In the summer of 2018, Ursula Biemann was commissioned to undertake an extended field trip across the South of Colombia. Many surprising developments ensued from this initial journey in the Amazonian rainforest where the histories of colonial conquest and natural science intertwine. Forest Mind is the result of a series of territorial engagements through video-making, photography, academic research, personal narrative, and the co-creation of an Indigenous University with the Inga people of Colombia. The explorations focus on the intelligence in nature from both shamanic and scientific perspectives. In these tropical forests, human and nonhuman territorial projects become entangled, calling for new ways of generating knowledge that spur the imagination. The Indigenous science of Ayahuasca as it is practiced by the traditional medics in Amazonia, is largely based in visions evoked by the psychoactive plant. Here, knowing does not only occur from a distance by describing, naming, and exploiting, but as an encounter between minds and worlds. The artist’s research brings to light contemporary Western science that has already been practiced by ancestral medics for millennia, allowing them to interact at the molecular level of DNA. Experimenting with new genetic technologies in collaboration with the ETH lab in Zurich, the visual universe of this project partially derives from biological materials and video-images of the rainforest which were encoded in one and the same DNA strand.
In this personal quest, Swiss artist and author Ursula Biemann pursues her long-term inquiry at the intersection of art, ecology and indigenous cosmologies. The artist book presents a biosemiotics project that takes a deep dive into the mechanics of the interconnectedness of all life, and reflects on the active, performative role images play in merging mind and forest.