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Cyborg Garden–Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives / Eco-visionaries

Cyborg Garden–Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives / Eco-visionaries

“Cyborg Garden – Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives.” Exhibition design by elii. Ph. Imagen Subliminal

At the center for contemporary creation Matadero Madrid, the exhibition “Cyborg Garden – Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives” conceived by the architecture office elii and Amanda Masha Caminals features a laboratory for both imagination and adaptation. Alongside, “Eco-Visionaries: Art for a planet in emergency” curated by Pedro Gadanho and Mariana Pestana, is a living exhibition designed by elii, which is updated at different locations by adding the works of new artists. Between June 13th and October 9th, both exhibits present a set of contemporary artworks that address climate change as a crucial challenge of our time.

At the entrance to the exhibition “Cyborg Garden – Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives” a disembodied voice greets, entreating the visitor to step into the experimentation space. Once inside, the design suggests a garden of ‘species’ crisscrossed by paths that lead to the different works of art, which stand out on organically arranged, light-colored slabs. Off to the sides, wavy upright elements complete the artificial environment and hold up the credits, the posters, the basic information on the activities and graphics. In the center is a small amphitheater that recalls the pleasure gardens of libertine houses, but instead of flaunting a statue of Venus, this contemporary version houses a work of audiovisual art by Nishijima. The amphitheater’s furnishings are scant and versatile, and lend themselves to multiple arrangements for different activities. Its see-through enclosure arranged in colors facilitates crossing sights and relating the pieces. The geometry of the seats makes them stackable to optimize storage in the future. The design prescribes a set of environmentally friendly materials such as recyclable floor tiles, PEFC-certified wood, infinitely recyclable polyamide tulles, recyclable vinyl, etc., that aim to align the construction processes with the ecosystems, thereby imbuing this indoor space with large-scale ecological programs.

The exhibition shows the preliminary results of research done by an inter-disciplinary team of specialist with a two-fold aim. First, to define strategies for adapting to climate change in public spaces, which is materialized in the ‘plantation’ of a Cyborg Garden at Matadero Madrid. Second, to analyze the stance of art in relation to the environmental crisis and how it can contribute to broadening imaginaries and ecosystem narratives through the Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives (IMNA).

“Cyborg Garden – Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives.” Ph. Imagen Subliminal
Ph. Imagen Subliminal

The Cyborg Garden is a coral process in which a group of artists led by a team of technical experts develops a set of creative processes to try out strategies for adapting to climate change that enhance the resilience of public spaces and make Matadero Madrid a desirable venue. The Cyborg Garden is a testing ground to experiment with ways for humans and non-humans to co-exist. It entices visitors to make other use of the open spaces because a garden is a meeting-place for different kinds of species as well as a venue for enjoyment, desire, and care. Also, the cyborg dimension lets us imagine the relationship between nature and technology as spheres that must necessarily be thought out continuously, like a hybrid relation. Currently, Matadero finds itself in the limelight of an urban ‘island of color:’ a space that experiences extreme temperatures for months and months due to its design and configuration of material. The featured projects in the exhibition turn Matadero Madrid into a laboratory trying out Nature Based Solutions, which will culminate in a set of repeatable prototypes in other areas of the city.

The Mutant Institute for Environmental Narratives was founded with the purpose of evaluating the role of imaginaries, myths, traditions, and desires that articulate our society in the construction of discourse on climate change. It suggests to undertake a critical revision of them and proposes strategies that help create other environmental narratives beyond the traditional ones. IMNA proposes artistic efforts in collaboration with other fields of knowledge to overflow the classical disciplinary boundaries and address the planetary problems (cultural, political, scientific, technological or derived from communication processes) of the climate crisis from collective intelligence and social innovation. Citizen actions of science, workshops on climate speculation, performance art, and a radio show are part of the program.

“Cyborg Garden – Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives.” Ph. Imagen Subliminal
Ph. Imagen Subliminal

The exhibition design for “Eco-visionaries: Art for a planet in emergency” unfolds on the ‘ruins’ of Amazonías, the exhibition that had previously occupied the hall. Some divisions were changed and others were added in order to form isolated black boxes. A systematic geometry of walls and flooring configures different types of spaces that can be adapted to the needs of each project by means of a simple set-up taking advantage of the captive energy of the inherited remnants.

Any ‘blank slate’ operation is therefore spurned: the project is a re-assembly, a material update that multiplies the possibilities of what had not yet been done, where pre-existence is taken as the disjointed memory of a valuable past, albeit without nostalgia.

Eco-visionaries is structured around four main concerns: Extinction, Disaster, Co-existence and Adaptation, each of which brings together a constellation of works. The design ‘spatializes’ the four controversies in the room by marking out four zones, organized according to a chromatic code. As visitors wander through, they are encouraged to take an active role, to take a stance in relation to the four problems. The works are installed in an orderly manner, but at the same time, they are arranged to establish fluid relations between them during the visit, thereby encouraging visitors to find links between the works; to move the questions from one piece to another; ultimately, to experience the blurred boundaries between the problems of Extinction, the threats of Disaster, the strategies for Co-existence and the challenges of Adaptation. 

These four major issues are connected to an array of social and ecological environments, interacting with them in multiple ways. The tension between these four disputed elements triggers a number of exchanges: a flow of evidence, news, threats, ultimatums, suspicions, arguments, discussions, regulations, prescriptions, instructions, questions, queries, speculations, uncertainties, perceptions, precautions, reflections, traditions, rules, affections, effects… One could say that climate change is a complex of circulating and interconnected forces, a sort of circuit. The exhibition’s design sets light screens amidst these flows, intercepting the circulation of information, capturing the most relevant controversies and opening spaces to reflect transversally the planetary emergency through this set of art pieces.

“Cyborg Garden – Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives.” Ph. Imagen Subliminal
Ph. Imagen Subliminal

CYBORG GARDEN CO-DIRECTOR AND CURATOR: elii, oficina de arquitectura (Uriel Fogué, Eva Gil, Carlos Palacios) / IMNA CO-DIRECTOR AND CURATOR: Amanda Masha Caminals / IDEA AND CO-MANAGEMENT: Matadero Madrid / DESIGN OF THE EXHIBITION SPACE: elii (oficina de arquitectura) / ARCHITECTS: elii (oficina de arquitectura) / COLLABORATORS: elii, Lucía Fernández, Ana López, Raquel García, Marta Vaquero, Mónica Palfy, Juan Mateos, Natalia Matesanz / Graphic design: Vendedores de Humo / CYBORG GARDEN PROJECT ADVISORY GROUP: Juan Azcárate, Luis Tejero, Rafael Ruiz, Carlos Mataix, Manuel Alméstar, Julio Lumbreras, Sara Romero, María Ángeles Huerta, Luisa Fernanda Guerra / PROMOTERS OF CYBORG GARDEN: Plataform-A – Centro de Innovación en Tecnología para el Desarrollo Humano de la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (itdUPM), el Ayuntamiento de Madrid a través del Área de Medio Ambiente y Movilidad, y Matadero Madrid, en colaboración con infinidad de agentes locales y en coproducción con instituciones internacionales / PARTICIPATING ARCHITECTS AND ARTISTS IN CYBORG GARDEN: uh513 (María Castellanos y Alberto Valverde), TAKK (Mireia Luzárraga y Alejandro Muiño], Orkan Telhan, Double Happiness (Joyce Hwang y Nerea Feliz), Rachel Armstrong, Rolf Hughes, Pierangelo Scravaglieri (Newcastle University) y Ioannis Ieropoulos (University of the West of England) / IMNA CONSULTANCY GROUP: elii (oficina de arquitectura), Juan Azcárate, Luis Tejero, Rafa Ruiz, Carlos Mataix, Julio Lumbreras, Sara Romero, Manuel Alméstar, María Ángeles Huerta, Luisa Fernanda Guerra, Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS _ UCLA) / PARTICIPATING ARTISTS IN IMNA: Fito Conesa, Carmen Haro Barba, Episkaia, Paula Nishijima, Lois Patiño, Robertina Šebjanic, Laboratorio del Pensamiento Lúdico / Projects coordination: Eva Gonzalo, Eduardo Castillo Vinuesa, Natalia Matesanz / PRODUCTION OF CITIZEN SCIENCE: Viernes Comunicación / 3D MODELING AND DESIGN OF THE INTER-SPECIES COMMUNICATOR: Siddharth Gautam Singh / COLLABORATORS IN PROJECTS: L’Oréal, Fundación Ernesto Ventós, Audrey Dussutour del Centro de Investigación en Cognición Animal del Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) de la Universidad de Toulouse, Sara Arganda del Área de Biodiversidad y Conservación de la Universidad Rey Juan Carlos de Madrid / PRODUCERS: Matadero Madrid / TRANSPORTERS: Feltrero División Arte / Set production: Solart. Soluciones en Arte / INSURANCE: HISCOX S.A. / DEVELOPER: Matadero Madrid / AREA: 552.30 m2

“Eco-visionaries: Art for a Planet in Emergency” is the shared name of an international exhibition co-organized by MAAT (Museum of Art and Architecture) of Lisbon, Bildmuseet of Umeå, HeK (House of Electronic Arts) of Basel and LABoral. Art and Industrial Creation Centre of Gijón in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts of London. Design of the exhibition space: elii (architecture office) / ARCHITECTS: elii (Uriel Fogué, Eva Gil, Carlos Palacios) / CONTRIBUTORS: elii- Lucía Fernández, Ana López, Raquel García, Marta Vaquero, Mónica Palfy, Juan Mateos, Natalia Matesanz. / Graphic design: Vendedores de Humo / CURATORS: Pedro Gadanho, Mariana Pestana and Matadero Madrid (Ana Ara) / INCORPORATION OF ARTISTS INTO THE CURATORSHIP: Ana Ara, elii (architecture office) / DOCUMENTATION AND ASSISTANCE TO THE CURATOR: Eva Gonzalo / Production: Matadero Madrid / TRANSPORT: Feltrero División Arte / Staging: Solart. Soluciones en Arte / CATERING: Virginia Uriarte and Clara Bondía / INSURANCE: HISCOX S.A. / DEVELOPER: Matadero Madrid / ECO-VISIONARY ARTISTS: AAllora & Calzadilla, Nelly Ben Hayoun, Ursula Biemann and Paulo Tavares, Zheng Bo, C+ In the Air, Carolina Caycedo, Emma Charles, Fernando Cremades, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Darlene Farris-Labar, Paula Gaetano Adi, Tue Greenfort, Terike Haapoja, HeHe, Husos, Andrés Jaque, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Gabriel Ruiz Larrea, Pedro Neves Marques, Next Nature, Eva Papamargariti, SKREI, Superflex, Jenna Sutela, Unknown Fields Division, Ana Vaz and Tristan Bera, Pinar Yoldas / SURFACE: 1,021.49m2

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