Practices of Sustainability, Étude #1 and Étude #2

In July I had the great privilege to make art in the public space in London. Curator Vanessa Saraceno, whom I met and worked with in Cambridge, invited me to make the first projects for her practice-based Doctorate research "Sustainability. A New Sensitivity in Contemporary Art" at University of the Arts of London. 
"Practices of Sustainability" explores the potential of socially-engaged art practices for the amelioration of our relation with the social and natural environment. With these first two projects, Étude #1 and Étude #2, we explored how an art project can be sustainable in subject, performance, organization and preparation.
I made the works on location using materials, waste and organic, we collected in the neighborhood the week before the event. So that part was covered, but we also had skype talks before I arrived, making plans for the PR, whether printing a poster can be done sustainable, that I would take the train and how do you make people interact, or at least think about their practices of sustainability.

For the short time span we had to complete this project, we started talking about the idea in Cambridge, we explored a lot that can be useful for and hopefully will lead to an Étude #3 and #4 and so on!

Étude #1

On monday I arrived and the next day we started our project. We asked at pubs and restaurants around Blackfriars Bridge if they would like to help us realize an artwork by collecting things they normally would throw away, like bottle-caps and plastic forks. The response was very nice, the managers or bartenders let us tell our story, Vanessa is very good in this, and they were quite surprised when we asked in the end for their sponsorship in the form of their waste. Most of them responded with 'Of course' and by showing how they already separate their trash.
On friday we went back to pick up what they had collected. To our surprise almost all had something for us. We were welcomed with "Oh the ladies for the trash" and found they had placed a bag or cardboard box with instructions on them for their co-workers. 
I spend the evening separating the materials by color, kind and size and getting nervous for the next day. 
On Saturday 19 July at 11am I started making the temporary carpet on the Blackfriars Bridge. I worked with bottle-caps in Cambridge before, but combined it there with organic materials. I choose to make simple shapes, fish or bombs, repeating them till I ran out of materials. To secure the work I used sand collected at the river bank. 
While I was making Vanessa explained her research to people and asked them about their thoughts on sustainability.
Still can't believe how normal it was to make a work on a bridge in London.

Étude #2

Mirroring the project on Blackfriars Bridge, we went door to door in the surroundings of the Victoria park to ask residents for any organic material they would like to offer for me to realize my artwork. Totally different from the response around Blackfriars Bridge, most people didn't have the time to hear our story. Or even open the door. It was hard work and we spent two afternoons ringing doorbells in tropical weather. It tested our limits, but it was also a valuable experience. When doors did open and people made some time for us, it felt great when they went into their kitchen to see what they had for us. 
On Saturday and Sunday morning I prepared all the food so birds could eat it as well. Victoria park has the nickname "People's park", but is the park a place where only people can enjoy themselves or is it urban nature where animals can live and be, next to humans? With this question we started our project on Sunday 20 July.
For the temporary carpet I made stencils based on feeding signs for ducks and garlands of people holding hands with birds. I made the carpet out of all sorts of organic materials that the birds could eat. 
When I finished laying the materials, we waited for the birds. Every time they got close to it, people, mosty with dogs, would pass by. Most times unaware of the carpet next to their feet and of scaring the birds away. The people who noticed the carpet saw the pattern of humans and birds quite fast and realized what it was for. "Look it's people! And what is that, oh a bird. Oh it's food for the birds", but we had to conclude that a park is not for sharing with animals, at least not the 'wild' ones.

For more about Practices of Sustainability
in the press release Practices of Sustainability
on Facebook

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