Land Commons

Montes de Couso, Gondomar (Pontevedra) Galicia, Spain
Location Spain
Period 2023-2024

The aim of this project is to implement a mediation to fulfil the needs and wishes of Montes de Couso community.

Land Commons is part of the Art Living Lab for Sustainability—funded by the Creative Europe programme—which promotes partnerships between agents in the European Union to open up ecosystems of innovation and come up with nature-based artistic solutions in France, Belgium, and Spain. The aim of this project is to implement a mediation process that helps the commoners or joint-landholders of the communally-owned Montes de Couso to meet and fulfil their needs and wishes. It will culminate in an artistic response linked to nature, from a contemporary perspective.

There are currently 2,800 woodland commons in Galicia, managing 670,000 hectares of land: that’s a third of the woodland and almost a quarter of the area of Galicia. These commons are based on a kind of ownership that is both private and collective: they are jointly owned by a community of residents who have sovereignty over the use of the land in the area where they live, as researcher Lara Barros explains.

The Montes de Couso community is located in the municipality of Gondomar (Pontevedra, Galicia) and has been operating with the current group of commoners since 1984. This group is currently made up of 84 men and women who work to ensure the multifunctionality and productivity of the 330 hectares of communal woodland. The community also seeks to be self-sufficient in terms of energy, food, culture, leisure, and preventive health care.

These 84 people make up the group of citizen-commissioners who are starting this mediation process, with the aim of jointly imagining needs and wishes for the communal woodlands of Couso. The challenge is to arrive at a contemporary reading of the commoners’ desires based on participatory research, through the lens of art. Cultural mediator Natalia Balseiro (b. San Sadurniño, 1974) will accompany them in this mediation process.

This group of commoners already forms a community embedded in a unique, situated ecosystem. The aim is to approach it now from a contemporary perspective during the participatory research process.

Over the next few months—once the commoners’ wishes have been identified—various artists will be invited to propose nature-based solutions to this challenge. This will then lead to the commissioning of an artwork that will be produced at a site somewhere in the communal woodlands of Couso.

The idea is to help the community to achieve its goals, creating connections between Montes de Couso and society as a whole, the municipal government, and the local residents, helping them to better understand this ancient legal form self-organised, communal land management. Over the years, this legal status has made it possible for residents to maintain their rights over the land and to ensure it remains protected, productive, and in use: a system of collective governance based on the assembly of commoners.

The artwork will be commissioned in late 2023, to be produced during 2024.

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