Transhemispheric (residency*) Programme: a Caribbean — Nordic collaboration

Luis Berríos-Negrón
Intransitive Journal
7 min readMar 18, 2019


Development Phase

Jardín de Plantas Medicinales y Venenosas Dr. Esteban Núñez Meléndez, Estación Experimental, Univ. de Puerto Rico / Garden of Medicinal & Venomous Plants of the Univ. of Puerto Rico, 7.nov.2017, photo LBN


The Trans-Hemispheric (residency*) Programme [TH(r*)P] has been initially concerned with fostering, and questioning the art & science ‘residency’ as research mode for geographic intersections between disciplines, particularly between the Caribbean and the Nordic Regions. Since its inception in 2018, the programme is aimed at exploring and fomenting affirmative physical, cultural, and environmental relations across hemispheres.

The initial sites for the programme are Puerto Rico, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, with initial expectations to broaden the network to St. Croix, Colombia, Norway, Germany, and Switzerland. The programme is founded on a sincere wish to provide researchers with prescient experiences in ways that are not just limited to, but also shared across and beyond the Atlantic region. Still in due deference to the influential concept of Cuban-Caribbean anthropology ‘transculturation’, our group aspires to further evolve such narrow conception, one that indeed continues to carry limiting, European anthropological traits.

By turning to the broader intersection of geography and ecosystem constructs through the hemispheric denomination, we look to go beyond conventional notions of worlds that exceed and are not limited to human purviews. For us the ‘transhemispheric’ provides a broader geophysical and perspectival aptitude that allows us to consider, not global, but more than human agencies as they — very much within the logic of oceanic-atmospheric phenomena — affect to transcend each other’s boundaries, not just through non-linear relations, but precisely through invisible ethereal, spiritual and chemical affections.

With that in mind, to find common interests and collaborations — no less through prolonged travel periods by land and sea — we focus upon formative ways in which to sense, beyond the visual, the remote and unforeseen forces, particularly those human decisions driving Global Warming.


The ‘residency’ programme will initially encourage its participants to work with five ‘axioms’ for practise-based investigations and exchanges that address global warming: (1.) tropical and colonial memory studies; (2.) present and future convergence of global market and accelerated climate change; (3.) global warming resilience; (4.) plant science as social, sculptural, and infrastructural practice; and (5.) spiritual and bio-medicinal practices and solutions in herbal and tropical horticulture.

The initiative is committed to developing long-term exchanges between emerging and accomplished researchers and practitioners in the fields of art and of science. The desired pool of researchers and practitioners will not be limited just to institutional applicants. TH(r*)P will always be open to alternative and independent researchers, with the promise of providing a wealth of experience, circumstance, and knowledge — for the resident-participants, for all organisations involved, and for the public.

The structure for this ‘residency’ programme is to be initially catalysed through the making of an installation in Puerto Rico. One possible venue for the installation may be the Garden of Medicinal and Venomous Plants of the University of Puerto Rico. The process of making the art installation is put forth as a method to bring together participants from both the Nordic and Caribbean regions that – while participating in its production – may also provide output for the greater prospectus to the long-term conceptual, administrative, and financial structure for the Transhemispheric (residency*) Programme [TH(r*)P].

* ‘r’ initially signified ‘residency’, but we now expand it to ‘resonance, rewilding, remediation, recognition, reconciliation, rebuilding, revolution…’

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Thanks to two generous development grants provided in early 2019 by the Nordic Culture Point (FI) and Nordic Culture Fund (DK), this partnership across hemispheres is conceived and directed by Luis Berríos-Negrón (PR) to collaborate with Taru Elfving (FI), Jonatan Habib Engqvist (SE), Fernando Lloveras (PR), and Michy Marxuach (PR), with project management by Maria Kamilla Larsen (DK).

The core principle of TH(r*)P is to become a network-platform for art and science residencies. These expert-partners, as the ‘TH(r*)P Working Group’, have generously accepted, and are providing funding in kind, to collaborate and develop the groundwork for the programme. Each of the partners’ own respective operations are: La Esquina residency programme (Marxuach, San Juan), environmental and conservation n.g.o. Para La Naturaleza (Lloveras, San Juan), the Curatorial Residency in Stockholm of the Nordic Art Association (CRIS, Engqvist, Stockholm), and the Contemporary Art Archipelago residency programme (CAA, Elfving, Helsinki/Turku).

Through the grant application process, relationships between the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Konstfack University for the Arts (SE), the Royal Institute of Technology of Sweden (KTH) have been initiated. TH(r*)P will look to further foster partnerships with additional organisations such as Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño (Academy of Fine Arts & Design, PR), Instituto de Cultura (National Institute of Culture) in Puerto Rico, the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK) in Switzerland, the Jülich Forschungszentrum (JFZ) in Germany, and the University of Copenhagen (KU) in Denmark. TH(r*)P will work to create an advisory board with, but not limited to, members of these institutions.

The core motivation to develop this long-term collaboration extends from the unprecedented, back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes that hit the Caribbean in September of 2017. The combined force of the cataclysm inflicted an estimated loss of of over 3000 lives and a cost in excess of 90 Billion Euro in damages to Puerto Rico and the northern Virgin Islands.

The broader motivation extends from the recent warning made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN-IPCC) — in part citing the paper “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene”, co-authored by Katherine Richardson of the University of Copenhagen and Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resiliency Centre (et al, 2018) — that we have about 12 years to fundamentally change the self-destructive ways in which societies are operating today. Primarily, that we must see the planet, as ourselves, and our non-human partners, as a much larger living being for which we cannot exceed its ‘planetary thresholds’ of biodiversity. If we do so, benchmarked upon the 2°C global median temperature rise, we will push our planet towards an irreversible destiny of “cascading tipping points”; rendering the Earth uninhabitable.

Departing from that ongoing context of real crisis, without fear or panic, we see a dim, but hopeful light… that in the wake of such challenges, an encouraging sense emerges — one of willingness and possibility for research and learning about the manifold disciplines that can inform climate science, and the way we rethink the cultural values that instigate Global Warming.

Within that spirit, distant but discrete relations do exist between Nordic and Caribbean regions. In the Caribbean, a long legacy of colonialism, tropical studies, along with the recent set of economic and environmental disasters, provide a wealth of on-the-ground circumstance, scholarship, knowledge, and resilience to enrich the objectives of prospective cultural and climate research. In parallel, pioneering research and output is being developed in the Nordic region through innovative methodologies that converge social, artistic, scientific, economic, and climate science. By harnessing these respective virtues, TH(r*)P looks to support those who aim to study ways for societies to cope with and transform the confluences of free market speculation and global warming violence that are manifesting in unsustainable, life-threatening ways.

Entwining these parallel worlds presents potent possibilities for exchange, particularly through a trans-disciplinary approach to collaborations between artistic and scientific research.


In order to mediate those potentials, Berríos-Negrón proposes an initial art installation as ‘social pedestal’ — as support and display structure, as object of interface, and as space for research and collaboration — to foster a collaborative, conceptual ‘greenhouse’. Through the production of the ‘social pedestal’, whose form is as yet undefined, the participants from both sides of the Atlantic will be able to mediate their agency, physically and virtually, to foster both human and non-human interfaces. As a site for this installation, as point of departure, the Working Group is considering to contribute to the restoration of the Garden of Medicinal and Venomous Plants of the National Botanical Garden of the University of Puerto Rico, as a gesture of collaboration and as a site of common interests and convergences for the Programme.

The process of making the installation will not only look to contribute to nurturing cultural and scientific patrimony, but to hopefully also add a counterpart space on the Caribbean side, to further compliment, challenge and engage the Nordic residency platforms. TH(r*)P will be committed to assure that its participation will coincide, and genuinely support, the interests, and on-going efforts of practising students, artists, scientists, researchers, and other cultural producers. Likewise, through this action, we strive to contribute a practise-based objective centred around the greater, long-term prospectus, one we aim to fully develop as the ‘Transhemispheric (residency*) Programme’ beyond 2020.

Ultimately, the primary goal of the Programme is to explore artistic and scientific methods that nurture biodiversity as our common cause and remediation of global warming through Caribbean and Nordic perspectives. That goal — filtered through the experiences of the recent hurricanes and the 12-year time frame set by the IPCC — is set-forth for the Transhemispheric (residency*) Programme to become a long-term, caring, generous, world-centred, world class, research network.



Luis Berríos-Negrón
Intransitive Journal

Editor of Intransitive Journal. Puerto Rican artist exploring the perceptions, enactments, and displays of environmental form.