The state owns the forest. The state wills it to be or not to be.
The state protects it. I wanted to get out of the state.
By being in the forest….
The state protects or prosecutes me. I am still looking for the forest.
The verse features in artist Sultana Zana’s installation and film titled All the Lines Became Invisible, on display at the ongoing edition of The Earth Lab Project at Gunehar, a small village near Bir. In its third year, the triennale organised by ShopArt ArtShop is themed on “Borderlines”, and Zana has centred her work on the conflict between man and nature.
The Bengaluru-based artist is one of the eleven participants showcasing their work as part of the festival. Zana notes how the hill town has acted as a creative haven for all. An electronics engineer and nanatechnology researcher, in the last few weeks Zana has explored the “worlds within the worlds” — underneath the soil of the surrounding forests, studying and documenting the speed and scale of biological transformations. She used Google Maps for an aerial perspective of forms and shapes at the intersection between habited and uninhabited land. Zana worked with the mathematical ideas of separation and geometry to create the lines and maps that feature in the work. “I like to work with networks and perception in nature and explore the planetary scale of human-nature conflict, the conflict of logic, geometry and form,” says she. She puts forward several questions — What is the borderline of a network? Are networks borderlines of space? What is space? Can space be divided?
In her 20s, Zana says she felt limited by institutional hierarchies and gender presentation in the academic space. “It felt imprisoning. I would like my work to not fall into clean categories. I want to fluidly move between publishing scientific research and making art. I don’t know what can I call what I am doing,” says she.
Interested in mapping and studying the shifting borderlines of nature-human habitat, Zana says her process marks no separation between art and science. She thinks they are essential to each other to attain a world view. In Gunehar, she strived to explore intersections between the forest and village ecology. “I started with the idea that I will map a network of trees, intelligence of the tree network implicit in the numbers. I found a bunch of trees here and started mapping them. After a few days I found out that it was a planted forest. This broadened and shifted my view of the forest, as I studied how many of these are planted forests, the classifications of forests and how these can’t be distinguished as they have grown together,” says she.
Over the last four years, Zana has created works and sound performances that look at mycelium networks and the world wide web through film and sound. The dark and humid world and the numerous organisms below the ground, Zana says, have always interested her.