In Symbiosis, ideas, experiences and different areas of knowledge meet in an ongoing experiment. Through meetings between research, art, architecture and much Symbiosis aims imagine, test and reflect upon symbiotic thinking.
The term symbiosis comes from Greek and can be translated as "living with". The original meaning is a biological cohabitation where two organisms are mutually dependent on each other, sometimes even for their survival.
Symbiosis is increasingly used when talking about interaction between different systems. This can be, for example, how social structures, communications, the environment and biodiversity interact in urban planning.
What happens when we apply "symbiosis" as a model of thought when adressing our present and future challenges?
During recent years, Symbiosis has been developed in dialogue with researchers, artists and others.
In the autumn of 2020, the artist group Gylleboverket exhibited a suggestive site-specific room installation.
In 2021, we will open the doors to to an exciting and variable exhibition that also serves as a workshop space and place for meetings, conversations and discussion.
Detail from installation piece, John Jakobsson
"Symbiotic thinking" can be used to tackle many broad challenges. Challenges which in turn are directly and indirectly linked to one another. Individually, man's various systems, such as cities, trade, production and transportation, can be enthralling and well-functioning, but together they often compete both amongst each other and with the planet's own fragile systems.
In 2018, after the hot summer and the large-scale forest fires in Sweden, we gained a strong and clear experience that also we here in the north are vulnerable and that climate change is affecting us. That the effects will be a world with political turbulence and ongoing ecological disasters. The insight has become even clearer during the ongoing pandemic. An entire world is affected. It has had enormous consequences that will shape us for a long time to come. In light of the plethora of great challenges in our time, we must ask ourselves: What kind of world are we passing on to future generations? We need to create the conditions for alternative thoughts and ideas to emerge.
Man has the potential to not only parasitize on the unique planet the earth is. We need to develop self-healing and adaptable systems, societies and cultures, based on compassion and knowledge rather than on ever-accelerating consumption and exhaustion of limited resources.
Can an art space somehow contribute, inspire hope and create new ways for orientation in this confused time? Can art and other forms of cultural expression be integrated with research? We believe so and have therefore initiated the project we call Symbiosis. Färgfabriken has created a forum where meetings, clashes and cross-fertilizations occur.
In order to formulate ideas and visions for a good and hopeful future, we must begin to think, research and collaborate across borders - visible and invisible. We therefore want to discuss and test all kinds of possible and impossible symbiotic contexts in a non-prestigious and creative way. Our ambition is that it gives the audience an opportunity to think and reflect on different dimensions of our complex existence.
Image: Gylleboverket. Work in progress.
In Symbiosis, together with many others, we have reflected on various issues and themes that help us identify different inputs and symbiotic relations. We also drew inspiration from our owh archives.
We have learned a lot about how nature's systems and building blocks work. At the same time, we parasitize on nature. Much of what evolution has created over billions of years, humans have affected and broken down in just a few decades. We have now begun to recreate and simulate ecological systems. Being human has always been about defining and influencing one's surroundings. Ecological projects are now needed on various scales that recreate the nature that humans have stolen. How will we be able to handle these challenges when planning our cities around the world?
In the exhibition Experiment Stockholm (2015), Luis Berríos-Negrón with his family along with animals, plants and many guests staged a full-scale artistic experiment - Earthscore Specularium - which practically (by actually living in the work of art) and philosophically investigated how we can live in cities of the future with challenges such as pollution, lack of resources and climate change. How do we enable more symbiostic relationships with other people, beings and plants? In the seminar the Stockholm Biotope, we learned more about the overlap between nature and the city's infrastructure.
"Hinterlands" can be found in the field of tension between the what is left over, the unseen and the imaginative. What are the "hinterlands" of today? There is a rapid development of the borderland between the urban and the countryside. This borderland can be a landscape near a big city or a remote area incorporated into the global economy. These places are in a symbiotic relationship with the city and the countryside. The border sites are used for new housing, utilization of natural resources or constructions for the "new digital economy", like server halls. We pass by these places but rarely note them.
The concept of "Hinterland" has served as a starting point for a collaboration with the Nationalmuseum, which is shown in the exhibition Arcadia - a paradise lost.
In a short time, our existence has gone from living in isolated groups and clans on the savannah to becoming civilizations based on systems that are complexly intertwined around our entire planet. This has created a strong yet fragile "cobweb" of relationships and structures that affect each other. In their daily lives people are dependent on goods and services that origin around the world. Economic and political systems are interdependent in sophisticated but also contradictory ways. Their inner powers are both positively and negatively charged. Trade and mutual cooperation create trust and prosperity at best. But disputes over who has the initiative for change and changes in the equilibrium of power cause conflicts.
Are we aware that the survival of our species depends on countless symbiosis that create balance between different beings and life forms? How can we maintain our compassion and dignity in a world that is becoming increasingly polarized and unpredictable? To be human is to exist in an ever-changing state - we are both impulse-driven and reflective. There are many examples of how technological development may prolong our lives. What do we do with this time? Digital systems create new opportunities to communicate with and understand the world, but there is also concern that technology could take over and thet we become its "slaves".
In the project Psychosis, we turn to art to deepen our understanding of the human psyche and our social relationships. Part one - I Will Never Talk About the War Again - was about how the self dissolves like an effervescent tablet in a collective trauma, while part two used the symptoms of psychosis as a starting point to talk about the transformations of the self.
How is the human psyche, life and our societies and cities affected by an exponential curve of change in our civilization due to the digital revolution? It was investigated in the project Expanded Societies. The exhibition Between Realities examined what it is like to be human in a rapidly changing world, where technology is constantly changing and affecting both our behaviors and perceptions of our existence.
Our world is intertwined across national borders through oceans, lakes, rivers and small streams of water. Water is a symbiotic element. A prerequisite for life. (Scientists now believe that there is water both on the moon and inside the celestial body Pluto). How can multiple perspectives on water create positive holistic world views? Water is connected to many aspects of life, such as the illusion of control, the modernist view of the city, cleanliness, food, industry, population growth, disasters, conflicts, migration, recreation, biology and many others.
In the exhibition Stockholm on the Move, one of the scenarios that were showcased had the title "Stockholm water commons". In Experiment Stockholm, the project Maretopia was shown, led by the artist Jens Evaldsson, who investigates the potential that exists in Stockholm's waters, through co-creative activities and based on the idea of a floating cultural and ecovillage.
The ambition of the exhibition, which will be presented in Färgfabriken's main hall, is to make visible how artists, architects and researchers approach the concept of "symbiosis" based on different themes. An imaginative, inspiring and thought-provoking exhibition that opens our minds to how complex and fascinating our world is, while at the same time providing a reasoning about challenges and opportunities in our rapidly changing time.
Talks, lectures, discussions and workshops take place throughout the exhibition period, in the exhibition room itself, in Färgfabriken's project room and in the penthouse. Different groups of researchers, representatives from business and the public sector as well as artists and architects will reflect on the concept of "symbiosis". Of course, the format and nature of the activities are adapted to the status of the pandemic and the recommendations that apply at the time of the event. All seminars and presentations are documented and made available here on the website.
An ongoing research collaboration between Blekinge Institute of Technology and Färgfabriken focuses on sustainable urban development and imaginations of the future. together we investigate the concept of "regenerative cities", starting from, among other examples, our immediate area Lövholmen and Bangladesh's capital Dhaka.
About the collaboration
A long term collaboration with Södertörn University has in the autumn of 2020 manifested in an exchange with Isabel Löfgren, artist, researcher and university lecturer in Media and Communication Science. Through the PUSH program she contributes in discussions and analyzes about Symbiosis' content and themes, while conducting her own research in the border zones between different fields and practices.
Many interesting collaborations and dialogues with the Royal Institute of Technology are taking place. Some of the sections and departments that are involved in Symbiosis are KTH Watercentre, KTH Environmental strategies and Futures studies, KTH Sustainable development ICT and innovation, KTH Architecture, KTH Science and Technology Studies with focus on Gender and Environment, KTH Media Technology and Interaction Design . The collaboration is expressed as the exchange of ideas, joint research projects and the formulation of course assignments.
Foto: Jann Lipka
© Färgfabriken 2020
With support from the City of Stockholm, Region Stockholm and the Swedish Arts Council.