Circle 6: Worskshop “Environments on Fire”

Circle 6: Worskshop “Environments on Fire”


The Nordic Summer University was born in the 50s as one of the pioneering institutions on interdisciplinary scholarship, joining artistic expression, academic research and a cross-disciplinary profile. Its organizational structure, discussion style and proposals format are strongly influenced by Grundtvig, a 19th century Danish philosopher of pedagogy, who developed the concept of Folkhögskola.

The researcher on Aesthetics, Dance Philosophy and Gender Studies Victoria Mateos de Manuel was hosting the session in order to introduce an interdisciplinary discussion and discourse analysis on the study case of the current fire in Sierra de la Culebra, a mountain range and natural hunting reserve in Zamora, one of the northwest provinces of the Spanish autonomous community Castile and Leon. The fire started on June 15th 2022 and it has already calcined around 60.000 hectares of this landscape where the few remaining Iberian wolfs, a protected species, live. In this natural reserve there are also centenary chestnut trees, beekeeping, mushrooms and a wild fauna of species such as roe deer, red deer, wild boar and griffon vulture. Moreover, this mountain range provides the main economic resources to the local rural population, which has been strongly decreasing and aging in the last decades. Last year, another fire consumed 22.000 hectares in Ávila, yet rural region of Castile and Leon. The participants in this session of the Nordic Summer University introduced the fire related contexts in their countries from sociological, philosophical, historical and aesthetical perspectives. Different topics were brought to a collective debate, which was very helpful for the planning and organization of further possible international meetings on this environmental research area. Which role does the political view of forests as resistance or dangerous dissident spaces play in the unconscious collective memory and social attachment to the preservation of this kind of landscape? How do the working conditions of firefighters and forest rangers affect the preservation of natural spaces? How important is the regional, autonomous, decentralized or centralized structure of a state in fire prevention and extinction? Are there any international collaboration programs and resources in fire extinction? How could fire prevention pedagogical materials and strategies be developed from a cognitive, emotional and behavioral perspective? How do voluntary work, community bottom-up root actions and the social prestige or discredit of these attitudes influence forest sustainability? Which role does the aesthetical perception of natural environments play in the ethics of forest care? Why does the population perceive fires as natural unavoidable catastrophes and not as cases of failed and deficient forest management with human responsibilities?

The session “Environments on fire” took place outdoors, where circle 7 “The Experiential in Artistic Practice and Research: Methods, Knowledges and Reflective Processes” was also developing a workshop entitled “Body as Performative Landscape: A Phenomenological Performance Workshop Investigating our Built Environments”, hosted by Anna Olkinuora, from HAMK Häme University of Applied Sciences. 1958-1960 the Spanish artist José Val del Omar directed the 18 minutes film Fire in Castile, where the Spanish flamenco dancer and writer Vicente Escudero, from Valladolid, another Spanish province of Castile and Leon, appears. For the simultaneous aesthetical bodily performative support in the debate, which managed to momentously sublimate the powerless experience of catastrophe, we share the following links to Val del Omar’s artwork and also some audiovisual reports on the fire in Sierra de la Culebra.

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