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New co-commissioning initiative on climate change presented by Alserkal Advisory

October 17, 2022–December 31, 2023

A Feral Commons, a new co-commissioning arts project bringing together cultural districts from the Global Cultural Districts Network (GCDN) across four continents and each presenting a public art installation in response to the theme of climate change, has been announced by Dubai-based Alserkal Advisory.

The first cycle of the co-commission series will present multi-city public art interventions that will be unveiled in Fall 2023, including: Alserkal Avenue, (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)  a pioneering arts and culture district in the UAE that is home to more than 70 creative businesses, including the region’s most renowned contemporary art galleries, design houses, and an arthouse cinema; Kingston Creative (Kingston, Jamaica), an arts district and hub for creative entrepreneurs that aims to revitalise Downtown Kingston’s cultural identity through multiple monthly programmes and a major mural project; the Onassis Stegi (Athens, Greece), a multidisciplinary cultural centre that hosts theatrical and musical productions, film screenings, art and digital shows, and which is part of an ecosystem of enterprises and initiatives that include the Cavafy Archive as well as a robust scholarship programme; and Victoria Yards (Johannesburg, South Africa), a uniquely integrated urban complex that has fostered an ecosystem that is as much about community and social development as it is commercial enterprise.

The goal of the co-commission initiative is to use the strength of connected cultural districts to address pressing global issues collectively while inviting participants to refresh their existing perspectives and knowledge. In this first cycle (2022-23), it will be investigated how cultural areas might cooperate and share expertise. In more detail, “A Feral Commons” will look at how artists in these places might adapt to new obstacles, rethink working methods, develop new commons models, and find new ways to live. Each project will be a stand-alone exhibition created specifically for the location, and it will be supported by a program that interacts with the neighborhood to further explore the project’s theme and central questions. The GCDN, an international membership-based network that promotes collaboration and knowledge-sharing between organizations in charge of cultural districts and clusters where creative and cultural activity, urbanism, and community engagement intersect, helped develop Alserkal Advisory’s first initiative.

A Feral Commons, which has the support of UAP, will self-assess the project’s environmental impact in an effort to produce the public artworks on all four continents in the most responsible and conscientious way feasible. Utilizing UAP’s exclusive tools, particularly Artwork Ingredient List and Public Art 360, these tools will advise the project team on sustainable practices and measure the environmental impact’s worth and both its quantitative and qualitative aspects.

Tairone Bastien has been named the first cycle’s curator by Alserkal Advisory. Along with the participating districts, Bastien, who co-curated the first two Toronto Biennial of Art exhibitions, created the concept. The curatorial subject, A Feral Commons, offers an alternate interpretation of the concept of the commons, which is typically referred to as land or resources that are shared by all members of a community. Instead, this initiative calls on artists to shed light on the connections between people and other species and investigate a more radical interpretation of what the commons can entail in a multi-species world. The topic is based on the groundbreaking research and writing of American anthropologist Anna Tsing, who has written extensively about wild non-human participants in human endeavors and open-ended inter-species meetings that defy human control.

To review, select, and finalize artist applications, Bastien will collaborate with the co-commissioners in each cultural district over the next months. The public artworks in response will be unique to each district’s location and locality, examining important concerns associated with the curatorial theme in various geographic contexts.

The full list of participating artists will be announced in early 2023.