The new bucolics: Caught by the River

Illustration by Jonathan Newdick from Caught by The River

In our industrial societies,  nature comes to represent the escape from the business of our lives. Caught by the River (“the antidote to indifference”) has been around a while; it’s an interesting collective of people who have come together to reflect on the luxury of taking time out in by a riverbank.

It’s a website less inspired by environmentalism than a kind of gentle refusenik-ism – something more to do with Tom Hogkinson’s and Gavin Praetor-Pinney’s The Idler than anything more strident – but it’s growing into a great online repository for new ways of looking at the British countryside.

Co-founded music entrepreneur Jeff Barrett and including a contributor list of artists, writers, photographers and songsmiths it claims the late Roger Deakin as its patron saint. Deakin’s brilliant Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain is becoming a handbook for a kind of half-mystical, half-historic neo-Romantic approach to the world.

The site is full of gems. Last week they featured a timely reappraisal of the work of Richard Brautigan; today they start to feature a series of pieces of music influenced by birds. They begin with a song from British Sea Power called “The Great Skua (Plover demo”) which you can listen to here.

Last year they published an anthology:  Caught by the River: A Collection of Words on Water.
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Touring exhibition opportunity

Shai Zakai, Forest Tunes | The Library
Exhibition & Catalogue

Shai Zakai, eco-artist, photographer, founder and director of the Israeli Forum for Ecological Art

Touring Exhibition opportunity in UK

The tour is coordinated in partnership with the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW). Parts of the exhibition have shown in Israel, Korea, United States, and Japan. See for information regarding its latest US showing.

It will be shown at CCANW from 10 October – 22 November 09 and Shai will be lecturing in Falmouth, Plymouth and Totnes.  It is supported by BI ARTS, the British-Israeli Arts training scheme.

From end of November 2009, the project is available as a temporary or permanent installation in the UK. It will be adapted for each venue by the artist and/or co-designer, Eran Spitzer. Shai is also available for lectures and public workshops.

Artist’s statement and exhibition description (abstract)
After a thirteen year journey to record some of the imprint of humankind on the environment with leaves, stories, and photographs, the project is drawing to a close.  It has created 170 up-cycled boxes, containing organic material from nineteen countries.

The project is a visual, yet restrained, warning.  It is a place to contemplate on human nature, while using most of our senses – touch, smell, sight, and sound – simultaneously. The multi-media installation is an observatory and a collection of mostly damaged nature, highlighting the daily effects of global warming set in motion by human beings, i.e., the loss of biodiversity, deforestation, human indifference.

In the exhibition, visitors are invited to leaf through boxes from Japan; Australia; Cyprus; Kirgizstan; India; Israel among others; to read the texts inside each box; and to ponder on the species that we are destroying unthinkingly.  If this irresponsible behavior toward our environment continues, it will be possible to visit the leaf library and be reminded how nature used to look.
About the artist
Shai Zakai, a photographer and ecological artist, is author of the book Faces and Facet (Portrait of a Woman) and the project Concrete Creek 1999-2002 – in which reclamation of a stream functions as an artistic creation.  She is the director/ founder of the Israeli Forum for Ecological Art, and holds an MA in Art and Environmental Policy.  She has shown in more than sixty exhibitions in museums and galleries in Israel and throughout the world.  Her works are to be found in both private and museum collections.  She has represented Israel in art and environment exhibitions and symposia in Africa, Japan, Italy, China, Korea and the United States.  She is a guest lecturer and curator as well as a consultant for ecological public projects, and organizations for the development of creative environmental leadership.

All enquiries about the exhibition:
Clive Adams, Director
Haldon Forest Park
Exeter EX6 7XR
01392 832277

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Art, religion and shock

Paul Fryer’s Peita, installed in a cathedral in the French town of Gap has been raising a few eyebrows among church goers. It  shows Christ Electocuted, arms semaphored, looking much like a victim of Abu Ghraib. Parishoners have protested, say repoorts. The statue has been robustly defended by the Cathedral’s Bishop Jean-Michel di Falco;

“The scandal is not where one believes it to be. I wanted the provoked shock to make us once again conscious of the scandal of someone being nailed to a cross. “Usually, one does not feel any real emotions in front of something really scandalous: the Crucifixion. If Jesus had been sentenced today, he would have to reckon with the electric chair or other barbaric methods of execution. Scandalous is therefore not Jesus in the electric chair, but the indifference to his crucifixion.”

Enterprisingly, Paul Fryer’s local paper the Waltham Forest Guardian jumped at the chance of a local angle: “LEYTON: Christ Sculpture Provokes Fury”. But to be fair, it also snagged an interview with the artist in which he expresses gratitude for di Falco’s defense.

Mr Fryer said he was pleased to have the support of the bishop, because his intention behind the piece, which is no larger than a small child and is made of waxwork and human hair, was to evoke pity for someone being persecuted by another.

Mr Fryer said: “The meaning is open to interpretation. But the original meaning of the Latin word Pieta is pity. To take pity is a crucial part of living, human beings taken pity others.

“Today people might be electrocuted or given the lethal injection, but it is all the same thing, someone ending another person’s life.

Art 21 | Blog ran a thread recently called What’s So Shocking About Contemporary Art which wondered if art could shock any more. Clearly it can, but I doubt if it did in this case, whatever the papers say. This isn’t exactly Piss Christ; it’s a work that blurs the line between the historically sacred and the contemporaneously secular, and doesn’t contain much that could possibly shock the modern European’s sense of religion, however devout. The shocking part, as the Bishop points out, is that the electric chair is still at use in the modern world. I wonder if any of the good citzens of Gap were actually shocked by Paul Fryer’s work. I somehow doubt it. This looks much like a French slow news day story.

Photo by Sjoren ten Kate

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