Leah Barclay | Backwaters Artlab, Kerala, South India
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Backwaters Artlab, Kerala, South India

Backwaters Artlab, Kerala, South India

The final Australia Council for the Arts funded lab will happen in the Backwaters of Kerala, South India, in November 2011 led by Leah Barclay.  The REMNANT EMERGENCY ArtLab pivots on a series of site specific Labs in the Australian neighbouring regions of South-East Asia & the Pacific between 2010 and 2012. The labs involve rigorous research and experimentation offering the team an opportunity to understand and engage with ideas of remnant self, culture and environments, assisted through an examination of the complexity of cultures and inter-cultural exchange.

The Artlab team understands itself to be a new ‘change community’ in that we share a commonality of belief (that also respects our differences) – that we must apply our work towards envisaging an environmentally/culturally sustainable future. As a group we are therefore investigating new modes of creative thinking/action together that confront the roots of today’s ecological crisis. By naming the root of this crisis as cultural (rather than scientific) we clearly understand the problem we face as a being a ‘problem of us’. Towards that end we are seeking to develop new imaginaries that question deeply-ingrained, unsustainable ways of thinking and acting.

By conducting a series of labs in different geographical locations the project gives us an unparalleled opportunity to learn from other cultures whose practices are both different and potentially more sustainable than our own – and to then re-think and re-apply those sustaining knowledges to our own ‘change-politics’ activities. The discoveries made through these labs also translate into each member’s discipline/practice evolving into a methodology that is both increasingly sensitive to intangible cultural heritage and that forges new processes that seek to target the roots of our collective ecological crisis.

We have indentified Kerala, South India as a vital component of our research and are engaging in a ten-day residency in the Alappuzha district of South India in November 2011. As a socialist state government Kerala promoted education and ecological conservation in state policy before these issues were discussed among other Indian states.  These policies have resulted in a state where ecological conservation is practiced and fostered from an understanding of the interconnectedness between society and the natural world. The literature suggests that this has led to improvements in the quality of life, environmental stability, social and economic equality, and consequent decline in political strife. In the backwaters of Kerala, practices such as the Athirathram ritual and Ayurvedic science offer us insight into other ways of knowing that could potentially facilitate and inspire this interconnection in the western world. These three ancient practices have been indentified through a rigorous research process and we believe they will offer us critical insight into new paradigms involving a sustainable bilateral exchange between social, cultural and ecological practices in Australia and South India. Further information at www.remnantartlab.com