When you get lost in the forest or you mistakenly step across a forest spirit’s track, you might end up caught in the metsänpeitto, the forest cover. Once you are inside, it is difficult to find you way out. It is a world where everything runs in reverse, things turn upside down, rivers run backwards, the crowns of trees point downwards and the sun rises in the West and sets in the East. Familiar places become somehow strange and your eyes can be deceived by the forest. Searchers who come looking for you should know that they must wear their clothing the wrong way round and their shoes on the wrong feet. If they hear you shouting, they should walk in to the opposite direction of where your voice is coming from. they will have to bind the forest together with a red tread, hit the ground and say “now let go!”, they might even have to clamp the devil’s testicles by placing a stone as weight on a branch.
In the summer of 2015 I began my investigatory travel through Finland’s forests in order to research the meaning of trees, forests and wilderness and society’s relationship with them. My primary research question was: Can the forest be seen as a mirror of human society?
My thesis project investigates the human-nature relationship from a variety of angles, as well as considering its transformation over time, until today.
During the entire research I kept in mind the main forensic principle “Every contact leaves a trace”, stated by French forensic scientist Edmond Locard. It means that with trace evidence, everything can be linked to one another – such as people or objects to places, other people or other objects, because they continue to hold information about all contact with the other. In environmental forensics, for example, these principles are transferred to the medium of nature, landscapes and environment, which involve trace evidence of, for example, human action.
What I discovered during my journey and field research was the story of how Finland got caught in its own superstitious pagan belief, the forest cover. The meaning of the forest, the human appreciation and treatment of it have turned upside down and inside out. Things work different now and places have changed their appearance completely. Hidden paradoxes reveal a twisted interrelation between forest and human.
The research findings are certainly translatable beyond the Finnish borders, since most of the topics dealt with can be linked to broad global, economical and socio-environmental issues.