Author Archive

Holly Keasey: Reflecting on Water Rights Residency

February 15, 2018

This is the final blog from Holly Keasey written in October some months after her return from Santa Fe. Holly reflects on her apparent diversion from her intentional misunderstanding of the ‘rights’ in Water Rights to be equivalent to the ‘rights’ in Human Rights. The delay in publishing it is entirely the responsibility of the ecoartscotland editor.


 

We have come a long way. But we still have a long way to go. There is still today a frontier that remains unconquered — an America unclaimed. This is the great, the nationwide frontier of insecurity, of human want and fear.

President Roosevelt, radio address on the Third Anniversary of the Social Security Act, 1938

 

Taken at the Bradbury Museum, Los Alamos.

 

It has been over three month since I left Santa Fe and a month since my first attempt, to write this final post – an attempt that hammers home the difference of focused residency periods and trying to creatively think in between paid employment. To try and find my way back into the particular space I created for myself whilst at the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI), I turned my attention to questioning why – when I set out to investigate how to establish a role for critical public art practices, and what shifts in public arts policy are necessary to facilitate such practices by focusing on the role of policy and particularly water rights – did I end up spending the majority of my time in New Mexico conducting an ‘Atomic Tour’. Is there a reasoning to this shift or did I get distracted?

Whilst in New Mexico, I had the pleasure of meeting Sherri Brueggemann, the Albuquerque Public Arts Officer, who explained that the Albuquerque Public Arts Policy, though drafted as an adaptive policy, is predominantly dictated by a requirement of acquisition by the Albuquerque City Council. In short, the commissioning of object-based art that therefore has a long-term economic value and can be seen as a physical addition to their public art collection. For me, this legally stated requirement, and simultaneous reduction of public art to the manifestation of an monetarily-valued object, presents a clear link to a mind-set that is embedded in property.

As has been reiterated in a previous post, water rights are also directly linked to property, and hence property rights, in that they are focused on a possession-to-use/entitlement-to-ownership ethos. Yet, due to an on-going interest in the expansive role of water, I was interested in how this could be swung into a relation with human rights ( the “rights” inherent in being human, to do or to have simply because they are human) through a simple play-on, or rather, intentional (mis)interpretation of language. What is water allowed to be, to do and to have simply because it is water? And how could such an ethos be applied to all living beings and elements of the Earth? And what effect would this have on humanity’s current resource-focused trajectory if we were to accept and take on board such rights? This led me to consider if non-specialists in policy could misinterpret a policy – or rather interpret it differently whilst legitimising their reasoning for this interpretation of language. Is there a potential to give and in giving policy multifaceted meanings?

To understand the potential of this shift (or strategy of misinterpretation), I chose to conduct site-responsive re-search into the role of water and property rights in New Mexico, which in turn led me to be ‘willingly lost’ in the history of the nuclear as a significant specificity to New Mexico’s history. An inescapable element of my ‘Atomic Tour’ was the development of nuclear weapons and a need to understand what drove such an invention, its use and continued use as a method for ensuring maintained peace – a peace facilitated by threat and fear.

Target You – 1950’s Educational Film – S88TV1. Screened at the Museum of Nuclear Science and History, Albuquerque.

The construction of ‘property’ and it’s relationship with fear also led me to the ‘Atomic Tour’. In 1900, over 12,000 Japanese citizens immigrated to the U.S. mainland, many just released from indentured labor with Hawaii’s 1898 annexation. California became a focal area for settling and farming a key economic foundation for the Japanese population. However, the sudden increases in Japanese immigration spurred the spreading of the xenophobic theory of the ‘Yellow Peril’, with some fearing that the Japanese were attempting to overtake white control of California’s farmland. This resulted in the implementation of The California Alien Land Laws of 1913 and 1920, that prohibited “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning agricultural land or possessing leases over it or owning of stock in companies that acquired such land.

Although only one early action in an extensive web of global imperialist territorial power struggles, trade route deals and resource embargoes that ultimately led to the attack on Pearl Harbour and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945 respectively – the California Alien Land Law, for me, epitomises the driving relations in a number of dimensions. The Act highlights the role of policy in the formation and maintenance of a static national identity as a meditation on the significance of land as property. Finally it makes clear the invisible violence located in such policy-making that is implicitly driven by a fear of the ‘other’ or how I would term a fear of the uncontrollable potential located in difference.

Psychological Operations leaflet. Image taken at the Bradbury Museum, Los Alamos.

Psychological Operations leaflet. Image taken at the Bradbury Museum, Los Alamos.

Nicolas Bromley writes that, ‘…force and violence are the nemesis of property and their frequent use is a signal that a property regime is faltering…’ and yet that, ‘…law requires the construction of a constituted outside with reference to, and against which, it sets itself apart. And violence is integral to its construction.’ The development, imagined-threat, use and now threat-as-use of the nuclear bomb, therefore could be seen as the site where literal and imaginings of the extremes of globalised property as an individual right, and therefore the fear such a notion requires and perpetuates, are given location.

From such a large-scale look at property, I return to looking further at the current implications of gentrification in which the antithesis to property is embodied by the indigent, the homeless and the renter,

‘…the poor are, if anything, imagined as a threat to property, not only because of their assumed complicity in property crime but also because, by their presence, they destabilize property values, both economically and culturally.’

It is in this act, of identifying ‘threats’ and establishing a legal policy of property rights to ensure security, that simultaneously identifies a feared ‘other’ that must always sit out-with a law in order to maintain the need for a law, that I feel there is a use in noticing a scalable relation between gentrification and the emotional underpinning of the nuclear. Yes, gentrification is embedded in a capital-based power system that thrives on establishing replicable exclusivity and social divides, but in order to dream of an alternative, maybe there is use in investigating how we approach and deal with that which we fear, especially in relation to difference and our prioritised entitlement to survival which currently manifests as possession-to-use.

From the above approach, I wish to move from property back to water, and water rights. In a previous post, I spoke of the Santa Fe River as a site of complexity. Site as verb – the act of giving location. This understanding of the river, and water more generally, does not so easily allow a single concept of rights as the regulation of distributing powers to control valued resources.

I wonder if it is here that I am also able to locate a site to develop potential towards ecological-sensitivity in developing multi-faceted interpretations of policy, through a focus on water rights? A form of policy that is shaped through giving location to difference and hence not responding to fear as something to be excluded, but rather an emotion we must learn to sit with until difference itself, rather than specifically that which is identified as different, unknowingly shifts to the familiar. Could the formation of such an idea be developed by reflecting on my own process of overcoming the fear of feeling out-of-place, due to constant travelling? By allowing myself to get lost and over-time become familiar and give-site to my fear through a relational and scalar approach to the fear embedded in the nuclear? And how could the development of a critical public artwork that focuses on policy, gentrification and property act as a generative challenge to legal regulations that stipulate that Public Art practices must result in an acquisition, either as an object or even as Culture for the purpose of increasing capital-attractiveness of an area?

I will continue to develop this as part of my body of work that considers Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) as a theoretical modelling system for alternative forms of urban planning and where my practice, that focuses on water as a tool to criss-cross theory and ecological concerns, could be situated within such a model as a challenge for critical formations of public art practice.

‘If we did something’ on 14 Feb 2018

February 5, 2018

James Wyness has invited Jan Hogarth, John Wallace and me to join him for If we did something at The Stove in Dumfries on 14 Feb 10.00-16.00. This is part of his project If we do nothing. You are invited too.

An open gathering, a meeting of minds from the artistic, scientific, academic, engineering and civic communities, to design and plan a series of future symposiums on eco-art, the aesthetics of sustainability, resilience and emergence.

We seek your input in designing future symposiums for the mid to long term, developing new research and artistic production, addressing the fragmentation of human understanding across ecosystems thinking, climate change, adaptation and sustainability.

All welcome.

Questions can be directed to James here.

Tim Ingold, the noted anthropologist, recently said,

But while mainstream science continues to think of art as a medium for the communication of its own findings, it is now art, rather than science, that is leading the way in promoting radical ecological awareness. This awareness rests on an acknowledgement of what we owe, for our very existence, to the world we seek to know and of which we are necessarily part. As such, it should come in before science rather than after it. The purpose of art, then, is not to communication science but to investigate its conditions of possibility.

Jan, John, James and I have been having a conversation by email in preparation for the event.

In particular we have been talking about the fragmentation of understanding and whether some forms of knowledge are ‘incommensurable’ (a word James introduced) with others. For example, is knowledge in the form of data, which dominates the sciences, translatable or relatable to storytelling and lived experience on the land? Is this important? John’s work with Prof Pete Smith including the film installation The Same Hillside (discussed here) is storytelling in response to scientific modelling.

Read more of James’ thinking on complexity here.

Jan has been asking us to think more carefully about ‘permission’ and how we behave in the world. If we accept that everything is living and we give the same respect to non-human living things that we give to humans, what does that mean? Jan says we should ask permission of the spring to take water. You can find out more about Jan’s Quests and Retreats here.

I recently gave a presentation on transdisciplinarity and have begun to get to grips with Basarab Nicolescu’s concept of ‘different levels of reality’. He says, “I maintain that two levels of Reality are different if the passage from one to the other involves a breakdown of laws and a breakdown of fundamental concepts.” which sounds like incommensurability to me.

Reviewing the past, planning the future

January 31, 2018

During 2017 we published articles on a wide range of projects ecoartscotland is involved with, new commissioned writing, reports from various artists, as well as sharing articles from other blogs.

As part of ecoartscotland’s ongoing work with the Land Art Generator Initiative we toured the exhibition of the Glasgow project to the Tent Gallery at Edinburgh College of Art and also to the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.

Newton Harrison working with The Barn, Banchory on the ecological health of the Dee and Don Valleys. The video of the lecture Newton gave has now been put online.

We helped the Wetland Life project recruit artists and we look forward to providing an update on this work during 2018.

We published a number of guest blogs including,

Focusing on ‘wonder’, we published a curator’s reflection on the Murmur exhibition by Jonathan Baxter.

The Connecting with a Low Carbon Scotland conference, the culmination of the research programme funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh was written up by Professor Anne Douglas. The Research Report is due to be published in the Spring.

We reported on The Same Hillside,  the result of the art science collaboration between Professor Pete Smith and Gavin Wallace focused on ecosystem services assessment, and on A Field of Wheat, Culhane and Levene’s project that enabled us to participate in producing food.

Juliet Wilson reviewed Camilla Nelson’s Apples and Other Languages.

Minty Donald reviewed the Collins and Goto Studio exhibition A Caledonian Decoy.

Ewan Davidson reviewed the Center for Genomic Gastronomy’s Gut Gardening.

The year started with a series of blogs from Holly Keasey during her participation in the Water Rights residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute which you can read backwards by following this link.

We also appear to have failed: we tried to persuade the Leverhulme Trust to maintain its Artist in Residence Award Scheme – unfortunately there is no sign that this worked although a lot of people wrote letters and a-n also commissioned a piece from us.

During 2018 we have a number of articles in the pipeline including:

A report on the Landscape Research Group’s recent Landscape Justice Debate

More on wetlands including blogs from Hannah Imlach who was in Flow Country in the North of Scotland and Rob Mulholland from Cheng Long Wetlands in Taiwan.

The final reflection from Holly Keasey on her Water Rights residency.

A review of Marlene Creates: Places, Paths, and Pauses.

A response to A Non-Cartography thinking through the social mess of climate change, Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Issue #10

More on the work with The Barn and Newton Harrison.

 

Culture Conversation – Culture and Climate Change

November 28, 2017

The Scottish Government is currently involved in ‘early engagement’ on a new Cultural Strategy for Scotland.

In early November, Creative Carbon Scotland hosted a discussion as part of the Scottish Government’s consultation on the development of a new Culture Strategy for Scotland.

Joined by arts and sustainability practitioners working across a range of contexts, we focused on the connections between culture and climate change and the role of the arts in wider society, particularly in relation to environmental sustainability.

We convened the meeting around three key questions, relating the Scottish Government’s Culture Conversations questions to the issue of climate change. We also provided an online survey for those who were unable to participate in the event, some of the points from which are also included here.

The discussion focused on three questions:

  • What do you perceive as the role of arts and culture in contributing to a more sustainable Scotland at individual, organisational and strategic levels?
  • What are key examples of good practice and opportunities for new collaborations across cultural and sustainable sectors?
  • What are the priority areas to further the role of culture in bringing about transformational change to a more sustainable Scotland?

To read the key points from the meeting visit the Creative Carbon Scotland website.

Reviewer needed – Marlene Creates: Places, Paths,and Pauses

November 25, 2017

Contact chris@fremantle.org if you are interested

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Beautiful Renewables: LAGI Exhibition at RGU, Aberdeen

November 16, 2017

 

ZM-Board-1-2

Wind Forest, ZM Architecture Team

Can renewable energy become not merely infrastructure but a feature of place-making? What can architects, artists and designers bring to the transition to a post-fossil fuel economy? Can creative approaches contribute to the commercialisation of new renewable technologies? These are some of the questions that the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) is asking and why ecoartscotland partnered with them.

The exhibition of the Land Art Generator Glasgow project along with examples from other LAGI competitions is currently installed on the Concourse of the Sir Ian Wood Building, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.

It has previously been exhibited in The Lighthouse, Glasgow; Exeter University Innovation Centre; and Tent, Edinburgh College of Art.

The LAGI Glasgow project focused on Dundas Hill, a former distillery and power station site just north of Glasgow City centre. Dundas Hill is now a regeneration site being developed by a partnership between Scottish Canals and BIGG Regeneration supported by Glasgow City Council.

The three short listed teams were led by architects and landscape architects (ERZ, Stallan Brand, ZM Architects) and involved engineers, designers and artists (Daziel+Scullion, Alec Finlay, Pigdin Perfect).

The Land Art Generator Initiative will be releasing the Brief for it’s next International Open Competition for a site in Melbourne in Australia in January 2018.

Chris Fremantle, who established ecoartscotland in 2010, is a Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer in Contemporary Art Practice at Gray’s School of Art. Outputs associated with this work have been clustered into a ‘project’ by the RGU Library Service on OpenAIR here. They include a chapter in the book of the LAGI Copehagen Open Competition in 2014, a conference paper at PetroCultures 2016 conference as well as the citation of the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Managers (CIWEM) Art and Environment Award made in 2016.


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