FoAM Newsletter Summer 02012

Posted July 3, 2012 by Maja Kuzmanović

Mayan Long count =; tzolkin = 2 Muluc; haab = 12 Tzec

The summer season is a time for us at FoAM to take a few steps back from our busy routines to engage in uninterrupted creative endeavours, including some revitalising fieldwork. Two broad and eclectic questions will be taking centre stage in the coming months: how do we prepare for uncertain futures, and what would a plant-inspired culture look like?

In the Future Preparedness case study we explore how to re-imagine and rehearse life in a variety of futures. Our aim is to find deeply playful and probing techniques from which possible futures can emerge as artistic experiments. In these experiments we look to how arts and culture adapt to turbulent environmental, economic and political conditions and ask what does it mean for a culture to be resilient.To this end, we're sending Dougald Hine on an artist-journeyman's quest to find some answers.

Cultural mobility is one of the aspects of contemporary culture that might prove fragile in a world without cheap fossil fuels. What will happen to globetrotting digerati as today's cheap travel becomes prohibitively expensive? Adopting the artist's time-honoured trial-and-error approach, we're joining the Resilients on expeditions where modes of transport become artworks in their own right: from recycled boats powered by sun, wind or rockets to refitted bicycles and unmanned aerial vehicles. With such experiments we combine the capacity both to adapt and envision. Developing these two abilities hand-in-hand, we can imagine desirable futures while at the same time adapting our imaginations to whatever the future might hold.

In this vein, Borrowed Scenery envisages what it would be like if plants became active participants in shaping human society. Here, nature is imbued with a voice, and culture incorporates non-human, planetary 'others'. Curious about what a city would look like from the plant's point of view, together with Wilfried Houjebek we embarked on plant-guided psychogeographic drifts. To discover the consequences of plants having legal rights in an anthropocentric legal system, we invited Heath Bunting and An Mertens to set up a temporary Identity Bureau for trees. Taking this a step further, we sought to infuse urban spaces of the present with a taste of a world in which human-plant interaction permeates artistic and social life.

Our muse in this was Viriditas, the infinite greenness described by mystic and herbalist Hildegard von Bingen. We're working with Stevie Wishart to compose an ode to Viriditas uniting vegetal and human voices in a musical Inner Garden. In another experiment, Bartaku and Christian Thornton are exploring the symbiotic relationship between agave and a glass sculpture, growing and dying together over a span of decades. In the digital realm we have continued to experiment with plant games and foraging aids to extend their reach into the uncharted territories of patabotany.

We invite you to keep your eyes peeled for this motley crew of fieldworkers, wanderers, cultural pilgrims and patabotanists as they meander between the human and vegetal realms. You'll find us on mountains and islands, in cities, and traversing a route determined by a random crease in a map. We wish you all the best on your inner and outer journeys, and hope to meet you along the way.

Bon voyage!