ecoartscotland

What does an Ice-Free Arctic mean?

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Stephen Leahy’s article (published by the Inter Press Service) on the “uncharted territory” of an ice-free arctic makes interesting reading.  It’s not just a problem for the indigenous peoples of the circumpolar region.  It’s not just a problem for polar bears, although they are faced with extinction as a result.  And in that context talking about it being a problem for us because it’ll change our weather seems facile.

What is interesting is reading it having just been reading Farley Mowat’s Canada North Now: The Great Betrayal.  The Second Edition was published in 1976, and whilst the impact of extraction industries on the landscape and culture of the North was foremost in the author’s mind, at that time the Arctic Sea Ice was a given.  There is no sense in this book of the Polar Ice Cap changing.  In 36 years we’ve gone from assuming that it’s a given, a permanent feature of the world, to a point where one summer it’ll be gone and the news will cover the first ship at the North Pole.  It’s quite a change.  The speed of change is what we seem to be unable to grasp.

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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Land and Energy Pt. 2 – review of ‘The Time Is Now’

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Review of The Time Is Now: Public Art of the Sustainable City

There is no question that energy generation impacts on landscape, both urban and rural. It always has. The current re-engineering of systems towards renewable energy is, on one level, not different. Wind turbines are just one example around which there is a very polarised debate. As a result there has been considerable work done in Scotland on the visual as well as environmental impact. Sophisticated modelling of proposed installations in landscape contexts has become a normal part of public consultation processes. There is now for instance a mobile virtual landscape theatre, developed by The James Hutton Institute.  Behind the issues of visual and environmental impact there is a significant public policy commitment in Scotland. This public policy commitment drives funding and decision-making to deliver on the targets. It is intended to shape or focus the market on agreed public priorities.

The Land Art Generator Initiative comes at these issues from a different perspective. The initiative seeks to engage artists, architects and designers in the development of mid and large scale renewable energy infrastructure. The first international design competition focused on the United Arab Emirates and was sponsored by Madsar, “Abu Dhabi’s multi-faceted initiative advancing the development, commercialisation and deployment of renewable and alternative energy technologies and solutions”. The Time Is Now documents the winners and runners up, and a total of 51 of the hundreds of entries.

The Foreword argues that there is a fundamental shift taking place, moving energy generation into a prominent position within our lived environments, which presents new challenges. They say,

As the days of the gas or coal fired power plant at the farthest outskirts of the city come to a close, we will find more and more integration of energy production within the fabric of our communities. Because the renewable forms of energy generation such as solar and wind do not pollute in their daily operations, they are more likely to find their way into proximity with residential and commercial neighbourhoods. (p.16)

This articulation of the challenge does not perhaps fully recognise the complexity of the issue in, for instance, Scotland. As suggested above, and we’ll return to below, it is not merely in proximity to neighbourhoods that the challenge arises: wind generation installations even in fairly remote locations will stoke the debate.

There is also precedent for the involvement of architects, artists and designers in mid and large scale energy infrastructure. Tate Modern was a power station located in the heart of London, and there was considerable debate about the location, which in the end was driven by an energy crisis. The reason why the new use was sought for the Bankside Power Station was precisely that it was a building of considerable architectural merit. Bankside was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who was also the architect of Liverpool Cathedral as well as the eponymous red telephone box. Whilst it is perhaps self-evident that at various points in history artists and designers have been asked to address large scale energy generation installations, it is interesting to think that the best examples are of such importance that they become art galleries.

The metaphor employed for the design of power stations at the time was the cathedral of power, intending to emphasise the prestige and modernity of electricity (see the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society papers for references).

The metaphors that drive these proposals are relevant to reflect upon. Lakoff and Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By (2003) clearly articulates the importance of not just those rhetorical metaphors such as associating power stations with cathedrals, but the more embedded metaphors of architecture and conflict that underpin so much language and thought, and therefore planning and action. Beth Carruther’s essay ‘Possible Worlds’, included in The Time Is Now, addresses this important point.

Within the suite of proposals included in The time is now there is a cluster of power metaphors: the winning team’s proposal Lunar Cubit uses the form of pyramids; there’s a team who’s proposal Solar Eco System uses a depiction solar system (arranged as it was at the point that the United Arab Emirates came into existence in 1971).

There’s another cluster of nature metaphors: the second placed team’s Windstalk proposal looks very much like a field of grass; Solarbird references sea waves, birds, fish and trees; Fern (future/energy/renewable/nature) also applies a natural form to a photovoltaic array.  A significant number of proposals explored the shape and pattern of dunes in their proposals.

And there is a cluster of indigenous culture metaphors: Solaris deploys the photovoltaic array referencing decorative patterns in local culture – the blue colour of the panels accentuates the reference, and this patterning also appears in PV Dust. Another team also named their proposal Solaris, but drew on a tent metaphor.

Whilst The Time Is Now is full of illustrations, almost all using the same sorts of landscape visualisation tools mentioned above, there are other aspects of impact, in particular cultural impact that cannot be effectively captured through architectural and landscape design technologies.

Robert MacFarlane, one of those currently reinvigorating landscape writing in the UK, unpacks the complexity of cultural impacts in his essay A Counter-Desecration Phrasebook (2010). His subject is the Brindled Moor on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The context of his writing is the proposal for a wind ‘power station’ of 234 turbines each 140 metres high with a blade span of 80 metres (the terminology of ‘farm’ seeks to elide the reality: these installations are dispersed power stations). MacFarlane reports that each turbine required a foundation of 700 cubic metres of concrete and goes on to note that, “5 million cubic metres of rock and 2.5 million cubic metres of peat would be excavated and displaced”.

The arguments for and against this development rotated around issues of landscape value, not merely visibility. On the one hand MacFarlane quotes the writer Ian Jack, in support of the installation, described the interior of Lewis as, “a vast, dead place: dark brown moors and black lochs under a grey sky, all swept by a chill wet wind”.

MacFarlane highlights the cultural value and complexity of the landscape, challenging its dismissal as a ‘dead place’. He explores in detail the richness of language associated with this landscape, his starting point being to challenge the idea that this is terra nullius. Of course one of the key points he is making is that most colonisation is based on the principle of terra nullius, and that one of the key forms of counter by indigenous peoples in, for instance, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, is to demonstrate the deep connection to land. MacFarlane goes on to argue that this landscape of “…peat-bog, peat-hag, heather, loch and lochan…” has a rich and deep language associated with it. He directs the reader’s attention to the text Some Lewis Moorland Terms: A Peat Glossary prepared by Finlay MacLeod, and containing 126 terms. MacFarlane celebrates the saving of the moor and the rejection of the energy generation installation which would have, in his view, desecrated the place.

If we are to make intelligent decisions about how and where to build mid and large scale renewable energy installations, then we definitely need artists, architects and designers to contribute to the development of schemes that acknowledge the aesthetic impacts, and actively seek to create beauty as well as functionality. But we also need to assure that the locations are not treated as terra nullius or without cultural meaning. The tools are not just those of landscape visualisation, they are also of landscape language and lived experience. Engaging and embracing cultural meaning, perhaps in deeper ways than simple symbolism, could lead to imaging more interesting solutions, whether that’s for a piece of desert, moorland or for a settlement – village or city.

The Land Art Generator Initiative operates on a biennial cycle, and the current round focuses on Fresh Kills, a former landfill site on Staten Island in New York City. This location is now of deep cultural significance, being the place that the remains of the World Trade Center was deposited post 9/11. It’s also a place that has been the focus of work by the artist Merle Laderman Ukeles for many years.

You can purchase your copy of The time is now here http://www.kinokuniya.com/sg/index.php/fbs003?common_param=9789814286756 .

References

Land Art Generator Initiative. (2012). The Time Is Now: Public Art of the Sustainable City.  Page One: Singapore

Evans, G. & Robson, D. (2010). Towards Re-Enchantment: Place and its Meanings. ArtEvents: London.

Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (2003). Metaphors We Live By (2nd Edition). University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London.

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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Agreement entitles Whanganui River to legal identity

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Companies have ‘personhood,’ ie. a legal identity equivalent to people in the sense that they can enter into contracts and agreements (see Wikipedia article). This is a subject of considerable argument, and there are several campaigns to remove this status.

On the other hand in New Zealand there is a move (reported in the New Zealand Herald here) to give a river the status of a person, for the river to have a legal identity.  If we accept that all things have agency, not just human beings, this legal recognition of the personhood of a river, developed from the indigenous knowledge tradition and by the Whanganui River Iwi, is incredibly important.

To give a river (or presumably a mountain, valley or island) this status of personhood is important because it repositions us, human beings, within the environment, rather than over it.

Where the problem with corporate personhood is that it requires the law to respect corporate interests as equivalent to the interests of people, the positive benefits of giving at least some natural features some legal agency or status as persons is potentially transformative.

The recognition of indigenous knowledge traditions is of course also enormously positive and challenging to Western epistemologies.  If the river is a person, what does the river know, and how do we value that form of knowledge.

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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Land and energy

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Northumberlandia, Charles Jencks, 2012 (photo provided by Banks Group)

Matt Ridley is the author of a number of books on the subjects of evolution, genetics and society, and has been variously a scientist, journalist and businessman.  There was an article in Saturday’s Times and the full version is on Matt Ridley’s website.  It’s worth reading.

His family leased land to a mining operation in the North East of England and have sponsored Charles Jencks to create Northumberlandia, the latest of Jencks’ earthworks.

When the Banks Group approached my family to dig out coal from under farmland we own, creating 150 local jobs, they also came with an imaginative suggestion. Instead of waiting ten years to put the rock back and restore the surface to woods and fields, which is the normal practice, why not put some of the rock to one side to make a new landscape feature that people can use long before the mine is restored?

Ridley makes an argument around energy and land.  It’s an economic argument about fossil fuels and land use.

The replacement of muscle power, burning carbohydrates, with fossil power, burning hydrocarbons, has been one of the great liberators of history.

Unfortunately the argument doesn’t look to the future.  It is true that fossil fuels have transformed society, but that’s the transformation of the industrial revolution.  The current transformation is focused on renewable energy and the need to massively reduce our footprint.

And in terms of art practices, this is not innovative, just large.  Cutting edge art practices look to integrate the future into the landscape, not just shape it aesthetically.  Whether it’s AMD&ART addressing Acid Mine Drainage, or the Land Art Generator Initiative  bringing together at scale renewable energy and art, or any of a number of other artists working on energy and land futures (see greenmuseum.org for examples), Northumberlandia misses a trick and a big one.  The creation of new public space is important, but the use of that process to exemplify new futures is vital.

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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MICRONATION/MACRONATION Democratizing the Energy

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How can a social cultural organisation take on issues that are creating social unrest? Earlier this year Indonesia experienced demonstrations and clashes between protesters and police over proposed price hikes in fuel.  Indonesia, like most of the rest of the world, is highly dependent on fossil fuels.  Whilst the immediate crisis was averted by a the Government withdrawing the price hike, the challenge remains.

HONF (House for Natural Fiber) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia has responded to the energy crisis and the results are presented at the Langgeng Art Foundation.  The project draws on local knowledge of plants as well as ways to use new media and technology.  They have framed the project as follows:

The presentation—as a sustainable design prototype—consists of 3 core components: a) Installation of a fermentation/distillation machine to process hay (raw material) into ethanol (alternative energy to substitute fossil fuel); b) Satellite data grabber: to obtain data related to agricultural production (weather, climate, seasons); c) Super-Computer: to process data (weather, seasons as well as ethanol production capacity), which is also capable of predicting when Indonesia can reach energy and food independence if this MICRONATION/MACRONATION sustainable project design were to be implemented as a public strategy and policy to achieve the condition of energy and food independence in Indonesia.

This presentation is a good opportunity for us to reassess basic performative premises of various practices combining science, technology and arts. HONF’s project—as with their previous projects—actually blurs the boundaries that have thus far been setting apart science, technology and arts. They combine all three, which to us brings home the question: where is the boundary between aesthetic experience and function? What possibilities could the relationship among science, technology and arts bring when confronted to actual problems in today’s communities?

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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Extreme Weather

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Six years ago Professor John Schellnhuber (who had recently been appointed as Chief Government Adviser on Climate and Related Issues by the German Chancellor) talked at the RSA Art and Ecology Conference (2006) about the challenges in modelling the interactions between different critical points in global environmental systems – gulf streams, sea ice, glaciers and snow on mountains, desertification, etc.  He was addressing complexity, not looking at one thing in isolation.

The recent article, Extreme Weather, in the National Geographic explores the increasing extreme weather – flooding, storms, tornadoes, drought and fire.  The article offers an interesting analogy: climate change has a similar effect to steriods – you don’t know whether the steriods enable the batter to score this home run in particular, but you do know that they increase the overall likelihood of scoring more home runs than someone not on steriods.  So the point is not to ask whether climate change caused this storm or that heatwave, but rather to recognise that it is affecting frequency and intensity.

All analogies (and metaphors) have to be used carefully - steriods as a metaphor for ’enhancing’ and making more powerful is probably not the worst, but the other medicalised metaphor is ‘cancer’ which engenders a particular sort of fear – see Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor.

We are still learning about complex adaptive systems.  Understanding that things are connected and that there are unintended consquences is only a small step along the road.

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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Landscape Dissertation/Project Prizes

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Tim Collins highlighted that nominations are invited by the Landscape Research Group for PhD, Masters and Undergraduate dissertations and projects.

The deadline for submissions:

  • Undergraduate prizes is 15 September 2012,
  • MA and PhD prizes are both 15 November 2012.
  • Announcement will be made by 30 May 2013.

See below for further details:

Landscape Research Group is an interdisciplinary organisation the members of which include academics and practitioners from a range of disciplines including geography, landscape design, landscape architecture and planning. The Group publishes the scholarly journal Landscape Research. Part of the Group’s remit is to encourage innovative research on landscape related issues amongst students.

To this end we now have three Doctoral degree prizes, three prizes for Masters dissertations or projects and three prizes for undergraduate dissertations. The prizes are available to students who have completed a PhD, Masters degree or undergraduate degree and have produced a dissertation and/or project in a subject area with a landscape focus in the year Oct 2011 – Oct 2012.

We have also established a new online prize environment that asks course directors and research degree coordinators to register and nominate students online. If you are interested in doing so, please send me an email with your name, your academic title, as well as university address, email and phone number to awards@landscaperesearch.org. You will be enrolled on our system and able to nominate students directly. Once nominated students will receive an email with instruction to upload their thesis and supporting appendices to be considered for a prize. [http://www.landscaperesearch.org/student_section] .

Landscape Research Group Prizes

    • Up to three Doctoral Prizes at £500 for original contributions to knowledge
    • Up to three Masters Prizes at £350 for significant academic and creative inquiry
    • Up to three Undergraduate Prizes at £250 each for rigorous analysis and output

We make our prizes in a broad range of fields as befitting the landscape topic. We request that course leaders or doctoral programme coordinators make their nomination in one of three categories, also identifying the academic area (to the subject level) in your school that provided the academic setting and primary academic support for the degree.

Our categories include:

    • Humanities: Including cultural geography, history, archaeology, literature or philosophy.
    • Science, Planning and Management: material geography, environmental management, material geography, planning, and science.
    • Art and Design: architecture, art, design and landscape architecture.

For further information see the Landscape Research Group 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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CultureLab: Bio-artists who tinker with tools of science

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The New Scientist’s CultureLab blog ran a story, Bio-artists who tinker with tools of science, in early August on artists working with “the tools of science.”  The article draws in particular on the work of SymbioticA.  It doesn’t talk about Critical Art Ensemble or Eduardo Kac, but it does acknowledge the multiple possible outcomes of art working with science (and those tools).

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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PLATFORM is hiring

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From the PLATFORM newsletter:

We’re looking to hire not one, but two positions. Please share this info with anyone who you think might be interested and help us find some really great people!

The deadline for both sets of applicants is 6.00pm Friday the 14th September.

Coordinator for ‘Shake! Young Voices in Arts, Media, Race & Power’ Driving our three-year cultural activism programme with young people (16-25 years old) tackling social and environmental injustice from a race perspective. Shake! will develop a new generation of cultural activists. The new post will co-ordinate with a team of artist-facilitators, campaigners, young people and partner organisations, and oversee dissemination of Shake’s work to a wider public. More info here.

Oil & Human Rights Campaigner Investigating and challenging the environmental and human rights abuses carried out by oil companies in the Niger Delta. Supporting social movements and activists in Nigeria in exposing and holding those responsible to account. Challenging British military and diplomatic support for oil-driven militarisation. More info here.

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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Funding Natural Heritage Projects

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Scottish Natural Heritage publishes a guide to various funding sources for natural heritage projects – included are schemes that support on the ground action as well as communication and education.  This guide covers EU, Public Sector, Lottery as well as Trusts and Foundations and can be found here.

Also worth checking out is the website of the Environmental Funders Network, and in particular their publication, ‘Where the green grants went.’

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