ecoartscotland

LAGI Glasgow Exhibition

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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

A5-LAGI-Glasgow-Brochure-16pages


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  sugar-vs-the-reef.net 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 https://www.academia.edu/33371306/Ecologies_of_Land_and_Sea_and_the_Rural_Urban_
Divide_in_Australia_Sugar_vs_the_Reef_and_The_Yeomans_Project
 [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 

Invitation

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 mail@thebarnarts.co.uk tel 01330 826520

For further information on the Harrison Studio please visit
http://theharrisonstudio.net/

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

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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  boxoffice@cca-glasgow.com, phone 0141 352 4900 or contact the filmmaker directly at thansell@gmail.com

To book tickets electronically, go to: http://cca-glasgow.com/programme/after-coal

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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Jonathan Baxter: Murmur – Artists Reflect on Climate Change

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Sarah Gittins, Chloe Lewis, Ellis O’Connor, Meg Rodger and Saule Žuk

5th August – 16th September 2017
10am – 5pm, Free Entry
An Talla Solais, West Argyle Street, Ullapool, IV26 2UG


‘The word “urgency,” rather than crisis, is an energetic term for me. Urgency is energizing, but it’s not about apocalypse or crisis. It’s about inhabiting; it’s about cultivating response-ability.’
(Donna Haraway in conversation with Martha Kenney)


When thinking about this exhibition – the reality of climate change, the devastating impact it’s having and will continue to have on the ecosystems that we all, human and non-human, depend on – the word ‘urgency’ comes to mind. So why is this exhibition entitled Murmur – Artists Reflect on Climate Change? Shouldn’t these artists – like all of us – be shouting out a warning or taking direct action?

It’s tempting to think that action is what we need. (And, of course, we really do need action to address climate change.) But before we act we need to notice there’s a problem. And before we notice there’s a problem we need to notice the wonder: the abundant multiplicity of lifeforms and living systems that make up this teeming planet.

One way to take notice is through art. Both the making of art and the engagement with art. Indeed, as Anne Bogart has written, ‘the true function of art’ is ‘to awaken what is asleep’.

This chimes well with the artists who have made work for this exhibition. When asked what they hoped the exhibition might achieve – knowing full well that art is only one part of a multifaceted response to climate change – their individual answers, although nuanced, were of a piece.

In the interests of opening up the conversation I share some of their responses here (edited and in the order in which we exchanged them):

Saule:

I would like the exhibition to be a space to stop/slow down, to listen to ourselves deep inside and to listen to our environment, to feel what is truly important to us, to feel nature’s impact on us. The only way my work can create a feedback loop is through people, if it pokes or touches them in some meaningful way so they can carry on the ripples … For me, the process of making work for this exhibition does create ripples in my life, and I hope that the workshops and talks will do a similar thing for the audience.

Sarah:

I would like it if my experiences and explorations during my research residency were in some way shared by the viewers of ‘the book’. My conversations and encounters opened up some understanding of what it can mean to work for your livelihood on, in or with the sea. I began to understand how this work depends on a finely balanced ecosystem, how it is being and will be impacted by climate change and how changes in the marine environment set off a chain reaction that is so complex it cannot be fathomed completely, and this complexity is a source of wonder that inspires respect.

With Murmur as a whole I agree with Saule that the exhibition could be a space to slow down, listen deeply and consider. What I wouldn’t like is for the exhibition to temporarily awaken an awareness of climate change that is so gentle as to wash over a person and fade away again quickly. I would love it if it was strong and deeply affecting in a way that makes the questions alive and ignited for the long-haul. If the exhibition inspires deep engagement then that will be a success I think.

Ellis:

I would like people to be challenged by the idea of what they think environmental art should be. I want Murmur to be about communicating climate change through various mediums, creating a dialogue in which people can connect with and understand that there are many layers to the question of climate change and sometimes it’s not about the macro but the micro. The smaller details, the stories, the layers of evidence that are often overlooked are sometimes the most important part of creating a conversation and conveying the evidence of climate change.

Chloe:

I’d like people to make a connection with the natural wonderland, kind of like bridging the gap, reconnecting and reminding the viewer of natural beauty in a positive way. For the exhibition as a whole, I like the idea of people ‘slowing down’ and allowing them to be drawn into the work. But I also think the exhibition should be a place to inspire conversation and interaction between the viewers, to create a buzz of opinions and questions revolving around climate change. Art about climate change can often be negative and uninspiring, leaving people feeling helpless and unmotivated. I hope the exhibition, workshops and talks are going to make a fun and uplifting experience for everyone involved.

Meg:

My work is not political, it is not a call to protest. However, so much of contemporary life is caught up in work, sitting in cars or at desks, taken up with a digital lifestyle. I guess my work is simply a call for us to spend more time outdoors. To breathe the air, to sit quietly and listen, watch, smell and touch … to be. To look closely at small creeping insects and delicate fungi, to watch the clouds and predict the weather, to listen to bird call. By doing so we may start to be more appreciative of what we have around us, what it gives us and what we are set to lose through climate change. By caring more, maybe we can all make changes to how we lead our lives and collective change can make a difference.

It seems unnecessary to add further interpretation. The artists have stated their aims. The rest is an invitation: to slow down, sit quietly and listen, to watch, smell and touch, to ask questions and enter the conversation. Each work is a ripple to inspire further ripples, a murmur growing louder with each call and response.

Jonathan Baxter, Curator


Accompanying the exhibition are a series of workshops and related events. For full details see http://www.antallasolais.org/activities.

Meet the Artists – Family Open Day
5th August, 10am – 12.30pm

From Here to There – Community Print Workshop
led by Jonathan Baxter and Sarah Gittins
15th – 18th & 21st – 24th August, 10am – 12pm and 1pm – 5pm
See the ATS website for timetable updates

Jewellery for Change Workshop
led by Chloe Lewis
12th August, 2 – 5pm

Creative Conversations #4
The Highland Youth Arts Hub in collaboration with An Talla Solais
18th August, 10am – 12pm

Ullapool Green Tease – To see, know, and act
presentations and conversation exploring creativity, climate change and community resilience
Creative Carbon Scotland in collaboration with An Talla Solais
19th August, 2 – 5pm

Deep Time Biodiversity Walk
led by Wayne Fitter (Scottish Natural Heritage) at Knockan Crag
25th August, 11am – 1pm

Deep Time Talk and Film Screening
talk by John McIntyre followed by Fabrizio Terranova’s film Donna Haraway: Storytelling for Earthly Survival
25th August, 7 – 10pm

Deep Time Drawing Workshop
led by Ellis O’Connor at Knockan Crag
26th August, 10am – 4pm

 



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

Open Call: Adaptation Scotland

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Community Engagement Pioneer Project

Support and funding of up to £10,000 is offered for one Community Engagement Pioneer Project to be developed and run as part of the Adaptation Scotland programme between September 2017 – March 2018.

This opportunity is open to all organisations and community groups based in Scotland. This includes public, private and third sector organisations and community groups based around particular locations and/ or interests.

Read more here including Case Studies.

Download the application form here – application deadline Friday 11 August 2017

 



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

Bibliography on critical approaches to toxics and toxicity

This post comes to you from Discard Studies:

Thanks to the excellent Discard Studies for this important bibliography

Critical approaches are those that question premises, assumptions, and ways that things become normal or stable. Toxicity, toxins, and toxicants are areas of critical concern because controversies over what they mean, how they act, how they come into being and where, and what counts as evidence have high stake ramifications. Contrary to popular adage, the meanings and methods of toxicity weren’t decided by Paracelsus in the moment he declared, “the danger is in the dose.” Rather,as a description of chemical harm, toxicity is constantly being upset, resettled, and contested. These texts offer critical insights into these processes.

·       Aftalion, F. (2001). A history of the international chemical industry. Chemical Heritage Foundation.

·       Ah-King, M., & Hayward, E. (2013). Toxic sexes—Perverting pollution and queering hormone disruption. O-Zone: A Journal of Object Oriented Studies1.

·       Allen, B. L. (2003). Uneasy alchemy: citizens and experts in Louisiana’s chemical corridor disputes

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Call for Artists: WetlandLIFE

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The WetlandLIFE Research Team is looking for artists whose work can contribute to our knowledge and appreciation of wetlands and mosquitoes. By this we mean artworks, in any medium, that seek to influence our awareness, understanding, attitudes, emotions, values or behaviour towards them, and the ecological and social interactions that have brought them into being. This might be done by communicating the findings of researchers about wetlands and mosquitoes to new audiences, challenging how we think about them, or changing how we feel about them – perhaps helping us connect with them in new ways.

This is an exciting opportunity for artists to work alongside local communities and a diverse team of environmental researchers to show how art can influence how we value nature and ecosystem services. The focus of work will be on the Somerset Levels, Humber Levels and Thames Estuary, although reference will also be made to a broad range of inland and marine wetlands across England to capture the diversity of these places.

We are offering three bursaries of £5,000 each (total of £15,000). Artists can apply for the total amount – and create work that relates to the project’s three case study sites or to wetlands in general – or for one bursary worth £5000 – perhaps focusing specifically on one of the sites. We welcome applications from consortiums of artists working together to address all three sites. The bursaries cover the artist(s) fees, accommodation and travel, and all costs associated with the production and display of the artworks.

Artworks by the successful artist/s will be included in a final touring exhibition, planned in early/mid 2019, which will visit each of the three case study sites.

The full brief is available on the WetlandLIFE website.

WetlandLIFE is one of the projects funded through the multi-Research Council Valuing Nature Programme.


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

Low Carbon Futures and the arts and humanities.

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How many lawyers does it take to make Scotland low carbon? How many artists? You might think it doesn’t matter – it’s the scientists, engineers and politicians who will make the difference.

But increasingly it is recognised that our addition to fossil fuels is as much cultural as it is infrastructural. Single occupancy car use is related to our western individualism as is the instant, always ‘on’ culture of 24/7 which leaves no ‘down time’ and means that everything is available always (including summer fruits in the middle of winter) . The overarching question throughout the two days whether explored philosophically, legally or in terms of journalism, was How have we constructed this culture?” Before we can change it, we need to grasp our entanglements.

Connecting with a Low Carbon Future, University of Stirling, Law and Philosophy Department 19th-20th April, 2017

This conference explored what the arts and humanities can offer the transition to a low carbon future. Until recently the issue has been dominated by science and technology but there is a growing recognition that transition is equally a social and cultural issue.

Co-ordinated by Professor Gavin Little, Department of Law and Philosophy, as part of a research project funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the ambition for the event was high. The conference drew research papers from throughout Europe deliberately clustered into humanities disciplines that were closely related: law and politics; philosophy, culture and history; theatre studies and literature; visual arts, media and cultural studies.

The convenors framed a number of challenges. What might the humanities offer in terms of:

  • identifying barriers to low carbon transitions
  • achieving transition in ways that are ethically just
  • understanding and influencing political power?

Researchers across all domains are accustomed to revealing to peers what they understand differently as a consequence of a process of inquiry – negotiating knowledge within a discipline. It is a kind of test in the company of others equally equipped with the relevant expertise to judge the level, depth and authority of what is claimed. We work within disciplines as knowledge domains and traditionally in the arts and humanities, as lone researchers.

This gathering challenged us to undertake a different approach.

Firstly, arts and humanities disciplines needed to open up their discrete and individualistic ways of knowing, to come together on a shared issue: transition to a low carbon future. The parallel sessions organised in the closely aligned discipline clusters revealed clearly how the issue of transition reaches to the heart of how we, as human beings, make meaning and confer value. At no point to my knowledge was the potential of arts and humanities research on the issue in question. Nonetheless it became clear that it would take time to figure out how to be effective in an area normally associated with science and technology.

Secondly transition necessitates dialogue across disciplines but frequently when such dialogues take place, they only operate at a very superficial level. This gathering encouraged us to encounter other ways of knowing and examine the assumptions and constraints of other knowledge practices (as well as our own). A better understanding of assumptions and constraints might forge new connections across the different disciplines representing the arts and humanities.

Thirdly, knowledge of transition needs practical and experiential as well as theoretical ways of knowing. This was possibly the least developed aspect. As academics we are accustomed to being experts that draw from human society, its materials and practices, for the purposes of analysis and to pass wisdom on as the end point of the research process. This linearity and its implicit power relationship needs to be rethought to construct modalities of co-researching with non academic partners. This was touched on through notions of action, activism and practice based research but not perhaps yet fully grasped in the discussions as a radically different research approach.

Across the two days we encountered rich narratives of research that revealed the degree to which the arts and humanities try to understand the future from the past. The rate and nature of climate change has in many ways confounded learning in this way – climate change provokes us to think outside of the limits of our current knowledge and imagine what might be. Putting the issue of escalating change vividly, Professor Jose Albelda Raga, artist and ecologist from the Polytechnic University of Valencia in his co-authored paper with Nuria Sanchez, cited the Global Footprint Network that had proposed that our current rate of consumption will shortly exceed 1.5 planets while we only have the knowledge to inhabit one.

For some, notably Julian Dobson from Sheffield Hallam, who has been researching institutions committed to low carbon cultures, we need to become less dependent upon what has gone before and carefully examine systems in relation to logics of value – a university will value education whereas a local government will value civic responsibility. Inevitably there will be discord but this can become a creative opportunity if we forgo a set of cultural values based in expectation (of a secured life style, within an economic systems based in growth and development) to values of hope. It is only by relinquishing expectation that we could ever countenance our own possible extinction. The juxtaposition of the values represented by, on the one hand, expectation and on the other, hope is particularly challenging. One is focused on ‘what we have’ and the other on ‘what we might need’…

Professor Janet Stewart, University of Durham, delivered the first keynote. She framed the complexities and sheer difficulties of the issues of a low carbon future by evidencing how since 19th century industrialisation, metaphors of extraction had become hardwired into our everyday thinking, locking us into particular ways of imagining ourselves in the world. These both reveal and conceal the implications of fossil fuel dependence.

Facade of the Vienna Museum of Technology

Stewart explored how photography for example is materially tied into the oil industry even though this is not explicitly acknowledged. It is also the main medium through which we are trained to see and celebrate extractive processes, for example in museum displays that draw on earth sciences. She referenced the recent development of energy displays in Vienna’s Museum of Technology. In various seductive ways oil culture and fossil fuel dependence in the 21st century had become ‘hidden from plain view’. We pretend, for example, that digital communication is in some sense immaterial, or at least drawing on ‘clean energy’, while in fact the storage and transfer of digital data is causing significant environmental problems.

Stewart’s keynote offered a number of important insights that were revisited across the two days, principally the recognition of how difficult it is to escape from current ways of thinking and acting. We are consistently reinforcing what Stewart termed ‘extractive seeing’ as a cultural regime and find it hard to escape the control that such a regime exercises. We ‘mine information’ and ‘read deeply’. To move away from this type of control, we need to think about ‘decarbonised seeing’ to begin to displace ‘extractive seeing’ and to come to the surface in reading the world.

Dr Pietari Kappa, University of Warwick, resonated the gap between subject matter and material practices in the film industry. Film producers might draw attention to the need for a low carbon future through the content of a film narrative but rarely produced film following low carbon practices. A much quoted example was the Mad Max film series, a dystopian narrative about a post oil culture that has been produced through conventional high carbon consumption. The whole industry is rife with contradiction and in some cases, forms of delusion. He placed ICT technologies at a carbon footprint of 3 per cent which equates with flights.

Other presentations (notably Louise Guibrunet, University of London, and her exploration of the informal labour of refuse collectors in Mexico City) emphasised the importance of contradiction as a research tool and that meaning cannot be abstracted out of and away from the context of experience. The standoff between local government in Mexico City and an informal, but essential, public service of waste collection helped her to grasp the social, cultural, economic and political issues of waste pickers in a particular suburb of Mexico City. Echoing Julian Dobson’s point about discord in civic life, she pointed out that the Mexican government, unlike other areas of Latin America, could not formally recognise the important work of waste pickers because such work was illegal. This locked in the problem of escalating waste in the city centre. Arriving at shared meaning involves taking on perspectives that might radically differ from our own, not as a process of measurement or aggregation but as an encounter with difference that at some point requires resolution to move on, even if that resolution is to live with the contradiction.

Informal Waste Pickers in Mexico City

In this respect the significance of practice outside of the academic institution, formed an important issue within some of the sessions, but perhaps insufficiently. This issue was revisited in the plenary. In this presentation Dr Dominic Hinde, University of Edinburgh, an environment correspondent working globally, emphasised the need to draw together the practice of journalism with research practice to ensure that a topic as pressing as the Anthropocene did not disappear from view. Journalism as a practice was in chaos economically and politically. Reporting the Anthropocene demanded a practice that was not caught up in capitalism. It needed to be a research practice that was decolonised, e.g. by forming global networks of mutually supportive researchers/practitioners.

The role of the imagination appeared in many guises. Without imagination it would be impossible to think ‘time’, to conceive a time long before human existence or, as we currently understand the future, long after such existence has ceased. Imagination and language, working in the contexts of particular interests, make visible and also conceal what we think to be ‘true’ or ‘real’. Camille Biros and Caroline Rossi, Université Grenoble Alpes, have undertaken to analyse the corpus of the United Nations and a selection of NGOs to track and define justice through these texts, using particular software. The research sets out to map the different interests at work in full knowledge that the least responsible are the most effected. It also reveals that justice is largely defined from the perspective of human self- interest. It is worth noting perhaps that this focus runs counter to recent developments to grant legal status, ‘personhood’, to aspects of ‘nature’ such as New Zealand’s Whanganui River, sacred to the Maori people.

In introducing the plenary session, Professor Little explored the challenges of interdisciplinarity that occur in opening up new research domains such as Energy Humanities and Environmental Humanities. He stressed the value of discipline specific knowledge, its rigorous evolution and identifiable expertise. He re-iterated Joe Moran’s notion of inter-disciplinarity – it challenges old disciplines to interact and contribute expertise to a common practice. He drew a distinction between radical and moderate forms of collaboration where the former attempts to cross significant boundaries such as literature and hard sciences, risking superficiality and the latter has a more moderate, but potentially more profound ambition to interact with expertise that is more alike and by implication, less superficial e.g. politics and media. Hence the conference was structured in relation to close discipline alliances. Gavin Little made a powerful case for why issues such as a low carbon future cannot be left to science and technology alone as they demand a tectonic shift in human thought and value systems.

I share the concern to avoid superficiality, the tendency particularly in science/art collaborations to bolt the arts onto science in a purely illustrative function. It is interesting to note how rarely artists, for example, collaborate with disciplines that are close to them, preferring instead to make alliances with scientists. This is evident in the practice of the Harrisons, ecology artists, that our own paper*, co-authored with Chris Fremantle, addressed. Our point was to develop a framework for understanding the contribution the arts could make to transition. We looked at the early work of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, founders of the art and ecology movement. In particular we focused on the way in which their approach constructs dialogue across disciplines (including the sciences), contexts (local/global), constituencies (institutions, individuals, organisations) focused on a very particular ecological issue – the food chain of catfish, the ecological interdependence between algae and brine shrimp. In other words their practice begins with a very local observation from which a conversation is generated that involves whoever can support, problematize or imagine the implications of single instance of organic life for planetary well-being.

The Harrisons frame questions, for some of which there is no known methodology. They engage the imagination of multiple contributors in speculating on the implications of certain hard won insights that emerge through shared inquiry. Alongside this kind of speculative imagination that draws rigorously on evidence based research, there is practical wisdom – knowledge and experiences of place and dwelling in everyday life. They show how the arts, and by extension the humanities, draw together rigour with participation /collaboration, imagination with data and its interpretation. Arguably all these are essential to facing a future that will be completely different from the past and present.

In other words climate change and the move towards a low carbon future, it would appear, is pushing us in the arts and humanities to move quickly and in multiple directions – to move beyond a love of well honed skills/methods to become immersed in issues as they appear in life, in places, with individuals and communities, to see ourselves as part of the materiality of experience and to develop our research from a proactive, if not activist, position.

In the plenary, Nuria Sanchez made a radical proposal for developing the discussion out of her experience of delivering an innovative interdisciplinary Diploma in sustainability, ecological Ethics and environmental education at the University of Valencia, led by Professor Jose Albelda . She proposed that we start with a question core to transition, using the conference to generate a paper by working in interdisciplinary teams that would be presented as the end point of a conversation. This proposal, completely alien to most arts and humanities academics would on the one hand require teamwork and the negotiation of the boundaries of several disciplines and on the other speed, for she proposed that the paper might be written in a couple of days.

What are the wider implications of Nuria’s proposal?

It would mean centring our questions on matters of the environment whether or our disciplines were accustomed to framing such questions i.e. questions that at the point of posing them, may not be possible to answer from within a single discipline.

It would mean listening deeply to forms of expertise beyond our own discipline and figuring out the relationship that that discipline’s way of knowing bears to our own, encountering and embracing difference as well as discord as a creative, generative force.

It would mean rethinking rigour. This is currently invested in selecting and applying method appropriately but may came to mean understanding the degree to which method itself shapes and limits what can be known. It would mean developing skills in constructing relations (across disciplines as well as non academic partnerships), skills of empathy and of the imagination.

It would mean rethinking the dichotomy between ‘pure’ ‘primary’ research and ‘functional’ ‘urgent’ research, questioning the assumption that primary research is not functional or pure research is not urgent. In other words new ways of thinking about life on earth through literature might be recognised as as urgent as understanding bark beetle infestations.

It would mean rethinking economies of research, Ecology and economy share the same root of ‘oiko’ meaning ‘home’. Instead of research feeding capitalist economies i.e. research that makes money and addressing the side effects that follow, this approach demands that we rethink how to manage resources in sustaining life to narrow the gap between rich and poor as part of taking take care of the environment.


Notes

* Abstract: How do artists meet the challenges of a low carbon future? The poetics of ecology art practice
Anne Douglas and Chris Fremantle

We are accustomed to analysing and evaluating the work of art in ecology in terms of a ‘one-off’ project or intervention, as subject matter more than process. We argue that it is the poetics of a practice taken as a whole that is key to understanding how artists address the challenges of a low carbon future.

A practice is simultaneously a belief about what can be known (an ontology) and a form of action in the world. Ontologies underpin discipline specific knowledge. They are powerful. They draw on existing knowledge (epistemologies) and follow explicit approaches (methodologies) in order to create a position of authority through consensus, conformity and verification within each discipline’s community.

In contrast, an artist’s practice is put together/ made by an individual. It evolves over time, subjectively. The artist as ecologist works with the complexity of specific experiences and contexts, open to divergent, contradictory views and values. Managing complexity is important to ecology’s tracing of relations and interdependencies within natural systems.

Drawing on the work of Helen Mayer and Newton Harrison as a foundational practice in art and ecology since the early 1970s, we will establish a framework for understanding how the arts in ecology enable us as critical citizens to take, rather than defer, responsibility to science or governments. The Harrisons’ practice is driven by carefully framed questions that enable participants to judge what is important/unimportant in a particular situation. They deploy a metaphor for sharing knowledge and understanding. ‘Conversational drift’ forms and informs slowly like a glacier, gathering momentum while creating the energy for change.



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.

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The Same Hillside

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It was a seemingly unlikely pair forming the panel after the Crypic Nights premier of The Same Hillside at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Glasgow. The one who looked like a farmer (checked shirt and flat cap) was the documentary film-maker John Wallace, the other (long hair and beard a t-shirt with a ‘pirate’ skull and crossbones) was soil scientist and a co-author of International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports Professor Pete Smith.* This art science collaboration has been going on for some years now and The Same Hillside is the third piece of work to result from this ongoing partnership. It’s interesting because there are several other on-going relationships between artists and natural and social scientists in Scotland at the moment, many focused upon land use, social impact and critical environmental change.

The Same Hillside is an immersive installation with projections on three screens as well as the floor, and a sound installation in the foyer. If I tell you it is an exploration of the landscape through the lens of Ecosystems Services (this is an extension of ideas about nature as capital, something with social and economic value) you might think it belongs on the Open University YouTube channel rather than in an arts centre. You couldn’t be more wrong.

John Wallace described his interest as a documentary film-maker in finding structures or lenses external to himself to use in constructing his work. These ‘constraints’ are devices John Wallace uses to clarify his current inquiry and focus upon what interests him. It forces him to follow other lines and explore subjects he might not otherwise take up on his own. Hearing Pete Smith talking about Ecosystem Services Assessment (a method of assessing the services that aspects of an ecosystem provides to human society) and the aspects of land-use that this reveals, John Wallace saw potential for a way to explore and make strange again a landscape with which he was deeply familiar. This was a chance to see with fresh eyes.

It isn’t common knowledge, but three major Scottish rivers flow from one hillside in the South of Scotland to opposite sides of the country: the Annan into the Solway Firth, the Clyde through Glasgow into the Firth of Clyde, and the Tweed into the North Sea. With this in mind, Pete Smith and John Wallace defined a 20 mile radius ‘study area,’ that worked from the common ground at the top of these three watersheds. The questions they wanted to explore revolve around the ways that these networks of land and water delight and serve human communities.

Wallace set out to explore different aspects of these ecosystems in relation to the ‘services’ provided to human society. Ecosystems provide natural products and raw materials such as food, wood and water, when intact and healthy they regulate flooding process, turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, they support us by recycling nutrients and enabling pollination. The Cryptic Nights information sheet notes,

“The area is home to five drinking water reservoirs, over 300MW of installed wind capacity, the West Coast Main Line, 400kV power transmission lines, the M74 motorway, thousands of acres of commercial forestry, hill farms, salmon redds, blanket bogs, and rare and delicate subalpine habitats.”

Ecosystems also provide aesthetic, biodiversity and spiritual services, a set of cultural interrelationships that have proven more difficult on to which to put economic value.

As a documentary film-maker John Wallace sought out the human stories which reveal deep and complicated relationships, a lifetime of meaning. Whether that’s the train driver talking about the impact of one 40-car supermarket haul and how many trucks that takes off the road, or the modern Saw Mill that uses the waste material to generate energy. John Wallace’s style is not interrogative or even prodding. So it is interesting when climate change keeps coming up in different narratives. It’s clearly an essential part of the reality for a wide range of people living, working and managing transport in the Scottish landscape.

Whilst ‘place’ as a vital facet of identity has been a signal thread in Scottish art-making for at least a generation, it usually focuses on a recognisable place. The Same Hillside focuses on a part of the country that supports a lot of other ‘places’, the towns and cities downstream. It embeds a bioregional or watershed-based approach: Dumfries, Glasgow, Berwick and all the other settlements on the Annan, Clyde and Tweed are all dependent on the health and viability of this upland territory.

John Wallace’s interviews with people living and working in this place focus upon the production and transmission of energy; the transportation routes; the scale of commercial forestry and the range of resulting products, the value of the peatland in sequestering carbon, as well as a means of provisioning game for hunting sport. The last scenes follow a group exploring the Spring at Hartfell as a specific example of the cultural and spiritual dimension of the landscape.

Underlying John Wallace’s sensitive handling of people and landscapes are the sorts of data sets that Pete Smith works with. Where the films on the screens take our conscious attention with stories, the data projected on the floor is telling another story, of car and truck movements on the M74, of rainfall, of the monitoring of land-use.

What is apparent watching The Same Hillside is that some bad decisions have been made in this landscape in the past – planting commercial forestry on the best farmland and draining the peat for grazing are two striking examples. After hearing about healthy watersheds with forest cover it was curious to look at images in the closing minutes. The last shot features long views from the hilltop down through the valley where there is hardly a tree to be seen. Here, water is sacred and aesthetics is provided by nature. Nature necessitates a healthy highland and stream corridor with plants and trees to regulate flow and temperature allowing for best conditions for all living things. Is the spirit in place, without its animating forces?

The Same Hillside (and the earlier works Cinema Sark and Sark-Tweed) don’t fit into existing categories of documentary film or installation art. They draw on languages of place and site-specificity, but also, albeit quietly, of everyday activism. They speak to the Anthropocene, that humans are affecting everything, without ever mentioning the term. The sawmill using its own waste product to generate energy is a form of attention to process, which goes beyond everything being focused by ‘the product’.

We need more productive partnerships between people like Professor Pete Smith and John Wallace – processes that extend beyond a project into a long term dialogue, interactions between those who work with data and inform policy, and those who work with sound, image, form and narrative. These connections with the artists and film-makers draw the sciences into the everyday of a critically positioned arts practice. Working across disciplines can challenge assumptions and lead to the emergence of new forms.

With thanks to Tim Collins for his comments and suggestions.

* The partnership between Wallace and Smith started during Do Not Resuscitate a series of events organised by Mike Bonaventura, then CEO of the Critchon Carbon Centre. Do Not Resuscitate brought together artists and scientists, drawing on the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programmes. The first piece of work resulting from this collaboration was Cinema Sark (2013), presented as part of the Environmental Art Festival Scotland, and focusing on the River Sark which is the boundary between Dumfries & Galloway and Cumbria, between Scotland and England. Wallace and Smith’s partnership isn’t the only significant outcome of Do Not Resuscitate – it contributed to the shape of the Environmental Art Festival Scotland and led to a residency programme Nil by Mouth.


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