For this years 17th annual Subtle Technologies Festival in Toronto, the lineup of projects in art and technology were featured under the theme of Open Culture: Participatory Practices in Art and Science. Topics of conversation, symposium titles and artworks focused on publicly engaged practices that respond to an ecological environment, cultural engagement, political conflict or community. The range of projects offered for consideration were inspiring. Of particular interest to me were projects that exhibited a purpose driven sense of social consciousness from the scientists and artists involved.
During the festival I had the pleasure of exhibiting with a number of artists, including Marcus Neustetter and Stephen Hobbs at the Open Culture/Urban Interventions exhibition, curated by Nina Czegledy. Their recent work in the South African community of Deipsloot clearly went beyond the bounds of social awareness. They applied a practice of direct engagement with community members for their public art project.
The outcome was a series of performances and sculptures that responded to the cultural and social needs in the community. desertArtLAB from Arizona is another group of artists taking a direct approach to socially motivated initiatives. This teams interest in local urban ecology inspired the participatory practice of repurposing vacant urban spaces for the renewal of local plant species.
Another angle on social engagement included projects that highlighted the use of open source technologies to increase the accessibility of affordable resources. WaterBank was one of these projects. The aim was to provide safe water sources in an Indonesian village using donated technology, found materials, public participation and engineering knowhow. Another memorable contribution to the symposium came from Matt Ratto from Toronto University who talked about “critical making” initiatives that utilize the growing availability of accessible technology like DIY 3D printing.
His most recent application is in the development of affordable custom prosthetic sockets for clinics in Uganda.
My takeaway from this symposium was a feeling of persistent admiration for many of the inspiring and inspired artists and scientists whose projects went beyond social awareness by reaching outward to effect change on the world we live in.
Donna Legault is an experimental artist working in the field of sound art, installation, sculpture, and performance in Ottawa. The intersection of these practices focus in the resonance of sound as a dynamic extension of everyday actions. Donna has a degree in Art History from Carleton University, and in Visual Arts from Ottawa University. She has exhibited widely across Canada and abroad.
Tags: 3D fabrication, art and the city, critical making, Donna Legault, open culture, open source technology, participatory practice, public art project, social engagement, Subtle Technologies Festival, symposium