RawTag at the Cambridge Sustainability Residency (Day 1)

What artists do all day when they get together? We play, talk, punt, drink tea, learn about the latest scientific discoveries, discuss and ….. ultimately change the world! The first day of the Cambridge Sustainability Residency has been a mixture of outdoor and insightful conversations. Organised by the multifaceted artist Marina Velez Vago, and supported by Cambridge School of Art (Anglia Ruskin University), this is a space that allows artists interested in sustainability to engage in conversations and practice on the area of sustainability. A fantastic group of talented artists working in different media are meeting together from all over the planet. This is a great opportunity to engage in conversations, discuss issues, share ideas and hopefully to translate these conversations and dialogues into meaningful products or processes. The finale will be a great exhibition at the Ruskin Gallery (Cambridge School of Art) on the 1st of August/2007, please join us as it is open to the public:   ALL WELCOME!!!!


Marco, Ilse and Debbie, three of the talented artists at the Cambridge Sustainability Residency. Drawing by Beatriz Acevedo

The residency started with a gentle way of knowing each other, through informal and formal experiences. Marina curates and designs the residency in the way of creating a form of “experiential learning”, evolving while talking. The hot climate of this season was the perfect excuse for punting through the River Cam, flowing and floating, yet advancing… Through the journey we were reminded of how knowledge used to be disseminated in constructed in the early life of universities. At the beginning, lectures or seminars were shared whenever there was space, in public buildings, in markets, in rooms… this nomadic nature of knowledge seems to the group a very interesting stream to follow. This also relates with the global aspects of artists, something that is highlighted by the work of Nicholas Bourriaud in his approach to “alter-modernism”. This is one of the threads of the conversations that seem to be recurrent in the group.


The tree of Life. Drawing by Beatriz Acevedo, based on presentation on DNA

Some of the ideas discussed relate with the topic of IMPACT in two senses: “What is the impact of scientific research and how it relates with political decision making.” Also, the IMPACT of our work as an artist. While we know little about the scientific world, and it is impossible to generalise, there is the perception of the differences: firstly, about methodology: the different yet sometimes complementary nature of the scientific method and the more rizomatic, nomadic and creative approach of artists. This difference also is expressed in the way in which artists approach the world, Marco Raineri (one of the artists in the group) suggested that some scientists approach their object of study in an “objective” way, whereas the artist seems to bring the “life” into the living being. I personally think that this “compassionate” nature, as being alive together (company in passion) is the spark of the possibility of producing empathy, emotions and ultimately change.



The artists in the Cambridge Sustainability Residency 2015

Later, in the Skype conversation, the conversation veered toward the complexities of a relationship between art and sustainability: For science and art to intervene it is important to know each other. And the recurrent idea of our role as artists. Interestingly, our there was a reminder of how the role of artists have changed. During the 1990s, the political issue was not really “taught” or intended in art schools. It was all about having “fun” and being political was not “cool”… this careless attitude was not generalised, only artists have to find different ways to express their political and ethical commitment. After the economic crisis and the burst of the bubble, there was a sort of rediscovery of social issues, feminism and the interconnections of the climate change crisis. This “visible” “invisible” fluctuation connects to another important question of the group:  how can our art can be more “visible” and active in the world, also, in the way in which artists can change perceptions, habits of thinking and new ways of investigating and acting upon certain situations. More specifically, the point in question is whether or not “artist is her/his own practice” in the sense of being in the world. It is interesting to note how many of the artists in the residency have negotiated their political intentions through art, activism but also in the way in which they live their own lives and practices. Once again, the nomadic nature of artistic knowledge and scientific discoveries is necessary considering the context of shifting of rationales, perspectives and knowledge.

For me personally, representing the RawTag team in this important event, is so meaningful! As an artist-educator, it is so easy to work on my own, locked in the studio… thankfully we are a great team and now we will be joining this ongoing group who are here physically and virtually. All these discussions present a new context of questioning and acting upon the world. I am already learning so much from my fellow artists! This immersion is just what one needs to re-calibrate and re-connect with deep issues, like minded artists and global possibilities.

Watch this space, tomorrow we will talk about each of the artists’ practice and approaches!


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