The Forest Case, 2019

Machine generated images.
Screenprints, 76 x 104 cm, CMYK.
Grafted trees.
Installation with B/W letterpress print on newspaper; mixed wood fibre materials; animation 3:00 min.

The Forest Case (Skogsaken) takes as its starting point the relatively new cultural landscape around Bergen, Norway. The coastal city is encircled by mountains covered with a forest planted in the late 1860’s onward. The idea of covering the city mountains with trees arose in part from resource shortages and economic needs. The national effort for afforestation, known as «skogsaken», was at the time a question of growing a strong national economy. Besides the prospect that the forest would yield timber, planting trees in the city mountains also stemmed from aesthetic preferences, as the forested, cultivated landscape was preferable to the «grey and bald mountains» which at that time dominated the landscape around Bergen. Afforestation was thus also a question of shaping nature as an image.

With Bergen’s local history as a backdrop and machine learning as a lens, the project is a reflection on how natural landscapes are shaped and mediated according to human preferences and systems. The raw material for the works is a dataset of 3,500 photographs of trees I have taken in Byfjellene – the city mountains – in Bergen. These images were in turn used for training a machine learning tool to generate new hybrid trees and landscapes. The generated images are printed as colour screen prints, and as letterpress prints for an installation including a short animation.

The project was realised in collaboration with software developer Sindre Sørensen, the gallery Entrée and printmaking workshop Trykkeriet in Bergen. For the exhibition at Entrée, three pines from the city mountains where temporarily put in the gallery and grafted together. The pines were later planted in a residential area, not the mountains, as the maintenance of this forest today is concerned with preventing overgrowth.

Read more: Press release for the two-part exhibition Skogsaken at Entrée and Trykkeriet, Bergen, Norway.
Review by Patrik Entian, Minnet om materia, at OmKonst.

Software developer: Sindre Sørensen,
Printing, letterpress: Dino Dikic / UBÅT Press
Printing, screen prints: Asbjørn Hollerud and Daniel Persson
Printing assistant: Sam Alyoussef
Grafting: Lars Korff Lofthus

Thanks to Bergen Skog- og Træplantningsselskap.

The project is supported by Norsk Kulturfond and Billedkunstnernes Vederlagsfond