Organizations, cultural agents and artists connected to art and ecology gathered at the 2nd Galafest in La Araucanía.
Creators, researchers, and collectives from Latin America, Europe, and Asia participated in the 2nd meeting of the Green Art Lab Alliance (Gala), an international platform that brings together initiatives contributing to environmental sustainability through creative practices. Bosque Pehuén, , privately protected area of conservation administered by our foundation and located in the Andean region of La Araucanía, hosted this space for methodological exchanges, dialogues, readings, walks, and collaborative creations.
During the first week of December, around forty artists, managers, and creators, as well as organizations and collectives addressing proposals and works addressing the planet’s socioecological crisis, came together. Dialogues, sensory experimentation, and collaborative creations were part of the program that extended over a week and included an exhibition and closing day open to the public. The organizers were our foundation, together with Museo del Hongo, Valley of the Possible (VOP), Green Art Lab Alliance (gala), and the Interdisciplinary Center for Research and Artistic Creation of the University of La Frontera (CIICA-UFRO).
Strengthening support networks among artists and cultural professionals linked to ecology and the desire for socioenvironmental justice, as well as co-creating a space for transdisciplinary exchange of experiences, methodologies, and knowledge, were some of the objectives of this annual meeting, now in its second edition in Chile (the first took place in Italy, hosted by Pollinaria).
The Galafest opening took place on Saturday, December 2, at the Pucón campus of the Universidad La Frontera, hosting the exhibition Cohabiting Biodiversity with works by various artists who conducted research exercises on La Araucanía during residencies: Nicolás Amaro, Seba Calfuqueo, Agencia de Borde, Andrea Galano, Mark IJzerman, Sébastien Robert, Claudia Müller, and Margarita Talep.
In the days following the exhibition’s opening, Gala members gathered in the Pehuén Forest, an area protected by our foundation and an outdoor laboratory hosting artistic residencies, transdisciplinary research, and educational activities. Until December 7, artists and researchers grouped in collectives such as FIBRA, Platohedro, Cocina CoLaboratorio, Moss Piglets, LAB Verde, and others participated in guided walks by the FMA conservation team, participatory assemblies, workshops led by participating organizations, readings, and artistic and scientific mediation experiences guided by the learning team of our foundation and members of the collectives forming part of Gala.
Maya Errázuriz, director of art and publications at our foundation, described the experience as “transformative” and added that, in some way, time stopped to enable an exchange of perceptions and methodologies among participants from different territories, mainly from Latin America, who share concerns, a common sensitivity, and camaraderie, beyond logics of competitiveness or productivity. In this sense, she emphasized that Galafest was able to project an infrastructure of care for in-person connection in a remote natural environment ” She also expressed that it was an environment that came from a place of ” solidarity amongst peers working in the arts and culture sector.”
Regarding the themes addressed in the program, Errázuriz highlighted metaphors around mycelium and the need to develop new ways of conceiving collapse, death, and destruction, “not as an end but as parts of the process that will lead us to generate future projections.” On the other hand, she emphasized the impetus to develop intergenerational and diverse integration practices, as well as reading sessions, a context that facilitated reflections on ecofeminism, biocultural heritage, and creating spaces of care as a form of political positioning in sensory interactions with nature, allowing the enhancement of activism, art, and healing practices.
From Gala, Yasmine Ostendorf-Rodríguez, valued the learning experience with people from around the world, stating that even though everyone works in very similar fields, they face different challenges. “The fundamental question that arose is how we can help each other with these challenges and how much we can learn from each other, despite our differences,” she said. In this regard, she added that a central aspect to approach the development of responses is to work transdisciplinarily and from multiple perspectives, involving art, science, activism, and politics.
Ostendorf-Rodríguez also emphasized the importance of developing languages collaboratively because “as we delve into different disciplines, we need to learn specific vocabularies and understand codes that encompass cultural, behavioral, and territorial aspects.” In this line, she ensured that Galafest allowed for a “truly enriching exchange, as people shared strategies, experiences, and learnings, providing significant benefits for the entire group.” It is worth noting that, on the closing day of Galafest, the founder of Gala presented her book Let’s Become Fungal!, a publication that brings together lessons from the fungal kingdom based on conversations with indigenous communities, curators, feminists, artists, and mycologists.
Olaf Boswikj, co-founder of Valley of the Possible, expressed that “experiencing the support of the network and perceiving that we are aligned working with common goals and challenges is essential for weaving collaboration networks.” Thus, for Boswikj, Gala represents a space where experiences, knowledge, and wisdom are shared openly and freely, characteristics that make up “a unique collaboration with an ecological thinking approach.”
The VOP representative also highlighted the importance of observing the public’s reception and resonance to the artistic-investigative work generated in residency contexts, referring to the exhibition presented at UFRO. In this regard, he stated that among the topics addressed by the artists are paths to continue thinking about deforestation in the Andean Araucanía, the loss of biodiversity, and monocultures. On the other hand, he emphasized the need to articulate approaches to decolonial thinking situated in a complex territory such as La Araucanía, a theme addressed by the academic and VOP resident, Milton Almonacid, which brought Gala participants into a discussion enriched by the diverse cultural contexts of each network member.
Finally, Juan Ferrer, director of Museo del Hongo, expressed his hope in continuing the themes and connections strengthened at Galafest, where connection was essential and active involvement has been crucial. “I am grateful for this experience, and moreover, I feel deeply inspired,” he said. Regarding the shared dialogues and knowledge, Ferrer emphasized that knowledge is acquired through experience, and the festival has been a nourishing instance to collectively represent and share the ways of working that have emerged under a network composed of more than fifty partners worldwide.