Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science

Notes From the Field, 2016
Notes From the Field, 2016
Wrecked on the Intertidal Zone, Arts Catalyst's Centre, 2016
Wrecked on the Intertidal Zone, Arts Catalyst's Centre, 2016

Arts Catalyst launches its Centre for Art, Science and Technology with Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science

This multi-faceted project investigates the notion of art as a tool or tactic for action with communities, with a focus on projects involving science and technology or driven by ecological concerns.

Notes from the Field… presents aspects of Arts Catalyst’s ongoing art and citizen science project Wrecked! on the Intertidal Zone with lead artists YoHa, Critical Art Ensemble, Andy Freeman and Fran Gallardo, who are working with communities on the Thames estuary. Alongside this, it presents the Arte Útil archive, a project initiated by artist Tania Bruguera, which chronicles a history of art projects that create tactics to change how we act in society.

In an archive room designed by Collective Works and ConstructLab, housing physical copies of selected Arte Útil case studies, and through exploratory workshops and discussion events, visitors will be able to speak with invited resident guests, undertake their own research, or propose new Arte Útil case studies. Contributing artists, scientists and experts to Notes from the Field… include Alistair Hudson, Dimitri Launder, Lisa Ma, Sylvia Nagl, Graham Harwood and Veronica Ranner.

More information about the 2016 programme can be found on the Arts Catalyst Centre launch press release.

#NotesfromtheField

Event Listings; Talks, Workshops and Seminars

 

Introducing Notes from the Field
Wed 27 January
A conversation between Alistair Hudson, Director of Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) / co-director of the Asociación de Arte Útil, and artist Graham Harwood, chaired by Nicola Triscott, CEO of Arts Catalyst.
MIMA hosts 'The Office of Useful Art' where visitors are invited to join the Asociacion de Arte Util (Useful Art Association) – a membership organisation that promotes and implements Arte Util.
Graham Harwood is one half of artistic collaboration YoHa, along with Matsuko Yokokoji. YoHa’s projects combine groups and individuals with the technologies that surround them, through a socially engaged and research based practice. YoHa produce powerful allegorical contraptions to form an understanding of complex social/technical systems.
 
Assembly on Useful Art, Science and Technology
Fri 29 January
The assembly will host six speakers and two respondents, split across two consecutive sessions. Speakers will be made up of a trans-disciplinary group of artists, scientists, technologists, designers, curators and researchers who use science and technologies to activate social change. Together they will reflect on the possibilities of art as a tool or devise to effect radical change.
Panel 1
Veronica Ranner, Kit Jones (CAT), Dimitri Launder - Chaired by Alec Steadman, Arts Catalyst's Curator
Panel 2
Graham Harwood, Sylvia Nagl, Jonathan Rosenhead (BSSRS) - Chaired by Nicola Triscott, Arts Catalyst's CEO
Respondent: Gemma Medina Estupiñan (Arte Util, Archive Researcher).
Gemma Medina Estupiñan is an independent research curator and Art Historian (PhD in Contemporary Art History) based in Eindhoven. She was part of the curatorial team of The Museum of Arte Útil (Van Abbemuseum), leading the research to build the Arte Útil Archive and co-curating the public program. She conceived the project ‘Broadcasting the archive’ along with Alessandra Saviotti to emancipate the usership around the Arte Útil archive. ‘Broadcasting the archive’ is supported by  Mondriaan Fund.
 
Socialising Activism - A Talk With Lisa Ma
Thu 4 February
“The future of activism isn’t loud. There’s a world of innovation in the field of activism that we are wasting away.”
Lisa Ma has been invited to contribute to Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science, as a resident researcher, speaker and workshop leader. In this talk Lisa will introduce her practice as a design activist, using innovative solutions to think through local social problems across the globe. 
Lisa socialises activism. Combining ethnographic research and speculative design, Lisa Ma creates platforms of engagement from surprising insights and processes that deeply resonate with the global technological community.
Placing herself as a critical explorer, Lisa Ma has built, for the city of Ghent - a political culture of consuming the invasive species that the vegetarian town would otherwise pay to poison; for a joystick factory in Shenzhen - coined the scheme of Farmification to save the worker community through technology innovation; for London Heathrow Airport - gather opposing communities between planning historians, activists to construct heritage tours of the surrounding villages under threat from the airport expansion. Through sweet storytelling of unlikely events, Lisa Ma bridges organisations with communities and through everyday clashes of values between what we do and what we believe in to make us think deeper about the future.
 
Sketch a Bioluddite - A Science and Activism Workshop with Lisa Ma
Sat 6 February
For every technological era, there are sub-cultures that resist the flow and whose critical perspective inspires the rest of society. This workshop invites the general public and scientists to a comic forensic sketch to identify an emerging subculture called Bioluddites.
What does society look like when you put historic activists with future science? Lisa Ma invites scientists, biohackers and the general public to an open forensic sketch session.
Lisa believes that designing a cultural memory of activism in technology is an essential part of public engagements with science. She provokes the scientific community by asking everyone to imagine how Luddism would affect society in the Biotechnological era. Rather than portraying these historical activists as criminals of the past, Lisa Ma argues that they are in fact the engaged citizens of the future.
This workshop will ask:
Why should scientists anticipate activism with their technology?
What might the general public celebrate in Luddism?
How could biohackers socialise activism for a result that is more productive than political engagement?
 
Inter-species Technologies for Peripheral Contexts (the Bionic Sheep project) - A Workshop with Fernando Garcia Dory
Thu 18 February
Artist, Fernando García-Dory, has been invited to contribute to Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science to present his Bionic Sheep project, part of the Arte Util Archive with a workshop and talk.  Join Fernando and guests for a discussion and workshop on his concept how art can connect with territories, native cultures and other species, and about the specific system shepherd-sheep-wolf today . In this workshop there will be the chance to draft models for a 21st century shepherds hut and learn the inner workings of the ultrasonic Flock Protection System for sheep, as well as gain insight into the behaviour of wolves.
Fernando will be joined by specialists Sue Hull (Co-Director of the UK Wolf Conservation Trust) an expert in animal behaviour and Paolo Cavagnolo, a hacker and electronic engineer who will dissect the technical details of the Bionic Sheep prototype.
The wolf has captured imaginations for as long as humans have been living in settled communities, appearing in different guises in folk tales and peasant songs as a wily predator and a fiendish seducer. Today they are seen by urban societies as a paradigm of wholeness and freedom. In recent years there has been a growing emphasis on protecting wolves and other predator species and even re-introducing them into certain rural areas. This is creating an increased conflict between what is left of the pastoralist cultures and domesticated animals and this wild species.
Since 2006, artist Fernando Garcia Dory has produced various prototypes of 'Bionic Sheep', In collaboration with shepherds and engineers. The 'Bionic Sheep' project is a portable, solar-powered, ultrasonic flock protection system for sheep. The system provides a technological and creative solution to the age-old pastoral rivalry of the shepherd and the wolf so that wildlife and farmers can co-exist in harmony.
Fernando’s work engages specifically with the relationship between culture and nature now, as manifested in multiple contexts, from landscape and the rural, to desires and expectations concerned with identity, through to (global) crisis, utopia and the potential for social change.
As the artist states; "From the frozen tundra where Sami reindeers graze, to German prairies to Portuguese remote mountains, the war between wolf and shepherd is increasing, with it, worldviews and ecosophies's clash. There is a gulf between the re-wilding ideology and deep ecology, on the one hand, and social ecology and agroecology ideas on how to solve culture-nature frictions, on the other."
 
Agroecology a New Kind of Neo Pastorialism - A Talk with Fernando Garcia Dory
Thu 18 February
Artist, Fernando García-Dory, has been invited to contribute to Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science, as a resident researcher, speaker and workshop leader. His work engages specifically with issues affecting the relation between culture-nature now, embodied within the contexts of landscape, the rural, desires and expectations related with aspects of identity, crisis, utopia and social change. He studied Fine Arts and Rural Sociology in Madrid, Spain and Ritveld Akademie Amsterdam.
In this talk he will discuss his work on agroecology and his current sociological and technical collaborations with engineers, communities and  other specialists.
His work stems from an interested in the harmonic complexity of biological and technical forms and processes, his work addresses connections and cooperation, from Microorganisms to social systems, and from traditional art languages such as drawing to collaborative agro ecological projects, actions, and cooperatives.
Engaging directly with issues affecting rural communities, García-Dory develop his "ethical-aesthetical" agroecological projects, such as working with shepherds who are trying to preserve their rights and way of life in the face of EU and tourist industry pressures, directing a Shepherds School there, and building huts open for newcomers; seed savers networks linked to hackers working to counteract patents on life forced by agribusiness and genetic engineering firms; and diverse interventions projects in Europe, India, Mauritius, Equator and other places.
Recent projects have been with Casco, Utrecht, Insite Casa Gallina, Mexico, Betonsalon, Paris,  Istanbul Biennale and he is working towards the upcoming intervention for Gwangju Biennale. 
 
Walking and Sensing in the City – A Citizen Science Sorkshop with Andy Freeman
Sat 27 February
Artist and technologist Andy Freeman has been invited to contribute to Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science, as a resident researcher, speaker and workshop leader. In this event Andy takes participants on a part walking tour – part citizen science workshop in Camden. Freeman considers that citizen science practice is a form of ‘tactical living’ drawing together different knowledge sources (scientific, governmental and localised knowledge) meaning that we can monitor the environment we live in and become informed of changes that affect our health and other forms of life in the city.
You will learn how to monitor air quality, test soil and water for toxicity and discover historical, biological, industrial, technological and hidden and situated knowledge in the borough.
Please note this workshop involves a 1.6 mile round walk.
 
A Remedy for the City – A Workshop with Dimitri Launder
Across March
Dimitri’s projects as Artist Gardener offer a gentle provocation to an apocalyptic view of urban ecological sustainability. His work often explores the liminal issues between public and private use of space, aspiring towards transformative urban propagation. Launder’s project Apothecary Arboretum is featured in Arte Util’s archive the aim was to create a garden both medicinal and edible, in a concrete neighbourhood. From this living eco-system of vertical, apothecary sculpture: prototype 1.0, he discusses his approach to his merging medicinal, historical, social knowledge in an urban context.
Over March 2016, Dimitri, along with Calthorpe Project (community garden) will investigate growing natural remedies in 'living pills' of ingredients - Kokedama. They will question the liable and liminal practices of home grown and foraged remedies and its challenges in our age of commercial medicine and whether the diseases of our city relate to medicinal plants in our locality? Together they will investigate and record stories of the traditional use of plants from members of the community whilst planting medicinal moss-balls.
Dimitri's experience in this grafted practice has developed over 15 years expertise as a garden designer and as an artist with inherent interests in ecology and socially engaged practices.
 
Planting in Concrete – A Talk with Dimitri Launder
Thu 3 March
Dimitri Launder has been invited to contribute to Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science, as speaker and workshop leader. In this talk Dimitri will talk about his work as Artist Gardener.
Dimitri’s projects as Artist Gardener offer a gentle provocation to an apocalyptic view of urban ecological sustainability. His work often explores the liminal issues between public and private use of space, aspiring towards transformative urban propagation. Launder’s project Apothecary Arboretum is featured in Arte Util’s archive the aim was to create a garden both medicinal and edible, in a concrete neighbourhood. From this living eco-system of vertical, apothecary sculpture: prototype 1.0, he discusses his approach to his merging medicinal, historical, social knowledge in an urban context.
His experience in this grafted practice has developed over 15 years expertise as a garden designer and as an artist with inherent interests in ecology and socially engaged practices.

Invasive Ecology – A Working Group with Fran Gallardo
Thu 17 March
As part of a weeklong residency artist researcher Fran Gallardo, invites you to join in a group led discussion on invasive species.
We will be joined by Dr Shonil Bhagwat: Senior Lecturer in Geography at the Open University and Environmental Geographer, with broad research interests at the cross-section between natural and social sciences. His research centers on the links between environment and development. In particular, it engages critically with discussions on a variety of key environmental concerns: agriculture and food security, biodiversity conservation, climate change, ecosystem services, and sustainability. It addresses these perceived grand environmental challenges within the context of growing discussion on the Anthropocene, the age of humans.
About the workshop:
Non-native plants, animals and organisms can have detrimental effects on our environment, health and ecology – they are considered to be a form of biological pollution.
The debate and discussion will explore whether we should elevate species such as the Transexual Mitten Crab and Japanese Knot weed, to fine dining ingredients when they attack and corrode the structural integrity of our concrete landscapes and affect our boats and flood defences. Shipping industries as well as oceanic currents and global warming are often held responsible for transporting species across the globe. With Dr Bhagwat we will discuss how to think differently about invasiveness, and how to apply new tactics to engage and live with ‘novel ecosystems’, whilst also leaving space for wildness in a human-dominated planet?  
 
Talking Dirty: Tongue First Research at the Mouth of the Thames Book Launch
Fri 18 March
Join us for enlivening evening with refreshments such as Earth Cola with Mycobacterium vaccae (M. Vaccae is a non-pathogenic species of Mycobacteria) and Edge Cordial made from Britain’s most valuable wild resource. Refreshments made by Fran Gallardo.  
Talking Dirty: Tongue First! was a series of public events in Leigh-on-Sea, Southend involving local foods, their source, preparation and consumption, which lead to the recipe book produced in collaboration with the situated knowledge of South Essex people. It contains instructions for cooking with estuary ingredients: from Grey Mullet Sashimi with Hair Soy Sauce and to Invasive Species Soup. The recipe book concentrates on local foods, ecology, environmental and toxicity and how interconnected webs of industry, culture, living beings and pollution form the estuaries complex ecosystem.
 
Explore the Thames Estuary with your Tongue – With Fran Gallardo
Sat 19 March
Join Fran Gallardo for a day of tasting, sensing and thinking through the Thames Estuary .
Fran will present intriguing recipes that represent and re-imagine webs of connections between gastronomy and ecology within many environments: from mud, human microbiomes, ships, landfills and human-made islands.

 

Artists

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of five tactical media practitioners of various specialisations including computer graphics and web design, film/video, photography, text art, book art and performance. Formed in 1987, CAE's focus has been on the exploration of the intersections between art, critical theory, technology and political activism. The group has exhibited and performed at diverse venues internationally, ranging from the street, to the museum, to the internet. Museum exhibitions include the Whitney Museum and the New Museum in NYC, Corcoran Museum in Washington D.C., ICA in London, MCA in Chicago, Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt and the Natural History Museum in London.
 
YoHa (English translation 'aftermath') is a partnership between artists Graham Harwood and Matsuko Yokokoji, formed in 1994. YoHa's graphic vision and technical tinkering, has powered several celebrated collaborations, establishing an international reputation for pioneering critical arts projects. Harwood and Yokokoji co-founded the artists group Mongrel (1996-2007) and established the MediaShed a free-media lab (2005-2008). In 2008 they joined Richard Wright to produce Tantalum Memorial shown in nine countries and 15 cities over four years. In 2010 YoHa produced Coal Fired Computers before embarking on a series of works about the lived logics of database machinery including Invisible Airs (2011) and Endless War (2012).
 
Tania Bruguera is a Cuban, politically motivated performance artist that explores the relationship between art, activism, and social change in works that examine the social effects of political and economic power. By creating proposals and aesthetic models for others to use and adapt, she defines herself as an initiator rather than an author, and often collaborates with multiple institutions as well as many individuals so that the full realization of her artwork occurs when others adopt and perpetuate it.
 
Fran Gallardo’s background is in systems engineering. He is a member of the Environmental Art Activism movement. Fran's work explores interfaces for culture in technology and ecology. In 2015, he lead the Arts Catalyst project Talking Dirty! Tongue First: Experiments at the Mouth of the Thames. This was a series of public events including citizen science workshops, involving local foods, their source, preparation and consumption.
 
Andy Freeman is an artist, educator, technologist and former oyster farmer. Andy has worked with software and community arts projects and was founder member of the Australian Network for Arts and Technology. Based on his arts practice and his teaching at Goldsmiths College, Andy has developed a practice that involves the combination of open data tactics and community engagement.
 
Dimitri Launder’s projects as Artist Gardener offer a gentle provocation to an apocalyptic view of urban ecological sustainability. His work often explores the liminal issues between public and private use of space, aspiring towards transformative urban propagation. Launder’s work has been commissioned by organisations including Tate Modern with his Apothecary Arborimum and RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show for Tales Of The NOOSPHERE recently featured in the Arte Útil archive. His ideas cross pollinate between commercial private gardens, public commissions and emergent ideas in his art practice. His experience in this grafted practice has developed over 15 years expertise as a garden designer and as an artist with inherent interests in ecology and socially engaged practices.
 
Veronica Ranner is a designer, artist and researcher living and working in London. She researches the burgeoning domain of the bio–digital — a converging knowledge space where digitality and computational thinking meet biological matter. She dissects and creates tangible and immaterial manifestations of such collisions, examining hereby the polyphonic potential of alternative technological futures. Her current doctoral work explores paradigm shifts in reality perception by coupling speculative (bio)material strategies and information experience through design research.
 
By combining fringe communities, ethnographic research and speculative design, Lisa Ma socializes activism through unusual platforms of engagement. These social events are perceived as activism but function as services and deeply resonate with the global technological community.
 
Sylvia Nagl is a transdisciplinary complexity scientist who works on the interdependence of human and natural systems. She is interested in how the dynamic interactions of people with each other, with wider social, economic, political, and technological systems – and with ecological and earth systems – form ever more complex networks of relationships. 'Health' depends on these relationships acting together in a life-enhancing way. Interconnectedness is central to the health of individuals and communities, and the well-being of the living planet Earth.
 
Ben Vickers is a curator, writer, network analyst, technologist and luddite. He makes a living and finds a vocation in understanding how systems of distribution, both human and other, come to affect our personal perception of reality. Vickers is currently Curator of Digital at the Serpentine Gallery, co-runs LIMAZULU Project Space, is an active member of EdgeRyders, leads Brighton University’s Professional 'Reality' Development Program and facilitates the development of unMonastery, a new kind of social space designed to serve the local communities of towns or small cities throughout Europe in solving key social and infrastructural problems.
 
Fernando García-Dory is an artist that engages specifically with the relationship between culture and nature now, as manifested in multiple contexts, from landscape and the rural, to desires and expectations concerned with identity, through to global crisis, utopia and the potential for social change. He studied Fine Arts and Rural Sociology, and now prepairing his PhD on Agroecology.
 
For over 20 years, Neal White has critically explored art in relation to new ideas, forms and technologies. As part of numerous collaborative endeavours – he has been developing projects, research and artworks, publications, archives, fieldworks, critical excursions as bus tours and exhibitions with academics, architects and activists. His current work explores situated practices and knowledge - drawing together environmental and ecological matters of concern with marine biologists, ecologists, coders, architects and volunteers in Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island, Dorset for Arts Catalyst's Test Sites programme.
 
The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), situated in Wales, is an education and visitor centre demonstrating practical solutions for sustainability. It covers all aspects of green living: environmental building, eco-sanitation, woodland management, renewable energy, energy efficiency and organic growing. CAT is concerned with the search for globally sustainable, whole and ecologically sound technologies and ways of life. Within this search the role of CAT is to explore and demonstrate a wide range of alternatives, communicating to other people the options for them to achieve positive change in their own lives.
 
The British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS) was the centre of a 'radical science' movement in the 1970s. The society was formed out of a campaign in 1968 against university research on chemical and biological weapons. Some of those who joined in the early days had a previous record of activism against nuclear weapons, through Scientists Against the Bomb, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, or in other left movements.
 

Support

This project is supported by The Arts Council England, with in-kind support from The Block.