Start with the plants,
follow their inquisitive growth,
their running roots and rhizomes,
the widespread movements
of their pollen and seeds,
and an entire ecology of beings
and comings undone
will soon become
Get caught up
in the involutionary
momentum that propels
these beings to get
entangled in one another’s lives
and you will soon
start to perceive
taking shape among the thicket
of relations all around you.
—Natasha Myers,‘How to Grow Livable Worlds: Ten Not-so-easy Steps’, in The World to Come,
Our Planetary Garden:
for Collaborative liveable worlds
Can we rethink the paradigms that have guided our observation, participation and relationships with nature to date through artistic practice and art-inspired thinking and by increasing the use of new technologies?
Since time immemorial, the human body has coalesced, entangled, and co-evolved with nature. One of the very first relationships we ever formed, as humans on Earth, was the one we had—and continue to have—with plants.
Yet more often than not, in this modern world, when we think seriously of communing meaningfully with nature, of actual plant-human and more-than human relationships, we are met with a reductionist worldview, where nature is generally seen as a non-agential, non-sentient, backdrop to the central drama of human life on Earth. Gilles Clément1 envisioned our world as a “planetary garden,” collapsing the anthropocentric divisions of good and bad, and intentionally collaborating with rather than “managing” plants and all other nonhuman living beings.
Our initiative, Our Planetary Garden, we seek to foster alliances of technology and artistic practice to explore possible ways to address our relationship with the environment: ranging from aesthetic, multi-sensorial, associative, affective, spatial and visual modes of ‘knowledge’ to more discursive, analytical, contextualised ones.
Through nature, we are therefore entangled with an invisible thread that connects all that is living, because, quite simply, we are alive and co-evolve in a shared space. When we attune our human senses to the vibrancy of life itself, it is impossible not to feel a sense of mystery and reverence pulsating through all bodies of ecology.
Art-practice No. 1: Our Planetary Garden
Format: Interactive Visualization
A visual explorer for biodiversity data draws on tens of thousands of observations from citizen science in weaving them into visual mosaics that reflect local ecological communities and the cycles of seasonal variation in the Austrian region. It is an experiment in how biodiversity data can support rich, engaging representations of living landscapes; and in particular how data points can be "re-integrated" to emphasise coexistence and community.
The project includes a public workshop as part of the process to explore and compare different approaches and the possibilities and limits of “A community as a garden” and ways of Transforming Social-Environmental Relationships Imagination.
This piece lives on a website as on/going presentation of the project, and/or presented as a standalone project.
Art-practice No. 2: Soil Times/Soil Listening
Format: Sound Art Piece
How can we sense and make sense of land changes with devices, techniques and our bodies? How might we cultivate an “arts of noticing” for attending to nature and its role in critical zones?
Soil Times/Soil Listening weaves together field recordings and sonifications of data collected around the indicator species in Austria from 2016-2020. Wandering in its own meditative way on the edge of science, technology and sound, the piece explores where lands begin and when they end, navigating the multifaceted boundary we humans like to draw between us and our ecosystem through time. In a way, it becomes “the many-voiced landscape.”
The Art Lab in the Planetary Garden
How might students participate at multiple scales with greater awareness of the biodiversity data’s latent anthropometric, spatial, dimensional, and relational capacities? In turn, how might students, and young people more effectively recognize, and experiment with, translating and reproducing such experiences (including art, design, and writing) into widely-accessible visualizations/multi-sensorial experiences at different scales and in multiple formats?
The Art Lab is part of the project "Our Planetary Garden". We frame the act of Biodiversity Monitoring, as a multi-sensorial action that can be experienced by different multitudes, in which observation becomes a community garden where participants share new angles for environmental narratives. The sensorial aspects are highlighted to consider our roles as stewards of the land, and how to grow liveable worlds.
The Art Lab involves a range of collaborative exercises, inquiries, experiments, readings, screenings, and exploring art as an inherently multidimensional and spatial part of biodiversity data. Biodiversity as an object, as projection, as display, as a gauge, as structure, as installation, as sound, as architecture. We also investigate more terrestrial, yet equally literal, types of space and how they relate to the human body: letters, words, paragraphs, pages, screens, rooms, buildings, and cities.
Our aim for teachers in this workshop is that, with greater interdisciplinary, contextual, and proprioceptive awareness, we will work towards developing “critical spatial practice” as land stewards of the environment.
Build a greater spatial awareness for people involved in biodiversity stewardship and young people at schools operating in the real world (which, as we all know, is both physical and digital)
Develop an understanding of the relationships between the human body, proportions, scale, movement, behavior, and the various spaces and infrastructures (physical, digital, psychological) in which art operates
Further our knowledge and experience of the many ways in which art connects and interacts with related activities and disciplines including design, digital media, industrial design, interiors, architecture, and urbanism
Challenge canons precedents of how we have been abstracting, interpreting, articulating, elucidating, and presenting uncertainties