WHY “SKOGEN” #1

Over the years a lot of people have asked us why we choosed to name the venue “Skogen” (“the forest” in english). I recently read these lines of the american writer Robert Pogue Harrison. I think this one of the best explanations for the name I came across so far.

When the arctic freeze began to spread southward during the onslaught of the last ice age, the forests that had once covered much of the northern hemisphere disappeared under the advancing sheets of ice like algae under the roll of a long and luminous ocean wave. As global warming trends caused the glaciers to retreat many millennia later, the forests cropped up again as if they had merely weathered the season in hibernation: a sponateous generation of arboreal, floral, and cryptogamal life.

Ice ages have come and gone, come again and gone again,; and each time the glaciers pulled back – most recently, some ten to fifteen thousand years ago- the forests returned to recolonize the land.

In short, most of the places of human habitation in the West were at some time in the past more or less densly forested. However broadly or narrowly one wishes to define it, Western civilisation literally cleared its space in the midst of forests. A sylvan fringe of darkness defined the limits of its cultivation, the margins of its cities, the boundaries of its instituational domain; but also the extravagance of its imagination. For reasons this book explores, the governing institutions of the West-religion, law, family, city- originally established themselves in opposition to the forests, which in this rescept have been, from the beginning, the first and last victims of civic expansion. The following study, however, does not recount a merely empirical history about how civilization has enchroached upon the forests, exploited them, cultivated them, managed them, or simply devastated them. It tells the more elusive story of the role forests have played in the cultural imagination of the West.

The story is full of enigmas and paradoxes. If forests appear in our religions as places of profanity, they also appear as sacred. If they have typically been considered places of lawlessness, they have also provided havens for those who took up the cause of justice and fought the law’s corruption. If they evoke associations of danger and abandon in our minds, they also evoke scenes of enchantment. In other words, in the religions, mythologies, and literature of the West, the forest appears as a place where the logic of destinction goes astray. Or where our subjective catergories are confounded. Or where perceptions become promiscuous with one another, disclosing latent dimensions of time and conciousness. In the forest the inanimate may suddenly become animate, the god turns into a beast, the outlaw stands for justice, Rosalind appears as a boy, the virtuous knight degenerates into a wild man, the straight line forms a circle, the ordinary gives way to the fabulous.
(…)

If I have learned anything during the course of my work it is that the forest is uncirumscribable. To traverse it means to shun vast areas of it.
(…)

What I hope to show is how many untold memories, ancient fears and dreams, popular traditons, and more recent myths and symbols are going up in the fires of deforestation which we hear so much about today and which trouble us for reasons we often do not fully understand rationally but which we respond to on some other level of cultural memory. In the history of Western civilisation forests represent an outlying realm of opacity which has allowed that civilisation to estrange itself, enchant itself, terrify itself, ironize itself, in short to project into the forest’s shadows its secret and innermost anxieties. In this respect the loss of forests entails more than merely the loss of ecosystems.
(…)

There and then perhaps I realized that in the forest, in its enduring antiquity, was the correlate of the poet’s memory, and that once its remnants were gone, the poet would fall into oblivion.

//Robert Pogue Harrison