Archive for the ‘Methodologies’ Category

Reblog: Global Environment Policy as political theatre #COP26

March 17, 2020

Reposting from Artists & Climate Change, Kyoto Forever? UN Climate Conferences as Political Theatre is a valuable exploration of the ways in which theatre can open up and imagine global environment policy-making, particularly as enacted in UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conventions of the Parties (UNFCCC COPs, particularly with COP26 coming to Glasgow in November.

Perhaps the most consequential theatrical forums of the moment are the UN climate conferences, or COP meetings, which occur every year in a different city and at which the governments of the world negotiate coordinated attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Or at least they perform diplomatic negotiation and perform commitments to reduce emissions. Global emissions continue to rise as climate impacts worsen, heightening the fictive, performative impression given by these conferences. At times they appear to be nothing but deceitful political theatre.

Continue reading…

Chris Fremantle, Anne Douglas and Dave Pritchard have been working with global environment policy in a chapter and a timeline to be published in the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Art and the Public Realm. Addressing the works of Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (b. 1932) in parallel with the step-change in global environment policy-making in the early 1970s the new texts explore different understandings of time.

 

Newton Harrison: 3 recent videos including ‘Apologia Mediterranean’

March 13, 2020

Three recent video works by Newton Harrison – an apology to the Mediterranean Sea, a call to Scotland to become the first industrialised country to give back more than it takes out, and an installation to assist biodiversity to adapt in Northern California.

Meditation on the Mediterranean. Included in the Collateral events of the 58th Venice Biennale, as part of Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy: Mare Nostrum at the Complesso della Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Penitenti, Fondamenta di Cannaregio, 910, from 8 May – 24 November 2019.

On The Deep Wealth of this Nation, Scotland included in the Taipei Biennial 2018-19 and exhibited in Banchory, Braemar and Edinburgh. Created with the support of The Barn, Banchory and the SEFARI Gateway.

Future Garden for the Central Coast of California is a site-specific environmental art installation by UCSC emeritus arts research professors Newton Harrison and his late wife Helen Mayer Harrison–at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and Botanic Garden.

Working in tandem with botanists at the Arboretum, the Harrisons have created trial gardens inside three refabricated geodesic domes, where native plant species are being exposed to the temperatures and water conditions that have been projected for the region in the near future.

For more on current work see The Center for the Study of the Force Majeure. For historical work see The Harrison Studio. For perspectives on the practice of the Harrisons see various Fremantle and Douglas papers.

UNFIX Pt. 2: How to report?

May 7, 2019
For this 7th iteration of  UNFIX festival, embedded artist Christiana Bissett performed a series of measurements  throughout the weekend. Reflecting on the meta and micro measurements found throughout the festival, she reports on her findings. Haraway, Donna J. 2016. Staying With the Trouble. Duke University Press. Latour, Bruno. 2018. Down to Earth, Politics in the New Climatic Regime. Polity. Yusoff, Kathryn. 2018. A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None. U of Minnesota Press.

Reblog: Making Climate Change Sexy: A Journey

March 14, 2019

Coming to you from Artists and Climate Change, the story of a book and some advice on audiences…

It’s a book for people who love the planet… and a good steak. People who care about coral reefs so much… they want to fly there. There’s no judgement, just acknowledgement that it’s a hard position to be in. The book addresses this cognitive dissonance with cartoons to make the subject matter easy to digest and fun to look at. Also, by making fun of literally everyone – activists and deniers alike – people won’t feel excluded.

Read the full article here, https://artistsandclimatechange.com/2019/03/13/making-climate-change-sexy-a-journey/

Agriculture and aquaculture, but no culture

February 20, 2019
Newton Harrison, The Deep Wealth of this Nation, Scotland (2018). Detail: one of ten panels.

The Scottish Government recently published Climate Ready Scotland: Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019-2024 A Consultation Draft – the consultation is open through 9th April 2019.

The focus of this work is on adaptation rather than mitigation.

As Ben Twist of Creative Carbon Scotland explained, mitigation is carbon reduction. Adaptation is about responding to the impacts of climate change: how do we change what we do and how we do it to deal with the changes and uncertainties of global warming? There are practical changes and behavioural changes. Some ‘adaptation’ measures ensure that infrastructure (eg energy and transport) can cope, and other actions are encouraging significant changes to farming practices. Community action is an important aspect too. Given this range it is surprising that culture only features as an aspect of heritage, and the arts don’t feature at all.

The survey is pretty specifically geared around professionals already directly involved in adaptation work engaging with technical questions of programme design. It might be more effective for people from culture and the arts to write letters outlining our role, giving specific examples of relevant work – projects and ways of working. There is an email address climatechangeadaptation@gov.scot.

ecoartscotland has regularly highlighted artists’ and organisations’ work on climate change, or as Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (b. 1932) conceptualised it, ‘The Force Majeure’.

Like an oncoming storm front, the Force Majeure is a fluid frontier; a frontier of heat moving across the planet; a frontier of water advancing on lands; a frontier of extinctions touching all lives. It is a frontier from which we retreat, yet within which we must also adapt.

Center for the Study of the Force Majeure website

The consultation document opens with the following statement from Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform,

Adapting to the changing climate will both help to create a better society for everyone who lives here and unlock Scotland’s immense potential as a nation.

Climate Ready Scotland

It goes on to say,

I want the second Adaptation Programme to deliver a step change in collaboration, and emphasise the wider co-benefits of climate action.

In an essay a few years ago the Harrisons said,

We hold that every place is telling the story of its own becoming, which is another way of saying that it is continually creating its own history and we join that conversation of place.

‘Knotted ropes, rings, lattices and lace: Retrofitting biodiversity into the cultural landscape?’ in Barthlott, Wilhelm and Matthias Winiger, eds., Biodiversity: A Challenge for Development Research and Policy. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer-Verlag, p. 14.

Working with The Barn in Aberdeenshire, Newton Harrison and his colleagues from The Center for the Study of the Force Majeure have been developing The Deep Wealth of this Nation, Scotland, a vision which specifically sets out to imagine Scotland as the first industrialised nation to put back more into the web of life than it takes out. The vision focuses on farming, agriculture and aquaculture (in particular lagoons), and frames these within a ‘Commons of Mind’ – the need for recognition of the prima facie need to adapt in the face of the Force Majeure.

The Barn invited the Harrisons and the Center for the Study of the Force Majeure to Aberdeenshire because of the floods along the river Dee in 2016 caused by Storm Frank. The resulting discussions with the James Hutton Institute and Scottish Rural University Colleges, supported by SEFARI funding, highlighted holistic approaches addressing the settlement, the watershed and the nation. Connections have been drawn to work in other small nations including Sweden and Taiwan and the work has been exhibited in Scotland and in the Taipei Biennial.

The Cabinet Secretary’s ambitions for the Adaptation Programme to produce ‘a more just society’ are critical. The problem is that the Programme does not address the fundamental reimagining required for humans to give back more to the web of life than we take out.

For instance, the Consultation document says of ‘Climate Change Adaptation Behaviours’,

This is where individuals and organisations change their behaviour to help increase their resilience to, and reduce the severity of, negative consequences of climate change.

Climate Ready Scotland

What is missing is actively strengthening the web of life by choosing to, for instance, grow biodiversity, not just in fragments, but comprehensively. So in changing farming it is not enough to simply plant a few more trees and allow for spreading of waters if that doesn’t tackle the ‘agricultural extinction’ that is monocultural farming. Intelligently greening settlements needs to achieve massively greater and connected (not fragmented) biodiversity, which in turn might provide human benefits in terms of edible landscapes (see for example the work of Dundee Urban Orchard and Loughborough University’s Eat Your Campus – both of which are artist-led) and more engaged, interconnected communities while at the same time reducing the impact of heatwaves on urban environments. The Deep Wealth calls for holistic thinking that puts the web of life first.

Co-incidentally there is a piece in Arts Professional from Judith Knight, quoting Amitav Ghosh’s book The Great Derangement,

“When future generations look back upon the Great Derangement, they will certainly blame the leaders and politicians of this time for their failure to address the climate crisis. But they may well hold artists and writers to be equally culpable – for the imagining of possibilities is not, after all, the job of politicians and bureaucrats.”

(p. )

The Harrisons provide a compelling vision for a different way of living, focused by the need to adapt to The Force Majeure.

There are a number of projects across Scotland which specifically address adaptation, in addition to The Deep Wealth. The Stove’s We Live With Water raises questions about how to live with regular flooding, questioning conventional flood defence approaches. Matt Baker described it as,

…an alternative approach and try to imagine a future where increased rainfall, sea-levels and river surges would be seen as an opportunity. We tried to imagine Dumfries as River Town…. a place that embraced its environment… a place that Lives With Water.

The Stove website

Cooking Sections’ ongoing project Climavore, which was developed in collaboration with Atlas Arts on Skye specifically addresses ‘eating as climate changes’. They say,

“It sets out to envision seasons of food production and consumption that react to man-induced climatic events and landscape alterations.”

Climavore website

Projects in other places such as Eve Mosher’s High Water Line in New York City, featured in Creative Carbon Scotland’s Library of Creative Sustainability, draw attention to the impact of storm surges which will become more frequent as global warming accelerates.

Community Energy focused initiatives including Land Art Generator Glasgow go beyond simple mitigation (carbon reduction) to envisage community owned energy production and local grids for urban contexts.

Arts projects which address climate change, whatever the focus, almost always involve collaboration with scientists and engineers and engage with communities – interdisciplinary and participatory. A recent paper, ‘Raising the Temperature’: The arts in a warming planet (Galafassi et al 2017 Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 31:71–79) highlights that art addressing climate change has grown nearly 20-fold over the ten years they reviewed.

Creative Carbon Scotland’s continuing programme of Green Tease events builds networks, and its new Creative Europe funded Cultural Adaptations project brings artists into working with Sustainability and Adaptation focused organisations.

Even the Scottish Government’s Scottish Energy Strategy: The future of energy in Scotland (2017) says,

We will explore, through the development of a Culture Strategy for Scotland, ways that Scotland’s culture sectors and creative industries can help communities imagine a green future, and to help us all adapt to the changes and opportunities.

(p. 13)

So why does the Adaptation Programme talk about agriculture and aquaculture, but not culture or culture change? Where are the arts? The word culture literally doesn’t appear… (The Heritage sector is significantly represented and is a key stakeholder in the Adaptation Programme.)

It’s a consultation – submit your work and experience – tell them what you do and who it connects with – email it to them at climatechangeadaptation@gov.scot. Tweet it tagging @ecoartscotland and @CultureAdapts and also @ScotGovClimate

Valuing Nature: what do artists contribute?

November 12, 2018

Serpentine Lattice catalogue, courtesy of the artists

Image from Serpentine Lattice catalogue, courtesy of the artists

Artists have been valuing nature probably since we first marked the wall of a cave or whistled like a bird – artists have always rendered nature visible. Artists valuing nature have explored human ‘value’ (Monet’s Haystacks and Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed both render human use of nature visible), but they have also articulated human meaning imposed on nature (Shakespeare’s King Lear thinking the storm is nature mirroring his mental state). ecoartists over the past 50+ years have focused not so much on the literally visible but on making visible the relational and systemic. Their motivation is often the destruction caused by our extraction of value from nature without regard to health or sustainability.

Most art, including the historical precedents mentioned and in particular ecoart, might be seen in juxtaposition with other forms of valuing nature such as ecosystem services. Dave Pritchard articulated the deeper history underlying the emergence of the ecosystem services in an email to the ecoartnework listserve on 9 April 2011. He wrote,

For a time, in the 1970s-80s, there was some of the kind of “reconsideration” you describe [referring to a previous post], with the “deep ecology” of Naess, Bateson, Berry et al. But if you analyse the evolution of the actual policy and advocacy discourse at 10-yearly intervals, for example from the 1972 Stockholm Conference to the 1982 World Conservation Strategy to the 1992 Rio Conference to the 2002 Johannesburg Summit (and then maybe in advance of the Rio+20 summit in 2012 look at the Aichi targets adopted last year), it has swung completely away from any ethics of “existence value” for the non-human component, to a forced justification (in adversarial arenas) in terms of “sustainable development”, “wise use”, “evidence-based conservation”, “ecosystem services” and (largely monetary) valuation of those services. The environmental movement (of which I am a part) congratulates itself on having found better ways of expressing the critical nature of ecosystems within broader mainstream audiences and processes, in this way. But this has all been done by becoming MORE anthropocentric and utilitarian; not less.

Dave Pritchard’s drawing out of one vector of the trajectory of valuing, away from the intrinsic and into the instrumentalised, provides a useful frame for understanding that what we see now as oppositional – arts and humanities approaches versus social and natural science-based methods of valuing nature. His marking of the moments in the intergovernmental conferences and his articulation of the key phrases is the beginning of a cultural history of environmental policy.

However, in the work of Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (b. 1932), known as ‘the Harrisons’, this split isn’t necessarily the case.

Professor Emeritus Anne Douglas and I have been writing about (and working with) the Harrisons, the pioneering post conceptual ecological artists, for some years now. Sadly, Helen Mayer Harrison died this year (aged 90), but we continue to work with Newton Harrison. You can find out more about that work by checking out The Barn website, and by searching this site http://ecoartscotland.net.

We are just in the process of finishing a new essay which focuses on the ways in which the work of the Harrisons might address calls for epistemologies other than the positivistic one which has increasingly dominated our understanding of the natural world. This builds on two other essays we have published recently on their practice and in particular their poetics.

The Harrisons’ work focuses on the lifeweb and in particular on points of inconsistency and contradiction saying,

We have come to believe that inconsistency and contradiction are generated by the processes of cognition, thinking and doing, and have the important role to play of stimulating and evoking creativity and improvisation, which are inherent in the processes of the mind that have led us to do this work.
Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, ‘Public Culture and Sustainable Practices: Peninsula Europe from an ecodiversity perspective, posing questions to Complexity Scientists,’ (Structure and Dynamics: eJournal of Anthropological and Related Sciences: Vol. 2: No. 3, Article 3), p23

In our essay ‘Inconsistency and contradiction: lessons in improvisation in the work of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison’ published in Elemental: An Art and Ecology Reader, we look particularly at the ways that the artists use moments of inconsistency and contradiction as points of intervention. We explore the way they engage imaginatively with metaphor – for them it is dysfunctional metaphors (such as calling places to live ‘developments’ rather than ‘settlements’) which underlie the inconsistencies and contradictions. The works take the form of policy proposals, manifest in poetic texts and images, installations and films, which offer alternative ways of imagining life where we put the health of the lifeweb first.

The second essay, ‘What poetry does best: the Harrisons’ poetics of being and acting in the world’ published in the Harrisons’ The Time of the Force Majeure, a survey of their collaboration over 50 years, focuses on their language, in particular dialogue, and their understanding of improvisation. We explore the way that the works open up the possibility for the audience to imagine living differently, as part of a healthy lifeweb.

The Harrisons’ overarching project, which they have pursued for something like 50 years, is to put us humans back into the ecosystem. This is an underlying refrain in all their work, for example in Serpentine Lattice (1993) they said,

THEN
A NEW REVERSAL OF GROUND COMES INTO BEING
WHERE HUMAN ACTIVITY BECOMES A FIGURE
WITHIN AN ECOLOGICAL FIELD
AS SIMULTANEOUSLY THE ECOLOGY CEASES T0 BE
AN EVER SHRINKING FIGURE
WITHIN THE FIELD OF HUMAN ACTIVITY
Harrison, Newton and Harrison, Helen Mayer, Serpentine Lattice, the Douglas M Cooley Memorial Gallery, Reed College, Portland, Oregon 1993

Within this the Harrisons have taken on issues of water, soil, forests and brownfield. They have worked in watersheds and bioregions as well at the scale of the European Peninsula and the Tibetan high ground. The climate crisis – which they define as having three aspects – sea level rise, heatwave and biodiversity loss/extinction, is the manifestation of our dysfunctional relationship with the lifeweb. In essence their message is the message of Deep Ecology.

Yet Serpentine Lattice, created at the invitation of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, in addressing the destruction of the Pacific Temperate Rainforest, includes a proposal for redirecting a proportion of Gross National Product to the restoration of the forest.

In Peninsula Europe (2001) they enumerate the amount of water that falls on the European peninsula annually (1,430 cubic kilometers per year and that’s just on the high ground). Based on this they propose a Water Tax to pay for the restoration of the soils and the reforesting of the land above 360 meters.

This might seem superficially similar to recent approaches which have moved from analysis of ecosystem services to natural capital accounting. These latter moves have resulted in statements such as the Great Barrier Reef is an asset worth $42 billion dollars to the Australian economy, or bees are worth £651 million annually to the UK economy.

Our essay addresses both how these figures and proposals operate as part the Harrisons’ poetics, contributing to the repositioning of human systems within the ecological systems. The Harrisons’ approach to valuing nature does not start with a financial given (eg the value of UK Agriculture, and then identify the importance of bees, quantify bees, and financialise bees). The Harrisons’ works start with an ecological reality, an intrinsic good, such as the Pacific Temperate Rainforest. Often this is an already damaged ecosystem. The art work makes visible the value of the whole ecosystem and offers quantification in order to propose new human systems (such as taxes) that begin to remedy the impacts of extraction.


Chris Fremantle will be presenting a case study on the Harrisons’ Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom (2007-09) in the ‘Valuing the Arts Valuing Nature’ session at the Valuing Nature Conference 2018 this week.


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