Research interview: Diego Galafassi works with art for the SDGs
What do you do at LUCSUS?
I’m a post-doctoral researcher, co-PI of the project Arts4SDGs, which explores the role that arts and arts-based approaches to knowledge co-creation might play in realizing the SDGs.
What sustainability challenge do you find most interesting/pressing right now?
I understand the challenge of sustainability as one of transformations, of finding new ways of relating and being in the world. However we don’t know much yet about the kinds of capacities that are necessary to generate deliberate and purposeful transformations. Therefore finding ways to foster and nurture these capacities in open and engaging ways is to me a central issue.
How does your research contribute to address these issues?
One set of capacities I have focused on in my research is what concerns imagination. Imagination seems to be central to the process of moving beyond established ways of thinking, sensing and being. However the imagination of structural alternatives seems to be a scarce resource, and also rarely stimulated by mainstream cultures of education, communication and politics. Overall, in my research I look at the arts as a liberating power, capable of moving us into new reflexive spaces and as an indicator of our ability to imagine alternative futures. I’m seeking to understand what are the possibilities within the arts to develop processes of wider participatory knowledge creation, capable of stirring inquiries into fundamental assumptions which sustain the world as we know it.
What have you done before you came here?
Born and raised in Brazil, I did my undergraduate studies in Italy before moving to Sweden for a Masters at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. During my PhD (also at SRC) I looked at various forms of knowledge co-creation, from scenario planning, to storytelling, performance and exhibitions. My case studies were in Kenya, Mozambique and the Iberian Peninsula. Alongside my PhD I also coordinated the Arts/Science initiatve at Stockholm Resilience Centre between 2012-2015 then went on to work within the film industry where I’m now leading documentary and immersive experiences.
What drives you as an emerging researcher?
It is very exciting to see how people across all sectors of societies around the world are standing up to the challenges of profound change, in incredibly creative and powerful initiatives. Learning with these initiatives is a major driver of my work. Spending a lot of time in nature and taking long walks is also a great boost of inspiration.
What’s best with working at LUCSUS and/or in academia?
LUCSUS’ approach to research and its research environment emanates a rather unique blend between the critical and the creative. It has a commitment to integrated perspectives and to work with society for generating insights on how to live in these times of profound challenges. I’m recently arrived but the convivial and collaborative environment at LUCSUS are very empowering.
Tell us about your recent publication
Our latest article on Current Opinion in environmental sustainability, we reviewed the work of climate-arts and the role it may play in transformations that address the climate challenge. Arguably, the arts provide fresh approaches that can support societies in thinking, feeling and narrating their experiences of complex issues of social-ecological change. We found a flourishing movement in particular in theater and performance. We suggest that although a lot of work has been focused on raising awareness, there is a growing interest in working with arts as a process of knowledge integration and engagement of wider publics.
To the article: ‘Raising the temperature’: the arts on a warming planet. Current opinion in environmental sustainability, 31, 71-79, (2018) by Galafassi, D., Kagan, S., Milkoreit, M., Heras, M., Bilodeau, C., Bourke, S. J., ... & Tàbara, J. D.