Photography: Rosie Benn (c) 2017.

In The Woods | In The Wild

Field research and publication project

“Nature has lost its innocence.”
This statement, probably, provokes very different thoughts, ideas and reactions. Some of us will think of “pristine nature” as something that is the other, the non-culture, the mother, or, the cruel and cool destroyer. Others will respond that “everything is nature” and that everything that is crafted, manipulated, built, manufactured, destroyed, is Nature or at least, part of it. Hence, some will argue nature always was, and always will remain, innocent; others will insist: it (nature) never was (innocent). However, we are becoming sceptical of all encompassing dichotomies – the either/or that makes “our” nature bifurcate. (Whitehead, 1920) We learned that “the others” are no longer outside: that nonhumans (plants, animals, tools, artifacts etc.) have to be brought back into the description in a more active capacity. And that this marks the disappearance of older notions of nature and of its counterpart, namely culture. “A disappearance that is itself due to the fact that everybody (...) is pulled deeper and deeper into the same ecological maelstrom.” (Latour, 2014)

Research in the Wild(erness)
We apply a method: “Research in the wild” (Callon, M., & Rabeharisoa, V., 2003) that aims at exploring actors and active entities that populate this emblematic site. Point of departure of research: the wood as a polluted, impure, composite reality, where the question which socio-techno-political-economic-natural-ecological “stakeholders" emerge that take part in the creation of an ontological politics. The aim of research in the wild is the exploration of the transdisciplinary conditions for metaphoric transportations and their consequences for invention. Thus, we meet in the woods (Transcarpathian Ukraine), this proud and humble emblem of nature.

Location: Zakarpattia Oblast (Transcarpathia)
Transcarpathia is located in the South-West of Ukraine;  it borders upon Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.  The distance between Vienna and Transcarpathia  is about 600 km (Vienna–Bregenz: 700 km);  The region mostly consists of mountains and small hills covered with deciduous and coniferous forests, as well as alpine meadows. Mountains cover about 80% of the oblast’s area, and cross from North-East to South-East. Cities of regional significance are Uzhhorod (116,400), Mukachevo (93,738), Khust (31,083). Historically Transcarpathia was part of the Kingdom of Hungary since 10th century and later formed part of Austria-Hungary until 1918. Demographically, the regions were populated predominantly by Ukrainians (incl. Rusyns), and Hungarians, together with Romanians, Jews, Roma, Germans, Czechs and Slovaks. After Paris Peace Conference in 1919 it was annexed to Czechoslovakia (Carpathian Ruthenia). During German occupation almost the entire Jewish population was deported and in late 1944, Sub-Carpathian Ukraine was occupied by the Red Army. In 1945 it was united with the Ukrainian SSR. Today it is part of independent Ukraine.

Wild Metaphors and Metaphors of the Wild
Presumably, the notion of matter and nature is changing: instead of postulating inanimate matter and living automata (plants and animals) which apparently do nothing more than composing the world out of long concatenations of cause and effect where nothing is supposed to happen (Latour, 2010), a “new materialism” installs freedom, movement, creativity in the very heart of things and non-humans.What tools might be appropriate to realise this conceptual change from passive to active matter, to transport various kinds of ingredients into the motley arena of things? Transport and transportation need mediators that import and export and thus traverse. Metaphor, in fact, means “transport“. And this is a (research)question: Can metaphors act as mediators for transportation? Like Gaia, (Lovelock, J.E., Margulis, L., 1974) mediators can be human and non-human things that invent but also can betray, that nourish, but also can be mistaken. Transportation (metaphors) can be the craziest and the most certain – metaphors as messengers create contradiction and foreignness/otherness that may be the route to invention. (Serres, M., 1995)

Text: Bernd Kraftner 2017 (c)

Fact Box

In The Woods | In The Wild
July 03, 2017