Collective Futures Session 6 – Leave No Trace

A visual storyboard showing the 6th Session of Collective Futures including a visit to Salford Museum & Art Gallery, and anthotype making.

Artists are trained in mark making, printmaking, object making, film making and a multitude of ways to leave a legacy. Curators and archivists are trained in how and what to preserve of this process and cultural capital. How then can we reconcile this with ecological directives such as ‘leave no trace behind’ and ‘go zero waste’? What is sustainable making and how should we decide what is collected and valued? How can a collection or a creative practice be a vehicle for change?

To unpack these questions, photographer Gwen Riley Jones gave the collective the chance to explore sustainable photography including printing with wet spinach and take a deep dive into the University of Salford’s Art Collection to consider permanence, ephemerality and the cultural and environmental cost of creating and collecting contemporary art. The collective toured Salford Museum and Art Gallery, sharing their experiences of galleries before getting up close to interrogate three pieces of the collection and making links to place – Salford – and their sense of permanence of perspectives, bodies and materials. 

Reflections were made on how the programme is iterative and how parts of earlier sessions are being internalised and embedded into the collective’s lives and workplaces beyond the reach of each session. The group left with an anthotype, to expose in sunlight, slowly at home and then note how the image fades and disappears over time. The image to expose is a montage of each member of the collective holding up their resonant objects from session three.

You’re Invited: Hybrid Futures Exhibition Launch – 21st March

The latest instalment of Hybrid Futures launches at Salford Museum & Art Gallery next week. Bringing together all the work from across the Hybrid Futures project, you’re invited to join us to celebrate the exhibition launch on the 21st of March.

Exhibition Launch: Hybrid Futures 

5-7 PM, Thurs 21st March 2024

Salford Museum and Art Gallery

Open to all and free to attend, refreshments provided.

RSVP here: 

The exhibition brings together new work and co-commissions by Shezad DawoodJessica El MalParham Ghalamdar and RA Walden that will mark one of the final phases of the Hybrid Futures pilot project exploring collective and more sustainable ways of working. The exhibition in Salford is presented by the University of Salford Art Collection in partnership with Salford Museum & Art Gallery. Read more about the exhibition here.

A prayer room, water and dates will be made available to anyone observing Ramadan. Want to attend earlier? We will be offering a quiet hour ahead of the exhibition launch. Please contact Rowan Pritchard if you would like to attend from 4 pm.

Planning on attending? After your visit to Hybrid Futures, don’t miss Nikta Mohammadi: Memory Stone Preview at The Lowry, also on the 21st of March from 6 until 8pm. 

To travel to The Lowry from Salford Museum and Art Gallery, catch the 50 bus from the Crescent (opposite the Museum), to Media City UK. The 50 is part of The Bee Network, with easy access on all busses. For more information visit: 

Collective Futures Session 5 – Regenerative Cultures

Two members of Collective Futures in discussion, sat back lit by a large window.
Collective Futures members Mehren and Caroline in conversation at Rochdale.

(5-minute read)

Liz Postlethwaite of Small Things Creative Projects began the Collective Futures session by asking the group what they had each noticed in nature today. In response, the collective shared their observations on the changing colour of the autumn, heavy rain and the oxygenating effect of negative ions and bacteria release, the clouds and the light over the moors.
In small groups the collective went on to explore what regenerative means to them: 

  • New iterations
  • Momentum and energy
  • Doesn’t take more than it provides
  • Application to different models, organisations, system
  • Connected, collaborative and co-creative
  • Renewed, continued as opposed to ending of fragmented

From the sharing of a weekend activity – sweeping up autumn leaves – links were made between the body and the visceral process of regeneration, mutation and change including the menopause and searching for something in amongst the mulch. A comparison to the film Alien was drawn.

Liz expanded on these shared views, drawing attention to process, ecologies, sense of connectedness and self generation. She explained how the earth is regenerative and has been developing complex regenerative systems for 4.6 billion years and is a continuous growth or cycle of life giving process. The conversation touched on abundance, a definition of ‘we’ being bigger than the human experience and what ‘we’ need, what’s extracted is different for different people at different times.

Extractive, Sustainable, Resilient and Regenerative models

Extractive was explained as the predominant, industrial culture which keeps taking until nothing is left in systems, exactly where we are now – with a system losing capacity over time. Sustainable provides a steady flow -a system that was not depleted but not rebuilt at the same time. Resilient – a term co-opted in contemporary culture referring to an ecosystems ability to recover from shock. Regenerative held an upwards trajectory ecosystem, building capacity, growing life to allow for a resilient system to flourish.

The collective broke off into groups to discuss how these models of practice related to our own practices. This led to a discussion of how using these words was triggering for one member of the collective who connected the concepts to mutation and regrowth in an embodied sense. This directly linked to one member of the collective working for the NHS and the extraction of care from people and the body’s ability to regenerate cells from within a health care system with a depletive and extractive culture.

Another group shared their experience of how the extraction of resources (green spaces and authoritative powers not listening to public consultation) is not ultimately beneficial to the economic models. This correlates to the pollution of the sea and subsequent depletion of tourism in Blackpool and the complex and intertwined economic / ecological systems we find ourselves navigating.

The Collective Futures group sat in discussion around a table.
Members of Collective Futures in Rochdale.

There was a light bulb moment for two members of the collective and articulation of Sustainable and Regenerative Practice and what they want to be aiming towards.

Liz talked about time and urgency and the need to slow everything down in terms of our own personal responsibility and our aspirations for change. The urgency and pressure we are under to fix the planet was spoken about as not particularly helpful and it was posited that perhaps we should be aiming to contribute to a future world we will never experience; An example given was a tree we plant today being the oldest tree in a forest we will never know. If our relation to time and timelines could be readjusted not to align ourselves with industrial models of production and consumption, we might understand our place in the ecosystem and cycle of decomposer/receptacle of biomass.

Liz began to describe the three principles of permaculture as an ethically based design system informed by indigenous cultures caring for the planet, people and a fair future. Liz spoke about the context of late capitalism and how capitalism is designed to make us feel unable to step away from it as we feel trapped in a producer/consumer mode rather than producer/consumer/decomposer model we find in natural ecosystems.

Liz spoke about the ‘impossible’ in relation to the fall of the Berlin Wall – how this once seemed unfeasible and towards imagining a future in which radical change and faith in uncertainty.  One member of the Collective shared her insight on rights of species  – such as sharks in the Maldives.

An activity of reflecting on our own practice as regenerative and some self-congratulation from within the group. One member noted the way in which budgets were set for artists rather than asking the artists to quote for their work as something that could change.

Liz showed the collective a wheel of privilege which visibly plotted that privilege is not a single entity and can have impact in multiple different ways.

Announcing: Hybrid Futures Symposium

Hybrid futures logo

Friday 10 May 2024 10.00am – 4.45pm
The Old Fire Station, University of Salford & Salford Museum and Art Gallery

What are the environmental issues currently facing museum collections, art galleries and artists? 

Is it possible to make your work more sustainable in the visual arts sector? 

How can arts organisations and their local communities work together to influence change?

Is there the potential to test ideas and new ways of working in order to create a robust and effective model to change the way that galleries should operate in the future?

Join the Hybrid Futures partners, artists, commissioners, funders, community members and consultants for conversation and activity as we share our learning and explore together concrete actions our sector can take to create enduring and effective models of sustainable practice for galleries and museums.

Get updates on the Hybrid Futures Symposium programme and book here:

Collective Futures Fourth Meeting – POWER

Artist Hilary Powell and filmmaker Dan Edelstyn walked the Collective Futures group through their work and the motivation for POWER

Dan and Hilary trade as Optimistic Foundation CIC, a creative and community-based organisation that focuses on shifting power and subverting power structures. Power as energy and power as financial system, taking on projects to wipe out decades of debt and galvanising communities to take direct action. Hilary and Dan use their sphere of influence to incrementally and strategically build a vision of a better future and develop strategies to resource this.

Watch their presentation here.

Climate Impact Study of First Hybrid Futures Exhibition Assessed

A still image from Leviathan Episode 8 showing a young indigenous person in traditional dress and face paint looks into the camera. A caption included on the image reads: 'It reached the sacred alter, It reached the sacred alter".

Hybrid Futures Climate Case Study: Leviathan: From the Forest to the Sea exhibition at Touchstones, Rochdale 3 June- 12 August 2023

Leviathan: From the Forest to the Sea opened at Touchstones Rochdale featuring the 8th film in Shezad Dawood’s Leviathan Cycle, plus a series of physical artworks – was the first of the Hybrid Futures branded exhibitions to open. 

As part of the Hybrid Futures project, staff at Touchstones and the team at Shezad’s studio collected as much data as they could about the energy, transport and material use associated with the exhibition. This information was then analysed by Danny Chivers, the Environmental Advisor to the project, to see what could be learned about the climate impact of the show. 

Read the headline results in this pdf.

Read more about Hybrid Futures and sustainabilty here.

Collective Futures Third Meeting – Resonant Objects

Resonant Objects and Regrouping

A member of Collective Futures holds up a small punch of three bananas.
A member of Collective Futures holds up a small bamboo model of a house with green trim.

For our next meeting of the Collective Futures group, we met online on 5 October 2023. Each brought an object which holds a resonance in connection to the climate crisis and we shared why it is meaningful.

Objects included a cast iron frying pan, an overlocker, an ornament, a banana, books, metal straws, Twin Peak DVDs, a calculator, antiques, a family photograph, a wind- up radio, cleaning products, a spider plant, bin bags, African rocks, breath and Sajida’s nose.

A member of collective futures holds up a 35mm photograhic print of a baby on a parent's shoulders.
A member of Collective Futures holds up a rock in front of their right eye.

In under an hour, the Collective shared personal experiences, memories and emotions presenting objects that took us from the Amboseli, Kenya droughts and the mass deaths of animals, to sustainable bamboo building materials in Bangladesh to the worlds’ most contaminated  – River Doe Lea (1995) –  in Derbyshire to the everyday ritual of household waste disposal in Rochdale plus several other significant points of reference and resonances.

The feelings that were indirectly and directly expressed included the need for preservation of the past, fear, disbelief, overwhelm, frustration, injustice in the present, a sense of rootedness, the possibility for change, obligatory hope, the desire to nurture and cultivate and the acknowledgement of our inextricable connection to the world.

It’s not easy to get this kind of level of emotion and connection out of such a short session –  especially one that takes place online. It was a really powerful sharing and there’s clearly so much more to unpack between us.


As part of GRUNDY AT LIGHTPOOL: Neon, New Media and Natural Light Grundy Art Gallery is presenting work from Shezad Dawood and RA Walden, developed as part of Hybrid Futures.

THE UNIVERSE IS A CLOCK(i) Schrödinger’s equation, time dependent a new co-commission by RA Walden and Island Pattern a co-acquisition by Shezad Dawood will both be on display at Grundy Art Gallery until the 16th of December.


Grundy Art Gallery invites you to celebrate Lightpool with them at their late-night opening on Friday 20th October, where the gallery will remain open until 7pm. 

In addition, you are invited to attend the Lightpool Creative Conference on Saturday 21st October.  Visit Eventbrite for full information and to book your free tickets.

Artists and Sustainability – Shezad Dawood

A still image from Leviathan Episode 8 showing a young indigenous person in traditional dress and face paint looks into the camera. A caption included on the image reads: 'It reached the sacred alter, It reached the sacred alter".

Every month, Castlefield Gallery publishes a Sustainability Spotlight which focuses on one of the artists they are working with.  It looks at their work and how it might relate to climate change.

Hybrid Future artist Shezad Dawood was featured recently and you can read his thoughts here:

“There really is a role to play for artists, galleries and art spaces to connect with and support real-world change. Not just through best practice, but by stepping out of our comfort zones and working collaboratively with individuals and collectives from other disciplines and the wider public.”  Artist Shezad Dawood

A newly acquired work by Shezad Dawood will be shown at The Grundy along with a new commission by RA Walden as part of Lightpool from 20 October 2023.

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