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What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Nature


participatory installation
a bench, a mailbox, paper, pens, plastic folders
exhibited from July to September 2020 at Mietoistenlahti nature trail, Mynämäki, Finland

commissioned by Saari Manor / Kone Foundation

The work, placed on the side of the meadow by the path, consists of a wooden bench, a mailbox, and questionnaires inside the box. The viewer can open the mailbox, take a questionnaire, a pen, and a writing pad from the box, and sit on a bench to fill out the form.

The questionnaire, titled “Welcome to a journey towards a quality relationship with nature,” contains 44 questions about one's relationship with nature and additional information through which the viewer can reflect on their relationship with nature.

Often the ways of how we talk about nature resemble the ways of how we talk about romantic relationships. One's relationship to nature often resembles a relationship to another being, even though nature is not a being. Many of the current therapeutic and pseudo-therapeutic discourses about romantic relationships are based on the idea that a relationship needs constant work, caretaking, and nurturing to exist. Normative opinions about what constitutes a normal relationship are often presented as facts.

I have based my questionnaire on online relationship questionnaires, articles in women's magazines, and materials produced by the various public sector and private organizations focusing on romantic relationships. I'm especially interested in questionnaires as a tool for shaping norms because a questionnaire is always normative: in between the lines, because of what is asked and what is not, and how, they tell us what is considered normal and what is not. 

Nowadays nature is now often talked about primarily through ecology as an environment and ecosystem. A discourse based on a purely scientific approach does not always affect people on an emotional level. The role of nature person may feel uncomfortable and nature might seem distant or boring. The relationship with nature may feel primarily as a moral obligation, not a way to feel pleasure. I'm interested in how nature could be approached in art in a way that evokes thoughts and touches the viewer/participant also on an emotional level.

An earlier version of the work was exhibited in Fiskars, Finland in 2017.

Thank you:

2020 Kone Foundation, Leena Kela, Pirre Naukkarinen, Iiris Lahti, Heidi Lapila, Sanni Saarenpää and Oskari Tolonen

2017 Arts Promotion Centre Finland, Anna-Kaisa Koski, Viivi Koljonen and Kanerva Matveinen