Wilderness is often interpreted in popular culture as a space characterised by the absence of human traces. In a world without undiscovered territories, it can be more usefully defined as a space of negotiation between humans and other elements of the natural environment. When applied to a socio-political context, the notion can be incorporated in rules and regulations established for the sake of managing a specific geography, for example for conservation or commercial purposes.

At the same time it can represent an imagined landscape where the idealised absence of human traces is sought specifically to create a psychological realm: a decluttered platform that can be occupied and leveraged for creative purposes by those who seek a condition of purity, clarity and neutrality in contrast with their experience of civic life.

It can be utopian and forever distant as much as concrete and omni-present. It is at the same time political, personal and poetic.


Archives can be thought of as collections of traces that expand their capacity to generate knowledge factorially each time new items are added. Traces are often diverse in nature and format, and can be categorised and connected to support a process of enquiry.

When assembled by humans, archives are the outcome of a desire to discover, understand and remember. Interests guiding human desire make archives inherently selective and the carriers of specific values and ideologies, such as in the case of a library or a museum. A forest, like any ecosystem, is also an archive. Here, in the process of assembly, human agency interacts with natural forces, often in conflicting ways.

In the forest-archive, humans as much as animals or plants can initiate processes of enquiry. The course of action resulting from this process defines the network of interdependence that ultimately shapes the ecosystem and ensures its survival.

By C. Rizzo