24 May 2023
The Global Co-Commission
An Initiative by Alserkal Advisory
The Global Co-commission project, spearheaded by Alserkal Advisory, in collaboration with the Global Cultural Districts Network, unites three cultural districts across three continents: Alserkal Avenue in Dubai, Kingston Creative in Kingston, Jamaica, and Victoria Yards in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a collective response to the global climate crisis.. Working with artists in each of the participating districts, the Global Co-commission intends to inspire new narratives of possibility, ultimately creating public art that is both responsible and impactful.
The intent of the co-commission project is to harness the power of networked cultural districts to respond collectively to urgent global subjects, and invite participants to renew their current perspectives and learnings. This inaugural cycle (2022-23), curated by Tairone Bastien, asks artists from the participating districts to respond to the central theme of climate change, and more specifically A Feral Commons, urging artists in these locations can rise to new challenges and rethink modes of working, create new models of the commons and new ways of living.
Each project will stand alone as a site-specific public art installation that will be accompanied by a programme that engages with local communities to further explore the theme and questions.
Through their site-specific public artworks, A Feral Commons invites artists to examine the often unrecognised co-dependency and open-ended collaborations between human and more-than-human beings.
Working collaboratively with Tairone, Alserkal Avenue (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) will present a work by Muhannad Shono (b.1977, Riyadh, KSA); Kingston Creative (Kingston, Jamaica) will show Camille Chedda (b.1985, Manchester, Jamaica) and Victoria Yards (Johannesburg, South Africa) will present Io Makandal (b.1987, Johannesburg, South Africa). Each artist will develop a new, site-specific public art installation in response to the central theme of climate change, uniting cultural districts from the GCDN across three continents.
In developing an initiative focused on contextualising the global climate crisis and driving collective action, we are supported by Urban Art Project (UAP), whose proprietary tools will help us measure the impact of public art not only by providing a framework to audit the project’s CO2 emissions, but also by tracking and reporting on the societal impact and afterlife of the three commissions and their associated programmes within each of the participating districts.
Public Art 360
A Feral Commons will self-audit the environmental impacts of the project, attempting for the first time to create public artworks across all three continents in the most responsible and conscious method possible.
To facilitate this audit our project team will collaborate with UAP and leverage their proprietary tools.
The Artwork Ingredient List and Public Art 360 will not only guide the team on sustainable practices but also measure the quantitative and qualitative effects on the environment.
Stay with us for updates as we journey together on this one-of-a-kind investigation to unpack the role of the cultural district in times of climate change, and rediscover the value and impact of public art.
What is ‘A Feral Commons’
Cities are anthropocentric, designed to support human life before and above all else. But, despite best efforts to enclose, domesticate and eradicate other beings to suit human needs and desires, cities are teeming with non-humans that refuse to be dominated or contained. Invasive trees and plants, resilient bugs, mutating microbes, and adaptive fungi, are just some of the non-human entities that persist, if not thrive in urban wastelands and that ferally participate in the making of worlds, co-existing and entangled with our own.
A Feral Commons proposes an alternative vision of the commons, which is normally defined as land or resources shared by a group of people. Instead, this exhibition invites artists to illuminate the necessary co-dependencies and collaborations between humans and non-humans and explore a more radical understanding of what the commons could mean in a multi-species world. Drawing upon visionary American anthropologist Anna Tsing’s research and writing on inter-species assemblages—or open-ended collaborative gatherings, and her specific use of the word feral to describe non-humans that participate in human projects but resist human control.
“Each co-commission is based on research and consideration of natural phenomena that resist human control: the undomesticated, the defiant and disobedient, inviting the public to learn with these feral ecologies about resilience, adaptability and strategies for survival in the face of the climate emergency.” - Tairone Bastien, Curator of The Global Co-commission’s inaugural cycle.
Muhannad Shono in his studio. Credit: Bala Ochangco / Seeing Things
At Alserkal Avenue, Muhannad Shono is studying unexpected ecologies that are thriving unnoticed in the urban environment of Al Quoz. His multidisciplinary practice is catalysed and structured by story, harnessing the power of narrative by creating and contesting personal, collective and historical truths.
In a city of constructed landscapes, Shono is interested in the wild and unplanned environments which have sprung up as a result of the urban landscape surrounding them.
Camille Chedda in Kingston Creative. Image Credit: Dennis Fyffe / Denni Visuals
For Kingston Creative, Chedda is working with the Lower South Camp Park in Kingston, a public area which for various socio-political reasons has become neglected and overgrown with wild plants, especially the ubiquitous Mexican Creeper more popularly known in Jamaica as the Rice and Peas Bush. An edible and medicinal plant and a magnet for bees and pollinating insects. Chedda proposes activating the space of the park and using the Rice and Peas Bush (among others) as a reference and symbol of those who must be remembered, and their stories.
Io Makandal – Feral Commons, Image Credit: Earl Abrahams
At Victoria Yards, Makandal’s impetus is the Jukskei river which runs through the precinct. One of the only major stream and river catchments in Johannesburg, the Jukskei river is severely overlooked, with contamination of its waters and soils from the source.
Makandal's installation will be positioned at the point where the river meets daylight and where the first impact of human mismanagement, sewerage and pollution come into effect. Using landscape and art as her motivation, Makandal hopes to build civic relationships with the river to help repair and maintain this vital water source.