Made up of Glasgow-based Finn Arschavir, Ane Lopez, Maria Sledmere, and Lucy Watkins, A+E was first founded by Ane and former collective member Jessica Piette after hosting a panel discussion and viewing of Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Red Desert for their ecology society at GSA. “We wanted to offer an informal, open and playful space for those students whose work was ecologically minded and consequently seen as incredibly uncool,” Ane tells It’s Nice That. “We were frustrated with how the climate and biodiversity crises were represented in art and the media in general and felt a responsibility and compulsion to represent it in a way that wasn’t tokenistic, tainted with greenwashing, or overly sentimental,” Finn adds. “In the midst of not only ecological but also post-graduation anxiety, forming a collective felt like the right thing to do, and still does,” Ane concurs. By creating a sense of community, A+E is able to tap in to the collective general sense of precarity in young people right now to pursue a more sustainable future in their art.
After self-publishing an “eco-anxiety” newspaper laid out to represent rising sea levels (But There Is No Land Near The End, funded through Kickstarter), A+E was officially birthed. The newspaper “allowed us to make a public-facing statement: a curated publication of responses to the concept of disconnection,” explains Ane, gathered from more than 20 local and international artists and then presented at an immersive event at Glasgow’s Art School venue. Now, A+E is an exciting combination of art, design, poetics, praxis, and critical thinking. “Most of our members come from a communication design background whereas I’m from a literature and creative writing world,” says Maria, pointing to one example of the collective’s diversity. “I would say throughout the three or more years I’ve been a part of the collective, almost all my own thinking around ecology has filtered through the conversations sparked by A+E projects — whether we’re working on speculative aesthetics, dark mycology or dream imaginaries.”
The collective are always cautious to invite negotiation and response into all their projects, opening up space for dialogue and communication. It’s a refreshing transparency, which allows A+E to avoid pretension. “We quickly found that our attention to design goes hand-in-hand with running more participatory and reciprocal events such as reading groups, workshops and public talks,” Maria adds. In this way, the collective itself runs as an ecosystem. With Ane’s work around film festivals and photography, Lucy’s work to help promote climate positive objectives in organisations, Finn’s work with the Goethe-Institute around fungi and weather systems and Maria’s work on lyric architectures for anthropocene thought, the four of them come together to “learn new skills, hold each other up in the face of climate anxiety and material precarity, extend our network of comrades and collaborators, and deliver playful, engaging and digestible work to a varied audience,” Maria explains. They’re symbiotic in practice, successfully working in different combinations and sometimes as an entire group. Finn and Maria, for example, worked on an experimental epistolary review of a Sternberg Press book, The Book of Wild Inventions, which was commissioned by MAP Magazine. Finn, Lucy and Ane, for example, worked on a series of concept-based fantasy cards for the artist/musician Livia Rita, touching on themes of utopia, ritual, magical thinking and elements. “As a result A+E is the complete entity which creates projects and outcomes which we could never have created individually,” Lucy explains.