5/2/24 · Institutional

The UOC's first artist in residence is focusing on digital narratives and climate change

Mark Farid is a digital artist, researcher and lecturer at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London
Mark Farid

The university's first artist in residence explores how digital narratives can help in the fight against the climate crisis. (Milla Lewis)

Can digital technologies change the narrative around the climate crisis? How can the dialogue between art, academia and activism help combat this global emergency? These are some of the issues tackled by Mark Farid through his Invisible Voice project. His residency at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) is supported by HacTe, Barcelona's Art, Science and Technology Hub, as part of the S+T+ARTS in the City European project.

Farid is a digital artist, researcher and lecturer in fine arts at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. He is one of 11 artists selected for the S+T+ARTS Residencies (Science, Technology and the Arts), a European Commission programme inviting artists to combine creativity and technology to address the challenges facing European regions.

"Invisible Voice is looking at how external things mediated through technology influence one's sense of self. This residency fits perfectly with the project I'm currently working on; it has given us amazing access to researchers at the university, NGOs, not-for-profits, artists groups and activists," Farid explained.

Farid's project initially aims to explore the challenge of how digital narratives can help Barcelona face the current climate crisis. He is working at the research hub of the UOC Campus in Poblenou, mainly with members of the DARTS, TURBA, MEDIACCIONS and CAREnet research groups, but also with other professionals based in the hub, such as the Audiovisual and Sound Lab, XR Lab and Digital Fabrication Lab. He said: "It's not about two separate bodies doing work – artists and researchers, or activists groups and not-for-profits – it's about how can we really make this an interdisciplinary approach, which the 21st century really is anyway. And that’s what the UOC is standing for. So it’s how can we take that ethos and apply it to Invisible Voice?"

Pau Alsina, principal investigator on the S+T+ARTS in the City project in Catalonia and member of the UOC's Faculty of Arts and Humanities, explained that "An artist's residency at the UOC allows us, firstly, to use the arts as a specific mode of knowledge that fosters cross-disciplinary dialogue between different areas of research, production, transfer and dissemination and, secondly, to engage in a multidisciplinary dialogue regarding the great current challenges we face individually and collectively as a society."

The UOC's Vice Rector for Alliances, Community and Culture, Manel Jiménez Morales, said "this residence at our university is intended to create an arena for interaction between artistic research and scientific-technological research. Each is grounded in different paradigms, but they have shareable methodological dynamics that also complement each other and expand the productive and social function of the university."

The nine-month residency is coordinated by HacTe, a hub for exploring the intersections between art, science and technology to tackle complex contemporary challenges. The UOC is one of the hub's founding partners, together with a dozen leading organizations from the cultural, scientific, academic and technological fields.

“The residency has been arranged by HacTe, Barcelona's Art, Science and Technology Hub.”

An artistic residency that cuts across faculties

For Pau Alsina, the cross-cutting nature of Farid's research and his ability to mobilize links between academia and society through arts and culture were key factors in the decision to welcome the artist to the UOC. The residency also involves researchers from other faculties including the Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications, the Faculty of Information and Communication, the Faculty of Economics and Business, and the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, as well as research groups such as DARTS, MEDIACCIONS, TURBA, GAME, MUSSOL and CARENET. As Pau Alsina explained, "the project calls for multiple perspectives and understandings. All these will feed back to the community of students, other members of the UOC and society through a series of actions linked to the S+T+ARTS project and the HacTe association."

Both Farid and the UOC firmly believe that the digital arts can make a real contribution to changing narratives in the fight against the climate crisis, moving away from the greenwashing practices used by many companies, and so encourage engagement and mobilization to drive the development of large-scale, transformative policies.

As part of the residency, an open day will be held on the UOC's Poblenou campus on 2 May for all the communities involved in the project to meet and talk. 

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