Electoral Areas

Lovely Weather in Inishowen, Ireland: what is climate art?

This post comes to you from An Arts and Ecology Notebook

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“how does data feel, taste, sound, look, smell?” Roger Malina, Leonardo, keynote speaker, Lovely Weather art and climate change conference, LetterKenny RCC, Nov 2010

I was briefly in Oxford this week and I had a little time to pass so I wandered into one of the oldest Museums of the History  of Science in the world. They had a display of early Islamic scientific instruments, many were for searching and understanding the skies. They were astonishingly beautiful as well as functional and were later adopted and developed through the middle ages and renaissance in Europe. Many instruments made for understanding the heavens were made in metal, some in ivory (couldn’t help thinking they looked like antique iphones as some were a similar shape, colour and size to our recent technology). The  industry and intent to know the world by all methods has long been with us.  I was thinking about this in reference to a recent Lovely Weather Culture and Climate Change conference that I attended in north-west Donegal last November. An excellent 2 day event celebrated the Lovely Weather climate artists residency project; an innovative Per Cent for Art Irish Public Art programme across 5 electoral areas, co-led by the local Donegal County Arts Office and the Letterkenny Regional Culture Centre  and co-curated by Roger Malina and Annick Bureaud of the long established Art & Science publication, LEONARDO/Olats. This was to my knowledge the first substantial culture and climate event in Ireland and the projects were in the main very thought-provoking and detailed (a catalogue of the projects can be obtained from the Donegal Arts Office).

Roger Malina, editor of Leonardo, was the keynote speaker. Roger is also an astronomer and Director of Astronomy Centre in Marseille, France. A point he made in his talk, while referencing his own experience in astronomy which has seen an explosion in technical instrument development, data production, now further accelerating with the sharing of online data networks, is that over the centuries,  scientists no longer use their senses but their instruments  to understand the world. He argued that in reference to climate change, that artists have such an important role… ‘in making science intimate….not just translating science  or making science pretty.’ He spoke of many artists who were attempting to engage with science, from many diverse practices, who were taking scientific data  and using it in their creative practices. He now sees that we are moving from a world of ‘data scarcity to data plenty but today, while we are data rich, we are meaning poor’. He described this as an epistemological (a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge) inversion. I was particularly interested how Roger described that we are in a ‘data flood… but artists can work successfully embedded in data, where data becomes an element (material) to use.” He concluded by asking us, “how does data feel, taste, sound, look, smell?”

There was an excellent example of data embedded centrally in one of the Lovely Weather residencies. Carbon Footprint is a multi-disciplinary work by Canadian born (now settled in Ireland) artist in residence Seema Goel. The piece uses local wool, spinning and knitting as a metaphor to explore climate change, carbon capture, and micro-economies in Inishowen, County Donegal, Ireland. This project worked on many levels – making hurricane data intimate in the creation of knitted items (see the knitted hat above that relates to hurricane weather data), bringing together local people of all ages to use local materials and forgotten skills (a working example of ’social sculpture’), making visible the loss of  previous local industries to global, unsustainable supply chains (while Donegal has a rich history in wool products,  this has almost entirely disappeared and local wool items are surprisingly imported from afar – this a surprise to many Irish in the audience as Donegal is famed for its fibre heritage), and creating a legacy of community craft activities in the region. It’s delightful to think of the climate data discussions, mixing with knitting patterns discussions and cups of tea (it reminded me of the global crochet coral reef project that came to Ireland’s Science gallery that I discussed last year  – both show the huge upsurge in local materials and fibre craft and just a reminder: this is also the international year of craft, as well as forests). The success in this project are the climate conversations made tangible in the community and unlike many ‘climate  and art and science projects that I’ve encountered, the legacy of the project continues:  knitting and spinning workshops continue for every skill level, from people with an interest that want to get started to those who want to share skills. For more information please contact mccartney.ruth@gmail.com

To follow is a guest post by Margaret Mc Laughlin on another of the Lovely Weather residency projects – all about dead zones (Marbh Chrios) off the coast of Ireland – a fantastic audiovisual, data come community sound project.


An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.
Go to An Arts and Ecology Notebook


Donegal County Council and Leonardo/Olats are proud to announce the five projects selected for the ‘Lovely Weather Donegal Artists Residencies’, a ground breaking art & science project which will examine the issues of climate change in County Donegal, Ireland.

Leonardo/Olats : http://www.olats.org


A large community across the world is in agreement: the climate is changing. But what is climate change? What is causing it? And how will it affect us? These are the questions which are being asked by this unique initiative by Regional Cultural Centre / Donegal County Council Public Art Office in partnership with Leonardo/Olats.

The project has entailed a national and international competition resulting in five art/science artists or group of artists being selected to work in each of the electoral areas of the county to explore on the ground, the effects of climate change and its modifications throughout the county.

According to one of the project co-coordinators John Cunningham, “If we truly want to understand climate change, we have to realise how it works in local environments like Donegal. Art could help us to question our perceptions and relationships to weather, climate and help us to experience and reveal our inner participation with weather and climate; the rupture of their balance and its meaning for our world. The ‘Lovely Weather’ projects, which are currently being developed, will access ongoing scientific studies alongside generations of local knowledge and are important mechanisms for progressive understanding of the impact of climate change on Donegal.”


The 5 selected artists are:

  • Peter d’Agostino (USA)
  • Seema Goel (Can)
  • The League of Imaginary Scientists (Lucy Hg & partners, USA)
  • Antony Lyons (UK/IRE)
  • Softday (Sean Taylor & Mikael Fernstrom, IRE)

See projects below


The 5 residencies will be situated in the five Electoral Areas of County Donegal, Ireland (One per area).

The Electoral Areas of County Donegal are:

  • Glenties
  • Donegal Town
  • Letterkenny / Milford
  • Ballybofey / Stranolar
  • Inishowen


The Lovely Weather projects will take an interdisciplinary approach from the outset and actively involve local people in their work, to develop artworks that raise questions about climate and its changes on a practical level, with the aim of contributing to familiarising them with cultural praxis and specifically new media, and ecologically aware behaviour.


The Lovely Weather Artists Residencies will run from December 2009 until December 2010.


Donegal County Council’s Public Art Programme will utilise monies from the 5 electoral areas (under the % for Housing Scheme) to initiate a series of residencies for artists to examine on the ground the effect of climate change throughout Donegal. These residencies will examine cultural approaches to weather, climate and their modifications throughout County Donegal.


The residencies will be managed by co-curators for the project Annick Bureaud (Leonardo/Olats) and John Cunningham (Regional Cultural Centre on behalf of Donegal County Council’s Public Art Office). Workshops and seminars will be held with the artists and interested parties, throughout the run of the residencies.


Artists: Peter d’Agostino, Deirdre Dowdakin, David Tafler
Project: WorldWideWalks / between earth & sky / Dún na nGall
Location: Glenties Electoral Area


WorldWideWalks / between earth & sky / Dún na nGall

This project is based on a series of World-Wide-Walks, video / web projects that combine elements of natural, cultural & virtual identities. The complimentary realities of actually walking through a physical environment and of virtually surfing the web are key components of these projects that began with The Walk Series, video documentation / performances in 1973, and have continued to the present. The project intends to explore issues of the natural environmental sciences with an emphasis on cultures and histories, including examining climate reconstructions; the science of climate; societal impacts of climate change; and cultural analyses of climate history.

Peter d’Agostino is an artist who has been working in video and new media for three decades. His pioneering projects have been exhibited internationally in the form of installations, performances, telecommunications events, and broadcast productions. Recent surveys of his work include: Interactivity and Intervention, 1978-99 exhibited at the Lehman College Art Gallery, New York; and Between Earth & Sky, 1973/2003 at the University of Paris I Partheon-Sorbonne. Major group exhibitions include: The Whitney Museum of American Art (Biennial, and The American Century-Film and Video in America 1950-2000), the Sao Paulo Bienal, Brazil, and the Kwangju Biennial, Korea. His work is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art and is distributed by Electronic Arts Intermix, New York.

Artist: Seema Goel
Project: Carbon Capture Sweaters
Location: Inishowen Electoral Area

Carbon Capture Sweaters is a process-based artwork linking local phenomenon to global climate change. While the scientific data and analysis are imperative to our understanding of climate change, the project will also consider the hijacking of the term “climate” as in “the economic climate”, the concept of “low-carbon” economies, a statistical correlation analysis of Malin Head meteorological data with Ireland gross domestic product (GDP) and green house gas emissions, and a substantial consideration and use of local materials, knowledge, iconography and personal industry on a human (rather than industrial) scale. The project will attempt to make the science and issues of climate change accessible by rephrasing them in materials and contexts, which are part of the everyday experience, as well as working to reclaim local iconography.

Seema Goel is a Canadian artist and a MFA Graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and is currently completing a MA.Sc. (Interdisc) at the Fine Arts / Environmental Engineering dept, University of Regina.

Artists: The League of Imaginary Scientists (Lucy Hg & partners)
Project: The Irish Rover: Looking for Mars Off the Northern Coast of Ireland
Location: Letterkenny / Milford Electoral Area


The Irish Rover: Looking for Mars Off the Northern Coast of Ireland project focuses on and takes its inspiration from the legendary voyage of ‘The Irish Rover’ and the current work being carried out by NASA on Mars. The idea is to develop a scientific expedition along the Fanad / Swilly peninsula’s that will mirror the work currently being undertaken on Mars. In combining planetary storylines, the League hopes to draw a reverse timeline from Earth to Mars and question whether the Earth could end up with a Martian like climate in the future. In examining these seemingly opposite planetary climates, we hope to understand the effects of climate change on Donegal.

The US based League of Imaginary Scientists is a group of artists and scientists who engineer hybrid art works in the cross-section of their worlds, in collaboration with local communities. The League’s previous history aboard boats, barges and ferries prepares them of their Irish expedition. This includes works with the NY Water Taxi, a League residency on the Waterpod (a floating sustainable habitat).

Artist: Antony Lyons
Project: Weather Proof
Location: Ballybofey / Stranolar Electoral Area


Blog/Diary of the project : http://www.antipod.info


‘Slowness’ is the key to Antony Lyons’ project. In the Ballybofey / Stranolar area, a look- out point, which is also an existing field-gate, will be selected. The site will be close to a location where scientific weather measurements (rainfall, humidity, temperature, pressure, wind speed, wind direction) are already being taken. This will become the site for year-long observation (by the artist and some observers). At the gate / look-out site, the artist’s recordings will be highly personal weather-words/ weather-diaries recorded on paper and digitally with photos and sounds. The programmed visits by the artist will be supplemented by daily/weekly visits by members of a small volunteer observation team. Furthermore, there is the potential to extend the observer participation into the idea of a geo-caching trail, with weather-proof boxes located at points in the landscape.

Antony Lyons is an artist, landscape designer and environmental scientist based in Bristol, UK. He was the lead artist for NOVA’s 2005/6 ‘Brunel 200’ commissions in Bristol. Co- founder of Deiseal – formed in 2006 to develop sculptural and land-art projects in Ireland.

Artists: Softday (Sean Taylor & Mikael Fernstrom)
Project: Marbh Chrios (Dead Zone)
Location: Donegal Electoral Area


Marbh Chrios (Dead Zone)

In 2008, Virginia Institute of Marine Science Professor Robert Diaz showed that the number of “dead zones”—areas of seafloor with too little oxygen for most marine life—had increased by a third between 1995 and 2007. Diaz and collaborator Rutger Rosenberg of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that dead zones are now “the key stressor on marine ecosystems” and “rank with over-fishing, habitat loss, and harmful algal blooms as global environmental problems.” The study, which appeared in the August 15, 2008 issue of the journal Science, tallied 405 dead zones in coastal waters worldwide, affecting an area of 95,000 square miles, about the size of New Zealand.

It is currently estimated that there are 20 such ‘dead zones’ in Ireland and two were identified in the study at both Killybeg’s Harbour (1999) and Donegal Bay (2000). Geologic evidence shows that dead zones are not a naturally recurring event in marine ecosystems; dead zones were once rare, now they are common place and increasing, which poses a serious threat to indigenous marine habitats and the human food chain.

Softday proposes to examine the available data from the Irish dead zones and work collaboratively with three distinct partners, local traditional musicians from An Charraig/Amhainn a’Ghlinne (Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí) in Donegal, Met Éireann (the Irish Meteorological Service) and The Marine Institute of Ireland, to address the relationship of climate and culture to sound.

Since 1999, visual artist Sean Taylor and computer software designer Mikael Fernstrom (aka SOFTDAY) have collaborated on a number of high profile science/art projects. Both artists are interested in exploring ‘the cracks’ between various media such as expanded theatre, sound art, sculpture, music, dance and the application of new technologies.

In 2000 they presented a computer generated musical composition entitled Blian le Baisteach (A Year With Rain), with the Irish Chamber Orchestra. The project was constructed using rainfall data supplied by Met Éireann (The Irish Meteorological Agency) for the year 1999-2000. This rainfall data was converted into music using a series of specifically designed neural networks and algorithms, trained by a database of traditional Irish melodies and folk tunes. In 2002, they developed a collaborative project Coisir an Tsionann, with The Irish Chamber Orchestra, Daghdha Dance Company and the Berlin based choir ‘Der Brullchor’. The composition used data from The Electricity Supply Board from the power station on the River Shannon at Ardnacrusha and salmon stocking information from the salmon hatcheries.

For further information please contact Declan Sheehan, Assistant Public Art Officer. Tel: ++ 353 74 9129186 e: declan.sheehan@donegalcoco.ie & www.donegalpublicart.com