Mobile development in progress

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 May , 2024

Public Art in Post-Apartheid Johannesburg

Johannesburg was the progeny of the nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution, no less than Manchester in the first quarter of the century or Chicago in the last. Financial Speculation, and gold bullion for the world market, were principal preconditions for Johannesburg’s existence. 

– Clive Chipkin, Johannesburg Style.

Were it not for the discovery of gold in the late 1800’s, Johannesburg would likely not exist at all, but here we are now making sense of a mix of Dutch and British colonialism, the apartheid era coupled with the accomplishments and failings of political leadership since the birth of our democracy in 1994. 

The negative impact of apartheid spatial planning on all aspects of social, economic and political life for black, coloured and Indian communities is immeasurable and particularly difficult to discern for a visitor without proper orientation to South Africa’s urban and rural areas.

The Commissions

21 May , 2024

Io Makandal – Ophidian’s Promise

Ophidian’s Promise comprises of an urban wildlife eco-duct and a moss wall text. The eco-duct is built with historical clay bricks sourced from the area to make a holding space for the soil and endangered Soweto highveld biome grasses and plants that create the safe passage for urban wildlife over the Jukskei river culvert.

The sculpture references the form of a snake as the symbolic more-than-human guardian of rivers. This artistic gesture invites the human back into relationship with the waterbody and its surrounding life forms to encourage civic care over this precarious water source in a time of anthropocentric climate change. The ground making project is the first eco-duct in Johannesburg, sets out to foreground urban ecologies and wildlife as an integral part of the urbanity that depends upon it.

21 May , 2024

Muhannad Shono – A Forgotten Place

A Forgotten Place carries water condensate from air conditioning (AC) units inside warehouses on either side of the laneway to irrigate a garden of feral plants. It is a microcosm of the inadvertent and varied plant-life that grow largely unnoticed around Al Quoz, fed by unintended lifelines of condensate drip.

It draws attention to what Muhannad Shono calls “AC ecologies” representing nature’s resiliency and adaptation to anthropocentric climate change. The project sets out to think with AC ecologies, to consider the potential of an abundant yet untapped irrigation source that can be found in water-scarce parts of the world.

21 May , 2024

Camille Chedda – Chain of Love: Rice and Peas Bush in Lower South Camp

Chedda’s Chain of Love: Rice and Peas Bush in Lower South Camp re-integrates local community members back into a place that had been widely abandoned while also utilising the foliage of the plant that has grown as a metaphor for the ubiquitous memory of those whom in previous times lived, worked and suffered there under colonial rule.

The cement block walls housing images and objects within their hollows tell stories and highlight notable people from the local community. The rice and peas bush grows freely as a symbol of value and possibility: unifying the people born from a traumatic history with a future that works in symbiosis with nature, and a future that brings an income for the local residents who care for it. Whether from selling honey, providing new skills, or a sense of teamwork and mutual support for one another and for the environment.

07 May , 2024

Shaping Sustainability in Art Making with the Artwork Ingredient List

In 2010, The Guardian explored the intricate web of environmental impacts through their Green Living blog, offering estimates for everyday activities like consuming a banana, drinking coffee, manufacturing a four-door sedan or sending emails. The concept of a “carbon footprint” emerged as a metaphor, encapsulating various entities’ comprehensive climate change influence, be it an activity, an object, a lifestyle, or even an entire country.

Urban Art Projects developed the Artworks Ingredients List

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.

19 Jan , 2024

Contribute to research on The Global Co-commission

Part of the Global Co-commission is understanding the impacts of public art on social environments.
As Alserkal Advisory opens Muhannad Shono’s commission in Alserkal Avenue titled A Forgotten Place, we are seeking participation in the Pre-Install survey developed by UAP (Urban Art Projects).

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.

The 2023 GCDN Convening in Montreal, Canada.

04 Dec , 2023

Who is Alserkal Advisory?

Alserkal Advisory at Noor Riyadh

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.

 

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.

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.

Tairone Bastien, Curator of A Feral Commons

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

Urban Art Projects developed the Artworks Ingredients List

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.