ISSN 2977-0602


Spectres in Change: Site-Sensitive Art-Science Research in the Archipelago 
chaired by Ros Gray and hosted by MA Art & Ecology and the Critical Ecologies research stream.

With Taru Elfving,
and Lotta Petronella 

This event was Monday 13 Feb 2023
18:00-21:00 GMT

How do you know what you know? has been the guiding question for artists and scientists coming together on the island of Seili in the Baltic Sea since 2017 to share methods, protocols and rituals of ecological enquiry. As a microcosm reflecting acute planetary challenges of the present against complex historical trajectories, the island has acted not only as a site but as a conspiring catalyst and mediator in the multidisciplinary dialogues. Prior to the establishment of the Archipelago Research Institute, the island served as a hospital, a site of confinement for lepers and most recently as a mental asylum exclusively for women. Long-term scientific mapping of the rapid transformations in the marine ecosystem is haunted in Seili today by centuries of institutionalised othering.

In the symposium, curator Taru Elfving introduces the collaborations addressing the myriad spectres of Seili. Insights into the ongoing work include Post Glacial Rebound by FoAM Earth, a soundwalk encouraging listening as the biological time of generations intersects with the slow time of tectonic forces, and the Band of Weeds’ interspecies cantata The New Pangaea, composed of field recordings of plants signalling diverse modes of migration to and disappearance from Seili. Artist and filmmaker Lotta Petronella presents her work-in-progress Själö Poeisis, a critical study of power structures on the island through plants, especially the common plants - the weeds, the vulgaris. The project consists of an artist book, a tarot herbarium, lecture performances, a choir work, an apothecary, botanical sessions and sleepings with plants.

Matterlurgy share their work Field Casting, a research project and exhibition that investigates scientific ‘fieldwork’ as a site and subject of study, zooming in on the practices, tools and perspectives embroiled in the production of climate data. They will discuss the relationship between field practice and automated data collection and highlight knowledge as an event that is materially entangled with the lives of humans and nonhumans.

Fraud discuss Fields of May, a permanent installation within the Archipelago Research Institute in Seili. It is built with discarded naval wares from the museum-ship Sigyn (1887), a vessel which bore witness to transatlantic colonialism and the timber trade, as much as to the changing nature of Finnish forests. As an architecture of engagement that draws from legal and juridical traditions, Fields of May coalesces a diverse ecology of practices and historical-material specificities with the aim of cultivating the conditions of possibility that might conjure worlds attuned to non-extractive rhythms.

The symposium was organised in collaboration with CAA Contemporary Art Archipelago, which has been leading the research project Spectres in Change in Seili since 2017, in partnership with Archipelago Research Institute of Turku University and supported by Kone Foundation, Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland and Oskar Öflund Foundation.

For more information:

Spectres in Change

MA Art & Ecology

Critical Ecologies

Participant biographies:

Dr Taru Elfving is a curator and writer based in Finland focused on nurturing undisciplinary and site-sensitive enquiries at the intersections of ecological, feminist and decolonial practices. She is artistic director and co-founder of CAA Contemporary Art Archipelago. Her previous curatorial research projects include Hours, Years, Aeons (Finnish Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2015), Frontiers in Retreat (HIAP Helsinki 2013-18), and Towards a Future Present (LIAF Lofoten 2008). She has a PhD in Visual Cultures from Goldsmiths, University of London.

Lotta Petronella is a filmmaker, artist and curator based in Turku, Finland. She is co-founder of CAA Contemporary Art Archipelago and has worked with and on islands for nearly two decades. Since her internationally awarded film Själö - Island of Souls (2020), she has been leading the collaborative research Själö Poeisis in Seili. She will premier new work at Helsinki Biennial in 2023. Petronella is also a devoted medicine and flower essence maker and tarot scholar.

Matterlurgy is a collaborative practice between London-based artists Helena Hunter and Dr Mark Peter Wright. Their work engages with the environmental sciences: its methods, processes and technologies for sensing, translating and predicting climate change/damage. Working across disciplines and media, they combine the production of artworks with co-constructed events, exhibitions and live performances. Recent works include Air Morphologies (Wellcome Collection/Delfina Foundation), Hydromancy (John Hansard Gallery/Onassis Stegi) and Sensitives Streams (Arts Catalyst/Whitechapel Gallery).

FRAUD (Dr Audrey Samson & Dr Francisco Gallardo) is a duo whose practice examines the extractivist gaze embedded in the management of raw materials. Their work develops modes of art-led enquiry into thinking materially about decolonization as a geosocial process. Somerset House Studios alumni, the duo has been awarded Artangel's Making Time Fellowship (2023), the State of Lower Saxony – HBK Braunschweig Fellowship (2020), the King’s College Cultural Institute Grant (2018), and has been commissioned by the Istanbul Design Biennial (2020), RADAR Loughborough (2020), and the Cockayne Foundation (2018).

Dr Ros Gray is Programme Director of the MA Art & Ecology and Reader in the Department of Art at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research is concerned with ways in which artists engage with ecological crisis, with particular focus on cultivation practices, soil care, and decolonial, feminist and queer approaches. Recent work includes co-editing of the Third Text special issue The Wretched Earth: Botanical Conflicts and Artistic Interventions and the podcast The Coloniality of Planting for Camden Art Centre’s series Botanical Minds. She was Principal Investigator of the Natural Environment Research Council’s Creative Climate Partnership Sensing Soil. She is a member of the Critical Ecologies research stream.

For more information:
Spectres in Change

The Journal of Art & Ecology published by MA Art & Ecology, Goldsmiths, University of London

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