The Laboratory contributors come from diverse professional and cultural backgrounds but they share the common desire to foster positive eco-social change and help build pathways to better futures. In their ExPs, these artists, designers, practice-based researchers and activists recognise that working towards future flourishing is a political act that requires systemic shifts, which need to sprout from pluralistic considerations of what a ‘positive eco-social change’ might mean, to whom.
The ExPs that emerged from within the CreaTures Laboratory (most of them have outgrown the CreaTures project and are still ongoing) bring the complex task of making, or being an active part of, positive societal change into situated, relational, everyday life contexts. They invite diverse human and non-human stakeholders to a co-creative exchange on what living and working towards better futures may entail. By providing occasions for peer learning and experiential engagements with a range of eco-social themes and issues, the ExPs have empowered many participants to imagine, reflect on, and even enact their potential roles as agents of change.
The Laboratory ExPs were curated together in an open-ended manner, at different stages of the CreaTures project: some were invited at the project’s outset; others were commissioned later in response to the unfolding CreaTures research processes and emerging themes. This open-ended and relational approach to the Laboratory curation reflects the process-based nature of many transformational creative practices, where it is often accepted that meanings emerge over time and initial standpoints are likely to change, rather than being fixed. This approach enabled us (in CreaTures) to be reflective and flexible in responding to timely social and ecological issues, as well as emerging concerns (such as the global pandemic). Of course, as with any process of curation, the Laboratory collection is shaped by the subjective positions of CreaTures curators, facilitators and stewards, which brings up questions of what kinds of creative pratice are represented and what is missing.
While each of the ExPs was brought into CreaTures as an authorial project (proposed and produced by each author or author group individually), the ExPs were shaped up collaboratively, drawing on insights and inspiration shared by all CreaTures contributors. Besides engaging diverse audiences and participants, the Laboratory contributors themselves engaged in numerous co-creative and research activities, including internal workshops, interviews and various means of self-reflection. Upon learning about each other’s creative practice, several ExPs grew strong connections and started collaborating directly to develop new strands of work together – both within and beyond the ExPs. The Laboratory thus unfolded as a collaborative space for shared moments of reflection, convivial play, as well as occasional frustration. It became a space of collective care that supported new relationships and collaborations.
Throughout its three-year existence, the Laboratory created ample opportunities to experience how a sample of creative practitioners do their transformational work on-the-ground, in their distinctly situated contexts: what production methods and techniques they use, how they engage participants in co-creative reflection and action, how they bring diverse eco-social themes into their local or otherwise situated settings. These insights provided a rich resource for the CreaTures research and enabled the project to distill key methodological lessons and evaluative strategies concerned with transformational potential of creative practice. Drawing on insights emerging from the ExPs, the CreaTures project investigated how to make the richness and vital importance of transformational creative practices more visible to policy makers, funders and other powerful decision makers.