Ecologies of Art & Making

In February 2020, artist Nick Laessing and I devised and ran a week-long free introductory course for those interested in studying ecologies of making in a wider sense, with Slade School of Fine Art, located in Hackney Wick at Yard Theatre’s community space Hub 67. Together with students we used drawing, sculpture and modelmaking, foraging, cooking, discussion, mind-mapping and citizen science-engineering to develop ideas.

We aimed to think through making, about an expanded understanding of ecologies, introducing concepts of agency in the context of local and planetary scales of connectedness. The students explored this connectedness of materials, practices, individuals and communities. Mostly 18-25 years old and living locally, they were encouraged to experimentally explore ideas of ecologies through their own experiences and stories, leading to the development of a portfolio and a student-led group exhibition of the work and ideas in Wick Woodland. The level of engagement in making thinking and debate was exciting and exceeded our expectations for the course.

Day 1 Ecologies of Us
Meeting each other and thinking through ecologies by making, cooking, clay work, large scale drawing, mindmapping.

Day 2 Ecologies of Place
Foraging Walk, the commons, public/private, observation, mould making, casting with alginate, plasticine and plaster.

Day 3 Social Structures
Art Walk and high-up drawing at the Orbit tower, exploring
architecture, public art, engineering, co-operation, urban planning and living through structures, prototyping, modelmaking.

Day 4 Ecologies of Energy
Mindmapping and discussing themes of the week, inequalities, utopia, renewable energy, Anthropocene, food systems, science fictioning, art and utility, making solar cooker/sculptures in groups.

Day 5 Ecologies of Practice and Presentation
Discussion, listening, self-reflection exhibition making and presenting ideas
Procession and exhibition in Wick Woodland, documentation.

The students experienced some new things and had a lot to say about their own ideas. They expressed the impact of this week on how they see and value their local environment, the social and ecological dimensions of art practices and their own agency in their artwork.