Natural Environments

Call for papers :“No meaning without a frame”

This post comes to you from Cultura21

900x381xfn_0.jpg.pagespeed.ic.MU7lJJOkytApril 22-26, 2014, “Framing Nature: Signs, Stories, and Ecologies of Meaning”

Deadline for sending abstracts : 01 October 2013

This conference is organized by the European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture, and the Environment (EASLCE) biennial conference and hosted by the Department of Semiotics at the University of Tartu in cooperation with the Department of Literature and Theatre Research at the University of Tartu, Estonian Semiotics Association and the Centre for Environmental History (KAJAK).The conference is supported by European Union European Regional Development Fund (CECT, EU/Estonia), Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics at the University of Tartu and Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.

The conference will  explore the figure of the frame as an ecological concept which draws attention to the way in which meanings are embedded in and sustained by environments that are at once material and semiotic. At the same time, it invites a closer examination of the strategies of framing and contextualization that are constitutive of ecocritical research, as well as a comparison of ecocritical methodologies with those of neighbouring disciplines in the environmental humanities. In turning their attention to the way in which natural environments and human cultures have mutually shaped each other, ecocriticism and environmental history can be said to have subverted the traditional hierarchy which subordinates the frame to that which it frames, in a manner reminiscent of Derrida’s logic of the supplement. The issue of framing immediately opens up a host of profound theoretical questions for the environmental humanities.

In framing nature, human collectives also frame themselves: throughout modern history, particular landscapes were idealized as stages for the drama of national self-identification – often by eliding the material processes which had shaped them. Conflicts between different peoples or social groups over the use of natural resources are always also conflicts between different ways of framing nature, which can be told as stories of material and semiotic exclusion. In this context, the translation and transformation of nature representations across linguistic and cultural boundaries, as well as across different genres and media, gains particular salience.

For more information about the conference :

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

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Deep sustainability and the art and politics of forests

This post comes to you from An Arts and Ecology Notebook

Internationally, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) still classifies clearfell (clearcut) monocrop plantation sites, like the one above pictured, as a ‘forest’Internationally, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) still classifies clearfell (clearcut) monocrop plantation sites, like the one above pictured, as a ‘forest’

‘I thought again of our fundamental inversion of all relatedness, of how we nearly always ask the wrong question –What can I get from this?–and so rarely the right one–What can I give back? Even when we try to learn from others, it is from the same spirit of acquisition: What can I learn from this forest ecosystem that will teach me how to manage if for maximum resource extraction? Rarely: What can I learn from this forest community that will teach me better how to serve it?‘

Derrick Jensen, A Language Older than Words, 2000, p. 319

Last December on the 30th celebration of the Irish Green Party and in the last few weeks of the UN International Year of the Forest, I presented on behalf of the forestry policy group, a comprehensive new sustainable forestry policy for Ireland. It was accepted that day!!! The policy development had taken several years with the input and hard work of a small number of committed members. It had involved wide consultation with forest and other environment/ natural heritage groups, professional foresters and policy makers from here and overseas.

My own personal involvement in policy development was propelled for a number of reasons: over several years my partner and I, with the help of a local sustainable forester, have been transforming our very small 25 year old conifer plantation into a permanent (non clear-fell) forest using Close-to-Nature continuous cover sustainable forestry methods. This is because I have a strong belief that we need to create radical new ways of relating to our natural environments, if we and those environments that support us all are to thrive in the long-term. I have spent considerable time too on a long term art & ecology project of which my forest is central to my work.

I also wanted to help introduce policy that would finally address the appalling irresponsibility of current Irish policy that ignores the devastation that we inflict on other human and natural communities when we continue to allow the importation of timbers and wood products from countries where unsustainable logging, often still from old growth forests, are occurring. As hidden behind the everyday headlines of economic collapse we are now living in an unprecedented age referred to as the age of the 6th great extinction. This Anthropocene age is where our own species actions alone are dramatically altering the very fabric of our finite biosphere. Around the world, the degradation of natural environments, the way we interact with our supporting land bases, has and continues to lead to unprecedented species, habitat and much cultural loss. This age of extinction, where we are losing 200 species every day,  mirrors the ecocidal growth-at-all-costs politics of our hyper-consumerist industrialised societies, the now globalised dominant cultural model that fails, in a mixture of blind ignorance and short-term profiteering, to understand the limitations and sensitivity of environments that supports all life. For example, short-term returns obscure the fact that clear-fell forestry that relies on serial plantings of monocrops, will lead, in 4 or 5 rotations, to severe soil degradation and ever reducing timber volumes. Such practices also limit and disrupt other species and dull the social and cultural values of our forests in the meantime.

On a global scale, we know our forested areas are critical in regulating our climate and storing carbon and are the most important habitat for most terrestrial species, but do we relate that every effort should be to grow more now, to sustain and create more resilient and diverse  (uneven aged and mixed species) permanent forests? Diverse forests, for instance, will be crucial to counter the effects of changing climate with its increased likelihood of tree disease. On a national scale and when other fuel costs are set to keep rising, local fuel independence provided by well managed, selectively harvested permanent forests must be part of the equation to support local economies and communities fuel requirements not to mention improving local  biodiversity. I now also understand why leading sustainable European foresters see such potential in transforming much of Ireland’s pioneer conifer plantations to permanent forests. I’ve long known we have the best tree growing conditions in Europe but I can now see that we have too long focussed solely on short-term economic returns of forest plantations forgetting the intrinsic ecological and cultural wealth that our ancient biodiverse Irish Forests once provided. In some small measure I hope ideas in the new Irish Green Party forestry policy will help enable a new expanded vision of permanent forests potential to circulate more widely in Ireland and elsewhere.

New Zealand old growth forest, South Island, photo Cathy Fitzgerald 2003

New Zealand old growth forest, South Island, photo Cathy Fitzgerald 2003

I am very fortunate that my thinking and practical knowledge about forests has come from both long associations with leading people from Crann (an Irish forest group), ProSilva Ireland and ProSilva Europe (sustainable forestry organisations) and from living within a small forest. In recent years on study tours I have experienced the vibrant mixed species, permanent forests in Hungary, Slovenia, Austria and the Netherlands that are managed carefully for ecological, cultural, as well as economic benefits. Fifteen years ago, when I first came to Ireland from New Zealand, I worked on a Crann Leitrim project and witnessed the largest Forest Service supported county-wide planting of broadleaf woodlands amongst local farmers and those interested in doing something different with their land. My friendships with leading forest practitioners from then continues to this day and some years ago I had the good fortune to go back to Leitrim to make a small film of the ‘local project’ as it had been called, where I interviewed the new woodland owners and the vibrant mixed woodlands that I had seen planted not many years before. Such projects were so important in practically illustrating the need for new policy then. We have come a long way in that broadleaf tree planting and increased afforestation are now well supported but we still have so much to learn that planting any species as crops is shortsighted and will never lead to longterm wealth or real forests.

Cathy Fitzgerald and her dog Holly in their small Hollywood forest                      Co. Carlow, Ireland 2010

Cathy Fitzgerald and her dog Holly in their small Hollywood forest Co. Carlow, Ireland 2010

On the practical side, my own observations of the small forest in which we live has been invaluable. Our tiny, 21/2 acre forest-in-the-making, comprising of 25 year old conifers undergoing periodic selective harvesting, now supplies us with over 70 tonnes of firewood every three years!  We have had to start selling firewood to our neighbours to cope with our clever, fast growing forest.  And as the integrity of our small forest remains intact, since we do not clear-fell, we have more and different birds every year and incredible range of fungi too. More valuable ash and some oak trees are self generating and growing quickly in the shelter of our large conifers (they’ll grow quicker and straighter in such company without us having to waste energy to prune them too). So from my window I can see our small acreage is a more vibrant community where the real wealth is embedded and accumulating in the diversifying, aging forest! Such forestry does require a long-term, slower mindset. Its one that attempts to respect all aspects of what makes a forest (which is very complex and dynamic when you think of it) and with it, thinking of new ways of relating to its living inhabitants so all thrive and survive. Its a type of slow-forest, interdependent management where one seeks to carefully observe and understand rather than quickly exploit and move on. So thinking and working in forests has for me been an important means to think about some very real aspects of deep sustainability in the wider context too. Where deep sustainability refers not only implementing measures for our own benefit but measures that ensure all aspects of a forest thrive. By the way, our small 2 1/2 acre site is now listed with a growing number of other sites around the country on the new Coford research database of forests undergoing transformation, or as they refer to it, being managed by implementing low impact silvaculture systems (LISS).

From a completely different view, as an artist I have long being fascinated and in turns equally concerned by what has created contemporary culture’s short-sighted ecocidal perspective. I have been influenced and inspired by artists and writers before me.  However I am often shocked and at a loss how too few artists today examine our relation to the living world in any depth. Perhaps my previous working background in the biological sciences means I have always been drawn to and feel more able to engage with ideas and concerns about our increasingly growing ecological crises. I have of course always been drawn to artists that have related to forests too.

I suspect that many members of the Green Party and the public in general would be unaware that some of the early formative material for the first Green Party in Germany evolved from ideas from the leading 20th century German artist, Joseph Beuys. Beuys was a  founding member of the first Green party and later unsuccessfully stood as a Green Party candidate for the European Parliament. A highly charismatic, self-professed shaman-like figure, Beuys was an outspoken artist attracting considerable media attention for his ideas about the central and essential role of art in society. He considered all members of society active agents in shaping society (he’s widely known for his claim that ‘everyone is an artist‘ and also that truly healthy societies support and understand that ‘art = capital’).  Beuys also had a deep understanding that a healthy environment is a necessity for healthy societies.  As an arts professor he had controversial ideas that the arts must be freely available to all, opening his classes to un-enrolled students. Although very popular with students and other artists such controversial ideas eventually lead to his dismissal as Professor from the Dusseldorf Arts Academy.  Though his political ideas about society, education and the environment were instrumental to the newly forming Green Party, his involvement in politics was not to last either, as he was frustrated by the slow democratic process of the new party and in hindsight, his own eccentric character seemed ill suited to connect with the general public. Even so, he carved a considerable public profile for his works and ideas, and to this day he is highly regarded in bringing art out of institutions and galleries to create projects that combined community actions, what he termed ‘social sculpture’, to address eco-societal concerns in the wider public domain.

Beuys at Kassel

While it is difficult to condense Beuys’ work into a short article, his final large scale project, 7000 oaks for the International Documenta Arts Exhibition in Kassel (1982) city left a lasting legacy for the German city and contemporary art. Creating a huge mound of 4 ft high basalt stone pillars outside the entrance of Documenta, he stipulated that each of the 7000 stone pillars could only be moved to be placed alongside a planted oak, both of which were to be put in the environs of Kassel city. After considerable city-wide debate, communities and individuals working with local government and other community institutions carried out his forced urban tree planting project over 5 years. Though initially greeted with much skepticism this new type of community art project eventually gathered wide and popular support and has been replicated in other cities. Beuys instinctive understanding of relational community art practice has also been immensely important to contemporary art.

Beuys’ idea of the oak each being planted along with a stone pillar also presented an intriguing means to project this artistic endeavour well into the future; the pillars act as permanent markers of the townspeople actions to future generations, reminding them of the long-term thinking and environmental actions of its previous citizens. Such deeply symbolic practical actions encompassing long-term thinking for society is much needed now but not only in our cities. In fact Beuys sought to have this project replicated all over the world. An important legacy of Beuys work continues now through the Social Sculpture Unit in Oxford and last year when I visited I heard that over 80 art and forest projects from around the world were connecting with their University of Trees network project. Of course, when you think of it, we have our own standing stone reminders in Ireland. Our ancient Ogham alphabet carved on our standing stones all tellingly describe our then high regard for our native forest species, each letter corresponding to a native tree or shrub. It might be that Beuys had remembered this as he a deep interest in celtic Ireland too.

Permanent forests, Slovenia 2009

A Slovenian permanent forest - where clearfelling (clearcutting) has not been performed for 64 years!

Postscript: when I started writing this article a week ago I received a short Skype message from a leading sustainable close-to-nature forester in Tasmania. He had discovered and enjoyed looking at my short, birdsong narrated film I had created about our forest practices, called Transformation but noticed an error under a photograph I took of fabulous permanent forests in Slovenia where I had noted that clearfelling in Slovenia has been illegal these past 25 years. He wrote, ‘Just noticed the comment under the photo from Slovenia. Clearfelling in Slovenia was ended in 1948! That is 64 years of changed thinking and planning and operating”

… I hope we too reach such longterm forestry practice in the very near future both here and Ireland and beyond.


Further Reading

Strangely like war: the global assault on forests by Derrick Jensen and George Draffan (2005), see also A language Older than Words, Derrick Jensen (2000)

Forests: the shadow of civilisation by Robert Pogue Harrison, 1992.

Beuysian Legacies in Ireland and Beyond: Art, Culture and Politics by Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes and Victoria Walters, European Studies in Culture and Policy, Lit Verlag, 2011

Note: This article was first published on on 20.1.12 and on my site too.

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

Adaptation: Between Species / e-flux

Allora & Calzadilla, Francis Alÿs, Cory Arcangel, John Bock, Olaf Breuning, Marcus Coates, Robyn Cumming, Mark Dion, FASTWÜRMS, Shaun Gladwell, Lucy Gunning, Nina Katchadourian, Louise Lawler, Hanna Liden, Hew Locke, Sandra Meigs, Rivane Neuenschwander and Cao Guimarães, Jeff Sonhouse, Javier Téllez , Michelle Williams Gamaker

Curator: Helena Reckitt, Senior Curator of Programs

Civilization notwithstanding, we live with and among nature and animals. Cultural followers such as pigeons, rats, foxes, and – in Canada – bears, live off our refuse, while bacteria reside in our guts. The industrial world eats further into natural habitats, but micro-environments flourish in urban and exurban sites. Responding to the contemporary desire to go “back to nature,” The Power Plant’s summer group exhibition ‘Adaptation: Between Species’ explores interspecies encounters. What happens when humans, animals and the natural world meet? What forms of communication, miscommunication, intimacy, and exchange ensue?

While species live in ever closer proximity, many people feel profoundly cut off both from natural environments and from their own animal natures. Our deep longing to connect with non-human life forms is reflected in contemporary phenomena ranging from the boom in pet ownership and the widespread anthropomorphism in popular culture to the upsurge in vacations that promise to transport us to unspoiled lands.

However, despite this deep-seated sense of alienation from nature, the species are in fact closely related. For instance, as Donna Haraway notes in her book When Species Meet, 90 percent of human cells are filled with the genomes of bacteria, fungi, protists, and such, with only 10 percent comprising human genomes. ‘Adaptation’ explores this commonality between the species and considers the various forms of intelligence and knowledge they share. It also asks what our interactions with other species reveal about our human as well as our animal natures. Highlighting the urge to observe, touch, live with, and mimic other species, the exhibition delves into the intimate and, at times, uncanny fusions that result. Many of the artworks hover between seriousness and absurdity, embracing the potential for fantasy, childish antics and regression at the core of human/non-human relations, and reveling in the transgression of both social acceptability and human identity that interspecies encounters can engender.

Coinciding with the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity, the exhibition considers how adaptation functions as a form of biological and cultural survival. It also takes a realistic view of human/non-human dynamics, acknowledging the unbalanced and exploitative power relations that too often characterize our society’s attitudes toward other life forms.

What do we learn by sharing our lives and this planet with other species? Impersonating and identifying with the natural world and the animal kingdom might contain the seeds for radical change, as we affirm our links with other species, recognize our animal natures and experience the liberation of feeling wild at heart.

A publication together with an extensive program of public events accompanies the exhibition. Highlights include a DJ Set and SKRY-POD public tarot reading by Ontario artists FASTWÃœRMS, a film screening ‘Animal Drag Kingdom’ with works by Guy Ben-Ner, Douglas Gordon, Kathy High, Kristin Lucas, and Steve Reinke and Jessie Mott, a children’s workshop on animal language, and free gallery tours every weekend at 2pm.

SUPPORT DONOR: The Jack Weinbaum Family Foundation

The Power Plant offers free gallery admission all summer thanks to the support of the Hal Jackman Foundation and Media Partner NOW Magazine.

via Adaptation: Between Species / e-flux.

Soundwave Festival : Presented by MEDIATE

Soundwave ((4)): Call for Proposals:

Summer 2010, San Francisco USA

The next season of Soundwave will explore our sonic connections to the environment. For GREEN SOUND, Soundwave seeks artists, composers and musicians to investigate the wonder of natural world, and
examine environmental responsibility and sustainability through sound.

Soundwave seeks experience-driven performances that interpret the connections between sound and environment through its instrumentation, concept, visual collaboration, installation, audience interaction, or production by local and international sound artists, designers, musicians,  and composers.

the questions

How does sound affect the environment and how does the environment affect sound? How can sound help the environment? How do we green sound? What compositions and performance can
influence environmental change? How can the environment innovate the sound experience? How can environmental concepts engage, inspire, and challenge audiences and performers with a new, exciting, bold and intense aural experience?

concepts to consider
Environmental/organic composition, production or performance, reusable/recycled/renewable/natural instrumentation, real and imagined natural environments and inhabitants, solar-wind-water-powered performances, low carbon footprint works, eco-systems, climate change, weather, environmental awareness and responsibility, sustainable performance/production, new sonic technologies supporting green initiatives, dance collaborations, film collaborations, theatrics, greening of environments, sound generating organisms, plantlife/animal life, green installations, audience greening, and other artist imaginations.

season 4 mission
GREEN SOUND hopes to engage artists and audiences in revealing an incredible natural world unknown/unexplored and re-imagining a world in environmental crisis and human consumption. It hopes to inspire thought and action while showcasing sound’s inherent connection to our environment and innovative artistic voices for environmental change.

important dates

Open Call Deadline: September 15 2009
Artist Notification: November 2009
Artist Performance Development: Jan-June 2010
Performance Dates: June through August 2010

festival details
Dates and Venues: Soundwave will take place on various dates between June and August at various venues in San Francisco. We work with the invited artist to schedule available dates, as well as venues appropriate for their work. Typically, specific dates and venues are confirmed three months in advance.

Artist Fees: Fees to performing artists are modest. Amount is dependent on grant awards and fundraising currently in process. Typically, fees are confirmed three months in advance of performance date.

Accommodations: We are unable to offer accommodation fees for international artists and American artists outside of the Bay Area. We can offer housing, with limited availability, in private homes of friendly and enthusiastic friends of Soundwave to sleep and store belongings.

Travel: We invite all artists to submit proposals, but we are unable to offer financial assistance to cover travel costs for those outside the Bay Area. We ask our international artists and American artists outside of the Bay Area to apply for travel funding through their national arts councils and private foundations in their home country (ie. Canadian Artists – Canada Council for the Arts).  We will need to be notified of your travel award or notification of self-travel by March 15, 2010 or the invitation will be rescinded.

We do, however, apply for a couple of grants specifically for our International artists and American artists outside the Bay Area. Artists that apply early will have better access to these grants.  These grants, however, would not be enough to offset travel and accommodation costs, so we encourage those to continue to apply for travel grants.

proposal guidelines
All proposals MUST include:

  • Your artistic resume and website (including past performances, exhibitions, commissions, discography, videography)
  • A concise project description limited to 500 words. Indicate whether this is a completed project, a work-in-progress or yet to be realized, as well as, the performance duration of your work (most performances are limited to 20-30 minutes long. Please indicated if it is time specific so we may have the ability to accommodate)
  • Support materials such as reviews, high quality images (photographs, slides, video) and recordings of past works and performances
  • A detailed list of your technical needs and space requirements
  • A 100-200 word typed bio of quality for publication in press materials
  • A high resolution photograph(s) of yourself, your group and/or your work for press materials. Digital images must be a minimum of 8X10 at 300 dpi. In Jpeg or Tiff format with the extension attached (.jpg or .tif). Do not embed photographs in Word or any other program.

how to submit
Email: (DO NOT send image, audio or text attachments the email over 5MB. We prefer you providing links to these supporting materials and hi-res pictures. Alternately, these materials can be mailed to the address below.
Mail: MEDIATE, P.O. Box 170305, San Francisco, CA, 94117-0305, USA

about soundwave
Soundwave is MEDIATE’s acclaimed biennial festival of innovative sound, art and music. Soundwave is a multi-venue and multi-date sound performance series happening over the span of two months every two years in San Francisco USA. Each season investigates a new idea in sound and invites diverse multidisciplinary artists and musicians to explore the season’s theme in new and innovative directions. Soundwave has completed three successful seasons: Season 3’s MOVE>SOUND in 2008, Season 2’s SURROUND>SOUND in 2006 and Season 1’s FREE>SOUND in 2004. Project>Soundwave, created by MEDIATE artistic director Alan So, explores the boundaries of how we see sound, language and music. It is a project dedicated to challenge and inspire artists and audiences to look deeper into the sound medium and discover new connections to sound making and the sound experience through the production of CDs, exhibitions and its marquee festival Soundwave. Soundwave was awarded Best Sound Sculptures – Future Classic by San Francisco Magazine’s BEST of 2007 issue. It has been featured on SPARK*, KQED’s (PBS) television arts show and Educator Guide on Experimental Music, SF Weekly, SF Chronicle, BBC Radio 3 (UK), San Francisco Bay Guardian, 7×7 Magazine, SFist, WNYC Public Radio, ResonanceFM (UK), KUSF, KALX, KPFA, amongst others.

“Soundwave has sought to make irrelevant the typical distinctions between artist, musician, audience, stage, and venue… idiosyncratic performances that are challenging, charming, magical, assaultive, and (as is always the case with really sweet sound art) deeply personal for everyone present.” – Frances Reade, SF Weekly

“It’s an artisitic and exploratory experience for your senses that will open your eyes and your mind.” – Nitevibe

Project Website:
Organization Website:
Inquiries and Questions:

via Project>Soundwave : Soundwave>Series : Soundwave Festival : Presented by MEDIATE.