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Flower power

New TCS visiting fellow explores the convergence of sustainability and art

flower parade walking through MetroTech

A flower parade around the MetroTech Commons took place as part of EDRA50, a conference organized by the Environmental Design Research Association held at Tandon.

In late May, EDRA50, a multiday conference organized by the Environmental Design Research Association, was held at Tandon, drawing a wide variety of researchers and practitioners who shared a commitment to shaping urban design and changing environmental behavior at the global scale.

Among the highlights of the packed itinerary was a collaborative art project by Sasha Vinci, who led an open workshop to sew a flower carpet (a project drawn from an ancient Sicilian tradition), with the aim of allowing participants’ energy to “bloom.” When it was complete, the artist convened a parade of sorts around the MetroTech Commons and into Pfizer Auditorium, where the marchers were treated to a musical performance from soprano Giulia Alberti and composer Vincent Migliorisi, who had written the Symphony of The Republic of Marvels specifically for the flower-carpet project. “The intent is to activate people and spectators through the magic of flowers and make them surge for the conservation of the planet, as well as for the sustainable reform of human society,” Diego Mantoan, the curator responsible for bringing the stirring spectacle to Brooklyn, explained.

performers on stage
A screening at Pfizer auditorium showcasing video art devoted to sustainable urban environments

Mantoan, an assistant professor of contemporary art history at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, focuses on art projects that deal with sustainability topics. In recent years his emphasis has been on connecting visual artists with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, in order to explore creative ways to enhance social awareness of those aims, which include eradicating poverty, fighting climate change, and finding sources of clean energy. (Sustainable Ca’ Foscari, the arm of the university that promoted the event and that has been working at the intersection of art and sustainability since 2013, administers a contest in collaboration with ArtVerona in Italy, and Vinci was the inaugural winner.)

Mantoan, who also screened a video of select art projects at Pfizer as part of EDRA50, has been invited to become a visiting fellow in Tandon’s Department of Technology, Culture and Society, where he will work with Professor of Environmental Psychology Richard Wener to study the ways in which contemporary art could influence our attitudes towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

“In order to hope for a sustainable future we must change our perspective and our behavior,” Mantoan said. “Contemporary art and practicing artists can help us shift our minds in unexpected ways, leading society towards sustainable development.”