The Surface Agency is a collaboration between Yulia Kovanova (artist) and Ross Mclean (artist and landscape architect), as a shared creative interest in entangling speculative questions about the living world.

Working from the idea that to understand the living world is to appreciate its sensuous surface, Kovanova and Mclean are concerned with understanding ecological dynamics, encompassing the entangled interactions of social, biological, ecological and technological systems. These interactions are illuminated through immersive projects that invite audiences to consider qualities of our environment, drawing relevance to current concerns for the climate and biological diversity emergency, while promoting an optimistic stance that begins and ends with an enriched appreciation of the world’s sensuous surface.

The Surface Agency operates as a collaborative platform, bringing together people from other creative disciplines to combine expertise and creative vision. This includes fostering creative synergy between scientific and artistic understanding that can inform and enrich each other, which has included working with leading environmental agencies, such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In many projects, collaboration involves a transdisciplinary approach that includes communities living in specific environments, involving creative methods to draw significant insights from local knowledge. Practice-based outputs include live performance, gallery and site-specific installations, creative documentary short film, alongside theory-based outputs including published papers and a book publication.

This work has been presented at leading arts events, including the Setouchi International Triennale, Japan, Edinburgh Science Festival, Aichi Triennale, Edinburgh Arts Festival, and at international film festivals, alongside publication through leading art journals and book publishers.

Ross Mclean during the filming of Plastic Man

Ross Mclean is an environmental artist, landscape architect and educator, with interest in environmental philosophy and aesthetic theory. This includes specific interest in post-industrial site design, climate responsive design solutions, biological architectures, and ecosystem design. He has been involved in numerous ongoing interdisciplinary collaborations, consistently looking to develop modes of creative practice that align theory and practice with the dynamics of the living world. He is currently co-director of the Surface Agency, Lecturer on the MFA Art Space Nature and Programme Director of the MA Landscape Architecture, Edinburgh College of Art.

Yulia Kovanova at ‘Grey to Blue: Ecological Entanglements’ exhibition

Yulia Kovanova is a Scotland-based Siberian-born artist, filmmaker and film curator. Her practice focuses on the investigation of movement, perception, and the ideas of borders and boundaries, exploring crossovers between human and non-human worlds. She often takes an interdisciplinary approach, working across a range of media, including moving image and sculptural installations, and through collaborative practice. She is currently co-director of the Surface Agency, Artistic Director of the Edinburgh Short Film Festival, and tutor on the MFA Art, Space and Nature, University of Edinburgh.