[ISEA2018] Artist Statement: Keith Armstrong — Change Agent (Media arts & International Development)

Artist Statement Also Artist Talk

Other Realities sub-programme

In 2016-17 a group of South African residents invited Keith Armstrong to live and work in their informal settlement as an ‘embedded media artist’, collaborating with them to invent radical ways of improving their housing stock. ‘Change Agent’ reflects upon the unexpectedly powerful role of media arts practices within this unusual transdisciplinary collaboration. His collaborators were informal settlement residents, Qala Phelang Tala, led by Dr. Anita Venter, PIAD (The Program for Innovation in Artform Development), Vrystaat Kunstefees Festival and the University Free State. Project ‘Re-Future’ involved him contributing creative process, resources and ‘media arts thinking’ to this key international development issue – that focussed upon ‘shack replacement’ strategies for residents whose futures were routinely compromised by poor living conditions, poverty, inequity, unjust laws and lack of stable tenancy. Significant outcomes were unique low-cost creative dwellings built principally of mud and waste materials, and three media-art infused public community gathering events for sharing learnings and fostering intercultural understanding (called ‘Merakas’). These activities led to increased governmental support, further completed building projects and university sector & foreign foundation engagement, allowing them to secure both local artists and doctoral students to develop the project further during 2018-20.

  • Keith Armstrong (Australia) is an experimental artist profoundly motivated by issues of social and ecological justice. His engaged, participative practices provoke audiences to comprehend, envisage and imagine collective pathways towards sustainable futures. He has specialised for over twenty years in collaborative, experimental practices with emphasis upon innovative performance forms, site-specific electronic arts, networked interactive installations, alternative interfaces, art-science collaborations and socially and ecologically engaged practices. Keith’s research asks how insights drawn from scientific and philosophical ecologies can help us to better invent and direct experimental art forms, in the understanding that art practitioners are powerful change agents, provocateurs and social catalysts. Through inventing radical research methodologies and processes he has led and created over seventy major art works and process-based projects shown globally.  embodiedmedia.com

Support: Australia Council for the Arts, Creative Lab Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia & Embodiedmedia