Environments / Encounters / Exchanges
by Ed Brookes
Photography: Ed Brookes
On February 14th the Tate Modern played host to a series of workshops entitled Environments/Encounters/Exchange. Organised by Royal Holloway’s Centre for the Geohumanities it formed part of the Tate gallery’s week long exchange programme with the university. It aimed to explore how collaborative arts practices (between artists and scientists, artists and environment or artist and participants) might begin to respond to environmental challenges. Audiences were invited to reflect on their engagements with the world around them, either through acts of ‘cave making’ with Flora Parrott or through Miriam Burke’s workshop constructing crocheted jellyfish. Needless to say it was messy, engaging and huge amounts of fun.
Flora’s workshop asked us to explore ideas of the ‘underground imaginary’ through practices of cave making. We were given a ‘cave description’ and a whole array of materials in order to ‘map’ or construct a cave. It raised questions about how we come to know ‘subterranean spaces’ and our bodily engagements with them. As I was quick to find out there was a lot of crawling around, holding up various elements of the cave with hands and feet as it was stuck together. Using clay as a building material provided a tactile encounter, a reminder of damp, earthy subterranean worlds. It wasn’t long before there was a whole host of ‘cave creations’, some opting for the ‘map’ approach utilising a top down view to chart their cave experience. Whereas others chose to make caves which they or other creatures could live in.
Knitting Climate Change
Miriam’s Workshop thrust us into the world of crochet, as we were set the task of producing a number of jellyfish. Whether you were a complete beginner or a crochet veteran the idea was to use the process in order to explore ideas around climate change and our social relations with the non-humans affected by it. Jellyfish are one of the few creatures set to thrive in warmer, more acidic seas. Instead of thinking about loss and the extinction of species, this workshop used jellyfish as a way to think through visceral reactions to the creatures becoming more populous due to climate change. Through group conversation and participation the activity ‘tied’ together conversations and observations about the local environment, opening up a safe space in which to do so. It became a means to bridge the gap between personal relations and political acts, as each group’s jellyfish slowly took shape.
All in all the Tate Exchange has been a great success. The workshops have highlighted the value of artistic exchanges in engaging with concepts concerned with the environment. It has created a space for a much needed dialogue that challenges our relationship to the world around us, asking us to question how we choose to live in and explore it. A truly fantastic day.
Photo Gallery by Ed Brookes