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Matadero Madrid becomes a loud hailer on the climate crisis with the international Eco-Visionaries exhibition
Installation view.

MADRID.- Forty visionary artists and architects respond to the urgency of the environmental crisis threatening our planet and are occupying Nave 16 of Matadero Madrid to take part in the international Eco-Visionaries project, an exhibition-cum-manifesto that condemns the situation but first and foremost presents proposals.

Eco-Visionaries is the shared title of an international exhibition project originally organised by the MAAT (Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnología) in Lisbon (Portugal), Bildmuseet de Umeå (Sweden), House of Electronic Arts (HeK) in Basel (Switzerland) and LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial in Gijón. It was conceived as a work in progress to which new contributions have been added by the Centro de Creación Contemporánea Matadero Madrid and the Royal Academy of Arts in London (United Kingdom). In Spain, Matadero Madrid and LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial in Gijón are working in partnership on the joint presentation of this proposal.

Eco-Visionaries is being presented in Matadero Madrid as the first activity of a new initiative, the centre’s Instituto Mutante de Narrativas Ambientales [Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives-IMNA], which will address the climate crisis through research and artistic output. The institute is backed by Platform-A, an interdisciplinary network consisting of the itdUPM (Innovation and Technology for Human Development Centre), Madrid City Council, through its Environment and Mobility Division, and Matadero Madrid. The institute will be temporarily based in Nave 16 in order to present its projects and to support the exhibition with its activity. Among its various projects, the institute proposes to establish an ambitious Cyborg Garden for the Matadero complex as an experiment in climate change adaptation in urban environments.

At a time when climate change is becoming ever more obvious and the voices calling for radical action are increasing in number and growing louder, Eco-Visionaries put forward critical and creative visions for storytelling, initiating discussions and devising strategies for surviving in the world to come, which they present in a range of contemporary art practices, among them installations, audiovisual works and projects in other media. From the extinction of species to deforestation, from pollution of the seas to the toxicity of the air we breathe, from the foreseeable climate refugees to the need to imagine new food systems, the exhibition addresses the most important crisis that humankind faces.

Ever since pre-industrial times and particularly from the second half of the last century onwards, environmental degradation and human-caused climate change have been increasing at a pace without precedent in any previous period of history. The exhibition examines the theoretical framework of the Anthropocene, a concept used by some in the scientific community for this new geological era we live in, and a term that makes reference to its defining characteristic: the responsibility borne by humans as the agents of environmental change on a planetwide scale.

Curated by Pedro Gadanho, Mariana Pestana and the Matadero Madrid team, Eco-Visionaries is a manifesto-exhibition focusing on the impacts of rapidly changing ecological conditions, mostly provoked by human action on the surface of the planet.

Eco-Visionaries asks how artists, architects, designers and other cultural practitioners are inquiring into such ecological transformations, by producing a critique of their causes, raising awareness on their less visible aspects, and anticipating alternative visions on how to respond and adapt to their consequences. With more than 40 participants across four sections - disaster, extinction, co- existence and adaptation – pieces and projects in the exhibition alternate between critical inquiry and visionary optimism. In the subjective, unstable images of ecology captured by the works of art and architecture selected for Eco-Visionaries, we seek to recover a sense of hope in the future, rescued from the monsters of reason that emerged out of the Enlightenment’s dreams of human progress.

This proposal is unique in that over the course of two years, each of the participating bodies has mounted an exhibition on the links between contemporary art and the current environmental challenges we face. These exhibitions were underpinned by the same theory and concepts but took different approaches directly related to the particular interests of each institution. Eco-Visionaries is a non-touring research project that is being presented concurrently in different venues and, more importantly, features new works and new ideas in each presentation. It works with the contexts where it is shown and hence is an open research project that grows throughout the process.

Bildmuseet (15 June – 21 October 2018) approached this subject by taking a look back at the history of the link between art and ecology; MAAT (11 April – 8 October 2018) focused its exhibition on the cross-disciplinary connection between art, design and sustainable architecture; and HeK (30 August – 11 November 2018) examined the nexuses between art, ecology and technology. Eco-Visionaries is being held concurrently in Matadero Madrid and in LABoral. LABoral addresses in its Eco-Visionaries exhibition (24 May – 26 October 2019) the emerging connections between the biosphere and the technosphere, examining them from different perspectives, illustrated with works of an interdisciplinary nature that encompass art, science, technology and society. Matadero Madrid is turning the spotlight on the mutualism between human and non-human species and on projects to do with adaptation to climate change in urban environments. It is also presenting an ambitious programme of activities and debates through a new platform for interdisciplinary work: the Instituto Mutante de Narrativas Ambientales (IMNA).

The results of the various Eco-Visionaries exhibitions are presented in a catalogue, published in English by Hatje Cantz, containing essays by the curators and contributions from experts in various fields, among them Linda Weintraub, Amale Andraos, Matthew Fuller and T.J. Demos.

The Participating Artists and Architects
Allora & Calzadilla (United States/Cuba), Nelly Ben Hayoun (France), Ursula Biemann and Paulo Tavares (Switzerland / Brazil), Zheng Bo (China), C+/In the Air (Spain / United Kingdom), Carolina Caycedo (United Kingdom/Colombia), Emma Charles (United Kingdom), Fernando Cremades (Spain), Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg (United Kingdom), Darlene Farris-Labar (United States), Paula Gaetano Adi (Argentina), Tue Greenfort (Denmark), Terike Haapoja (Finland), HeHe (United Kingdom/Germany), Husos (Madrid), Andrés Jaque (Spain), Kiluanji Kia Henda (Angola), Jakob Kudsk Steensen (Denmark), Gabriel Ruiz Larrea (Spain), Pedro Neves Marques (Portugal), Next Nature Network (Holland), Eva Papamargariti (Greece), SKREI (Portugal), Superflex (Denmark), Jenna Sutela (Finland), Unknown Fields Division (United Kingdom/Australia), Ana Vaz and Tristan Bera (Brazil / France) and Pinar Yoldas (Turkey).

In the gallery adjoining the exhibition room and connected to it, Matadero presents the temporary headquarters of the Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives (Instituto Mutante de Narrativas Ambientales – INMA), a project supported by Plataform-A, an interdisciplinary network made up of the itdUPM (Innovation and Technology for Human Development Centre), Madrid City Council, through its Environment and Mobility Division, and Matadero Madrid. The platform brings together an international group of artists, designers, researchers, thinkers, scientists, engineers, architects and many other agents around artistic research and production to tackle the climate crisis.

In light of the urgent need for collective awareness of the planet-wide crisis, Matadero Madrid is proposing the Instituto Mutante de Narrativas Ambientales as an initiative to promote projects that help to create environmental narratives that go beyond traditional green discourses. This it hopes to achieve through artistic practices and in connection with other areas of knowledge such as journalism, the humanities and social sciences, science and technological research. The institute believes that alongside the necessary technological projects and processes, the current global challenges call for cultural and political changes – based on collective intelligence and social innovation – that will make it possible to implement radical structural changes connected with new habits of production and consumption, a rebalancing of global systems and a new responsibility pact vis-à-vis future generations. Based on this conviction and through the research and analysis of the imaginaries and desires that continue to hold our society in thrall, the institute will be promoting artistic production, the use of fiction and other strategies based on interdisciplinarity.

IMNA has adopted a position in the debate on the Anthropocene, viewing it as a new epoch that calls for a new understanding of humankind and our position and occupation of the world. It wishes to serve as a space for rethinking the relationships between culture and nature, between nature and technology, and for generating a new imaginary that takes into consideration the interests of non-human entities and that promotes mutually beneficial relationships with other species.

Based on this framework and in the firm belief that the global challenges demand knowledge that extends across and beyond disciplinary boundaries, the Instituto Mutante proposes to foster the growth of the environmental humanities to achieve an interdisciplinary approach to the climate crisis that will enable regenerative social communication to take place. This is posited as a tool for achieving three goals: to identify and understand existing imaginaries concerning climate change (its treatment in the media, on social networks, etc.); to engage in interdisciplinary research in partnership with others, producing projects on climate change adaptation; and to communicate research and innovation initiatives to empower citizens in this process of adaptation.

The Instituto Mutante aims not only to give society insights into research activity and environmental knowledge but also to initiate research with agents in a range of disciplines and with the public. The goal is to work together on developing nature-based solutions capable of giving rise to new associations of ideas and known concepts.

All of this will take place through partnerships between artists, foundations, institutions, public authorities, universities, collectives and assorted communities to create strategic environmental information campaigns and to nurture projects to rethink the relationships between culture and nature, between nature and technology, between science and fiction (or between fiction and non-fiction), between the macro and the micro, between politics and cosmopolitics, between ethics and eco-ethics, between ecology and politics, and the role of non-humans in planetary ecosystems. The institute is launching various lines of work: communication between species, the river as a core component in the transformation of the city; the rights of nature and environmental justice (to be addressed by studying and condemning ecocides and ‘toxic biographies’); the new economies; and food systems.

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