TBA21-Academy is the exploratory soul of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, and an itinerant site of cultural production and interdisciplinary research. Conceived as a moving platform on the oceans, it brings together thinkers from various fields concerned with today’s most urgent ecological, social, and economic issues. Through its Expeditions on sea and land, TBA21-Academy seeks to reinvent the culture of exploration in the 21st century, while inciting new knowledge, communicative strategies, and dynamic solutions for environmental challenges facing the world we inhabit.
At COP21 in Paris in 2015, TBA21-Academy launched its latest initiative, The Current, an exploratory fellowship program based in the Pacific. The Current aims to literally take creative practice out of the studio, to take science out of the lab, and to take all participants out of their comfort zones. Working collaboratively across disciplines, the program merges the diverse approaches of artists, curators, scientists, and researchers, encouraging them to find innovative ways of addressing climate change. Imagining new ways of thinking about and engaging with the oceans and their broader historical, economic, geopolitical, social, and cultural processes, The Current aims to inspire unconventional solutions for an ecologically and economically sustainable planet.
Organized in three-year cycles, The Current is guided by invited Expedition leaders. The Expedition leaders of the first cycle (2015-2017) are Ute Meta Bauer, founding director, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, and Cesar Garcia, director and chief curator, The Mistake Room. During the Expeditions aboard the Dardanella research vessel, the Expedition leaders and their Fellows explore diverse processes of interdisciplinary research, knowledge production, and exchange. In this shared time, moments of collective thinking and learning are fostered and transfers of ideas occur amongst participants and the various communities they encounter throughout their journey. Free from the pressures of conventional exhibition-events, Fellows are encouraged to experiment within their own disciplines and to imagine expanded fields of practice that may be viable in spaces of multidisciplinarity.
Following the Expeditions, the Expedition Leaders in collaboration with their Fellows and the team of TBA21-Academy organize a Convening – a gathering of past, present, and future Fellows and others whose work informs and inspires the ideas, exchanges, and dialogues shaping The Current. The Convenings are envisioned as inclusive events, where the investigations of the Expedition leaders and Fellows can unfold in front of an audience in an experiential and participatory manner. They provide critically important moments of public interface, and a platform for testing ideas, while opening up for feedback, critique, and dialogue. The Convenings do not seek to construct representations of each journey for display, but rather to dynamically activate the experiences of Fellows through the creation of immersive, multidimensional, and multi-form engagements that exist in a multiplicity of creative, intellectual, and social spheres – helping to promote environmental consciousness and urgent action.