Forest Dreams: Agnes Denes

Presented by RMIT School of Architecture & Urban Design

A panel discussion with Agnes Denes, Eero Yli-Vakkuri and Sarah Hicks, moderated by Jock Gilbert

Forest Dreams invites you into a critical conversation around the work of Agnes Denes through two intriguing projects from the artists oeuvre; Tree Mountain outside Helsinki in Finland and Forest for Australia in Altona, Melbourne.

This discussion explores the universal concepts Denes sought to express through seminal works including Wheatfield in New York; ‘[the] intrusion into the citadel, a confrontation of high civilization… [but[ also Shangri-la, a small paradise, one’s childhood, a hot summer afternoon in the country, peace… simple pleasures’. 

The conversation will foreground the artists’ intentions and relationships between environmental art and contemporary landscape conditions. 

This program took place at The Capitol, 113 Swanston St, Melbourne.


Agnes Denes is seen as a primary figure among the concept-based artists who emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. Denes is internationally known for works created in a wide range of mediums. A pioneer of several art movements, she is difficult to categorize. Investigating science, philosophy, linguistics, psychology, poetry, history, and music, Denes’s artistic practice is distinctive in terms of its aesthetics and engagement with socio-political ideas. As a pioneer of environmental art, she created Rice/Tree/Burial in 1968 in Sullivan County, New York which, according to the renowned art historian and curator Peter Selz, was “probably the first large scale site-specific piece anywhere with ecological concerns.”

Eero Yli-Vakkuri is a design oriented performance artist, whose work focuses on public spaces through antidisciplinary collaborations. Eero is based in Helsinki but has strong connections to other major cities in Finland and is currently making a study of contemporary equestrian culture and advancing sustainable design through campaigns, workshops and artistic presentations. 

Sarah Hicks is a practicing landscape architect and artist and a director of Bush Projects Landscape Architecture and Art based in Melbourne and regional Victoria. She teaches sessionally at RMIT University and writes and presents extensively on landscape art and culture. 

Jock Gilbert is a registered landscape architect and academic in the School of Architecture and Urban Design at RMIT University. His research interests lie in community engagement, regenerative practice and Indigenous-led design research, focused around the development of green infrastructure through the convergence of concepts of place, Country and landscape.