Test Sites

Test Sites graphic

Test Sites is Arts Catalyst’s series of inquiries into matters of concern relating to environmental issues, such as flooding, pollution, and species loss, and their impact on local culture and the health of ecosystems and communities. At each site, we are inviting local people and groups to be part of art-centred co-inquiries, working with artists, scientists and other experts.

The Test Sites programme represents a significant step in Arts Catalyst’s curatorial model of transdisciplinary co-inquiry. The aim of this model is to foster an ecology of practices, in which artists, curators, scientists, specialist experts and people with situated knowledge come together to co-produce knowledge around a shared matter of concern. We will explore a set of approaches that include active citizenship, planetary commoning practices, co-inquiry processes, and collective governance and policy making, as well as making tactical use of concepts such as the negative commons, defined in the key terms below.
From 2017-2020, Arts Catalyst is focusing its research in three chosen sites: the Calder Valley (Yorkshire)Poole Harbour/Brownsea Island (Dorset), and King’s Cross (London). In the Calder Valley, we are working with artist Ruth Levene, interactive arts studio Invisible Flock and anthropologist Megan Clinch, in partnership with the Canal and River Trust, to research water governance in relation to health, wellbeing and the resilience of communities and ecologies. In Poole Harbour, artists Neal White and Anna Troisi, marine biologist Rick Stafford and others are examining the delicate balance of a complex system of overlapping economies (tourism and oil extraction) and biodiverse ecologies around the harbour and Brownsea Island. In London, the focus is on air pollution and urban “greening” initiatives, where we are working with various artists and local partners.
Active Citizenship - a philosophy that people have a responsibility to their society and the environment that encourages participation in local communities and democracy at all levels. We extend this to participation in research and environmental monitoring.
Planetary Commoning Practices - tactical actions towards asserting, enabling, connecting and networking local commoning practices relating to the use or stewardship of common-pool resources within transnational and extraterritorial spaces and natural resource domains, such as the atmosphere, biodiversity, the Arctic, the electromagnetic spectrum, outer space, the lithosphere, and the oceans (Triscott, 2017).
Co-inquiry Processes - Arts Catalyst has been developing a curatorial model of critical and transdisciplinary co-inquiry. The key principles of our model include focusing the inquiry on a shared “matter of concern”, the intentional co-production of knowledge - including artistic, scientific and situated - that is context-specific, and fostering an ecology practices that is sensitive to how particular practices relate to and impact on other practices.
Collective Governance and Policy Making - aimed at shifting the balance of power away from the regimes of commerce and strategic interests that seek to enclose the commons, and instead towards networked grassroots movements working for increased equity and environmental justice.
Negative Commons - the waste of capitalism’s operation, such as debt, epidemics, industrial wastes, and pollution including radiation, which becomes the burden of society once it is of no further value to commerce (Kohso, 2012).
Test Sites is supported by Wellcome Trust, University of Westminster, Bournemouth University, Canal and River Trust, and Arts Council England.
Image: Design by An Endless Supply