How to develop new forms of collaboration between art, science and technology and to promote systemic thinking and citizen participation in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean in the current context of the pandemic? Colleague from EUNIC Mexico talk about Flash ACT, a project funded through the 2020 EUNIC Cluster Fund, which aims to generate a multidisciplinary network supported by a virtual platform, in order to promote new initiatives and innovative formats of collaboration around artistic creation and scientific communication in Mexico and neighbouring countries.
Flash ACT, one of the 27 projects funded through the 2020 EUNIC Cluster Fund, is a 100% virtual project, a seedbed for the creation of works of transdisciplinary art, with a goal to promote, through the resulting projects, direct experiences, critical thinking and active participation that significantly transform humans' relationship with our environment, as well as creatively join the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined by the United Nations.. Through an open call the project has attracted applications from 113 people from six different countries (Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic) as a result of which 15 transdisciplinary teams of four people each were selected to create new artistic collaborations. A colleague from the EUNIC cluster in Mexico, Nesa Fröhlich, director of information and library at the Goethe-Institut, talks about the ongoing stages of the project and the importance of regional digital cooperation.
What is the relation between the themes of the project, intersection of art, science and technology, and the current context of the ongoing pandemic? Why is this topic relevant for the cluster?
The current context has highlighted the intimate relationship and dependence that exists between human beings and the environment, as well as the imperative need to protect the planet for future generations. Likewise, the fight against misinformation through a more forceful scientific communication seems indispensable. That is why the Flash ACT project "Art, Science and Technology", a seedbed for the creation of works of art, whose theme is to address the human being and / or its environment (its relationship with the environment, the positive / negative impact, preservation strategies, etc.) using innovative tools of public communication of science. Flash ACT seeks to explore new forms of collaboration between art, science and technology, addressing current challenges, translated into concrete experiences, promoting systemic thinking and citizen participation. This project aims to generate a multidisciplinary international network supported by a virtual platform, in order to promote new initiatives around artistic creation and scientific communication.
The current context has highlighted the intimate relationship and dependence that exists between human beings and the environment, as well as the imperative need to protect the planet for future generations. Likewise, the fight against misinformation through a more forceful scientific communication seems indispensable.
In which stage is the project now? Can you tell us about the profile of the co-creation teams and the types of exchanges they will have?
The project Flash ACT is 100 % virtual, divided in three distinct stages: Flash LAB (48h), Flash ENCOUNTERS and the final Flash FESTIVAL:
- Flash ACT Lab (26th to 28th /March): during an intense and fun weekend (48hrs non-stop), 15 teams of 4 participants each selected through an open call worked on the development of their prototype. Participants from the teams all fields, arts, science and technology.
- Flash ACT Encounters (April-June): five teams will have three months to finalize their respective projects. During this period, they will participate in three "Encounters" (three weekends) where they will have workshops and consulting sessions with experts in art, science and technology.
- Flash ACT Festival (July 10th): the finalist teams will present the result of their work to an international jury in a virtual event.
Flash ACT selected five teams to participate in the second phase of the project, and had our first Flash Encounter taking place from 23th to 25th of April. During the encounters, the teams receive advice and feedback on their projects from international experts. In addition, workshops and talks, for example on interdisciplinary work, data visualization, interactivity, production processes, are offered. In the fields of science, art and technology we invited for example Interspecifics (MX), Estudio Nuboso (PA), Roberto Cabezas and Diego Trujillo (both MX), Nina Hoechtl (AT), Dra. Sara Barrasa García (ES/MX), Canek Zapata (MX).
The 5 selected teams and project websites are:
- Fronteras imaginarias is a gateway to reconnect with the natural world, specifically with those migratory birds that share and cross the territories we inhabit. This project immerses us in a hybrid world, a soundscape that we can walk through by moving the phone 360 degrees, allowing us to hear all sounds of various birds spotted in the space where we are. Through augmented reality, we can observe these species flying around, which will react according to the displacement they have had from this particular territory.
- Cambium – Árboles migrantes: the "Migrant Trees" project aims to encourage reflection and action in the young-adult population on climate change through the story of the threat experienced by the tree community in the face of rising temperatures, accompanied by the strategies that are being implemented to mitigate the negative effects of climate change on the most vulnerable tree species.
- Extremófilas - Misión 2030: The first manned trip to Mars is planned for the year 2030, and the same year is the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Both tasks require technology, infrastructure and an awareness of our planet. From today's perspective, which is easier, terraforming Mars or rescuing the Earth? Experimental contemporary opera of four acts and a virtual prologue, based on current scientific data on the Terraforming of Mars.
- Acuiferal is a proposal that seeks to rethink the relationship we have with water territories, based on an immersive experience through the most threatened aquifers in Mexico. A playful and informative tour through cenotes, caverns and relevant data. An invitation to connect and interact with the ecosystem of the cenote in a sonorous way: "Leave a message to the cenote".
- Bioimpresiónismo is a creation of evolutionary art, based on the analysis and transduction of data on the climatic conditions of a specific space. Paintings are generated by observing changes in nature. The images intend to influence the process of social awareness regarding climate change issues.
You included a regional dimension in the project, involving partners and EUNIC members from Central America and the Caribbean, why is it important in the framework of Flash ACT? How is it materializing through the project?
Flash ACT aims at taking the existing art and science initiatives to the next level both by connecting them to give them a regional impact and to make them blossom in new countries and locations. Transnational cooperation will open the way to a virtual regional and international network, will reveal new possibilities for multidisciplinary collaboration and result new platforms for scientists and artists that will transcend borders. Participants will also benefit from the interaction with peers and experts from other countries. Within the adverse sanitary context, the broad exposure that the winning project should profit to the entire network of artists and tech experts involved.
In our open call, 113 people from six different countries (Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic) have applied, and we selected 15 teams of four people each in which all fields (art, science and technology) were represented. These 15 transnational, multidisciplinary and multigenerational teams took part in the 48 hour Flash LAB at the end of March to produce a prototype in the field of digital art. Thanks to our partners and EUNIC members who supported the communication about the open call as well as the application process, we achieved the formation of interregional teams with members from the different participating countries. Through the support of our partners in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, we hope to create a permanent network of experts and groups in the interface between art, science and technology.
Through the support of our partners in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, we hope to create a permanent network of experts and groups in the interface between art, science and technology.
What are the opportunities and challenges of digitalization? Consequently, what are the long-term perspectives on cultural exchanges and creativity?
Planning Flash ACT from the first day as an only virtual project, we ensured to remain functional in spite of any limitations imposed by the COVID-19 crisis. As we oriented the interaction of partners, EUNIC members, experts and existing initiatives to a next level in digital collaboration regarding interregional and multidisciplinary work we discovered new networks and thanks to our online meetings with all partners, Flash ACT also provided a linking point for them. With regard to the high number of applications for participation in Flash ACT, we can note a great interest in collaborative and interregional creation that allows communication, networking and online experiences of people from different countries and contexts.
During the Flash LAB and further in the first ENCOUNTER we were surprised by the agility and open-mindedness of the team members, who are creating complex projects, without knowing each other, working together for a few days. Bringing together different perspectives will lead to new forms and hopefully to hybrid formats of collaboration, as we see our participants eager to get to know each other face to face in an offline space.
In what ways does the project contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals? Do you aim to address specific SDGs?
Flash ACT aims at raising awareness on the intimate connection between our environment and us. It has also been conceived as a sustainable, long-term, and future-oriented project: 1) its virtual format will avoid international and local travel by airplane, 2) the use of sustainable materials and the creation of resource-saving products in hybrid arts will be encouraged. A social dimension will be included, as teamwork and mentoring will reinforce the intercultural, multigenerational and digital competence of participants. Their soft skills and capacity to establish international collaborations will also be strengthened.
The selected teams are actively addressing the SDGs, as a concrete example, one of the project teams “Migrant Trees” is actively addressing SDG 15, "to restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss” based on their team-member Tarin Toledo’s research on cloud forest restoration as a forest ecologist.