The Wolfson College Living Lab platforms and supports projects that have an actionable or demonstrable ‘green’ impact to the College estate, its community or its wider network.
Waste to Art - Santiago Sottil
An interview with Santiago on his project can be read here.
A word from Santiago: "Wolfson’s Living Lab has allowed me to follow my passions and contribute to the sustainability of the College, even during the pandemic. I have been very fortunate to meet many Fellows and students involved in art and sustainability through the Living Lab, and its support has been essential in getting the Waste to Art project off the ground. I would absolutely repeat the process and encourage any member of the College to join the Living Lab!"
Transcript of text in images:
You are what you [don’t] eat.
Globally, one third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted: over 1.4 billion tonnes of food is lost every year. At the same time, 690 million people go hungry everyday. The global food chain, and wasted food which is part of it, is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, responsible for up to one quarter of all human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions.. When we waste food, we also waste the resources that go into growing, making, packaging and distributing it. The average UK household throws away some 270 kg of food every year. And yet, most adults do not believe they waste much food at all nor do they think of it is an environmental problem.
Food waste is also a stark measure of inequality. In low-income countries, the vast majority of food waste occurs during production, handling and storage. In developed countries, more than 40% of food is thrown away by the consumer.
What can you do?
In the cafeteria:
The Waste to Art project and exhibition aims to draw attention to the food waste taking place every day; in almost every household or community, big or small. A massive environmental problem, it goes nearly un-noticed. A problem which is by definition ‘thrown away’ – ‘out of sight and out of mind’.
In these works, Santiago Sottil draws on the visual language of 17th Century Dutch still life, with all their trappings of the desirable, exotic and luxurious, but turning the idea on its head.
Each still-life is created using leftovers from the cafeteria, food destined to be discarded, thrown away. Data on how many plates of food are used in each image, and the impact on the environment is carefully recorded and presented in the labels.
The works are carefully presented in the style of Old Masters paintings, gilt and dark wood frames underscore their significance. At first glance, you might think this is just another display of establishment tradition. Yet, in the context of a dynamic modern College, each artwork represents an urgent call to action, a challenge to re-think what we have and what we throw away.
From Henri Matisse’s anthropomorphic chair which, looks like it might just walk away, to Marcel Duchamp notorious urinal or ready- made bottle-rack turned upside down and declared a sculpture, finding beauty in the discarded, unwanted or everyday, is a long- standing pre-occupation for artists. Inspired by leading contemporary artists such as Mat Collishaw, who draws on traditional genres to explore difficult debates like the death penalty, this exhibition also challenges us to look and look again, considering a different perspective, an alternative hypotheses.
In a project that has taken the better part of a remarkable and challenging year, this exhibition also inadvertently tracks the changing season of academic Terms – each with its own distinctive colours, scents and flavours. Each object – borrowed, found or salvaged from College – is made more poignant and meaningful as it represents not only what we have, but what we have been denied. Using the medium and language of art, we ask: – what do we need? what do we waste? and, what do we treasure?
Anna M. Dempster, Cambridge, May 2021
Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, Santiago Sottil started drawing from a very early age, often exploring themes related to nature, architecture and the environment and inspired by his grandmother – who is an artist.
Increasingly conscious of the devastating economic and social impact of climate change, Santiago became curious about how these new and extreme environmental changes affect the natural world and how they might be explored, explained and communicated in a way that transcends language, borders and cultures.
After 18 years, Santiago swapped sub-tropical climates for the continental summers and very cold winters of Montreal, Quebec, Canada where he completed a Bachelors in Bioresource Engineering at McGill University, also working in sustainability consulting and as an Environment Specialist at Nestlé – where they make more than chocolate.
Santiago came to the UK in September 2020 to pursue an MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development at the University of Cambridge, enjoying the support and community of Wolfson College during the remarkable year of 2020-2021.
With a long-standing interest in the way our world can prepare, recover from, or adapt to extreme environmental shocks and increasing uncertainty, his MPhil dissertation explores climate change resilience. At the start of the pandemic he was painting more and more as way to explore the world, even in lockdown.
The Waste to Art project is a direct response to a challenge set by his professors – how to make the invisible visible?
In his free time, he enjoys cycling the trails around Cambridge, gardening, and painting. His parents, and grandmother (who is 94 in 2021) is planning to visit the exhibition in Cambridge this year.
In a year when the world has been turned upside down by a global pandemic, many amazing people have made this project possible. This exhibition is a testimony to their friendship, support and creativity. A special thanks (in no particular order) to:
Wolfson Sustainability & Conservation Research Hub
and President Jane Clarke, for believing in this project, start... to finish!
All Wolfson Living Lab projects benefit from mentorship and support from the Sustainability & Conservation (S&C) Hub, with approved submissions receiving an honorarium of £50. Additional banded funds of £100, £250 or £500 are available for projects that require specific resources.
Examples of Living Lab project areas might include (these are as a guide only, compelling ideas welcome!):
Submissions are welcome from individuals or groups from any member of Wolfson College past or present. Students are particularly encouraged to apply and can be linked to academic study if desired. Non-Wolfson affiliated individuals may apply as part of a group where at least one Wolfson member is leading or co-leading the project.
All submissions must be made in consultation with the S&C Hub, with final approval from the College’s Domestic Bursar.
The Wolfson College Living Lab Award is a mark of excellence that recognises the training and outcomes of a Living Lab project.
Awards are made on successful completion of a project. Criteria for completion will be decided on a case-by-case basis in discussion with the Sustainability & Conservation Hub. Examples of completion might be being accepted and presenting at the annual Wolfson Research Event, hosting an exhibition or formal closure event, completing a piece of academic work using your Living Lab project, or producing a non-academic project report for the Sustainability & Conservation Hub that details the work, outcomes or recommendations.
Where completion criteria is not met, or changes made in agreement with the S&C Hub, a Wolfson College Living Lab Award can still be received. In these cases, Awards will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
All projects will be asked to fill out a S&C Stories submission on completion of the project to disseminate the work, outcomes and impacts. All S&C Stories are record into the Sustainability & Conservation Hub Collection of the Wolfson Library. This is so we can fully celebrate a projects achievements, with it acknowledged into the Wolfson collective memory for years to come!
An initial fund of £3600 is available for all Living Lab Awards collectively.
The Living Lab Awards are made possible by a donation from the Hoath family “to stimulate the early development of Wolfson College’s Interdisciplinary Research Hub in Sustainability and Conservation; to encourage students, alumni and members to be involved in the Hub’s activities.” Read an interview with Dr. Steve Hoath here.
If you would like to support the Living Lab and the S&C Hub's activities, you can make a donation through Wolfson's Annual Giving page - choose "Other" in Designation and type "S&C Hub Fund".
Alternatively, you can discuss your gift with Sian, our Development Director: email@example.com.
Donations of every size, together, make a huge difference. All S&C Hub activities, costs and awards are funded through generous philanthropy.
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