Ethics and Aesthetics of Art- and Science-Making at the End of the World

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Denise MILSTEIN, Columbia University, USA
The Ensayos project is a collaboration between artists, scientists, and local agents based in the Tierra del Fuego region of Chile and Argentina. The group has evolved in the liminal space between art, science, and politics, taking an exploratory, creative, and sometimes activist approach to the environmental and geo-political challenges faced by inhabitants of the region. In one example, the collective has addressed the threat of invasive beaver populations to the survival of the subpolar forests in the region. Ensayos artist, Christy Gast, designed human size beaver costumes with which participants could embody members of the invader species and participate in community meetings and performances, bringing the voice of the beavers into the conversation. This intervention built on collaboration with local biologists devoted to understanding the behavior of beavers, and led to further joint scientific and artistic efforts to conserve subpolar forests and to re-imagine and test forms of continued co-habitation with beavers. This paper builds on a three-year participant observation of Ensayos, and examines the process of trial and error whereby participants have developed a space and strategies for collaboration. The survival of the project relies on a utopian outlook based on an anti-capitalist ethic of uselessness, discursive strategies that recognize and include the voices of non-human agents, and the transgression of traditional disciplinary and communicative boundaries. As a community of artists, scientists, and local agents, Ensayos enacts a utopian effort to address challenges to multi-species survival and to embrace opportunities for adaptation in the anthropocene.