Oakalo

Suvi Ermilä, Pia Grüter, Thomas Heib, Riikka Keränen, Pia Lindman, Niko Nurmi, Emilio Zamudio-Murillo

Oakalo, alluding to both the oak tree and Posiva’s permanent nuclear waste repository Onkalo, is both an artistic and a business experiment to find ways to protect oaks as valuable repositories of pollutants. We plan to develop a line of particularly resilient oak trees and obtain trademark and/or copyright protection for them in order to ensure their unobstructed growth over their lifespan of several hundred years.

Oakalo is a self-sustaining gathering and storage system for heavy metals and carbondioxide. In addition, Oakalo produces acorns throughout its lifespan that can be used as nutrition or as seeds to grow more Oakalos. An Oakalo can eventually be used as building material and/or “mined” for its heavy metals, depending on the future demand for these commodities. At this stage, the soil it is rooted in will, of course, again be suitable for agriculture.

Since our project relies on the appropriation of a single existing oak, the age of which is around 500 years, it brings to a wider discussion the ethical implications of the act of cloning a living entity for the purposes of either art or business, for helping fight pollution, or for the very protection of the cloned species itself. How indeed can we humans claim authorship over a life form found in nature?

Proposals for Establishing Authorship 1-4
soil, oak seedlings, acrylic cubes

Cloning: Growing tissue, such as the tips of stems, roots and axillary buds, is collected from a chosen tree specimen and treated with growth hormones and nutrients to produce new plants that will contain the same genetic information as the original tree.

Line-breeding: Plants possessing desirable traits, such as longevity or big biomass are selected and crossbred to produce new individuals with said traits. The resulting offspring will go through the same process of selection and the selected individuals will be bred to create a family line containing the desired characteristics

The readygrown: In this variation of the project we will not manipulate the oak nor its acorns, but simply pick the acorns and distribute them widely into various soils. We claim authorship over the seedlings based on the artistic gesture that elevates the plants above their natural status to that of art objects in the vein of the concept of the readymade.

Oakalo factory: We will plant and maintain a forest on our company property and consider it the Oakalo factory. The Oakalo line of trees will be naturally produced and harvested from this forest and ownership can be claimed by their origin in our factory. If our acorns are spread beyond our forest without permission, we will pursue legal action to ensure the authenticity and quality of our product.