Collaborative art as a form of socio-ecological resistance

The current demands of contemporary life and our permanent connection to technological devices encourage consumption, individualism and dematerialization. The omnipresence of screens, at the same time, can intensify the disconnection between humans and everyday elements of nature. In the face of these practices —that tend to erode the social fabric and enhance the effects of the climate crisis— collaborative forms of art contain an inexhaustible transformative seed.

Through transdisciplinary contexts, an artistic and pedagogical practice such as collaborative art can shed some light on how to face a phenomenon that has been called the extinction of experience, in reference to the loss of frequent interactions with healthy nature and the notion that we are part of it.

This type of art has a quality that tends to vindicate situated knowledge, subjectivities and ways of inhabiting, from a systemic and socio-ecological perspective, as well as to generate meeting spaces that allow the construction of imaginaries of belonging to a certain place. In this sense, art as a collective experience can promote awareness of the multiple identities that make up a biocultural landscape.

Collaborative art can therefore help open, transform and manage spaces in an inclusive manner, by putting forward diverse perspectives in response to local needs. In the absence of community meeting spaces, art networks are considered a dimension of resistance against individualism, as they arrive to vindicate the tangible notion of the public square —a place of permanent social interaction— popularized in the last century.

That public square has now moved towards intangible means of communication, through platforms such as social media, which —it must be said— we cannot separate ourselves from, as they are essential communication tools to disseminate, think about and democratize collaborative art. Nevertheless, it is important to rethink the ways we use technology, towards a way which does not necessarily imply our disconnection from materiality; of the body as territory and the ecosystems we cohabit.

From this perspective, keeping ourselves awake and conscious of the web that we are part of allows us to delve into the aesthetic experiences that reveal themselves when perceiving and being-in-the-world. It also helps us deepen the relationships we establish with nature and with knowing ourselves to be nature; where nature begins and the body itself ends.

The aesthetic experience of art is an act of resistance, as it promotes another temporality by vindicating the experience and the body in specific contexts. In this way, from a situated approach, collaborative art allows us to share various ways of perceiving the world, mediate collaborative reflections and make complex systems visible through narratives that traverse all the senses.

Likewise, the focus of collaborative art is the territory, in its multiple dimensions and ways of understanding it. It is born from that space, and from the needs that are conceived there. That is how this current expands towards other disciplines, skimming not only humanistic notions, but also scientific ones, defyings divisions and binarisms.

Collaborative art experiences through various methodologies, such as collective mapping, landscape interventions, performance and fanzines, among others, can be linked or approximated to various disciplines. This artistic current thus leads us to trace paths that involve forms of inhabiting, situated memories, popular knowledge and territorial issues, which can be observed from multiple perspectives.

“Life is a symbiotic and cooperative union that allows those who associate to succeed,” said biologist Lynn Margulis, setting a precedent by proposing the need for collaboration in the evolutionary process. In this regard, we see how the notions of art can be enriched by thoughts like Margulis’s, so that creative processes become more complex and nourished through exploration and expansion of their limits.

Along the same lines, intentional disciplinary intersections are also significant, such as the case of artist and mediator Teresa Rubio. In our publication Con/vivir: Art and Ecology in Education, Rubio addresses an experience of artistic mediation based on the functions of the cell, creating a metaphor of the behavior between people (cells), their communities (tissue) and the city (ecosystems).

Another relevant intersection arises from critical pedagogies, in light of Paulo Freire’s thinking and popular education. As it is relational, collaborative art is also pedagogical, establishing itself as a space for listening, dialogue and play. By facilitating or giving rise to an ecology of knowledge —that is, that which values all types of knowledge, both academic and formal, and non-formal and local— that understands ecology as a system of relationships.

In short, it is necessary to explore the possibilities offered by collaborative art as a way to regenerate, create and observe collective dynamics through transdiscipline, which can be crucial for the active construction of the ecosocial reality in which we participate. We must remember that collaborative art emerged at moments when humanity was debating the need to expand disciplinary boundaries and that premise materialized in various ways, with art in the public space being one of the manifestations of the debate.

Likewise, in terms of the research situated in diverse contexts, it must be said that there are increasingly more collaborative methodologies emerging under contemporary art. These include, for example, artistic mediation, dialogical art or community art, all of which aim to include transdiscipline and participation, among other concepts that resonate with each other.

These methodologies constitute spaces of care that are built from places of affection and non-judgment, making it possible to include the diversities found in a territory that nourishes a social fabric. From this perspective, then, it is possible to have spaces for the generation and regeneration of support, care, listening and resilience networks; all of which are essential conditions to face phenomena such as the socio-ecological crisis.

It is in this union that art can also constitute itself as an emotional path, a loving path, that might not allow us to radically change the world in terms of the social and temporal scales that we inhabit, but perhaps the ways that we relate to each other. Opening ourselves up to collaborative art can foster our amazement, help us discover ourselves in one another, keep us awake and activate a critical spirit around what we consume and build as socio-ecosystems.


*If you are interested in learning more about collaborative art, here are some recommendations:


This material was developed collaboratively by María Jesús Olivos, Educational Coordinator, and Violeta Bustos, Head of Communications of Fundación Mar Adentro.


(Español) Editorial FMA

María Jesús Olivos, learning coordinator at Fundación Mar Adentro. Visual arts artist and educator whose work has focused on the development of artistic-educational and collaborative projects to explore themes of identity and territory. Since 2008, she has delved into performance and learning through the body, thus her concerns extend to interdisciplinary creative processes. He has a Magister in Art and Education from the University of Barcelona. 

Violeta Bustos, director of communications for Fundación Mar Adentro. Journalist, graduated in Data Visualization and Master in American Aesthetics from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. He has experience in various fields of communications: creation and foundation of written media, teaching, research and content development for multiple formats. He has specialized in digital strategies, press, cultural and academic management.