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Friday 7 May 2021

How can artists help us renew our relationship with nature?

Image Credit: Plumial Space by Nestor Pestana with Deborah Tchoudjinoff. Project commissioned by Ligaya Salazar for Fashion space Gallery, part of Arcade East's summer programme 2018. Photograph by Katy Davis

How can we renew our relationship with nature? Orleans House Gallery has set out a stall of experimentation and expansive collaboration for the coming years. We aim to open up our grounds and the artistic practice as a way to research big questions that permeate society and our hopes for the future. Historically the polymath has been celebrated as genius, as a pioneer, bringing cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural ideas into their areas of study across arts, sciences, technology, life, all at the same time. Of course the polymath is not a thing of past, but perhaps it has become more difficult to attain as you need to specialise, frequently over a lifetime, to reach that place of iconic pioneer. Someone who demonstrates that intangible flash of genius, moving our understanding of the world around us incrementally forward.

Of course, whilst it might now be difficult for an individual to attain polymath status, interdisciplinary collaboration is able to gather these wide ranging skills and knowledge bases to perhaps reach these heights – and it is here that we hope Cultural Reforesting and the artistic research hub of Orleans House Gallery will fly. The other factor that we hope to give is time. Cultural Reforesting is a provocation a statement to be understood, even misunderstood, and like much of language, never sit still or be pinned down indefinitely to one definition.

The site is sitting on such a wealth of history and imagination, with a complex ecosystem that can be viewed as a microcosm of the ecological crisis story. Already we have had ecologists, ethnobotanists, horticulturalists, elders and physicists joining artists in our ecosystem, which is frequented by all of us – and a thrilling range of more-than-human species that are equal players, including bats, bugs, badgers, and more. We want all of these collaborators to spend time together, inspiring each other through their knowledge bases and activities on this site, with an aim to work with all-comers – a defining remit for us and our artists.

A central tenet of collaboration is listening, and we want to listen to you, all of you who encounter Orleans House Gallery, however fleetingly. What did you find?

Remember the Future is the start of us opening our spaces up to all to research and collaborate – who knows what will come, but that is the exciting part – we need to communicate with all how this is evolving, but hopefully we will constantly be chasing this evolution of Cultural Reforesting and local and global solutions to the ecological crises of our time.

Andy Franzkowiak is the exhibitions and collections programmer for Richmond Arts Service.

Discover more about the Artist Research projects taking place as part of our new Cultural Reforesting programme here: Cultural Reforesting Research