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Material Incubator

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The Garden as a Living Learning Lab, a Living Sensor

The Garden that Sees, Smells, and Hears – A Caradt BAD Research Project

Project Leader(s):

Annemarie Piscaer – Researcher / Teacher at St.Joost Academy for Art and Design

Research Professor(s):

Dr. Elvin Karana – Research Professor Biobased Art and Design

Project Period

From 2021 – ongoing

Research Group Biobased Art and Design (BAD)

The research group Biobased Art and Design capitalises on the role of artistic practice in unlocking the unique potentials of living organisms for everyday materials and communicating these to a broader public. In doing so, the group aims to instigate and accelerate our widespread understanding, further development and usage of such materials. The group’s research approach encourages tangible interactions with the living organisms, such as algae, fungi, plants and bacteria, to explore and understand their unique qualities and constraints through diverse technical and creative methods taking artists, designers and scientists as equal and active partners in the material creation.

Project

This research project aims to initiate a living learning laboratory in the garden of St. Joost School of Art & Design in Breda. In its present state, the garden might appear “perfect”, its lawn and plants neatly mown and maintained. However, this perspective is a human one, and arguably a dominant approach to relating with this ecosystem – defined as the sum of relationships. How might we develop dynamic, reciprocal relations with the ecosystem of this garden? What roles might humans play within this ecosystem? Who are the other actors*? And how do they interact? Perceiving the garden of St. Joost as a living learning lab implies that creative practices can learn from nature. However, following Latour’s thinking that there is no distinct between culture and nature, this learning emerges from the mergence – or collapse – of subject/object divides. What does this imply for art education when it is embracing its surroundings as a living learning lab?

Research results are derived from the main case study: the Minor Art and Interaction at St. Joost School of Art & Design in Breda, in which 25 students from a range of disciplines and art academies across the Netherlands participated in the assignment “Agency to the Actors”, and created a group project over a three-month period. Students were asked to map and visualise the garden’s different actors, their relations and interactions. Creating a performative piece, the students explore the perspectives and agencies of these actors.

The research results in a guide (or possible “method”) that outlines how this more-than-human view can be implemented in the curriculum of St. Joost BA Design (New Design and Attitude) education. Intended as a transferable DIY guide and compass aimed to support wayfinding, (un)learning, and different ways of relating, the document describes four principles, “mapping the invisible habitats”; “augmented senses to notice nonhumans”; “zooming in and out of nonhumans”; and “interaction, as a flux between the actors”. The Garden that Sees, Smells, and Hears.

*as coined by Bruno Latour in the Actor Network Theory