FOAM - MAJA KUZMANOVIC AND NIK GAFFNEY
Series of digital images; performance; informal workshop
The process of globalisation is causing a rapid decrease of diversity in social, biological and cultural habitats, caused by the dominant economic powers and such things as proprietary communication technologies and transnational 'life industries'. Physical public spaces as arenas for a wide range of interaction and social change are losing their importance, as the global marketplace has shifted its locus from the accessible public markets to dispersed and elusive global networks.
In the era of mass homogenisation of branded public spaces around the world, we propose a research into the historical examples of sustainable urban spaces that will focus on dynamics and diversity in the social, biological and cultural domains. Examples of such public spaces are community gardens and pocket parks, non-institutionalised plaza and street life, travelling fairs and periodic festivals. From these spaces, we learn about ways of conducting an alternative economy based on emergent trans-local actions, rather than accepting the generic, mono-cultural approach of the global free-market.
GroWorld encourages multidisciplinary discussions, bringing different research topics into a common focus: 'growth processes' in (physical and virtual) life. GroWorld is currently developed in three parallel trajectories: socio-cultural, ecological, and the technological and = sym_bio_sys. The trajectories are mutually independent, but complementary, with their results being integrated into several experiments.
GroWorld's cultural trajectory comprises artists and designers interested in 'biomimetics', learning from nature to design responsive spaces and objects. More specifically, this strand examines growth processes in audiovisual media, textile design and human computer interaction and applies this research in mixed reality installations, A-life gaming environments and smart textiles.
The ecological strand involves building a trans-local network of public gardens concerned with preserving local biodiversity, grown by scientists, landscape architects and neighboring communities. The gardens are sites evolving on their own accord - becoming patches of autonomous organic wilderness in the midst of an urban jungle, grown and molded by their caretakers and temporary dwellers. They are devised both as growing environments in which the visitors can comfortably linger, surrounded by specific local flora, and as instruments allowing their players to collaboratively shape and steer the environment's processes of growth, decay and transformation.
Simultaneously, the technological strand will develop responsive media, technologies and interfaces for social interaction, information and entertainment. Its results should be accessible to different communities and should be adaptable for several social, biological and cultural contexts - adaptable to both indoor and outdoor spaces, different climates and cultures.
Integration of cultural, ecological and technological studies will move these projects towards a long term experiment in sustainable creative, technological and sociological development, connecting organizations and individuals from various disciplines and cultures in one common goal: the growing of an adaptive, sustainable habitat for nature, technology and culture.
The sustainability of public spaces is dependent on an abundant diversity of social, biological and cultural habitats. Their interrelationships will inevitably grow at the edges of dissimilar environments, such as urban-natural, cultural-scientific, physical-digital. The public spaces of the future should merge the context and the meaning of the local, physical sites with the globally accessible digital media and build trans-local events encouraging interaction between communities on both sides of the digital divide.
Maja Kuzmanovic holds a Master of Arts in Interactive Multimedia and her specialisation is Interactive Film and Storytelling. She is currently director of the newly formed Foundation of Affordable Mysticism (FOAM, at Starlab in Brussels), where she works with various art and technology collectives and is exploring novel modes and resources of cultural expression. She was involved in the development of the Design Technology course at the Utrecht School of the Arts. She previously worked as Artist in Residence at CWI (Center for Mathematics and Computer Science) in Amsterdam, and GMD (National Center for Information Technology) in Sankt Augustin, Germany.
Nik Gaffney is a founding member and media+systems researcher at FOAM vzw in Brussels, Belgium. Nik has previously worked as a graphic designer and programmer for Razorfish AG in Hamburg and Moniteurs in Berlin. His studies covered the fields of computer science, cognitive science and organic chemistry at Adelaide University. As one of the founders of the artists' collective mindfluX, he worked on installation pieces, performances and the editing and distribution of the electronic magazine mindvirus. Nik has been an active collaborator in the performance group Heliograph, helping shape their vision for hybrid arts performance. He is a member of and prominent contributor to farmersmanual, a pan-european, net-based, multisensory disturbance conglomerate, whose 'ship of fools' filled the canals of Venice with sound during the 2001 Biennale.
BELGIUM / AUSTRALIA