How art can shape our ecological future

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The role of artistic research in creating sustainable futures

Article by Alessia Gervasone – Espronceda

“Art has a historical role that must be seen primarily in its ability to critically re-orient human experience”

Pietro Montani, “Bioaesthetics. Common sense, technique and art in the age of globalization”. Carocci, Roma: 2014. p. 82

Both artistic and curatorial practices are characterized by the identification, selection, and interpretation of material and immaterial elements in order to reorganize them to generate something different and new, with the intention of renewing or altering what is already known in order to renovate collective critical thinking. In this way, contemporary artistic practices must take on the complex challenge of implementing environmental conservation with new aesthetic and ethical parameters with an anti-colonial nature. Therefore, with this project we want to globally try to analyze how artistic practices could expand the limits of representation and intuition in citizens and could make them more aware of current environmental challenges, helping them to imagine creative solutions and effective alternatives, encouraging new ways of thinking to preserve the Earth’s ecosystems, in this moment of acute and complex global crisis.

Specifically, one of the objectives of the project will be to analyze and identify new artistic methodologies that are considered sustainable from a social, political, and ethical point of view, as well as in terms of the materials used for the artistic creation process.

Indeed, artistic practices that can be defined as eco-social and sustainable must be based on a logic of relational action and must have a behavior capable of stimulating transformation. Thus, arises the value of caring both for others and for the earth, and the reflection on how these practices can manage to be truly effective in the future.

When the philosopher Felix Guattari [MOU1] analyses the concept of subjectivity (which includes the cognitive, social, and environmental aspects of reality), he tells us that it is linked to its environment and that it is therefore impossible to separate it from its context, consequently if a subject destroys its environment, it will also destroy itself. Therefore, the survival of life on a social, political, and evolutionary level will depend on the quality of the relationships that are established between the different dimensions of reality, and also between subjects and their environment. Likewise, if we consider a relational and ecosystemic artistic practice, we can see how it is developed in a continuous relationship with its surroundings. This relational way of existing leads us to reflect that changes could be implemented if we try to develop new, less competitive, more relational, and cooperative imaginaries.

According to the researcher and art historian Laura Gibellini (2022) [MOU2]   in her book “Arte Ecosocial. Otras maneras de pensar, hacer y sentir” (2022), art could be seen as “a way of creating the conditions for something new to manifest itself” (p. 75) and again tells us that “artistic practice would thus be able to generate an emotional, sensory and bodily approach to knowledge that it emphasizes as ‘lived experience’, which is at least biological, social and cultural and therefore recognizes the social, environmental and cognitive context in which it develops as a fundamental part of knowledge”.

Indeed, in this contest contemporary art practices play a crucial role in environmental justice movements, as artists can often go beyond pure aesthetics and challenge dominant narratives by questioning sometimes unsustainable practices, stimulating new connections, and fostering collaborations (with scientists, activists, and policy makers) that can contribute to a more equitable and sustainable future. Following this line of approach, we can therefore highlight how artistic, scientific, and philosophical research can be an engine of awareness and change, helping us to imagine a future that allows us to overcome anthropocentrism and safeguard the ecosystems we live with.

Artists cannot ignore this need of collectivity, of the research for meaning, the need for new social models, and the construction of a positive vision of the future. Their role could be to listen and transmit the imperative need to understand the true nature of things, reconciling us with the whole. 

Alessia Gervasone

[MOU1]Guattari, Félix. The three ecologies. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2005.
[MOU2]Gibellini, F. Laura, (2022) “Unas primeras aproximaciones a la práctica artistica desde una consideracion ecologica del conocimiento”, in Raquejo, T. and Perales, V. (Eds), Arte Ecosocial. Otras maneras de pensar, hacer y sentir (pp. 65-80). Plaza y Valdes.

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