Landscape

Su Grierson’s email of 19 February 2013

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Thanks to Aeneas Wilder, a Scottish artist living further North in Japan, Su Grierson has been able to give us a sense of the changes to the landscape further up the coast.  Once again she asked me to emphasise that she is only able to report what she is told and sees herself, and cannot verify anything.

One of the most impressive aspects of Japanese society is the degree of tolerance, support and respect that is shown both to foreigners and within their own community.  Partly this is a necessity in such a heavily populated country and also because of the practice of sharing their home with many generations of a family – as one person said ‘we don’t have much option, we just have to get along’. But it does go deeper than this with many traditional small actions of respect happening as an expected etiquette in daily life. While these can sometimes seem hierarchical and onerous to us they actually reinforce respect and usually have an inbuilt level of equality.

Decision making likewise tends to happen through group discussions which allow everyone to speak and seeks a consensus view.  Again to us with our western linear approach which often allows the strongest voice to become powerful, this consensus approach seems to be very time consuming and often ends without an apparent firm decision: it is circular and ongoing allowing for new opinions to come into play.  I can see the benefit of the system even if I find it difficult. However I am hearing from a number of people how it was this system that failed Japan at the time of the disaster in March 2011.  Such an unprecedented series of disastrous events need fast firm leadership and decision making especially when the good systems already in place to cope with normal tsunamis were overwhelmed by the scale of that one. And I am told that the Government of the day just didn’t have the mechanisms to cope.

Following on from this I have had several conversations now and on previous visits to Japan about the Japanese approach to Charity. After the disaster the Government initially declined international aid when they actually desperately needed it. In this society accepting charity is seen as diminishing your own status, and giving charity as placing oneself in a superior position and taking on an elevated status. Some people in Japan were questioned and challenged for wanting to help the refugees. “Why are you doing it,” and, “You are only doing it for you own glory”. What this society does do is support those around them socially and in their own family which is seen as a mutual situation offering no advancement or diminishing of status. We could learn much from that. However it does create a certain tightness in society and a worrying distancing from the concerns and issues of the wider world.

The Temple at Otsuchi.  Photo and permission Aeneas Wilder

The Temple at Otsuchi after the 2011 Tsunami. Photo and permission Aeneas Wilder

The Temple at Otsuchi (today) Photo and permission Su Grierson

The Temple at Otsuchi (February 2013) Photo and permission Su Grierson

Last weekend I was invited to stay at the home of Scottish artist Aeneas Wilder and his Japanese wife Naoko and their children. They live near Hanimaki in Iwate Province, a three hour train journey north from Kitikata and much nearer the east coast. Aeneas kindly drove me through the mountains and out to the coast to visit the many areas decimated by the earthquake and tsunami.

He and his wife were actively involved in helping people in these areas and he has kindly said that I can give you the link to the blog he wrote at that time with many images and a video…

http://www.aeneaswilder.co.uk/writings.html

https://vimeo.com/28523111

He was also keen to revisit the area which still holds horror images and a memory of the smell that he was still needing to come to terms with.

This is a beautiful wooded, mountainous area with many small towns and settlements in all the coves and river mouth areas. The section we visited is repeated for many hundred of miles north and south of here. He told me the story of how only one small town survived undamaged. Many years ago the Mayor of this town had insisted on building the sea defence wall many meters higher than anywhere else had even considered. He was laughed at and his wall was the subject of jokes throughout his lifetime. After March 11 his town was the only one in the area where not a single person died. The very next day the local people began laying flowers on his grave.

Because there was no nuclear problem here it is possible for re-building to commence and a few people are doing so. However the sea defence walls have not even been mended let alone increased in size and one can hardly imagine that mortgages or insurance are possible. The fishery businesses whose warehouses were outside the sea walls anyway are all re-building at great speed. Building contractors in Japan are going to be over employed for many years to come. I have never seen so many diggers at work and doubt that private individuals could get a contractor even if they wanted to.

Near the Temple at Otsuchi after the 2011 Tsunami.  Photo and permission Aeneas Wilder

Near the Temple at Otsuchi after the 2011 Tsunami. Photo and permission Aeneas Wilder

 

Near the Temple at Otsuchi (February 2013) Photo and permission Su Grierson

Near the Temple at Otsuchi (February 2013) Photo and permission Su Grierson

There are still huge mounds of debris at the wharf sides. There is no obvious sorting operation so I think they are being slowly loaded onto ships either for dumping or sorting elsewhere. I haven’t found out about that so far.

Refugee Housing 2013.  Photo and permission Su Grierson

Refugee Housing (February 2013). Photo and permission Su Grierson

This area has a large number of refugee houses with people staying close to their localities, but it will surely be very many years before they are able to re-settle in their old locations. Also the stories about Government compensation for these non-nuclear refugees suggests that they will have very inadequate funds. I hear the stories but don’t know the facts.

Tsunamis have always been taken very seriously in this whole area with weekly rehearsals and hundreds of well marked high ground shelters designated. But many of these were also inundated this time with others escaping the tide by feet. In one area the tsunami went 8 km up a river valley which no-one had forseen. There was a 15 minute warning this time and most people reacted correctly. Without that the loss of life would have been catastrophic. Who knows why some people did not leave their houses? Would we leave if we had a bed ridden old person in the house? If our house had always been safe in the past? In some cases perhaps 15 minutes was just not enough time. Hospitals certainly did not have enough time to evacuate bed-ridden patients.

There are, as we might imagine, many stories of tragedy – the man who was safe but went to see if his wife was OK and was caught by the unexpected third tide. But also of survival – I am told the story that one lady recounted – when she felt the tremors a few days beforehand she had drilled her children that if the siren sounded, no matter what anyone else was doing, they must run up the hill to their school. As it happened they were at the school anyway when the tsunami came. She, on the other hand, was driving back on the motorway from another area and as she reached her town she and all the other cars were swept off the road and into the raging soup of debris. As her car was sinking the windscreen was hit and broken by a concrete electricity pole. She undid her seat belt and pushed out through the hole. She was instantly swept up into the racing debris, but eventually managed to climb onto a floating wardrobe. As she was swept in towards the hillside she tried to scramble up onto a wall but couldn’t because of the thick mud. Some people saw her and ran back to help and after several attempts managed to grab her and drag her up. In a totally dazed state she ran up the hill where she found her children safe. A few days later she went back to see if her car was still there and was met by security officers who told her that she was mistaken, her car couldn’t possibly be there because everyone in those cars had died, they had just finished removing the bodies. She was the only survivor. She reputedly told this story in a completely un-emotional way. She understood it was just one story among many.

Food contamination is another issue I have tried to ask about. Generally the first Government caesium testing figures were not trusted as most people seem to consider that Government is too tightly allied to big business who might be exerting pressure to falsify the figures. However there were many independent tests made in Japan and in other countries around the world which have indicated that with a few early exceptions which were dealt with, the levels pose no serious risk. This has produced two kinds of response. There are those who make a point of buying local food to support the beleaguered farmers and those who buy from the furthest away sources as possible, trusting foreign food above Japanese. Generally though I haven’t seen any particular paranoia about radiation anywhere locally. Life just goes on as normal – but without the tourists whom they so desperately need.

Images from the Residency can be found on three Facebook pages:

http://www.facebook.com/facingnorthjapan

http://www.facebook.com/SeishinNoKitae (spirit of north)

www.facebook.com/sugrierson

The Kitakata AIR artist residency is sponsored by The Japan Foundation and the IORI club

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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Eat your view – The Landscape of our food

This post comes to you from Cultura21

An interesting research project, organized by the Diepenheim art society, is taking place throughout this year in Diepenheim, NLJeroen van Westen, visual artist and participant in this artistic study shortly describes it:

Eat your view has its focus on how our food is related to our landscape. If food builds our body and mind, and food production defines our landscape, it must be that our food is an expression of our landscape. But, when we eat, we don’t recognize our landscape. There is a blind spot for where our food comes from. In Eat your view we try to ‘define’ that blind spot in its different forms.
We hope to be able to produce strategies to minimize the blind spot, make it more transparent, and thus to release energy and create focus to work on a healthier relation people-food-landscape.

Four experts, ranging from anthropologists to Trappists, were released on an exploration day in Diepenheim, respectively in Spring, Summer and Autumn, with the assignment: “What does the landscape have to offer?” and afterwards discussing their findings with inhabitants, interested public and a panel. The short film, by documentary film-maker Sacha Barraud, shows footage of these three days.

The concluding Winter exploration day on January 12th, will consist of a public discussion of the 12 “scouts”, the panel, inhabitants, general public and invited experts.

Cultura21 is a transversal, translocal network, constituted of an international level grounded in several Cultura21 organizations around the world.

Cultura21′s international network, launched in April 2007, offers the online and offline platform for exchanges and mutual learning among its members.

The activities of Cultura21 at the international level are coordinated by a team representing the different Cultura21 organizations worldwide, and currently constituted of:

– Sacha Kagan (based in Lüneburg, Germany) and Rana Öztürk (based in Berlin, Germany)
– Oleg Koefoed and Kajsa Paludan (both based in Copenhagen, Denmark)
– Hans Dieleman (based in Mexico-City, Mexico)
– Francesca Cozzolino and David Knaute (both based in Paris, France)

Cultura21 is not only an informal network. Its strength and vitality relies upon the activities of several organizations around the world which are sharing the vision and mission of Cultura21

Go to Cultura21

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New metaphors for sustainability: a stranger’s compass

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

Our co-editor Wallace Heim continues our series of new metaphors for sustainability with a guidance system that changes hands. 

Walking an unfamiliar Cumbrian fell with a compass, often without a map, links me to the land in a special way. The invisible, magnetic north that spins into place on the device is often perplexing and counter-intuitive. However reassuring it is to know there are vast forces of geology beyond any I can see, forces that co-ordinate my safe passage, I still have to negotiate the land right in front of me: that granite face, that swamped mire, that fast river. There is no picture in which to find myself, only wit, the land and the pull of a distant polar force.

A few times, I’ve come across a dropped compass. There’s a moment when clearing the mud from its face when I wonder whether it was left behind because it was broken, or not believed. Is the north that was found in a stranger’s hand the same as in mine?

I don’t think sustainability can be likened directly to a compass, as if there was a pole of certainty to it. There are orientations that guide, but they fluctuate with a landscape that is continually shifting. The incremental decisions made in response to immediate conditions themselves change the situation, alter what is possible to do. I see sustainability as a response to change, one that keeps alive the capacity to respond to further change. What kind of compass would show this light-footed improvisation that makes sure those in the future can navigate their own way?

Walking with a stranger’s compass comes closer as a metaphor. The compass is given, handed over, and it connects me to those I will never know, while helping me cross the land that I am in. The instruction is not reliable; maybe not safe. Or maybe it is, and the coordinates are sharper than on my own compass, signalling a clearer route. Is it pulling me in a direction I couldn’t have imagined? This uncertain magnetism invigorates the walk. One day, I’ll leave my compass behind.

“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.

Go to The Ashden Directory

Dark Skies Biosphere Residency

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Background

The Dark Skies/ Biosphere Project aims to explore the role of artists practice in a meaningful promotion of this beautiful area of Galloway, which has attracted both Dark Skies Park Status and is aiming to secure Biosphere status by Spring 2012. Dark Skies Park means it is one of the best places in the world to look at the stars due to low levels of light pollution. Biosphere refers to areas of landscape that have a good ecological balance and sustainability. There has already been much work done working closely with Mathew Dalziel and Louise Scullion (lead artists) to propose a programme of events and commission opportunities.

Residency

This residency is linked to the ongoing programme of artists’ proposals and events in Dark Skies Park/Biosphere. We anticipate that the selected candidate will work closely with Mathew and Louise to develop a promotional art/design edition for this fascinating place.

The residency gives an artist with an interest in science and arts a wonderful opportunity to work with this diverse and fascinating landscape and to be mentored by Scotland’s most distinctive ecological artists.

Who

We seek an artist or designer who is inspired and interested in the scientific aspects and opportunities in Dark Skies and Biosphere and their links to new discoveries in science. The Dark Skies Park has already links with the national astronomical society and other well-informed and exciting scientists and organisations. The selected artist’s interest or curiosity in science will ensure their practice engages with the exciting ecology and links between sky and land.

Artistic Outcome

We would anticipate that the residency would culminate with a workshop to launch the art edition and to discuss the role of artists as integral part of placemaking and their ability to recognize through research and practice the potential of place. Conversely to explore how the place has influenced the artist practice.

Budget: £8000 + European visit, mentoring and a materials budget.

Deadline for Applications: 28th November 2011

To Apply: Please submit a C.V. letter of interest and 5 images of previous work to:

jan@wide-open.net

Dr Jan Hogarth
Creative Director
Calside House,
Craigs Rd, Dumfries, DG1 4QJ

Mobile: 07801 232229

Other Wide Open projects:
www.stridingarches.com
www.gretnalandmark.com

 

 

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

The Three Gorges, 3rd Edition « Artwork by Sonja Hinrichsen

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

The Three Gorges, 3rd Edition « Artwork by Sonja Hinrichsen.

Sonja Hinrichsen makes ephemeral works of great beauty.  These include walking in snow to create patterns.

Sonja Hinrichsen, Snow Drawings, Chatham, NY, 2011

 

These are reminiscent of neolithic marks on stones near Kilmartin, Scotland.

image from www.themodernantiquarian.com (click on image for many more)

Her most recent work is also ephemeral, but is the result of working in the Three Gorges in China.  This is an area changing as a result of the widely reported hydro-electric scheme. Note how she positions the viewer such that they cannot avoid being present in the landscape.

Sonja Hinrichsen, Three Gorges, 3rd Edition, multi-screen video projection, 2011

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

Photo Exhibits Issue Call to Protect Mexico’s Natural Beauty | Inhabitat #COP16

Any country that agrees to host a UN climate change conference is bound to be scrutinized for their environmental policies, and at COP16 Mexico has met this scrutiny full force with at least three independent exhibitions and explorations of its natural beauty. Some are federally-funded exercises in propaganda. Some are the fierce work of jungle explorers. All reveal a landscape beyond the manufactured shores of Cancun – read on to take a look!

via COP16: Photo Exhibits Issue Call to Protect Mexico’s Natural Beauty | Inhabitat – Green Design Will Save the World.

RETHINK Contemporary Art & Climate Change

Finally got to see some of RETHINK; it’s a wonderful exhibition. The Saraceno is gigantic, but the human biosphere, suspended high in the air, was closed for repair today so I wan’t able to go in it, which saved my vertigo.

Allora & Calzadilla’s A Man Screaming Is Not A Dancing Bear (2008) is stunning. Filmed in New Orleans, post-Katrina, it’s strange and elegaic. Repeating through the film are moments in which a barely-glimpsed man drums on some abandonded Venetian blinds. It lends an angry, jumpy soundtrack to the slow pans across water-stained walls.

Kerstin Eregenzinger’s Study for Longing/Seeing (2008) was unsettling in a very different way. Sheets of dark, lifeless rubber suddenly twitch unexpectedly, driven by strange spider-arms beneath them. It feels like a landscape that’s coming alive, animated by some strange pulse. “The work,” says the catalogue, “Is a reactive installation using data from seismographs and sensor-based structures to simulate a landscape and its changes. The installation responds partly to movements in the earth outside the exhibition building, and partly to audience movements in the exhibition room itself…”

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Prix Pictet winner: Nadav Kander’s Yangtze river project

kander
Chongqing XI, Series: Yangtze, The Long River, Chongqing, China 2007 by Nadav Kander

Just over a week ago Nadav Kander was named as winner of the excellent 2009 Prix Pictet, the prize given to photography on the theme of environmental sustainability. Last year’s shortlist, which included Benoit Aquin, Edward Burtynsky, David Maisel and others, produced a really astonishing collection of images on the theme of Water; it showed how powerful photography can still be when it inhabits the zone between art and documentary.

This year the theme,  Earth, produced equally sock-knocking results; Britain’s Nadav Kander was up against Darren Almond, Edward Burtynsky (again) and  Andreas Gursky and others. I’ve blogged about the brilliant shortlist previously.

Maybe because they’re part documentarists, there’s something very pithy about photographer’s artists’ statements that I really like. Here’s part of Kander’s artists’ statement about the whole Yangtze, The Long River project:

The Yangtze River, which forms the premise to this body of work, is the main artery that flows 4100miles (6500km) across China, travelling from its furthest westerly point in Qinghai Province to Shanghai in the east. The river is embedded in the consciousness of the Chinese, even for those who live thousands of miles from the river. It plays a significant role in both the spiritual and physical life of the people.

More people live along its banks than live in the USA, one in every eighteen people on the planet.

Using the river as a metaphor for constant change, I have photographed the landscape and people along its banks from mouth to source.

Importantly for me I worked intuitively, trying not to be influenced by what I already knew about the country. I wanted to respond to what I found and felt and to seek out the iconography that allowed me to frame views that make the images unique to me.

After several trips to different parts of the river, it became clear that what I was responding to and how I felt whilst being in China was permeating into my pictures; a formalness and unease, a country that feels both at the beginning of a new era and at odds with itself. China is a nation that appears to be severing its roots by destroying its past in the wake of the sheer force of its moving “forward” at such an astounding and unnatural pace. A people scarring their country and a country scarring its people…

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Online workshop to create a collective artwork

Pyranees | Art and ecology in the 21st century
Online workshop
September 12 to October 17

The aim of this workshop is to develop a collective artwork via the internet that will reflect on the transformations in the landscape caused by climate change. This work will be presented in an exhibition that will be mounted in 2010.

The online workshop is directed by Lluís Sabadell Artiga, an artist, curator and designer specialising in themes of Art and Ecology and in the use of virtual resources to realise collective creative projects via the Net.

This workshop falls within the project Pyranees: Art and ecology in the 21st century, which aims to use contemporary artistic language to disseminate current scientific knowledge on the changes that are starting to be evident in the landscape as a result of human activity, as well as discussing the sense and function that art can bring to our knowledge of nature and society in the 21st century.

The project Pyranees: Art and ecology in the 21st century is divided into two phases:

Phase 1: Scientific seminar: Evolution of the landscape, climate change and art (theory and practical) with the participation of the scientists: Jaume Terradas, Albert Pèlachs, Francisco Lloret, Jesús Camarero, Iolanda Filella.

Phase 2: Work period in residence with the artists: Edgar Dos Santos and Montse Vendrell (Catalonia), Carl Hurtin and Suzanne Husky (Midgia-Pirineus), Christel Balez (Languedoc-Roussillon) and Online Workshop
Pyranees: Art and ecology in the 21st century is a project organised by the Centre d’Art i Natura de Farrera in collaboration with Caza d’Oro and Accueil et Découverte du Conflent – «Les Isards».


Programme and organisational details

This virtual workshop is aimed at any interested person who, regardless of his/her field of work, wishes to become involved in a shared online creative process revolving around art and ecology. People from all disciplines are encouraged to participate in order to cross-fertilise knowledge and create a transdisciplinary collaboration. Artists, architects, designers, scientists, philosophers, naturalists, historians, naturalists, farmers…

http://www.pirineusartiecologia.org/

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Bat-Yam Biennale: Urban Action 2010

Call for Participation
The Bat-Yam Biennale is pleased to announce the open call for participation 
in Urban Action 2010.


The Bat-Yam Biennale functions as a laboratory through which attitudes in 
and towards urban space are examined. Urban Action 2010 continues the urban 
action begun in the first biennale , in which Hosting was the theme.

The 2010 Bat-Yam Biennale invites urban interventions that examine the 
city’s “flexible” nature. We invite anyone involved or interested in 
urbanism to propose interventions in the city of Bat-Yam.

We are looking for innovative proposals that will lead to the development 
and improvement of urban life.

For more details, go to: www.opencall2010.biennale-batyam.org
Please send all submissions to: applications.batyam@gmail.com

Deadline for submissions: August 30th, 2009

Bat-Yam international biennale of landscape urbansim
Curators: Sigal Barnir and Yael Moria
Asst Curators: Yael Caron and Adi Gura

www.biennale-batyam

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology