SEA Perspectives on Sustainability
by Michaela Davidova, SEA Foundation
In 2019, we launched the virtual vitrine at SEA Foundation Tilburg named sea_youhere, according to a concept introduced by Giusy V. Castaldo. The project formulated itself into a monthly window for presenting 12 professional artists and three projects from each of their practices on SEA Foundation’s online platforms. By sharing knowledge, we aim to expand the network of artists and curators and connect with a wider audience. To bring the project to a close, we invited Brabant-based artist Jolijn van den Heuvel to introduce her 3 projects in the gallery space of SEA Foundation. Coming into the new year 2020, we gave the virtual vitrine a theme and set up a portfolio of artists who relate their practice to sustainability. The new edition of virtual vitrine is coordinated by Michaela Davidova, a visual artist and assistant curator at SEA Foundation. Establishing a direction, however, also means to research what sustainability means in the first place.
SUSTAINABILITY DISCOURSESince the 80s, when the term sustainability appeared, its main focus has been on sustainable development. Sustainability is usually explained as meeting our needs without compromising the needs of future generations. This definition, however, aims towards the adjustment of consumer practices and the sustainment of natural resources on the planet and thus sees nature as something that is manageable for human wants. Art historian T. J. Demos (in Decolonizing Nature, 2016) asks whose needs and wants are promoted when sustainable practice is applied? Just like e.g., anthropologist Zoe Todd (in Indigenizing the Anthropocene, 2015), they find it troublesome that the concept of sustainability does not call for environmental justice between the Global North and South. The responsibility for the sustainment of our environment is shared across nations, while it is obvious that not all of them carry the same amount of guilt for the anthropogenic effects on global warming. Finnish curator, Jenni Nurmenniemi, diverts from using the term sustainability and inclines to the establishment of the post-sustainability discourse. This rejects that ‘changing consumer habits would be sufficient to preserve the planet as biodiverse and self-sustaining, when in fact, whole structures need to be changed drastically’ (interview for Vesala E., in Practicing Coexistence: Entanglements Between Ecology and Curating Art, 2019, p. 38). Whether we decide to use the term sustainability or not, it is obvious that sustainability research should be able to address the political issues too. The effects of environmental change such as degradation of soil, loss of biodiversity or water and air pollution, etc., are intertwined with political processes at the local and global level.
In the project #sea_youhere 2.0, instead of speculating about the appropriateness of the term sustainability, we try to assign it different perspectives. In the book The Three Ecologies (1989), French philosopher Félix Guattari suggested looking at ecology from three different angles — environmental, social and mental. According to him, ecology covers the protection of the environment, which is being threatened, and of society, which is being exploited. Further, he suggests that human relations deteriorate and we are losing the otherness or, as Guattari describes, the ‘singularity’. The compression of our selves results in collective homogeneity and the decrease of human interventions. Sustaining our mental awareness is thus just as important as sustaining the environment and society. He argues that ‘now more than ever, nature can not be separated from culture’ (p.43). We are an ecology and must find a way to unify and to stay diverse at the same time. We follow this perception and present a diversity of artistic practices pursuing environmental, social or mental sustainability.
SUSTAIN AND RESISTIn Dutch the word sustainability, “duurzaamheid”, can also be translated as durability. With such meaning, sustainability covers the ability to resist time. The artists are commentators of current issues and resist the time of uncertainty with strongly formulated values, establishing manifestos to stand for communities, ecosystems and our own spirits, in particular. Artists chosen in the project have different backgrounds, and different motives and areas are covered in their practices. Each month we assign a key word to each presented artist according to what we think is the strongest element of their research. As such, we are collecting 12 different keys that we believe are important for sustaining sustainability sustainably. As of October 2020, we shown 10 different practices with their own focus points. Who are we and what values do we stand for? When the year is finished, we will know that there are more keys to sustainability and more doors to be opened.
Mari Keski-Korsu (FI) – Empathy
Ivetta Sunyoung Kang (CA) – Happiness
Futurefarmers (USA/BE) – Commons
Alexandra Drenth (NL) – No Hurry
Pedro Hurpia (BR) – Awakening
Tessa Zettel (AU) – Reimagining
Michael Leung (HK) – Solidarity
Cynthia Montier (FR) – Spirit
Miriam Hillawi Abraham (ET) – Empowerment
Darya Warner (USA) – Responsibility
To be released
To be released
SEA FOUNDATION provides residencies for artistic research, experimentation and production. In addition and in connection to the residencies, our team brings an ongoing public programme to light that consists of exhibitions, screenings, talks, publications and research. Our programme focuses on challenging perceptions of what constitutes contemporary art and aims to bring the audience the audience closer to the practices that motivate producing contemporary art. www.seafoundation.eu