The project Balance visualizes the interconnectedness of processes in the region of Bad Reichenhall.
The interplay between the individual actors, whether human or non-human, living or non-living, contributes to the greater picture. The region’s scenery is characterized by the alternation of mountains and valleys, pastures, and forests. Its historicity is mainly influenced by one resource – the salt – which still imprints the region’s landscape.
Two artifacts represent the ecosystem where I grew up and am part of. Together, they build a whole.
The two artifacts play with the synergy of every individual element. One illustrates the cultural landscape exposing the interconnection of processes within; spruce forests, meadows, their soil, and the salt. The other artifact shows the region’s scenery of mountains and rivers. The river's diversion because of salt deposits in the soil has shaped the landscape from today. Yet, people have remained exposed to the whims of nature and salt’s vicissitudes.
These partly natural, partly man-made processes ever since have been a constant interaction and reaction between the actors, their surroundings, and prevailing interactivities of the ecosystem.
Balance is an ensemble of different actors that shape(d) the region.
The characteristic elements of the region:
The mountains shape the landscape, influence the climate, and are a gathering point for tourist activities. They are the place of the river’s origin and indicate its way.
The river, originally characterized by many serpentines, was straightened for reasons of salt production and build around the stock of this precious resource.
The salt, an omnipresent but likewise invisible resource, affects its surroundings sustainably. Its impermeability emphasizes the fragility and value of this resource. At the same time, its corrosive properties can have an injurious effect directly or indirectly on others in its immediate vicinity. The occurrence of this resource characterizes many processes and traditions within this region.
The black forest derived its name from the monoculture of spruce caused by salt production. It forms part of the region’s so-called cultural land which evolved in the Middle Ages.
The pastures, forming the counterpart to the predominant woodlands, show the history and the present of this region. Besides the tourism and the saline cure, the livestock sector was and still is an important pillar for the alpine foothills region.
a reflection on the local realities of my surrounding ecosystem
- Bad Reichenhall -
The whole is always less than the sum of its parts.
Timothy Morton, Being Ecological, p. 62
The parts of the whole are, contrary to holistic perspectives, bigger than the entire whole. Thus, they are not necessarily more important or less important, but in any case just equally relevant and worthy of consideration.
This may sound crazy and also possibly somewhat illogical at first since we have always learned it the other way around. Thus, for instance, the seed of an apple is in its dimensions smaller than the whole apple, right? But content-wise, the seed has at least the same size as the whole apple. If you like, the seed represents the apple's origin. It makes it possible for it to grow at all. In terms of time, a seed can even grow and become as big as a tree. The apple, on the other hand, shrinks again when it gets old and loses moisture.
The two parts are interdependent parts of a whole system - that of the tree and its associated ecosystem - and must not be forgotten when considering the bigger picture.
The other conception of imbuing every single part of a system with equal importance seems like a much easier way to think and to understand everything. And it is also a much (environmentally) friendlier way of thinking towards the parts, such as a single tree, a forest, or the squirrel living in it. It allows us to apprehend all parts of this complex interrelated and interacting system and to react specifically to them.
The constant zooming in and out to understand the processes and interactions of one another brings us again closer to our environment and may open up new approaches for us to reconnect.
Dutch Invertuals Academy 2021