Steep Trail: the Edinburgh lab

Kind courtesy of Richard Cross photography

Steep Trail is a cross-disciplinary project set up by three arts organisations – Polarcap, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop and Fife Contemporary Art and Craft – to explore the legacy of John Muir (1838-1914) and his relevance to contemporary Scottish and Chinese culture.

John Muir, a Lowland Scot, was a renowned wilderness guru, pioneering environmentalist, father of America’s National Parks system, explorer, author, geologist, botanist and mountain man. In this world of global expansion, draining resources and potential ecological doom, Steep Trail will ask is there still relevance in Muir’s legacy and can this founding father of conservation help us when we need him most.

The first stage of the project is a series of art/eco labs which are being set up along the east coast of Scotland in 2011. The labs are 2 day events bringing together artists and scientists for creative discussion. Following Muir’s example they will involve walking in the landscape as the stimulus and place for talking together.

The Steep Trail eco/labs will be a physical and metaphorical journey for the participants. They are rooted in the idea that art does something, that it has functionality and purpose and can enact some form of change either through critique, exposing truths or merely through the nature of its existence in that site in the first place.

The labs will be cross disciplinary, involving the already committed – the climatologists, scientists, environmental artists, natural history experts and campaigners – in combination with artists, writers and musicians. There will be selected walks in order to think and experience the natural world directly, Muir-style, as well as films and the more usual think-tank elements of presentations, talks, breakout groups. The relevance of the art/eco lab activities will result in some participants making work, making connections and building networks. For others involved the emphasis need not be on production but on long lasting knowledge and influence.

Other stages of the project in 2011 and 2012 will involve Scotland/China artist exchanges and an associated exhibition, a seminar looking in depth at the issues discussed during the art/eco labs and a publication about the Steep Trail project.

Edinburgh art/eco lab

Event: Saturday 2 & Sunday 3 July – 10am to 3pm each day

Venue: Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop

Programme: The event will begin on Saturday morning with a walk along the cycle path that borders Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop’s building led by artist, Rocca Gutteridge. Both days will include short 15 minute presentations by participants alternating science and art contributions and these will be followed by a chance for discussion and networking.

If you would like to take part in the discussions or would like more information about the eco labs and the Steep Trail project contact Irene Kernan on or by phone on 0131 551 4490.

There are limited spaces available so booking is essential.

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