Yearly Archives: 2016

Camilla Nelson: An Oakwoods Almanac in Review

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

223_5477There is much to explore in this Almanac of entries, some more sculpted than others, compiled by the poet Gerry Loose as he wandered the familiar and foreign oakwoods of Sunart and Saari in 2007, 2008 and 2010.

An Oakwoods Almanac is arranged in two parts. The first, ‘Sunart’, takes its name from the Scottish oakwood and contains entries made in and around this area from September 2007 to June 2008. ‘Saari’, the second, shorter and more focussed section, contains entries made in and around the Finnish oakwood (from which this section takes its name) between September and November 2010. These two parts have very different qualities and characters. The first, ‘Sunart’, is a fog of place names and organism activity that weave in and out of an oakwood that you may or may not be inhabiting at any one time. There are no maps. Dates are partial. And it feels like Loose is only partly committed to this text as a publishable piece of writing. You are as likely to be treated to reflections on the conflict in Israel as you are to a detailed observation of ants. The mind wanders and the text, correspondingly, disorientates. In contrast, ‘Saari’ has no maps, but the structure is clear. This section provides days, dates, months and place names with which to orient the reader. In ‘Sunart’ you are never quite sure where you are or what time it is. In ‘Saari’ you even get subheadings. ‘Saari’ is a series of highly focussed snapshots and polished reflections. Loose’s entries shine hard and bright, like the ‘diamond pointed minds’ (136) of the raptors he references. If ‘Saari’ is something to share, ‘Sunart’ is for himself.

If I wasn’t interested in the dynamics of writing in and about place, Loose might have lost me with ‘Sunart’. In this first section, Loose is so much a part of his surroundings that he is largely absent to himself and the reader. He forgets that his audience are strangers both to him and to the oakwoods he inhabits. His account is intimate. We find his thoughts and language in a state of disarray. We are mainlined into his stream of consciousness; we inhabit what Loose inhabits, unedited. The partiality of flitting from one thing to another is set down faithfully, in the moment, with the result that the writing may only make partial sense. We are half-blind. Loose is fluent in these woods and takes this knowledge for granted, making no allowance for our ignorance. In this section, we get a sense of our guide more through his patterns of thought than through any direct detail; he is mostly speaking to himself.

There are two entries that, together, give a good sense of what it is like to read ‘Sunart’. The first, written on the 10th October 2007, describes Loose’s relationship to words:

I have too many words. What’s written here is spontaneous, I’ve nothing to lose but the words. It may be a broadcloth journal, from cutout bits from poems; the poems are the holes in the cloth from which they’ve been cut. Like the Jain image of the released spirit, a negative, because they are not yet written. In the surrounding material are many repetitions in pattern, like speech. (23)

This almanac ‘may be a broadcloth journal’, a word hoard, or spontaneous site of notes that fill the store cupboard from which future poems might later ferment. This is both suggested and immediately counteracted as a possibility. It is not that the poems will later be cut from this broadcloth of spontaneous jottings but that this broadcloth is already a collage, formed ‘from cutout bits from poems’. The journal is less a continuous piece and more of a patchwork quilt; a quilt made from the leftover fabric from which these poems have been already cut. Except this is not quite it either because the poems do not yet exist, or exist only in negative, ‘because they are not yet written’. But if they are not yet written, how have they formed holes in the text? I’m pushing the text, perhaps more than is warranted, in order to excavate what it is Loose is delivering for the reader. This excerpt shows how ‘Sunart’ can be both suggestive and confusing, a combination that can be frustrating – it gestures towards what it could give you, but doesn’t. ‘Sunart’ rewritten would be a very different oakwood. There is something to be gained from the honesty of setting down words as they arrive but this act of recording unstructured thoughts and leaving the reader to make sense of them could also be seen as presumptuous; other writers have to rewrite and restructure but this writer doesn’t have to – why? Is publishing a work before it is fully-formed an act of laziness on the part of an author who won’t rewrite or an act of generous vulnerability, exposing prose in its ‘purest’ formation, only just out of the mind? It is these questions that makes this text an interesting work to study, but not always an easy one to read. ‘Sunart’ is a word store, pre clear-out, and we are often lost in its midden.

The second entry I want to look at, written on 29th December 2007, describes Loose’s perceptual approach to Sunart oakwoods:

There is a need to approach Sunart oakwoods obliquely. Like sitting. Sitting very still, alert and relaxed, waiting for something to arrive: a deer, maybe, or an owl. If I look at trees in the dusk directly, they dance in vision; it’s the way our eyes are physically made. Look to one side and the tree is clearer. I approach the tree sideways, a little nervous of their history and presence. I count geese, deer, list mosses, enumerate spiders, look out to sea with my back to the woods, holly and birch and alder all around. It’s as if to look directly is somehow to obscure a latency, a voice that I want to listen to; but it’s not enough to be attentive, scientific; it’s necessary to be receptive. I’m impatient. I’ll not live as long as an oak. (61)

This entry provides the rationale for ‘Sunart’s mode of delivery. It also sheds light on Loose’s decision to leave this section so unreconstructed, and potentially offers a guide to the reader. Loose’s approach to understanding this oakwood is oblique, perhaps our reading method should be similar? Loose is wary of disturbing the oakwood’s fragile voice with the violence of direct attention. Perhaps the violent kind of truth-searching to which I subjected the word-store excerpt is an example of precisely what Loose is trying to avoid. I can identify with this feeling. It is something I felt when working with a tree for three years in Cornwall. There is a different logic among trees. A human cannot contain the expansiveness of the relationships at work there. We have to insert ourselves into the network – to be rather than do – in order to feel how these relationships work, and even then we have already disturbed something. The counting of geese and deer, the listing of mosses, the enumeration of spiders are gestures, fine-fingered attempts to store fragments from which to reconfigure a whole. Loose has tried to capture a sense of these threads without pulling a hole in the fabric, but the oakwood is no clearer as a result. In response to William Carlos Williams, Loose writes that ‘Things have their own ideas, they’re […] an event, walking their own way’ (39). The event that is this oakwood evades capture in ‘Sunart’, despite Loose’s best efforts. ‘Inside a wood, it is hard to see it for the trees which overwhelm with their forms, twisted, broken, growing one in the other […] I find it hard also to see the trees for this reason’ (22). Loose cannot see the woods or trees, and neither can we.

‘Saari’ is a different species. As a stranger, Loose is more attentive and committed to his note-making; he is more focussed in Finland. His prose is a poetry: alert, more consciously placed, more settled. Here, Loose writes, ‘I go to the woods because they do not need me’ (111). He is clear-sighted and precise. After enduring the fog of ‘Sunart’ (for almost one hundred pages), ‘Saari’ sparkles and all forty-eight pages are equally brilliant.

And so we are left with the question, should Loose have made ‘Sunart’ sparkle in the same way as ‘Saari’? Or is there more for the reader in the unfinished, warts-and-all structure of ‘Sunart’ than in ‘Saari’s polished prose? Or, finally, does the value lie in their comparison? This Almanac poses many questions, the responses to all of which will be different depending on how and what you like to read. For myself, having braved the wilds of ‘Sunart’, ‘Saari’ was a welcome reward. But Loose’s Almanac certainly offers much to think about.


 

An Oakwoods Almanac is available from Shearsman Books.

Camilla Nelson is a language artist, researcher and collaborator across a range of disciplines. ‘Tidal Voices’, a collaboration with Welsh poet Rhys Trimble, was short-listed for the Tidal Bay Swansea Lagoon

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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Open Call for Applications: Sustainable Cultural Management Course

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Taking a systemic view, the course will explore what actions can be taken to become more ecological in the way we govern cultural organisations, manage buildings, create and tour productions, collaborate with partners, and engage with audiences.

Experts from across Europe and the world will share their experience and best practice, and participants will come away with new skills and perspectives to manage their work effectively in the context of environmental sustainability and climate change.

Monday 6 – Friday 10 June 2016 (seminars and workshops from 09.30 to 18.00, daily)

Conference space in the campus of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Course leaders

The creation of this course was an initiative of mitos21 and has been designed in collaboration with Julie’s Bicycle and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The course will be facilitated by these three main partners, with invited guests speakers from across Europe and the world.

The course aims to:

  • Promote sustainable thinking in three ways: in policy making (advocacy), in the profession (new skills and expertise), and in education (training for young professionals);
  • Introduce participants to the main reasons for a central role for culture in the global quest for sustainable development;
  • Build a common level of environmental literacy, skills and expertise, for the managers and future leaders of cultural institutions;
  • Enable cultural professionals to take advantage of the trends that are shaping a green economy and the opportunities that they present;
  • Promote the discourse and methods by which environmental sustainability can be embedded in cultural policies;
  • Multiply the impact of these topics and develop the leadership potential of participants.

Course themes and workshops will include:

  • The science of climate change, as relevant to the performing arts;
  • How cultural policy is responding to this driver for change;
  • Practical guidance, tools and resources to “green” cultural management;
  • Case studies to demonstrate what’s possible;
  • Guest speakers on trends and ideas that can shape a “green” economy for the performing arts;
  • Communications and engagement methodologies;
  • Leadership development;
  • Peer learning, discussion and networking with a pan-European group; Action planning.

Fees for participants

The course fees is 1.000 Euros. This covers the cost of the course, accommodation (single room, in 4* hotel), breakfast and lunch-pack per day.

This is not inclusive of travel costs to Thessaloniki, or any per diem compensation.

Institutions are encouraged to undertake the cost of fees and travel for applicants.

Certificate of Attendance

Participants will receive a Certificate of Attendance, issued by the organisers.

 

More information and how to apply: http://www.scmcourse.com/2281-2/

The post Open Call for Applications: Sustainable Cultural Management Course 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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Donald Urquhat – Recurring Line

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Donald Urquhart’s drawing, RECURRING LINE, in full visibility phase at the Irish Museum of Modern Art

image

A line, measuring   1 x 100 metres, was delineated and planted with Common Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis).  The line runs due north and south.  Each year, as winter yields to spring, the work announces its presence with the recurring growth and flowering of the snowdrops.  At this time, the work will appear as a white line against the verdant expanse of the meadow, before slowly disappearing.

Commissioned for the permanent collection in 2007.

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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Scolel’te: the tree that grows

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

We’re often asked about carbon offsetting to deal with those carbon emissions you just can’t avoid – essential travel, energy for heating and lighting. There are a number of questions about the validity of offsetting which I’ll deal with in another blog, but if you do choose to offset, which scheme should you choose? The schemes offered by airlines and other commercial outfits are sometimes of dubious quality and often much of what you are paying goes to a middleman rather than actually reduces the carbon in the world’s atmosphere. The project described below offers both carbon reduction and also social benefits and I know it’s of top quality. I offset all my domestic travel, gas and electricity once a year when I do  my tax return rather than try to do it month by month. So you could use our tools such as claimexpenses.com to gather the data, then offset at the end of the year.

Offsetting should only be used for genuinely unavoidable carbon emissions – it’s not a free pass. The first thing to do is avoid doing the things that burn fossil fuels. People often think that travel can’t be avoided, but our guide to Creating and Updating a Travel Policy has tips and advice for reducing unsustainable travel – and making life nicer while reducing time-wasting at the same time. Why not look at it now?

Marco Lara is Carbon Offsets Sales Manager at AMBIO, a Mexican non-profit that coordinates the Scolel’te Programe for Carbon Offsetting, the very first project to neutralise carbon emissions and a great example to illustrate how conservation, high impact investments and improved livelihoods come together. If after you’ve done all you can to reduce your carbon emissions you still have some left, you can buy offsets in his project by contacting Plan Vivo, an Edinburgh-based charity that deals with Scolel’te. Or you can go direct to Ambio, but you’ll need to read Spanish. You can receive a newsletter about the project in English here.

I

It’s 6 a.m., still the early morning. Like clockwork, Manuel goes out to check if everything is right in his land. For weeks now the rain has been absent in his community. Manuel, like thousands of farmers in Mexico, knows perfectly the importance of regular rainfall patterns to achieve the expected yields in his corn, coffee and beans crops. However, this year looks particularly complicated, even more than before.

Manuel lives in Villa Las Rosas, a small village within the Lacandon rainforest, an hour and a half from the impressive archaeological site of Palenque in the Chiapas state in southern Mexico. Villa Las Rosas is one of hundreds of surrounding rural settlements inhabited by Mayan communities, who continue to use the Mayan Tzeltal language. Arriving alone in places like this, lacking fluency in Tzeltal, it’s a real challenge even to ask for directions. For outsiders, miming is a good second language.

Villa Las Rosas is part of the buffer zone of a natural protected area called Naha-Metzabok, a site acknowledged as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention since 2004. This region is key, both for its role in water supply and for the number of species of flora and fauna living here, including spider monkeys, jaguars and orchids.

II

10 years ago, the non-profit cooperative AMBIO, in partnership with the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas of Mexico (CONANP), started strengthening conservation actions in the area through the rolling out of the Scolel’te Program in the region of Naha-Metzabok, including Villa Las Rosas and other neighbouring communities. This strategy for sustainable natural resources management has been conceived as a tool to offset the carbon emissions of companies, organisations and individuals while at the same time diversifying the sources of income in rural households.

The efforts of AMBIO date from long ago when in 1997 the Edinburgh University, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), the Mexico National Institute for Ecology (INE), the International Automobile Federation and dozens of farmers associated with the Scolel’te Program (“the tree that grows” in Tzeltal language), began a unique and pioneering collaboration, focused on maintaining and restoring the natural ecosystems and improving livelihoods through a model that recognised the environmental services provided in tropical areas, such as carbon sequestration to deal with climate change.

To date, the Scolel’te Programme, brings together around 1,200 farmers, distributed across more than 90 communities in the state of Chiapas. This initiative, the longest-standing to neutralize carbon emissions, today covers 7662 hectares, the equivalent of 10,726 football fields. In terms of carbon sequestration, different organisations such as the Absolut Vodka Company or the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have offset 479,029 tons of CO2 through the Scolel’te Program, which is equivalent to the emissions of 260,200 individual one way flights  between London and Mexico City.

III

Back in Villa Las Rosas, the clock shows 7 a.m. Manuel has a 4-hour drive to San Cristobal de las Casas, where AMBIO headquarters are based. As regional technician for the area of Naha-Metzabok and its buffer zone, Manuel will describe in a follow-up meeting the progress of the working groups and the challenges that arise whenever monitoring in the registered forest areas is required or how to manage payments to the farmers enrolled in the Scolel’te Program.

The next day Manuel will return home, making at least one stopover to change from a comfortable van to a cargo truck fitted out as the only public transportation to his village. He’ll travel alongside other farmers of Tzeltal ethnicity, women who have been shopping at the nearest town and students with their backpacks full of illusions.

Upon returning to Villa Las Rosas, Manuel will report on the results of the meeting held in AMBIO and he will begin to coordinate along with a couple of neighbours the journey of a company that will take several years to offset its emissions through Scolel’te Program. By late afternoon, Manuel will be outside his small office, with a hot cup of coffee in hand, watching how the water-laden clouds are finally coming to the community. And with the rain, it will come the sound of the frogs.

The post Scolel’te: the tree that grows 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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