Sensing, thinking, and making

Local Alternatives explores the transformative agency of the environmental arts in responding to the onset of climate change, biodiversity loss, and the digitisation of urban spaces.  The project explore diverse experiences and engagements with the environmental arts across international cities, including the experiences of children, young people, artists, designers, educators, curators, policymakers, and urban citizens from all walks of life. Our creative experiments are ongoing and open-ended, and often led by children and young people's sensory experiences, concerns, and imaginings of their local environments. We are interested in how the environmental arts can contribute to creative community responses and adaptations to global environmental challenges at the local level. We co-develop and co-produce this work to feed into public exhibitions, social interventions, future projects, collaborations, and networks. By mapping and mobilising environmental arts initiatives across educational, cultural, and community sectors, we aim to shape urban policy and planning for more creative and sustainable cities.

Local Alternatives involves partnerships between the Manifold Lab at Manchester Metropolitan University, the Creative Agency Lab at RMIT University, and an increasing network of museums, galleries, autonomous youth collectives, community arts organisations, studios, Labs, and schools in diversely situated urban communities and environments.  

Emerging Technologies in Urban Spaces

How do emerging technologies help us generate new kinds of environmental art, research, and education in urban spaces?


Our creative experiments explore how 21st century digital technologies are reshaping our shared urban environments.  We are interested in exploring technologies that sense the city outside the bandwidth of human perception. Digital sensors can pick up aspects of the environment that would otherwise be invisible to us, such as micro-pollutants in the air, or the body's unconscious response on the surface of the skin. 360 video cameras and mixed reality interfaces provide new perspectives on the spatial practices and environments of the city. We are currently working with emerging technologies as creative media for immersive artworks, installations, and social interventions that invite urban citizens to experiment with emerging technologies in public spaces. 



artistic and conceptual experiments


How can  creative experiments with strata help us sense the effects of climate change on everyday life?




How does our awareness of climate change shift our images and imaginings of the Earth?


How do we sense local environments through different scales, speeds, and durations of time?

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How do artistic practices open up new possibilities for sensing and belonging to local places?

We are developing an ogoing series of public exhibitions based on our work in the Local Alternatives project. 


Our first exhibition, called Superpositions, was held at Birley Art Gallery in July, 2018.


Remixing Thick Time opened at the Whitworth Art Gallery in May, 2019.


Inheriting the Anthropocene opened July 18th, 2019 and ran through March 2020 at the Manchester Museum. 


David Rousell (PI, Manifold Lab, MMU and 

Creative Agency Lab, RMIT)

Liz de Freitas (Manifold Lab, MMU)

Michael Gallagher (Manifold Lab, MMU)

Mark Peter Wright (resident artist, MMU)

Laura Trafi-Prats (Manifold Lab, MMU)

Riikka Hohti (Manifold Lab, MMU)

Maggie MacLure (Manifold Lab, MMU)

Kelly Chan (Creative Agency, RMIT)


Local Alternatives has been funded through The Creative Agency Lab (RMIT), The Manifold Lab (MMU Strategic Opportunities Fund), a Research Accelerator Grant (Research and Knowledge Exchange, MMU), a Researcher Development Fellowship (MMU), a Leverhulme Artist in Residence Grant, Säätiöiden Post Doc Pool (Finnish Foundation), and in-kind contributions from Z-arts, the Whitworth Art Gallery, and Manchester Museum. 

We are also connecting the project internationally through partnerships and exchanges with ITU Copenhagen, Roskilde University, Andromeda Gallery, University of Barcelona, University of British Columbia, the Tapies Centre, and the SenseLab at Concordia University. 


Suzanne Smith (Z-arts)

Z-artists (age 5-15)

Whitworth Young Contemporaries (age 15-25)

Hannah-Lee Chalk (Manchester Museum)

Sally Thelwell (Whitworth Gallery)

Rabia Begum (Whitworth Young Contemporaries)

Jonas Fritsch (ITU, Copenhagen)

Kristine Samson (Roskilde University, Copenhagen)

Signal and ArtPlay (City of Melbourne)

Contact Us

Manifold Lab (MMU)

Creative Agency Lab (RMIT)


RMIT University, City Campus

Digital Ethnography Research Centre, Building 6

124 La Trobe St, Melbourne 3004

Contact: David Rousell,


How do attunements to sonic vibrations, qualities, and imaginings help us to sense local environments differently? 


How do sensory technologies help us to cultivate different modes of feeling, expression, and  environmental awareness?


How does art shift our sensation of time and create the feeling of a shared atmosphere? 


How is our sense of natural and cultural inheritance shifting in times of climate change, biodiversity loss, and ubiquitous technology? 

©2018 by David Rousell and the Local Alternatives team.