META-colectivo Residenz Fresh A.I.R

“Collective Matters” (2020/2021)

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What would art that was seriously reacting to the problems of the climate crisis look like? Art that does not “just” warn us about the devastating consequences of exploiting available resources? Art that does not “just” appeal to individuals to change their consumption habits? The project Collective Matters by the artist collective META-colectivo provides seminal answers to this question. During their Fresh A.I.R. residency, they developed a method for creating aesthetic objects out of local companies’ waste products. This was not just about coming up with another formula for the currently fashionable practice of upcycling. Instead, their artistic practice pursues a concept that breaks with established notions and ways of thinking (about art, among other things) and tries out different paths that could provide models for a climate-friendly future.

META-colectivo – „Collective matters – from organic waste to living sculptures“ | Video: YES, AND… productions GmbH & Co. KG

For a long time, European art history only traced works back to a human (mostly male) subject. The naming of collectives already undermines this focus. However, META-colectivo does not just consist of Adriana Tamargo and Guillermo Escribano as well as their various human collaborators: It also encompasses non-human agents, such as bacteria, fungi, and mold spores. This cooperation corresponds to a philosophical position that pleads for a responsible community of all organisms in the face of the climate catastrophe. And this involves renouncing the idea that human beings are the center of the world and could rule over nature. By contrast, META-colectivo adopts the philosopher Donna Haraway’s position that sympoiesis is necessary. According to Haraway, sympoiesis simply means “makingwith.”* In keeping with this, the artist collective asked what they could do in order to do something with and for the environment they were living in, something responding to it responsibly.

For their project, they collected organic waste from their immediate surroundings in Berlin-Schöneberg: They received coffee grounds from cafés, spent grain (that is, malt residue) from breweries, hair trimmings from hairdressers, autumn leaves from the street, etc. They then experimented with these materials and various eco-friendly binders, such as agar-agar and plant-based glycerol. Together with bacteria, mold spores, rain, sunlight, etc., they created a material they could form. This was then used to create sculptures whose shapes were inspired by organisms like protozoa and paramecia or by geological phenomena like boulders or rock formations. The modeling process was again defined by all these factors. Ultimately, the sculptures constructed in this way cannot be described as human-made or natural—neither in terms of their form nor their production. Here no dualism of this kind exists anymore. It is “something” in between and it is together—that is, “meta” and collective. And the objects’ temporality is not solely defined by people either. Exhibited outdoors and exposed to the influence of the weather, they will decay and once again become part of the ecosystem. As such, they are biodegradable and remain ephemeral.

We can thus summarize that the project Collective Matters takes the significance of the utilized material seriously. Its material aspect, its composition, and its production are taken into consideration. However, the aspects of its handling, legibility, and aesthetic appeal are also considered. This is precisely what makes their work smarter than art that may draw attention to the devastating effects of waste products, such as the greenhouse gases produced by incinerating garbage, but flies halfway around the world to do so and ultimately leaves behind non-organic waste. By contrast, META-colectivo shows that dealing responsibly with the environment not only requires us to give up assumptions but also to create new options for collaboration. And this also instills optimism.

*Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016).

Text: Kea Wienand

“Paramecium capulus bloom” shows the metamorphosis of the organic sculptures “Flying slugs” – their coming to life and changing of shape in contact with the biotic and abiotic factors of the studio (2021) | Images: META-colectivo

About META-colectivo

Adriana Tamargo and Guillermo Escribano are part of META-colectivo, an artistic collective from Donostia (Basque Country, Spain), and focused on visualizing possible future scenarios and alternative realities. Mixing Guillermo’s background in architecture and visual arts and Adriana’s in bio-design, they come together in the interest of non-anthropocentric worlding and material practices that show our dependency with other living organisms we coexist with and thanks to.

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Fresh A.I.R. #4 Online-Showcase

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The Online-Showcase offers an opportunity to get an overview of the highly diverse projects of the fourth class of Fresh A.I.R. artists with their different kinds of media and aesthetics.

On view are video and photographic materials about the individual projects, each of which is accompanied by an explanatory text that aims to offer insights into the work’s aesthetic experience.

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