Image courtesy of Helen Cawley —- 1. Infrared light at 34,000 ft. 2. Time lapse of the moon with fog. 3. Worms and sound waves. 4.How the heartbeat changes in vulnerability.

Helen Cawley MA Art & Science student at Central Saint Martins has been selected for the AER residency with LABVERDE in the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil happening in August 2018.

Set up by Professor Lucy Orta UAL Chair of Art for the Environment – Centre for Sustainable Fashion in 2015, The Art for the Environment International Artist Residency Programme (AER) provides UAL graduates with the exceptional opportunity to apply for short residencies at one of our internationally renowned host institutions, to explore concerns that define the 21st century – biodiversity, environmental sustainability, social economy, and human rights. Through research, studio practice, critiques and mentoring the AER programme is designed to envision a world of tomorrow; to imagine and create work that challenges how we interact with the environment and each other.

Helen Cawley is a multidisciplinary artist practicing the intersection of art and science and actively engaged in pushing the boundaries of disciplinary research.  Her practice revolves around a pursuit to understand the fundamental nature of reality, paradoxically trying to reach beyond a subject live experience. She therefore touches upon many areas of science and philosophy, but the main thread in her research is the use of technology in capturing natural phenomena for observation, experimentation, and to physically simulate aspects of sensibility and experience. She is in a long term collaboration with the CLOUD experiment at CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research), due to a shared interest in cosmic rays and the feedback between human behavior and atmospheric science.

LABVERDE is designed for artists and creators who are eager to reflect on nature and landscape. The programme will promote an intensive experience in the Amazon rainforest aiming to explore the connection between science, art and the natural environment.

Here is Helen’s winning residency proposal:

Creative Research on Micro Algaes

I am a final year MA Art and Science student, at Central Saint Martins with a background in Fine Art Sculpture.  I consider myself to be a ‘creative researcher’ practicing a form of environmental engagement.  I use technology to observe and simulate the propagation of natural phenomena in relation to a broad range of environments.  For example, I have worked with the heartbeats of people in diverse situations, the behavior of worms and other creatures in relation to sound waves, and the luminosity of space.    I learn through experimentation and it serves as my psychological connection with nature.  It makes me reflect upon my own position in nature, and with what I want to do with my time in this world.   I want to use creative research to help towards making positive changes, and because of this I have turned my practice towards the science of climate change.

Helen Cawley – ‘The CLOUD Collaboration ‘Clouds at 34,000 ft above a marine environment with an infrared camera

I have become involved in long term collaboration with an international group of atmospheric scientists called CLOUD[i] who meet at CERN (the European Centre for Nuclear Research) each year to perform experiments.  Their purpose is to learn about our climate and to make accurate predictions about climate change.  They pump chemicals found in our atmosphere in to a chamber, and look at how they react to various lights and ionising particles, to simulate how they react to the sun and cosmic rays in our real atmosphere.  An aspect of this experiment that I am particularly interested in is the fairly new discovery that vapour from micro algaes causes cloud nucleation[ii], a brightening of clouds, which makes them reflect cosmic radiation away from the Earth’s surface, thus cooling the planet.

The chemicals used in the experiment are based on samples that are taken all over the world.  The samples that contained the vapours of micro algaes were taken from Brazilian rainforests and off of the west coast of Ireland.  This means that the warm waters of the rainforest are performing an important role that needs more research.  If we learn more about micro algaes, there may be more options for us in combatting climate change.  By we, I don’t solely mean scientists.

From This Mountain I saw the Universe 2017. Sculpture, cyanotype collages – Lumen Show, Atina, Italy

I believe in the value of creative research.  Through practical application in arts we learn about material properties and apply materials to new uses.  We consider functionality and sustainability for use in design.  We learn about nature through interaction, imitation and representation, and information is embodied in our work, through aesthetics, function, and personal direction.  The creative arts assimilate materials in to general consciousness and culture.  To learn more about micro algaes and the environmental circumstances in which they thrive, creativity and interaction is an important step in our progression of knowledge.

I have recently begun working with self-designed (sculptural) polytunnels, in which I simulate the pyscho-geography endemic to the environments tested in the CLOUD experiment.  These environments are marine, forest, industrial, urban, and I also look at extra-terrestrial environments, relating to our current aspirations to reach Mars, in part due to the fear of destroying our own climate.  I want to elucidate unfamiliar aspects of the rainforest, based on sensory experience such as the humidity, the brightness, the smell, the sound, and other emotional conditions attributed to the space.  I am also keen to go beyond the surface for a true merger of art and science; I am intrigued by the transition of a living organism (algae) to chemical (iodine) and vice versa, and curious about biodiversity and the landscape.

Connecting with Labverde would be an amazing opportunity for inspiration and exchange, that would far exceed the ten day residency.



Helen will be reporting back to us on this blog after her residency on how she got on, WATCH THIS SPACE…

More about the LABVERDE Residency:

In 2015, internationally acclaimed artist, Professor Lucy Orta UAL Chair of Art for the Environment – Centre for Sustainable Fashion, launched the Art for the Environment Residency Programme (AER), in partnership with residency programmes across Europe. Applicants can choose from a 2 to 4 week period at one of the hosting institutions, to explore concerns that define the twenty-first century – biodiversity, environmental sustainability, social economy, human rights – and through their artistic practice, envision a world of tomorrow.

The LABVERDE program is a 10 day Art Immersion Programme in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest for art, nature and science lovers.

The core of the artistic research will be based on issues related to the Amazon environment as well as its importance for the planet’s ecological balance. The opportunity to develop innovative studies in the cultural field will be mediated by a high qualified team of specialists within the fields of arts, humanities, biology, ecology and natural science.

Experimentation and knowledge will be the tools used to inspire artistic working processes and contextualize discourses. By appropriating nature, participants are expected to promote aesthetic and poetic expressions that boost a conscious relation between humankind and nature.

The journey will take place in two different locations enabling a diverse scale and perspective of the Amazon rainforest. All participants will be lodged at the boat and at the scientific headquarters of Adolpho Ducke Reserve administrated by The National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA).

New Residency opportunities are being added all of the time, please keep checking the dedicated webpages for other AER Programmes available for application.  

NOTE: Applications accepted from UAL graduates, postgraduates and recent alumni (within 12 months from graduation date).

Related Links:

The AER Team: