Has nature become a fairytale or do we want it to be one? In their installation The Clockwork Forest, artist collective Greyworld seems to opt for the latter.

The work of art consists of a giant golden key attached to a living tree in a forest, giving it a nice theme-park aesthetic. When the key is turned, the tree plays a fairy-tale-ish lullaby and the suggestion of a wind-up tree is playfully evoked. Close your eyes, and you’ll see goblins and unicorns running through the damp forest. It’s magic...

‘The forest is often the mysterious location of secret stories, of distant sounds from hidden camp fires, of secret meetings and unexplained sounds’, claim the artists. ‘In The Clockwork Forest, we have created the first chapter of an untold fairy tale. Just turn the key. The mechanical soundtrack will accompany your journey in to the forest.’

The whole thing feels a bit like a physical reenactment of the work Mastering Bambi by dutch artists Persijn Broersen and Margit Lucacs. It evokes wonder and I am absolutely sure both kids and grown-ups will love this beautiful installation. I also think that it is a good idea to celebrate a mystical, even magic relationship with our environment. Up to a certain level, I think it is even good to tell and re-tell fairytales. They are a specific type of stories that serve a certain purpose; set in a fictitious times and places, they tell us about good and bad through metaphors.

Only at a certain point, one must realize that they are just what they are: made up stories. The story this installation tells us is about how we have lost our connection with nature and how we should re-connect in a magical way. Ironically, it is told via a symbol of the mechanical age, emphasizing only how our natural environment has been replaced by technology.

Nature as a wind-up machine

The title of the installation refers heavily to Anthony Burgess’ dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange. In this novel, technology (in the form of therapy) is put to use to control humans (in the person of the protagonist Alex) and therefore, to control nature. The result of this, as the novel brings forward, is a mechanized human being, a metaphorical clockwork orange. Would Greyworld see their Clockwork Forest as a representation of an instrumental vision of nature? Nature as a wind-up toy that does one very nice trick, but only the one that we want it to do?



Of course, nature is not to be toyed with. If we, humans, want to live happily ever after on this planet, we should revert our nostalgia for a nature that never existed and re-align nature with technology. And we can do that, because we are technological beings by nature. As opposed to a longing to go back-, we should invent technology that will bring us forward to nature. Yes, it will be rocket science. And a little magic here and there would come in handy.

But even more than rocket scientists we need designers and artists, those princess and princesses of progress, to invent our future fairytales. So that we can believe in Nature again, and finally get rid of those unicorns.


Video of the installation on Vimeo.


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  • Helpful info. Lucky me I found your website by chance, and I am stunned why this twist of fate didn't happened in advance! I bookmarked it.

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  • Hello im interested in the clockworks, please could you advise me on costs & where to buy them.... Thanks

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  • ...staying also an artform?

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