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The Lost Species led by Lucy Orta explores the interdependency and diversity of wildlife through creative practice and history to draw our attention to the significant species loss the planet is facing. The project seeks to interrogate on the notion of loss, by reflecting on the loss of proximity and spiritual or religious meanings that were once assigned to animals and plants, and to the connections between absent wildlife and biodiversity loss.  

 

The project evolves a number of creative strategies for public engagement and dissemination that aim to amplifying public understanding of the increasing disconnection with the natural world; at the same time, the creative activations are methodologies through which positive narratives are devised and enacted, to ‘reenchant’ and encourage a re-imagining of human-animal relationships.

Creative activations as a methodology 

The Lost Species project has evolved from two expeditions artist-researcher Lucy Orta undertook in the Amazon with scientists (Capefarewell, Peru 2010 and Labverde, Brazil 2015) to gain first-hand experience of the effects of biodiversity loss on the ecosystem. In order to tackle to complexity of the multiple issues at stake and achieve meaningful (and measurable) impact the project focuses on localised creative activations, to engage with the general publics to amplify the topic. The Lost Species project is ongoing, since 2021 and includes the following creative activations. 

 

Mask Making 

 

The activity of Mask-making draws from Medieval proximity to and symbolism of animals to encourage young people to imagine new human-animal scenarios based on those that once existed in peoples’ collective imagination throughout the middle ages. Hybridity and magical shape shifting offer huge potential for reinterpretation, where humans develop animal characteristics imbued with symbolic content. The Lost Species Mask Kit is a resource that has been designed for a broad age spectrum, it contains pattern templates of the features of everyday, threatened, extinct and imaginary species that can be reassembled to create imaginary creatures and manifestos.  

The kit is supported by The Lost Species Handbook written collaboratively by Lucy Orta and Sophie Page, with illustrations by Lucy, which describes in more detail a selection of mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects that are threatened, or that were once abundant in Britain, providing insights into their decline and ways in which the general public can mobilise to prevent further loss. The two resources for community workshops, offer huge potential to open-up speculative narratives to overcome ‘climate anxiety’ and mitigate future species crisis.  

 

A major deployment of mask-making will be activated as part of Lucy Orta’s Artist-in-Residence in Kings Cross with expected family engagement of up to 5,000 people in October 2022 and February 2023. 

 

Draperies  

 

Drawing from the European tradition of tapestry since the 14c, soft draperies (wall hangings) adorn the facades of buildings or interior spaces. Different techniques are experimented according to the scale of the facades, these include digital collage textile prints, wall drawings and jacquard tapestries. Draping on architecture is one of the strategies for creating a rapprochement with species that may have wilded the location pre-Anthropocene. Draperies on a monumental scale transform urban landscapes into gardens, woods and jungles, referencing the symbiotic networks of the living world, rendering the invisible visible once more.  

 

To inaugurate Lucy’s residency, the Granary Building (Central Saint Martins) will be draped with ‘Fabulae Naturae’, a 50m wall hanging adorning the façade. The building will be undressed and the fabric transformed into costumes. 

 

Costume, Performance, Sound and Moving Image 

 

Performance is strategy to form temporary assemblies in the public realm. In these gatherings, the human body can take on the form of symbolic or real creatures, wearing the costumes like skins. Metaphorically the lost species are ghost or spirits of animals and birds that come to life momentarily, to perform their rituals. Audiences can bear witness physically and emotionally to their vulnerability, or their power to reincarnate.  

 

For Earth Day 22 April 2023, costumes and masks of extraordinary and magical creatures will assemble and perform together in a parade through the streets of Kings Cross. 

Project Outputs

Creative activations 
  • Climate manifestos 

  • Performance and film installation: Symphony for Absent Wildlife, 2021 

  • Glass sculptures: Masking, 2021 

  • Public realm: Fabulae Naturae, 2022 

  • Textile-based sculptures: masks and costumes, 2022 - 2023 

  • Performance: The Return of the Lost Species, 2023 

  • Film installation: The Lost Species (exp 2024-25) 

Dissemination 
  • Exhibition Courants Vert, ‘Symphony for Absent Wildlife’, Fondation Groupe EDF, Paris (15 December 2020 to 30 January 2021) 

  • Exhibition Unbreakable: Women in Glass, ‘Masking’, Fondazione Berengo Art Space, Murano (5 September 2020 to 7 January 2021) 

  • Exhibition ‘Masking’, La Patinoire Royale Galerie Valerie Bach, Brussels (5 March to 8 May 2021) 

  • Installation ‘Fabulae Naturae’ façade of Granary Building, Kings Cross, London (5 October to 5 November 2022) 

  • Performance: Earth Day Performative parade, Kings Cross (22 April 2023) 

  • Documentary film (exp. 2023) 

  • The Lost Species Handbook and Mask Kit, Vol II. Publisher Hatje Canze international distribution (exp. publishing date 2024) 

 

Inspirational pedagogy 
  • UAL Curriculum projects, including BA Costume for Performance (LCF), MA Performance: Design and Practice (CSM) (2022/2023) 

  • UAL Insights Spring Fashion outreach programme (6-9 April 2021) 

 

Resources 

The Lost Species

Plays homage to the interdependency and diversity of wildlife through creative responses that inspire and amplify the public understanding of biodiversity loss.  

Project Team

Get Involved

Interested in getting involved in the project? You can contact the project team via email: climatenetwork@arts.ac.uk

UAL Student or Staff member? Get involved with UAL's Climate Emergency Network by signing up to their newsletter.

Contact for the project 

Professor Lucy Orta, Chair of Art and the Environment

 

Email: l.orta@fashion.arts.ac.uk