4 December, 13-15

Faros, Temahuset

The Green Room

Unfortunately, this Green Room Seminar is cancelled! Hopefully it will take place next semester instead.

How Much for a Tree? —further reflections on the tragic drama of environmental valuation with the point of departure in an artistic restaging by Monika Gora and Gunilla Bandolin.

Maria Reimer, Malmö University (host Ann-Sofie Kall)

Against a turbulent background of torn climate agreements, an autumn stroll along the border of the city easily turns into a troubled reflection on urban qualities, priorities and values. At the outer edge of this particular city – one of those post-industrial harbour cities – you can follow its fervent struggle to reincarnate itself as a knowledge hub, a networked nucleus, a meeting point. Indeed budding, yet also literally consuming its hinterlands, the city is eating its way forward through the fields, replacing “a species-poor cultivation landscape”(1) with what is described in the municipal promotion material as a smart and sustainable “urban nature with high biodiversity.”(2)

A suburban move “beyond Compliance Green” towards a “Future Proof Deep Green”(3), it should raise some hopes, yet it also evokes unsettlement, primarily as it is also an in-depth assimilation of nature into an urban value system of floating assets and remunerative performances, thus indeed profoundly changing the desireability of the urban green.

The essay I am working on engages with the tensions and controversies of environmental valuation and it lends its straightforward question – How Much for a Tree? – from an art project, more precisely the investigation conducted by landscape architect Monika Gora and artist Gunilla Bandolinon the outskirts of Malmö. Over a period of several years, they followed and documented the unfortunate and tragic, yet also telling, obliteration of a century old manor park. The collected material was finally presented in the form of a multimedia art installation, consisting of on the one hand a three-screen immersive tree- climbing video, and on the other hand a kind of theatre play manuscript, restaging the lan use management embroilments leading to the final demolition of the park.(4)

By virtue of its triviality, the remediated story present an opportunity to discuss not only a general urban improvidence, but the very spatiotemporal underpinnings of urban environmental valuation practices. I will approach Gora’s and Bandolin’s question from several angles, bringing into attention the representational issues evoked, including assumptions concerning qualification. Before a tree, or an assemblage of trees, the question of value bounces back, unsettling distinction between the calculable and the incalculable, calling into attention the historical and material framing that is necessary for value to unfold. Juxtaposing the sociology of economy of Callon and Law with the material philosophy Benjamin, I try the idea that there is in the simple question How Much for a Tree? a performative, dramatic, and also tragic appeal in its playing out of the forces of incalculable damnation that govern agency in a system of environmental smartness.

1 Malmö Stad (2015b)
2 Malmö Stad (2015a).
3 Joint presentation by the City of Malmö, the energy company Eon, and the construction company Skanska for the European Investment Bank on 29 March, 2012, entitled “Smart City Projects – The City of Malmö”.
4 Gora, Monika and Gunilla Bandolin (2014) How Much For a Tree? Accessed 20181126.