MICRO INTERVIEW No. 8 – Thomas meets Svenja

Thomas Laurien: Hej Svenja! What are you up to these days? I know that you quite recently moved your multispecies entourage from one site to another. Could you tell us a bit about that transition, and how you have settled down now?

Svenja Keune: Hi Thomas and Dear all. What a great timing to ask me for a reflection! Exactly one year ago I started my postdoctoral project “Designing and Living with Organisms” which is funded by the Swedish Research Council. Therefore, I moved my Tiny House on Wheels from Bollebygd in Sweden to Hvalsø in Denmark. In Bollebygd I lived with 4 people, 2 rabbits, 2 cats, and all the larger and smaller residents and nomads, in a little green and diverse oasis in the midst of a monoculture spruce and pine plantation. In Hvalsø, my house is parking inside a former pig enclosure, located inbetween a beautiful meadow and my landlords’ sawmill in a nature reserve 50 km west of Copenhagen. It is fascinating to experience another location with the same house and to witness how the changes of the seasons are expressed in flora and fauna but also in the way e.g. my landlords live. Thus, the first year was a lot about observing the new environment, setting up my house, creating a garden and a greenhouse for my explorations, getting to know all the settings, communities, and entanglements I find myself in, and creating new relationships. After a hard and lonely winter in lock-down, I very much enjoyed the lightness and abundance of life during summer, and explored no-tech 3d-printing onto woven fabrics to create patterns with cavities in which e.g. insects could find shelter. I want to investigate bio-colonized textiles as layers of cohabitation and architectural facades. Now with the beginning of the autumn I am harvesting, and preserve the fruits of the year for the coming winter. With the autumn also comes critical reflection about all the dreams that have not manifested yet and I realise that I need more cross-pollination through collaborations. Hence, this is also an open call for collaborators and if you feel interested or got an instant idea let’s have a chat!

Thomas: Very interesting, and I get a lot of images in my head from this beautiful description. Talking about architecture – what kind of interest do you meet from that field/practice? I recently visited an exhibition called “Arkitekturvisioner: Brunnsparken” at Röhsska Museum of Design and Craft in Gothenburg, and what struck me with those so called visions was the lack of more-than-human representation and recognition of more-than-human interests. What is your experience of working/talking with architects about issues like this?

Svenja: I mostly know and meet likeminded people who work with Architecture in a more experimental way, like exploring the potentials of living mycelium in an architectural and computational context (FUNGAR, a research project at CITA where I work), or Architects who transitioned towards natural building and regenerative practices in landscape architecture. They are all very aware of the urgency and are passionate about addressing the crises through the work they are doing. Today for example I will have a brainstorming session with a friend of mine who is a biologist and is working on a proposal about how to create space for and to bring in more biodiversity into an urban area that is about to be planned and built. From my very personal perspective (deliberately limited to what is moving forward and who could be a great source of inspiration and knowledge for my project) there is a lot going on and it is very exciting to discuss and inspire one another.

Thomas: Where do you see yourself five years from now? Is the tiny house still central to your life? Has it moved to a new site?

Svenja: In 5 years from now I moved my house to a new place in order to start up and establish a research village. This is a research group that lives and works together with their research in an experimental environment where they can easily prototype, stage, and experiment with their own living conditions. Ideally, this research group/village is attached to an already established eco village or intentional community and therefore can draw from the existing infrastructure and community. It is also connected to Academia and other communities and in constant exchange. Researchers of all kinds can live with us long term, or just for a short-term project, depending on how they want to create their lives. It is interesting that a major part of the Royal Danish Academy is supposed to move to the countryside to relax the pressure, e.g. around housing in Copenhagen. Most of the colleagues and students very much struggle with this perspective, but I find it extremely interesting to speculate about the positive potentials of such a shift. I am now starting to bring people together who are interested in the Research Village idea and want to push it further. Therefore, my current interests expand beyond textiles, plants, insects, permaculture, and Tiny Houses towards facilitation, leadership, co-creation, community building, communication, conflict management, personal development, and the like. An idea I want to manifest in summer next year is a festival or summer camp at my landlords’ place. This could evolve around multispecies cohabitation, weaving, wooden structures, permaculture, community building and brainstorming… If you feel curious about joining the Research Village Focus Group, the Festival/Summercamp co-creation, if you have experience or ideas that you want to contribute with, or if you are interested in a collaboration of whatever kind – please reach out :).

Thomas: Thank you very much for the chat Svenja! I really hope that your vision of the Research Village can come true one day! See you!