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Disturbing Conservation: Remapping the Avencas MPA
curator I workshop & display I 2018 I MAAT, Lisbon  

 

Disturbing Conservation: Remapping the Avencas MPA was an alternative Interpretation Centre for the Avencas Marine Protected Area (MPA). The work is designed to question critically and creatively what role cultural institutions might play in ecological conservation initiatives? And how the public can reconsider their responsibility and relationship to Marine Protected Areas?

 

In its first iteration, the interpretation centre presented three new displays that complicated ideas of marine conservation. The purpose was to re-imagine interpretation as an infrastructure and mediating system for visualising the lesser cared for concerns attached to marine conservation areas. Each display drew from feminism, anti-colonial thought and more-than-human positions to bring forth other stories and realities by taking care of what and who is being represented in the Centre. 

 

In ecological conservation, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are specially-designated zones dedicated to the long-term conservation of a marine environment. Valued for their biodiversity, MPAs are legally safeguarded and prohibit people from entering often for the purposes of extractive activities, such as fishing or farming. Doing conservation in this context means leaving nature alone to regenerate; caring for nature by actively doing nothing. If we think of the MPA beyond a site for the protection of wildlife, we can see that they are continually bound with numerous watery entanglements that touch upon issues of species hierarchy, human labour, conflicts with aquaculture, pollution, infrastructure, governance and more. Furthermore, the decisions made about the management and protection of marine environments are not in themselves neutral acts but are bound to societal values and wider sociocultural-economic systems.

 

This posed a series of interesting questions for us as curators. As a site being “cared” for in the eyes of science and law, what are neglected things not currently considered in MPAs? What other worlds are being erased in the act of conservation and how might the design of the MPA perpetuate ways of thinking and doing that harm some bodies over others? Disturbing Conservation reimagined MPAs in this expanded sense, not just as physical sites for ecological recovery but also as the object of a social challenge. Focused on raising the silent worldings of the site Disturbing Conservation sought to articulate the absent concerns and tangled complexities that produce the contemporary space of the Avencas so that we may better care with an MPA.