In histories of art, science and culture, the island has has historically been treated as a "natural" laboratory because it has a physical barrier. A full stop. Fixed. Isolated. Utopia. From Ibn Tufayl's 12th century fantasy island novel to the pristine nature and fragile ecosystems of the Galapagos, islands have occupied a zone on the edge of our imagination drawing fascination for their wholeness and separation from other landmasses. But why do we buy into the idea of the island as closed?
Walk&Talk’s 2018 Public Art Circuit, Assembling a Moving Island, takes the island as open rather than closed space as its starting point. As scholars have observed, utopias aren’t places they are methods. Islands were not “discovered” - but continually remade through conquest, immigration, mass media, trade, science, and travel. Across São Miguel, six temporary, public art commissions explore the many things that pass through the islands borders and boundaries, viewing the Azores as an open model, where material things draw together immaterial concerns.
Instead of a microcosm cut off from the rest of the world, the projects suggest that we should see the island as an assemblage of many things, compositions, compounds, streams, frictions, embodiments, fudged up, made-up, aggregated, re-routed. Each artwork focuses on what encounters are exerted on beings, objects, ideas, and information, as they pass in and out of island contexts and can be read as experimental models within established systems.