Furtherfield is a non-profit organization and community that was found by Ruth Carlow and Marc Garrett in 1996. It was created to reach out a wider audience without the constraints of the physical gallery spaces at London. Furtherfield was a small website where the artist, technologist, and academics have the freedom to DIWO (DO IT WITH OTHERS) to share the resources and contribute to the human knowledge through the integration of first, second, third or multiple spaces. It was expanded around the world later on. Furtherfield also has physical space, the Gallery, and Lab in the London’s Finsbury Park. It is a platform in the urban park where people can explore the network culture.
We had Marc Garrett to be our guest speaker on Adobe Connect lecture with our professor Randall Packer on 16th February 2018. Marc Garrett gave us a better insight of Furtherfield, Maker Culture, and shared with us some projects that are supported by Furtherfield. The major idea of Furtherfield is making art for a better society.
For example, an ongoing project supported by Furtherfield, called ‘Seeds From Elsewhere’ by They Are Here which gathering young asylum seekers and refugees, and others. Each of them has a piece of land to grow plants or food from their own homeland. This project is creating an environment that embraces, maintains and produce the diversity of the residency status in the current society. Further, this project started less than a month after Brexit, when the majorities are against migrants in the UK. ‘Seeds From Elsewhere’ is demonstrating that the DIWO culture should not just exist in the small garden community, yet it applies to all scales of activities even beyond the scale of the government. The garden itself has multiple functions. Firstly, it could be a comfortable place for the young refugees to hang out. Secondly, it might provide job opportunities in the future. Lastly, it could be used to address anti-immigration.
“The parallels in the rhetoric surrounding foreign plants and those of foreign peoples are striking … The first parallel is that aliens are ‘other’ … Second is the idea that aliens / exotic plants are everywhere, taking over everything … The third parallel is the suggestion that they are growing in strength and number … The fourth parallel is that aliens are difficult to destroy and will persist because they can withstand extreme situations … The fifth parallel is that aliens are ‘aggressive predators and pests and are prolific in nature, reproducing rapidly’ … Finally, like human immigrants, the greatest focus is on their economic costs because it is believed that they consume resources and return nothing.” – The latter quotes biologist Banu Subramniam, noting that these criteria ‘resonate unfortunately with xenophobic anti-immigration language in the United States and Europe’
Moreover, another artwork that Marc Garrett shared with us is HARVEST by Julian Oliver, a work of critical engineering and computational climate art. The two-meter high wind turbine transforms wind energy into the electricity required to meet the demanding task of Zcash, A decentralized and open-source digital currency. All the profits the HARVEST earned goes to the non-profit climate change research organizations to support the studies. In 2017, HARVEST was exhibited for two months in the museum. It supported three non-profit climate change research organizations at the end of the exhibition.
Last but not least, the Adobe Connect lecture ended with the Q&A session with Marc Garrett. As an art student living in the 21st century, I was not sure if my role is simply creating the painting, sculpture, and objects that are aesthetically appealing to the viewers or there are more responsibilities on my shoulders. Therefore, I asked the following question:
Marc Garrett answered that the consciousness of the environment is essential for artists. Technology is deeply influencing people’s behaviour nowadays, yet we must be aware of nature. As technology cannot survive without the survival of nature. Randall Packer added on that artist should be engaged with the society, connect with the issue, and invest in the process of working with others like what Furtherfield had done. Such as the ‘Seeds From Elsewhere’ project mentioned earlier. All in all, the role of artists is not just making this world more beautiful tangibly but probably a place where we can live with others peacefully.