Popular Culture

Information sessions | Imagining Natural Scotland

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Imagining Natural Scotland, aiming to thoroughly think through the relationship between the arts and the natural environment, is holding a series of sessions which promise to be more interesting than the title suggests. Sessions are to encourage collaborations applying for the awards.

Each session will feature,

  • Detailed information on how to apply to the Imagining Natural Scotland fund.
  • A presentation, open discussion and Q&A on a particular aspect of Natural Scotland’s representation in the arts and popular culture; featuring guest speakers from both the environmental and creative sectors.
  • Time for networking and meeting potential collaborators.

For example Dundee feature presentations on cross-disciplinary collaboration from Tentsmuir Artist in Residence, Derek Robertson and Sophie Eastwood the Red Squirrel Project Officer for Fife Coast and Countryside Trust; Inverness will feature Professor Paul M Thompson and artist and composer, Mark Lyken, and curiously Oban will feature Professor Laurence Mee director of Scottish Marine Institute (SAMS) and the designer Daniel Mee.

Dumfries will feature artist, author and planner, Timothy Collins and Reader in the Institute of Geography, Emily Brady on why arts and humanities informed by science are uniquely situated to explore future imaginaries and potential virtues where nature is concerned.

From what we understand one of the key issues for the Imagining Natural Scotland team is that the visual arts (and applied arts?) are perceived to be very engaged with the environment compared to music, dance and poetry, though we’re certain that there are those that would dispute this perception.  The point is that visual and applied artists interested in this programme might want to partner up with other art forms.

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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International Conference:“Popular Culture and Social Transformation”

This post comes to you from Cultura21

What can we learn about social transformations from popular culture?

The two- day conference, entitled “Popular Culture and Social Transformation”,  will be held in Oslo on 4-5 October 2012.

The aim of the conference is through a variety of sessions and topics to address how popular culture is not only a mirror of society, but also a crucial element of power; the keynote speakers are Simon Lindgren and Jason Dittmer.

For those interested in joining the conference, the deadline for abstracts is May 15th, 2012.

The call for papers is available here.

For more information about the conference, please visit:

http://www.uio.no/kultrans/aktuelt/konferanser/popular/

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

The Borders – a complex listening environment

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

James Wyness (sound artist) in conversation with Kate Foster (environmental artist).

As a sound artist, James Wyness works on listening environments, in the Borders Region (where he is based) and elsewhere. He compared notes with Kate Foster about settling into work in the Borders, valuing what the area offers our respective practices. Here James elaborates on ideas from a thought-provoking exchange.

KF: You said that a sound artist has to be aware of how space, places, are made. What would an example be, of how such connections develop, through listening?

JW: Yes, my interest here specifically is in how spaces are produced, following the research of Henri Lefebvre. Lefebvre pointed me towards the fact that the production of space, by people, carries with it intention and deliberation. Produced spaces, many of them complex if we care to investigate, are often taken for granted as simply ‘there’ since time began, when in fact they have undergone all manner of politically directed transformations.

For example, an important part of my artistic practice involves listening to the region in which I live, the sparsely populated (one might even say underdeveloped) Scottish and English Border regions, including the Northumberland National Park. If we listen with a very generalised ear – or, easier still for most of us handicapped by the predominant visual drift in contemporary popular culture, if we look at the region on one of those noise maps which gives a colour coding according to ambient noise levels, what do we see for large swathes of our region? Nothing, or very little. It’s a very quiet region with little background noise from traffic arteries or urban centres. Relatively speaking, for a very crowded island few people live here. Large tracts of land are turned over to ‘wilderness’ with a little sheep farming.

Image and comment by KF: it’s not really wilderness though, is it?

JW: Certainly not in the sense of untouched or left in peace for the sake of it, despite the peace and quiet you might find there. So if large areas of this region are indeed so quiet and underdeveloped, why should that be? I don’t believe for a second that any of this happens by chance, especially in Britain whose governments have led the world in matters of controlling, administering and exploiting land or territory, who had at one time almost full political and military control of enormous tracts of land in the ‘Orient’, from the Middle East to India. Perhaps more than any government or established political system, successive British governments and their administrative machineries with their structures, doctrines and processes would use their home turf for whatever use suited them. So I have to ask why would a ‘wilderness’ be permitted to exist in an overcrowded island?

My theory, and this is only scientific inasmuch as I would love to have it disproved, is that the military/defence interest at Otterburn has determined to a large extent the geographical make-up of this large region. I say this first of all because Henri Lefebvre noticed a similar situation in his native France. I came to my conclusions following his conceptual framework and arguments. This is not a conspiracy theory except of course in the sense that the machinations of successive British governments, in matters of defence, now national security (this is an interesting shift of focus), are in fact usually conspiring towards some undemocratic end.

If I might elaborate, we have a historically troublesome border which always required a strong garrison, in particular on the English side. Over time the mentality of the garrison has become embedded in geo-political thinking. I’m sure that research would show that efforts will have been made to keep the region free of development to allow the free play of large scale military manoeuvres, including low flying. Having trained at Otterburn in my time as an RAF officer I’m aware that the use of tanks, aircraft and heavy artillery requires particular kinds of space. I believe that the creation of the National Park will have suited very well the prolongation of the Otterburn agenda whereas allowing substantial development would in time lead to calls for constraints placed on military activity.

So our noise free region is actually punctuated by bouts of extremely violent military activity on both sides of the border: low flying fighter jets, artillery exercises, helicopter exercises. It constantly baffles me that nobody seems to be able to effect collective action against ‘friendly’ fighter jets flying at lower than 500 feet over primary schools without warning. Having had a privileged inside view I could go on, but the Official Secrets Act prevents me from doing so.

KF image and comment: I keep trying to snap low-fliers

JW: What I’m saying is that the space has been produced, as a result of an accumulation of conscious political and military decisions, affecting freedom of movement and particular kinds of development or uses of space, negating the possibility of differently produced spaces, of the adjoining social space, including the ‘wilderness’ of the Cheviots. This is done by proxy – planning in the Northumberland National Park is tight to say the least. In my reveries I often contextualise the region as a more northerly extension of Hadrian’s Wall.

And of course, going much further back, apart from a few pockets of broadleaf, very little is ‘natural’ wilderness anyway, in the sense of ‘untouched by human hands’. For example the pockets of the Old Jed Forest are as natural as you’ll get anywhere, but the moorland, the bare hills have all been doctored and tailored over millenia, visually and, if we care to listen, sonically.

Such is the complexity of an investigation into soundscape. As a researcher I have several other produced spaces under investigation at the moment. With these I like to keep in mind Lefebvre’s observation:-

There can be no question but that the social space is the locus of prohibition, for it is shot through with both prohibitions and their counterparts, prescriptions.

KF:  What are your thoughts about the relationships between sonic sensibility and ecological literacy?

JW: This seems at first glance to imply a flow between the aesthetic and the ethical, but perhaps in this case the two are tightly bound up together in the first place. Sonic sensibility, real sensibility as opposed to a superficial appreciation of this or that sound, would to my mind require a modicum of physical, mental and perhaps spiritual effort, some form of directed activity towards engaging with the world of sound, at all levels of experience, including the everyday. A bundle of values. This would affect one’s relationship to the immediate environment, urban or rural, how one lives from day to day, physical choices in one’s domestic and social environment and so on. I don’t mean to say that if you can live in a thundering metropolis you cannot be sonically sensitive – I know of one artist whose work in the field has been substantially enhanced and enriched by the urban experience. Nor am I taking a puritanical stance which denies pleasure in contemporary urban living. It’s simply that sonic sensibility requires a sustained effort.

True sonic sensibility would require informed choices in listening strategies vis-a-vis music consumption for example. I cannot reconcile the fact of spending hours of one’s daily life bolted to a mobile media device, cut off from the immediate sonic environment, listening to compressed audio, with a desire to nurture sonic sensibility.

Ecological literacy would be defined as at least some sort of awareness of one’s own stake in the game, as opposed to watching ‘documentaries’ in which David Attenborough becomes a parody of himself and where ecological awareness is given as a highly contrived representation dressed up as reality or truth. In addition I would take into account the choices one makes in one’s material surroundings and contingent actions, the awareness, nothing more, of the interconnectedness of all things, at least some sort of commitment to investigating who is doing well (economically or politically) from degradations and deteriorations in the amenity of those doing less well.

Sensibility and sensitivity to the sonic, or non-visual, often requires a deeper connection with the environment. The visual, especially in urban settings, is often given, forced, thrust in front of us, in the form of corporate marketing, architectural agendas based on maximum profit, as opposed to ethically or aesthetically driven. We fall under the spell of the visual so easily, where everything is appropriated and turned to profitable use. Listening to a soundscape, in my experience, allows a different and perhaps more interesting ecological unfolding than a visual appraisal of an urban bleakscape or a view of a pretty landscape. In fact the whole discourse around landscape and appreciation is fraught with difficulty.

In basic terms, sonic sensibility, of the individual or of the community, can raise awareness of ecological literacy. Finally, although much more research (and investment) is needed into the presentational forms of creative outcomes resulting from deep listening to the environment, the sonic artist working with environmental field recordings has an important role to play in raising the standard of ecological literacy.

KF: You admire how well Susan Fenimore Cooper and Aldo Leopold – American nature writers – listened. If you could magic them back, what sound art would you want them to hear?

JW: I’d give them all a quick primer in the use of modern recording technology and let them make their own art, a combination of sound and text. Just imagine! I’d let Susan loose on a few dawn choruses and some more discrete biophonies with incidental forest and wind sounds. With Aldo I’d focus on some of the long form natural soundscapes in true wilderness areas. Finally I’d watch Thoreau’s smile as he listened to the aquatic life of Walden Pond by means of a simple hydrophone.

(This article was developed by Kate Foster and ecoartscotland is very grateful for the opportunity to publish an original and fascinating contribution to our understanding of the politics and sonics Scottish landscape.)

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

ashdenizen: four podcasts on culture and climate change now online

A new series of four podcasts on Culture and Climate Change is now online at iTunes U. The discussions bring together artists, writers, film-makers, scientists, academics and journalists with a comedian, a choreographer, a campaigner, and an entrepreneur.

The Mediating Change series is hosted by Quentin Cooper and contributors include Tim Smit, Marcus Brigstocke, Siobhan Davies (see pic), Roger Harrabin, Joe Smith and two of the Ashden Directory’s editors, Wallace Heim and Robert Butler. More details here.

The producer, Vicky Long, says:

Cultural activity in this area is gathering real momentum, with ‘Greenland’ opening at the National Theatre and ‘The Heretic’ opening at the Royal Court early next year. We feel it’s vital a critical framework is developed alongside this emerging work.

This series represents a first sustained exploration of culture and climate change in a publicly-available broadcast-quality format.

See also: Tipping Point launches first of four discussions
Tim Smit and Marcus Brigstocke join debate on popular culture and climate change

via ashdenizen: four podcasts on culture and climate change now online.