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Frances Whitehead – The Embedded artist

At Worser Bay Life Saving Club we had the fantastic opportunity to listen to Frances Whitehead’s presentation about “Tactics for Praxis and The Embedded artist”. Frances is a Professor at the School of Art Institute Chicago, a plant worshipper and pagan. Frances used to come from a material studio practice background and now works in a sustainability platform. Her works demonstrate the relationship between people, material and nature and include KLAB (knowledge lab), Community Lab Orchard, 606 rail adaptation and plant based remediation methods at abandoned gas stations in Chicago.

The embedded artist project is a change strategy working inside and outside and responds to limitations. It also disrupts conventions, greater agency and institutional critique. The key question Frances wanted us to consider as artists and designers was “How does it inform or reflect and challenge what I am doing?”.  Having recently attended a Track Zero event where Professor James Renwick, Dr Huhana Smith, Dr Sam Trubridge, Dr Craig Stevens, Elizabeth Thompson and Gaby O’Connor presented about Art and Science working together as a catalyst on Climate Change. It was at this presentation that I first become aware of Frances’ “What do artists know?”  framework and now after hearing her presentation I realise how powerful this framework is, and can clearly see how this this had helped shaped other science and art based practices.

Marrying art and science are key in driving behaviour change towards a better way of doing things.

Finding the relationship between art and science

So what will I take forward from France’s presentation? One the key elements I would like to develop further in my practice and future PhD is taking action as opposed to awareness and the importance of citizen science engagement.  In particular I found the co-creativity model of interest which entailed curiosity, beauty, co-operation and engagement.

After the presentation I spoke to Frances about her manifesto and how this came about and was really interested to hear that it started out as a knowledge document from project research. This has also helped me reaffirm how my current research based on Oak wilt disease and upcycling of furniture for my thesis can become a manifesto.

In the afternoon we worked in groups and responded to Frances’ presentation in a creative output. Our group response was a performance based piece around re-grounding and reconnecting with the beauty we are surrounded by. We felt this was an important response due to the time poor society we are becoming and wanted to also recognise how lucky we are to live in a country where post-industrialism has less of an impact.

Wellington’s Worser Bay (tilty version)