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1.
Investigative Arts as Grassroots Empowerment to Environmental Research: the Cases of Taming the Forest and xMobil
Peter Purg, 2023, unpublished conference contribution

Abstract: In the current state of multiple and repeating planetary-scale crises, ranging from climate disasters to resource mismanagement, the complexity of problems often takes humanity into exploring unknown unknowns. Through a gradual consolidation of networks and platforms across realms of education, economy and both NGO as well as public cultural institutions, it is especially the media-artistic practice (and discourse!) of the investigative kind that trailblazes possible itineraries and develops (at least speculative) toolbelts for venturing into any kind of livable future, possibly such that might surpass the aporia of the anthropocene and find a new way of making (up to) kin. The selected project cases depict two possible strategic approaches lending well to grassroots initiatives, even if both are embedded within either wide-ranging multi-million supported (structural) platform endeavors, or trans-national programmes such as the European Capital of Culture. An ongoing collaborative process between art and science, Taming the Forest (2022-) is being implemented by a group of students, artists and researchers charting an interdisciplinary cross-field among bioeconomy, cultural history, policy, and art(ivism). Researching the conflicting narratives of history and economy about biodiversity in general, and specifically on forests, the project brought about several public formats such as lectures, video installations and AV performances. The project-as-process shows how different blends of methodologies in artistic-cum-scientific research can become truly relevant for both of their respective realms, opening new creative pathways and pedagogical registers, while repeatedly returning to the local (forest). Moreover, Taming the Forest manifests the need for a new sensibility and complex knowledge, moving beyond the objective study and becoming attentive to different dimensions of research and its outputs that emerge through the introduction of Art Thinking. This becomes crucial in order to tackle the manifold big-scale problems such as climate and biodiversity crises which call for both acting decisively and transforming radically, above all in regards to how we perceive, relate to and manage forests. xMobil (2021-) is a multi-stakeholder prototype development process of a mobile laboratory in a solar-powered car trailer, assembled mostly of salvaged technology parts and reused materials, geared for investigative-art and DIY/DIWO-workshop applications. Empowering creativity and innovation in off-grid public and remote locations, and promoting autonomous art-science practices as well as creative-community projects, particularly in the realm of environmentalism, it combines the work of artists, designers, architects, researchers and engineers who act as mentors to both students and non-formal learners coming from diverse educational programs, both formal and non-formal. xMobil was conceived by a community of developers and future users representing highly diverse sectors, from industry, independent arts production, natural sciences and education (teachers and students), to activism, and even local governance or cultural policy. The contribution will eventually raise the issue of visibility, sustainability and preservation of such transitory projects or platforms, where artistic(-cum-scientific) works are based on grassroots research and experimentation, examining their methodological approach as well as their topic-setting as regards the limits of growth, and not least discussing their costs to social and natural ecosystems, increasingly permeated by technology.
Keywords: art thinking, ecology, bioeconomy, DIY, autonomy, art and science
Published in RUNG: 25.09.2023; Views: 1082; Downloads: 0
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