World Environment Day

oil and tree cycles: art and activism – join global cycle day 24 Sept

This post comes to you from An Arts and Ecology Notebook

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Image left: Bidon arme (Loaded Drum), 2004 Romuald Hazoume  Right: Treebike – image from the International freecard alliance for World Environment day, 5 June 2009

An exhibition that I stumbled upon accidentally a few months ago has stayed with me. On a visit to the Irish Museum of Modern in April 2011 I came across African artist Romuald Hazoume’s very thought provoking and surprisingly enjoyable installations of ‘masks’, sculptures, documentary film and photography work.

Mon Général, 1992

"Mon Général", 1992 by Hazoume

Romuald Hazoumè, one of Africa’s most important visual artists, creates playful sculptures and masks made from discarded plastic canisters commonly found in his native Benin (a small country neighbouring Nigeria)  for transporting black-market petrol (known as kpayo) from Nigeria. As can be seen in his image (above left) these jerry cans are expanded over flames to increase their fuel-carry capacity, sometimes to excess resulting in fatal explosions. Hazoume’s work richly references mask making culture from his African heritage to commenting on his country’s predicament of being caught up in the day-to-day and often unacknowledged misery of the global fossil fuel industry.  His work is engaging on very many levels and to a wide audience; from children who love the use of his found objects to adults that can see the political concerns in his work, to others who see a continuation of identity expressed in local materials made into masks.  ‘Hazoumé has used the cans as a potent metaphor for all forms of slavery, past and present, drawing parallels with the vessels’ role as crucial but faceless units within commercial systems, dangerously worked to breaking point before being discarded (Tate Modern, 2007)

From across this side of the planet my own work attempts to touch some of these concerns too. My long term project the hollywood diaries to transform our conifer plantation to a permanent forest has real long term energy returns as we are very shortly to discontinue use of oil for our home heating (a common and increasingly expensive form of domestic heating in Ireland) and use our never-ending supply of forest thinnings. In fact, I was startled to learn recently from my forestry contacts, that our ongoing selective harvesting to keep the forest vibrant and encourage the native tree seedlings to flourish, will mean that we’ll have 70 tonnes of wood every three to four years from our small two acres!! Crikey!

The image on the above right, Treebike, is a pointer to this month’s global day of cycling, Moving Planet lead by Bill McKibben and his global organisation to invite us all to get on our bikes this Sept 24th, 2011. I’ve always been amazed at the huge response to these events and how often the arts help mobilise such activities.

Here’s the video – as in the past you can goto and join in the fun but its also a serious campaign too

‘Circle September 24 on your calendar–that’s the day for what we’re calling Moving Planet: a day to move beyond fossil fuels…

On 24 September we’ll be figuring out the most meaningful ways to make the climate message move, literally. We’ll show that we can use our hands, our feet, and our hearts to spur real change. In many places, people will ride bicycles, one of the few tools used by both affluent and poor people around the world. Other places people will be marching, dancing, running, or kayaking, or skateboarding. Imagine the spectacle: thousands of people encircling national capitals, state houses, city halls.

But we won’t just be cycling or marching–we’ll also be delivering a strong set of demands that can have real political impact.”


Note: some of you might be aware that I have returned to art college to undertake in-depth research on experimental film and ecology in the last year – if you want to follow along, my research site is

I’ve recently created a small film sketch on how our small conifer plantation  is being transformed, comments welcome!!

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.
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“Imperishable Water” and the Question of Development

This post comes to you from Cultura21
Reposted from

photographer Nikos Kasseris

Field workshop from 29th of May until 5th of June 2011 in Rhodes, Greece

Departure: 29th of May 2011, 19.00 from the Port of Piraeus with the Blue Star Ferries.

On the occasion of the World Environment Day, June 5th 2011, this field trip aims at combining artistic, philosophical and environmental approaches to the question of the future development of wetland ecosystems of Rhodes.


  • Examine the contradictions or convergences among the various models of economic management (farming, stock-breeding, tourism and housing) inside the specific landscapes, in relation to the existing institutional conservation framework.
  • Resuscitate the memory of wetlands, by tracing the evidence of wetlands in time, as preserved by the material and immaterial culture (language, customs, technology etc.).
  • Positive evaluation of the environmental aspect inside the cohesive network of the insular landscape.
  • Energize the local communities by strengthening the bonds with the work- people, educators, local government institutions and youth.
  • Manifest the power of culture (philosophy, architecture, literature, music, visual and performative arts) towards responsible attitudes of stakeholders or policy makers.
  • Investigate the development models in site specific landscapes marked by the urgent need of the preservation of water resources.


  • Organize a collaborative field work with joint actions, in site specific areas, among the relevant institutions of the island and the team of the workshop consisted of philosophers, anthropologists, biologists, architects-planners, environmentalists, new media artists and poets, coming from Greece or other European countries.
  • Ensure an on going and follow-up digital or conventional recording and documentation as well as the inauguration of a data base resulting from the field work and depicting the diverse fields of research.
  • Collaborate with the educational sector, First Degree and the University of the Aegean in order to organize programmes with an artistic content (music, visual and performative art and literature) having as inspiration the water resources and the landscapes of wetlands.
  • Co-operate with the International Writers and Translator’s Center of Rhodes by focusing on the poetess Katerina Anghelaki Rouk and the natural element in her poetry.
  • Produce an artistic action e.g. a performance at a site specific wetland, Sunday 5th of June 2011, World Environment Day.
  • Organize a Day Conference with the following aims: to manifest the cultural dimension as the only way of rescue as well as being the most prominent vehicle of development procedures, to energize the local institutions and organizations in order to undertake initiatives with permanent perspectives in respect to environmental and cultural criteria, to propose the diversion of the main economic activity, that is tourism, from the massive, consuming model to the quality dimension, in respect to the diversity, the beauty and the mosaic of the landscape. Outcome: a Co-operation Memorandum with the agreement of all participating institutions.
  • Produce a half an hour documentary addressed to participate during the ‘’Rodos ecofilms –International films and visual arts festival’’ taking place annually in Rhodes.
  • Future perspectives-2nd stage. Fist show of the documentary during the ‘’Rodos ecofilms –International films and visual arts festival’’ June 2012 and parallel site specific land art istallation.

Sites of Interest-Wetlands of Rhodes:

  • Wetlands: Rivers, creeks, estuary and delta of rivers, lakes, lagoons, marshes, springs, lakeside or riverside sites, salt-pits, artificial water reservoirs.
  • Rhodes is among the islands with the largest number of wetlands
    • River Loutanis and Dam of Gadouras
    • Marsh of Plemmyri and Marsh of Katavia
    • Torrent Kontaris and Damlake of Apolakkia
    • Streamlet of Butterflies and River Platis
  • In some of the above wetlands is still observed the threatened endemic fish gkizani (Ladigesocypris ghigii), biological symbol of the island.

This project is organized by:

  • Haroula Hadjinicolaou, art historian Benaki Museum
  • Anna Arvanitaki, president of Poiein kai Prattein and urban/land planner at Greek Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change
  • Hatto Fischer: coordinator and poet / philosopher

In collaboration with:

The text reproduced above was written by the  project organizers at For more information, please visit that website.

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

Emma Ridgway on Gustav Metzger

Gustav Metzger with Jeremy Deller: June 5 2009, UN World Environment Day, Whitechapel Gallery, London

Does the fact that an artist like Gustav Metzger, who has been creating politically agressiveaggressive works for 60 years, is so much in the spotlight at this late point in his career say anything about what we want of our artists now?

Tomorrow, RSA curator Emma Ridgway talks about the work of Gustav Metzger as part ofGustav Metzger Decades 1959 – 2009, currently at London’s Serpentine Gallery. It’s at 3pm Saturday 7 November at the Serpentine.

If you want a flavour of the talk,  Ridgway’s recent interview with Metzger about his appeals to artists over the years, is a vivid demonstration of how passionate he is about art’s need to involve itself in the political sphere:

You were an activist before you were an artist. Was there a particular moment, or was it through Bomberg, that you decided that contemporary politics was going to be a core part of your work?

Yes, my interest in politics was there from the age of around 17. That was in wartime, around 1942 – 43, when I was living in Leeds and there I almost completely converted to the idea of becoming some sort of revolutionary figure –art at that point had no place in my conception of the future. It was only in the late summer of 1944, when I felt I would move away from the ideal of becoming a political activist to becoming an artist. So moving into art was a way of moving forward without giving up the political interest; because I thought one could fuse the political ideal of social change with art. For example, the writing of Eric Gill who was both an artist and a craftsman and politically involved was a kind of inspiration to me. I could see this possibility of using the ideas of social change within art, with art and not simply through political, economic activity.

Sometimes we visit exhibitions together and discuss the work. On a number of occasions you have been disinterested in the work because it lacked any political bite or ethical aspect. Is this something you feel artists work must contain?

Yes, I think that is inescapable and the more the world changes, is changing, in the direction of more speed and more activities. And the more that happens the more necessary it is for people to stand back and, not merely in the art sphere but in every sphere of intellectual activity, to stand back and distance oneself and come up with alternative ways of dealing with reality than going along with a direction that is essentially catastrophic and consuming itself and turning itself into a numbers game. Where the technology, especially the technology of the mobile phones and this endless sound machinery that people force into their biological mechanism, seems to be unstoppable; and the more it goes on, the more we need to stand aside and distance ourselves from this rush towards destruction.

Read the complete interview.

Photograph by Benedict Johnson

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology