Founded in 2010 by Ricardo Del Farra, the conference brings together artists with scientists, economists, philosophers, politicians, management and policy experts, sociologists and engineers from around the world.
Balance-Unbalance (BunB) is an International Conference designed to use art as a catalyst to explore intersections between NATURE, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY and SOCIETY as we move into an era of both unprecedented ecological threats and transdisciplinary possibilities.
The intent of BunB is to engender a deeper awareness and to build long-term partnerships across disciplines to support solutions to our global environmental crisis.
This is the third BunB I have been a part of – contributing as an artist in 2015 in Phoenix; contributing virtually with Lee Joachim and the Way of the Turtle project in 2016; and in 2017 presenting a work and talk about the Waters of the Past project. This prototype project titled Journeying with the Ancients is the first iteration of a collaboration with software designer Josiah Jordan, who created music from my DNA to accompany a video.
The work explores place, ancestors and well-being through creating a meditative story space. We plan to expand this project, bringing it into a virtual reality context. Josiah will also be a collaborator in the forthcoming “Ignite” workshop, which is being developed in partnership with Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative.
One of the purposes of attending this year’s event was to investigate projects which explore ‘energy’ as a theme. This is a challenging area as there is some level of cognitive dissonance regarding the impact of the use of technologies that drive a lot of the creative outputs. As a very crude generalisation, we (artists) are very good at interrogating issues and collaborating with scientists but often the link back to the tools of production is not part of the conceptual framing of the work. I am certainly aware that this is an issue for some of my work.
Mike Stubbs (Director of the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) in Liverpool and inaugural director of Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne and I spoke at length about energy. He has been involved in a number of energy related projects going back some years. One project titled GIFT, about an open cast coal mine is available online:
FACT has also been very engaged in discussions about energy over the years. One project by the collaborative groups Hehe stands out. The project, titled Fracking Futures was the creation of an installation of a fracking well. This installation was not a recreation of the well, the gallery has a false floor and a real well was built on the site. Mike is also on the board of a highly prestigious residency program titled “Collide” which is based at CERN in Switzerland. We spoke about my research and he is very keen to see what emerges from this work.
Another interesting project which is worth mentioning is reGEN: Art & Science Addressing Climate Change – A South Texas Project Seeking Field Input & Feedback Workshop contributors included Penelope Boyer, Jose Chapa, Carol LaFayette, A&M University, Matthew Eric Mendez, Emily Royall & Luz María Sánchez-Cardona. The workshop contextualised a yearly event titled reGEN: Art & Science Addressing Climate Change.
This presentation/workshop will context reGEN: Art & Science Addressing Climate Change as a transdisciplinary collaboration between students, science practitioners and artists engaged in a productive dialogue about how science, technology and art can collectively address climate change. reGEN exists to provide a community-based public forum for moving beyond the traditional framework of sustainability and present a platform for regenerative practices.
reGEN convenes at Land Heritage Institute (LHI) in Texas and is “a living land museum on 1200 acres of open space along the banks of the Medina River on the far south side of San Antonio preserving, maintaining and interpreting 10,000 years of continual human habitation.”
The LHI is also focused on sustainable water and energy supply and a number of art projects in recent years have utilised solar energy to power the work. This socially and creatively conscious community is a great segue to another excellent on site project which we were very fortunate to visit – The Eden Project.
A major highlight of BunB was going out to the Eden Project in Cornwall. The Eden Project is an educational charity, focusing on connecting people with each other and the living world, exploring how we can work towards a better future. Built on the site of an old clay pit for making China it is an example of how disused mining sites can be reinvented to transform the identity and purpose of the site. Another example which I will explore in September is the Crawick Multiverse in Scotland, a reinvented coal mine which is now dedicated to the sciences – especially astronomy and cosmology.
The site for the Eden Project is nestled in a huge crater. Massive Biomes house the largest rainforest in captivity as well as another Biome dedicated to a Mediterranean climate with a huge selection of foods growing as well as other gardens that are themed. The Australian garden had an amazing variety of Kangaroo Paws – many different colours and shapes. Also the Asian garden had a wonderful selection of herbs and spices. What I found really exciting is that the Eden Project is raising funds to build a Geothermal energy plant – which will power the site plus 4,000 houses in the area.
The work at the Eden Project is premised on the idea of “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things”. A message of empowerment and a demonstration of what is possible when people have motivation to change and to learn.
The opening guest speaker Luis Szarán really set the stage for what could be achieved through creative interventions. Luis is an internationally celebrated conductor and music historian and has worked all over the world. In 2006, he shifted his attention to challenges closer to home in Paraguay, realising that many children were being deprived education because of poverty. He started a program Sonidos de la Tierra offering the opportunity to develop their musical talents through a “music conservatory on wheels” to over 18.000 low-income children and adolescents living in over 200 towns and villages across Paraguay.
He later expanded on the idea, incorporating the use of recycled musical instruments from water related materials, such as pipes and containers, all built by students, to provide a new educational experience. So far there has been 52 recycled orchestras H2O “Sounds of the Water”. Luis was declared in the 2016 “Artists for the Peace of the World” for UNESCO.
His focus on education and art based training combined with creating greater environmental awareness is an excellent model for how the concept of “Ignite” could grow and proliferate. Another point that is very relevant is that the educational process does not just rest with the student. Training in music and making is given to the student and their parents are trained at the same time to understand the methodology and to take it back to the local community to set up locally based groups. To date there are over 200 groups across Paraguay.
In many other presentations at BunB there was a strong focus on educational projects aimed at intergenerational knowledge/skills sharing and also engaging children and youth.
I find the community that gathers around BunB really fantastic and there are so many other projects I could mention. What I especially like is that it is a very accessible event – you can get to see a lot. My last experience with the International Symposium of Electronic Arts was one of feeling overwhelmed. It is a massive production with so many parallel panels and tracks that I felt like I missed a lot. BunB is a smaller community which has a focus on the future and a commitment to working on wicked problems – so much inspiration, so much intention, so much action. Really great to be a part of it.