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SYNAPSE Workshop 2015 | June 30 – July 4, 2015

SYNAPSE 2013 – DAY 2

25.04.13 | PROJECT: Blog | AUTHOR: Pablo Larios

SYNAPSE 2013 Continued on Wednesday with a screening of Galapagos, which related to a project in which twelve artists were brought to the Galapagos Islands and asked to freely respond to the fragile environment around them. Following this screening co-curator of the Galapagos exhibition and Curator of Contemporary Art at Britain’s Natural History Museum Bergit Arends held a discussion, moderated by Julia Voss of the F.A.Z., about the Galapagos project and the activities of the Natural History Museum generally. Yesterday, Voss brought up the phenomenon that Natural History Museums tend to be geared in their exhibition design toward children, and inquired here about questions of audience. Arends pointed out – to the surprise of certain participants – that due to budget cuts in the UK, collaborations with contemporary artists have to be engaged with by the Natural History Museum as ‘researchers’, not ‘artists.’ This sparked a lively discussion: Jill Bennett pointed out that, in her experience, internal or external reviews of institutional projects find that the ‘research’ done by artists, when evaluated as a whole, do not tend to deliver on their promise as ‘research.’ Admittedly playing devil’s advocate, Bennett queried whether there is not “a bit of hubris in artists’ sense that [they’re] doing science”.

SYNAPSE 2013 Curator Alice Carey contributed an anecdote about her involvement in a project involving a collaboration with scientists by artist Mark Dion. HEre, the artist’s own activity inadvertently led to the discovery of two insect species of significant value to traditional ‘scientific’ research. The scientists, Carey went on, later confessed that Dion’s project was a unique opportunity to reflect on their work.

After Arends’s lecture, Carey gave a talk on her projects, which relate to “art + farming”; Carey’s work, which stems from a personal engagement with the act of farming, investigates, for one, how the animal becomes a container for cultural heritage. She quoted Michel Serres, who wrote that “[t]he greatest event of the twentieth century incontestably remains the disappearance of agricultural activity at the helm of human life in general and of individual cultures” (Serres, The Natural Contract, p. 28). Carey discussed Robert Bakewell, the 18th century agriculturalist responsible for implementing selective breeding of livestock and, according to Carey, was a key figure in the history of anthropogenic activity. Following this, we heard a discussion of Bioregionalism by Laura Cassidy, an investigation of the technology around eco-listening (“Landings: On Sounding the Earth”) by Natasha Ginwala, and an talk about the book as exhibition from Anne-Sophie Springer of K. Verlag.

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