is resident at AirSpace and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery for 3 weeks, exploring Brownfields - researching and uncovering the plant and animal life that inhabit them - and the Museum's Natural History collection.
When we consider a city, the first images that come to mind will be of buildings, roadways, traffic, pollution, and predominantly human interactive activities - shopping, entertainment - theatre, cinema, pubs and clubs. A constantly moving, humming human-built and human-driven realm.
But what might we imagine next? What of the city’s natural eco-systems - the plants and animal life and the spaces they inhabit? While not necessarily our first concern, this layer of non-human activity and inhabitation - substantial but sometimes intangible and often overlooked - animates the city simultaneously and is crucial to the successful working of our urban place.
Within A Natural Selection
Rodrigo Arteaga explores this hidden layer of urban inhabitation. Over the course of 3 weeks, Rodrigo will look to two resources to research the scope and identify the microcosm of this city’s urban flora and fauna.
Firstly, he will concentrate on some of Stoke-on-Trent’s many ‘brownfield’ sites. A city’s post-industrial brownfields are invariably undervalued - considered ugly and of nuisance-value. However, we believe that they are of enormous importance to our cities - acting as a natural counterweight to the built environment. While either often fenced-off from or by-passed by human traffic, these spaces are allowed to be successfully reclaimed by new natural inhabitants - and offer perfect sampling areas of a city’s natural ecology.
Secondly, Rodrigo will work with the Natural History Department at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery to delve into their archives and collections of local, historical urban wildlife. Museums are great repositories of how our cities used to look and in complement with the brownfields, will offer the opportunity to contrast historical and contemporary perspectives.
After a very interesting and inspiring conversation about the possibilities of connecting institutions of art and science, the observation of wildlife and promotion of exchange between the sciences and the possibilities in both the residency and exhibition, I was shown around the collection and archives of the museum. It was stepping into where the museum is most alive and where it reveals its real identity - the back stores. The Natural History collection seen on display at the Potteries Museum are about 1% of the whole collection that lies beneath - this is perhaps applicable to most museums. I have been interested in relations between nature and culture, between the sciences, and I have a great interest in discarded knowledge. I was fascinated to see the old and discarded boxes of entomology collections. They hold so much meaning and say so much about our ways of relating to the world around us, manifesting how knowledge is as organic as the object of study.
- Rodrigo Arteaga, 2017
This residency is the first stage in a larger project looking at the importance of urban natural ecology. In June/July 2018, Rodrigo Arteaga will present the findings of his residency in the form of a series of interventions within the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery’s Natural History displays. At the same time, AirSpace Gallery will transform into an Urban<>Natural Research centre for an inclusive and participatory exhibition. All of this activity will feed into a major partnership exhibition in 2019 between the two spaces.
Rodrigo Arteaga b. Santiago, Chile, 1988. Graduated from the University of Chile specializing in Printmaking (2010) and currently studying Sculpture at the Slade School of Art. Some of his solo exhibitions are: "Just as the daylight was fading", Sobering Galerie, France; "A natural history of ideas, part II", Galería Tajamar, Chile; "Upon Stars and Roots", Galería AFA, Chile. He has exhibited his work in collective exhibitions in Germany, Spain, Bolivia, Perú, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia. He has been a part of International Biennials such as: IV Poli/Graphic Triennial of San Juan, Puerto Rico; SIART Biennial 2013, La Paz, Bolivia; 11 th Biennial of Media Arts, Santiago, Chile. He has been supported by grants from the Direction of Foreign Cultural Affairs of Chile, CONICYT, and the Prince Claus Fund.