warehouse warehouse

An Essay on the German Forest

By Tabea Rossol & Pujan Karambeigi, translated by Pierre Schwarzer

Under the open sky with terra0.org

O valleys wide, o heights,
o beautiful, green forest,
you, of my joy and birth pangs the dwelling!
Out there, always betrayed,
rushes the wild world:
encircle me now with your bow,
you green vault.1


  1. Joseph Eichendorff, Abschied Farewell],, 1. Strophe

  2. Eichendorff, Zur Geschichte des Dramas Brockhaus Leipzig 1854

  3. Oskar Seidlin „Eichendorffs symbolische Landschaft“ in Stöcklein (hrsg.) Eichendorff heute, S.218-241, S.219

  4. for further details see http://book.terra0.org

  5. http://book.terra0.org

  6. Friedrich Kittler, Optische Medien, Berlin: Merve Verlag (1999), 316

Driving out of Berlin: rather uneventful. When leaving the city, the East falls in. Correction: it was already there. It is 12.34 PM. A few notes from the brown journal: the gaze is infinite, loses itself in the landscape (associations with Northern Germany, although there the fields and forests are woven into each other – here it is more separate). We drive by: brutalist social housing complexes, hardware stores, tree nurseries, beverage stores. We read: Hellweg, we read Tree nursery Scheerer, BMW Car Dealership. – Many photos not taken (in the future: have the camera ready).[read on]

Eichendorff: “But in Nature, in the dreams of the loneliness of the forest, as in the labyrinth of man’s breast, slumbers since the dawn of a time, a wonderful, everlasting song, a bound, enchanted Beauty, whose salvation is the poet’s deed.“ 2

Eichendorff and the forest: the future is a place of longing, of homesickness. The „green vault“ is the numinous „Other“, but also a place of finding (and inventing) oneself. In so far as the depth of the dark forest mirrors the “labyrinth of mankind’s breast,“ the German Forest is a place for possible self-observation. Not simply any kind of self-observation: the forest is a cryptogram (fig. 1).3 One has to learn to read it. A ciphertext, only decipherable by the poet. Eichendorff assembles various symbols in this cryptogram. They repeat themselves and constantly appear within his poetry. The forest as symbolic space, as text whose vocabulary is the carrier of possible self-observation and -knowledge.

Fig. 1: This is not an Eichendorff Krytogramm

Eichendorff’s versing on the German forest is solely written in exchange with direct perception. The romantic projection of the “forest”, the almost mystical other in one’s own had to be seen, the ‘Waldeinsamkeit’ (loneliness of the forest) had to be felt. Poetry, the qualitative translation of the immediately lived into the linear form of a text, allows a gaze upon the German subject. The text masses of the self-searching poet are written amid the forest-words.

Driving to the coordinates 52°27’39.8″N 13°50’22.9″E takes about an hour. Then: the forest. It carries the number 78 and 79 (Note: inquire about the meaning of this). We’re standing right in the middle of it. Around us: trees, birds, leaves, a bit of rubbish, small patches of grass, a perch, all surrounded by a fence. Does one feel observed here? This forest is special, different than the ones around it: it is observing itself.

terra0 is the name of the forest in which we stand with our smartphone cameras and our notepad. At the moment it is still in a contractual relation with the three project-initiators Paul Seidler, Paul Kolling and Max Hampshire. How does one stand in a contractual relation to a forest? One that observes itself to become (or already be?) a NHA (Non-Human-Actor).

Fig. 2: Satellite image of terra0

The three artists acquired the forest in Brandenburg from its leaseholder. One tenth of a hectare, which they are writing over to terra0 via a smart contract 4. Through the combination of a blockchain-algorithm and a smart contract terra0 becomes able to sell licenses of itself. With these licenses, or “woodtokens”, the forest controls how much of itself is to be sold for forestry use. With the benefits, the forest buys itself back, or rather: it buys shares from its stockholders (the project initiators). As soon as it has bought all the options the forest becomes proprietor of and sole shareholder of itself, basically an autonomous agent. 5

The envisaged autonomy of terra0 is rendered possible through self-observation. The data feeding the algorithm is generated through self-observation. This is to be done via remote-sensing: Drones, programmed to fly over the forest in regular intervals, taking satellite pictures of it (fig. 2). These satellite images, terra0’s self-portraits, are then to be analysed for spaces ready for clearing that would not endanger the tree population. An adaptive feedback-system investigating itself via precise quantification. If the trees show signs of disease or age they can easily and directly be felled by a grubbing company. However, never shall all trees be felled so the forest would not be a forest anymore (and for instance become a meadow). terra0 is designed to remain true to itself.

Fig. 3: 5 dimensions in 4 steps

Finding oneself in order to remain true to oneself no longer functions along Eichendorff’s cryptograms. The forest is no longer Eichendorff’s one-dimensional text, searching itself in the circumjacent abysmally dark “other”. It is no longer the alphabet of the “Soul” through which human perception can be read. When “digital computers send out sounds or images, whether to a so-called human-machine interface or not, they internally work only with endless strings of bits“ 6 optical media 225/226. We have reached dimension 0: bits and bytes (fig. 3). terra0 discovers itself as a sum, as a dynamic plain of points. Observation is no longer a fumbling, auditory or optical matter. It does not relate to a material to be decrypted, the cryptogram. Rather, it functions as pure calculus. Thus, remote sensing does not really generate images. Instead it generates numeral strings. Like Eichendorff discovered words of his own, laid out on paper in his ‘Waldeinsamkeit,’ the now autonomous blockchain-algorithm-forest observes itself calculating. With a forest as a numeral plain, self-observation means numbers watching other numbers.

We are still standing in terra0, number 78 and 79, a Brandenburg forest, one hour from Berlin. They remain the only numbers we encounter in the green vault.