Don't stop 'til you feel it

Artistic interventions in climate change


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This talk will report on my current research in bringing to bear multiple knowledges on problem spaces around the environment and digital culture, and in so doing questioning both the prevailing knowledge hierarchy and the institutionalisation of knowledge production. To connect with the environment, for instance, do we need to connect with how it feels? This talk draws on works exploring both the marine environment and food, using knowledge from science, art, culture, instinct and history to create happenings and instances that break out the border of "me" and "my environment" to create an empathic response linking what we traditionally consider to be inside and outside. This will be demonstrated in the context of two artistic works - The Coral Empathy Device and Vital | Flows.

We exist within a set of rules about the value of knowledge - a hierarchy of knowledge that places quantified data at the top and the “lower” senses at the bottom. The neglect of other forms of knowledge – aesthetic, embodied, cultural and more – has created a void in our socio-political and environmental relations that has been filled by emotive, populist rhetoric that undermines the validity of the knowledge we have. Post-truth practices are answering a gap that arises from our reliance on cognitive knowledge as the main valid form of knowledge – including datafication of everything – particularly in politics.

As an alternative I propose we augment this cognitive and data derived knowledge with more emotionally connecting knowledges, to achieve a more integrated understanding of the world, and to once again embark on a quest for a type of truth.

When we live close to the land we experience empathy with the land. It has recently been said that indeed our present mode of life has led to the “death of empathy”. The Coral Empathy Device uses principles of embodied learning to explore whether physical sensation curated by an artist can evoke interspecies empathy in a human for a coral – a creature at once so similar and so alien to us. The artwork creates a discomforting experience that challenges the visitor’s embodied experience to leverage the fact that “the body schema is the converting system of perception and action”. By bridging the gap between the way we perceive and the way coral perceives, can we connect with the marine environment in a new way? Can we foster action by creating knowledge of another species within the body as a whole?

Vital | Flows is an ongoing work drawing knowledge about food from multiple sources - DIY science, phenomenology, instinct, culture - to explore the ephemeral nature of boundaries between self and other. This paper will report the results of open sourcing these methods, working with London communities who will use them to explore food and its meaning. This open source artistic research methodology for exploring environmental topics creates a platform for rhyzomic growth of selfactualised research that brings together and brings the best out of online and offline knowledge sharing. This is an exploration in breaking down the boundaries between inside and outside "myself", redefining the concept of the individual to incorporate the reality of our permeability. By achieving this through melding knowledge from quantification, embodiment, aesthetics and more, can we reach a new understanding of the place of self and other?


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