Learnings from “Expanded Nature”: New Ways of Addressing Exhibitions in a Pandemic

The reflection on what we understand by nature in creative collaboration with artists and organizations, a great success despite the pandemic and activities and publications –that you can access here– were part of the results of our exhibition "Expanded Nature: Making the Invisible Visible".

From October 2020 to the end of May of this year, the exhibition “Expanded Nature: Making the Invisible Visible” was held with great success at the La Moneda Cultural Center. The exhibition, organized by our foundation and CCLM, sought to formulate a deeper and more comprehensive definition of what we understand as natural heritage via an exhibition that brought together sounds, textures, images and stories.

“Expanded Nature” was born in 2019 as an investigation by Maya Errázuriz, Head of art and publications at FMA, together with curator Carlo Rizzo in Bosque Pehuén, an experience later joined by four artists, who approached the problem of how to expand the way in which nature is defined, archived, documented, represented and protected.

Thus, Josefina Astorga, Máximo Corvalán-Pincheira, Laboratorio del Eco – Gregorio Fontén, Miquel Moya and Carlo Rizzo himself, carried out a photographic and archival representation of wild vegetation, the observation of natural species in danger of extinction and a reflection on the sounds of nature and the endemic foods of our territory, to develop a collective exhibition in which spectators were invited to reformulate a definition of natural heritage based on their sensorial memory.

In addition, thanks to the collaboration of Fundación Biodiversidad Alimentaria, Fundación Fungi, Geocom and Endemico, the exhibition rescued agroecological knowledge, the importance of traditional seeds and the work of seedbeds and seed guardians, the use of technology in conservation strategies, a selection of mushrooms from Araucanía and digital ways of sharing the works on display.

Considering the different restrictions resulting from the current health emergency, the exhibition registered a total of 4,768 visitors in person, among children, adults and elderly visitors, and reached a virtual interaction and reach of 641 people through different educational experiences–educational notebooks, dialogues and workshop– and 9,939 through communication milestones.

A few of the exhibition visitors highlighted some of the following aspects:
“The atmosphere that it produced led me to reflect and gave me a sense of tranquility.”
“The exposed material delivers harmony.”
“The descriptions of each work allowed me to understand more fully what each artist wants to represent through various artistic elements.”

And specifically about one of the online workshops  “Listening to the environment: acoustic ecology and sound design” conducted by sound artist Gregorio Fontén:
“I didn’t  know anything about this type of art, so I was amazed by everything presented, since I felt I was entering a new world that at the same time allowed me to pay more attention to the world around me.”
“I loved the exercise of collecting sounds based on that listening guide. It seems to me that it puts you in a different state when you get ready to record. It gives meaning to this part of the process. “
“I liked being able to learn something new and share knowledge and ideas with the teacher and classmates.”

Here are some of the highlights of the exhibition:

Educational Notebook. Pedagogical tool on the flora, fauna and fungi of southern Chile, food heritage and ways of raising awareness, which offers activities, a glossary and links to valuable references (available only in Spanish).

Nombrar Nuevas Naturalezas. This participatory exercise consisted of inviting visitors to generate their own description of natural heritage after having experienced the exhibition, based on three indications: the color that portrays the last emotion you experienced in nature, the adjective that characterizes a place in the nature that you usually travel to in your dreams and the action you most enjoy doing in nature. These terms would create a live word cloud.

Expanded Nature audiovisual dance performance: Inspired by the curatorial concept of the exhibition, this work incorporates body language to approach our relationship with nature from a new perspective. Directed by Paz Ramírez and the performance is by the choreographer Alexandra Mabes.

Spotify Playlist. Made by Maya Errázuriz and María Jesús Olivos, it compiles songs related to different aspects of the contents of the exhibition: about seeds, fungi, cosmic phenomena, sounds present in nature and more.

– Dialogues in the center. In conjunction with the Cineteca Nacional, two virtual dialogues were held, free and open to the public:
Chilean cinema and nature, visions of identity and territory: Presented by the director of the CCLM, Beatriz Bustos, the panel addressed environmental issues in relation to territorial identity from an audiovisual point of view. A conversation moderated by Macarena Fernández, editor of radio Play, and with the participation of Víctor Leyton, director of the documentary Pewen: The Earth Will Say; Alejandra Cariman, CCLM Intercultural Advisor; and Santiago Serrano, director of the documentary Araucaria araucana. This dialogue was part of the VOD launch of the documentary Pewen: The Earth Will Say on the website of the Cineteca Nacional.
Expanded nature, A Conversation with the Curators: Beatriz Bustos talks with the curators of the exhibition –Maya Errázuriz from Fundación Mar Adentro and Carlo Rizzo– about the importance of arts and culture to understand the conception that exists about nature and the relevance of the concept of Natural Heritage in the social imagery.

New ways to approach pandemic exposures
The reformulation of the concept of nature that we as a team sought took a new turn in the context of the health crisis, with its restrictions and associated forms of interaction. As a way for the exhibition to transcend the room and enter different places, we thought of ways to link the community to the exhibition project with different digital formats, virtual dialogues, an audiovisual approach to bring the outside to the inside and vice versa, as well as educational products that could be useful both when touring the exhibition and at home. The presence of the public is irreplaceable, but there is no doubt that all these virtual components meant, in the development of the show, new instances of outreach in the context of an exhibition. New natures.