Monica Ursina Jäger, Shifting Topographies: Forest Tales and Emerald Fictions, 2019

Shifting Topographies: Forest Tales and Emerald Fictions

2019. 3 channel HD, colour, sound, 16:9, 20′

The project Forest Tales and Emerald Fictions is based on several months of artistic research at NTU CCA Centre for Contemporary Art in Singapore. From interviews with family members and fictional narratives combined with images of urban and natural habitats, chlorophyll paintings and animated collages, Monica Ursina Jäger composes a 3-channel video installation.

Forest Tales and Emerald Fictions approaches the forest as a spatially complex structure, as a place of multi-layered contexts and inter-dependencies, as well as a place of imagination, narration and memory. Centuries of colonization have shaped these habitats: from imperialist territorial claims to scientific systematization and taxonomic classification practices of natural habitats.

The installation however shows the forest not only as a resource, infrastructure and service provider, but also as an ecosystem of transtemporal and translocal character. The forest is shown as an inherently ambivalent setting of matter and knowledge, as a rationalized environment, but also as a place of irrational stories. The installation traces moments of memory, documents the current state of a deeply urbanized natural space, and ultimately poses the question of to what extent the forest can serve as a model for sustainable urban development.

Concept and Script: Monica Ursina Jäger
Camera: Monica Ursina Jäger / Michael Zogg
Video Editing: Myrien Barth
Animation: Anja Sidler
Composition and Sound: Michael Bucher
Narrator: Phil Hayes
Interview: Jennie Ching
Text: Monica Ursina Jäger / Damian Christinger
Text editing: Aoife Rosenmeyer

Text: Monica Ursina Jäger

Monica Ursina Jäger, Topographies, 2014


2014. Installation

For several years Monica Ursina Jäger has been drawing built and natural landscapes inspired by Modernist-style architecture. Her precise works, using media including ink and pigment transfers, combine hope and downfall: on one hand designers’ aspirations, and fantasies, for the future; on the other the dystopia of failure. In creating these works Jäger has assembled a huge stock of images of buildings and environments, both her own photographs and images found in print and online, including rendered as well as completed constructions. ‘Topographies’ consists of one, extremely long image created from hundreds of collaged images from this working archive.

The viewers can follow the 18 meter long collage as if with a filmic tracking shot, or they can examine it in a less linear fashion. Whichever way they view it, the route is through man-made, forested and barren landscapes, some sites iconic, some prototypical, with an emphasis on the architectural ambitions of the 1960s. Our viewpoint moves from afar, to close up, the scenes largely in black and white with accents of colour that emphasise the chill of the dystopian environments. With few signs of human life, Jäger captures the temporality of the most solid concrete and steel buildings. Like the fictional visions of Cormac McCarthy, this could be a past we have escaped or a future we would like to avoid.

Text: Monica Ursina Jäger


Working with drawing, sculpture, installation, and cognitive mapping, the practice of Monica Ursina Jäger (b. 1974, Switzerland/United Kingdom) unfolds through a multidisciplinary reflection on concepts of space, landscape, and architecture that scrutinizes the relationship between the natural and the constructed environment.

During a residency at NTU CCA Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore, Jäger examined the shifting topography of Singapore and Southern Malaysia and how it changed over the last century by engaging with urban development, and architecture. Of particular interest is the relationship between built environments and natural landscapes in “the vertical shift” incurred in the notion of landscape. Looking at Singapore as a unique case study, her research aimed to focus on and excavate histories related to the social, political and sensorial conversations between natural and built elements and to rethink ‘topography’ as a mental landscape, rather than as a form of visual representation.