In her new art project ‘Forest Law’ swiss artist Ursula Biemann investigates the fact that in Ecuador natures has become a juridical subject. Which means that in various situations, where harm is done to nature, it can become subject of a courtcase. The project deals with a specific case where a certain part of the Amazon Rainforest is under discussion as a subject of violation. The project presents various defenders of the Forest and their views on nature and the relation between nature and human beings, the relation between human culture and nature.
These indigeneous people, from various Amazona Indian tribes, see nature as a living entity that has to be respected as any other living creature. Nature is alive and nature has an agenda. We humans have to understand this agenda – which means that we somehow have to communicate with nature. Try to understand the various agendas of, for instance, the forest. The relationship between nature and humans is fragile and has to be tended in systematic and balanced manners. It’s a mutual relationship that includes a whole variety of species; plants, birds, animals and humans. The river, the sky, the rain. Everything is alive and we are dependend on the well-being of all these other species. We are so to speak part of a range of interspecies relationships.
What consequenses does it have if nature has legal rights and matters of nature violation can be discussed on a juridical level? Ursula Biemann argues for this turn in legislative rights, because it somehow balances the fact that nowadays many multinational cooperations has gained legals status as juridical subjects.
If nature has an agenda, this might as well be interpreted as a political agenda. Which means that not only has nature become a juridical entity, it has also become a political subject.
The American sociologist, Georgy Katsiaficas, has invented the term ‘the Eros Effect’ to describe revolutionary becoming. The Eros Effect occurs in moments of popular uprising; in revolt. Here, “mobilization for action occurs through participants’ intuition as much as through their rational beliefs, and this intuitive species of identity forms a basis for collective activity.”
The Eros Effect transforms the normal individual self-interest into what Katsiaficas calls species-interest. The instinctual need for freedom becomes a new collective identity. An obvious example is the Tahrir Square Uprising where a range of scattered activist-groups in Egypt, suddenly and seemingly overnight – on January 25th, 2011 – became one movement, one voice. The ‘instinctual need for freedom’ unified the seemingly opposed groups of activists – the Islamists, the secular middle-class youth, the intellectuals; they became ‘the people’ as the ‘intuitive species identity’ formed the basis for a collective uprising that eventually led to the downfall of the dictator, Hosni Mubarak.
INSTINCTUAL INTERSPECIES INTEREST
Instinctual species interest? If the need for freedom is an instinctual human need, part of what defines us a humans, and if this instinct can be released in certain situations and transform large crowds of individuals into new political entities, how will this affect the interspecies relations between humans and various parts of nature, as described in Forest Law? Can we then talk of a new interspecies political subject? A coalition between certain agents of nature and certain agents of human beings?
FOREST LAW | 2014 | VIDEO INSTALLATION BY URSULA BIEMANN AND PAULO TAVARES
THE EROS EFFECT | GEORGE N. KATSIAFICAS | 1989