The fourth annual forest symposium More-than-Human Curiosity took place from 28 - 30 July 2023 on the forest and meadow land between the villages of Písečná and Hnátnice in the Orlické Mountains.

The symposium followed how research on the neuroplasticity of the brain (not only human but also animal), memory, creativity, neuro- and roboethics, and neuroethology are involved in the processes of returning to a more-than-human community. It was divided into three thematic sections plus the Children’s Forest Group, which worked with the above themes using methods accessible to younger people. The common programme included cinema, concert, performance, and a forest kitchen.

Participants could sign up to one of the following thematic sections dealing with animal brains and speciesism, memory and the body, and art: I. In the Bat Brain (On the Future of Animals and Speciesism), II. After Memory (Memory, Body, Landscape), III. Mediations (Art & the Human Brain). Children had the opportunity to be part of the Children's Forest Group IV. Trees and People Used to Be Good Friends.

More-than-Human Curiosity
Fourth annual forest symposium
Forest and meadow land, Orlické Mountains
28 – 30 July 2023  

One part of humankind relies on technologies that help us maintain a responsible relationship between our present, past, and future. Another part fears a future in which superintelligence will take over the running of the world. Through the lens of speciesism, we study how human beings have divided the family of animals, singled themselves out, and put themselves on top. They have also put the artificial intelligence they created into the domain of the “other”. How research on the neuroplasticity of the brain (not just human, but also animal), memory, creativity, neuro- and roboethics, and neuroethology are involved in the processes of returning to a more-than-human community is the subject of the fourth annual forest symposium Woods: More-than-Human Curiosity.

The programme of the interdisciplinary meeting this year will follow these research areas: the animal brain and speciesism, memory and the body, and art. The symposium will use a variety of artistic and theoretical formats and modes of sharing: lectures, panel discussions,  cinema and concert, landscape and architectural interventions, workshops, collective imagination, walking, group readings, performance, and other artistic approaches. All activities take place in an open meadow and forest environment in the Orlické Mountains. 

Programme sections of the symposium  

The program section In the Bat Brain (On the Future of Animals and Speciesism), curated by anto_nie, Edith Jeřábková, Denisa Langrová, Ruta Putramentaite, and Alex Sihelsk* was dedicated to the future of more-than-human animals, umwelt (self-centred world), artificial intelligence, and intense animal cohabitation for the duration of the symposium, exploring animal personalities and imagining what it’s like to be a goat, sheep, dog, beetle, bird, and human, and what it’s like to free oneself from the cage of one’s species and become aware of the subjectivity of both oneself and others. At the same time, we did not want to forget about other animals and the non-animal community, these were and will be ever-present in our conscious and subconscious awareness. The full programme can be found here.

The section After Memory (Memory, Body, Landscape) dealt with the ways in which memories are inscribed not only in the brain, but also in the whole body, in the landscape and in cultural consciousness. It looked at memory not only as one of the main ways in which human identity and sense of self are created, but also at its presence in a broader, more-than-human context. Lectures, screenings, performances, collective readings, and interactive workshops in the form of deep listening or memory training thematically moved from neurons to landscape, from Earth to space, from mind to body. One afternoon was specifically dedicated to the theme of intergenerational transmission and trauma in the context of the advancing technologization of the world and the planet’s dwindling biodiversity. The programme of the session was prepared by Katrine Elise Pedersen and Tereza Porybná, and more detailed information can be found here

Mediations (Art & the Human Brain).The arts shape the ways that we perceive our worlds, come together as humans, and understand ourselves. In recent years, the roles that the arts have in determining, as well as in revealing, the nature of human interactions have been explored in empirical studies of psychology, social sciences, philosophy, and neurosciences. This programme section featured lectures by scientists and theoreticians, invited to talk about insights based on their recent work. The talks were followed by open discussions. Integral to the programme was breathing and meditation exercises and time for engaging with artworks in the surrounding landscape. The programme was organised by Zuzana Blochová and Matthew Pelowski in collaboration with Tereza Hadravová. More information about the program section can be found here

The Children’s Forest Group Trees and People Used to Be Good Friends brought its members together on a journey to meet the spirits of the forest, to get in tune with them, to connect with them, to put away the masks that bind us and to create new and temporary identities. There was walking, running, dancing, creating, learning from the non-human world, mask making, storytelling and much, much more. The group's programme was prepared by Jana Landsingerová, Magda Stojowská, Barbora Kleinhamplová, and Eva Koťátková. More information about the Children’s Forest Group here.

The dramaturgy of the film screening was prepared by London-based curator Lucia Pietroiusti. The musical programme featured a performance by Slávek Kwi and Martyyna. 

Throughout the symposium, the Forest Kitchen was preparing vegetarian and vegan food from organic and local sources. The chef was Noam Darom.

The symposium was organized by the Are association, which since 2019 owns and cares for the forest and meadow land in the Orlické Mountains, and which initiated the creation of the Woods: Community for cultivation, theory and art. The symposium was also part of the two-year project Woods. More-than-Human Curiosity

Organizational team
anto_nie, Zuzana Blochová, Edith Jeřábková, Magda Stojowska, Barbora Kleinhamplová, Eva Koťátková, Jana Landsingerová, Denisa Langrová, Katrine Elise Pedersen, Matthew Pelowski, Tereza Porybná, Ruta Putramentaite, Alex Sihelsk*
Production: Katarína Karafová, Tomáš Košťák, Sára Märc
Technical production: Štěpán Tůma
PR: Petra Fujdlová
Forest kitchen: Noam Darom & Maike Urban
Bar: Markéta Adamcová
Graphic design: Róbert Púček a Ľubica Segečová
Cooperation and special thanks: Václav Girsa, Mirek and Pavlína Verbíkovi, Nikola Šmeralová, Adam Wlazel
Partners: Kunsthall Trondheim, Røst Air, Ovenecká 33
Media partner: Právo

Supported by: the EEA Grants 2014-2021 under the Culture Programme, the European Union - Next Generation EU, the National Regeneration Plan, the Ministry of Culture, the City of Prague, the State Culture Fund, the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA), the City of Oslo, Stink Film, Tomáš Rousek, Capital Consulting, Emblem Hotel, 
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