Detritus

New metaphors for sustainability: the soil in my family’s garden in Yorkshire

photo: David's hands, his grandfather's rake, Hackney soil

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

David Harradine is an artist working across performance, installation, publication and film, and is Artistic Director of Fevered Sleep. His metaphor for sustainability conveys his love for the transformations of soil.

We don’t even know what to call it, whether it’s soil or earth or dirt. ‘Earthy’ seems nourishing, homely, but we generally don’t like things that are dirty or soiled. Dirty implies sex, which is getting to the heart of the matter: productiveness, creation, fecundity.

I keep an allotment in Hackney, inner London. For seven years I’ve been digging kitchen waste into the ground, applying horse shit gathered on Leyton Marsh, and bagging up leaves from the London Plane trees by the children’s playground, waiting for them to break down into humus (brown nectar, nourishment, life). This soil, heavy London clay, grey brown, full of pebbles: this is sustainability. It’s what sustains me.

Everything I know about gardening – a knowledge that resides in my fingernails, the callouses on my palms, the ache in the small of my back, the blunt edge of my spade, and the dirty Tupperware box in which I keep my seeds – I learned in a garden in Yorkshire when I was a child. My grandfather was a market gardener. We grew gladioli, tomatoes, chrysanthemums, dahlia, potatoes and the spring onions for the market in Leeds. I remember one afternoon, my fingers stinking of tomato plants, when I asked him if one day the garden would be mine. I could not imagine how the life could continue without it. The very idea of family took root in that garden, with our hands and spades in that dark, scented, sensual soil; knowledge sown like seeds from generation to generation.

Soil: mineral structure fleshed out with the detritus of life and death. Wondrous recycler. Transformer of things into other things. As a child, it was unfathomable and miraculous to see the yellow-white flower of a double-headed chrysanthemum be created from heavy black soil.

Working my allotment in Hackney, I pull on the rake I brought from my grandfather’s garden. I have started to plan what I will do when my parents die, when that garden may no longer be ours. I think I will sack up some soil and bring it to London, because it carries time in it, and memory in it, and it carries my family in it, and I was grown in it. And I am sustained, here in the city, by the memory of the texture of it and the smell of it. And by the life, the life, the life that turns on an infinite cycle in the hidden dark depths of it.

 

“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)

ashdenizen is edited by Robert Butler, and is the blog associated with the Ashden Directory, a website focusing on environment and performance.
The Ashden Directory is edited by Robert Butler and Wallace Heim, with associate editor Kellie Gutman. The Directory includes features, interviews, news, a timeline and a database of ecologically – themed productions since 1893 in the United Kingdom. Our own projects include ‘New Metaphors for Sustainability’, ‘Flowers Onstage’ and ‘Six ways to look at climate change and theatre’.

The Directory has been live since 2000.

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TURF: Ecological activism and Art

This post comes to you from EcoArtSpace

Through December 1st at Diablo Valley College Art Gallery in Pleasant Hill, California (Bay Area) is a terrific little show organized by artist and educator Hopi Breton. Included are twelve artists, mostly from the Bay Area, with Vaughn Bell from Seattle, Michele Brody from New York, and Northern California’s Cynthia Hooper who is currently working with ecoartspace on a water show in Stockton titled Delta Waters.

Many of you who know Cynthia’s work as a video artist may not be familiar with her landscape paintings(2000-2008). These small exquisitely painted works, eleven total for TURF, are from an ongoing series that evokes a “Sunday painter” vernacular cataloging human impacts on the land. Instead of ignoring the industrial detritus for these beautiful crafted landscapes, she includes it all just as she sees it, just like the wildlife and elements that also have to work with human impediments on the land.

Another artist from Oakland,Alex Jackson, who created “Our National Scenic Resources” while in graduate school in 1992, recently revived this work for TURF. The original installation included a replica of a National Parks wooden Information station with volunteer style designed pamphlets that incorporate collage of images and text that the artist has assembled through the years about how we relate to and interact with nature. Titles include: Interpreting Scenic Beauty Estimates, Nature As Logo, Ornamental Palms in California, and Understanding Bears, Alcohol and Human Nature. Jackson includes content taken from government and trade publications, advertising and academic articles pointing out the structures we impose on nature in our efforts to manage and conserve it. He included three new pamphlets for this recent iteration and has continued to place them in racks at park visitor centers and other tourist information sites unauthorized through the years as his creative expression.

Also included, a photographer from San Francisco Christina Seely, who has captured stunning imagery, almost painterly, of major cities at night. Three works included that are from her series “Lux,” capture the oddly alluring artificial glow produced by urban lights. The three largest illuminated areas that are seen from NASA’s satellite mapsof the world at night are the United States, Japan, and Western Europe. Her work is inspired by the beauty the lights present, although at the same time begs the viewer to question our dependence on energy that has a huge impact on our planet.

Vaughn Bell‘s portable landscapes, or “Pack of Forests” with accompanying water bottles and a portable “surrogate” mountain, each with attached walking leash, added a layer of interactivity making for a playful atmosphere. And, Stephen Galloway‘s unique photographic scans of rhizomes were blown up and floating in space, nature observed, examined in parts.

Get out to see the show if you are in the area before it closes on December 1st. You won’t regret it. And, thanks to Hopi Breton who shared with ecoartspace that she was inspired by our work to curate this exhibition. She also noted that her art students were interested in environmental issues which also led her to TURF. It is rare that an artist curates a show for others and does not include their own work. Kudos Hopi!

 

ecoartapace is one of the leading international organizations in a growing community of artists, scientists, curators, writers, nonprofits and businesses who are developing creative and innovative strategies to address our global environmental issues. We promote a diverse range of artworks that are participatory, collaborative, interdisciplinary and uniquely educational. Our philosophy embodies a broader concept of art in its relationship to the world and seeks to connect human beings aesthetically with the awareness of larger ecological systems.

Founded in 1997 by Tricia Watts as an art and nature center in development, ecoartspace was one of the first websites online dedicated to art and environmental issues. New York City curator Amy Lipton joined Watts in 1999, and together they have curated numerous exhibitions, participated on panels, given lectures at universities, developed programs and curricula, ad written essays for publications from both the East and West Coasts. They advocate for international artists whose projects range from scientifically based ecological restoration to product based functional artworks, from temporal works created outdoors with nature to eco-social interventions in the urban public sphere, as well as more traditional art objects.

ecoartspace has been a project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in
Los Angeles since 1999.
Go to EcoArtSpace

Arup’s Insect Hotel – Core77

Arup Associates have just won the Beyond the Hive Competition, sponsored by the City of London, to design a Bug Hotel for its parks. This one encourages the presence of stag beetles, solitary bees, butterflies, moths, spiders, lacewings and ladybirds by combining all these species’ required environments into one.

The ‘hotel’ consists of a vertical wall with cells divided into a voronoi pattern, where detritus and materials can be stuffed to creaqte the perfect environments for a wide variety of insects. The sides of the hotel are accessible to moths, and the top can absorb rain water through planting.

via Arup’s Insect Hotel – Core77.

ashdenizen: two views across the mersey

In this guest post on the Ashden Directory’s Blog, Wallace Heim, co-editor of the Ashden Directory, spends a day in Liverpool – first with philosophers, then with artists.

Two weeks ago, in sight of the Mersey, and within a 100 yards of one another, you could find two very different ways of looking at human relations with nature. At Liverpool University's Philosophy Department, a dozen professors and lecturers exchanged ideas on alienation and the environment. Across the street, High Tide’s latest exhibition of work by 11 artists opened at the Art & Design Academy.

The philosophers talked in a plain room around a table. We dived into meticulous explorations of how the human relates to the natural, and whether our perceived loss of touch from the natural world is justifiably the grounds for our current situation, or whether there is something in that estrangement which is vital, productive, even necessary.

A grappling with how to describe the experience and feeling of alienation moved alongside the historical and analytical exploration of it, through the Romantics, Marx, environmental ethics and new views on the built environment as ‘natural’.

Seeing the gallery with those ideas still swimming in my mind made me look for a similar prodding of that sore zone between human and nature, wanting to see more than a rush to represent the effects of the estrangement, or to show a better or more ecological connection, as valuable as those are. I wanted to be taken, through art, into that suspension where not everything is known and already given, a place of sideways, even dangerous, questions.

This wasn’t the theme of Mersey Basin, which was an exploration of rising sea levels, flooding and the ebb and flow of that shoreline. Works were composed of driftwood, mud, string, plastic detritus and woven wool. Some were juxtapositions of waste and beauty (Robyn Woolston, Gordon MacLellan), some had provocational intent (Àgata Alcañiz). Many artworks represented past conversations or performances, or long periods of attending to an environment, or of collaborations with scientists (Scott Thurston & Elizabeth Willow, James Brady & Stuart Carter).

Maps represented not only the present, but the ancient fluctuations of changing shorelines melding into projections of an uncertain future (Tim Pugh), and the visual pleasure of proposals forward for the Mersey Basin as a forested refuge for migrating species (David Haley).

The walking, marking and storytelling of the exhibition brought the materiality of the changing edge between sea and land into view. But the littoral could also describe the continually changing gap between the ‘human’ and ‘nature’, and it was the philosophers who excited this most sharply, almost painfully, and pushed against the shortcomings of current knowledge as our environments change.

Pic: 'Trees of Grace: Draughting Change': David Haley shows our blogger a map of the Mersey Basin and Pennines that illustrates how it would look with a changed shoreline and re-forestation. (Yvonne Haley)

Reposted from: ashdenizen: two views across the mersey.