Tar Sands

How did vast heaps of industrial waste become the pride of a community? | Ian Jack | The Guardian

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John Latham on the Five Sisters, West Lothian. Photo Tate Gallery

John Latham on the Five Sisters, West Lothian. Photo Tate Gallery

Ian Jack’s comment in the Guardian How did vast heaps of industrial waste become the pride of a community? | Ian Jack | Comment is free | The Guardian on the role of industrial spoil heaps in the Scottish landscape is interesting for the history as well as for an error, an omission and an elision.

Jack draws out the important history of oil production in the landscape west of Edinburgh, it’s scale and its slow demise as other forms of oil production came ‘on stream.’  He’s probably profiled this because of the current debates around fracking in the UK and in fact nearby in Scotland (and perhaps also in relation to Tar Sands in Canada).

First the error – the bing he climbs should not be called Greendykes.  To me, and I see them from the train to Edinburgh pretty frequently, the big one is called the Niddrie Woman and the one they are digging away the Niddrie Heart, and this is because of Jack’s omission.  Whilst he does provide a history lesson, he misses out the art history part of the lesson.  In 1975 the artist and co-founder of the Artist Placement Group, John Latham, undertook an initial period of work at the Scottish Office in Edinburgh during which he proposed that seven bings across West Lothian should be regarded as ‘process sculptures’  (see APG Chronology on Tate website here and Craig Richardson’s analysis here).  This work was included in an exhibition at the Tate the following year and the catalogue is accessible here.

The eventual classification of Greendykes (not the whole cluster of four bings re-imagined by Latham as the Niddrie Woman and various parts of her body) and the Five Sisters as historical monuments was conceived of by Latham as a much more significant process of making sense of the landscape than the eventual bureaucratic action of ‘scheduling.’  Richardson articulates the aesthetic in terms of Gustav Metzger’s auto-destructive art and also notes the multiplying layers of signification since the site has now additionally been identified as supporting an unique biodiversity.

Jack’s elision is at the end when he suggests that the Victorian’s just got on with stuff and didn’t worry about creating an enormous shale bing.  By implication Jack is suggesting that perhaps we shouldn’t worry too much about the impact of fracking and other extractive industries on the ecosystem (and note I first wrote ‘landscape’ and struck that out because it concerns the visual quality whether pastoral and picturesque or sublime.  I then wrote ‘environment’ and struck that out because it puts us at the centre of any considerations.  So in the end we have ecosystem because that at least captures to complex constantly changing interactions between living things and places temporarily setting aside human-centred subject-object relations).  Just because the shale bings of West Lothian are now valuable sites of biodiversity after the fact does not in any ethical system constitute a rationale for continuing with similar actions.

I’d ask Ian Jack to pause and reconsider the advice he’s giving on environmental ethics (and here the word is useful because the point is precisely our relations with our environment – our actions and their consequences).  These are incredibly important sites precisely because we can see the consequences of extractive industries, we can discover the development of thinking about what is art and what it can be, and we can explore an amazing landscape.  We must also give careful consideration to the choices around how use land, we make energy and what we do with limited resources needed not just by us, but also by other inhabitants of ecosystems and places from the local to the planetary.

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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Canada: Artist publishes book about ‘dirty oil and government censorship’

This post comes to you from Culture|Futures

FrankeJamesDoNotTalk_260In 2011, the Canadian artist Franke James was supposed to have her work exhibited in 20 European cities. But the local NGO that was sponsoring her was allegedly bullied and intimidated so badly by Canadian officials that it pulled out and the entire show was canceled. A spokesperson for the government had explained that Ms. James’ show was about climate change and her opinions were contrary to those of the government.

However, Franke James does not intend to keep quiet about what she experienced — now she is publishing a graphic 368-page book, ‘Banned on the Hill: A True Story about Dirty Oil and Government Censorship’, about the ordeal which features passages from more than 2,100 pages of official memos, internal federal emails, and other records.

125 funders supported her crowdfunding-initiative onIndiegogo.com to advertise her cause in the Hill Times, an Ottawa political weekly, and to launch an outdoor campaign Monday in the capital. She managed to raise over 5,000 US dollars already a month before the fundraising deadline, and her ad began appearing in the Hill Times on 20 May 2013 with the headline: “Do not talk about climate change. It is against government policy.”

American climate activist and founder of the organisation 350.org, Bill McKibben, was quoted as saying: “The Canadian government has clamped down on scientists who tell the truth about the tarsands, and it’s tried to shut up artists too. Happily, Franke James is indefatigable.”

Franke James hopes her book will be a how-to guide for other activists.
Read more and see Franke James’ artwork:

The Guardian – 17 May 2013:
Artist finds inspiration in Canadian government’s attempt to silence her
Visual essays by Franke James reveal how the ‘troublesome artist’ was targeted because her views on climate change clashed with the push to develop Alberta’s tar sands. By Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent 

The Toronto Star – 26 May 2013:
Climate activist’s book claims Conservatives tried to silence her
A new book by Toronto artist Franke James says her frequent criticism of Conservative climate change policy cost her federal funding for a European tour. By Raveena Aulakh

Franke James

This blog-post is re-published from artsfreedom.org.

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Louis Helbig’s images of tar sands development

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Residual Bitumen
N 56.51.42 W 111.20.35 Suncor South, Alberta, Canada

Louis Helbig’s project beautifuldestruction.ca provides aerial documentation of the tar sands developments in Alberta, Canada along with a detailed commentary.

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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Brief to make KEYSTONE XL an international issue

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Brief for a campaign extension

Bill McKibben‘s team along with a number of other NGOs and activist groups in the US and Canada have been campaigning to stop Obama signing off the Keystone XL project.  The extension of the Keystone pipeline is a fundamental to the development of tar sands oil.  Tar sands are one of the most polluting forms of oil extraction and only viable because of the approach of peak oil.  We are faced by a choice: get off our addiction to fossil fuels, or continue into even dirtier and more destructive habits.

The Keystone Pipeline and its extension run from up near Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, down to Houston, Texas (see transcanada’s map).  They are literally a throat down the middle of North America with which to feed the addiction.

The Tar Sands Action campaign in the US is well supported and reaches out to a large environmental community, but there is relatively low awareness in other parts of the world.

In an email exchange with members of McKibben’s team it became clear that there was a need for creative and environmentally active people outside the US to create artworks, actions, logos, graffiti and other forms of intervention in order to raise awareness and show solidarity.

Current campaigning in Washington seems to be focused on encircling the White House, visibility at all Obama’s public engagements, securing mass arrests of celebrity figures to maximise news coverage.

If you are interested in responding to this (unofficial) brief then do something.  If you want to, you can send proposals to ecoartscotland.net and also to the Tar Sands Action team, but we’ll just say “get on with it”.

Budget: whatever you can invest in time and materials.

Timescale: sooner the better – 6th November is a key date when it would be good to have some shared plans.

Insurances: none required.

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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Ecocide’s day in court

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

Wallace Heim writes:

Today, the theatre of a mock trial plays out in the UK Supreme Court, live online (download the software at the top left of the panel).

The Ecocide Trial has Michael Mansfield QC as prosecuting barrister and Nigel Lickley QC as defence barrister leading a case for and against two fictional CEO’s, and is complete with expert witnesses, jury and judge.

The crimes chosen by the court this morning are the extraction of oil from Canada’s Tar Sands and the Deepwater disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

There is no script. It is up to a jury to decide whether the case for Ecocide crime is made.

Follow the case on twitter and on Sky News/home/supreme-court.

“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’.

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Top 5 reasons why tar sands cover-up “ethicaloil.org” is a seriously dirty trick | Platform

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Top 5 reasons why tar sands cover-up “ethicaloil.org” is a seriously dirty trick | Platform.

Thanks to Suzaan Boettger for drawing attention to PLATFORM’s rebuttal of the “ethicaloil.com” website.  “ethicaloil.com” is a web site that purports to demonstrate that tar sands are an ethical form of oil extraction as distinct from “conflict oil”.  We know that in the Middle East and Africa oil is associated with conflict ranging from invasion to insurgency and terrorism as well as corruption.  Supposedly oil from tar sands is better and this site, crafted to look like an activist project, is trying to spin, spin, spin.

 

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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