Yearly Archives: 2015

June Green Tease Reflections

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland


Performance artist and director of the UNFIX Festival Paul Michael Henry led the discussion in Glasgow.

UNFIX (10-12th July) is a festival of performance and ecology, involving live performance, dance, film, installations, workshops and debates. It understands ecology to be broader than the environmental sense in which it is normally taken, and instead considers it to be the many ways in which we are interdependent on each other, our surroundings, our bodies and psyches. Ecology is an environmental concept, but it is also a political, economic, and cultural concept that affects our mental and physical beings.

Indeed, UNFIX conceives of individuals, with their mental and physical beings, as microcosms of the whole. We are the Earth; by protecting the Earth we are protecting ourselves. To this end, Paul led us through various exercises exploring our sense of self and its relation to the physical surroundings. A particularly interesting one involved turning out the lights and moving at a constant pace out of our chairs, onto the floor, and across into the seat to our right over the course of five minutes. This made us exceedingly aware of where we were relative to each other and our surroundings, as well as exploring our sense of time – surprisingly not many made it into next seat before the end!


Art as a Language

We also discussed the idea of art as a language. The same topics can be discussed in multiple different languages and are hence conceived of in a multitude of ways. Each language reflects a different approach. The same can be said of the different arts. Each artist will approach a topic in a different way, in their own language so to speak, and art can therefore act as a catalyst for discussion, debate, and the formation of new ideas and perspectives. We intend Green Tease events to help facilitate such discussion, to provide a network in which a wide range of approaches and ways of thinking about climate change and sustainability in artistic practice are supported.

Edinburgh Green Tease

ArtCOP was the main topic of discussion at Edinburgh’s Green Tease, where Assembly Rooms and Church Hill Theatre Green Champion John-Paul Valentine led the discussion. Also present at the event were John-Paul’s colleague Will, the curator of Gayfields Creative Spaces John Ennis, several members of the Creative Carbon Scotland team (including director Ben Twist, project developer Gemma Lawrence, and blogger Kitty Dutton) and artists Alice Cooper, Katrina Martin, Venus Grelin, Hannah Imlach, Caroline Malcolm, Jaimie MacDonald and Mairi Claire Bowser who work in multiple disciplines including design, upcycling, and visual art.

In particular we were focusing on the ArtCOP Schools Art Competition, in which children and young people will be encouraged to creatively engage with topics in sustainability and the United Nations climate change discussions, happening at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris this December. The variety of expertise and experience in the room fuelled the development of the project as we discussed both conceptual issues, such as the theme and nature of the competition, and practical issues, such as how and where the work is to be displayed. A veritable ‘Community of Practice’ in action.

It was decided that, rather than a competition, it would be better as a Schools Art Project culminating in an exhibition of the work created throughout. This works better with the government’s Curriculum of Excellence as well as logistically.

We also decided that an appropriate theme was circular economies i.e. those which aim to keep resources in use for as long as possible by reusing, recycling, and rejuvenating products and materials (as opposed to the traditional linear system of produce, consume, and dispose).*

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle


The slogan ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ captures the essence of circular economic principles, whilst also providing various nuclei around which schools could base artistic projects. We were informed by Alice, who is from Australia, that they also include the instruction ‘Refuse’, to encourage people to consume only what they need. Sustainable consumption is not just about being responsible when consuming, but about questioning the need to consume in the first place. We felt that this added an interesting perspective for schools to engage with; one that is often lacking in the UK dialogue.

*For a quick and accessible explanation of the need for a circular economy and the principles upon which it’s based, see Annie Leonard’s excellent short documentary titled ‘The Story of Stuff’ (watch here:

The post June Green Tease Reflections appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

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Update about the Singapore Art Museum

The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) is a contemporary art museum which focuses on art-making and art thinking in Singapore, Southeast Asia and Asia, encompassing a worldwide perspective on contemporary art practice. SAM advocates and makes accessible interdisciplinary contemporary art through research-led and evolving curatorial practice. Since it opened in January 1996, SAM has built up one of the most important collections of contemporary art from the region. It seeks to seed and nourish a stimulating and creative space in Singapore through exhibitions and public programmes, and to deepen every visitor’s experience. These include outreach and education, research and publications, as well as cross-disciplinary residencies and exchanges.

SAM occupies two buildings: the old St Joseph’s Institution on Bras Basah Road, built in 1855 and now a National Monument; and SAM at 8Q, a conservation building across the road on Queen Street that was the old Catholic High.

In 2011, SAM was the venue organiser of the Singapore Biennale, becoming the main organiser in 2013. SAM was incorporated as a Company Limited by Guarantee on 13 November 2013, operating under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. It is no longer part of the National Heritage Board. To find out more, visit

Current exhibitions – Photos / Media Release

Imaginarium: A Voyage of Big Ideas is inspired by the crescent moon on the Singapore flag, symbolising a young nation on the rise and its capacity to dream big and think large. It focuses on themes of adventure, discovery, new possibilities and ‘Big Ideas’. This exhibition runs from 14th March 2015 to 19th July 2015

Link :

Once Upon This Island explores the stories and the lives that surround us on this island-nation. The exhibition presents a series of contemporary works by Singapore artists that navigate ideas of home, community, identity and memories, to coincide with Singapore Jubilee celebrations in 2015. This exhibition opens on 7 November 2014.

Link :

After Utopia: Revisiting the Ideal in Asian Contemporary Art is Singapore Art Museum’s latest exhibition that examines humanity’s eternal yearning for a better world. This exhibition runs from the 1 May 2015 – 18 October 2015

Link :

Current and Upcoming Exhibition: The Water Knows All My Secrets

The Water Knows All My Secrets

Curated by Ceren Erdem at Pratt Manhattan Gallery


Admission is free.

July 10–September 12, 2015
Opening reception: Thursday July 9, 6–8 PM

Image: Ursula Biemann, video still from Subatlantic, 2015.

This exhibition takes a critical look at our engagement with water, whether as a barrier, a threatening force of nature, or a resource at risk.

Halil Altindere
Ursula Biemann
Osman Bozkurt
Jethro Brice
Nikolaj Larsen
Didem Özbek
Mounira al Solh
Janaina Tschäpe
Müge Yilmaz

144 West 14th Street, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10011

11 AM–6 PM
Thursdays until 8 PM
Closed on federal holidays and between exhibitions

Arts, the Environment, & Sustainability Published as part of Americans for the Arts’ Arts & America: Arts, Culture, and the Future of America’s Communities

This essay looks at changes related to the environment and issues of sustainability and the role that the arts may play in positively impacting those changes over the next 10–15 years. In particular, this essay proposes the following trends and associated arts interventions:

  • The next 10–15 years will see a burst of new technological and technical advances that will allow the construction of smarter, more energy-conscious appliances, buildings, and other devices. This will both mean a shrinking of the ecological footprint of arts experiences and an increase in the opportunity to creatively integrate environmentally conscious measures—including monitoring energy use, community engagement, and conservation efforts—into art projects large and small.
  • As climate changes occur and certain parts of the world become less inhabitable, whole communities will have to migrate in what has been termed a “climate diaspora.” Thisdiaspora will, initially, disproportionately impact marginalized native populations with fragile, rich cultural histories. Efforts to preserve and disseminate those cultural and artistic histories will both increase awareness of the migration and maintain community cohesion among those attempting to incorporate into strange new conditions.
  • While others will not have to immediately move as a result of sea level rise or temperature fluctuation, many environments will eventually change so drastically as to impact the feeling of being “home.” Artists, in reaction to that unease and as activist leaders, will respond with an increase in art driven by environmental and ecological issues across all mediums, which will in turn create new public knowledge, dialogue, and action.

Download the Essay Here

Excerpted from Arts & America: Arts, Culture, and the Future of America’s Communities. This essay looks at the role of arts and issues of environment and sustainability over the next 10 to 15 years. The full book of essays can be purchased in Americans for the Arts online store.


“SCIENCE INSPIRES ART: Biodiversity/Extinction”

the 17th international art-sci juried exhibition organized by Art & Science Collaborations, Inc.(ASCI)

October 10, 2015 – February 28, 2016 at the New York Hall of Science

Today we are learning the importance of the conservation of Earth’s biodiversity for more than its innate beauty, capacity to inspire art, and to lift our spirits. It is acknowledged by scientists and even governments around the world, as the key indicator of the health of our planet’s ecosystems. And, a rich biodiversity underpins ecosystem “services” (such as recycling of nutrients, purifying water, removing carbon dioxide and adding oxygen to our atmosphere, and sustaining habitat for animals and organisms like trees, and seeds that produce food), all essential for human sustainability on our beautiful planet.

This exhibition will demonstrate the wide diversity of visual tropes that today’s artists are employing to reflect upon the crisis of biodiversity loss and species extinction. We are seeking 2D images of original art executed in any media.


Elizabeth Corr, the Manager of Art Partnerships at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Dr. Paula J. Ehrlich, the President & CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.


DEADLINE:   August 23, 2015

Applications are now open for Spring 2016 Residencies at Playa

“My time at Playa ranks as one of the most productive and artistically rewarding periods of my life. 

Whatever happened to me on my walks, in my conversations with staff and fellow cohorts, in my daily exposure to the natural world and its elements—it has led to a complete and utter rediscovery of how I write, why I write, and help me tap back into a creative force as a playwright that I haven’t felt in 10 years.”  Kevin Doyle (2014)

Applications are now open for Spring 2016 Residencies.

Deadline is September 1, 2015



PLAYA’s Spring 2016 Residency Application period will open soon. The application deadline is September 1, 2015. 

The Spring 2016 residency season will run from January to June 2016 (exact dates to be determined soon). All residency sessions will begin on a Monday and end on a Friday. Applicants may choose between periods of 2 week, 4 week, 6 week, or 8 week sessions. If you have questions regarding Playa’s residencies, or the application process, email us at

To apply, please read the following guidelines, then go to and follow the instructions.

On the edge of the Great Basin, PLAYA offers creative individuals the space, the solitude and the community 
to reflect and to engage their work through its residency program. PLAYA supports innovative thinking through work in the arts, literature, natural sciences and other fields of creative inquiry and encourages dialogue between disciplines to 
bring positive change to the environment and the world. 


Playa’s residencies are open to scientists, visual artists, writers, performing artists, naturalists, and individuals engaged in interdisciplinary work or other forms of creative research. Playa welcomes a range of applicants–from emerging artists of promise to professionals with an established history of accomplishment. However, applicants must exhibit a recent history of focused work within the discipline they are applying. In addition they must address, in the application, their ability to thrive in a remote, isolated community and be self-directed in their work. All residents’ work must be compatible with Playa’s available studio spaces, facilities, and resources, and with Playa’s rural setting and community (see policy below). Age, ethnicity, gender, or religious affiliation is not considered when reviewing applications for residencies.


A rotating panel of artists, writers, scientists and other professionals review proposals and recommend applicants for residencies. Applicants are assessed and admitted based on their demonstrated commitment to their work, and to what degree their creative process and work will benefit from the uninterrupted time and independent living environment that a residency at Playa provides. Final awards of residencies are at the discretion of Playa.

Application Deadlines

September 1, 2015 is the application deadline for Spring 2016 Residency awards. Award notifications will be made by October, 2015. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Completed applications and supporting materials must be submitted online at does not accept  Residency Applications by email, regular mail, or fax.

Annually, we have two rotating application deadlines:

  • March 1 – for residencies occuring in the Fall (August – December) of that year.
  • September 1 – for residencies occurring in the Spring (January – June) of the following year.

There are no fees charged for a Playa Residency. However, your application must be accompanied by a $35.00 non-refundable processing fee ($70.00 if applying as a collaborative team of two or more) . If accepted each resident (including each member of a collaborative team) is asked to submit a $100.00 deposit, which is refunded following the completion of a residency and is not refundable if a residency is cancelled.

As a nonprofit organization, Playa relies on donations and encourages those who have the ability to contribute to do so. You may donate online through the website, mail in a donation, or choose to donate your $100.00 deposit.

Session Schedule

All regular residency sessions (excluding special Invitational Residencies) begin on a Monday and end on a Friday. Applicants may choose between 2 week, 4 week, 6 week or 8 week periods. Competition for residency periods varies due to season and the number of applications received. While every effort is made to accommodate applicants’ schedule requests, we are not always able to grant your choices. Please indicate flexibility and restrictions on your application.

Facilities and Lodging

Each resident is provided housing with a kitchen, and a place to work–either a studio or a desk area in their cabin. Except for twice a week group dinners, all meals and provisions are the responsibility of the artist. Living, work, and studio spaces have standard utilities, abundant natural light, open vistas in an expansive landscape, and are free of telephone, television, and Internet. The Commons building has a commercial kitchen, a space for yoga or dancing, a ping-pong table, and a loft work area with a projection screen.

“Artists need expansive thoughts. Playa’s landscapes, spirit and mission stretched me in unparalleled ways–beyond other wonderful fellowships. 
I am a poet who delved into neuroscience during my too-short Playa stay.”
–Catharine Woodard


If applying as a collaborative team, please have one person listed as the main applicant. As a collaborative team you MUST include the following in your statement of project: group name (if applicable), a list of all participating members, and your specific needs for lodging and workspace. In addition, each member must supply an individual resume as part of the group application.


Couples may apply individually for concurrent residencies, with the understanding that one applicant might be accepted and the other not. Every artist accepted for a residency will be offered a private studio unless applying as a collaborative team. If requesting accommodations as a couple, each applicant must state this explicitly on their application.

Work Sample Requirements

All Disciplines

Current work is requested. The nature of the work sample submitted should correspond to the nature of the work you propose to do while in residence. An applicant’s work sample is the most significant feature of the application. Unless work is interdisciplinary, each applicant is encouraged to apply in a primary creative discipline and submit a work sample and statement of project which emphasizes this single discipline.

Visual Art

Provide 10-15 images in JPEG format along with a document that contains your name, and lists the JPEG filename, title, medium, size and year of completion for each image. JPEG files should be at least 800×600 pixels and formatted to 72dpi. NO TIFF OR PSD FILES ACCEPTED. Each filename must be numbered and correspond to the accompanying work-sample description document.


Your writing sample should be representative of the genre in which you plan to work while in residence. Provide one document that contains a sample as follows:

  • Fiction: 20 pages of a novel excerpt, a story, or short stories.
  • Poetry: 10 pages of poetry.
  • Nonfiction: 20 pages of nonfiction.
  • Playwriting: one complete play.
  • Screen writing: one complete screenplay.

Include in this document a cover page that contains the applicant’s name, and lists the title and date of completion for each sample.


Provide three separate works of 10 – 15 minutes each in audio or video format along with one document that lists the filename, title, and year of completion for each work, and that clearly summarizes the applicant’s role on the work. Film/video scriptwriters should also send a script.

Scientist/Naturalist/Creative Research

Provide one document that contains up to 10 pages of abstracts, excerpts, links to publications or short papers that are representative of your work. Include in this document a cover page that contains your name, lists the title and date of completion for each work, and a description of your area of research.


If your project does not fall clearly within one of the above disciplines, please send an email to the Residency Manager at to discuss an appropriate work sample.

About the process

I know there is a bit of confusion, mystery or even skepticism surrounding the application/selection process. Who makes these choices? Why didn’t they see the value of MY project? Are only established artists chosen? I will attempt to clarify what really goes on for those of you who are curious about the decision making process at PLAYA.

  1. Applicants, whether individuals or collaborative teams, submit materials online through Submittable, an online platform that allows a panel of professionals (from different locations across the country) access to multiple applicant’s work samples, resumes, project statements and other support materials.
  2. The panel (whose membership rotates every two years) is made up of diverse professionals in a variety of fields and each applicant is reviewed by multiple members. It’s a difficult but incredibly rewarding process. The selection panel has to examine large numbers of work samples consisting of portfolios (of approximately 10 images each) and/or manuscripts and videos, as well as reading through in depth artist statements, explore an applicant’s history of accomplishments on resumes, and….read project proposals which contain each applicant’s aspirations of how time at Playa might influence their work or lives.
  3. A scoring rubric is used (although nothing is ideal) which helps when considering an applicant’s previous work, the project proposal, the benefits a residency at Playa might provide and more.
  4. Once these applications are scored independently, recommendations made and forwarded to me, I tally all votes and compile a prioritized list. I then begin the task of assigning individuals into living spaces and additional studios, within the spring calendar considering their first choices for dates, length of stay and studio requirements. So there is a great deal of unforeseen “chance” built into the process in regards to number and quality of applicant pool, studio needs, and availability.
  5. Then the notifications begin. Meanwhile things have come up in real life for many of these applicants and occasionally some have to decline or shift dates, and then we move on down the list, which is why everyone doesn’t hear the results at the same time.

I hope this alleviates at least a little of the anxiety for applicants around this process. The process is not perfect, but we do the best we can. It’s PLAYA’s mission to support a variety of creative research, not discourage it. We understand that it can be very hard to take anything that might seem like rejection lightly. But sometimes, considering all aspects of the process might shed light on the reasons an applicant wasn’t selected at this time… competition could be very stiff (very strong applicant pool), or you might need a little practice in articulating what you hope to achieve, or maybe just a little more experience in your art practice…. or maybe you requested the most popular time period…but don’t give up.

NEW Policy affecting residents of Playa:

Following is information regarding Playa’s policy for site specific artworks, installations or other processes on the grounds that might affect the environment, habitats or other species. If your work at PLAYA includes any processes that may result in changes (immediate or long-term) to the visual, physical or aesthetic environment of PLAYA, you must first receive prior approval from the Executive Director. Activities include, but are not limited to relocating earth (rocks, sand or other), cutting or removal of plants, and/or using technology that might adversely affect biotic species (or the tranquility of the Playa experience).


Wallace Heim: documenting art science collaborations focused on environments Pt.2

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

The second of Wallace Heim’s reviews of recent publications on art-science collaborations focuses on Field_Notes from the Finnish Bioart Society.

Going someplace unfamiliar for an adventure, and doing this with a group of strangers, is an ancient exercise to stimulate human learning and imagination. This suspension of the everyday for the inspiration of the new is the backbone of several art and science residency projects.

For the bi-annual Field_Notes events, the unfamiliar place is the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station, a science institution for monitoring ecological and climatic processes in Lapland / northern Finland. The territory is one of lichens, reindeer, fjords, tourists, seasonal workers, lemmings, crowberry juice outlets, chainsaw art, gift shops, mountain birch, Arctic scrub, the Olkiluoto nuclear plant, northern lights, granite, the Talvivaara mine, Arctic charr, stone age habitations, trailer parks and swarms of government and civilian drones.

For the first of these, ‘Field_Notes_Cultivating Ground’, in 2011, the group included foragers, hackers and techno-, data- and bio-manipulating artists who spent a week together doing and reflecting on field work and experimentation in ‘bioart’. Around 30 people divided into five working groups: Arctic Waters, looking at freshwater ecosystems; Biological Milieu, investigating the biological matrices of cell structure and tissue growth; Body Nature, looking at communication and the human body as sensor; Environmental Computing, exploring how computational data from the field can contribute to sensory and political engagement; and Second Order, a group studying, as if anthropologists, the workings of the other groups.

[Field Notes] From Landscape to Laboratory is the publication that followed, and has three sections, inter-leaving those groups. The first, Rooting the Practice, provides philosophical and artistic overviews of ‘art&science’; Section 2: Probing the Terrain is accounts from artists of their research; and the third, Impressions from the Field, are four lively personal responses, glimpses into the counter-currents of the week, the passing moments of the adventure that the reader has missed.

The book offers facets of inquiry into the practice of bioart. A Venn diagram of art in the carbon realm (as opposed to the silicon realm) has bioart as the larger category, as art that is alive or that has living components, including ecological and land arts, within which the sub-category of biotech art sits: art that involves biotechnology, genetic and non-genetic manipulations of organisms, tissue culture interventions.

The creation of knowledge through field work and technology are over-arching themes. The opening essay by Tarja Knuuttila and Hanna Johansson sets the ground with reference to an early essay by Bruno Latour, ‘The Pédofil of Boa Vista: A Photo-Philosophical Montage’ in association with the artwork ‘Homage to Werner Homberg’ by Lauri Anttila. Latour used the idea of inscription to explain the chain of representations between the object in the field and the scientific paper. An inscription is a sign, symbol, picture, diagram, co-ordinate grid; an inscription device is any instrument that can transform material substances into signs or numbers. The chain of inscriptions from sample to sign mould the object into something more susceptible to being known by science. The end diagram is more abstract; elements have been lost in its coding. But it is also more concrete; it is detached from its context, but it can travel and circulate.

The contemporary artist Lauri Anttila retraced the treks by the Finnish landscape painter Werner Homberg (1830-1860) to see how one could experience those landscapes today, including how they are known through scientific documentation and measurement. Homberg painted from fragments of sketches, objects, plant drawings to assemble a landscape that appeared coherent. Anttila displays fragments from the field, objects and photo documentation and reworks them into depictions of the ‘reality’ of Homberg’s paintings, and into a construction of changing representations of the land that is itself constantly changing.

This drawing together of art, philosophy and experience with questions of representation, scientific process and technological developments runs throughout most essays. Questions concerning fieldwork – artistic and scientific – of location, data and cultural meaning are argued from theory, experience and by association with artworks. This gives the reader some traction in understanding how this residency worked, what practices were experimented with and what ideas discussed. The collection is of diverse fragments, but is several steps along an inscription chain from a simple reporting back of what happened.

Each chapter could be the subject of a review in itself, triggering questions over the artist’s practices, the politics and ethics of the work undertaken, its ecological import. What follows are selected summaries.

In the introductory chapters, Laura Beloff sets out the centrality of ‘experience’, as presented by the philosopher John Dewey, and the ‘practical aesthetics’ of Jill Bennett as central to artistic and scientific processes. Maria Huhmarniemi outlines conflicts in conservation plans in Finland between the building of a hydro-electric plant and the habitat of the nocturnal Capricorniae butterfly, and speculates whether art can be used as a means of argumentation in such situations. Paz Tornero provides a summary of art-science collaborations as being matters concerning beauty and truth, quoting Siân Ede, Kant, Arthur Danto, David Bohm. These chapters are useful in providing an artistic and theoretical basis, but it is the following chapters by participants that provide the substance of the book.

Oron Catts, whose practice involves the use of tissue technologies as media for artistic expression, went to Kilpisjärvi to further his research into the roles of inanimate cellular substrates, structures or matrices in biological processes. The matrix and the milieu of cellular development may be as important in cell differentiation and development as DNA. Anticipating an arid, barren environment, Catts was looking for biological material to be used in the technique of decellularisation, a process by which cells are removed from tissue, leaving only the extracellular, inanimate matrix, onto which Catts can apply new cellular material.

In a candid essay, he finds that the diversity and abundant biological life of the Arctic location overwhelmed him, diverted his attention. In that distracted state, he found the site of a crashed WW2 German Junkers 88, and in the charred remains, a piece of Perspex from the cockpit. He weaves a story around the history of that plastic as an inert material that living tissue can accommodate, taking in the work of surgeon and eugenicist Alexis Carel, the aviator Charles Lindbergh, experimentation with rabbits’ corneas and contact lenses, and the birth of biomaterial sciences attributed to the British eye surgeon Sir Harold Ridley. Catts questions whether he has become so separated from the soil that he can relate only to a small piece of plastic – before he returns to his project to grow amphibian cells over an array of substrates as an exploration of the materiality of life at that scale, in that context.

An unintentional armature for microbial life was Niki Passath’s robot, a seeming four-legged device with a head and neck made of jointed, white strips of material (see book cover). The robot as tourist accompanied Passath on field walks and experiments, enjoying the mosses and lichens. On their return to Austria, Passath noticed vegetal growth on the robot, and set up conditions to support it. His question, as the growth proceeds, is when will it overcome the robotic material, when will the symbiont become only living matter. What Passath misses is that the mosses and lichens have become feral.

Questions over methods for collecting data are strong preoccupations throughout the essays. Artist Andrew Gryf Paterson used the crowberries/cloudberries, a fruit indigenous to the area, as a ‘boundary object’, one that positions different viewpoints into a network of inter-relations. Through tracing the names and classifications of the fruit across different languages, foraging for the berries on the nearby fell, visiting a local family business processing berry juice, determining the berry’s nutritional value, and setting a meal of foraged food, including a crowberry parfait (recipe included in book), Paterson provided an experiential variation to the other artists working in the environmental computing group.

The influences of Beatriz da Costa and tactical media art, of DIY culture and citizen science is prevalent in several essays. For da Costa, who attended the residency, artists are activist intellectuals, placing themselves between the academic world and the public, countering the force of global capital to control the production of knowledge. Further, a DIY, hacker culture is one that can maintain ‘good practice’ in relation to technological power. Annti Tenetz, working in media- bio- and urban arts, argues that the artist must fearlessly adopt any technology as an instrument for expression, to act outside the protocols of science for field research in order to create new forms of information. These include recording images from drone civilian aircraft, and creating and editing image fields as representations of experience, not merely cartography.

Jennifer Gabrys, a sociologist, considers how the ongoing, continuous monitoring and the sensing technologies directed on the environment can re-define environmental citizenship. With access to monitoring data, and in the distributed networks of citizens generating data through a multitude of devices, citizens have access to information that may change their behaviours – such as knowing when a sewerage system can cope with a toilet flush. Indigenous peoples can monitor the effects of energy extraction. These new practices of citizenship, and multiple modes of ‘sensing’ gives rise to considerations of whether the more-than-human is not merely the object source of data, but, too, an expressive subject, a citizen. Her philosophical ground is A.N. Whitehead who finds the subject as being always in formation. Citizens are not defined according to rights, then, but according to relationships. A subject emerges through environmental practices that are constitutive of citizenship, and that includes the more-than-human.

A different take on data is given in ‘On Collecting Anecdata’ by artist Julie Freeman. ‘Anecdata’ is data that is not precisely measureable; has no reliable provenance; is not comparable; cannot be unproven by the traditional scientific method; but as information drawn from direct experience, can be valid empirical data. Unlike computational data, most of which contains errors that are ironed out with algorithms producing averages, there is no ‘average’ with information based on human interpretation, memory and reflection. Freeman asked each member of the Arctic Waters group to list the items they collected on their field trips, the biological data, the technological data and the emotional data. Using a data visualisation technique, she wrote the textual responses on coloured backgrounds and placed them on a page, then submitted them to five layers of degradation, removing information until what remained is a final abstraction of coloured shapes, indicative and interpretive of the process, but without the anecdata itself. Latour’s concrete abstraction.

Freeman’s larger questions are over how the technologies for documenting halt, interrupt or change the moment of experience. Technological documentation is instant; it’s logged; the researcher moves on. The exploration of a place through devices may prescribe what is experienced. But, for Freeman, experiencing the landscape of reindeer and waters, the technology led her to collect un-prescribed actions, serendipitous, extra-curricular data in a process critically reflexive of the expectations of the working groups.

The extra-curricular is delightfully represented by artist Rosanne van Klaveren and her lemming-related moments in ‘The Importance of Fieldwork for Border Crossing Frames of Mind. Probing for Fine Madness’. The intense, deep focus and separation from everyday life that happens in field work can render the artist/scientist eccentric. Van Klaveren was at Kilpisjärvi for a month prior to the other participants, working in isolation, becoming intensely connected with ‘the field’. The human socialisation needed when the others arrived was overwhelming. On a first walk, and wanting to be connected with both the human group and the ever-present lemmings, van Klaveren found herself leaping out over rocks to catch a lemming, in a moment outside normal rationality. On another hike, she found a dead lemming, and declining the human social milieu for an evening, took the animal home, to feel closer to it, to examine, to dissect, and possibly, to eat it.

For the reader, van Klaveren’s account peels back the formality of the other essays, acknowledging the social pressures that accompany these events and providing an animated, sensual feel to that field-place. More, she opens the door to the unexplained, the improvisatory, the moments of flow and ‘fine madness’ that inspire across arts and sciences. How does one connect with the living ‘field’; how closely should one engage with the subject of study; how does one get beyond the limits of what one thinks to be true; how does one experiment passionately.

A fellow writer in the rogue ‘Impressions’ section, Corrie van Sice, in ‘substrate n.’ ruminates on contact lenses; American air conditioners and the immune system; a meal of smoked fish, Manchego cheese and reindeer; and the smell of cardamom oil that lingers in his suitcase all the way home. With Beatriz da Costa, he talks about death, the electrical impulses of the heart, the matrix of human skin. And how much of what the artist and scientist are fabricating in the laboratory, as seeming alchemists of life at a cellular level, would not survive in the ‘chaos’ of organisms in the field.

In the book as a whole, it often seems as if what was a familiar language suddenly becomes unfamiliar, slightly shifted. This may be the effect of translations, but more likely, the more productive effect of ideas around ecological art and bioart being configured slightly differently to expectations.

In each chapter of the book, gripping ethical issues are raised and too often let drift, as with van Sice’s underlying acceptance of artists as bio-alchemists and its justification on the grounds of being ineffective. Other questions linger over the assumption that artists need not, maybe should not, follow the etiquette or protocols of institutional science, a position that can be critiqued when the processes undertaken could cause public and ecological harm. Too, most authors do not engage with the political questions over the means of production of the technology with which they are working, and how this may bind them into a neo-liberal economic structure. The philosophical references are drawn mostly from pragmatism and early environmental ethics. A more robust dialogue with a wider body of theory, including continental philosophies, would be fascinating. More contributions from scientists, with their views on research technologies, would balance the publication.

But that is not what the book sets out to do. Its ‘place’ in the ‘field’ is as a new kind of documentation, somewhere between the polished proceedings of a conference and a straight report back on what happened. The week was a time of experimentation, discussion, field visits, random exchanges, soaking in and taking away. The ephemerality and the liveliness of that is tacitly represented; the sense of a crafted, productive event comes through. The essays are reflexive, analytical and descriptive without the formality of an academic paper. There is a generosity to the collection, not merely a recording of data, that informs and entices.

[Field_Notes] From Landscape to Laboratory, edited by Laura Beloff, Erich Berger, Terike Haapoja and you can order it on line here.

ISBN 978-952-93-2313-5

The next project, Field_Notes-HYBRID MATTERs is underway, a two-year programme with a residency at the Kilpisjärvi Field Station in September 2015.

Essays not mentioned above:

‘Microbes and a Symbolic Journey’:

Antero Kare describes several exhibitions of his bioart with microbes and chemicals and relates his work to Kandinsky’s ethnographic studies of Finland and the ancient national epic Kalevala.

‘Learning from Locality. A Critical Consideration of the Uncontrolled’:

Melissa Anna Murphy sets out ideas on place/locality and the importance of attention, identity, ‘stewardship’ and the unexpected in experience of the local.

‘Science and Art: Harmony and Dissonance’:

Antero Järvinen is the director of the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station. He argues against climate modelling as inaccurate, and as feeding overly dramatic responses to future climate change, in favour of empirical field work as representational of veracity and an indication that climate change will incur the effects predicted. He gives two examples in which a change in habitat and species’ behaviour is not indicative of climate change, although his examples only range to the influence of immediate co-habiting species, and not environmental dependencies more widely.

‘Probing Sound: Capturing Natural Data’:

Artists Dave Lawrence and Melissa Grant recount their workshops showing how the collection, recording and listening to sound, and the sensing involved, including a sense of humour, contribute to field studies data.

‘n Degrees’:

Marta de Menezes and Luis Graca consider temperature; latitude and longitude; the angle of diatom; and academic degrees as variations on a term that was omnipresent in discussions.

Dr. Wallace Heim writes and researches on performance and ecology, and she does this in many places. Her academic slant is philosophical, but she works across disciplines to analyse the experience of performance, of art and of social practice arts, to consider how these events shape ecological and social understanding.

She recently published Landing Stages. Selections from the Ashden Directory 2000 – 2014, an ebook marking the archiving of the Ashden Directory and Ashdenizen, websites focused on ecology, climate and culture which she co-edited. Landing Stages can be downloaded from

Her current writing is on conflict; on sense and extinction; and on how a place can learn.

She has published in Performance Research and in Readings in Performance and Ecology. She is on the Advisory Board of the upcoming publication series Performing Landscapes. She co-edited Nature Performed, and co-curated the conference/event BETWEEN NATURE. She taught on the ‘Art & Ecology’ MA at Dartington College of Arts. She has also worked as a set designer.

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

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Wallace Heim: documenting art science collaborations focused on environments Pt.1

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Wallace Heim, editor of the Ashden Directory and Ashdenizen Blog for 20 years, has reviewed two books, documenting art science collaborations focused on environments.  Imagining Natural Scotland is the publication associated with a programme for the Year of Natural Scotland.  Creative Scotland working with Scottish Natural Heritage and other partners put out a call for collaborations.  They were looking for new and existing partnerships to put forward projects that focused on the way we understand natural Scotland.  The publication highlights the fifteen projects.  In a second post tomorrow, Wallace will review Field_Notes, from Landscape to Laboratory.


Putting together an artist and someone with a specialism in another field or discipline, usually the sciences, has become so prevalent as a mode of research and art-making, it has become a genre, or a practice in itself – whether it takes place on a boat in the northern seas, in a castle, on a farm, in a village hall, along a city river, in a laboratory. The expectations for original insights and a melding of knowledge and praxis from these collaborations continue to be high, along with the more pragmatic acceptance that these associations are a way of generating work, securing funding and establishing credibility.

There’s a mysterious core to these collaborations, those possible moments of generosity and receipt that exceed the mere representation of knowledge in novel forms, or the exchange of information that each can take back to their own disciplinary territory. For the outsider, those moments are never known except as they are described in the documentation that follows, or are evidenced, most often, in the artist’s work. It’s like hearing about a party you missed.

Two compilations have been published recently documenting collaborations that relate to ecological arts practices: Imagining Natural Scotland (reviewed below), investigating the natural-cultural place of Scotland, and [Field Notes]. From Landscape to Laboratory (reviewed in the next post), a report from the Field_Notes – Cultivating Ground collaborative laboratory in 2011, hosted by the Finnish Society of Bioart.

How are these books to be read? How are despatches back from a collaboration to be read? Some offer philosophical perspectives from aesthetics or environmental ethics; others offer justifications according to funding criteria; others how the project has addressed ecological and artistic needs. All of these read as kinds of meta-narratives.

But it’s the descriptive reports of the empirical work that make these collections valuable reading, even if the accounts may be partial, or not even always reliable. Most often, the focus is on the artist’s practice, with how the collaboration affected their working processes, how it contributed to the knowledge that they can use as sources and materials. They are informative of the kinds of art-making being done, the subject matters explored, the combinations that are being made.

Often, the commentary by specialists/scientists will offer leads for further questions, lines of connection with their disciplines. Many remark on a moment of freedom from disciplinary restraint, or of a new perspective on their research processes. But there’s little evidence of how this translates into the accredited work of a peer-reviewed paper in a similar way, for example, to the artist’s practice or a completed piece of work. The weight is with the arts.

Although the views from the participants are self-reflexive, they often do not undertake a critical perspective on the collaboration itself. One wants to know more about the flowing exchanges and the rankling frictions between divergent working processes. One wants to know more about the risks and negotiations made at personal, political, aesthetic and ecological levels. And, the voice that is most often absent is that of the public or communities who are often co-collaborators through artists’ social and dialogic practices.

Even so, these kinds of collections, including the two reviewed here, provide markers of the practices that are defining evolving fields of work and a sampling of the questions that artists ask. These reports offer a multitude of diverse ways-in to ecological art practices for those new to it, and enough detail for those familiar with the fields to mark the shifts in practices that are happening.

Imagining Natural Scotland

Imagining Natural Scotland is a record of the fifteen collaborative projects with artists, scientists, social scientists and environmental historians supported by Creative Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and others as part of the Year of Natural Scotland in 2013. Creative Scotland’s brief to the projects was to explore the relationship between Scotland’s ‘natural’ world and its representation in arts and in popular culture, to explore the differences between the ‘real’ Scottish ‘nature’ and its cultural representations. Further, to ask how could the arts and popular culture influence society, public attitudes, policy and environmental management.

Each partner reflects on their project in relation to the brief. The projects are diverse with overlaps in their artistic methods and in their attention to the land, to river and marine environments, to woodlands and animals. Some directly involve public communities, others work with invited groups or publics. What emerges from the whole are the big themes of the human in the landscape, what is ‘nature’ and ‘natural’. Too, the book confirms a vitality specific to Scotland in how artists are grappling with the ‘place’ of the country, as natural-cultural, as natural-political. There’s a sense of artists and their partners working within the historical conflicts and legacies of land use and aesthetic representations, while newly creating what Scottish nature and culture are and will be.

Following are summaries of the projects, favouring the artistic practices.

Two different collaborations explore the relation of land use policies and management to the landscape and perceptions of place. In A New Environmental Impact Assessment for Natural Scotland – Environment, Imagination and Aesthetics, the artists Robbie Coleman and Jo Hodges, with sociologist Claire Haggett suggest that beauty, naturalness and the impact of change on a community are the missing – and necessary – tools for assessing the impact of large-scale developments. Their co-collaborators were a community in South West Scotland near both an existing and proposed wind farm. They undertook diverse processes, such as mapping journeys, views and memories; devising fictional scenarios; representing a community narrative through a fictional film called ‘Settlement’ complete with film posters featuring individual families; and making a collaborative soundscape broadcast on ‘Settlement Radio’. All were derived from ‘meet-ups’ with the community. A copy of the ‘outputs’ from the project were printed in the style of an EIA, and buried by the community as a time capsule to provide archaeological information for planners in 900 years.

In Future Forest: Caledonian Black Wood, Aware Access, environmental artists Tim Collins and Reiko Goto and social scientist David Edwards considered what it means to make art with a forest, rather than about or in a forest, specifically, the Black Wood of Rannoch in Highland Perthshire. Their ideas for a critical forest art practice involve experimenting with the empathetic exchanges between people and trees in urban and rural settings; and considering the processes of art as an interface with a forest in rural settings, and how these correspond with images, ideas and artefacts in an urban setting. At Black Wood, Collins and Goto found centuries of historical, cultural and institutional conflicts over the meaning, value and use of the forest. Through a dialogic, imaginative and place-centred workshop process with the many institutional partners, they were able to re-align an approach to access and awareness of the forest, to begin a re-framing of ecosystems services to include cultural value. As ‘time’ is an essential element in understanding a forest and a public conversation, for the urban / gallery settings, the artists assembled a body of time-based media work, including video installations.

The contested or conflictual aspects of a place are embedded in its social history; in the inequalities of economics, class and power; and in the variations in perceptions of value, amenity and even of nature itself. Conflict is a thread running through several projects, if not explicitly represented.

Interviews with people connected with the Firth of Clyde showed their differing perspectives, from fishing, scientific, philosophical, ecological, conservationist, underwater and spiritual experiences. Artist Stephen Hurrel and social ecologist Ruth Brennan, in Clyde Reflections, created an immersive film and audio-visual installation of the interviews. Hurrel devised a meditative, ambient structure to the film/installation. Brennan found that this poetic methodology allowed for the implicit ideas and overlaps in interview material to be conveyed, rather than the more informational or confrontational style of a documentary.

Mirror Lands critiqued the techniques of nature documentaries that construct an idealised version of nature. Based on the Moray Firth, filmmaker Emma Dove, composer Mark Lyken with ecologist Paul Thompson and colleagues at the Lighthouse Field Station, Cromarty, conducted interviews with people giving their accounts of experience with the local environment. The filming technique highlighted everyday interactions between humans and the environment, rather than the dramatic focus of a nature documentary. One intention of the research was to influence individual behaviours in ways that reduce conflicts like that between the oil and tourism industries and marine conservation.

Conflicts between human social and political interests and other species was the direction given by the conservation scientist Steve Redpath for the project Thinking Like a Mountain, with writer Esther Woolfson. Conflict is inherent in issues of sustainability, and represented in this project by human relations with predators. They researched how Scottish literature, law and culture viewed predator species like the wolf and its effects on the shared biotic community. Woolfson traced the etymology of Scots language words for ‘predator’, among her series of non-fiction essays.

The ‘science’ in many reports seems confined, but in Search Films, the collaboration opened up the scientific process itself, directly exploring how a science produces its knowledge in a way that melded with an artistic process. The project began as a walk in the woods, as biologist Mick Marquiss described to his son, artist Duncan Marquiss, how he found goshawk sites by responding to cues or idiosyncrasies in the landscape. The hawk is elusive; the subject of study is found by its hawk-signs. That scientific method, that way of walking and observing, is a formalised version of innate foraging behaviour that humans use to find scarce resources in complex environments – on land, but also by extension, while shopping, on the internet. Duncan mimicked this behaviour in the process of film-making, as he followed Mick, as a way of understanding the biologist’s methodology and search patterns. For the scientist, the film-making offered the opportunity to look again at the routines of field studies, the tacit knowledge involved, and at ways that this experiential knowledge could be articulated to others.

How to know a place, how to imagine nature features across most projects. In Imagining Wild Land – Coire Ruadh, artists Simon Fildes and Katrina McPherson, with performer Ruth Janssen, worked with Rob McMorran from the Centre for Mountain Studies. Looking at how landscape depends on movement, the artists used video and dance on the land to articulate the scientific data from CMS defining the borders and zones that mark out ‘the wild’.

Portraits of Scots Pines explored how the identity of a place is known through that iconic species. Artist Marcus Leotaud contrasted ideas of re-wilding with the dead zones of spruce plantation, and with what constitutes a ‘natural’ landscape in Scotland. Working with PhD candidate William Cornforth and Heritage Management Officer Simon Montgomery, the project viewed the individual tree rather than the forest, as iconic of habitat, landscape, time and history. Leotaud’s portraits of are not merely representational, but portray as well the threats to the species.

The animal as a way of imagining nature features in Barnacle Fish or Fowl, by artist Philippa Mitchell and ecologist Carl Mitchell. The visual representation of barnacle geese and how this has affected public perceptions and management decisions about its population was explored with students at Port Ellen Primary School, Islay, in the inner Hebrides.

Interrogating how visual representations of Scottish places invent those places, The Valentine Project: A Landscape with Trees, started with historical post cards from Glen Tilt, produced by James Valentine and Sons of Dundee between 1880 and 1935. Moving between the archive, artefacts and the site, the team of artist Victoria Bernie, landscape architect Lisa Mackenzie, historical geographer Fraser MacDonald and field ecologist John Derbyshire walked, drew, photographed, videoed and talked over how to do field work, how to represent constant change in a landscape, the human artifice that shapes it, the future realities of a landscape and the processes of decay, ruin and flux.

Another grouping of projects draws out that focus on change in the landscape, with water as the indicative representation of this.

In Montrose Bay, the Changing Coast, artist Jean Duncan, zoologist Tracey Dixon and hazard geoscientist Fraser Milne used arts-based public engagement with local groups and schoolchildren to observe the shifting sands of the beach, and to record how it is used and how it might be managed in the future.

Using sound recordings, visual art and photography, artist Tommy Pearson and environmental writer and musician Rob St. John used water flows to explore Edinburgh’s urban environment. In Water of Life – City of Edinburgh, they traced the subterranean flows of water in sewers, drains, pipes, rivers and reservoirs, revealing the confluences of clean and unclean, ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’, the organic and synthetic. Using analogue photography, and with the production of a vinyl record, they kept to a slow artistic methodology.

For Making Space for Water: A Poetry of Place, writer Leslie Harrison and environmental engineer Rebecca Wade walked the banks of the Denburn in Aberdeen and the Dighty Water in Dundee, exchanging methodologies for researching the impact of language on perceptions of urban river environments. The project showed how character, history and social function of the river, what it carries with it, is revealed in both ordinary language and poetry.

Storyteller Andy Hunter, community archaeologist Brian Wilkinson and public engagement practitioner Sophia Collins walked a river, holding storytelling events with communities and specialists along its length. In Tales of River Tweed, stories were told and stories were collected, marking the flow of history, narrative and river.

Finally, in Dreaming Scotland, writer Lowri Potts, sound designer Tam Treanor and photographer Karen Gordon, kept with the human, asking what ‘natural Scotland’ meant to a group of new arrivals to Glasgow, contrasting this with the views of more established residents. Urban parks, the cold, Loch Ness, the traditional skills of shipbuilding, the thinking space offered by the hills outside the city, the light, the softness of the air came through in the interviews. The installation featured recordings interspersing the newcomer and the established resident. Visually, a ‘flock of words’, was animated by an algorithmic, unfixed programme.

All these abbreviated summaries miss the detail of the texts, and they, in turn, miss the details of the processes. But as despatches, they mark a time when public funding saw the political, economic and cultural value of supporting collaborations across the aesthetic and ecological worlds.

Imagining Natural Scotland (2014), edited by David Griffith, published by Creative Scotland.

ISBN: 978 1 85119 207 6

The Imagining Natural Scotland project was a partnership between Creative Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, and supported by the University of St. Andrews. Year of Natural Scotland 2013 was led by VisitScotland, Event Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage.

If you want to obtain a copy of this publication you are best to email at Creative Scotland with your postal address and he’ll arrange to send one to you.  There may be a charge.

Dr. Wallace Heim writes and researches on performance and ecology, and she does this in many places. Her academic slant is philosophical, but she works across disciplines to analyse the experience of performance, of art and of social practice arts, to consider how these events shape ecological and social understanding.

She recently published Landing Stages. Selections from the Ashden Directory 2000 – 2014, an ebook marking the archiving of the Ashden Directory and Ashdenizen, websites focused on ecology, climate and culture which she co-edited. Landing Stages can be downloaded from

Her current writing is on conflict; on sense and extinction; and on how a place can learn.

She has published in Performance Research and in Readings in Performance and Ecology. She is on the Advisory Board of the upcoming publication series Performing Landscapes. She co-edited Nature Performed, and co-curated the conference/event BETWEEN NATURE. She taught on the ‘Art & Ecology’ MA at Dartington College of Arts. She has also worked as a set designer.


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

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