Collaborating with Arts and Cultural Organizations across the Disciplines of Science, Ecology and Politics

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Maria Rebecca Ballestra, Artist •

Journey into Fragility
or A worldwide journey to raise awareness around the fragility of our environment by working in collaboration with artists and cultural organizations across disciplines of science, ecology and politics.

For her Round Table discussion, Maria Rebecca Ballestra presented Journey into Fragility ­– a series of expedition-based multi-media works that include documents, events, conferences and exhibitions that resulted from her travels around the world, exploring and reframing environmental issues through the lens of twelve statements by the poet Massimo Morasso in his Manifesto of Earth and Human Beings. She then went on to explain how Journey into Fragility sets out to grapple with and expand awareness and recognition of “otherness”; to reveal how artistic activity is a needed element in eco-political regulations. Expressing her belief in our inseparable union with our planet, Ballestra’s work further demonstrates how poetical positions can open up alternative ecological approaches.

Here is a summary of the 12 works in Ballestra’s series, each of which is based on one of the 12 statements in Morasso’s Manifesto:

• In the Ghanaian village of Abetenim, Ballestra interviewed older people about the ancient animist knowledge of the “taboo,” drawing on support from the local scientific community to complete her research, which led to the production of Lost – Memory, a piece that considers the relationship between individual and collective memory.

• The video Dialogue for Preservation was realized in collaboration with Luca Cocclite. For this project, Ballestra conducted a series of interviews with artists and politicians in Bern, Switzerland, investigating perceptions and visions of the future of climate change.

• In the photographic series Sacred Landscape, Ballestra collected landscape images of Madagascar’s Islao Park in Plexiglas® boxes. Originally a holy site known for its plants, the area’s natural richness and diversity are now threatened. Ballestra’s series reflects on the preservation of spirituality and nature through art.

• Realizes in Abu Dhabi, The Green City consists of photos on aluminum and mirrors engraved with excerpts from poems by the Arabic-language poets who signed the Manifesto. The works comment on the global cooperative called Masdar City, an open-engagement platform for searching for solutions to some of mankind's most pressing issues: energy security, climate change and sustainability.

• In China’s Sunhoo Industrial Park, Ballestra created the installation I’m Because You Are using ancient symbols from the I Ching (The Book of Changes). She arranged these on a brick wall with dragonflies, which symbolize change. The piece reflects the endeavor of modern urban parks to maintain nature’s balance while contributing to global economic growth.

New Water, an installation, tells the story of the use of water purification to recycle urban storm water in Singapore, where water and places to store rainwater are scarce. By addressing a local peculiarity, Singapore created a sustainable and innovative system and, hence, a model for other contexts.

• Iriria is a series of aerial photographs of the rain forest that reflect the human tendency to imagine that we are outside of nature. The pictures are in dialogue with the Carmelo Camilli’s documentary film Iriria. Nina Terra, which captures the wisdom of Costa Rica’s indigenous people.

1 kg Investment of Knowledge is composed of writings based on the Manifesto and photos and interviews realized in Wales, where Ballestra visited organic farmers and eco-villages. The piece is a reflection on natural resources, forms of sustainable agriculture and new eco-living philosophies.

Made in Iceland, Time to Leave is a work that reflects on the objectification of nature by humans. Writing on an empty Plexiglas® box says that the box contains a Pinguinus impennis, a now-extinct species of bird whose last members were killed and put on display in museums.

• Caretta Caretta – Monachus Monachus consists of fragmented images of the two endangered species in the title, which allude to the possibility of loss and extinction. Both species are native to the Mediterranean Sea, which occupies only 1% of the Earth’s marine area but hosts a third of the world’s international transport and tourism industries, with the inevitable consequences for the health of its animal and plants.

• For this Fragile City Ballestra collaborated with Rachela Abbate to create a video map of São Paulo, Brazil. The map consists of fluctuating texts that convey environmental data and theories about economics and art. Ballestra notes that São Paulo is emblematic of anthropocentrism, but it is also a place that innovates towards greater solidarity, new green alternatives and improved access to knowledge through digital media.

• For Nowhere, Ballestra asked artists to contribute a small art piece (5x5 cm) that represented their vision of the ozone hole. She then coordinated the pieces according to a star map.