In early October, Zagreb-based artist Vanja Babic arrived at Solitude with a project idea about recycling, and one walk through the forest gave him plenty of inspiration. Three weeks later, the collection of objects from the forest was big enough to get the attention of writer Zoltán Lesi, who was inspired to write a fictive story. The installation Forest, Happy Birthday to You was part of the Solitude exhibition openings, the forest around Solitude had been cleaned up, and visitors of Zoltán’s fictive lecture performance during Vanja’s installation learned how the trash in the exhibition had reached nature … with the involvement of space squirrels.
Some notes on the development of Forest, Happy Birthday to You by Vanja Babić:
A lot of things were collected into an unprecedented whole in this story. Objects, information, people, narratives. It is hard to say what came first, but relaxing walks on the forest paths next to Akademie Schloss Solitude turned into encounters with a number of bottles and discarded objects, which got my attention. Was it because of past encounters / or the encounters yet to come / with people in the city center who were collecting bottles, because of observing their organization, their tools, their mindset? Maybe.
I got the pickup tool and a trolley and started collecting objects as well as information in the forest.
One thing led to another and the forest led to the small town of Gerlingen. One curious object let to another peculiar discovery and event. In the printing house’s trash bin I found 15 canvases, rejected because of a printing mistake. The printed trees with Happy Birthday inscription was unneeded excess, so I decided to take them. The collection of bottles and items expanded with every sojourn into the forest, as well as through interested people, accidental passersby, colleagues.
Fellow Zoltán Lesi suggested contributing to the collection with a short story with a bizarr perspective. An extraterrestrial observer arrives to a blue planet to create a map for colonization purposes. Strange squirrels are crossing its way and collecting bottles for the living. Lesi’s text »Squirrels in Space« is using a broken german for the report of the extraterrestrial map drawer. We started going to the city center together and talking to bottle collectors, wanting to hear their stories. That is how we met Mr. Alex, who has been collecting bottles for five years. He was of Greek origin and he played bouzouki, and after the conversation about how much he loved nature, we invited him to play »Happy Birthday« in the forest.
The oddity of encounters between objects and information, the way they were layered and piled, established a certain validity of classification that is not empirical. The sameness and otherness were interpreted spatially and narratively to form a new dis/order.
Found objects and information were documented and in the end exhibited as a group of photographs in the form of a map of the area where objects were found. They were grouped by days and categorized by different principles. The time I spent collecting every day, as well as number of meters I covered, were marked by each day/group.
In the end, the collection will be returned to the process of established order of classification, recycling, and production, where it belongs.
Imran Ali Khan