ACTIVATE was created to serve as a home for our own cross-disciplinary initiatives and as a platform for the presentation of projects that share the aim of activating people around the urgent challenges of our times. The organization was conceived with the understanding that a perspective of the world through the arts can connect and communicate ideas that engage with today’s pressing issues, while also promoting a culture of conscientiousness, a greater awareness of our everyday practices and predispositions, and accordingly, a greater respect for the earth.

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The future calls for a more active and involved appreciation of the environment alongside an understanding of the balances that our planet requires.

The relationship between the ongoing visible changes to our environment and the continued impact of human intervention on it is becoming increasingly evident with each passing year. For this reason, the connections between the effects of climate change, the world’s growing water crisis, increasing food insecurity, and political instability and conflict, have made the discussion of these overlaps crucial to finding effective solutions for the future.





The first art initiative to be hosted by ACTIVATE is a series of Water Projects that began several years ago. Part of this series is the art exhibition THE POLITICS OF WATER—the first ever presentation of its scale topically, and scope aesthetically, devoted entirely to the subject of global water politics. The art works and projects included in this show illustrate the innovation within contemporary artistic responses to this growing global issue, and the extent to which diverse disciplines and fields of research have converged in current art practices.

This initiative presents to the wider public and to policymakers alike, not only the critical role water plays in the environmental climate change debate, but also the effect of global politics surrounding the protection, access, ownership, and distribution of the world’s water resources.

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This new series of projects addresses the geographical region of the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and N. Africa that has been designated as a climate change ‘hot spot’. Home to a population of nearly 500 million people,  the combined pressures of warming temperatures, spreading desertification, over-exploited resources, plus political and societal transitions, have already caused unprecedented challenges for people living both in urban centers and rural areas. Countries of the region must urgently devise appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies for the growing threats to the availability of energy, water supply, food resources, and to human health and security.

This ongoing initiative is composed of collaborative and research-based projects that address the interconnected challenges of this region. The first iterations of this project were presented at the 2017 Seoul Biennale.

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As the future environmental challenges of the EM/MENA region are expected to have particularly strong manifestations in urban settings—extreme water-related weather events, air quality deterioration, rising heat indexes, increased need for energy for space cooling—the daily lives of people living in its urban centers will be most affected by these projected conditions.

At the 2017 Seoul Biennale entitled ‘Imminent Commons’, ACTIVATE presented four city projects in the Cities Exhibition, that set forth the current issues and anticipated challenges faced by these EM/MENA region urban locations. Each project, produced in collaboration with a recognized regional institution, was developed within the exhibition’s curatorial focus on both contemporary urbanism and on proposing solutions for the future.

Parallel to this—within the Biennale’s Thematic Exhibition—were multiple presentations focused on agricultural and nature-based solutions that can resolve the water, energy and food challenges of this region, and help build ecological resilience: Going Beyond Sustainable: Water. Soil. Land. Food.

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As part of our larger objective of sharing information around the urgent concerns of our time, our participatory platform ACTIVATE | DISCUSSIONS presents our first series of publications—around the topic of water.

As water-related issues around the world are interconnected on countless levels, these essays engage with the many aspects of this subject, from water’s social, cultural and aesthetic manifestations, to climate change, the escalating pressures on water security worldwide, and the power struggles that limited access to water creates between communities and between nations.

In an effort to inform our audience about ongoing discussions in global water politics, our last series addressed the socio-politically and environmentally controversial water-transfer project, the “Turkey to Occupied Cyprus Sub-Sea Water Pipeline”  that was inaugurated in October 2015.

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As the planet’s resources continue to diminish, the need for commitment and action on both the regional and global level has become indispensable for the good of our shared and increasingly interdependent futures. In order to address our collective challenges and to find solutions for the years to come, we must seek more collaboration and exchange between nations, disciplines, and between people. At this critical moment in time, each individual effort to become actively engaged is both vital and important.


Projects 2019-2020

A Conference for the MENA region and “A Year of Water” Program
in collaboration with Future Earth and the University of Bahrain


For an overview of the main global agreements on the environment,
the U.N. Conventions on — Climate Change — Desertification — Biodiversity
and the Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) 2015-2030

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Landing page & banner images: Alfredo Jaar’s “Geography = War” (1991), installation at Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul 2014
Project images: Installation view, POMA Museum, Pohang 2015; Habes Valley in Marsa Matrouh, Egypt; Seoul Biennale Logo; photo from Ravi Agarwal’s “Scene of Crime” River Series