International Socially Engaged Art Symposium 2019 ‘In Nature’
Exhibited in Gelleria Perspektiivi, Tammisaari, Finland and Galleria Fokus, Karis/ Karjaa
Photos by Fabio Cito
We were thirteen, a mix of artists, researchers and scientists. We spent two weeks living in the same house, cooking, eating, cleaning together. There were many discussions on social engagement, ethics, sustainability…
We were split into three groups to work with different groups of students. The theme of my group was circular economy and we worked with kindergarten children.
On the first day, we drew different elements of nature, like sun, rain, wool, sheep and we got the children to carry with them a string of yarn in which they would bring to all the images that connected. At the end of it, we had an extremely interconnected web to show how everything in nature is linked.
We also invented a game to teach children the impact of Finnish forestry industry on wildlife animals. The children became the animal they liked and experienced what it was like to lose their homes when trees were cut and they had to run across mountain roads full of speeding cars to get to another forest. Hunters preyed on them in the new forest and there was significantly less space in the new forest for everyone to survive.
On the last day, we brought the older children out into the forest to collect natural items. With these objects they have collected, we used it to transform their least favourite toys. At the end of the day, they were all smiling ear to ear as they discovered newfound affection towards their transformed toy.
My two weeks spent in the village of Mustio with organic farms, forests and lots of nature around was deeply touching. I grew up in Singapore and have lived in big cities my whole life. I did not know how to be in nature, yet the children were so comfortable in it, unafraid to get dirty. There were many firsts, like plucking mushrooms in the forest, digging for potatoes (after 30 minutes trying to find out which was the potato plant), harvesting vegetables straight from the farm, seeing the milky way… This symposium left me a lot to reflect, especially my fundamental relationship with nature.