A Wilderness Science and Art Collaboration

Aldo & Leonardo, a partnership between Colorado Art Ranch and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, is a project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The project is inspired by the scientific wisdom of Aldo Leopold and the artistic genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Our endeavor is an interdisciplinary collaboration of artists and scientists designed to celebrate the lands, resources and opportunities protected by the Wilderness Act. In 2013, we are hosting one-month residencies in six diverse wilderness areas. Artists will work alongside wildland research scientists and gain firsthand knowledge of the wonders, complexities and challenges of our nation's wildest places. The result will be a body of work that creatively illustrates the value of wild areas and honors the scientific efforts to preserve wilderness for the next fifty years.

Friday, May 24, 2013

El Toro Wilderness and PISO proyecto

By Noemí Segarra and Félix Rodríguez-Rosa

For PISO proyecto, March was a very significant month as we were still in the initial stages of activating the now open space -once San Mateo Community which was expropriated in the heart of Santurce, Puerto Rico. For us this meant starting from scratch to clean, sweep the space, to design and build a mobile PISO 20'x10' platform in collaboration with second year architecture students from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus.
We remember brainstorming together in our PISO practice before the first Aldo & Leonardo meeting what wilderness meant. PISO took the time to research and dialogue about how wilderness is translated as a word, as a concept in Spanish. This took us down several paths of meaning, places, spaces, conceptions and understandings. The whole language, translation, definition, placement conversation arose. More questions than answers arose. This is an ongoing preoccupation PISO is invested in: decodifying meaning or the possibility of actualizing meaning from our experience in the present.
From our experience with Aldo, we identified some practices that we share with scientists. For example, we stay with something for a long time to see how it changes over time. We pay attention to minuscule details no matter how imperceptible or insignificant they seem. The first nature we study is that within us. From this practice we relate, move and are/exist in the world. In our understanding the knowledge derived from the practice of listening to oneself is not only a tool for movement or art, but for a way of seeing and experiencing the world and the various ecologies we constantly move in and out of.
This necessity to pinpoint this choice, quality of life and experiencing, builds the foundation of our practice that also stems from being pedestrians. Walking in the city, or walking everywhere, means moving at a slower pace and getting to see things that if you are riding a bike, or driving a car, you don't get to see. Thus this practice of seeing things beyond or past the surface to get to know them from different angles, even if this means we get to see what is not meant to be revealed­––all of this stuff is what we are after.
As PISO practitioners we document. We document via writing, taking notes, blogging, taking photographs, videos or audio recordings. We try as varied ways to catch the spirit of whatever we are experiencing. Also when we take the practice places we often experience we are the ones being dissected or studied by the gaze of the other that often expects we do "something." Added to this experience we have our own expectations of what needs to happen? We become true experimentalists or scientists when we decide what happens if we do not perform, and we just perform to whatever we are receiving from this moment or space/placement?
Surprisingly, what stood out for me -Noemí- was the nature of human relations how they entwined and gave shape to this whole encounter.
Something about communicating without words or beyond words and the quality of paying attention, showing up, being present and truly listening. We had a full array of possibilities as going to the wilderness meant waking up very early, taking a bus to El Tren Urbano, to meet with María in Jardín Botánico, to the drive to El Yunque. This whole segment of the trip which I think only a few PISO practitioners experienced was an epilogue each day we came to fieldwork. The degradation or range of experiences and spaces we traveled to get to the forest brought as varied landscapes and experiences framing the raw experience of what was considered the research itself.
Conversations we had with María Rivera on the way to Sabana Station offered entry points to what lay ahead. The trip and days were long.
Our conversations with María opened the day for experiencing. The collaboration implied collaboration and collective work, Yet it also meant close, one on one, or smaller group or duets in which a different type of exchange took place. Just like when a scientist goes out to nature to pay close attention and gather precise data, the interactions between scientists and / or fellow artists proved to be all full of newness which implies attention and a kind of presence and intention that is what PISO desires to cultivate.

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