testing ground for art & ecology
4 September 2022 – 16 October 2022

The Amstelpark. The trees narrate their story

Part of the Shadow Floriade

Elmo Vermijs

The trees of municipal park Amstelpark take centre stage in The Amstelpark – The trees narrate their story. Initially planted for the occasion of the 1972 Floriade, the trees have been the silent witnesses to global warming. The tree rings register changes in the local climate. The project consists of a LivingLab, the Parliament for Trees and the Lawsuit in the Park.

Heading up towards the lawsuit two lectures about the research and the lawsuit will be organised.

Living Lab

In the LivingLab, tree biologist Ute Sass-Klaassen, together with students from Wageningen University & Research, reveals a comparative wood and tree ring study on the trees of the Amstelpark. In the exhibition in the Orangerie, visitors can experience how tree ring research works and the researchers will demonstrate the vitality of the trees in the Amstelpark. The study will again feature in the speculative court case Trial in the park – the trees speak out, in which Ute Sass-Klaasen will be heard as an expert. More information about the LivingLab.

The exhibition is open on Thursday, Friday and Sunday from 13.00 – 17.00h (and upon request).

Ute Sass-Klaassen will give a lecture on the research, in Dutch, on Thursday 29 September at 16.30h.
And Jan van de Venis hosts a lecture on Rights for Nature (Rechten voor de Natuur), also in Dutch, on Thursday 13 October at 16.30h.

Parlement van de bomen

In the installation Parliament of Trees artist Elmo Vermijs explores how we can represent non-human entities such as trees and thus better defend their rights, in collaboration with environmental lawyers Jessica den Outer and Jan van de Venis and various artists. Artistic and legal research and education come together in this installation. Can trees become legal entities and how can this legal status contribute to better protection of forests and urban parks? This results in Trial in the park – the trees speak out the closing event of The Amstelpark – the trees narrate their story on Sunday October 16th, 2022.

How to visit?
The installation can be visited daily at the cow pasture, on the south side of Amstel Park (facing the mill). The speculative trial will take place on Sunday, October 16, 2022, and can be visited by up to 50 people.

Attending court proceedings and/or using Parliament
_ Do you want to be present at the trial on October 16, 2022? That is possible, read more here and apply (before the 19th of September).
_ Would you like to use the installation Parliament for Trees between September 12 and October 15, 2022 for your own project? That is also possible, read about it in this call.

Concluding publication

The project The Amstelpark – The trees narrate their story concludes with a publication containing a (pictorial) report and essays with questions and goals for the future.

LivingLab, Orangerie (until October, 16)

Hot and dry summers, forest fires and floods – everyone is being confronted with the fact that our climate is changing. During heat waves, such as in 2018, 2019, and 2020, but also this summer of 2022, the trees contribute to a cooler city climate but also filter particulate matter from the air and provide recreational opportunities for millions of city dwellers.

The Amstelpark has fulfilled all these functions for 50 years. The approximately 300 tree species, originally planted for the Floriade in 1972, make the park a green oasis. But while this summer’s overheated city dwellers enjoyed their shade, the trees are exposed to high temperatures and drought. In addition, they also have to contend with increasingly poor soil due to nitrogen deposition and air pollution. You can already see this in the Amstelpark, especially in the dying Norway spruces.

In the LivingLab, researchers from the DendroLab at Wageningen University & Research demonstrate the vitality of various tree species in the Amstelpark from the inside. They do this by means of tree ring research, because the tree rings form an archive of the life history of a tree. How fast do different tree species grow in the Amstelpark?  How is their vitality? How did the trees experience the heat waves of 2018 and 2019? And what about the current heat wave? The growth of two oaks is monitored every hour; have they been able to grow in the heat of the past weeks?

In the Living Lab, you can see and experience how tree ring research works. How were the trees sampled? How are tree rings measured? And above all, what story do the trees tell about their life in the Amstelpark? In the Living Lab, the Amstelpark will be used as a test site for research into future-proof tree species and will be a place for discussion about opportunities to protect trees and forests and their sustainable management.

Research and knowledge are needed to take action in Amsterdam as well, with regard to how we can protect not only people but also trees and forests from increasingly urgent threats.

Parliament of Trees

On the south side of the Amstelpark, in front of the trees, stands the Parliament of Trees. This contemplative installation explores ways to step out of the dualistic thinking about the relationship between man and nature that is still prevalent, particularly in the West. What does it mean to put non-human entities such as trees at the centre of thought and action? What does it mean to be in dialogue with our non-human environment?
In the period from 12 September to 16 October, this thinking will take centre stage in the Parliament of Trees and will be further explored with public lectures (among others by Prof. Ute Sass-Klaassen) and a teaching programme by St. Nicolaaslyceum and ALASCA secondary schools.

During this period, artist Elmo Vermijs, together with poet Gershwin Bonevacia, musician Thijs van Vuure, and dancer Kenzo Kusuda, will explore how trees can be represented and given a voice. How can the right of trees to exist be given a place in our system? This will result in the Trial in the park – the trees speak out on Sunday 16 October, in which the trees will become legal entities and will be legally as well as artistically represented and actually sue their polluters.

Parliament of Trees is made up of 46 tree trunks and 57 planks, lent out for the occasion by Stadshout sawmill.
Afterwards, they will return to Stadshout.

The installation can be visited daily. You are invited to take a seat in Parliament, be surrounded by the trees, and reflect on the thoughts.

Trial in the park – the trees speak out (Sunday October 16, 2022)

In collaboration with environmental lawyers Jessica den Outer and Jan van de Venis, this trial explores how non-human entities, such as trees, can become legal entities and how this legal status can contribute to better protection of forests and city parks. This speculative trial* follows the lead of the increasingly influential international rights-for-nature movement.

The trees of the Amstelpark become legal entities.
Several local polluters will be on trial and must defend themselves.
Lawyers have prepared their cases.
Artists from various disciplines will present their artistic case, based on their research into the representation of the tree as a non-human entity.
The judges will deliberate and rule.
The audience will witness the speculative trial live and play an important role.

This trial is one of the first of its kind. New and innovative forms of evidence and representation are an important part of this trial, making it a unique event to witness. You will experience how rights-for-nature can really work.
There is room for a maximum of 50 participants in the trial.

Judges:                       trio led by Marianne Thieme
Clerk:                          Hannah Prins
Lawyers:                     Jan van de Venis & Jessica den Outer
Defendant:                 to be announced later
Expert:                        Prof. Ute Sass-Klaassen
representatives:        Gershwin Bonevacia, Kenzo Kusuda, Thijs van Vuure, and a student of St. Nicolaas Lyceum or ALASCA.

Essayist:                     Sanne Bloemink
Dramaturgy:              Marieke Nooren
Sound engineer:       Andreas Tagnander
Video:                         Jeppe van Pruissen

Do you want to be present at this trial? Please send an email to rechtszaak@elmovermijs.com, regarding ‘trial in the park – 16 October’. Please state your name, age, place of residence, and profession.

* This speculative trial can also be seen as a moot court, a practice trial in which new forms of jurisprudence are experimented with, which can challenge and question the current administration of justice.

Supported by
Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunsten, CLICK NL/ SIA Regieorgaan, DendroLab (Wageningen University & Research), Houtzagerij Stadshout,  Iona Stichting, Stadsdeel Zuid, Stichting Niemeijer Fonds en het Amstelpark.