ecoartscotland

The Archivist

The Archivist, Performer David Giblin, Photo Kim Ayres

The Archivist with George Wyllie’s Spire, Performer David Giblin, Photo Kim Ayres

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How do you represent ideas that are far away, remote or don’t exist yet? The Environmental Art Festival Scotland (EAFS) was spread across rural Dumfries and Galloway, but its ambition was to represent environmental art ideas from much further afield.

Exhibitions of ideas in the form of documentation can be very problematic, even if they include models and drawings, photographs and plans, video and archives. They can frankly end up being dry and boring for anyone not deeply interested in the ephemera of environmental and social practices.

Two artists addressed this challenge beautifully for the Festival. Jo Hodges and Robbie Coleman came up with a genius solution by assuming that this was a performative problem rather than a problem of display.  They describe The Archivist as a collaboration with performer David Giblin.

We met The Archivist at the village hall in Gretna Green, just across the road from one of the tackiest parts of the Scottish tourism industry – the Old Blacksmith’s Shop.

The Archivist had his audience in the palm of his hand. He was talking to a group of school children, introducing them to the Archive. He was elegantly dressed in a frock coat and cravat, clearly channelling the antiquarian who has researched the obscure world of artists and designers working on environmental issues. Dumfries and Galloway is of course home turf for antiquarians, researching the monuments of neolithic, bronze and iron age, and Celtic cultures.  But the school children were entranced and more importantly engaged with complex ideas and creativity. What more could you ask for?

The Archivist was showing them one of George Wyllie’s (1921-2012) Spires. He captured Wyllie’s spirit in his demonstration of the simple idea of equilibrium.

George’s spires which, from 1982 onwards, he positioned throughout the UK as well as Europe and the US too, celebrated “the places on which they stood. The spire was a very basic structure with the rod going upwards, counterbalanced by a stone and set on a tripod of steel or wood to enable it to move about, like the sails of a ship. In simple rhythm with nature and without complications, the spire freely compromises itself to praise the planet. Air, Stone, Equilibrium, Understanding.” (from the George Wyllie website)

The Archivist had a large, velvet lined trunk next to him which was filled with ideas in the form of iconic ephemera. You could ask him about any of them and he’d pull out the object and set it on the elegant and slightly anachronistic brass tripod. He’d demonstrate how the particular thing might work, explain what it meant and ask his audience about their ideas.

Another example from his trunk was a model of a high voltage electricity transmission pylon covered in vegetation, a proposal by Andrea Geile who is concerned with “replacing lost forests and ever decreasing eco-systems by colonising existing man made structures in the environment.”  For a full list of the ideas that The Archivist was working with see the EAFS website.

Usually it’s performance that is the problem, the thing that can only be experienced through documentation. This reversal, using performance as a means to release new life in artworks which only exist as ideas, succeeds because it focuses on the interpersonal experience. These types of ideas are normally shared and discussed in small groups working to make them happen. It’s in discussions between artists, curators and producers, clients and funders, that these ideas are brought to life, literally brought to reality in often long process of negotiation and project development.  The Archivist was using one of the methods that normally exists in that process – the maquette.  A maquette is a model for a sculpture.  Everything in The Archivist’s trunk was a maquette for an idea, i.e. not necessarily literally a miniature of the proposed work, but rather a useful physical manifestation of the idea (the two highlighted above are literally maquettes).

Within the territory of the visual and applied arts, it is usually the artist’s voice which is foregrounded, and if not the artist’s then the curator/producer is the interlocutor of choice.  To involve a performer to represent the ideas of a visual artist is provocative, but what it necessitates is the foregrounding of methodology and the clarity of the idea.  Environmental and social practices are perhaps more interested in the pedagogical dimensions of the work, and also owe more of a debt to performance art for their aesthetic, as Claire Bishop has recently suggested.

If there is a key reference point for this as a work in itself, it is surely Allan Kaprow’s Gallery in a Hat.  As I remember it Kaprow would approach someone in a bar for instance and say “Would you like to see the gallery in my hat?”  He’d proceed to take objects out of the hat and relate the stories associated with each.  Kaprow’s work in turn relates back to dadaist and surrealist poetry created by pulling words or phrases out of a hat (and of course to William Burroughs’ Cut-Up technique).

We look forward to meeting The Archivist again.

The Archivist, Performer David Giblin, Photo Kim Ayres

The Archivist, Performer David Giblin, Photo Kim Ayres

Chris Fremantle’s review of the Environmental Art Festival Scotland will be published in the International e-Journal of Creativity and Human Development (the link will be updated when the article is published).

You can contact Jo Hodges and Robbie Coleman to explore how The Archivist might help you with communicating your ideas to your audiences through Jo’s website

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 Harrison Studio presents Wilma the Pig – YouTube

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Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison tell us the story of the original Hog Pasture and why it matters that there is a pig in the MOCA Exhibition Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974.

To understand the relationship of Hog Pasture (1970-71) as #1 of the Survival Pieces to the larger scale works such as The Lagoon Cycle (1974-1984), The Endangered Meadows of Europe (1994) and Peninsula Europe (2000-03) it’s useful to look at the text Harrisons – On the Survival Pieces 1970-72 which was published in the catalogue of the Radical Nature exhibition a couple of years ago,

It shows how a life of making art is a life of learning.

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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Could artists do this?

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The question of what artists do is a subject of interest for ecoartscotland and we’d like to highlight two pieces of evidence.

The first is the submission to the Environmental Audit Committee Inquiry on Energy Subsidies in the UK.  This submission has been made by PLATFORM who’s strap line is arts, activism, education and research.  PLATFORM understand these aspects of their practice as a collective to be integral to each other, and that artists should engage with public policy and politics.  The public hearing was broadcast by the UK Parliament and you can watch it here.  PLATFORM understand this to be part of the programme of a social and environmental arts organisations.

The second is the essay on biodiversity by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, which although it includes a number of their texts/poems and references their images, is a strategic argument about biodiversity and land management.  It offers a set of conceptual tools that they have used for conceiving of ways to build stability in biodiversity, using economic, cultural and conceptual arguments.  The Harrisons also believe that it is the role of artists to engage with public policy and politics.

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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Common Ground | Manifesto for Fields

Kilmartin Glen Photo Chris Fremantle

Kilmartin Glen Photo Chris Fremantle

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What is a field?  It is the most basic unit of the inhabited countryside in England, perhaps.  A field is certainly iconic, resonant and getting bigger every year.  Common Ground, who have been working on local distinctiveness, parish scale thinking and food for more than 30 years now, have focused on fields.  Sad to hear that Sue Clifford and Angela King have retired, but happy to receive news of more innovative and inspiring work – just read the Common Ground Manifesto for Fields.

I wonder what this project would look like in a different cultural context – in Italy for instance, or in Canada?  This articulation is English.  I wonder what a Scottish version would be?  The principles are general, but the character and the emotion are in the specifics.  Each country also has its own poetry (cf To A Mouse, R. Burns).

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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Nil by Mouth: Food, Farming, Science and Sustainability

Photo Chris Fremantle

Photo Chris Fremantle

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The question of food is central to the issue of sustainability – it is literally what sustains us on a day to day basis, but food production contributes 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. 30% of the world’s population is malnourished and another 30% is obese. Food production uses 70% of the world’s fresh water and 40% of the world’s land. Developed countries waste 30%-40% of food.

The Nil by Mouth: Food, Farming, Science and Sustainability project kicks off Friday with a workshop between the four selected artists/collectives and scientists involved in the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programme Environmental Change; Food, Land and People.  Nil by Mouth is an initiative of the Crichton Carbon Centre in partnership with Wide Open.

Over the past few days we’ve seen, thanks to a variety of supporters, a number of interesting articles:

Suzanne Benton highlighted an article, Now This Is Natural Food, from the New York Times on farming, soil and perennial polycultures.

We just highlighted Common Ground’s new programme of work on Fields, including this outstanding manifesto, but it’s worth flagging it again.

And finally the obituary of Joan Thirsk, historian of agriculture was published in the Guardian.  The latter two are very much English, and the former is Kansas.  We wonder what Nil by Mouth can contribute from a Scottish perspective?

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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Naomi Klein on indigeneity and the renewal of the public sphere

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Credit: Ed Kashi

Credit: Ed Kashi

This interview with Naomi Klein calls out the big green organisations on their compromises and their buy-in to ecosystems assessment and natural capital. She argues that it stems from a fundamentally misplaced viewpoint,

What I call the “astronaut’s eye worldview” – which has governed the Big Green environmental movement for so long – and by that I mean just looking down at Earth from above. I think it’s sort of time to let go of the icon of the globe, because it places us above it and I think it has allowed us to see nature in this really abstracted way and sort of move pieces, like pieces on a chessboard, and really loose touch with the Earth.

Klein’s focus is on indigenous and place-based activism,

…I’ve taken a huge amount of hope from the emergence of the Idle No More movement, because of what I see as a tremendous generosity of spirit from Indigenous leadership right now to educate us in another narrative.

In her analysis the renewal the public sphere is critical,

The book I am writing is arguing that our responses to climate change can rebuild the public sphere, can strengthen our communities, can have work with dignity. We can address the financial crisis and the ecological crisis at the same. I believe that. But I think it’s by building coalitions with people, not with corporations, that you are going to get those wins. 

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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GIS and Wild Land

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Tim Collins highlighted an interesting and useful critique of the use of GIS to suggest that one can objectively identify Wild Land in Scotland.  Check out Fraser Macdonald’s blog What’s wrong with the SNH map of ‘core wild land’ | Modern Lives Modern Landscapes | Fraser MacDonald

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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Call for creative practitioners to devise and lead their own creative actions for trees during National Tree Week

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We received a request to highlight Treeage from Bridget McKenzie.  It’s a call for creative practitioners to devise and lead their own creative actions for trees during National Tree Week 23 November to 1 December.  Treeage might take the form of three levels of remedial action: A&E, the Funeral or the Maternity Unit.

She suggested the image, and you can find more about the project here.

To share your plans and activities, you can choose to:

  • sign up to the Facebook event for Treeage week, and/or the event page for Remembrance Day for Lost Species on 30th November
  • join the Treeage Flickr group to post photos
  • use the Twitter hashtag #treeage
  • Use the National Tree Week posters and post an event on their event map

This is a joint idea devised by Beuysterous (Bridget McKenzie) and Feral Theatre (especially Persephone Pearl).

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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Near Now launch Internet of Growing Things Commission

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Thanks to James Brady for sharing this,

Near Now are delighted to announce the launch of Internet of Growing Things, a collaborative research opportunity for two individual UK based practitioners to develop new work focused on food and future agri-cultures.

Deadline Monday 11 November 2013

Near Now launch Internet of Growing Things Commission – Near Now.

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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Community Wind Turbine

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We received the Achiltibuie_Wind_turbine_planning_letter via a colleague and friend. The letter is asking people to write in support of a planning application for a community owned wind turbine.

The small community on Coigach North of Ullapool is located in a ‘world class environment.’ It’s faced with a number of challenges which are described, but has also been organising itself, also described, with a view being more sustainable. The letter is about the economic sustainability that will be generated by installing one community owned wind turbine – a project involving a capital outlay of £2 million being undertaken by a community of about 100 people. But interestingly reading the letter that sustainability is evident in the community organising that has been going on over a reasonable period.

What’s also interesting is that most communities organising around wind turbines are not trying to make them happen. Rather they are trying to resist their imposition by large corporates, land owners seeking to maximise incomes, and centralised national priority planning processes. In other parts of Scotland communities of a similar scale are faced with proposals for 100 turbines surrounding villages. These will be located on private land generating significant incomes for the land owners. These are being pushed through planning by large teams of consultants. The community might be in receipt of some charity in terms of hand outs from the power companies (perhaps mediated by local committees). One model is sustainable, the other is pretty remote from anything that might be called sustainable.

We recommend you read Achiltibuie_Wind_turbine_planning_letter – it is inspiring. 

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.
It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
Go to EcoArtScotland

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