In 1970, the Austrian artist and architect Max Peintner imagined a small forest contained within a stadium in a drawing titled The Unending Attraction of Nature. In it, a sprawling, smoky, industrial city has subsumed the natural world, and thousands of spectators pack the stadium to look at a few hundred trees.
In Klagenfurt, Austria, a temporary installation by the Swiss curator Klaus Littmann realizes Peintner’s dystopian drawing as FOR FOREST – The Unending Attraction of Nature. The installation, which opened on September 8, 2019, aims to challenge our perception of nature and question its future as deforestation and climate change accelerate in the anthropocene era.
“This project is also a warning. Nature, which we now take for granted, might someday only be found in specially assigned spaces, as is already the case with zoo animals.”
FOR FOREST is comprised of 300 mature trees, 16 species that replicate a local mixed woodland forest, planted in Klagenfurt’s Wörthersee Stadium. The trees are expected to attract wildlife, change colors, and drop leaves on the soccer pitch, and then will be replanted on a site near the stadium to become a living forest sculpture. An adjacent pavilion will document the project and provide an educational space.
It is Austria’s largest public art installation to date – it took 22 days to plant the trees, some of which weigh up to six tons; the stadium has 30,000 seats, it’s open daily until 10pm, and floodlights illuminate the forest for nighttime viewing. Concurrent related events in Klagenfurt include two museum exhibitions, an architecture competition, literary program, film series, opera and theater performances, and public art installations, all on themes of nature and the environment.
While environmental art has become the zeitgeist and Klagenfurt is all-in with complementary programs, FOR FOREST was the subject of unwanted attention from two right-wing political parties in advance of Austria’s recent national election. Their complaints had to do with state funding and “foreign” trees, though the project was privately funded and the trees were (ironically) protested with chainsaws. It’s regrettable that art and the environment could be political targets, but the furor is over and the spectacle of a forest in a stadium has transformed a 49-year-old pencil drawing into a prescient message about the world’s climate emergency.
FOR FOREST – The Unending Attraction of Nature is on view at Wörthersee Stadion through October 27, 2019.