Welcome to a new series of posts here and on Twitter @ecoartscotland focused on art, artists and wetlands using the hashtag #art4wetlands. Feel free to join in by posting using this hashtag or contacting us with suggestions for blogs. We’ll be publishing weekly between now and the Ramsar Convention Conference of the Parties #RamsarCOP13 which takes place in October 2018 in Dubai, UAE.
Wetlands are amongst the most widely threatened habitats world-wide. Threats include unsustainable urban development e.g. being drained for housing development; pollution from urban settlements, industry and agriculture; invasive species, as well as overharvesting. According to analyses by Ramsar,
The global extent of wetlands is now estimated to have declined between 64-71% in the 20th century, and wetland losses and degradation continue worldwide.
But the biggest threat is a perception that to quote the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, wetlands are,
…misunderstood and undervalued by people, leading to a desire to replace them with more ‘useful’ and ‘productive’ options such as housing developments and agricultural land.
Wetlands are a fundamental part of the water cycle, with a key role in cleaning water as it moves from smaller bodies into larger ones (rivers, seas, oceans). Wetlands are critical to many migratory animals and hence their careful management is an internationally shared responsibility. Wetlands are also home to a multitude of amphibious species. Wetlands such as saltmarshes and mangroves stabilise littoral zones, reducing coastal erosion and storm damage to properties.
Artists have represented waterbirds since neolithic times, and the Ramsar Convention published Ramsar Cultural Heritage Information Pack 10 Wetlands – an inspiration in art, literature, music and folklore
More recently Peter Howard’s piece Wetland Landscapes in English Art highlighted how during the 18th and 19th Centuries artists in this country’s tradition marked changes in perceptions of wetlands. Pieces by contemporary artists Simon Read (Communities and Coastal Change) and Betsy Damon (The Sounds of Water) open up contemporary activist practices where artists are not just representing wetlands but also getting directly involved in conservation and wise use.
We have assembled a programme highlighting artists working in different ways on issues such as habitat restoration, pollution and biodiversity loss. We have examples from all six of the Ramsar Convention’s regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean, North America, and Oceania).
The Ramsar Convention’s Culture Network underpins this initiative which draws on the expertise of members of the Network’s Art Focus Group. The Ramsar Convention has a longstanding commitment to culture and the arts from its adoption in 1971 through a series of Resolutions to its partnership with the MAVA Foundation and others in the Ramsar Culture Network (2011-18). As part of World Wetlands Day every year the Ramsar Convention holds the Global Wetlands Youth Photo Competition.
Please share examples of artists (whether now or in the ancient past) contributing to wetlands conservation and wise use with the hashtag #art4wetlands. We are particularly interested in art that makes a difference and we look forward to learning about new examples over the next four months.
Brilliant, thanks Chris. This is the bog project I have begun working on in the last few years in Ireland https://drumminbogproject.wordpress.com/ : I’m finding my Guattari-action research a good guiding framework for the bog, as well as my forest work now.
Hi Cathy I see you are on Twitter. Can you reply to my tweet from @ecoartscotland with all this? That would be fab! Cheers
Hi Everyone, Thanks to Chris for doing this to bring attention to art and its role in wetlands conservation and raising public awareness. Check out our Blog for the Cheng Long Wetlands International Environmental Art Project in Yunlin County, Taiwan. 2018 was the 9th year of this annual art for the wetlands event. The Blog is at https://artproject4wetland.wordpress.com
Hi Chris, this is great – I thought you might be interested in an on-going project I undertook in the Somerset Levels which began with a commission from Somerset Art Works in collaboration with the Great Crane Project (the latter whom facilitated the return of the Eurasian Crane to the Levels). Working with farming communities there I made an animated film for projection in the landscape, thereby creating a direct connection with the land. This took the highly adaptable crane – a wetland flagship species – both as symbol for the landscape itself and for the creative mindset that will be necessary in the face of the challenges presented by the current social and political environment. The commission is finished by the project continues with more collaboration with the farming community this autumn – I’d be very happy to write something about that if it’d be of interest? The blog for Cranes and Communities is here:
Thanks Sean – are you on Twitter? If so please share the link using #art4wetlands and I’ll RT. Otherwise email me and we can work something out.