Workshop 1: Environment x Impact

The first Social Impact Arts Prize 22 workshop focused on the environment, climate change and specifically registers of water as a lens through which artists and their art practices can reflect and comment. We watched some inspiring artists’ films inspired by the natural world, listened to an ecologist speak passionately about the planet, and an artist who emerges herself in the earth as a way to research material, colour and transformation of dirt into art. These individual presentations created a thinkspace wherein the workshop attendees could ask questions, imagine their own projects come to life, and meet fellow artists and creatives.

If this excites you, join our next workshop and participate in the conversation.

NATURE TAKEOVER: Thinking Art Practice through the Natural Environment

Olafur Eliasson -
‘I see the artist as a participant, a co-producer of reality.’

Olafur Eliasson produces epic, technically sophisticated sculptures and installations, using natural elements like light, water, and air to alter viewers’ sensory perceptions. Moving seamlessly from photographs to sculpture, immersive environments, large-scale public interventions, and architectural projects, Olafur Eliasson uses simple natural elements— light, colour, water, and movement—to alter viewers’ sensory perceptions. Predicated on the idea that “art does not end where the real world begins,” Eliasson’s work lives in the active exchange between his creations and the viewers.

Roni Horn -
‘It’s not the water itself-it’s humanity’s relationship to water because that’s almost a human need, that water be a positive force.‘

Roni Horn explores the mutable nature of art through sculptures, works on paper, photography, and books. Horn’s work also embodies the cyclical relationship between humankind and nature—a mirror-like relationship in which we attempt to remake nature in our own image. Some Thames (2000), a permanent installation at the University of Akureyri in Iceland, consists of eighty photographs of water, dispersed throughout the university’s public spaces, echoing the ebb and flow of students at the university.

The Sensemaker Project - ‘We have to accept that the climate is changing and therefore we have to adapt to those changes.’ — Gina Ziervogel

In 2018 Cape Town experienced its most severe drought in over 100 years. It was set to be the first major city in the world to run out of water. It is now widely accepted that the severity and timing of the drought were impacted by climate change. With one of the highest levels of inequality in the world, the way such a climate shock impacts people in South Africa varies greatly. As Mama Dondi, one of the protagonists of this documentary puts it, “… those who do not have much are now much more vulnerable than the ones who have more in their pockets.”

Professor Karen J. Esler -
‘We are the Custodians of the Land.’

Stellenbosch-based Karen Esler simultaneously navigates disciplinary depths in ecology to work across disciplines, allowing her to contribute to inter-disciplinary and applied spaces.

An overall goal of her research is to understand how drivers of change (e.g. over-exploitation, habitat fragmentation and alien invasion) influence population and community structure and processes in Mediterranean-type ecosystems, arid ecosystems and riparian vegetation.  The applied aspect of this work has been to develop and translate best-practice advice for management, restoration and conservation.

Karen is the previous head of the Department of Conservation Ecology & Entomology at Stellenbosch University (since 2015). She has been a core team member of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology since its inception (2004) and currently serves as African Associate Editor for the journal ‘Conservation Biology’.

Belinda Blignaut -
‘Let Nature finish your Art Project.’

South African artist Belinda Blignaut’s work suggests an urgency for protest and change. Her work of the past decade takes her interest in materiality as a metaphor for psychological transformation into an ongoing series of sculptural clay vessels, a love affair with earth and organic matter. There are purely intuitive hand-built shapes, often cut and joined, setting out to make ‘an other’ whole. In looking to create from a deeper source, Blignaut began digging her own wild clay, using it unprocessed to allow for chance, unknowns and the natural reactions between the foraged raw materials and minerals. She uses plants as a glaze. Through the work, Blignaut is interested in translating the psychologies of person and place.

Frequently Asked Questions

An artwork that engages in a fresh way with the impact of climate change on our lives. 

The artwork’s impact can be through its materiality, its production process, the story it tells about social impact or simply the way the audience participates in the artwork itself.

In this workshop, we are looking at the human relationship with the natural environment, the impact that our domination over nature has on the climate and in turn, a warming planet’s impact on society.


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