Sustainability in Art: Dr Alexandra
Dr Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg is an artist who examines the fraught relationship between humans, nature, and technology. Her work is rooted in science, exploring subjects such as artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, conservation, biodiversity, and evolution with the exploration of the human desire to better the world underpinning her artistic investigations. Ginsberg’s experimental practice combines the design of objects, writing and curatorial projects.
Ginsberg’s work bridges the gap between art and science through her engagement of human emotion and human empathy for the planet, giving meaning to the scary statistics of climate change and making complex scientific data digestible. Her works Pollinator Pathmaker, Resurrecting the Sublime and Designing for the Sixth Extinction all critically engage with the human capacity for empathy for the environment.
Pollinator Pathmaker was originally commissioned by the Eden Project and is an interspecies work that aims to transform how we see gardens. The artwork is a direct response to the ecological damage humans have created and encourages a consideration of nature with empathy at its heart. The work inspires the creation of gardens with pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, in mind, rather than creating gardens for purely aesthetic reasons.
Through habitat loss and the use of pesticides, pollinators have massively declined all over the world. The Royal Horticultural Society state that the main problem affecting most pollinators is the loss of suitable habitat with climate change also affecting the geographical ranges which are suitable for many species. Pollinator Pathmaker aims to redress this decline by encouraging the creation of suitable habitats within our own gardens. The work is propelled by agency and explores what we can do to feel less powerless within the climate crisis. The agency and empathy that this artwork encourages is a hopeful engagement with nature and the climate crisis, offering an important, if not small solution to the crisis.
With every garden that is planted, from the Eden Project and Kensington Gardens in London, the connected artwork encourages a tenderness and empathy for the living world. There is also an algorithmic tool where you can design and plant gardens for the endangered pollinators.
Resurrecting the Sublime asks the question, could we smell flowers again that have been driven to extinction by humans? The collaborative artwork uses genetic engineering to resurrect the smell of extinct flowers, giving an experience of something that humans have destroyed. The engagement of the powerful and emotive sense of smell asks the viewer to contemplate and reflect on our destructive, harmful actions and hopefully change them for the future, preventing other flowers and wildlife to become extinct. The work is an ongoing collaboration between Dr Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and smell researcher and artist Sissel Tolaas and an interdisciplinary team of researchers and engineers from Ginkgo Bioworks a biotechnology company.
Designing for the Sixth Extinction investigates how synthetic biology can impact biodiversity and conservation asking the question can we preserve nature by looking forward. This work is engaging with the phenomenon of the sixth extinction which is driven by human activity primarily due to the unsustainable use of land, water, and climate change.
Synthetic biology is a field of science that involves redesigning organisms for useful purposes by engineering them to have new abilities, harnessing the power of nature to solve problems in medicine, agriculture, and manufacturing. Within this artistic experiment new species are designed to support endangered natural species and ecosystems. This work is fuelled by the optimism of synthetic biology and is an aesthetic exploration of this technology.
Dr Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s work brings together science and art, drawing from the past and looking to the future to create greater empathy for our natural environment. Designing for the Sixth Extinction, Resurrecting the Sublime and Pollinator Pathmaker draws out the human desire to better the world and heightens an awareness for nature and what we can do to feel less helpless in the face of the climate crisis.