Art for the Environment – Transformative Encounters

 – Kirksey, Eben. 2015. ‘Multispecies Intra-Actions'. Antennae, Issue 32:5.

In 2022 I was invited as Guest Curator at LABVERDE Speculative Ecologies residency in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. The experience has been one of transformation and re-attunement.  

With a full embodiment in the weather as a total experience, to quote feminist cultural theorist Astrida Neimanis, the whole sensorial functions become attuned to the environment. We become immersed. “To breathe means to be immersed in a medium that penetrates us with the same intensity as we penetrate it”, writes philosopher Emanuele Coccia. Thus, it is by being immersed that we learn to look otherwise, to hear otherwise and to feel affect(ed) otherwise. 

What does it mean to be and practice as part of an environment which is in constant flux, where changes and transformation are activated by living forms that are inside us and outside us? Being immersed requires a new relational perspective, where humans, animals, insects, plants, water, weather become a multiplicity of possibilities, agents for change and transformation of the environment we share, we care for, and we are response-able to.  

Being immersed is the shared experience of all the artists from the Art for the Environment (AER) exhibition. Supported by the AER international residency programme at the UAL, they had the opportunity to research and practice while been immersed in the Amazon rainforest, in the Norfolk cost, in the desert Almeria region in Spain, in the Pre-Alps valleys in Italy and in the French countryside. They have been part of balanced ecosystems (although dangerously reaching the tipping point), incredibly diverse, multi-species, complex, and yet affective systems of cohabitation, co-operation, and intra-action, always in movement, always in process. 

The term ‘intra-actions’ was first coined in 1996 by American feminist theorist Karen Barad and has been widely used since, for it offers a way to escape a subject/object dualism and hierarchical perspective on human interaction with all other forms of life.  

The art projects developed during the AER residencies are generated in a process of multispecies collaboration, negotiation, and appreciation. Collaborations are never enforced, while all beings act as agents of change in an artistic process, opening up new possibilities, transforming relations and conditions (in) which we all live.  


Visit the Art for the Environment exhibition at GroundWork Gallery, Norfolk, from 16 March – 8 June 2024. All the works are realised with support from UAL's Art for the Environment Residency Programme.

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