Beehive

New metaphors for sustainability: my sweet pea

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

In a recent series of seminars on site-based performance and environmental change, our Ashden Directory co-editor Wallace Heim met Alison Parfitt, of the Wildland Research Institute, and writer on conservation. Here, Alison considers her sweet pea as a metaphor in our series New metaphors for sustainability.

Sustainability. After the Rio Earth Summit 1992, I was impassioned about this challenging aspiration, with head and heart. Many of us struggled over complicated diagrams, wanting to encompass everything. We talked about ecological systems and the need for the sacred and spiritual, the connectedness of all. We explored social and environmental justice and quality and equality – with diversity. Models and metaphors came and went, bees in a beehive.

Now I see this challenge of understanding the potential and power of sustainability in a more intimate way. And I suspect that the full and inspiring notion of sustainability (sometimes understood but often not) is showing a way, a direction for the human species to evolve, if we can.

As I write this there is a sweet pea, picked this morning, beside me. A soft fresh fragrance. This flower is creamy pale with a purple, or even nearing indigo, fine edging on the petals. It looks and feels precise, very clear yet fragile. It moves in the air coming through the door. The flower is here today but gone tomorrow, the plant goes on and I shall gather seed. It is everyday and uniquely precious.

I accept that my sweet pea is not really a helpful metaphor for sustainability but for today, now, it enlightens me and reminds me of my relationship within all else. And how I could be more human. And that’s where my quest to understand has got to. I suspect it will move on again, soon.

 

“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)

The editors are Robert Butler and Wallace Heim. The associate editor is Kellie Gutman. The editorial adviser is Patricia Morison.

Robert Butler’s most recent publication is The Alchemist Exposed (Oberon 2006). From 1995-2000 he was drama critic of the Independent on Sunday. See www.robertbutler.info

Wallace Heim has written on social practice art and the work of PLATFORM, Basia Irland and Shelley Sacks. Her doctorate in philosophy investigated nature and performance. Her previous career was as a set designer for theatre and television/film.

Kellie Gutman worked with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture for twenty years, producing video programmes and slide presentations for both the Aga Khan Foundation and the Award for Architecture.

Patricia Morison is an executive officer of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, a group of grant-making trusts of which the Ashden Trust is one.

Go to The Ashden Directory

Sculpture upsets coal industry

Carbon Sink: What goes around, comes around, Chris Drury

Chris Drury, who will be speaking in Ayr in the Autumn, has successfully stirred up a storm in Wyoming, as reported in the Guardian.  He was commissioned by the University to create a work for the campus as part of its evolving public art exhibition organised by the University of Wyoming Art Museum.

The work entitled Carbon Sink: What Goes Around, Comes Around is made from lodgepole pine and coal, and brings with it the pine beetles.  They are all connected in a cycle that is becoming more vicious.

But what’s particularly interesting is that this work has drawn the anger of the coal mining companies and put the University in an awkward position.  Higher Education funding comes into sharp relief when the corporates and the politicians start saying how sad and shocked they are that the University would commission a work that questions the environmental credentials of the coal industry.

The classic line is from a politician, quoted in the Guardian,

“”While I would never tinker with the University of Wyoming budget – I’m a great supporter of the University of Wyoming – every now and then, you have to use these opportunities to educate some of the folks at the University of Wyoming about where their paychecks come from,” Tom Lubnau, one of the state legislators, told the Gillette News-Record.”

Earth First Newswire reports 21 arrested at a sit-in against coal mining

Beehive Collective’s work on the true cost of Coal

Chris Drury isn’t the only artist drawing attention to these issues, but he seems to have hit a nerve.

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

Art for oil; protest and dystopianism


St Pauls – a late afternoon plunge, from Flooded London, 2009 by Squint Opera, a series imagining London in 2090.

The 2010 Art For Oil Diary is available now, price £5, full of illustrations like Squint Opera’s depiction of a man diving into the flooded ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral in a London flooded by rising waters. It’s a good snapshot of art as agitprop, containing works by Peter Kennard & Cat Picton PhillippsBeehive CollectivePedro Inoue and the Ultimate Holding Company.

If you want to argue that agit-prop strenghtens the resolve of the converted and increases the distance between them and those whose minds really do need to change then this is a casebook study, but hey, as a mass of work it does have real energy. The works that don’t beat you over the head with visions of a dystopian future often work better, like UHC’s trees breathe, ads suck taken from their Spring Shrouds series, originally commissioned by agit-comedian Mark Thomas, in which the Manchester collective covered 100 ad shells with plain white shrouds.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology