Ursula Biemann and Paulo Tavares

Forest Law, 2014

This video is one of the first artworks to be inspired by the Rights of Nature movement, which advocates a legal status of the natural environment. Around the world, rivers and mountains are starting to be declared legal entities, often based on their important (spiritual) role for indigenous peoples. In 2008, Ecuador was the first country to constitutionally embed the rights of nature.

Central to the film is the lawsuit brought by the Sarayaku, an indigenous community living in the
southern Amazon region in Ecuador, against the Argentine oil company Compañía General de
Combustibles (CGC). In 2002, this company illegally entered the area collectively owned, protected and maintained by the Sarayaku. The company had buried 1400 kilograms of explosives in an area of forest considered sacred by the Sarayaku. When the Ecuadorian authorities chose to support the oil company, the Sarayaku challenged their decision in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. On 25 July 2012, the government of Ecuador was ordered to apologise to the Sarayaku and compensate 

the community.

Forest Law proposes this type of ground-breaking legal case as a catalyst for a new global legal framework that could ensure the survival of the planet. This 2-channel video installation shows a landscape populated by all kinds of sentient beings inhabiting different dimensions of reality, including minute copper deposits, forest spirits, indigenous councils, scientists, medicinal plants, international laws, global oil corporations, and river systems. Biemann and Tavares: ‘The Sarayaku people in Ecuador say that the territory is their body. Earth nurtures them and they care for it. It’s a mutual relationship of life. That simple.’


Ursula Biemann (1955, Switzerland) is an artist, writer, and video essayist based in Zurich. Her research-based artistic practice involves fieldwork in remote locations ranging from Greenland to the Amazon, where she investigates climate change and the ecologies of oil, ice, forests and water. Biemann’s work is invested in exploring uneven resource distribution, climate change and ecologies of oil and water as principles of the planetary organisation of power. Paulo Tavares (1980, Brazil) is an architect and urbanist based in South America. His work deals with the visual and spatial politics of territorial conflicts and climate change in the Amazon and other frontiers throughout the third world. He currently teaches spatial and visual cultures at the University of Brasília and leads the architectural agency autonoma.

Ursula Biemann & Paulo Tavares 

Forest Law, 2014 

Sync 2-channel video essay, 38’