Examining the often unrecognised co-dependence and open-ended collaborations between human and non-human beings, through three site-specific public art commissions, each audited for their CO2 emissions.
29 Feb , 2024
Global Cultural Districts Network’s perspective on A Feral Commons
The Global Cultural Districts Network (GCDN) is committed to improving the quality of urban life through the contribution of the arts, culture, and creative industries.
Initiated in 2013 by AEA Consulting, GCDN brings together policymakers, planners, and executives from widely diverse international contexts, all working at the intersection of culture and sustainable urban development through convenings, research and collaboration. By fostering knowledge-sharing among those responsible for planning and managing creative and cultural districts, quarters, precincts, and clusters, GCDN stimulates the promotion of urban development with culture at its core across four fundamental areas: operational realities, the environment, society, and the economy.
A Feral Commons invites artists to address perhaps the most pressing challenge of our day, the climate emergency, but to do so in a way that focuses on the resilience of nature, against all odds, in dense urban environments. By establishing new forms of symbiosis with these inhabitants, the artists inevitably undermine the antagonism between nature and urban development, opening new perspectives on a different possible relationship to the world around us.
Rather than being a one-off art project, A Feral Commons is a platform forged by social connections across geographies and areas of expertise. It has centralized coordination provided by Alserkal Advisory (including financing, curatorial, and project management support), involves a network of cultural districts — in Dubai (UAE), ￼Kingston (Jamaica), and Johannesburg (South Africa) – financial, technical, and design assistance from UAP Company. In this way, the artists’ installations are fortified by a web of partnerships that support individual efforts.
This approach to both commissioning and producing public art in cultural districts located on three different continents with very different climatic and socio-economic conditions is a challenge to much of the co-commissioning practice. Usually, a group of arts organizations come together to contribute financially to the production of a work by a lead producer that will then typically circulate between them. A Feral Commons stands this logic on its head: here it is a strong shared concept that represents the basis of the process whereas the results are hyper-local and do not tour. In operationalizing this initiative, the districts have committed to equalizing community and environmental impacts of the installations alongside the more traditional decision-making filters of budget and time.
“A Feral Commons stands this logic on its head: here it is a strong shared concept that represents the basis of the process”
There is another innovative dimension of the project: that the works remain local. Manufacturing works that are intended to stay in place eliminates the need for mitigation strategies later on to compensate for environmentally damaging touring or specialized packaging. The ability to use findings from UAP’s Artwork Ingredient List about carbon emissions to inform sustainable choices is built into the entire production process starting with the materiality of the works.
A Feral Commons was a collaboration sparked during the COVID-19 pandemic era when, unable to convene global cultural leaders in real life sought to find other ways to strengthen connections across the network. The project demonstrates that three individual artists creating sustainable artworks in three diverse geographies can be impactful at the local level where agency is stronger. In turn, for cultural districts this means that activating the ecosystem of diverse partnerships is an essential strategy, one that amplifies impact.
Each district is engaged in strengthening peer networks and contributing useful knowledge to their communities and the profession. In identifying research and engagement as goals for A Feral Commons, they form a learning community of sorts. From cross-sector partners working with artists on these installations to arts leaders from around the globe, A Feral Commons is an open-ended invitation to support a movement for more sustainable art practices. Indeed, a culture of creativity is the heart of every cultural district. Specifics vary from city to city, yet these places are united by arts and cultural ecosystems that make them thrive. GCDN seeks to connect the growing community of creative practice across geographies through critical engagement with issues of our day, to support cultural districts in exploring interdisciplinary, site-specific community responses to global issues.
At the heart of the Global Co-commission is a challenge and a belief that engaging what is perhaps the greatest existential challenge of most of our lifetimes requires collaborative action, and that artists working on this issue in ways that are specific to community needs can make a difference. The truth is that the greatest minds of our day in all fields have extensively researched and documented the climate emergency and yet people seem inured to the facts. A Feral Commons is an attempt to take a different tack. These installations find their strength in traversing a web of intersecting lines. The hope is that collectively we can begin to identify new practices and that together we will have a material impact.
19 Jan , 2024
Contribute to research on The Global Co-commission
Click the link here to contribute to ongoing research.
10 Feb , 2024
The Three Bells Podcast: Tairone Bastien in conversation with Stephanie Fortunato
The Three Bells is a podcast by our partner Global Cultural Districts Network (GCDN) that explores the challenges and opportunities at the intersection of culture and urbanism. In this episode, the host Stephanie Fortunato explores the curatorial theme A Feral Commons through a conversation with curator Tairone Bastien, including snippets from the artists.
22 Dec , 2023
What is ‘The Global Co-commission’?
Helmed by Alserkal Advisory in partnership with the Global Cultural Districts Network (GCDN), the Global Co-commission is an initiative to commission site-specific public art that responds to local environmental imperatives whilst documenting principles of responsible commissioning in an era of escalating climate crisis.
Across three continents, the cultural district and artist pairings are: Muhannad Shono (b.1977, Riyadh, KSA) for Alserkal Avenue, Dubai (UAE), Io Makandal (b.1987, Johannesburg, South Africa) for Victoria Yards, Johannesburg (South Africa), and Camille Chedda (b.1985, Manchester, Jamaica) for Kingston Creative, Kingston (Jamaica).
Supported by UAP – Urban Art Projects, Alserkal Advisory seeks to question the full expanse of sustainability, directly addressing the climate crisis by measuring the carbon footprint of each commission and tracking its community impact.
13 Dec , 2023
What is ‘A Feral Commons’?
Cities are anthropocentric, designed to support human life before and above all else. But, despite best efforts to enclose, domesticate and eradicate other beings to suit human needs and desires, cities are teeming with non-humans that refuse to be dominated or contained. Invasive trees and plants, resilient bugs, mutating microbes, and adaptive fungi, are just some of the non-human entities that persist, if not thrive in urban wastelands and that ferally participate in the making of worlds, co-existing and entangled with our own.
A Feral Commons proposes an alternative vision of the commons, which is normally defined as land or resources shared by a group of people. Instead, this project invites artists to illuminate the necessary co-dependencies and collaborations between humans and non-humans and explore a more radical understanding of what the commons could mean in a multi-species world. Drawing upon visionary American anthropologist Anna Tsing’s research and writing on inter-species assemblages—or open-ended collaborative gatherings, and her specific use of the word feral to describe non-humans that participate in human projects but resist human control.
04 Dec , 2023
Who is Alserkal Advisory?
Alserkal Advisory is a team of strategic thinkers, researchers, and specialists in diverse fields that work with partners to incite imagination and craft experimental ideas. There is no better display of this than the Global Co-commission.
First conceived in 2019, Alserkal Advisory initiated the Global Co-commission to investigate ways of commissioning site-specific public art in an era of escalating climate crisis.
Collaborating integrally with The Global Cultural Districts Network (GCDN), the public art commissions are based across three cultural districts to share knowledge and resources, amplify other’s efforts, and speak with a collective voice to address the pressing issues of our time.
Through the Global Co-commission, Alserkal Advisory seeks to develop a new accountable framework for future commissioning, piloting quantitative appraisals on the carbon footprint of each commission and its qualitative social impact.
27 Nov , 2023
Who is the curator?
Tairone Bastien is an independent curator whose practice explores the intersection of diaspora, alternative knowledge systems, and relational poetics. He has curated numerous exhibitions, art commissions, and biennials in cities around the world. Most recently, Tairone co-curated What Water Knows, The Land Remembers (2022) and The Shoreline Dilemma (2019), the first two editions of the Toronto Biennial of Art. He also co-edited a companion book Kinship, Water, Belief (2022) published by Art Metropole, Toronto. From 2015 to 2017, he curated the artistic program at Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, including art commissions, arts festivals, and a research residency for artists, curators, and thinkers engaged with the MENASA region. Select projects include Raja’a Khalid’s Change Your Life (2017); Vikram Divecha’s The Warehouse Project (2016); and Mary Ellen Carroll’s The Circle Game (2016). Tairone was also part of the curatorial team for Performa, the ground-breaking performance biennial in New York, where he commissioned works for Performa 05 (2005), Performa 07 (2007), and Performa 09 (2009), working with many artists, early in their careers, including Lucy Raven, Pablo Bronstein, Clifford Owens, Josh Kline, Anicka Yi, and Terence Koh. Tairone is currently an Assistant Professor in Criticism and Curatorial Practice at Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto. He holds an MA from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, New York, USA; and a BA in Art History from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
19 Nov , 2023
“These artists are re-imagining the terms of
public art in the face of climate change by
making site-specific works that are not only
aesthetically compelling, but that are also
functional and generative.”
13 Nov , 2023
Testing New Grounds
Supported by global art and design studio and workshop Urban Arts Project, A Feral Commons will self-audit the environmental impacts of the project, attempting for the first time to create public artworks across all three continents in the most responsible and conscious method possible.
Utilising UAP’s proprietary tools, the Artwork Ingredient List and Public Art 360, UAP will guide the project team on sustainable practices as well as measure the quantitative and qualitative effects on the environment, and the value of public art.
Districts and Artists
20 Oct , 2023
Welcome to Alserkal Avenue
Constructed in the industrial area of Al Quoz in 2008, Alserkal Avenue is a place where business and culture cross-pollinate. Led by Alserkal Initiatives Executive Director Vilma Jurkute, the Avenue is home to the region’s finest contemporary art galleries, and some of the most daring business concepts around. Shape-shifting throughout the year with commissions, festivals, and events, the Avenue provides year-round curated experiences for local, regional, and international audiences.
Alserkal Avenue has been selected as one of the sites for a site specific commission for A Feral Commons.
09 Oct , 2023
Meet Muhannad Shono
“I’m quite obsessed with the idea of rebellious manifestations of the imagination” Muhannad Shono.
World-renowned, Muhannad’s work has been featured in a number of regional and international showcases, from the citywide annual festival of light Noor Riyadh in 2022, to the 2022 Venice Biennale, where he represented his country with the installation The Teaching Tree.
For A Feral Commons, Muhannad is studying unexpected ecologies that are thriving unnoticed in the urban environment of Al Quoz, particularly looking at what emerges from the AC units that are such a familiar sight in the region.
27 Sep , 2023
Welcome to Kingston Creative
Spearheaded by Andrea Dempster Chung, Kingston Creative in Jamaica is a non-profit organisation that, since 2017, has been building a healthy creative neighbourhood in the heart of downtown Kingston. As an NGO, they see it as their mission to put in place an ecosystem so that the creators of the culture can benefit from their natural talent, and that Jamaica can, in turn, develop sustainably, benefiting from their natural talent, and lean into its creative economy.
Kingston Creative has been selected as one of the sites for a site specific commission for A Feral Commons.
21 Sep , 2023
Meet Camille Chedda
“I’ve been working with themes dealing with post colonial identity in Jamaica, in the Caribbean, in the African diaspora.” Camille Chedda
Chedda often considers the historical use of land compared with its current state. For example, in a previous project she explores how former sugar plantations had been transformed into golf courses mainly for touristic usage.
For A Feral Commons, Chedda is working with the Lower South Camp Park in Kingston, a public area which for various socio-political reasons has become neglected and overgrown with wild plants, especially the ubiquitous Mexican Creeper more popularly known in Jamaica as the Rice and Peas Bush, an edible and medicinal plant and a magnet for bees and pollinating insects.
23 Aug , 2023
Welcome to Victoria Yards
Driven by founder, Brian Green, Victoria Yards is a one-of-a-kind urban complex that prioritises both social development and business growth. Originally built as a steam laundry in 1913, Victoria Yards has now become a harbour for teachers, learners, artists, and creative enterprises such as their urban agriculture project.
Victoria Yards has been selected as one of the sites for a site specific commission for A Feral Commons.
13 Aug , 2023
Meet Io Makandal
“I’m interested in process and transformation and adaptation” Io Makandal
In working with natural materialities and processes that manifest into living sculptures, Io aims to shift people’s awareness and relationship to the more-than-human world.
Io’s project will focus on the severely overlooked Jukskei river that runs through the precinct. Her installation will be positioned at the point where the river meets daylight and where the first impact of human mismanagement, sewerage and pollution come into effect.