Yearly Archives: 2011

Fear and Loathing in the West Highlands

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Norman Shaw’s Nemeton lives up to Alastair McIntosh’s stated approach to writing, “In the absence of 300 milligrams of LSD, how can I trip them out?”

This is gonzo academic writing at its best: faeries, faerie hills (a nemeton is a sacred space in the ancient Celtic religion), second sight, Ossian, standing stones (Calanais in particular), Masons, shit socks, Psilocybin (magic) mushrooms, hazel nuts, the nuts of knowledge, salmon, poaching, patrols for poachers, Christianity, damnation, the second coming, the Jacobites, superquarries, peat, and of course Beuys.

Shaw documents visually and in text a series of journeys to explore specific nemetons, sites in the West Highlands where our world and the dream- or otherworld are connected. These journeys are deeper explorations of previous experiences: Shaw, a son of the Manse, grew up in Lewis and Dingwall amongst other Highland communities. Revisiting sites with the specific objective of researching their existence as meeting points brings him into contact with everyday Highland life as well as with the other world. Cycling, driving and walking through the Highlands in the heat and the rain, in fog and on clear days, sometimes in company and sometimes alone, the journeys are psychological as well as physical explorations.

Nemeton is a rumination on the nature of reality, West Highland reality, which is distinct from other realities, just as Hunter S Thompson’s West Coast reality is an alternate reality. Just imagine three cycles dumped outside a café in a community hall on Harris.

“My bike has a crucifix for handlebars, with a wooden Christ having from it. His legs form the two forks holding the front wheel. Thus Jesus forms a kind of figurehead for the trip. Roineval will be our Holy Mountain, our Calvary. The bike becomes our cross to bear, dragging it round the roads of Harris, whilst simultaneously being steered by Christ, whose humiliation haunts the moors and glens of the Hebrides – a voice crying in the wilderness. A fine twelve-pointed pair of red deer stag’s antlers form Eddie’s handlebars. The deer is a symbol of time and a symbol of love. Time the deer is in the wood… It also symbolises the surplus of deer that roam the sporting estates of the post-clearance highlands; or the horned god Cerrunos, hermes trismegistus – often depicted as Moses with horns (as in Roslin chapel, for instance). Lee’s bicycle is steered by the skull and jawbones of a basking shark. His bike is an appeal to the maritime history of this place, of fish-based economies and a hearkening back to old Atlantis or even Tir Nan Og.” (p.100).

Shaw makes a compelling argument that our post-modern imaginary, breaking down assumptions about cause and effect, disrupting the linear narrative, exploring the circular, is fundamentally more suited to developing an understanding of dimensions beyond those accessible to the sciences of physics and imperial(ist) histories.

There are contributions from others including Murdo Macdonald, the Professor of History of Scottish Art at the University of Dundee as well as the artists Eddie Summerton, Lee O’Connor and Tommy Crooks.

At the heart of this book is a rumination on nature and the spiritual. Shaw belongs in the long lineage of researchers into the otherworld or dreamworld of the Scottish Highlands. What is distinctive about this research, done in the context of contemporary visual arts (as broad as that method can be), is the acceptance of the participation of the researcher in the world. Other texts describe things learnt or things found. This text shares experiences of the research. Ironically in this text the spiritual is not other, studied objectively, but rather immanent, studied subjectively. The altered states of this text confront head on the haptic, the liminal, and the full complexity of the Highlands: damnation at the second coming, the schadenfreude of village life where failure takes eviscerates incomers. Fear is visceral.

Why this book is self-published I cannot for the life of me understand, but you can get a copy direct from the author email nshaw777@gmail.com or write to 2 Inzievar Couirtyard, Inzievar Woods, Dunfermline, Fife, KY12 8HB.

Dr Norman Shaw

Born in 1970, grew up in the Highlands.

MA (hons) in Fine Art, University of Edinburgh (1993)

MPhil in Art History, Edinburgh College of Art (1994)

MFA in painting, Edinburgh College of Art (1996).

PhD in Fine Art, University of Dundee (2004)

Taught Art History and Fine Art at Edinburgh College of Art and the University of Edinburgh, before lecturing at the University of Dundee.

Exhibits widely in group and solo exhibitions, nationally and internationally. Outputs include drawing and painting, printmaking, writing, sound, video.

Exhibitions include ‘Window to the West’ (City Art Centre, 2010), ‘Prints of Darkness’ (Edinburgh Printmakers, 2010 (touring)), ‘Highland’ (RSA, 2007), ‘The Great Book of Gaelic’ (An Lanntair, Stornoway, 2002 (touring)), ‘Calanais’ (An Lanntair,1996 (touring)).

Research and practice is multi-disciplinary and polymorphic. Major source is the Scottish Highland landscape; its natural and unnatural histories, mythologies, mysticisms and psychogeologies; tempered by a unique visionary iconography which draws on an expansive range of influences.

Visual research ranges from drawing and painting to printmaking and installation. Influences and obsessions range from prehistoric megalithic culture and Pictish art to early medieval British insular art; and from the early northern renaissance to the northern romantic tradition; William Blake, the Celtic revival, surrealism, neo-romanticism, psychedelia, and occult, subversive and ‘outsider’ art, marginal, alternative and hidden histories. Draws heavily on music-related artforms such as record covers and paraphernalia.

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

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Devoted to artistic means of expression related to youth and climate

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Press Release

Special issue of Asia Pacific Mountain Courier on Youth and Climate Change.

Art in all its forms is a powerful means of communication. The arts help overcome barriers of language and culture, and they provide a creative pathway for debating and exploring global problems. For young people concerned with climate change, the arts offer a way to reach out and raise awareness among their friends, in their communities, and in the world beyond.

This issue of the Asia-Pacific Mountain Courier is devoted to artistic means of expression related to youth and climate. It builds on the previous issue on youth and climate published in November 2010, which focused on youth views, understanding, and climate change activities.

The contributions include posters, photo essays, illustrations, and other art works. They are drawn from youth leaders and youth motivators affiliated to several networks promoting youth engagement in sustainability, climate action, and the mountain agenda. Many of the contributions are drawn from the Youth Forum #150; Empowering Youth with Earth Observation Information for Climate Actions, held from 1 to 6 October 2010 at ICIMOD in Kathmandu, and the Asia-Pacific Forum: Youth Action on Climate Change; Exploration through Cultural Expression, organised by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) from 24 to 27 January 2011 in Bangkok.

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

Go to EcoArtScotland

Bibliography of an artist

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The artist and researcher Tim Collins just sent me two lists – his own publications as well as the Goto and Collins bibliography – texts that have influenced their artwork, research and writing.  Below is Collins’ list of publications.  I am adding both to the ecoartscotland bibliography as a separate page because they represent a research tool in themselves.

Collins, T (2012 forthcoming) Art, Imagination and Contradiction in Landscape. In Thompson, I. Howard , P. And Waterton, E. (Eds) Companion to Landscape Studies. London: Routledge

Goto, R. Collins, T. (2011 forthcoming) LIVING Things – The ethical, aesthetic impulse. In Brady, E. And Phemister, P. (Eds.) Embodied Values and the Environment. London: Springer-Verlag.

Collins, T. (2010) 3 Rivers 2nd Nature 2000-2005, Water, Land & Dialogue. Revue d’art Canadienne / Canadian Art Review, Vol 35 Issue3. Canada Universities Art Association of Canada.

Collins, T. (2008) Can or Should Artists Attempt to Creative Verifiable Change?In O’Reilly, S., Beauchamp, P. (Eds.) Sense in Place, Site-ations International. Cardiff, Wales: Centre for Research in art and Design, University of Wales Institute Cardiff, and Dublin: Dublin Institute of Technology DIT, Ireland.

Tarr, J, Muller, T. and Collins, T. (2008) Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers From Industrial to Environmental Infrastructure.In Mauch, C. and Zeller, t. (Eds.) Rivers in History: Designing and Conceiving Waterways in Europe and North America. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Collins, T. (2008) Art Nature and Aesthetics in the Post Industrial Public Realm.In France, R. (Ed.) Healing Nature, Repairing Relationships: Restoring Ecological Spaces and Consciousness. Chicago, ILL: Green Frigate Books.

Collins, T. (2007) Catalytic Aesthetics.In the publication from the conference, Artful Ecologies, Falmouth: University College Falmouth.

Collins, T. and Goto, R. (2005)An Ecological Context.In Miles, M. (Ed.) New Practices/New Pedagogies: Emerging Contexts, Practices and Pedagogies in Europe and North America. Lisse, Netherlands: Swets and Zeitlinger.

Goto, R. andCollins, T. (2005)Mapping Social and Ecological Practices. In Miles, M. (Ed.) New Practices/New Pedagogies: Emerging Contexts, Practices and Pedagogies in Europe and North America. Lisse, Netherlands: Swets and Zeitlinger.

Collins, T. (2004)Aesthetic Diversity.In Strelow, H. David, V., (Eds.) Herman Prigann – Ecological Aesthetics: Theoretical Practice of Artistic Environmental Design. Berlin, Germany: Berkhäuser Verlag, AG.

Collins, T. (2003)Lyrical Expression, Critical Engagement, Transformative Action: An Introduction to Art and the Environment. Community arts network: Reading Room,Arts and the Environment [online]. Burnham, L. (Ed.), [cited 22nd February 2007]. Accessed via Community Arts Network at: <http://www.communityarts.net/readingroom/archivefiles/2003/06/lyrical_express.php> (Subsequently translated into German) Lyrischer Ausdruck, Kritisches Engagement, Transformative Aktion. Hagia Chora Magazine, #17, 1/2004. Germany: Dietzenbach. pp. 14-19. (translated into French), Expression Lyrique, Engagement Critique, Action Transformatrice : une Introduction à l’Art et à l’Environnement. In Ecologie et Politique, #36, June 2008,Éditions Syllepse.France: Paris ) pp. 127-153.

Collins, T. and Goto, R. (2003)Art, Landscape, Ecology and Change. In Hall, T. and Miles, M. (Ed.)Urban Futures. London:Routledge.

Collins, T. (2003)Postindustrielle Landschaft-Nine Mile Run: Interventions in the Rust Belt: The Art and Ecology of Post-Industrial Public Space. In Genske, G.D. and Hauser, S . (Ed.) Die Brache als Chance:Eing Transdisziplinarer Dialog Uber Verbrauchte Flachen. Berlin, Germany:Springer-Verlag.

Collins, T. (2002)Conversations in the Rust Belt. In Herzogenrath, B.(Ed.)From Virgin Land to Disney World: Nature and Its Discontents in the America of Yesterday and Today. Amsterdam and Atlanta: and Rodopi.

Pinkham, R. and Collins, T. (2002)Post-Industrial Watersheds: Retrofits and restorative redevelopment (Pittsburgh Pennsylvania). In France, R.L. (Ed.) The Handbook of Water Sensitive Planning and Design. London, New York, Washington D.C.: Lewis Publishers.

Collins, T.(2001)The Rust–Belt Dialogues: An Artists Concept Model for Public Dialogue about Urban Stream Restoration. Ecological Restoration,19(3).

Collins, T. (2001)3 Rivers – 2nd Nature the River Dialogues. InBennet S. and Butler, J. (Ed.)Localities and Regeneration and Diverse(c)ities.Exeter: University of Plymouth, Bristol: Intellect Publishing.

Ferguson, B., Pinkham, R. and Collins, T.(1999) Re-Evaluating Stormwater, The Nine Mile Run Model for Restorative Development. Snowmass Colorado: Rocky Mountain Institute.

Collins, T., Dzombak, D., Rawlins, J., and Tamminga, K., Thompson, S.(1999) Nine Nile Run Watershed, Rivers Conservation Plan. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania:PA Dept of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Collins, T. and Savage, K.(1998)Learning to See Assets as Well as Liabilities, opportunities as Well as Constraints. Public Work, Management and Policy,2(3), pp. 210-219

Bingham, B., Collins, T., Goto, R., and Stephen, J.(1998) Ample Opportunity: A Community Dialogue. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, Carnegie Mellon University.

Collins, T. and Goto, R. (1997)Urban Reclamation. Leonardo,30(3).

Collins, T., Goto, R., Barnes, R., and Yuen, S.(1993) Aqua Pura(V. Trostle, V. andJ. Redensek ed.).San Francisco California: San Francisco Art Commission and the San Francisco Department of Water.

Collins, T., Farabough, L., Oppenheimer, and M., Richards, P. (1991) Art Along the Waterfront: A Guide to Opportunities for Public Artists and Public Art on the Embarcadero of San Francisco(J. Redensek ed.).Sacramento California:The California State Arts Council.

 

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

Go to EcoArtScotland

Review of the Cultura21 event “Can Artists Change China?”

This post comes to you from Cultura21

httpvh://youtu.be/010yAyQN2Dg

On June 16th, Cultura21 – together with partners – invited panelists with broad experience and knowledge concerning the art sector and the human rights situation in China for a discussion around the arrest of Ai Weiwei. The event was attended by more than a hundred people of all ages.

See also: Press articles on the event

One week after the event, on Wednesday June 22nd, we were very glad to hear about Ai Weiwei’s release, almost three months after the arrest at the Beijing Capital Airport.

But many questions remain unanswered – also by exceptionally quiet Ai Weiwei. The Chinese authorities’ statement that Ai Weiwei’s release is related to “his good attitude in confessing his crimes” (tax evasion) signals the ongoing threat of potential criminal prosecution.  Also, it must be kept in mind, that many human rights defenders and activists who were arrested or imprisoned for peacefully exercising their freedoms of expression, association, and assembly (rights that are guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution and international human rights law) still remain imprisoned. Read more (FIDH press release)

The topics dicussed on June 16th at Leuphana University Lüneburg remain of greatest actuality. In the following, please find a review of the debate “Can Artists Change China?”, synthesized by the FIDH in collaboration with Cultura21:

 

International Attention

The panelists debated the role of Ai Weiwei and the international media. “He may be famous in the West but within China his popularity/name-recognition is limited, which is also due to censorship”, said documenta12 director Roger Buergel. The panelists agreed that the Western media portrayal of Ai Weiwei is overly simple as it does not address the complexities of the art world in China or the human rights situation. However, it was pointed out that the media’s attention on Ai Weiwei does not alleviate the need to draw attention to the bigger picture of the current crackdown on many human rights activists.

Crossing the red lines

Ai Weiwei’s disappearance demonstrated that no one is safe from the strong arm of the government if he or she criticizes the government publicly and on issues considered ‘very sensitive’ by the authorities, such as the issue of shoddy construction in Sichuan which was deemed responsible for the deaths of thousands of students in the 2008 earthquake. The frustration and discontent of a majority of the Chinese population in the face of economic inequality and social injustice is boiling over in many ways, and in Ai Weiwei such anger finds an outlet that has tremendous reach in the international community (thus making him an increasing threat to the regime).

Spurious claims of economic growth as a human rights achievement

The Chinese government often argues that it has lifted millions out of poverty and that the Chinese people are freer now than ever before. Such propagandistic arguments mask the reality that the increasing wealth of the state strengthen the government’s ability to control domestic unrest and activism. It has been reported that for the first time spendings on public security have exceeded those of national defense/military. Even in the current context of aggregate economic growth, there are thousands of public demonstrations per year recorded.

Role of artists in social transformation

Artists take great risks to engage themselves in social activism, but they are a minority among the various groups that advocate for human rights and rule of law. Not all artists take political positions and many do not. Many artists are elitist and urban-based and their main objective is fame and profits. Some who wish to make political statements through their art also face other real-life restraints, such as finances. Foreign funding to domestic institutions, including NGOs, is heavily scrutinized, manipulated and restricted by the authorities.

Role of the international community

There is a need to better understand the complexities in China in order for external actions and advocacy be effective. There is worry that external demands may be seen as ‘colonial’ and would certainly be spinned this way by the Chinese government to generate nationalistic support among the population. On the other hand, silence is not an option. In fact, strong public outcry, including rumors that Ai has been tortured, may have forced the government to let his wife see him and prove that his physical condition was fine.

This post is also available in: German

Cultura21 is a transversal, translocal network, constituted of an international level grounded in several Cultura21 organizations around the world.

Cultura21′s international network, launched in April 2007, offers the online and offline platform for exchanges and mutual learning among its members.

The activities of Cultura21 at the international level are coordinated by a team representing the different Cultura21 organizations worldwide, and currently constituted of:

– Sacha Kagan (based in Lüneburg, Germany) and Rana Öztürk (based in Berlin, Germany)

– Oleg Koefoed and Kajsa Paludan (both based in Copenhagen, Denmark)

– Hans Dieleman (based in Mexico-City, Mexico)

– Francesca Cozzolino and David Knaute (both based in Paris, France)

Cultura21 is not only an informal network. Its strength and vitality relies upon the activities of several organizations around the world which are sharing the vision and mission of Cultura21

Go to Cultura21

Advocacy advice

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

The advice in this column although designed for the arts in the US, applies equally to environment and ecology, suggesting the best tactics to influence politicians, policy-makers and public sector decision-makers.  It highlights the importance of starting the meeting by establishing:

  • the fact that you are a constituent, and that the people you represent are constituents,
  • that you are aware of the political and policy priorities,
  • the benefits that your organisation or service delivers.

The article goes on to focus on the benefits that matter to public bodies:

  • Both arts and ecologies are sources of jobs and economic activity,
  • Arts and ecologies represent resources that improve learning and school systems,
  • Cutting arts and ecologies will not solve public sector budget problems: they represent tiny fractions of overall budgets.

Finally it recommends a team approach to maximise the impact.  This enables the first person to introduce the subject, the second person presents the fact-based evidence.  The third person then contributes a human story of the transforming experience that the arts or environments can have.

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

Go to EcoArtScotland