Artists, designers, scientists, and communicators across disciplines play a key role in impacting critical environmental challenges and engaging in speculative approaches. Many interdisciplinary residency programs offering residencies and collaborative opportunities in this area inspired our model. (sidenote: Artsci Publishing is a useful resource for these collaborative investigations. http://artsci.org/. Simetría is an exchange residency between CERN and the Chilean Observatories (ALMA and VLT), giving artists the opportunity to explore new advances in astronomy and particle physics. https://arts.cern/article/simetria. The Schmidt Ocean Artist at Sea program, in which Oyarzún, one of the authors, participated, provides an oceanic platform for technology-based research collaborations between artists and leading marine scientists. https://schmidtocean.org/apply/artist-residency-program/ ↩ ) Ten Chilean professionals were selected as fellows for an integrated arts and science professional development program focused on recent advances in terrestrial/marine ecology, connecting relevant lines of research in both regions. From the onset, we envisioned this cohort as a collaborative team, and framed the spirit of our transdisciplinary, relational, and process-driven collaborations across disciplines as an “ecology of practices.” A diverse consortium of academic and industry partnerships rooted in two territories served as a platform to support territorial investigations and provide exposure to new narrative creation and technology innovations. Working in collaboration with our partner consortium, we co-created and delivered 40+ workshops across a range of topics focused on art, ecology, and emerging technologies over a year-long timeline (Figure 3).
Evolution of the Program
The point of activation for ASKXXI was in 2016 when two of the founding members, Fernanda Oyarzún and Genevieve Tremblay, were virtually introduced through colleagues at the Whiteley Center Art and Science residency program at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Marine Research Lab. (sidenote: Oyarzún, Fernanda. 2018. “ASKXXI: Arts and Science Knowledge Building and Sharing in the XXI Century.” FHL TIde Bites Newsletter. University of Washington, Friday Harbor Marine Labs. http://depts.washington.edu/fhl/tidebites/Vol55/index.html ↩ ) Oyarzún (marine scientist/artist), was leading Proyecto Robsonella, a scientific illustration course in coastal Chile, while Tremblay (artist, technologist, educator) was teaching, developing transdisciplinary curricula, and spearheading art and science partnerships at Cornish College of the Arts. Their mutual interest in interdisciplinary approaches of art and scientific research in natural marine environments aligned their efforts and inspired the model for the pilot that would become a certificate program. Weekly Chile - US video conferencing calls provided the opportunity to collaboratively explore the possibilities of an international collaboration, as the founding team expanded to include Chilean terrestrial ecologists and science communicators Belén Gallardo and Nélida Pohl. The team explored institutional relationships for funding, assembling Chilean and US partners and creating a flexible, adaptable, and practice-based professional development program model. The meticulous process of building an infrastructure took the better part of a year to secure, with Tremblay and Oyarzún traveling between Chile and the US for in-person planning and relationship building. From there, the development of a range of courses, site visits, immersive experiences and personal connections to inspirational people and practices was mapped out, later taking shape as a formalized professional development curriculum for the selected fellows.
The core ethos of ASKXXI’s ecology of practices was the lateral nature of its relationships. In the absence of epistemological hierarchies, diverse arts and research practices were approached equally as ways of creating knowledge. All fellows shared their own field’s methods of research through workshops, switching back and forth between the roles of learner and teacher. Some of the planned activities involved designing research projects in real natural settings. These projects included both ecological and artistic investigations, encouraging fellows to develop their own nuanced approach to ecology by integrating their personal area of (arts or scientific) research into other ways of working within the group. The program included almost no traditional classroom settings which perpetuate disciplinary boundaries; instead, it let place mediate the learning process. (sidenote: Johnson, Jay T. 2012. “Place-Based Learning and Knowing: Critical Pedagogies Grounded in Indigeneity.” GeoJournal 77.6 (2012): 829–836. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10708-010-9379-1 ↩ )Regional expeditions in the US and Chile included field-based marine and terrestrial investigations (Figures 5-7). Although the program was focused on global thinking, much research occurred locally, so we placed equal emphasis on value-rooted knowledge, community work, and territorial perspectives. It was visiting the places where people study and create, and performing those research practices in situ, that allowed questions to emerge—questions that could be later explored using scientific and artistic approaches to creating, understanding, and communicating knowledge. This experiential and lateral approach was possible because of the blurring of disciplinary and institutional boundaries. Removing the comfort found in predictable learning structures necessitated that participants constantly adapt to change. Although this approach created freedom to explore, it also contributed to burnout for the organizing team because of the lack of solid institutional support, resources, and budget.
Our ecology of practices approach was centered on asking questions (hence, ASKXXI), and reoriented learning and research through the collective sharing of knowledge and skills by the program participants. In each local exploratory project, the fellows acted as cartographers, mapping the new areas of research that pushed beyond their professional expertise.
Integration: Building the Interhemispheric Scaffold
The ASKXXI leadership team reached beyond the realm of higher education to build an ecosystem of partnerships across sectors and domains. This interhemispheric network provided the foundation of a flexible platform, bridging networks from Patagonia to the Pacific Rim. (sidenote: Johnson, Jay T. 2012. “Place-Based Learning and Knowing: Critical Pedagogies Grounded in Indigeneity.” GeoJournal 77.6 (2012): 829–836. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10708-010-9379-1 ↩ )
Steps to bridging:
- Institutional consortium building (academic, industry, cultural, community)
- Funding development
- Competitive call process
- Fellow application review and selection
- Chile-US faculty and advisory network development
- Curriculum development and approval
- Remote learning platform and virtual workflow development
The lateral and collaborative learning structure of the team allowed for rich and adaptive inquiries that evolved over the program duration. (sidenote: Brice, Jeff, and Genevieve Tremblay. 2021. “Art + Science Knowledge Building: ASKXXI Pilot: Personalized Learning Through an Ecology of Practices.” In Career Ready Education Through Experiential Learning, edited by Pamela Northrup, Karen Rasmussen, and Robin Colson, 106-135. IGI Global https://www.igi-global.com/book/career-ready-education-through-experiential/234641 ↩ )Our main institutional partners were the Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB) and the US Embassy, Santiago (Public Affairs), who sponsored the program through a public diplomacy grant. Our subsequent diploma program, The Construction of Interdisciplinary Knowledge of Art and Science in the XXI Century, was hosted at the Center for Research in Biodiversity and Sustainable Environments (CIBAS) at Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción. The participating Chilean and US institutions are represented in our institutional partner map and program leadership diagram (Figure 8).
Site- and Field-based Workshops
An international team of advisors across the spectrum of arts, ecology, embryology, biomechanics, technology research, science communication hosted studio visits, workshops, and tours.
Scientific workshops were focused on marine, terrestrial, and wetlands ecology restoration, preservation, and conservation. The technology-based workshops introduced a range of innovative visualization and lab technologies that included data visualization, spatial computing, parametric modeling, microscopy, gene splicing, virtual/mixed reality, 3D photogrammetry and illustration (Figures 9-13). Art studio visits and lectures were hosted by artists working across a range of media that included bookmaking, ceramic sculpture, 3D printing, virtual painting, augmented reality, E-textiles, wearable technology, digital media and artificial intelligence (AI) (Figures 14-15).
The most vibrant elements of the program were the people involved and the possibilities created. Our consortium model leveraged the synergies of the founding team’s affiliations and brought together international contributors from research, academia, industry, and cultural diplomacy. Strategic relationship-building began a year prior to the start of the program and was essential in forging these alliances. ASKXXI developed as an iterative process, dependent on the feedback loops of the participants and contributing to an evolving ecology of practices and participants. Because the program was developed outside the boundaries of any one academic institution, it benefitted from the freedoms inherent in such an experimental and collaborative model that allow it to adapt to dynamic and shifting social needs.
Our experimental pilot employed an entrepreneurial dynamic and served as an “educational simulation,” providing data about the feasibility of interhemispheric knowledge exchange, interdisciplinary collaboration, collegiality, and cooperation between institutions. ASKXXI expanded the professional capacities of both fellows and faculty. One of the most valuable outcomes of ASKXXI is the thriving networked ecosystem, connecting people from different backgrounds together and building more inclusive communities of practice. The immersive, field-based experiences curated for the cohort offered points of entry to new knowledge, fresh cultural perspectives, and emerging professional realms. Beyond the diploma curriculum (sidenote: Diplomado: “Construcción de Conocimiento, Interdisciplinario Arte-Ciencia en el Siglo XXI (ASKXXI)” Diploma:“ASK XXI: Arts+Science Knowledge- Building and Sharing in the XXI Century”, Facultad de Ciencias & Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Catolica de la Santisima Concepcion, Diciembre, 2017 https://www.ucsc.cl/noticias/ciencia-arte-y-tecnologia-convergen-en-nuevo-diplomado-de-la-ucsc/ ↩ ) and program deliverables, ASKXXI acted as a stepping-stone for a series of collaborative efforts that have extended its impact over time (for an in-depth list of these collaborations, see supplemental materials below).While the program’s distributed, unbounded nature was one of its greatest strengths, it was also its Achilles heel. The program required virtual collaboration methods and a range of complex, cloud-based, remote collaboration and visualization tools. In addition to being ambitious, multi-sited, and interdisciplinary, it was also bilingual. The fellows had a range of language abilities, so more translation work was required from the team to communicate effectively. The lack of administrative support, contingency funding, and resources associated with a single, reliable academic platform taxed our team. It also impacted our overall capacity, and ultimately, our ability to sustain an ongoing program. However, the groundwork was laid to anchor an interhemispheric and integrative research network. Figure 16, an example of a recurring network mapping assignment, illustrates sample nodes in this network.
Artists and scientists both engage in speculative approaches. Together, they play a key role in impacting critical environmental challenges. ASKXXI posed many questions and explored the emergent properties that flourish when the boundaries of art and science vanish. Social exchanges, both curated and serendipitous, created openings for dialogue and reflections related to culture, politics, access, and uses of technology within contemporary practices. The comparative analysis of these bioregions offered scientific and cultural perspectives that stretched what we considered to be our “areas of concern.” With a global view, we sought hyper-local, rooted knowledge and territorial perspectives, setting up the conditions for making experiential connections in the lab, in the field, and in the studio. Every contributor to our program (our fellows, faculty, academic, industry, and community partners, and funders) are now nodes of a much larger, dynamic network: an innovative ecosystem of practitioners that now include a2ru, Transgeneratives 2030, SECOS, Bienal Concepción: Arte y Ciencia, Fundacion Renihue, Festival Reino Fungi, Valley of the Possible, Schmidt Ocean, Friday Harbor Marine Labs, and others who are building novel approaches to knowledge production, co-creation, and interdisciplinary collaboration.
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Beyond the pilot program deliverables, ASKXXI acted as a stepping-stone for efforts that have extended its impact that include:
- Bienal Concepción: Arte & Ciencia, Chile’s first art and science biennale (http://www.bienalconcepcion.cl/)
- The inclusion of an Art + Science research line in an Interdisciplinary Socio-ecological Marine Research center, Coastal Social-Ecological Millennium Institute SECOS (https://socioecologiacostera.cl/co-creacion/)
- an integrated science-art-communications team at Patagonia biodiversity refuge, Foundation Renihue (https://renihue.com/)
- a series of contemporary arts workshops for research scientists in Chile (https://www.arteciencia.cl/)
- a commissioned policy brief on art and ecology, (http://fundacionmaradentro.cl/)
- the commissioned publication of an Art + Science book (https://www.springer.com/la)
- a book chapter publication focused on experiential, art and science based learning (https://www.igi-global.com/book/career-ready-education-through-experiential/234641)
- Festival Reino Fungi, an annual fungi festival based in southern Chile working to articulate the scenario for an creative interdisciplinary and collaborative work between public and private institutions, and invite community to learn about fungi as it relates to education, conservation, tourism and social innovation. (https://www.festivalreinofungi.cl/)
- the creation of the first academic art and environmental science program in Chile (https://www.ucsc.cl/noticias/ciencia-arte-y-tecnologia-convergen-en-nuevo-diplomado-de-la-ucsc/)
- ASKXXI website: www.askxxi.com, IG/Twitter: @askxxi
Artsci Publishing is a useful resource for these collaborative investigations. http://artsci.org/. Simetría is an exchange residency between CERN and the Chilean Observatories (ALMA and VLT), giving artists the opportunity to explore new advances in astronomy and particle physics. https://arts.cern/article/simetria. The Schmidt Ocean Artist at Sea program, in which Oyarzún, one of the authors, participated, provides an oceanic platform for technology-based research collaborations between artists and leading marine scientists. https://schmidtocean.org/apply/artist-residency-program/ ↩
For more information about the various workshops, sites, and studio visits, see the ASKXXI program catalog www.askxxi.com ↩
Oyarzún, Fernanda. 2018. “ASKXXI: Arts and Science Knowledge Building and Sharing in the XXI Century.” FHL TIde Bites Newsletter. University of Washington, Friday Harbor Marine Labs. http://depts.washington.edu/fhl/tidebites/Vol55/index.html ↩
Johnson, Jay T. 2012. “Place-Based Learning and Knowing: Critical Pedagogies Grounded in Indigeneity.” GeoJournal 77.6 (2012): 829–836. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10708-010-9379-1 ↩
Brice, Jeff, and Genevieve Tremblay. 2021. “Art + Science Knowledge Building: ASKXXI Pilot: Personalized Learning Through an Ecology of Practices.” In Career Ready Education Through Experiential Learning, edited by Pamela Northrup, Karen Rasmussen, and Robin Colson, 106-135. IGI Global https://www.igi-global.com/book/career-ready-education-through-experiential/234641 ↩
Diplomado: “Construcción de Conocimiento, Interdisciplinario Arte-Ciencia en el Siglo XXI (ASKXXI)” Diploma:“ASK XXI: Arts+Science Knowledge- Building and Sharing in the XXI Century”, Facultad de Ciencias & Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Catolica de la Santisima Concepcion, Diciembre, 2017 https://www.ucsc.cl/noticias/ciencia-arte-y-tecnologia-convergen-en-nuevo-diplomado-de-la-ucsc/ ↩