Habitats of Composition: The Nature of the Commons

Press/Media: Expert Comment


The commons as public park, is there for the making—place making is integral to experiencing the commons as an archive of landscape that is environmentally designed by people and ecology as co-creators. A public park is there for everyone, a location that can be re-formed by art making, and a declaration of how to create with materials that are readily available. The legacy of a commons has both a natural history and social history. It is a place of ecology within a particular locality, with a legacy of land use and social occupation. It is a form of bio-regionalism, a network of nature and people in a defined life-place. COVID-19 brought into awareness a defined regionality, our particular geography and nearby environments facilitating contact between people and nature. This developed an approach to experiential forms of community building through regional consciousness [8], whereby people walked routes of investigation into local nature surroundings. A city park offered the possibility of becoming a bioregional studio with “the potential to address human-environment connections… and resilient practices and patters of urban living” [Church, 2014). Bioregionalism encourages a recognition of nature as a life companion, an ecology that inspires an activism of participation and the representation of vernacular cultures, or what can be made in communities of geography [8].

Church, S. (2014). Exploring urban bioregionalism: A synthesis of literature on urban nature and sustainable patterns of living, Sapiens7(1) https://journals.openedition.org/sapiens/1691.


As formations of artistic production on public land, the dens can be occupied by many, and represent landmarks of both personal and collective becoming. Each person who enters, may adapt a found shelter for their own aims as a temporary autonomous zone [O'Rourke, 2013]. However, there is an accumulation of artistic contributions, so the habitat is ultimately a collaborative venture, with new potentials formed whenever anybody adds their own branches to the mix. These material and design contributions accumulate layers of both “interference” and alliance [Bonta & Protevi]. The den is a scaffolding of support that adds emergent properties for those who contribute to what they find. These many heterogenous intentions do not reach a conclusion or finishing point, but instead represent multiple forms of becoming. The den is a gathering together of contingency, a metaphor for survival in a forest, demarcating a boundary that is also an interface. In the forest park, people can venture instinctively in search of a place to gather themselves. The dens are not a destination, but a surprise encounter with artistry that reinvents the materials of the forest as public art forms. These are sculptures of human potential, new thresholds of occupation in a landscape that acts as a trajectory of emergence [Bonta & Protevi]. As a practice of everyday life within a pandemic, the crafting of these life places brings home the idea of composing oneself by way of retreat and through a reimagining of one’s territory.

Bonta, M., & Protevi, J. (2004). Deleuze and geophilosophy: A guide and glossary. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

O’Rourke, K. (2013). Walking and mapping: Artists as cartographers. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Period21 Apr 2021

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleHabitats of Composition: The Nature of the Commons
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletInteralia Magazine
    Media typeWeb
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    DescriptionThis is an article about land art that constructs habitats of refuge or survival shelters. The art of constructing forest sanctuaries, as a form of social media, is a resourcing of found materials transformed into personal and social places of significance. Amidst COVID-19 restrictions, nature became everyone’s place to be and public parks were an essential commonplace for combining and finding a place apart to come together. What emerged in the forests of Phoenix Park, Dublin was the construction of landmarks for protection and solace. As bushcraft and public artforms, these dens act as declarations of personal security and social constructions, occupying both a boundary and an invitation. They are landmarks for solitary pursuits and social encounters—transformative locations for introspection and the communal sharing of a forest.
    Producer/AuthorPamela Whitaker
    PersonsPamela Whitaker


  • Environment
  • Art Therapy
  • Found Art
  • Readymades
  • Commons