Earth we are and shall return, 2021-2022

Cuestas, Ingrid
Ingrid Cuestas, Earth We Are and Shall Return, 2021, Multimedia Installation © Ingrid Cuestas

Earth we are and shall return is a digital media artwork that deals with the vital importance of prioritizing food sovereignty to develop a sustainable system and live in harmony with nature. It is a sinestesic provocation about our ecological footprint, and a call for healing our current society to maintain life on the planet.

Through a virtual room, Cuestas presents an interdisciplinary installation starring by a vintage biochemistry laboratory that keeps the records of the experimental process of the edible biopolymers created by the artist. By entering into the room, people will dive in an immersive world within the metaverse full of alchemist, spiritual and shamanic symbols.

A project developed as part of the international Open Call Visions of transformations to sustainability by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI in collaboration with the UNESCO City of Media Arts Office in the City of Karlsruhe’s Department of Cultural Affairs.

Online at: https://hub.link/J2kDMxd

Interview with Ingrid Cuestas

“Visions of transformations to sustainability” was the theme of the 2021 International Sustainability Transitions conference and also the topic of the Open Call in which you were the winner. What is your vision of a world that is changing towards more sustainable ways of being? 

My vision is drawn from the acceptance of reality and the perspective of the eternal present, from the understanding of the past, embracing mistakes and lessons learned, replacing fear, prejudice, exclusion and guilt with trust, recognition, integration and responsibility, in order to outline new imaginaries of a possible world. 

Sustainable development is only viable to the extent that a balance is found between economy, environment and society, understood as interconnected and interdependent parts of the same whole. By having these related pillars in balance, we can subvert the forms of socioeconomic organization that have framed our value systems in favor of healing, building solid foundations for the well-being and fulfillment of all beings on the planet. 

This prosperous vision is configured from the reaffirmation of the technological and industrial advances obtained until today, putting them at the service of existence and not the other way around, as well as a reorganization of our knowledge system towards one in which the conjunction between nature, art, science, technology and spirituality is correlative, collaborative and indivisible, inspired by the model of communication, structure and intelligence of plants, energized by the implementation of the game as a work pattern and the stimulation of the curiosity of the human mind as engines of individual and collective realization.

How is your vision(s) expressed in the work Earth We Are and Shall Return

Earth we are and shall return is a digital media work that synthesizes this holistic, indissoluble and diverse vision that runs on the purpose of planetary healing, materialized in an interdisciplinary installation within the metaverse loaded with symbols, elements and systems of representation, developed through different languages and artistic media such as video art, installation, illustration and the culinary arts.

Relating opposites, swinging between complementary poles, nature and technology, art and science, analog and virtual, metaphysical and earthly, mixing digital and handmade, philosophical and spiritual, I have given “life” to a virtual installation with the purpose of provoking reflections, feelings and volitions, stimulating creativity and empowerment of each individual as a co-author of reality. 

Using technological tools such as virtual and augmented reality, I share the record of the process of experimentation and development of the edible biopolymer that I have been creating for some time. Thus, the work demonstrates to citizens that despite not being experts or being in a situation of power, it is possible to create solutions for our needs without generating a harmful ecological footprint on the planet.

What do you see as the interactions between art and science? How do they influence each other? 

Art and science are two sides of the same coin, they are two inseparable perspectives, complementary opposites.

Art approaches the study from the sensibility and the sensory in order to provoke an aesthetic experience, an encounter with beauty, while science does it from the intellect, through the exercise of objective thought and methodical observation in order to understand, codify, organize, create laws.

Just as in the coin both opposite sides are fused in the same material, art and science coexist within the same immaterial substance, thought and form, mind and spirit. They are two drives of knowledge that obey two complementary systems: art obeys the designs of the heart and science obeys the logic of the mind. 

The main requirement of the call was to generate a digital work. What are the difficulties in creating a work conceived for a digital environment? And what are the advantages?

Virtuality, like any other circumstance in life can be positive or negative, depending on the angle of observation and perception.

Virtuality brings us closer and separates us in a directly proportional relationship.

My biggest difficulty was to overcome the mental barriers of resistance to enter the virtual world because of the prejudice of the absence of physical and human contact. However, the impersonality, distance and separation of the digital are obviated in the work with the intention of exploring the opposite possibilities: a greater reach, its potential for global encounters and to generate new perceptions of the analog world from the immersion in the metaverse.

How has your work process been? Who else has been part of the project? What does working digitally mean for you and your team?

Earth We Are and Shall Return is a work that responds to the urgency of connecting with nature, with our roots, with ourselves, with the universe and its divine wisdom, in line with that spirit and the circumstantiality of a pandemic time. My work team is composed of people who live in distant places and who occupy special places within my network of affections. First of all, my two expanded arms are based in Madrid – they have been my accomplices in this adventure of creating edible bioplastics since the first prototyping process, carried out in an artistic residency at Medialab Prado. Diego Ramirez Aragon, a Colombian who is now also a Spanish citizen, is the programmer of the microscopic timelapse set and David Mingorance, Spanish virtual designer, has been in charge of building the virtual room from my sketches, ideas, illustrations, experiments, videos, instructions, visions and feelings. Cassia Cazita, Brazilian, was in charge of the executive production and of being my grounding pole in my most volatile moments. 

A second team of collaborators emerged in the middle of the road; they joined little by little in the construction of the sound score of the work: Carol Ramos and Junior Domingos, both Brazilian / Paulista friends, performers of shamanic sounds; Ismael Contreras, Colombian friend and colleague of long standing, sound producer, and finally Carlos Santander, Dj Charls, whom I met on my last visit to Colombia. The last one to join me as a performer in the video “Gratitude” was my great friend, master and colleague Gilberto Apolinar.

The term “expanded arms” expresses my conception of teamwork which, as I mentioned before, has as a referent the intelligence of plants and their cooperative and decentralized communication / motor system: biochemical signaling. This reference implemented in a virtual dynamic has been a process of adaptation and discovery, of refinement in my leadership, communication, tolerance and trust, in which we managed to make my imaginary take shape thanks to teamwork, individuality and freedom in the function of each one.