‘Through a Forest Wilderness’ presents a sprawling survey of conceptual art among the trees

Installation view: photographs of Jana Želibská's "Betrothal of Spring," 1970


By Mollie Cashwell

Crunching leaves, bird song and fresh air: for many, a walk in the woods is a surefire way to stimulate the senses and connect with nature on an autumn day. But a current exhibition in Berlin’s Düppel Forest adds a few unusual experiences to this list, like performing music for trees or planting a sapling in your mouth.

“Through a Forest Wilderness” presents photographs and live performances along the paths crisscrossing the Nikolskoer Landpartie, leading visitors on a light hike that doubles as a thematic tour through six decades of action art in the forest. Photos of performances and “happenings” in Central and Eastern Europe from the 1960s to 1980s feature prominently, and highlight that for many artists at the time, the forest represented an opportunity to experiment far from the watchful eye of the state. Events and live actions taking place throughout October offer a glimpse into how contemporary artists like Reiner Maria Matysik and Cobi van Tonder are approaching the forest as both a site and a subject today.

The exhibition presents many challenging, and often very cerebral, works of conceptual art, and prompts reflection on the changing natural world. An unusually demanding walk in the woods, to be sure – but as with any visit to the forest, as curator Petra Stegmann puts it, by the time you leave, “your mood will never be worse than your mood was when you come in.”

Through a Forest Wilderness is on display through October 28 at the Nikolskoer Landpartie in the Düppel Forest .