Testing Grounds Episode 4: ‘Baltic Art Center – Artists’ Role in an Age of Climate Crisis’ now available

Episode 4: Baltic Art Center – Artists' Role in an Age of Climate Crisis Testing Grounds

What role can, and should, artists play in an age of the climate crisis? What opportunities do artists have in this context, and what – if any – are their responsibilities?

Baltic Art Center (BAC) is NAARCA’s Swedish partner. It’s based in Visby, the main town on Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea. Gotland is a popular tourist destination known for its beaches, its medieval history, and – increasingly – its water shortages. The reasons for these shortages are complex – industries such as agriculture and chalk mining have played a part – but there’s little doubt that climate change is exacerbating the problem.

Helena Selder is the Artistic Director of BAC. She introduces us to Visby, to Gotland, and to our three contributors: artists Rikke Luther and Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas, who work together as Urbonas Studio. All three artists are engaged with water, but in very different ways – Urbonas’ focus is on swamps, and Rikke Luther’s is on mud. They explore their shared interest in human-nature interactions and climate change, their contrasting approaches to their work, and the potential for art and artists to help us navigate our current reality – and, perhaps, imagine a different one.

Find out more:

Baltic Art Center: balticartcenter.com/home/

GRASS Fellows programme: balticartcenter.com/projects/grass-fellow/ 

Swamp Observatory app: nugu.lt/us/?p=1687

Swedish Art Residency Network: swanresidencynetwork.com

Credits: Testing Grounds is produced and edited by Katie Revell and includes original music by Loris S. Sarid and artwork by Jagoda Sadowska. With thanks to Alex Marrs and the rest of the NAARCA team.

A captioned version of this episode is available on YouTube.

Featured in this episode:

Helena Selder (she/her)

Helena Selder is the artistic director of the Baltic Art Center (BAC) – an international, production-based residency for contemporary art on the Swedish island of Gotland since 2016. In her curatorial practice, she has been interested in developing ways in which art institutions can facilitate exchanges between artists and local communities to develop ideas and discussions about how to inhabit our shared spaces. Since she joined BAC on Gotland, an island in the middle of the Baltic Sea, her work has become increasingly focussed on climate and rural perspectives.

Rikke Luther (she/her)

Rikke Luther’s current work explores the new interrelations created by the environmental crisis as they relate to the Earth System. Those relations encompass themes related to landscape, language, politics, financialisation, law, biology, geology and economy, and are expressed in drawn images, photography and film. In 2021 Luther defended her praxis-based artistic PhD, Concrete Aesthetics: From Universal Rights to Financial Post-Democracy. It will be published in 2023 with extended texts by Esther Leslie and Jaime Stapleton. Luther is a GRASS Fellow at the GRASS Fellow programme, Uppsala Universitet/Campus Gotland and Baltic Art Center (2022-2024) and is currently conducting field studies for the research project, More Mud. The project is commissioned by Art Hub Copenhagen and the Nordic Alliance of Artists’ Residencies on Climate Action (NAARCA). More Mud is part of Luther’s postdoctorate, The Ocean-Lands: Mud Within the Earth System at Queen Margrethe’s and Vigdís Finnbogadóttir´s Interdisciplinary Research Centre on Ocean, Climate, and Society (ROCS), Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate (CMEC), The Globe Institute, Copenhagen University (2023-2024).

Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas (she/her and he/him)

Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas are artists, educators and co-founders of Urbonas Studio, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Vilnius, Lithuania. Urbonas Studio is an interdisciplinary research platform that facilitates exchange amongst diverse nodes of knowledge production and artistic practice in pursuit of projects that transform civic spaces and collective imaginaries. The Studio collaborates with experts in different fields to develop practice-based models that allow participants—including their students—to pursue projects that merge new media, urbanism, social sciences and pedagogy to critically address the transformation of civic space and ecology. Urbonas Studio has exhibited internationally at the São Paulo, Berlin, Moscow, Lyon, Gwangju, Busan, Taipei Biennales, Folkestone Triennial, Manifesta and Documenta exhibitions, including solo shows and curatorial projects at the Venice Biennale and MACBA Barcelona among others. Urbonas are researching and teaching at the Art, Culture, and Technology (ACT) program at MIT, USA.

Katie Revell (she/her)

Katie Revell is a Glasgow-based freelance audio producer and (lapsed!) filmmaker with a particular interest in food, climate change, and relationships to the land. She grew up on the southeast coast of Scotland and has also lived in Germany, India and the USA. Since 2016, Katie has been part of the team behind the award-winning Farmerama Radio podcast, which shares the voices of regenerative and agroecological farmers in the UK and beyond. Katie was lead producer of Farmerama’s first series, Cereal, which explored the history of bread and profiled the UK’s “new grains movement”. She also co-produced Landed, a personal exploration of land ownership and colonial legacy told by a farmer’s son as he returns home to his family farm. Katie believes passionately in the need for creative responses to climate change, and is delighted to be on the NAARCA team.

Swamp Observatory Gotland App. By Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas / Urbonas Studio in collaboration with: Atheneskolan Gotland (drawings and sounds), Indre Umbrasaite (architecture), Kristupas Sabolius (script), Mouse on Mars (sound compositions), Terry T Kang and Thomas Harriett (programming). Commissioned by Public Art Agency Sweden and Baltic Art Center. Supported by Lithuanian Council for Culture and MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology. Powered by Hoverlay. 2022. Image: Urbonas Studio

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