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Cultivation Field

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

 Cultivation Field is a Postgrad exhibition and symposium at the University of Reading (thanks to RANE for circulating) deadline for abstracts 29 July – exhibition and symposium end September 2011.

The premise for this Symposium and accompanying Exhibition is that cultivation is leading to new art practices deserving of critical inquiry and articulation. Whether in the garden or allotment, the soup kitchen or the road, on wasteland or the tower block, or wherever there are cracks in the system, cultivation provokes questions about human being’s relation to and encounter with the earth and its growth systems and operations. The purpose of this Symposium and Exhibition is to encourage discursive exchange and productive encounter between art practitioners and researchers within the cultivation field.   more…

 

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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The Story of Cap and Trade

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pA6FSy6EKrM

Free Rage Studios recently released the sequel to their viral Story of Stuff video: The Story of Cap and Trade. Just in time for COP15. The premise is that the details of cap and trade need to be examined to ensure they don’t preserve (polluting, exploitative) business as usual.

This is especially timely given the first-day fracas of the climate talks thus far, including a series of emails “covering up” information refuting climate change– now termed ClimateGate– and a leaked “Danish text” which positions solutions in drastic favor of first-world, industrial, polluting countries.With this new video,  Annie Leonard again tackles an emotional, important and complicated subject with straight talk and humor.

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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…

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Paul Kingsnorth’s new millenarian literary movement

Paul Kingsnorth, poet, environmentalist, journalist and author of Real England, attempts to kick off a ground-breaking new literary movement this month, The Dark Mountain Projectwith social-web frontiersman Dougald Hine. Its premise is a radical one;  if I represent it right, it’s that we are on the brink of catastrophe and it’s art’s reponsibility to face that, and to reflect it in its output. We have been telling the wrong stories. It is time to start telling the right ones:

We don’t believe that anyone – not politicians, not economists, not environmentalists, not writers – is really facing up to the scale of this. As a society, we are all still hooked on a vision of the future as an upgraded version of the present. Somehow, technology or political agreements or ethical shopping or mass protest are meant to save our civilisation from self-destruction. Well, we don’t buy it.

Kingsnorth and Hine have written a remarkable manifesto that’s well worth reading; it’s erudite, lyrical and, most of all,  apolcalyptic in an almost William Blake-ish kind of way, seeing civilisation treading on a “thin crust of lava” as the environmental catastrophe looms. Its eight principles of “Uncivilisation” include the following:

3. We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves. We intend to challenge the stories which underpin our civilisation: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from ‘nature’. These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we have forgotten they are myths.
4. We will reassert the role of story-telling as more than mere entertainment. It is through stories that we weave reality.

There is a growing debate here at the RSA Arts & Ecology Centre about the role of apocalyptic art in changing minds. We are fond of quoting Raymond Williams here, “that to be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing”. If you want people to change, you have to offer them a way to a future that inspires them, rather than terrifies them. Pessimism convinces nobody.

But what if that act of making hope possible only bluntens the urgency of the situation, dissipates the urge to action?

Kingsnorth and Hine are looking for people to rally to the flag.

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The new landscape photography: land and despoilation

memoire-2006
From Baloji Mémoire, 2006 series by Sammy Baloji, Katanga, DRC

Sammy Baloiji is one of twelve photographers shortlisted for the 2009 Prix Pictet, a prize for photography about sustainability. The premise behind his series is simple – to superimpose photographs from the Congo’s colonial past over modern photographs of the consequences of that history. The Congo has been well and truly raped for minerals and other resources over the last century; for that see Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost. Also this blog post about Mongrel’s Tantalum Memorial.

The theme for the 2009 Prix Pictet was “Earth”. The 2009 shortlist is really phenomenal and includes work from the great Darren Almond, Yao Lu’s remarkable Chinese landscapes constructed from rubbish won the 2008 Paris Photo Prize, Edward Burtynsky’s scary/beautiful quarry photographs, and this series, again from quarries, from Naoya Hatakeyama:
hatakeyamaBlast #5707 by Naoya Hatakeyama, 1998 Japan

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Living Life in Real Time

slow-london-banner2Today, 4 May, is the final day of Slow Down London – a ten-day festival to get people to slooooow dowwwnnnnn. Personally, I walk fast, talk fast and do stuff fast, but that’s because I love things that are intense – but that is not truly at odds with the premise of Slow Down London, which is a good one:

 Slow Down London is a new project to inspire Londoners to improve their lives by slowing down to do things well, rather than as fast as possible.”  

The point is to consciously and deliberately appreciate stuff – all stuff. From our bodies, minds, creativity, each other, life itself, the world around us and establish a deeper appreciation of time itself. 

And it got me thinking.  … doing things well requires rigour and thought and that takes time… But political, social and environmental changes happen relatively fast and need practical responses.

So here is a problem that faces me and probably you too: how do we as individuals and a society get a strong balance between this point ‘to slow things down so you can do them well’ and the political point ‘philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point, however, is to change it?’*

The arts need to consider this as much as ever before – perhaps more. How can the soft skills and soft power of the arts be shared more widely and do they have practical application? What do the arts do well? What could the arts do better? For example, should visual art be more democratic and what would cultural democracy look like? 

It’s not a problem if you missed the Slow Down London festival – because it is a campaign that highlights that London is full of brilliant slow things…  

The Slow Down London campaign will hold a festival (24 April – 4 May 2009) offering activities and inspiration, through working with a range of partners. It will give Londoners a chance to explore slow music and arts, to try meditation and yoga, to sample slow food and crafts, to discover ’slow travel’ in our own city, to debate ideas about time and pace, and to find our own ways to challenge the cult of speed and to appreciate the world around us. You can view the full event programme here: slow-down-london-events-programme

 I heard this Marx quote again yesterday, when my iPod shuffled to an old version of the BBCs In Our Time (2005) featuring Karl Marx as winning the ‘greatest philosopher’ vote, here’s the link.
 

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