Tim Ingold: ‘The Sustainability of Everything’

August 22, 2016 by

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There was an interesting piece in the NY Times recently entitled Against Sustainability questioning the meaningfulness of ‘sustainability’ and offering a critique of the nostalgia-based version,

Talk about “sustaining” nature, or “preserving” it, only exacerbates this mourning and indulges our melancholia. Like the bereaved who must learn to speak of the dead in the past tense, if we are to move forward in our habitation of the planet, to face the future and not the past, to say “yes” to the anthropocene, we should change our language.

We will get a very different ‘take’ on this issue from Tim Ingold, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, activist for better universities, and author of numerous books including Line: A Brief History (2007), Being Alive (2011), Making (2013) and The Life of Lines (2015).  Ingold’s anthropology is more humanities than social science and he is frequently cited by artists.  His current European Research Council funded project Knowing from the Inside involves a number of artists.

Ingold will ask,

“What kind of world has a place for us and for everything else, both now and for future generations? What does it mean for such a world to carry on? How can we make it happen?”

Saturday 10th September, 11am
Fairfield Hall, The Pearce Institute, 840-860 Govan Rd, Glasgow G51 3UU

This public talk is free to attend, although we ask for donations towards the room rent and future CHE/GFU events. Please book your ticket here as places are limited: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2591625

Please spread the word by sharing the attached poster (The_Sustainability_of_Everything) among your relevant networks, or on social media. Thanks!

Event facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1104818026253422/

Opportunity: Nature and Culture to Revitalize an Island

August 20, 2016 by

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International Creative Workshop in Megijima, Japan
2016 October 2-9 (long session) / October 8-9 (short session)
hosted by SocieCity and Final Straw
with Patrick M. Lydon, Suhee Kang, and Kaori Tsuji

Ecological activism, creative practice, and community building come together on the Island of Megijima, Japan this October, and we want you to be a part of it.

The team at SocieCity & Final Straw are assembling an international cast of creative thinkers and doers to join us in a small Japanese village, where we will discover and highlight the social and ecological treasures of this island together. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore in depth, the nature and culture of a small island together with other creative minds from around the world, and to help build an ecological future for this community.

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Our program begins with participants enjoying an in-depth look at the island, it’s nature, and its people. We have arranged special tours of the island’s ecological and cultural history, and participants will interact directly with locals to hear their stories of the island, it’s natural resources, its farms, and its folklore.

The second half of the program focuses on synthesizing our experiences – the ecology, stories, and personal reactions – into creative prototypes for small products that can be made using local materials. The prototypes are mean both as talismans (souvenirs) for visitors, and celebrations of the island’s unique nature and culture.

All prototypes produced by workshop participants will be voted on by the local villagers, with the winning design having a chance to be put into production locally in order to support the island.

Participants can choose to stay for only the intensive course (October 8th – 9th), or an extended internship (October 2nd – 9th) that will include becoming part of the larger community regeneration activities we are undertaking on the island. The extended internship, though not required, is especially recommended for international visitors.

To Apply, please send the following to patrick@finalstraw.org by Sept 1, 2016:

  • Your Name / Street Address / Email / Phone / and Website (if available)
  • Either five still images or five minutes of video showing previous work. Images must be JPEG format and around 500kb – 1mb in size each, attached to the email. Videos must be submitted as a links to YouTube, Vimeo, or another streaming service. If a video is longer than 5 minutes, please note that we can only watch the first 5 minutes.
  • An image list with location, title, and short description for each image or video
  • A short statement (less than 300 words) about your practice
  • A short statement (less than 300 words) about why you wish to join the workshop
    Please include all text in the body of the email, not as an attachment.

Conditions (Please Read Before Applying):

Accommodation – The rate for accommodation is $40 (2 days / 1 night) or $180USD (7 days / 6 nights). This covers the cost of private room hotel accommodation on the island.
Tuition – The workshop tuition is done using the “pay it forward” system. This means that there is no predetermined rate for tuition, and participants are welcome to pay what they can. However, Pay it Forward also means that your project coordinators are volunteering their time, they are not getting paid to produce and lead these workshops. Your tuition payment is the only way we can continue to conduct more workshops for future participants.

Travel and Meals – All participants must cover their own travel and expenses of getting to Japan and during their stay. Meals are not included in the tuition fee, though there are a few options for eating on the island, and group-cooked dinners will be arranged for those who wish to take part in them.

Applicants are expected to be proficient in speaking English. Japanese language experience is a bonus, but certainly not required.

Previous experience with community engaged arts, craft skills, or creative practice, although not explicitly required, is recommended and should be reflected in your work and statement.

Learn More About Our Work:
SocieCity / Creative actions for inspiring tomorrow – www.sociecity.org
Final Straw / Food, Earth, Happiness – www.finalstraw.org

Meghan Moe Beitiks reviews Soil Culture

August 18, 2016 by

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SoilCulture: bringing the arts down to earth, from the Centre for Contemporary Art in the Natural World (CCANW) and Falmouth Art Gallery published in collaboration with Gaia Projects is the culmination of years of work—comprehensive documentation of a significant exhibition, nine curated artist residencies, and a Soil Culture Forum. It includes photographs and essays detailing the contributions of the artists involved, as well as personal reflections on the Forum, and descriptions of events held at Plymouth University, and at Create, Bristol City Council’s environmental centre, all coordinated to coincide with the United Nations International Year of Soils in 2015.

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Floodplain soil developed in sand, North Wales.  Photo: Bruce Lascelles

After a brief introduction by the directors of the CCANW, we are, fittingly, introduced to soil – both in an “Homage” by Patrick Holden, and more in-depth, in “What is Soil?” by Dr. Bruce Lascelles. It’s really refreshing to pick up an art book about a given subject and begin reading about that subject from the point of view of a scientific researcher. We do not begin with say, soils’ depiction in art through the ages, or with some overly poetic meandering about the modern cultural meanings of soil (though Daro Montag gives a good overview of soil in culture in “Speaking of Soil,” detailing soils’ relationships to language). Instead, we begin with a very practical overview of what soil is, on a scientific level, after an extended essay from Holden about the importance of microbial communities, comparing the function of the soil to that of the human gut.

In beginning with these scientific facts and research on soil, the book reminds us that soil is a global entity, and something upon which we are interdependent. It acknowledges that within the UK there are several hundred varieties of soil, and opens up space for potentially complex dialogue. While there are a diverse number of approaches to making art with/and/about soil included in the book, they remain rooted in conceptual methodologies and approaches. A workshop described later in the book as replicating a Japanese technique for making soil-balls is one of the rare non-Western perspectives that the book holds. It makes sense, to a certain extent, that a UK-based exploration of soil would be culturally- and site-specific in nature, and the examination of work within the contemporary conceptual is in-depth. But the potential for an even more global, expansive dialogue is sometimes lost.

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Stills from ‘Alma Silueta en Fuego (Silueto de Cenizas)’ 1975.  Super-8 colour silent film transferred to DVD. Photo: The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection

From its material, scientific beginning, the book goes on to detail a major traveling exhibition, Deep Roots, featuring the works of known artists like Mel Chin, Richard Long and Ana Mendieta, as well as potentially less internationally known names, such as Paolo Barrile. Within these works, we see soil positioned as a pigment, a currency, and as a site for research.

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Claire Pentecost, Soil Erg, installation in dOCUMENTA(13) in Germany 2012. Image courtesy of the artist.

It’s great to see Claire Pentecost’s work Soil Erg featured, a re-imagining of soil as a currency, complete with soil ingots and soil-paper currency notes (full disclosure: I was a student of Pentecost’s at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago). Each artist is given a two-page spread in the book, with large images and text. The work is primarily contemporary conceptual: there’s no attempt to incorporate, say, more traditional clay sculpture, or other folks forms of making art with soil. But overall, the exhibition documentation gives a good overview of soil as engaged with by a series of contemporary, established artists.

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Mel Chin, Revival Field, 1991-ongoing

One point of disappointment, especially given the books’ promising relationship to science, is the treatment given to the research connected to Mel Chin’s Revival Field. This work is so singularly important to environmental art it has become a kind of sacred cow. While it’s true that Revival Field has a significant impact on research in phytoremediation, Sue Spaid has noted previously that it was concerns about perceptions of the validity of the science that prompted subsequent re-plantings.* In SoilCulture, these re-mountings are referred to simply as other versions of the project. There’s a limited amount of space given to each artist in the book, but it’s a shame that more time wasn’t taken in this volume to unpack the relationship between the scientific research and this project over time, as this is a less-often discussed but important aspect of the legacy of the work. Moments like this represent opportunities lost for a more expansive, critical discourse, especially since this art/soil/science relationship proves to be consistently important to the documented programming. If this was something that was expanded on in the live events, it isn’t made clear in the publication.

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Karen Guthrie, Residency 2014, Hauser & Wirth Somerset

The book moves on to focus on nine emerging artists who were given the opportunity to embed themselves in various context to explore soil with scientists, at farms, and in a botanical garden, in a section called Young Shoots. These explorations include a distilled soil work by Karen Guthrie, a “Brest Plough o’ metric” by Paul Chaney, and an attempt to manufacture soil by Something & Son. The works bridge the scientific and the artistic in engaging and effective ways, and speak to emerging interdisciplinary practices. In these projects, soil and its culture are regarded as inspirational material in-and-of-itself, a further remove from historical art cannons, informed by science, engineering, and ecological imperatives.

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Detail of ‘Breast Plough’o’metric’. Photo: Martyn Windsor.

This bridges very well into Soil Culture: Dig it, a chapter based on an exhibition of the same name, in which the studio and the scientific laboratory are brought into the same space. Residency artist Lisa Hirmer (DodoLab) worked alongside Dr. Rob Parkinson, an Associate Professor in Soil Sciences and some colleagues from the School of Biological Sciences in Plymouth University, exploring peat and atmospheric carbon, among other collaborations, and the exhibition space displayed research tools and samples from scientific as well as creative explorations. A fitting exploration for the arc of the project.

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It’s followed by Soil Culture at Create, an overview of live and educational programming at Bristol City Council’s environmental centre. A series of “Soil Saturdays” framed workshops, talks, culinary demonstrations, performances, and artistic interventions around the theme of soil, in temporary explorations. It serves well as documentation (each Saturday has a photo and a summary), but is probably best read by itself in a separate sitting, since at that point the reader has been steadily subsumed in the art/soil/science exploration, and it is a condensed format.

Thankfully, the next section is a series of short essays in response to the Soil Culture Forum, a three-day symposium converged by Research in Art, Nature & Environment (RANE) at Falmouth University. This section of the book is both satisfying and frustrating. Its personal tone and short form makes the reader feel a bit like they were in a room with a bunch of well-informed folks reminiscing, reflecting both on soil and on the event of the Forum. Valid questions are raised about culture’s relationship to soil: one of the most satisfying passages comes from Mat Osmond’s report on Richard Kerridge,

The heroic notion of the artwork as a driver of cultural change is both a distraction, and an unsupportable inflation, one that places a weight of expectation on creative practice that it can never live up to. We need to set aside the artwork as monumental icon of the paradigm shift we seek, and look instead to creative practice as a quiet turning of the soil: to the artwork, poem and story as micro-organism, as connective mycelium—the manure that feeds and renews the myriad invisible life of that soil.”

Of course, this comes after Holden’s assertion that the micro-organism is drastically important to the soil, so rather than reframe the arts as small, humble, or insignificant, this statement has the effect of positioning the arts as deeply embedded, important, in dialogue with its surroundings. I personally deeply appreciated this reframing.

Unfortunately, it is followed in other shorter essays by familiar tropes in sustainability culture, like the demand for a universal spiritual connection to the Earth, or a singular definition of love that includes the non-human (Stephen Harding’s assertion, for instance, that ‘the only way we can address these problems is through love’). These demands do much to flatten the attempts at diversity in the dialogue. It’s a common problem in the creation and discussion of environmental work that the overwhelming impetus to celebrate has the effect of universalizing, normalizing, and undermining safe spaces for questioning or critical discourse. It’s easy to make such beautiful statements—who can argue with love? But they unintentionally undermine a greater diversity of respectful relationships to soil.

SoilCulture is, ultimately, the documentation of a strong collection of artists exploring soil at a time when its importance and preciousness is politically and ecologically pressing. This puts some artworks in the position of celebrating or propagandizing. While these efforts may be needed, the conversation that SoilCulture frames also points to the importance of diversity and critical discourse in ecological/cultural work, largely because such elements are sometimes lacking in its own curation. Regardless, the projects put forth solid juxtapositions of scientific and artistic research with soil, including artist/scientist collaborations, and research processes reframed. It is a fascinating snapshot in time of artists engaging with a crucial issue.


* 2002. Ecovention: current art to transform ecologies, Cincinatti, Ohio: The Contemporary Art Center, p.7

Full disclosure: the author is colleagues with one of the residency artists, formerly worked for one of the Soil Culture Forum presenters, and was, as noted above, a student of Claire Pentecost, one of the professionally exhibited artists featured in the book.

All images provided by the publishers.

BIOGRAPHY
Meghan Moe Beitiks is an artist and writer working with associations and disassociations of culture/nature/structure.  She analyzes perceptions of ecology though the lenses of site, history, emotions, and her own body in order to produce work that analyzes relationships with the non-human. She was a Fulbright Student Fellow, a recipient of the Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists, and a MacDowell Colony fellow. She has taught performance at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and exhibited her work at the I-Park Environmental Art Biennale, Grace Exhibition Space in Brooklyn, Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery in Chicago, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the House of Artists in Moscow, and other locations in California, Chicago, Australia and the UK. She received her BA in Theater Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz and her MFA in Performance Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. www.meghanmoebeitiks.com

Thinking through the Anthropocene

August 2, 2016 by

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Application deadline: 10am, Friday 19th August

Creative Carbon Scotland is delighted to announce the details of their annual Arts & Sustainability Artists’ Residency (30th September – 3rd October). This year they’re offering up to eight Scotland-based artists from any discipline with the paid opportunity to participate in a weekend of discussion and activities at Cove Park, exploring the relationship between their practices and environmental sustainability.

Co-facilitated by Jan Bebbington (Professor of Accounting and Sustainable Development, Director, St Andrews Sustainability Institute) and Lex ter Braak (Director, Van Eyck Institute, Maastricht, Netherlands), Creative Carbon Scotland’s third annual residency will use the spectrum of stories surrounding the Anthropocene as an entry point for discussing the relationship between cultural practices and environmental sustainability.

The residency will be hosted in partnership with Cove Park over a long weekend from 30th September – 3rd October. Selected artists will be paid a fee of £450 for their attendance and travel expenses from within Scotland, accommodation and catering will be covered.

Find out more and apply here: http://www.creativecarbonscotland.com/artist-residency-open-call-thinking-through-the-anthropocene/

This residency is funded by Creative Scotland and kindly supported by The Dr David Summers Charitable Trust and is run in partnership with Cove Park.

Outlook: Exploring Geddes in the 21st Century

July 21, 2016 by

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To coincide with Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016, a two-day international conference (18-19 August, 2016) will celebrate the impact and legacy of Sir Patrick Geddes, polymath, botanist and founding father of town planning.

The conference will be opened by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Fiona Hyslop MSP.

The conference will involve a series of interactive seminars and workshops, fusing together strands of academic and practice-based thinking from Scotland and all around the world.

The first day will hear from young people about their sense of place as well as a range of leading thinkers, artists, architects, educationalists and planners.
Day two will provide opportunities for creative, hands-on art and design workshops inspired by Geddes, involving students from Art, Space + Nature Masters Programme at ECA.

Further information and booking here.

Mapping sustainability and the arts

July 20, 2016 by

From Creative Carbon Scotland:

Carbon Image Larissa Pschetz

A quick reminder about our two upcoming Green Tease events which we hope you can join us for! You’re welcome to come along for the whole session or to drop in for a bite to eat and to make your contribution to the network maps that we’ll be developing over the course of the events.

What Lies Beneath: Mapping Sustainability & the Arts with Dr Larissa Pschetz

Edinburgh
Date: Monday 25th July, 6 – 8pm
Venue: Out of the Blue, 36 Dalmeny St, Edinburgh EH6 8RG
Find out more and register here

Glasgow
Date: Friday 29th July, 6:30 – 8:30pm
Venue: The Tron Theatre, 63 Trongate, G1 5HB
Find out more and register here

What cultural and environmental sustainability activities are taking place in Edinburgh and Glasgow? How do we map existing networks and discover new points of connection between them?

This month we want to hear from Green Tease members and others, about current projects that you’re engaged in, areas of future interest, and how the Green Tease programme can enable stronger ties between artistic practices and environmental initiatives in Scotland.

To do this, we’re very excited to be led by Dr Larissa Pschetz (Interaction Designer and Lecturer, Edinburgh College of Art) through a series of physical visualisation exercises, the data from which will be translated into online maps for use and sharing by participants.

We want to hear from as many Green Tease members as possible, as well as those who are new to the network, so please share this widely with friends and colleagues. Either join us for the whole session or drop in at a time that suits. We’ll have snacks available and drinks for purchasing from the venues.

Accessibility

Please note that the event venues are wheelchair accessible. If you have any access requirements or questions please get in touch with Gemma at gemma.lawrence@creativecarbonscotland.com.

Green Tease is an ongoing informal events programme which aims to build connections between creative practices and environmental sustainability. The majority of our Green Tease are free to attend with refreshments provided.

Multispecies Studies

July 19, 2016 by

Announcement from Thom Van Dooren

Thom van Dooren

ENV_8_1 CoverPRINT copyThis week our new special issue on “Multispecies Studies” appeared in Environmental Humanities. The issue was co-edited by six of us: Thom van Dooren, Ursula Münster, Eben Kirksey, Deborah Bird Rose, Matthew Chrulew and Anna Tsing. The full table of contents is below.

You can access the issue online here: http://environmentalhumanities.dukejournals.org/content/8/1

View original post 627 more words

Off-grid electrification

July 16, 2016 by
Image of mow demolished Port Dundas Power Station.Port Dundas Power Station served the Tram System in Glasgow.

Port Dundas Power Station served the Tram System in Glasgow

Working with Community Energy Scotland on the Land Art Generator Glasgow project has led to discussions about Local Energy Grids.
Reading Prof Paul Younger’s book on Energy highlighted the real challenges of putting renewables together with our existing national grid.

The limitations of the national grid have driven remote Scottish communities to develop proposals for local grids to enable them to make full use of the energy they can generate in their own environments. In this article local grids are being developed in Africa using solar, micro-payments and smart/mesh metering. Just as mobile phones have enabled much of Africa to bypass a ‘wired network’ problem so local grids bypass a ‘national grid’ problem.

What’s really interesting is the importance of a stable civil society, good governance, to support local autonomy and development (which is what this is whether it’s Scotland or Africa). Sustainability is after all totally scale dependent.

For LAGI Glasgow these apparently remote examples have real relevance for city centre regeneration.

Nature art, food & a film

July 12, 2016 by

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24 July / from 2pm
Falkland Centre for Stewardship
at The Stables

Join nature artist and filmmaker team Patrick Lydon (usa) and Suhee Kang (korea) in this special engagement as they bring us on new adventures in sensing and seeing nature.

Their nature art workshops have been given internationally on a “pay it forward” basis for participants of all ages, and their recent feature length documentary film “Final Straw: Food, Earth, Happiness” is fresh from a 100+ date tour of East Asia.

Feel free to join us for some or all of the day’s events below! You can register here.


2pm | nature art workshop
take a “sensing tour” of forest and field, and enjoy making vivid colors directly from soil, plant, and other natural materials at falkland estate

5pm | potluck dinner
bring something to share with each other and enjoy samples of local produce from the organic and biodynamic farmers right here at falkland estate

6pm | documentary screening
fresh from a tour of japan, watch Final Straw: Food, Earth, Happiness, a film that BBC’s Barbara Baker called “meditative, mindful … a beautiful film” then join a casual talk session with the film’s directors afterwards


Pay it Forward: The artists are donating their time to prepare and host this workshop, and are pleased to offer it on a “pay it forward” basis. Donations from this event will help to produce the next event for participants in another location. There is no set fee, however participants are encouraged to pay what they can.

Julia Barton: Collecting new rock samples in Scotland’s GeoParks

July 5, 2016 by

Julia Barton sent us the following information on her current work:

plastic rock reveal. NH 093 988 Isle Martin. J Barton

plastic rock reveal. NH 093 988 Isle Martin. J Barton

Artist Julia Barton is presently collecting classifying samples of a new rock now found on beaches in the remotest places on the North West Coast and Shetland, the rocks have become the focus of her Littoral Art Project which is investigating beach litter around Scotland.
Littoral meaning, the zone between the low and the high tide marks.

In 2013 a Canadian geological team named this rock ‘Plastiglomerate’ a category now acknowledged by scientists as a geological marker of our time (the Anthropocene) .  These ‘rocks’ lumps of melted plastic are now common on some beaches, as people turn to burning the increasing volumes of plastic waste which accumulates on beaches.  Every year 8 million tonnes of plastic reaches the world’s ocean and 100,000 sharks, turtles, dolphins and whales die from eating plastic according to the Marine Conservation Society.

The ‘plastic rocks’ are difficult to distinguish from natural beach rocks, and often go un-noticed, each has a unique molecular composition, their toxicity and timeline is unknown.  The ‘rocks’ collected will be used to construct the principal piece of an exhibition opening at Da Gadderie, Shetland Museum – 8th Oct-12 Nov and at An Talla Solais Caledonian Gallery in 2017 (dates to be confirmed).

It is intended that the exhibition will then travel to Edinburgh and internationally. Julia is presently producing a ‘Guide to Beach Litter’ to accompany the exhibition. This exhibition has received part funding from the National Lottery through Creative Scotland Open Project Funding.

Littoral Art Project was set up in 2013 by artist Julia Barton in response to her fear of drowning in litter which she experienced whilst walking on a beach on the North West coast of Scotland. Since then Julia has surveyed and mapped litter on over 20 Scottish beaches engaging local communities in her interactive investigations some of which can be viewed

The aim of the project and exhibition is to encourage understanding of the threat that beach and marine litter presents and to promote change by allowing people to see litter in different ways and consider the long term environmental implications.


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