29.06.2017 | fondazione zegna

Expanded Body: an immersive exploration of Oasi Zegna

Between art, science and tradition, to discover the visible and invisible in trees

The finalists in the 2017 UNIDEE - University of Ideas, Alessandro Perini (Italy), Micol Roubini and Lorenzo Casali (Italy), Fernanda Rappa (Brazil), Marie Andrée Godin (Canada/Finland), Philip Cartelli (USA/Italy), Serena Porrati (Italy) and Giulia Filippi (Italy) recently visited Casa Zegna and Oasi Zegna to study the profound relationships binding humans to their environment, under the guidance of mentors Andrea Caretto and Raffaella Spagna.

Having attended Prof. Ernst Zürcher’s lecture, "The Trees and the Invisible - towards a synthesis between modern science and traditional knowledge", the artists are approaching an “ecological” vision in which animal and vegetable species and minerals coexist not in a hierarchy but on the same level. Ernst Zürcher, a forestry engineer, professor and researcher at the University of Applied Sciences, Berne, is a specialist in the chronobiology of trees and author of Les Arbres, entre visible et invisible.

Ahead of the public presentation of the projects on 3 July, we asked mentors Andrea Caretto and Raffaella Spagna how the experience of these workshop days is influencing these artists’ vision and relationship with the environment.


What struck you in particular about Prof. Zürcher’s lecture?

A lot of the things Prof. Zürcher said were new for many of us. It was very interesting, for example, to discover how the rhythms of the moon can influence the development of vegetation, the buds and trunks of trees. This is very ancient knowledge that enables us to see a pattern linking everything and the relationship that the vegetable world has with the human sphere.


How will this knowledge influence your work?

It’s hard to say at present because we’re still in the early stages of our exploration. Yesterday the artists visited Oasi Zegna for the first time: they walked in the Forest of Smiles and learnt about the Bioenergetic Landscapes method with which Marco Nieri monitors trees. Our artists are experiencing a new way of perceiving the environment and rediscovering a deeper use of their senses to understand the reality surrounding them. Even the simple act of walking can become a sort of knowledge. For the moment we’re recording our perceptions in a notebook and we’ll be sharing them with future visitors to Oasi Zegna.


Had the artists already worked on these themes?

Some of them had. In the next few days they’ll be working on an element (a tree, for instance) to reflect on its ontology, the relationships and the system in which it exists. In our job we try to explore the deep relationship between humans and the environment. Art becomes an instrument of research with which to investigate the multiple aspects of reality from a substantial, physical but also philosophical and sociological viewpoint.