Intersecting scientific theories and human creativity: the poetic practice of interdisciplinary artist Kenneth Lambert
Kenneth Lambert’s conceptual approach captures the contemporary zeitgeist by transposing themes found in science to illuminate current social issues and rising anxieties of our time.
17 de outubro de 2022
Every human action leaves its ferocious mark on witnessing land, the onslaught of conflict, the carelessness of resource consumption and the reinstatement of laws that breed inequality and prejudice. Every little unbearable human fingerprint unleashes multiple ripple effects that cannot be erased, and therein lies the unspoken reality.
The long-standing effort of the United Nations and several global NGOs to implement measures to prevent the loss of biodiversity and human life are still incapable of combating the unprecedented rise of inequality and the severe decline of soil fertility. As we face a global food crisis due to climate-related events and human conflict, we are painfully reminded of how biodiversity is essential to human welfare.
Not only do the most vulnerable communities have to face the current conflict's base effects on the economy and food prices, but climate-related events are driving millions of people off their homelands and making hectares of land infertile.
Exploring these changing topographies of natural and human atmospheres, South Africa-born artist Kenneth Lambert conducts an experimental practice, creating installations, films, expanded painting and digital creations instilled with current social issues and contemporary rising anxieties. By intersecting science and technology, Lambert's process-led practice is a poetic interpretation of human creativity and its surrounding environments.
Your practice is rooted in the notions of experimentation along the lines of disintegrated matter and the articulations that reflect the human condition. For the ones who are not familiar with your artistic practice, can you describe it?
The easiest way to describe it is that I use technology to explore the stuff that affects us daily. Mental health is a crucial theme in my work and the origin of most thought lines. It has led me to convey my anxiety about the climate to my uneasy relationship with technology and privacy. Most recently, my early childhood displacement from my country of birth has led me to investigate the treatment of refugees in first-world countries.
Most of your work is a merge between conceptual experimentation and science /technology. How did you start merging these two fields? How do you put it into practice?
It just happened that way; my curiosity collided with my experience in digital design and film production. I got some excellent advice 'use the things around you to make art'. As a creative director, my focus has always been on the concept. However, we explored many innovative ways to create, intersect and build experiences around technology. So for me, it seemed like a natural fit.
As a cross-disciplinary artist, can you lead us through your artistic process?
My approach is first to establish a critical engagement. From there, I develop the conceptual framework for the project or body of work and then develop its execution which often involves a process of experimentation. There needs to be both conceptual rigour and an openness to explore, so the outcome may not be completely defined. It is fluid but with clear intent.
In your most recent process-led series of work entitled Incandescent Bloom, you highlight the process of acceleration, a change in velocity over time and its relation to climate change. Can you explain this notion of the process of acceleration? How do you implement it within the work?
Climate science derived the notion of acceleration. It began as a theme in my practice in response to the past Australian Government's lack of action in this arena. The idea is that change occurs exponentially and more dramatically than you would expect, as in the notion of acceleration. The build-up of carbon in our atmosphere and the increased temperatures have had innumerable repercussions. Every day there are more examples of endangered species and irreversible changes in ecologies; it just keeps accumulating. In the last two years, we have seen more dramatic events due to climate change than in a relatively short period. Australia's devastating fires and floods have brought it home that climate action isn't something we can defer for another decade.
In one of your art statements, you mention that "Perhaps some creative madness will inspire social change by joining the chorus of voices calling for action". Do you believe that art has the power to provoke societal change?
Art can provoke change; I am completing a residency with Amnesty International Australia this month, where I have developed a seven-tier arts strategy. The art strategy includes quick response and longer-term initiatives which deal specifically with AIA's critical areas of interest. It extends across secondary and tertiary education and has partnerships with art institutions. The seventh strategy uses public art and themes of monumentalism to create protest art. I am most excited about that one as I have dedicated the first work to climate change. So YES! I do believe that art has the power to provoke societal change. Getting it built is another story; watch this space.
Can you tell us about your installation entitled Forest Meditation? What is the concept behind it? How did you reach the final visual aesthetic?
Forest mediation began purely out of intuition. I was participating in a residency in Finland, and on daily work, I would discover specific areas of the forest sectioned off with yellow forest tape. I found the same material in a local hardware store and stopped at an enclosed and protected area, like a gallery space within the forest, while walking through the woods. The first tree I wrapped with the help of another artist. Over the next three weeks, I would brave the -30 degree temperatures, find my way into the woods, and wrap a tree. I didn't overthink it and was happy for the process to lead me somewhere. When I completed the work, I understood it was about human intervention into the natural world.
The forest was a tree reserve; the biodiversity in the forest had been eradicated over many generations.
When I returned to Sydney, I constructed the film's narrative from the footage and overlaid it with the accelerated colour fields - it came together rather quickly. After releasing it, the response has been fantastic and has helped me grow an online audience. My intention is always to be purposeful, but I have also learnt to trust my instincts even though I might not immediately know where an idea might be going. I know if I am intrigued, it will probably be instructive; I was merely a creative assistant, and the intuitive side was in control of the project.
In 2021 you completed a 3-month residency program at Woodford Academy. What can you tell us about the experience? How much did it impact your artistic evolution?
Woodford was interesting because it was the first time I had dealt directly with Australia's problematic colonisation in my practice. I dealt with it indirectly - by looking at geomorphic time and light but what I was trying to say was that the house itself was of little importance to me but what was there before was of greater importance. I naturally meant the Dhurag people, the original custodians of the land. After that project, another historic house invited me to respond to their site, and I took a more direct line. See 'How can you sleep?
What is the most fundamental thing to be able to create for you?
Creativity itself is a fundamental tool for human existence. I want in my work to create a space, a moment in time to reflect, wonder, and be. I want people to see the world as naively as I do; I want them to experience their humanity and demonstrate care for someone other than themselves through creativity.
Over the years, you have created various creative companies. How did these projects begin? How do they correlate with your artistic process?
I've been fortunate with my life partner to have built two creative businesses around our collective talents. Creativity and hard work have helped us out of some challenging environments growing up in lower socio-economic backgrounds. These firms and experiences have taught me to be ambitious and inventive in realising concepts. I have always aimed for creative excellence in these businesses and have found this rewarding. Growing up, I was always going to be an artist, but first, I had to become a designer, then a filmmaker, which has given me some beneficial professional skills. I see the previous experience as my training to become an artist with unique skills colliding with an ever-curious mind.
Since 2016 you regularly exhibit in solo and group shows. What advice would you give an artist starting out?
Just begin and dare to be ambitious for yourself. Any experience you can learn from is a good experience. Find like-minded people to share experiences, and help each other. Art is the act of doing, thinking, and feeling, so get going!
What is the biggest challenge of being an artist?
Time, resources and family. My art practice always takes more time than I anticipated. Always. You tend to be in your head a lot more, so it's hard to separate your practice from the everyday world of spending time with family and friends. Luckily I have a very supportive partner who snaps me back into normality, which is very important.
What have you achieved in your artistic practice that has given you the most joy?
A recent installation, 'How can you sleep?', is located in Australia's oldest surviving public building and a site of much trauma for the first nations people. Through a critical response, we placed an ingenious voice into the building as a vital aspect of the installation. The response has been excellent, and it felt good to contribute to that debate supporting the rightful recognition of Australia's first national people. Whilst it's not my most significant accomplishment in scale, it has opened me up to a new world and enriched me through cultural experiences working with the Aboriginal community. It encouraged me to seek out my origin story, being born in 'Where the storm clouds gather' (Cape Town, South Africa).
Artist Featured in Issue I.
Kenneth Lambert’s experimental practice embraces disintegrated matter and the inexorable expressions that reflect the human condition.
Lambert’s conceptual approach captures the contemporary zeitgeist by transposing themes found in science to illuminate current social issues and rising anxieties of our time. At the intersection of technology and the humanities, the artist’s investigations have led to works that utilise particle acceleration to relate to climate change and data translation technology to investigate digital autonomy. Lambert’s cross-disciplinary practice encompasses digital, film, expanded painting and installation.
Lambert draws on a diverse range of skills to thread through his artistic practice with a professional background that encompasses museum and exhibition design and film making. Since 2016 he has regularly exhibited in solo and group shows with Australian ARI’s and commercial galleries, including Artereal, Articulate project space. COMA and Galerie pompom. His work has featured in award shows in Australia and the USA. In 2019 he was named Grand Prix Prize Winner of the One-Self competition, which resulted in his work Data Blue featured at Scope Art Fair in Miami. In Australia, he has been a finalist in the Churchie Emerging Artist Prize, The Alice Prize, Incinerator Gallery Prize - Art for Social Change, The Fisher’s Ghost Prize, and Kilgour Art Prize. Lambert has also participated in artist residency programs, receiving the 2018 Newington Armory Residency. In 2019 he completed his first international residency at Arteles Creative Centre, Finland and in 2021 completed a 3-month residency program at Woodford Academy, the oldest surviving structure in the Blue Mountains.