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An interview with Lucy Sollitt

Get to know our new Creative Director, Lucy Sollitt, in this quick fire Q&A

Lead image: River Claure, Ekeko, from Warawar Wawa (Son of the Stars) series, 2022

Lucy joined the team in June 2024 as our new Creative Director, leading FutureEverything into a bold new era. We caught up with Lucy to find out more about her background, her aspirations for the future of the organisation, and to discuss important themes and issues around art, technology and ecology.

You joined FutureEverything with a long history of working across art and technology, can you tell us a bit about your work and what attracted you to working with FutureEverything?

Throughout my career, I’ve specialised in innovatively merging art, technology, and ecosystemic change. This has included exploring the creative and critical possibilities of emerging technologies – from AI to games, quantum, blockchain and synthetic biology. One of the reasons I was drawn to FutureEverything is its long history of exploring futures in this field in the UK and internationally. I especially value how the festival brought together and catalysed collaborations across the cutting edge of disciplines and sectors – ranging from art and technology to science, policy and design.

My work is strongly grounded in visual art, I bring a philosophical perspective to this. I’m motivated by the transformative potential of art as a form of felt knowledge and a gathering point for exploring alternative ideas for how things can be. This is something I’ve championed when working across various parts of the visual art ecosystem – from public funding and policy, to the commercial art world, born digital art organisations, and when mentoring artists at the grassroots.

Many of FutureEverything’s recent projects have an ecological angle, for example Di Maidstone’s Emotional Biodiversity project or Unintended Consequences by Jen Southern, this is something that is important to me. A key area of research and thinking for me has been around my notion of the Synthetic Sacred. The Synthetic Sacred explores new pathways for ecological restoration amidst hybridity.

I’m continuing to develop the Synthetic Sacred in my new role at Future Everything, the ideas gradually will frame and imbue our programmes at FutureEverything. The Synthetic Sacred builds on my previous work in ecology, for example through the RSA’s Arts and Ecology programme and my MPhil in Philosophy which looked at gardens, knowledge and sustainability.

I’m excited to build on Future Everything’s history, and develop the organisation as a creative think tank across art, technology and ecology.

What do you feel are the important themes and issues around art, technology and ecology?

As mentioned, my focus is on exploring pathways for ecological restoration amidst hybridity. This entails reconnecting with nature (where relationships are fractured) but also attempts to face the messiness of reality rather than returning to a romanticised notion of pristine nature. Our ecologies are increasingly synthetic, to illustrate this, in 2020 the weight of human-made objects surpassed that of all living biomass on earth. As consumption and technologies advance our ecologies become ever more complex and synthetic, while holocene life is increasingly threatened. Art is a laboratory for knowledge creation which has the freedom and experimental capacity to engage with the complexity of what’s at stake when looking for more sustainable ways of being.

So for me the key themes essentially connect to this paradigm shift. This can include reimagining our relationship with technology and exploring development pathways for it which foreground other values and ways of being beyond the dominant capitalist-colonialist paradigm. The Synthetic Sacred is an attempt at doing this – I offer it as both a provocation and a framework with which to guide and detoxify our synthetic creations.

Critically interrogating technologies is also vital in order to understand and reveal where technologies are abstracting and extracting from nature (humans included). Artists have a long track record of unearthing and highlighting and exploring the implications of the interests, ideologies and infrastructures driving various technologies. Likewise, amplifying the material planetary entanglements of technologies such as AI is vital, highlighting its carbon footprint and how its conception and deployment intersects with issues of environmental justice and colonialism.

Addressing the practical dimensions of ecological restoration is also key, artists and creatives can help rethink and prototype alternative sustainable technologies and ways of operating. In this regard, I’m really interested in permacomputing, a concept and community focused on resilience and regenerativity in computer and network technology inspired by permaculture, and how this might connect with Indigenous created technologies (for example, the practice of Cannupa Hanska Luger). In the cultural sector we must adapt and even transform our models in order to embody the paradigm shift that’s needed – right now I’m working on integrating the Rights of Nature into how we work at FutureEverything.

As Creative Director, what are your ambitions for FutureEverything?

My aim is for FutureEverything to be part and help lead a wider collective movement of artists, researchers, makers and activists focused on forging new narratives and practices that contribute to ecological restoration. The idea is to explore this artistically and practically, instigating and leading new projects and initiatives, as well as working in partnership with other organisations from across art, technology and ecology.

I bring a philosophical, research and process driven approach to this and am keen to foster experimental models and methods. Other ambitions include growing the organisation and working with an increasingly diverse group of curators, researchers and creatives as we develop.

Our 30th anniversary is approaching in 2025 and I hope this will be a good moment to celebrate FutureEverything’s past achievements, moreover to invite you to be part of our emerging vision.

What do you do when you’re not working at FutureEverything?

I love finding poetic places to visit, especially places that are layered with a history of creativity and perhaps have a bit of strangeness or mystery to them. This might range from spending time at the House of Annetta in London, to visiting Merz Barn and Charleston House, enjoying ruins or visiting sacred places and shrines like CrossBones Garden, the more community-led and DIY the better. I also love markets and have worked on Columbia Road flower market over the years!

I also enjoy swimming and regularly swim in a big lake not far from where I live. My Philosophy thesis looked at gardens and I’m passionate about them, especially with a strong artistic vision. I’ve been cultivating a wildlife rich garden for the last couple of years. It’s a big learning process and I’ve found that the more attention I give the more joy and gratification I get back.

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