primarily in the Botanical Garden. Her work revolves around the diversity and composition of the complex polymers that are the construction material of plant cell walls in all species across the plant tree of life. In her current work she is exploring the possibility of extracting plant cell wall polymers from fossil plant material in the project “Exploring plant evolution through conformational cell wall glycomics” supported by a VillumExperiment grant.



As part of the research project Rewilding the Museum (ARKEN/Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art), this talk explores the extent to which ecological criticism may ‘take root’ within institutions of art. Beyond thematic concerns with environmental crisis, contemporary artists are increasingly bringing living beings into such institutions, demanding hospitality for plants, animals, insects, fungi, and entire ecosystems in microcosm. These demands highlight the conceptual and architectural edifice of the museum as one that has, as its core, the maintenance of boundaries between nature an culture, inside and outside, new and old. How do plants call into being new ways of organizing the spaces and logics of art exhibition? Can plants perform art criticism? Can they transform their environments not only physical but conceptually?

Dehlia Hannah Ph.D. is a philosopher and curator based at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen. In September 2023 she will join the faculty of the Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences at the University of Copenhagen as Associate Professor of Environmental Aesthetics. Her current project Rewilding the Museum examines the art museum’s status within the fragile ecologies of the Anthropocene. She is the editor of include Julius von Bismarck — Talking to Thunder (Hatje Cantz, 2019) and Julian Charrière—Toward No Earthly Pole (Mousse, 2020), and the Routledge Handbook of Art and Science and Technology Studies (Routledge, 2021). Selected as one the New York Times’ Best Art Books of 2019, her volumeA Year Without a Winter (Columbia University Press, 2018) reframes contemporary imaginaries of climate change by revisiting the environmental conditions under which Frankenstein was written and the global aftermath of the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora. Curated with Nadim Samman, her current exhibition Julian Charriere—Controlled Burn is on view at the Langen Foundation in Germany until August, 2023.