Report on AALERT

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This is a quick and personal reflection on the Art and Artists in Landscape and Environmental Research Today workshop (AALERT) held at the National Gallery London 15 Feb jointly sponsored by the Landscape Research Group and the Valuing Nature Programme of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and supported by the Landscape & Arts Network. This is not an overview of the content of the day, including excellent presentations by Prof Stephen Daniels, Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway or the many threads and contributions. The intention is to focus on the key points in relation to the stated aim – understanding the contribution artists and art make to landscape and environmental research. We understand a more detailed summary will be published by the organisers.

The day brought together artists with natural and social scientists, and humanities academics. The key question was and remains what contribution art and artists can make to landscape and environmental research. The day was organized around questions of agency, value and how to embed artists with other disciplines. The fundamental problem is that many people don’t understand artists’ research. That being said, everyone ‘knows’ that there is a contribution. Most people don’t agree with Lewis Wolpert when he said,

“Although science has had a strong influence on certain artists – in the efforts to imitate nature and thus to develop perspective or in the area of new technologies – art has contributed virtually nothing to science.” (Wolpert, 2002)

Tim Collins opened proceedings with a quote highlighting that artists want to be dealt with as researchers rather than as subjects of research

“In the first place, the scene of research, centred on academic and scientific communities, will encounter new actors who will have to be considered no longer as objects of study, but as inquiring subjects themselves: the artist and the artist-as-researcher…. This means that, fourthly, research cultures will potentially be enriched with new narratives, discourses and modes of knowledge including knowledge of making (techne) and knowledge of the value systems that inform making (phronesis).” (Coessens et al., 2009, pp91-92)

This point is important because art and artists are often spoken for and about not least by art historians but also by anthropologists and other social scientists. We might argue that these interlocutors use evidence in forms which are ‘inter-operable’ with other forms of research evidence. The manifestation of artists’ research is at its core about making room to re-experience the world as (slightly) different, to pick up on Clive Cazeaux’s articulation. This ‘seeing it differently’ – and here we mean seeing in the widest sense, as in ‘understanding the possibility that it isn’t as we assume’ – is maybe neither quantitative nor qualitative. The concepts we use to understand the world shape both how and what we perceive. And also form how we make the world. This critical insight is valuable.

To be clear there are at least two meanings of research when used by artists (and even artists in the room conflated these). Pretty much all contemporary artists do research in the process of making work. In particular artists doing work with other disciplines, in public places, etc and in particular in landscape and environment, do a lot of research across a whole range of dimensions – social, historical, geographical, geological, ecological, etc – as preparation for making work. Sometimes this involves discovering new or forgotten things and sometimes it is functionally ‘familiarisation’ and assemblage of knowledge about a place or issue. Some artists do research informed by the same criteria as other academics – making a contribution to knowledge characterised by ‘originality, significance and rigour’. Artists don’t have to be in academic positions in research active institutions to do this, and in fact there is a long history of artists shaping our understanding of the world and sharing methods and processes so that others can learn. One difference, in addition to going beyond the specific project needs, is that the latter has a public dimension to the process and product which enables others to learn from it. Another difference is the positioning of the work with a social historical discourse. This in turn is one of the validations of the originality, significance and rigour requirement (which has been standardised over 26 years of UK research assessment).

The lack of awareness of this and its manifestation in artist-led work receiving 4* ratings in the 2014 REF was a cause of some frustration during the day.

Fundamentally each discipline and practice has a different way of knowing the world which are all equally valid. The challenge is that the ‘wicked’ problems we are facing including climate disruption, biodiversity loss and a warming planet require us to work together across traditional boundaries in teams. And teams need to understand each other. A quick rehearsal of Basarab Nicolescu’s formulation is useful (Nicolescu, 1997). He starts from the point that disciplines are valuable in themselves. He then talks about multi-disciplinary in terms of co-ordination of different disciplines’ methods; interdisciplinary in terms of learning from each other and hybridising; and trans-disciplinary as working across different levels of reality particularly where they are incommensurable e.g. between the scientific and the spiritual or data and emotions. He suggests that artists are particularly good at this.

Collins cited John Roberts, offering an articulation of this particular quality and its complexities. Roberts argues that art has a complex relationship with society at once enmeshed and autonomous. In particular he argues that, “one of the still operative functions of the artist – exploited extensively at the moment, as it is – is his or her ability to work with, reflect on, move through various non-artistic disciplines and practices without fully investing in them.” (Roberts, 2016, p112). Roberts calls this ‘adisciplinarity’ and he says,

“[t]his is because it is not the job of art to defend or extend the truth claims of a particular discipline, but to reflect on the discipline’s epistemological claims and symbolic status within the totality of non-art/ art disciplines and their social relations. When art draws, for example, from a particular scientific discipline such as physics, this is not in order to defend the truths of a particular branch of physics, but, rather, to use such truths as a reflection on physics as such, or as a means to reflect on the truth claims of other disciplines and practices.” (Roberts, p114)

This clarifies another aspect of discussion which focused on agency and autonomy. For artists to do what they do in terms of Roberts’ description, in terms of ‘seeing and/or making it differently’ they need a degree of autonomy, yet at the same time to work with others. This distinctive position, often within a team, is challenging and needs to be valued by others (including other academics but also funders and policy-makers), supported and given space. It raises anxiety in a risk averse culture. But it is fundamental to the contribution that art and artists can make, even if it is an idea that many struggle to recognise or understand how to ‘operationalise’.

One aspect which relates to this is that as artists (and curators, producers, writers) we have become very good at learning the languages of other disciplines and practices, their forms of evidence and their policy frameworks. The converse of this is that we don’t seem to have been very effective at articulating our forms of knowledge to other researchers and practitioners (this problem is as true in the context of arts and health as it is in research-led work).

Another related complexity flushed out during the day was that the conditions of participation need to be attended to, and the Artist Placement Group was referenced, including John Latham’s conceptualisation of the ‘Incidental Person’ as well as his and Barbara Steveni’s operating principles of Open Brief leading to Feasibility Study, the need for a willing host, and the need for commensurate pay (Steveni, 2003). This methodology has been developed within the arts to structure conditions for work in non-arts contexts.

This rich and provocative event opened up real questions on the contribution, conceptual and practical, of artists to landscape and environmental research. It opened up issues which need deeper reflection and consideration because without question the ‘wicked problems’ are increasingly the focus of research and policy. Whilst the Valuing Nature Programme may be nearing the conclusion of this phase of work it is highly likely that the next cycle of research will be larger with more challenging issues to address and it would be good to see more artists as Principal Investigators, Co-Investigators and Research Fellows helping to shape these projects, not just communicate the findings.

As the noted anthropologist Tim Ingold said recently,

“But while mainstream science continues to think of art as a medium for the communication of its own findings, it is now art, rather than science, that is leading the way in promoting radical ecological awareness.” (Ingold, 2017)

Ingold is echoing Roberts’ construction of arts adisciplinary role, pointing to the ways in which artists are re-imagining, even re-creating, our relationships with ecologies whether that is in the form of greater awareness and sensitivity or activism (and a range of other possibilities). All of these practices draw on the truths of various ecological sciences but also ask whether those truths are sufficient to articulate the value of the ecologies they claim to explain. The activists also use art to engage with the symbolic status of both the art and non-art social constructions (e.g. the social license to operate provided to the fossil fuel industry through sponsorship of cultural institutions). But that’s another subject.

Coessens, K., Douglas, A. and Crispin, D. 2009. The Artistic Turn: A Manifesto. Leuven University Press.

Ingold, T. 2017. The Art of Paying Attention. Aalto University. accessed 16 February 2018

Nicolescu, B. 1997. The transdisciplinary evolution of learning. In Proceedings of the International Congress on What University for Tomorrow? Towards a Transdisciplinary Evolution of the University, Locarno, 30 April-2 May.

Roberts, J., 2016. Revolutionary Time and the Avant-Garde. Verso

Steveni, B. 2003. Repositioning Art in the Decision-Making Processes of Society. In Interrupt Symposia. accessed 19 February 2018

Wolpert, L. 2002. Which Side Are You On? The Observer. 10 March. 16 February 2018


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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Presentation: On The Deep Wealth Of This Nation

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Launch and Live screening: ​Friday 9 March, 7pm
Live streamed from California: Newton Harrison of the Harrison Studioand The Center for the Study of the Force Majeure (CFM) sets out a vision for Scotland and for the River Dee.

Following on from his lecture in the early autumn, The Barn is delighted to host the launch of the Center for the Study of the Force Majeure’s vision for Scotland and the Dee valley in the form of a guiding narrative film exploring the implications of climate change and provoking thought and action for how we might adapt to the challenges as a diverse group of communities of interest.

This vision imagines the wealth of nations in terms of water, topsoil, forests, air, posing the question of how we as a global community might reach a plan of action that is commonly shared and that secures the health of our natural systems.

This work, entitled The Deep Wealth of this Nation, has been developed by Newton Harrison. Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison are internationally acclaimed artists and pioneers in the ecological art movement. Across five decades they have been invited as artists by governments and national and regional leaders, across the world, including the Dalai Lama, to address issues of climate change in specific places and communities. Their work as artists is consistently informed by current scientific research.

A key contributor to the vision is the James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, an interdisciplinary scientific research institute specializing in crops, soils, land use and environmental research. The collaboration is supported by Scottish Environment, Food and Agricultural Research Institute Gateway (SEFARI) to ensure that the effective communication of research outputs and outcomes to individuals and organisations involved in the future of the environment.

The Barn, Banchory is known nationally as Scotland ’s largest rural multi arts centre. Over the past two decades it has developed a special interest in art and ecology. It currently supports the largest recent allotment development in Scotland, a wild garden and a walled garden building biodiversity along with sound practices of food production and consumption. Buchanan’s, the cafe at the Barn is a key part of the local Slow Food Movement. The Barn has recently secured revenue funding from Creative Scotland and forms a key part of Creative Scotland’s and Aberdeenshire’s arts network.

The screening of this video and continuing conversations will inform the development of a public exhibition and related events in September 2018.

Supported by SEFARI

9 March 2018
Networking and bar from 7pm
Live stream from 7.30pm

This event is FREE but tickets are limited. BOOK NOW

Can’t make it to the event in person?

If you are unable to make the Barn screening in person but who would like to join the event via webinar please email with your contact details.

The Barn leaflet of events (pdf) The Deep Wealth Feb2018

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.</ br></ br>

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Tim Collins: What is Landscape Justice and Why Does it Matter?

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In the second of two pieces resulting from Landscape Research Group(LRG) events, Tim Collins (with input from Reiko Goto) reports on the Debate focused on Landscape Justice held in London on Wednesday 7 December 2017.

At this event, landscape justice issues discussed included deeply troubling, indeed dark and bloody national narratives underpinning what is presented today to be pristine and wild exemplary European forest; critical/creative legal maneuvers set to music to intervene in transnational oil and gas pipelines in the USA; the deep historic tensions over Land ownership in Scotland; and finally the framework for an ethical-aesthetic duty – a sense of justice owed to more-than- human interests.

Organized and facilitated by the Landscape Research Group (and in particular development manager Sarah McCarthy) the host for the debate was Chris Dalglish, Chair of LRG and social archaeologist. The panel comprised the landscape historian and theorist Ken Olwig from Denmark; eco-artist and activist Aviva Rahmani from New York City; Peter Peacock, former Labour MSP and policy director of Community Land Scotland; and Emily Brady, a philosopher with a focus on environmental aesthetics and ethics living and working in Edinburgh. Both Olwig and Brady are expatriate Americans.

Prior to travelling for the event, Reiko Goto and I had spent time reading to clarify our understanding of the key term and its meanings. The baseline is perhaps encapsulated in the LRG research strategy which views the challenges of landscape justice as a systemic problem of, “…inter-connected social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits and burdens, goods, services and agencies, which arise from landscape itself.” The research statement conflates landscape with land – the surface of the earth distinguished by boundaries of ownership and control. Landscape is generally more of an aggregate term. The European Landscape Convention understands it as land that is: “…perceived by local people or visitors, which evolves through time as a result of being acted upon by natural forces and human beings”. I will expand in the conclusion.

After a practical orientation by Sarah, Chris Dalglish in his role as Chair provided a brief overview of the issues surrounding the meaning and value of Landscape Justice (LJ) and how we would help to address these questions through conversations with our four speakers; but also in a larger dialogue amongst ourselves. With 12 present and former trustees of LRG in attendance and an additional 37 members of the group in the audience the event began with Ken Olwig as the first speaker.

The questions:

  • what is landscape justice and why does it matter?
  • why we should strive for landscape justice, and
  • how we might achieve landscape justice by linking research, policy and practice.

Ken Olwig

Prof Olwig is a historian and critical theorist, an author of a series of texts that examine how landscapes affect language, social, cultural and political process. For his presentation he prepared a series of slides outlining literature that contributes ideas to our present understanding of justice, nature, nationality and landscape with a focus on Europe. He began with the French philosopher Montesquieu before touching on the tensions between ideals, rhetoric and the lives of Scottish authors James Macpherson recognized for being the controversial ‘translator’ (from Scottish Gaelic) of the epic Ossian poems in the first half of the 18 th century and Sir Walter Scott who chronicled the conflicts of Highland life in the last half of the 18th century. His talk was dense and moved quickly through ideas, times and places.

Beginning with Montesquieu he talked about wild nature and the tension between ideas about environmental determinism and freedom from oppression, including theories of separate and opposing executive forces at the national level that would shape constitutions around the world. He then went on to Macpherson whose ‘Gaelic translations’ have been consistently challenged but widely read. A narrative of ancient legends and a description of the beauty of the Highlands, the Ossian epic is internationally recognized for its impact on the Romantic Movement. (He was also known for clearing his own Highland Estate of forests, reshaping landforms and obliterating the Gaelic place names where he could.) Referencing Sir Walter Scott, Olwig drew our attention to passages that suggested the Highlands were drained of nature. He also asked us to consider landscapes where culture was superfluous to emergent meaning largely defined by science. He relied on Simon Schama’s treatise on landscape and its relationship to ideas of culture and national identity as the central thread to the talk. Using Schama’s text Olwig put a critical framework in place to help us consider how landscape and its range of narratives shape national self-perception.

Schama’s text also became the focal point of his conclusion: the clash between recent ecological conceit in the European Union about ‘wild’ nature in the Białowieża forest of Poland and the despotic and fascist interests that claimed the forest as a symbolic validation of their values. He explained that the forest had undergone cycles of harvest and destruction and conservation and protection for centuries. It had been hailed as a wild centerpiece of cultural import for one despotic national interest after another. From the point of view of ‘wild’ ecology all apex predators including bears, wolves and lynx were exterminated in the mid 18th century. During the First World War the last of the wild bison were lost. British lumber merchants would contribute to the decimation of the forest after the war, while Polish scientists would reassemble the bison herd from zoo specimens. In the midst of World War II, Białowieża became a focal point of the fascist Nazi Lebensraum initiative, with ethnic cleansing to remove the resident population followed by radical restoration plans to extend the forest and reverse-engineer extinct species to create a hunting park. The Teutonic narrative of the Nazis would subsume the historic Polish-Lithuanian narrative of that forest, and in retreat the Nazis would burn historic hunting lodges and exterminate the bison, eagles, elk and wolves which were the symbolic focal point of their interest in that place. The subsequent Soviet occupation would then manage the forest frontier for state security. Yet the narrative of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries including the rhetoric of the European Union assume Białowieża to be the largest ‘remnant’ wilderness in Europe, ignoring a social, cultural and political history that complicates that point of view. This was a significant historical narrative, a robust provocation to begin the ‘debate’ about landscape and the location and meaning of justice.

Aviva Rahmani

Dr. Aviva Rahmani is an eminent ecoartist and researcher, with a background in music. She discussed her current project Blued Trees Symphony (2015 ongoing) which integrates the arts, sciences, and policy, resulting in a work that is intellectually challenging and beautiful at the same time.

She began by saying: “I am interested in artwork that results in solutions to difficult problems.” She presented as a researcher with a background in art and science with important collaborators in the fields of biology and paleoecology.

Blued Trees Symphony is a musical composition painted on trees across 50 acres in a forest that lies in the path of the Algonquin Incremental Market (gas) pipeline. The intent was to contest Eminent Domain(understood as Compulsory Purchase in the UK) by establishing an artwork copyrighted onsite, painted on trees as part of the forest. The Visual Rights Act (1990) would then be used to prevent mutilation, or modification of the artwork, actions prejudicing the artist’s honor or reputation.

Rahmani introduced the work with by talking about conversations in 2015 with ‘Frack Busters’ an activist group that wanted to discuss the work of Peter von Tiesenhausen. Canadian Tiesenhausen used his artwork on his family land, and his Moral Right for it to not be mutilated, as a means of holding oil pipeline developers at bay. The question was could an artwork be created and Copyrighted in the United States to similar effect, with the potential to block pipeline construction?

Rahmani began her effort in Peekskill, New York, working at the invitation of landowners wrestling with Eminent Domain related to the pipeline. Walking the site, mapping as she went, relying on her music training, she began to see a score marked out, to be played across multiple trees. If done right the score (multiple segments of copyright artworks) would put Copyright in conflict with Eminent Domain.

Each musical notation is a painted onto the tree using a casein slurry of non-toxic ultramarine blue and buttermilk that is conducive to the growth of moss. Installed along potential pipeline sites, Rahmani worked with lawyers to secure copyright of each element of the score. Conceptually this first (copyrighted) piece was an overture, which the artist introduced to us by singing. The painted notation on the trees was beautiful. Although a final slide showing notated trees cut down in Peekskill was disconcerting.

Rahmani then transitioned into a discussion of the work as it has been presented in galleries in New York and South Korea. She also discussed the ongoing legal nature of this work and an important new development in Virginia. She concluded with a few thoughts of the global impact of climate change and the need to reorganize information to have an impact. The last slide was a diagram that began with a specific art history that is the context for this work. Eminent Domain is the focal point and artists’ Copyright is the methodological action in this research. Broader questions attendant to the work include an evolving understanding of the public good and ongoing challenges to environmental law in the US and earth rights worldwide.

Peter Peacock

Peter Peacock was the policy director at Community Land Scotland at the time of the debate. He has served as a member of Scottish Parliament (1999-2011). He is recognized for expertise in community ownership, cultural heritage and land reform. Peter began his talk by describing the Highlands of Scotland as land with high conservation and recreational value, but land ownership limited to a few elite families. It has the most inequitable land ownership statistics in the western world. The clearances of the nineteenth century removed the resident population to enable new land management and economies of sheep and cattle. The Highlands were increasingly devoid of people; he described it as a landscape where full life is lost.

Peacock explained that he understands Landscape Justice as an opportunity to articulate divergent positions; a dialogic space where multiple points of view inform aspirations for Highland places. He envisions the Highlands as a place where a wider range of people have opportunities for housing and land investment rather than the limitations of tenancy arrangements. He recapped the history of Scottish Government policies and investment mechanisms which had initiated community buyouts and public land ownership and relate this to emergent ideas in National Landscape Policy and the factors that complicate that dialogue. Firstly, much policy is written from the position of Edinburgh, disengaged from nature and actual land-use practices. Many urbanites engage with the Highlands through panoramic aesthetic values, placing a premium on a view of desolate landscapes and ideals of wild nature devoid of human interest. Recent national wild lands mapping actually supports extant ideas and aesthetic interests doing little to shift the dominance of large estate owners. There is a tension between those that want to see the Highlands with a diverse array of ‘ordinary’ people living equitably, and this ‘wild land’ idea. The response of Community Land Scotland is to enable an informed, balanced debate between estate owners, land-use professionals and local interests. They work to enable best methods and a variety of means for communities to come together and make a difference in land ownership and management. He described a need for research that supports ordinary people and their interests in the Scottish Highlands, along side new scientific ideas, theories and practical methods that enable power sharing. These are the key landscape justice challenges in the Scottish Highlands.

Emily Brady

Professor Brady is a philosopher who has written books and articles on environmental aesthetics and the sublime. She introduced her interests as a mix of environmental philosophy and ‘landscape as place’. She extended the days’ discussions by bringing the discussion of landscape justice to the moral and ethical duty owed to the more-than-human; introducing ideas of interaction and interrelationships between bipeds, quadrupeds, winged and rooted beings. She started with Aldo Leopold’s ideas about a land ethic, a community of interests that has an interpersonal dimension an individual social/land dimension, and a moral duty to other things that occupy the land along with us. She described a move from a ‘conqueror’ relationship to a ‘citizen’ relationship that is well aware of the more-than-human component. So for her landscape justice is essentially a multi-species justice – a weak anthropocentrism. It is an ecologically informed idea of justice. Species decline becomes a significant issue. Her philosophical project is to articulate the intellectual underpinnings of justice itself as a concept. It is informed by human-to-human interrelationships between indigenous, racially and culturally differentiated communities. Philosophy contributes to an understanding of the ethical duty, and its historic and theoretical development. It is about attachment to beings other than ourselves, but it is also about a sense of virtue or humility in the face of a significant living otherness.

Brady went on to outline her heroes and heroines including Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County AlmanacRachel Carson author of Silent SpringRobert Bullard the original voice in ideas about environmental racism and environmental justice; Val Plumwood the noted ecofeminist who wrote Feminism and the Mastery of Nature and an artist; and Patricia Johanson who has consistently argued that her work is about healing the earth and creating spaces in urban places for endangered and threatened species. She closed by arguing that aesthetics is sensory not scenery, it is about being immersed and in an integrated relationship (subject – object – environment) relationship rather than a subject that engages (or views) an object. She closed with images of her currently favourite public art: large scale images created by the London-based artist known as ATM; a muralist creating large urban and rural drawings, paintings and murals of birds threatened with extinction. Brady provided a classic LRG conclusion, robustly interdisciplinary while focused on an evolution of thinking about aesthetics and ethics. She brought the question of landscape justice to an appropriately expansive idea of more-than-human ethical duty.


Debate was perhaps a poor choice of words to use to describe this event. It began as a series of lectures contributing to an attempt to define the meaning of landscape justice, as well as its fundamental social and cultural import. Underpinning this was a question of how research into the topic might support LRG’s Research Strategy and its goals of empowering people to critically appreciate and understand the range of values and actions that might contribute to just and sustainable relationships to landscape. The room was filled with an exciting mix of academics and professionals as well as a handful of policy experts from a range of age groups, disciplines, nations and cultural backgrounds. The initial programme was run more like a series of lectures than a debate with four 20 minute presentations, followed by a half hour question and answer period. After a coffee and tea break we were assigned to groups to discuss the key questions. Working groups were followed by a recap and some discussion in a closing plenary. The interdisciplinarity of the event was exciting, the lectures were brilliant but perhaps the audience would have benefitted from a pause, where we were might be able to ask some specific questions of the individual speakers. Finally it wasn’t clear how the collective deliberation would inform the LRG’s interests. Was it more than a talking shop?

Nonetheless, there were significant provocations made that day that are worth talking about. The four presentations offered significant challenges to the way landscape is ‘normally’ perceived and addressed by both academics and the general public. In each case these were challenging and innovative views. But of the fundamental questions… What does landscape justice mean? What are its key values? And how does research contribute to new understanding and action? The presentations perhaps only provided us with specific insight on particular values (representations of history; legal constructions; rural re-population; and aesthetics). It contributed to LRG’s unique and innovative approach to all the ways that research contributes to landscape questions, but the actual meaning of the term Landscape Justice remains somewhat elusive.

As indicated in the introduction we had spent a bit of time to understand what the LRG (and its publications) have to say about the meaning of Landscape Justice.

LRG Chair Dalglish has a published an article on the topic on the Community Land Scotland website and there is a 2016 editorial on the topic by Anna Jorgenson, Editor of the Landscape Research Journal. Dalglish (a social archaeologist) follows Aldo Leopold’s ideas of a ‘land community’ engaging humans and more than humans in an interdependent network. He differentiates this multi-species ‘landscape’ community from the human-centric definition used by European Landscape Convention. He also juxtaposes this land community idea against a general reading of environmental justice as a focus on the impacts and constraints that disadvantage human communities. Nonetheless, his understanding of Landscape Justice is a materialist distributive approach to value and impact:

“Landscape justice is a matter of the distribution of harms and benefits relating to the landscape. It concerns procedure, or fairness in the way decisions are made about the landscape. …It is a matter of capabilities, i.e. people’s capacity to achieve the outcomes they desire with regard to the landscape.” (2017, Dalglish).

While his focus is on decisions and the social capacity for affective discourse, land-based material interests and equitable consideration of harms and benefits are the underlying driver.

Anna Jorgenson (a landscape architect) is more oriented to land based benefits and impacts.

“It means addressing unequal (human) access to landscape goods and resources, including cultural resources or unequal exposure to environmental degradation and risk.” (2016, Jorgenson).

Like Dalglish, Jorgenson raises questions about rights for a broad range of non-human others, ecosystems and landscapes. Her editorial closes with a focus on the current refugee crisis and landscape injustice as ‘both a cause and an outcome’ of economic hardship and political oppression. She outlines how a refugee situation has an impact on original and destination landscapes, challenging the social and legal perception of who has rights to remain, rights to entry and unsettles the meaning of national borders. So in each instance, these LRG thinkers see land-based conflicts driving Landscape Justice, although the work is realized through discourse in a range of social-political settings.

The fundamental question that occupied us on the long train ride home the next day was about the difference between land and landscape. Is landscape a discursive public space, differentiated from issues of land ownership access and equity? The issues of justice as it refers to landscape are about having a voice that is heard in the debate about landscape cause and effect, meaning and value. This is embedded in Dalglish’ and Jorgenson’s positions and is a thread running through the expert testimony presented on the day. Olwig suggested that the dominant scientific culture of ecosystem science seeking to protect the Białowieża Forest ignores its complicated social/political history which has actually shaped its ecology. Rahmani offered a critical creative response to legal tools, specifically Eminent Domain, the use of which simply shuts down all debate about values. Peacock gave us a glimpse into a centuries old culture in Scotland where a few families dominate land-use decision-making by the weight of their property holdings and historic political strengths. Finally, Brady asked us to think about how the voice of the more-than-human enters the discourse of environmental justice through ethical and aesthetic consideration. Without a doubt, the LRG hosted a provocative day of discussion that raised issues relevant to a broad range of disciplines.

The meaning of Landscape Justice is perhaps still hanging in the air unresolved – as we struggle with the idea of landscape itself, a concept that is generative and morphological (like art) and as a result very difficult to pin down with closed definitions. If we think of it as a discursive space, then deliberation becomes a structure for relational definition. Justice in turn is about having access to and potential impact upon the discourse at hand.

This article is a result of a dialogue between Reiko Goto Collins and Tim Collins. We were in different working groups (and had very different experiences) We discussed the issues on the way down in the train, then discussed the event at length on the way back. We also corresponded a bit with colleagues who were also present at the event. We outlined this paper from our notes at the kitchen table over a series of mornings. Tim took on the task of writing, Reiko provided critical input again at the final stage of writing.

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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On Water Rights Residency

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This is the final blog from Holly Keasey written in October some months after her return from Santa Fe. Holly reflects on her apparent diversion from her intentional misunderstanding of the ‘rights’ in Water Rights to be equivalent to the ‘rights’ in Human Rights. The delay in publishing it is entirely the responsibility of the ecoartscotland editor.

We have come a long way. But we still have a long way to go. There is still today a frontier that remains unconquered — an America unclaimed. This is the great, the nationwide frontier of insecurity, of human want and fear.

President Roosevelt, radio address on the Third Anniversary of the Social Security Act, 1938

Taken at the Bradbury Museum, Los Alamos.

It has been over three month since I left Santa Fe and a month since my first attempt, to write this final post – an attempt that hammers home the difference of focused residency periods and trying to creatively think in between paid employment. To try and find my way back into the particular space I created for myself whilst at the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI), I turned my attention to questioning why – when I set out to investigate how to establish a role for critical public art practices, and what shifts in public arts policy are necessary to facilitate such practices by focusing on the role of policy and particularly water rights – did I end up spending the majority of my time in New Mexico conducting an ‘Atomic Tour’. Is there a reasoning to this shift or did I get distracted?

Whilst in New Mexico, I had the pleasure of meeting Sherri Brueggemann, the Albuquerque Public Arts Officer, who explained that the Albuquerque Public Arts Policy, though drafted as an adaptive policy, is predominantly dictated by a requirement of acquisition by the Albuquerque City Council. In short, the commissioning of object-based art that therefore has a long-term economic value and can be seen as a physical addition to their public art collection. For me, this legally stated requirement, and simultaneous reduction of public art to the manifestation of an monetarily-valued object, presents a clear link to a mind-set that is embedded in property.

As has been reiterated in a previous post, water rights are also directly linked to property, and hence property rights, in that they are focused on a possession-to-use/entitlement-to-ownership ethos. Yet, due to an on-going interest in the expansive role of water, I was interested in how this could be swung into a relation with human rights ( the “rights” inherent in being human, to do or to have simply because they are human) through a simple play-on, or rather, intentional (mis)interpretation of language. What is water allowed to be, to do and to have simply because it is water? And how could such an ethos be applied to all living beings and elements of the Earth? And what effect would this have on humanity’s current resource-focused trajectory if we were to accept and take on board such rights? This led me to consider if non-specialists in policy could misinterpret a policy – or rather interpret it differently whilst legitimising their reasoning for this interpretation of language. Is there a potential to give and in giving policy multifaceted meanings?

To understand the potential of this shift (or strategy of misinterpretation), I chose to conduct site-responsive re-search into the role of water and property rights in New Mexico, which in turn led me to be ‘willingly lost’ in the history of the nuclear as a significant specificity to New Mexico’s history. An inescapable element of my ‘Atomic Tour’ was the development of nuclear weapons and a need to understand what drove such an invention, its use and continued use as a method for ensuring maintained peace – a peace facilitated by threat and fear.

The construction of ‘property’ and it’s relationship with fear also led me to the ‘Atomic Tour’. In 1900, over 12,000 Japanese citizens immigrated to the U.S. mainland, many just released from indentured labor with Hawaii’s 1898 annexation. California became a focal area for settling and farming a key economic foundation for the Japanese population. However, the sudden increases in Japanese immigration spurred the spreading of the xenophobic theory of the ‘Yellow Peril’, with some fearing that the Japanese were attempting to overtake white control of California’s farmland. This resulted in the implementation of The California Alien Land Laws of 1913 and 1920, that prohibited “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning agricultural land or possessing leases over it or owning of stock in companies that acquired such land.

Although only one early action in an extensive web of global imperialist territorial power struggles, trade route deals and resource embargoes that ultimately led to the attack on Pearl Harbour and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945 respectively – the California Alien Land Law, for me, epitomises the driving relations in a number of dimensions. The Act highlights the role of policy in the formation and maintenance of a static national identity as a meditation on the significance of land as property. Finally it makes clear the invisible violence located in such policy-making that is implicitly driven by a fear of the ‘other’ or how I would term a fear of the uncontrollable potential located in difference.

Psychological Operations leaflet. Image taken at the Bradbury Museum, Los Alamos.

Nicolas Bromley writes that, ‘…force and violence are the nemesis of property and their frequent use is a signal that a property regime is faltering…’ and yet that, ‘…law requires the construction of a constituted outside with reference to, and against which, it sets itself apart. And violence is integral to its construction.’ The development, imagined-threat, use and now threat-as-use of the nuclear bomb, therefore could be seen as the site where literal and imaginings of the extremes of globalised property as an individual right, and therefore the fear such a notion requires and perpetuates, are given location.

From such a large-scale look at property, I return to looking further at the current implications of gentrification in which the antithesis to property is embodied by the indigent, the homeless and the renter,

‘…the poor are, if anything, imagined as a threat to property, not only because of their assumed complicity in property crime but also because, by their presence, they destabilize property values, both economically and culturally.’

It is in this act, of identifying ‘threats’ and establishing a legal policy of property rights to ensure security, that simultaneously identifies a feared ‘other’ that must always sit out-with a law in order to maintain the need for a law, that I feel there is a use in noticing a scalable relation between gentrification and the emotional underpinning of the nuclear. Yes, gentrification is embedded in a capital-based power system that thrives on establishing replicable exclusivity and social divides, but in order to dream of an alternative, maybe there is use in investigating how we approach and deal with that which we fear, especially in relation to difference and our prioritised entitlement to survival which currently manifests as possession-to-use.

From the above approach, I wish to move from property back to water, and water rights. In a previous post, I spoke of the Santa Fe River as a site of complexity. Site as verb – the act of giving location. This understanding of the river, and water more generally, does not so easily allow a single concept of rights as the regulation of distributing powers to control valued resources.

I wonder if it is here that I am also able to locate a site to develop potential towards ecological-sensitivity in developing multi-faceted interpretations of policy, through a focus on water rights? A form of policy that is shaped through giving location to difference and hence not responding to fear as something to be excluded, but rather an emotion we must learn to sit with until difference itself, rather than specifically that which is identified as different, unknowingly shifts to the familiar. Could the formation of such an idea be developed by reflecting on my own process of overcoming the fear of feeling out-of-place, due to constant travelling? By allowing myself to get lost and over-time become familiar and give-site to my fear through a relational and scalar approach to the fear embedded in the nuclear? And how could the development of a critical public artwork that focuses on policy, gentrification and property act as a generative challenge to legal regulations that stipulate that Public Art practices must result in an acquisition, either as an object or even as Culture for the purpose of increasing capital-attractiveness of an area?

I will continue to develop this as part of my body of work that considers Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) as a theoretical modelling system for alternative forms of urban planning and where my practice, that focuses on water as a tool to criss-cross theory and ecological concerns, could be situated within such a model as a challenge for critical formations of public art practice.

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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Reviewing the past, planning the future

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

During 2017 we published articles on a wide range of projects ecoartscotland is involved with, new commissioned writing, reports from various artists, as well as sharing articles from other blogs.

As part of ecoartscotland’s ongoing work with the Land Art Generator Initiative we toured the exhibition of the Glasgow project to the Tent Gallery at Edinburgh College of Art and also to the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.

Newton Harrison working with The Barn, Banchory on the ecological health of the Dee and Don Valleys. The video of the lecture Newton gave has now been put online.

  • We helped the Wetland Life project recruit artists and we look forward to providing an update on this work during 2018.
  • We published a number of guest blogs including,
  • Focusing on ‘wonder’, we published a curator’s reflection on the Murmur exhibition by Jonathan Baxter.
  • The Connecting with a Low Carbon Scotland conference, the culmination of the research programme funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh was written up by Professor Anne Douglas. The Research Report is due to be published in the Spring.
  • We reported on The Same Hillside,  the result of the art science collaboration between Professor Pete Smith and Gavin Wallace focused on ecosystem services assessment, and on A Field of Wheat, Culhane and Levene’s project that enabled us to participate in producing food.
  • Juliet Wilson reviewed Camilla Nelson’s Apples and Other Languages.
  • Minty Donald reviewed the Collins and Goto Studio exhibition A Caledonian Decoy.
  • Ewan Davidson reviewed the Center for Genomic Gastronomy’s Gut Gardening.
  • The year started with a series of blogs from Holly Keasey during her participation in the Water Rights residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute which you can read backwards by following this link.
  • We also appear to have failed: we tried to persuade the Leverhulme Trust to maintain its Artist in Residence Award Scheme – unfortunately there is no sign that this worked although a lot of people wrote letters and a-n also commissioned a piece from us.
  • During 2018 we have a number of articles in the pipeline including:
  • A report on the Landscape Research Group’s recent Landscape Justice Debate
  • More on wetlands including blogs from Hannah Imlach who was in Flow Country in the North of Scotland and Rob Mulholland from Cheng Long Wetlands in Taiwan.
  • The final reflection from Holly Keasey on her Water Rights residency.
  • A review of Marlene Creates: Places, Paths, and Pauses.
  • A response to A Non-Cartography thinking through the social mess of climate changeJournal of Aesthetics and Protest Issue #10
  • More on the work with The Barn and Newton Harrison.

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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Beautiful Renewables

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Wind Forest, ZM Architecture Team

Can renewable energy become not merely infrastructure but a feature of place-making? What can architects, artists and designers bring to the transition to a post-fossil fuel economy? Can creative approaches contribute to the commercialisation of new renewable technologies? These are some of the questions that the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) is asking and why ecoartscotland partnered with them.

The exhibition of the Land Art Generator Glasgow project along with examples from other LAGI competitions is currently installed on the Concourse of the Sir Ian Wood Building, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.

It has previously been exhibited in The Lighthouse, Glasgow; Exeter University Innovation Centre; and Tent, Edinburgh College of Art.

The LAGI Glasgow project focused on Dundas Hill, a former distillery and power station site just north of Glasgow City centre. Dundas Hill is now a regeneration site being developed by a partnership between Scottish Canals and BIGG Regeneration supported by Glasgow City Council.

The three short listed teams were led by architects and landscape architects (ERZ, Stallan Brand, ZM Architects) and involved engineers, designers and artists (Daziel+Scullion, Alec Finlay, Pigdin Perfect).

The Land Art Generator Initiative will be releasing the Brief for it’s next International Open Competition for a site in Melbourne in Australia in January 2018.

Chris Fremantle, who established ecoartscotland in 2010, is a Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer in Contemporary Art Practice at Gray’s School of Art. Outputs associated with this work have been clustered into a ‘project’ by the RGU Library Service on OpenAIR here. They include a chapter in the book of the LAGI Copehagen Open Competition in 2014, a conference paper at PetroCultures 2016 conference as well as the citation of the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Managers (CIWEM) Art and Environment Award made in 2016.


About EcoArtScotland:

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, cuorators, 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

LAGI Glasgow Exhibition

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Land Art Generator Glasgow exhibition
Tent: Art, Space and Nature, Edinburgh College of Art
8-21 September 2017

The award winning Land Art Generator Glasgow project, developed in collaboration with ecoartscotland, explores creative approaches to using renewable energy in urban contexts as part of place-making approaches to regeneration.

The Land Art Generator Glasgow project focused on the Dundas Hill regeneration site just North of Glasgow City Centre. The project has been develop in partnership with Scottish Canals, BIGG Regeneration and Glasgow City Council.

The exhibition includes the designs by teams led by landscape and architectural practices in Glasgow including ERZ, ZM Architecture and Stallan Brand, and also highlights examples from the Land Art Generator Initiative Open Competitions.

The Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) brings together artists, architects, scientists, landscape architects, engineers, and others in a first of its kind collaboration. The goal of the Land Art Generator Initiative is to stimulate the design and construction of public art installations that uniquely combine aesthetics with utility-scale clean energy generation.

As we aggressively implement strategies towards 100% carbon-free energy and witness a greater proliferation of renewable energy infrastructures in our cities and landscapes, we have an opportunity to proactively address the aesthetic influence of these new machines through the lenses of planning, urban design, community benefit, and creative placemaking.

ecoartscotland and the Land Art Generator Initiative were awarded the 2016 Chartered Institution of Water and Environment Management (CIWEM) Arts, Water and Environment Award. The Nick Reeves AWEinspiring Award is presented annually by CIWEM’s Arts and the Environment Network in association with the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW). The award celebrates projects or practitioners who have contributed innovatively to CIWEM’s vision of “putting creativity at the heart of environmental policy and action”.

Dave Pritchard, Chair of CIWEM’s Arts and Environment Network, said: “The quality of nominations for this year’s Award was wonderful. LAGI and ecoartscotland’s work is a superb example of our belief that arts-based approaches offer massive potential for more intelligent ways of responding to environmental challenges”.

The Land Art Generator Initiative’s programme includes in addition to the Glasgow project, a programme of Open Competitions, the next of which will be focused on Melbourne, Australia, in 2018.

There will be a discussion event at MFA Art, Space and Nature 3pm on 21 September. The event will be an opportunity to discuss the role of renewable energy in urban environments, as well as the opportunities presented by the Land Art Generator 2018 Open Competition in Melbourne. Allison Palenske, Alumni and member of the Art, Space and Nature based team that was a featured finalist in the 2014 Copenhagen Open Competition, will discuss making a successful Competition entry.

Please RSVP here 

For further information please contact Chris Fremantle on 07714 203016

Publication from the Land Art Generator Glasgow exhibition at The Lighthouse, Glasgow, 9 June – 29 July 2016


About EcoArtScotland:

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

Understanding a place “without shortcuts”: exploring the Tim Robinson archive 

This Post Comes from The Hollywood Story : An Eco-Social Art Practice | Co. Carlow Ireland | Authored by Cathy Fitzgerald:

I’m staying near Bearna village, which is on the edge of the ecologically significant Moycullen bog area in the West of Ireland.

On such occasions the basic act of attention that creates a place out of a location would be renewed, enhanced by whatever systems of understanding we can muster, from the mathematical to the mythological, by the passion of poetry, or by simple enjoyment of the play of light on it. Here is a gateway to a land without shortcuts, where each place is bathed in the sunlight of our contemplation and all its particularities brought forth, like those mountainside potato plots gilded by midwinter sunset in the valley of the stone alignment.

Tim Robinson ‘A Land without Shortcuts’, The Dublin Review 46 (Spring 2012), p.43

2017 has seen me spending many months away from Hollywood forest. Now, I find myself exploring a remarkable archive, a body of work created over four decades by Tim Robinson, that celebrates some of the most iconic land and marine areas of the West of Ireland. I thank Dr. Nessa Cronin of the Moore Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway, for inviting me to apply for a month-long Visiting Fellowship that is giving me access to Tim Robinson’s remarkable legacy. Also thanks to Dr Iain Biggs, my PhD supervisor, who encouraged me to take this opportunity.

Since 1972, Tim Robinson with the support of his partner Mairead, has created a nationally acclaimed body of work that celebrated and mapped the Aran Isles, the Burren and Connemara.

Initially, I was a bit unsure how my creative practice and research would connect with the archive. I was thinking how would I relate to the tree-less landscape that is the West of Ireland, but I was soon intrigued how Robinson developed an extraordinary ecology of creative practice.This practice, developed over these decades, embraced map-making, ecological and archaeological studies, local histories and folklore, and writing to deeply map and highlight overlooked values of these areas. Reflecting the significance of Tim’s work to the Irish nation, is that he is a member of Aosdana (an affiliation of artists who have made an outstanding contribution to the arts in Ireland) since 1996, and he  is a fellow of the Royal Irish Academy since 2011.

Robinson, drawing on his background in visual arts, mathematics and physics, and perhaps freshly enthusiastic about Ireland as he was as a visitor to this region (he was born in Yorkshire), created a practice that is far from a simple study of landscape.

An important recent book to understand Robinson’s many faceted practice is  Unfolding Irish Landscapes Tim Robinson, Culture and Environment (2016). A contribution from Irish art and architect researcher Catherine Marshall, indicates that Robinson’s wide-ranging creative practice is less appreciated in the art world than might be expected. She writes that Robinson’s work has been more often examined by literary critics, geographers, historians and other writers (Marshall, 2016, p.191).  Notably, she understands that Robinson’s mapping and collation of histories and place names inevitably led to his writing several acclaimed books, Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage (1986), Stones of Aran: Labyrinth (1995), Connemara: Listening to the Wind (2006), Connemara: The Last Pool of Darkness (2008), Connemara: A Little Gaelic Kingdom (2011) and yet, how his practice was informed ‘by an artist’s eye at all times’ (p.198) (a sense of Robinson’s work can be seen in the video below). She recognises that Robinson’s aim was to find a way to link the particular to the global and the mythic (p.197), and she briefly mentions how his work connects to other’s creative practices as established by Deirdre O’Mahony and Alan Counihan and Gypsy Ray who have created similar wide-ranging and comprehensive eco-social ‘mapping’ projects in Ireland (p.199). However, the final contribution in this book by ecocriticism researcher, Eoin Flannery in his ‘Essayist of Place: Post-Colonialism and Ecology in the Work of Tim Robinson’, signals how Robinson’s constellation of practices are now viewed as contributing significantly to the developing ecological (environmental) humanities discipline, of which ecological art practice is increasingly recognised as a vibrant field of enquiry.

Extract from the documentary film Tim Robinson: Connemara (Director, Pat Collins, Harvest Films, 2014), it ‘is a sixty minute film based on Robinson’s three Connemara books and a visual interpretation of his work as a map-maker and writer. An exploration of landscape, history and mythology – this film acts as an intersection between writing, film-making and the natural world.’ (Harvest Films)

To my mind, Robinson’s creative work is an exemplary example of a developed ecological practice.  Ecological art practices are perhaps better described as eco-social art practice (as they bear similarities to social art practices). Such practices involve organising activities and insights from lived (lifeworld) experience and diverse disciplinary knowledge, and are motivated by ethics, learning and action. Practitioners of such practices are not to the fore of such projects, rather they work transversally to encircle an emergent ecosophy, a philosophy of living well in a specific  location (originally described by French therapist, political activist and theorist, Felix Guattari). They foster a reflective, collaborative and comprehensive effort,  “without shortcuts”, as Robinson says, to understand our cultural values, or lack thereof, to our life-supporting environments.

Iain Biggs, who also undertook a Moore Institute visiting fellowship in 2014, has explored such ecosophical projects (looking at the creative practices of Deirdre O’Mahony, Pauline O’Connell and my own) in his research article ‘”Incorrigibly plural”? Rural Lifeworlds between Concept and Experience’ (2014). Biggs details how these creative practitioners develop and share  workings for their audiences as a result of them inhabiting ‘polyverses’: that these multi-constituent practices champion openness and plurality as they welcome and explore many different ways of appreciating often marginalised rural lifeworlds (Biggs, 2014, p.263).

And fostering sensitive, inclusive, region-specific creative practices is important for all our futures given the unprecedented eco-crises we all face (although in Ireland, understanding that culture is 4th pillar of sustainability is still little acknowledged, Fitzgerald, 2017). I can illustrate this further by considering two creative projects detailed in articles sent to me by colleagues this week, one from Ireland and one from Australia. The Irish article, in yesterday’s Irish Times, ‘Connemara village writes its own positive obituary’ (Siggins, 24 August 2017) reveals a local community that feels abandoned by the Irish Minister for Rural Development. However, this community, with the help of creative film-maker and television producer, Sean O Cualain, has set up a bilingual online interactive map and archive of this area’s place-names and rich heritage, that honors it’s ancestors’ livelihoods. Such efforts contrast what the Irish Times writer Siggins identifies as the official, “the land is worthless” narrative, that is often heard by those, like the villagers in Connemara, who are trying to maintain a sustainable relationship to their land. The Connemara village’s Loughaconeera Heritage website highlights Coiste Scoil Loch Con Aortha, their  voluntary organization and their efforts to secure funds to develop an old school as a community facility (you can make a donation here). It’s more than telling  that this article ends with a note that a Fine Gael Councillor resigned in April from the post of chairman of the Western Development Commission in protest over government inaction.

Likewise, Australian sociologist Laura Fisher in ‘Ecologies of Land and Sea and the Rural/Urban Divide in Australia: Sugar vs the Reef? and The Yeomans Project’ (2017) documents similar narrow-minded, city-based agendas that little reflect or consult with rural realities. She argues the potential for embedded eco-social art practices to offer valuable insights to seemingly intractable farming versus environmental debates. Her research reviews the live, ongoing multi-dimensional creative Sugar vs The Reef? Project (begun 2016), in which creative practitioners Ian Milliss, Lucas Ihlein and Kim Williams, listen and gather overlooked diverse local knowledge to map a regenerative farming appropriate for this specific environment, that borders the sensitive and declining Great Barrier Reef. Having followed Lucas Ihleins’ doctoral research (and I met with Lucas last December), I also admire their use of a blog to creatively collate and make this project open and  accessible to local and further afield audiences. Similarly, I recognise blogging as a creative audio-visual discursive practice that has an immediacy  perhaps more readily engaging than Robinson’s preference for detailed literary endeavors, although, of course, both have value (I wondered the other day in the reading room looking at the physical archive how will blogs be archived in the future). Overall, Fisher’s analysis concludes that these ‘projects show that generating compelling, localised, cultural meanings around land use has the potential to be as decisive as scientific intervention or environmental legislation’ (ibid).

Fisher’s research confirms others extensive studies, such a sociologist Sacha Kagan’s Art and Sustainability: Connecting Patterns for a Culture of Complexity (2011) which analyses that ecological art practices are a significant contribution towards developing relevant instances of sustainability. However, I concur with Marshall above, that such wide-ranging practices are less known than they should be. My recent doctoral research and practice has tackled why these practices pose challenges to contemporary art practice. Importantly, I see common aims and strategies in how these projects develop and are maintained. My research has helped to articulate these processes and I hope to apply my theory and methodology framework to understand Robinson’s and others practices more simply.

But first, I think I might go out and experience the bog outside my front door. And that’s the first step, gathering experiential knowledge of being in a place, and art has a key role to translate these experiences in new and engaging ways to audiences. I’ll post more on this in my next post from the bog 🙂

Biggs, Iain (2014)’”Incorrigibly plural”? Rural Lifeworlds between Concept and Experience. Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, Special issue, “Text and Beyond Text: New Visual, Material, and Spatial Perspectives in Irish Studies”. Vol. 38, Nos. 1+2, 260-279.

Fisher, Laura (2017) ‘Ecologies of Land and Sea and the Rural/Urban Divide in Australia: Sugar vs the Reef? and The Yeomans Project’. Available at
 [Accessed 23 August 2017]

Fitzgerald, Cathy (2017) ‘Creative Carlow Futures: Art and Sustainability for County Carlow’. A Carlow Arts Act Award study report. In press.

Kagan, Sacha (2011) Art and Sustainability: Connecting Patterns for a Culture of Complexity.

Siggins, Lorna (2017) ‘Connemara village writes its own positive obituary’ 24 August 2017 Irish Times. [Accessed 24 August 2017].

Thanks to digital archivist Aisling Keane and Prof Daniel Carey, Director, of the Moore Institute for welcoming me to the Robinson archive. Thanks to Mary Carty and Lucas Ihlein for sending me the above articles.

Newton Harrison at Woodend Barn, Aberdeenshire

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland 


The Dee and Don Catchment Area
Creating Resilience to Climate Change

The Barn, Saturday 26 August 2017
7-9pm. Refreshments from 6.30pm

We are pleased to confirm that Newton Harrison’s visit to Aberdeenshire has
now been fixed and we are delighted to invite you to an evening of discussion
in his company on 26th August.

Newton Harrison of the Harrison Studio (USA) is an internationally acclaimed artist, who, along with partner Helen Mayer Harrison, has championed art & ecology across the globe since the early 1960’s.

The Barn has invited Newton to visit Aberdeenshire to open a conversation, involving local agencies and communities in exploring the impacts of climate change on our local environment, centering initially on the catchments of the Dee and Don rivers. Following the Harrisons’ methodology, we hope to create a space where all voices can be heard and practical strategies can be formulated and shared.

This partnership forms the core of the Barn’s Art & Ecology programme for 2017-19, and will engage with environmental agencies, farming, fishing, forestry, government, academia, local communities and, not least, the creative sector.

We very much hope that you would like to be involved in supporting this project from the outset, and are able to join us for this opening event with Newton Harrison at the Barn.

Lorraine Grant, Anne Douglas and Mark Hope

RSVP to tel 01330 826520

For further information on the Harrison Studio please visit

Banner image: Chris Fremantle. Photograph: Mel Shand


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.</ br></ br>

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‘After Coal’ Screening and discussion

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Documentary exploring climate justice to screen at CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow on 3 September 2017

What happens when fossil fuels run out? How do communities and cultures survive?

After Coal profiles inspiring individuals who are building a new future in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky and south Wales. The hour long documentary will screen at CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts at 3pm Sunday 3 September. Director Tom Hansell will attend a question and answer session after the screening.

The film features ex-miners using theater to rebuild community infrastructure, women transforming a former coal board office into an education hub, and young people striving to stay in their home communities. The stories of coalfield residents who must abandon traditional livelihoods bring viewers to the front lines of the transition away from fossil fuels. Music plays a major role in this documentary essay, linking the two regions and providing cultural continuity that sustains communities through rapid change.

Director Tom Hansell has made a career of documenting energy issues in the Appalachian coalfields of the United States. His previous films Coal Bucket Outlaw (2002) and The Electricity Fairy (2011) screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts is Glasgow’s hub for the arts. Their year-round programme includes cutting-edge exhibitions, film, music, literature, spoken word, festivals, Gaelic and performance. At the heart of all activities is the desire to work with artists, commission new projects and present them to the widest possible audience.

For more information, contact the CCA box office at, phone 0141 352 4900 or contact the filmmaker directly at

To book tickets electronically, go to:

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.</ br></ br>

Go to EcoArtScotland