Imagine a world where trees are so scarce they can only be seen outside of their natural environment, like Micronesian Kingfishers in a zoo. Such a reality is being brought to life by the Basel-based curator Klaus Littmann who is planting 299 trees in the Wörthersee football stadium in the Austrian city of Klagenfurt. Due to be unveiled on 9 September, For Forest: the Unending attraction of Nature will be Austria’s largest public art installation.
The idea is based on a drawing created in 1970 by the artist Max Peintner, who represented Austria at the 1986 Venice Biennale. Littmann came across the drawing more than 30 years ago and suggested to the artist that he reconstruct it in real life. Peintner’s reponse was incredulous: “Sure, young man,” he retorted, but Littmann has not been able to “let go of the idea” ever since.
The state-of-the-art Wörthersee stadium was built for the European Football Championships in 2008, but, unusually for a football stadium, it is not used to its full capacity throughout the year. So when Littmann was told about the stadium, he grabbed the opportunity and set about realising his idea.
Visitors will only be able to view the forest from the stands. “It’s primarily about how we take things for granted, how we stop thinking about them. By removing something from the familiar into a new context, you raise new questions,” Littmann says. “It’s not about playing around in the forest.”
The project will be overseen by the leading landscape architect Enzo Enea, who will be in charge of transplanting the fully-grown trees—some weighing over six tonnes—into the stadium and creating a native central European forest.
The installation will be accompanied by exhibitions on the theme of nature at the Museum Moderner Kunst Kärnten and the Klagenfurt State Gallery. When the project comes to an end on 27 October, the trees will be replanted on a public site nearby and will remain as a living “forest sculpture”.