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  • Romy Kraus

#BauhausOfTheSeas: Art as Advocacy and Societal Transformation

TBA 21's Interdisciplinary Approach to Ocean Conservation

We meet Markus Reyman and Nicole Arthur from TBA 21 (Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary) during the Bauhaus of the Seas Summit and discuss the interconnectedness of art, culture, and environmental activism.

In our conversation, Markus and Nicole provide a deep dive into the societal transformation through their engagement with the Bauhaus of the Seas project. Here, they shed light on the foundational beliefs, challenges, and aspirations driving their innovative endeavors.

Can you elaborate on TBA 21's role and its journey?

Markus: "TBA 21 is a contemporary art foundation founded in 2002. In 2011, we started TBA 21 Academy, focusing exclusively on oceans through art, collaborating with scientists, policymakers, environmentalists... opening up to oceans and other bodies of water."

What's the connection between TBA 21 and the Bauhaus of the Seas?

Nicole: "TBA 21 has ocean space in Venice, generating care and action towards the sea through art. The Bauhaus of the Seas is a great opportunity for pilots to discover new approaches linked to water bodies."

Markus: "Art and culture are crucial in societal transformations. We were approached as an organisation dedicated to social and environmental questions to think about releasing radical proposals from the institutional zoo of galleries into cityscapes."

How are the pilots within the Bauhaus project created and rolled out?

Markus: "Pilot projects in seven cities... have received funding from the Green New Deal or recovery fund... designed to engage the public and imagine constituency not only between humans but also with nonhumans."

What challenges and opportunities does Venice present?

Markus: "Venice is the canary in the coalmine for sea-level rise. It's a fantastic place to think about future urgencies... one should see it as a site of catastrophe to imagine the future."

What would be an ideal outcome for this project?

Nicole: "The perfect outcome comes from a perfect process... If cities follow through, the outcome will be artistic, embedded in communities, continuing beyond three years, creating care and action towards water bodies."

What are the biggest challenges in realizing these goals?

Markus: "One of the biggest challenges is multi-sector collaboration... our organisations aren't set up for this... We need to experiment with ambiguity and uncertainty... managing diverse stakeholders."

What's your driving force or Northstar in life?

Nicole: "Connecting with people, nature, facilitating sometimes difficult communication or conversations."

Markus: "To midwife transformation towards a more life-affirming future."

Do you believe artists have a duty to be activists?

Markus: "Art isn't instrumentalized to have an activist purpose... It can also be about beauty. We work with engaged artists, but all artists don't have to be activists... It's crucial to have a diversity of opinions and conversations."

Who are you trying to engage with your initiative?

Markus: "The question is how to engage not just the converted but also those of a different opinion... We need to break the deadlock and work on both grassroots and policy levels... believing in market regulations as a powerful tool."

Their dialogue underscores the critical role of art in fostering environmental awareness and action, emphasizing the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, community engagement, and the embrace of uncertainty as pathways to meaningful change.


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