Holly Keasey: Policy, Possession and Place

March 15, 2017 by

One needs to reflect upon US history and its troubling legacy of “placemaking” manifested in acts of displacement, removal, and containment. This history is long and horrible…how is Creative Placemaking different or complicit with these actions?

‘Placemaking and the Politics of Belonging and Dis-belonging’, (Bedoya 2013)

As of writing this blog, I have a further two weeks until I complete my residency and return to Dundee. Over the past two years I have spent more time away from, than in Dundee, to the point that I arrived at SFAI increasingly aware that Dundee doesn’t feel like home, and for that matter there isn’t anywhere that feels like home. This unsettled feeling has somewhat preoccupied my residency, trying to overcome it by getting to know Santa Fe on foot and New Mexico through a broad scope of historic and current socio-economic and environmental research – creating a temporary, or maybe an internalised and necessary illusion, of being in-place for myself.

Trying to understand this somewhat unintentional bodily-working-through of my own psychological processes often acts as a stimuli to my practice which in turn gives body to my hypothesis for performative practice as a form of public art that can hold active criticality. In the instance of trying to locate a sense of being in-place in Santa Fe, due to my lack belonging elsewhere, I have come to realise that there is a swinging movement between the original intention for my residency – researching the misuse of law, with a particular focus on the laws that regulate water rights in New Mexico, and the potential space that can be create through the misunderstanding of a non-specialist – and the implications and hence role of public arts policy.

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Screenshot of EventBrite ‘How Students and the Arts Fuel a Vibrant Downtown’

A key underpinning to my research so far is the understanding that Water Rights[1] are inherently linked to Property Rights[2]. Both of which imply the legal possession of use of a resource. And it is this mind-set of possession-of-use that is central to the current situation in New Mexico.

An inescapable example of this possession-of-use mind-set can be traced through the on-going treatment of Native American communities. Many settlers considered the Native way of life and collective use of land to be communistic and barbaric, with settler ideals stemming from the view that individual ownership of private property was an essential part of civilization. In an attempt to force these ideals upon Native populations, Congress passed the General Allotment Act in 1887, which authorized the president to survey Indian tribal land and divide the area into allotments for individual Indians and families. Members of the selected tribe or reservation were either given permission to select pieces of land—usually around forty to one hundred and sixty acres in size – for themselves and their children, or the tracts were assigned by the agency superintendent. If the amount of reservation land exceeded the amount needed for allotment, or if the allotment was not used in the westernised sense, the federal government could negotiate to purchase the land from the tribes and sell it to non-Indian settlers. As a result, sixty million acres were either ceded outright or sold to the government for non-Indian homesteaders and corporations as ‘surplus lands’. (See the History of Allotment on the Indian Land Tenure Foundation page for further detail.)

What can be drawn from this act is a significant relationship between the ideals of individualism, private property and a prioritising of use values.

Land Status Map for McKinley County, New Mexico

For the Navajo Nation, the General Allotment Act resulted in their eastern border in Western New Mexico resembling a checkerboard. However, in spite of these attempts to colonise many Native tribes, including those of Navajo Nation, did not adopt the enforced ideals towards the environment as resources to be put to use. I was fortunate to meet with community members of Red Water Pond Road of Coyote Canyon Chapter, Navajo Nation this week, whose relationship to the land and waters is still predominantly held within their ancestral sense of belonging and being part of the land. So much so that they have continued to live at Red Water Pond Road despite its contamination in 1979, when United Nuclear Corporation’s Church Rock uranium mill tailings disposal pond breached its dam, releasing over a thousand tons of solid radioactive mill waste and ninety-three million gallons of acidic, radioactive tailings solution, which then flowed through Red Water Pond Road’s surrounding landscape. After minor clean-up with shovels, United Nuclear Corporation’s uranium mill continued to operate until 1982, after which the site was abandoned by the corporation leaving behind the infrastructure, by-products and contaminated landscape that were no longer of use to them. Whilst, the Red Water Pond Road residents, many of whom worked the uranium mines, continue to reside here despite the lack of employment and income they had become accustomed to or the ability to return to previous vocations such as shepherding due to the extent of radioactive contamination. It is now a place where net wire fencing, typically used for dividing farm land, acts as a visual divide between residents and their neighbouring pilings.

Uranium tailing at Red Water Pond Road Community

There is a comparison that can be drawn here between the legal possession-to-use and its accompanying mind-set, that fosters a lack of long-term responsibility to that which is made use of whether it be a landscape or grouping of people, and the Navajo ancestral sense of belonging and being part of this landscape which manifests as a commitment towards a continuing to live here. For me, these comparative relations to the same area of land stir up a question – can a westernised (and patriarchal) ideal, and consequently entitlement, towards possession-to-use ever result in a mode of living that is ecologically sensitive?

It is in this question that I currently tread water, continuing to seek understanding through this arid landscape. I know there is a link to be formed between a critique of and beyond property and water rights as legal possessions-to-use (and the mind-set that supersedes this); a reflection on my own performative researching practice towards establishing a temporary sense of place in Santa Fe; and a role for public arts policy.

An initial reaction to this may be to look towards Creative Placemaking, a term co-opted by planning development that makes use of artistic methods and/or forms to drive an agenda for change, growth and transformation (or put succinctly, gentrification). Such developments frame their intentions as revitalisation in the interest of identified communities. By revitalisation they mean attaining the forms in which 21st Century ideals of successful civilisation are attributed. Similarities can be drawn between this and the intentions behind the General Allotment Act to ‘organise’ (for which one can read colonise) Native Communities. In addition, acts of Creative Placemaking are typically achieved via the use and extraction of an area’s resources in such a way that the original community’s ability to continue to reside is often reduced. For Red Water Pond Road community it is due to radioactive contamination. For communities subjected to Creative Placemaking it is due to real estate speculation. In many ways, this form of Creative Placemaking is an expansion of the entitlement towards possession to use – who makes the most successful use these identified areas? The current residents, or the affluent residents who replace them?

It is for the above reasons that as an artist I believe there is a need to be insistent that the aesthetics of criticality is at the core of Public Arts Policy.


[1] The right to make use of the water from a stream, lake, or irrigation canal.
[2] Property rights are socially-enforced constructs for determining how a resource or economic good is used.


Bedoya, Roberto. 2013. ‘Placemaking and the Politics of Belonging and Dis-belonging’ Grantmakers In The Arts Reader, Vol 24, No 1 (Winter 2013) http://www.giarts.org/article/placemaking-and-politics-belonging-and-dis-belonging

Holly Keasey: Is a river without water, still a river?

March 7, 2017 by

Holly Keasey’s fourth post to ecoartscotland, as part of her participation in the Santa Fe Art Institute’s Water Rights residency, focuses on different ways of experiencing and thinking about the Santa Fe River (such as it is).


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A friend this week set me a challenge to write a detailed, more phenomenological, observation of a small patch of land or waterway. I had planned to go to Otowi Bridge twenty-five miles North, an important crossing point of the Rio Grande. It is a site where the measurement is taken that decides the allocation of waters from the Rio Grande to the settlements downstream in New Mexico, to the Elephant Butte Reservoirs and across the borders into Mexico and Texas. However, the hours and/or energy required to make that trip by bike during daylight hours hasn’t yet materialised.

Instead, a group of us walked a nearby section of the Santa Fe River – not walking along the banks as is normal, but instead walking the path of the river where water should, but does not flow. My gut response to this walk was that the Santa Fe River, at this point of its course, does not completely exist, at least in physical form. The beach-like riverbed missing the saturation of water; the crumpling banks reinforced by dumped rusting Mustangs; and the deposits of rocks still too large to slip into my pockets, tell tales of the river and its occasional re-appearance during times of heavy rain and snow melt, but them by themselves cannot be the river.

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I could describe to you further the phenomenon of this dehydrated river channel – a soily skin that flakes similar to ours when lacking moisture. Its overwhelming stillness, a tiredness teetering on the edge of death. The glimmers of hopes that come from underfoot as the surface of the bed hardens with saturation and walking becomes easier. Or I could delve into the questions such experiences makes me ponder about when is a river still a river – are the bed and banks enough to constitute being a river on their own? Or is the water, and the ecosystem it brings life to, essential to our understanding of a river? Is the river actually still complete given the potential of a continuation of even the smallest movement of water underfoot? Or is there a spirit to the river, an existential presence of its own?

But if so, all I can hear is it’s frustrated scream of desperation to stop sharing an enchantment with its starved physical form.

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During our walk, I came across a yellow-cake like rock. Having spent my previous day reading about the uranium industry and the history of the Manhattan Project, curiosity got the better of me as I examined the rock to see if it was uranium before remembering, ‘What if it is uranium!’ and quickly releasing its yellow mass back to the riverbed. This small act of entitlement followed by fear, reflects what currently resides and flows along this riverbed, in the place of physical water: a river that can be perceived through its giving location and specificity to the many direct and indirect actions, fuelled by fear and/or entitlement, that have led to its own dehydration and questionable status as a river.

Another way of thinking through this is via a brief consideration of site.

Many consider ‘site’ as a noun, as an identified area where something resides or is constructed. ‘Site’ as a noun can be both physical, such as the ‘site’ of the first atomic bomb explosion occurred at the Trinity Site in Southern New Mexico, and conceptual, as the Trinity Site marks the site of change in the global psyche, shadowed by a new fear. Yet, what is potentially more relevant to how the Santa Fe River can be perceived is the consideration of site as a verb, the action of giving location to something. In the context of complexity, of ‘everything connected to everything else’, it is useful to ‘give location’ to complexity, to understand the Santa Fe River as the location of small and large acts of entitlement and fear.

Such acts of entitlement and fear, which have resulted in the current state of the Santa Fe River, can be traced back to the introduction of US legislation regarding property rights and the liberty of the individual, shifting the uses of the land and perceived entitlements to water, damming upstream and leaving no water for the river to physically continue along its way. And then drawn forward through the development of the atomic bomb in the fear of communism, to previous and continued contamination of waters from mining and the consequent and on-going environmental genocide of many native communities.

These relational socio-economic situations constitute the collective phenomena that, for me at least, is the current river. The westernised entitlement to resources is so great that we have absorbed the river physically and perceptually, ignoring all rights held by the river to be a river.

The use of emotive notions, fear and entitlement in the case of Santa Fe, to conduct a scalar approach through personal, social and environmental issues is more typical to how I perceive and work with water. Through focusing on fear and entitlement I am able to perceive the Santa Fe River, not only through its lack of water, but as an act of giving location to complexity.

 

A Field of Wheat: whose art?

March 2, 2017 by

This piece was originally published as part of the A Field of Wheat project in September 2016 at the invitation of the artists. The images are all courtesy of the artists.


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20th August 2016 I got an email headlined “The Wheat has been Harvested”. It wasn’t a metaphor. A field of wheat in Branston Booths, Lincolnshire, the central focus of an art project of that name, has been harvested. That’s good news given that a number of us invested in this project, and again I don’t mean metaphorically.

Even if neither the wheat nor the investments are metaphorical, how is such a literal field of wheat in any way art?

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Artists have represented farming; agriculture has been a subject in art in various ways, probably since the beginning of agriculture. There are various points where it becomes something ‘new’, for example in Dutch renaissance painting or Courbet in the 19th Century but farming appears in ancient Egyptian art too. Agnes Denes’ 1982 artwork Wheatfield: A Confrontation grown on the Battery Park Landfill is an iconic piece of environmental public art. It contributed to the mainstream acceptance of issues-based, activist public art. Denes’ statement about the work framed it as challenging the value of land (in 1982 at the time of making the work the Battery Park Landfill was valued at $4.5 billion dollars). The wheat grown was included in a touring exhibition concerned with world hunger. Denes also cites the juxtaposition of growing (the field) with exchange (Wall Street). All of these are aspects of a ‘new’ interest in agriculture by artists in the past 50 years.

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But there is also an art of farming, and perhaps all farmers are to some extent exercising their art every day. This might sound facile, but the boundary that defines ‘art’ is one largely constructed by the art market and it’s key operators: curators, gallery owners and collectors. Artists have a particular relationship with art from this perspective because functionally others (not artists) define the value of art. This of course is true for farmers too – they are equally dependent on other professions and structures which define value.

This way of thinking about art and the arts is David Haley’s. He says,

The word “art‟ is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word, “rta‟. Rta retains its meaning in contemporary Hindi as a noun-adjective for the dynamic process by which the whole cosmos continues to be created, virtuously. It refers to the right way of evolution and we still talk about excellence, or the correct way of doing something as an “art‟ – the art of cooking, the art of football, the art of gardening, “The Art of Archery‟, “The Art of Making Cities‟, and even “The Art of War‟.

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If this is the case then Peter Lundgren, the farmer collaborating with Anne-Marie Culhane and Ruth Levene on the project A Field of Wheat is practising his art in the way that they are practising theirs.

In this case both are stepping beyond the existing constructions of value as determined by the institutions that normally enable their practices (the art world and agri-business).

Culhane, Levene and Lundgren have connected us directly to food in a way that is different from any other experience. They offered us a chance to invest in a field of wheat. To be precise Middle Field on Lundgren’s 100 acre farm. In this case investing is probably a bit like investing was in the 18th century – you visit your investment (though not if you live too remotely) and you participate in decision-making – discussing the issues and voting with other investors on key decisions around fertilisers and the sale of the wheat. It is facilitated by digital technology but the decisions are not being made by algorithms on trading floors in London or Chicago, but rather by individuals at desks in home-offices.

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It’s genuinely fascinating to be an intermediary, an investor, part of the financial industry engaged in agriculture, but to do it at a level where you know exactly what you are investing in and with whom. There is risk. That’s been clear from the outset. Of course now the wheat is in, the risk is vastly reduced.

It’s not surprising that the group in a Collective Decision (preceded by a Collective Enquiry) has chosen to use the least fertiliser and to sell the wheat through the Openfield, the British farmers’ co-op (rather than through Frontier, a Carghill subsidiary), but the participants (investors) have also brought research and expertise to the process.

The discursive process constructed by the artists aimed to draw participants into a dialogue around the issues before any decision was made, hence the Collective Enquiry phase. The Collective Decision is straightforwardly democratic, but the aim has been to ensure that it is made with care, rather than in haste. Culhane speaks of “holding a level platform” in her blog http://fieldofwheat.co.uk/artists-pages/spaces-for-listening/ on the subject. Good deliberative practice and good socially engaged arts practice.

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However underpinning this is a deeper commitment from the artists to an understanding of the value of Collective Silence as an important aspect of a carefully judged and constructed process. A Field of Wheat has taken place on-line and through live events. Quaker approaches to silence as part of a careful life have been used to avoid the negative characteristics of on-line debate and discussion, particularly encouraged by dealing with communications on hand-held devices which contextually and practically encourage brevity. Asking people to spend time in silence before responding to issues has led to respectful and careful discussions.

Another approach to this issue of personal reflective connection comes from the Final Straw project. Final Straw is a film about Natural Farming (or biodiverse farming) as it is practiced in Korea and Japan. In a recent blog from the Final Straw project http://www.thenatureofcities.com/2016/08/21/farmers-chefs-and-lawyers-building-an-ecology-of-one/ , Patrick Lydon noted that farmers practising this form of agriculture will often seek a very close connection with the consumers of their produce. Lydon, and Suhee Kang (his collaborator) have, in parallel, been experimenting with ‘real time food’ where you order the food to eat in 10 weeks after it has been grown. They highlight a number of examples of food producers, farmers and chefs, forming long term relationships with their customers.

The idea of a ‘third space’ is particular to social art practices. A third space is different from commercial or formal public spaces. Those are characterised by either markets and extraction of value, or by bureaucratic structures and legal processes. Social art practices, as exemplified by A Field of Wheat, as well as other examples like Denes’ Wheatfield and Lydon and Kang’s Final Straw, can create different ways for people to engage with issues of common interest. These usually focus on issues of public good, but not so often through creating a ‘third space’ for an engagement with the economics of a ‘public’ issue such as food and farming.

A Field of Wheat took two years to develop. We are still in the process and will be until the wheat is sold. The art project will probably go on to produce a book and the farmer will continue the agricultural cycle. The wider implications of A Field of Wheat will take longer to manifest. I wonder how the Collective Dialogue would evolve? How would the economy evolve? What would it be like to be part of farming long term, all practising our arts together?

 

Holly Keasey and Fiona P McDonald: “Ambulatory Knowing”: Architecture, Access, and the Anthropocene

February 25, 2017 by

This post is jointly authored by Holly Keasey and Fiona P McDonald (Bio below), another resident on the Santa Fe Art Institute’s Water Rights Programme.


By ‘becoming knowledgeable’ I mean that knowledge is grown along the myriad of paths we take as we make our ways through the world in the course of everyday activities, rather than assembled from information obtained from numerous fixed locations. Thus it is by ‘walking along’ from place to place, and not by building up from local particulars that we come to know what we do.
‘Footprints through the weather-world: walking, breathing, knowing’ – Tim Ingold (2010)

Walking is generally assumed as a basic mode of transportation. However, walking (or any movement based on ability) through a place when undertaken as a collaborative tactic finds its way into becoming something else – a way of knowing and doing. Walking for Holly is a way to get lost and yet find what she did not know was already embodied knowledge through making connections between her feet, this place and that which she carries with her from other places. The practice of walking is something she shares with Fiona, who uses walking as a methodology central in her anthropological and collaborative work. By embracing anthropologist Tim Ingold’s logic of “ambulatory knowing”, Holly and Fiona set off on foot and offer a narrative of their shared visual observations from almost 20miles of walking, particularly considering how architecture may be tied to accessibility in New Mexico during the Anthropocene, our human-made geological epoch.

72 hours after arriving in Santa Fe, a group of Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI) Residents headed to learn more about local fabrication facilities. While we left our residency on the campus compound by car to arrive in the industrial area where these facilities are located, we then left this industrial zone on foot. We set our destination to be the downtown plaza, a major tourist site. According to Google Maps, it was going to be a mere 4.2mile walk. The intent of our journey on foot was to get a better handle on what we perceived to be the urban sprawl of Santa Fe. In this instance in Santa Fe, we are both tourists and temporary residents/researchers in-place to carry out work that contributes to global conversations around water. To know the terrain, its waterways, and its urban nuances is critical to our work, knowledge we felt was best acquired through walking through place where we will be for several weeks and months.

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As we moved beyond the industrial area, a space that appears to be in the process of revitalization with a range of art centers tucked around each corner, we arrived at Agua Fria Street, a main traffic artery that draws commuters to and from the downtown plaza. Unaware at this point that we were undertaking an ethnography on foot, what has since resulted is the realization that we were not only becoming geographically oriented, but we were witnessing the socio-economic divides that the main transportation arteries create in Santa Fe, observations that now inform core research questions during our tenure in Santa Fe.

We crossed Agua Fria to consider a brief toilet break at Frenchy’s field. However, we pressed on without stopping. Unbeknown to us, had we abandoned the path set out by Google Maps and embraced Holly’s approach of wandering, our first impressions of the socio-economic divide of Santa Fe would have been very different. We might have followed the Santa Fe River trail (see our observations below on that walk, taken more recently) that moves pedestrians and cyclists through more affluent communities. Yet we continued on the path of Aguia Fria Street where we observed what appeared to be makeshift wooden and wire fences guarded by a variety of dogs from frantically barking Pit Bulls to a jack-in-a-box Pekingese who warned residents of our presence on the pavement. Our perception of the American ideal of independence and property ownership played out along this single 3 mile stretch, with individual properties reflecting a range of values from ornamentation to fortification, to clustered communities off the beaten path.

Holly pausing in her footsteps to look at cluster dwelling in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Holly pausing in her footsteps to look at cluster dwelling in Santa Fe, New Mexico

As we pressed closer to downtown in the space between the intersectional roads of St. Francis Drive and South Guadalupe Street an economic divide became apparent. The adobe vernacular we had seen in the previous three miles, often in disrepair, was now well-maintained and occupied by art galleries, restaurants, schools and homes with low-fences so that passersby could see the manicured yards with local vegetation accompanied by rock installations. It felt to us that the community along Agua Fria Street is undergoing a constant compression of gentrification from both ends. We wondered, when squeezed so far, where will this community go and what policies are driving property shifts in Santa Fe?
The following Saturday, to escape the campus compound once more and locate Santa Fe in the greater expanse that is New Mexico, we abandoned our feet and took the highway seventy miles North following the Rio Grande to Taos. The main area of Taos holds many similarities to Santa Fe, with adobe-style housing and dramatic shifts in socio-economic situations radiating outwards from the central tourist orientated plaza to the leisure mecca of Ski Valley. Yet beyond the town, and truly off the beaten path, is the ‘Greater World Earthship Community’ – a 633 acre subdivision containing nothing but earthship style homes. Here we ventured on foot to explore what we could of this biotecture community.

Holly taking steps in learning about biotecture in New Mexico.

Holly taking steps in learning about biotecture in New Mexico

Sample structures of the Greater World Community of Earthships, New Mexico

Sample structures of the Greater World Community of Earthships, New Mexico

Investing $7 each to enter the Earthship Visitor Center to learn about structures, materials, etc., (too complex to go into here) our conversation drifted to the concept of “sustainability” in the anthropocene. We found ourselves mesmerized by the exclusivity of the community and what the front-end costs are for participating in this lifestyle. As one of three Earthship communities in New Mexico, and part of a larger network across the US that began in the 1970s, one can join this community and purchase a newly built structure for just over $1.5 million US Dollars (as we were told in the visitor center). Playing in here to what Van Jones terms the “eco-elite” (2007).

On our third excursion off the campus compound in the three weeks since arriving, we decided to explore the Santa Fe Rail Trail multi-use pedestrian system, the elusive path we did not know to take during our pause at Frenchy’s field on our first walking odyssey. In walking this trail for 8 miles, we, again, observed disparate socio-economic communities, this time divided by the parched bed of the Santa Fe River. Again, closer to the main roads where the Santa Fe Trail crosses over, communities similar to that along Aguia Fria Street are visible. Edge deeper along the trail network and communities framed by high fences appear as they conceal well-maintained adobe homes with renewable energy sources on their roofs and water catchment practices in their backyards.

Sample of Sustainable Energy on a private residence

Sample of Sustainable Energy on a private residence

What we discovered in the act of ambulatory knowing in Santa Fe is that development and accessibility to secure, sustainable lifestyles appears to be exclusive. The individuals and families to whom it appears inaccessible are those being compressed by brownfield and urban gentrification, or hugging major roadways. By prioritising economic growth, and then the environment (as a capitalised resource) over social equality, there is something in our current understandings of sustainability that grows mainly out-of-sight in the interstitial spaces of policy, urban planning, and environmental consciousness. Something that can become knowledge through curbside learning and walking. It is in this action of walking and visual observation where we find the questions we need to ask in our own work about policy, law, regulation, and planning as our work here develops with each passing day and the paths we find ourself walking down.

Photos by Fiona P. McDonald


Bibliography

Ingold, Tim. 2010. “Footprints through the weather-world: walking, breathing, knowing.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute: S121-S139.

Jones, Van. 2009. Beyond Eco-Apartheid. Available at: http://truth-out.org/archive/component/k2/item/70209:van-jones–beyond-ecoapartheid

Welch, Bryan. 2009. “Earthships: The Power of Unconventional Ideas.” Available at:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/green-homes/earthships-michael-reynolds-zb0z12fmzsto

Taos and the Greater World Earthship Community. Homepage: http://earthship.com/blogs/2015/03/taos-the-greater-world-community/


Bio for Fiona P. McDonald, PhD. (Anthropologist, Curator)

Fiona P. McDonald is the 2016-2019 Postdoctoral Researcher at Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Arts and Humanities Institute. She is also a 2017 Water Rights Resident at the Santa Fe Art Institute. Fiona completed her PhD (2014) in the Department of Anthropology at University College London (UCL) in visual anthropology & material culture. Her dissertation is entitled Charting Material Memories: a visual and material ethnography of the transformations of woollen blankets in contemporary art, craft, and Indigenous regalia in Canada, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and the United States. This project was undertaken as both an historic and contemporary visual and material ethnography of the material nature and transformations of woollen (trade) blankets that were produced in the United Kingdom since the seventeenth century. Her work addresses both historical and contemporary uses of woollen blankets through a direct examination of the pluralistic histories that things and objects have when re-worked and recycled by contemporary artists and customary makers in North American and Aotearoa New Zealand. Fiona is currently translating this research into a book project.

Fiona is also the co-founder of Ethnographic Terminalia Collective (ETC) (est.2009), an international curatorial collective that curates exhibitions at the intersections of arts and anthropology. ETC have curated and organized exhibitions and workshops across North America (Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, Montreal, New York, Austin, Chicago, Denver, and Vancouver) where they aim to move academic research beyond the academy through public engagement.

Research interests are: Water, Energy studies, Indigenous material and visual culture, repatriation, oral histories, contemporary Indigenous art, curatorial theory, performance theory, and museum studies.

www.fiona-p-mcdonald.com

Holly Keasey: gravel pits, acequias and shared interests

February 18, 2017 by

Gravel pits offer a casual archaeology of the meeting places of nature and culture, past and present, construction and destruction, indigenous peoples and colonizers, art and life, creeping globalisation and local survival…
Undermining: A wild ride through land use, politics, and art in the changing west
L. Lippard (The New Press, 2014)

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The writings of Lucy Lippard are essential reading for anyone interested in the relations between contemporary art, dematerialisation, feminism, social change etc. Her theory of domestic tourism, in particular, has heavily influenced the framework I have developed for my own practice which uses the act of touring as a methodology within research. Yet reading her latest book, Undermining which conducts an archaeological dig through the impacts of the gravel industry on her hometown, Galisteo, thirty miles from SFAI, pushes the notions of ‘being in place’ and the use of ‘site’ as a focal node to the forefront of my thinking.

Spanish colonists arrived in New Mexico in the mid-sixteenth century. Faced with an arid topography similar to their native Spain, they discovered notable similarities between the irrigation practices of the Indigenous people and the systems of centralized, community based irrigation practices, known as acequias, which were common in Spain (originally brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Arabs). It was this similarity of practice around the allocation of water rights that eventually saw Indigenous water usage become a permanent feature of Spanish and later Mexican water customs, despite the introduction of written water laws as an intentional form of dominating power (see the New Mexico Museum of Art’s page on the history and politics of water)

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Acequias can therefore been seen as sites where different cultures congregated due to a shared understanding of what was necessary for survival. This is also reflective of the term’s root in the Arab word as-Saquiya, which means ‘the Water Bearer’, referring to both the actual irrigation channel and to the association of members organized around it. However, it was in 1848 that this system of irrigation was dramatically challenged by the arrival of the American government into New Mexico, along with its laws that prioritised the belief in individual liberty (see the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s page on Liberty, Diversity and Slavery). This challenge continues even today, with water rights claimants being subjected to the burden of proving water usage prior to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and US Government Bureau of Land Management leasing land and therefore water rights for the purposes of fracking (see the Santa Fe New Mexican for more on the local story).

However, suggestions like those of S. Helmreich in his essay, Nature/Culture/Seawater, that water is anthropologically understood as both a substance and symbol in the world, draws attention back to the importance and role of acequias, and water in general, as sites where communities, ideas and socio-economic constructs will always meet. Water is not an independent entity. The potential within the act of gathering around water is central to the SFAI residency – which over the past week has become more apparent as myself and my cohorts have learnt more about each-others areas of research. Current residents at SFAI who also arrived this month and will be present throughout my stay at SFAI include:

  • River Healers, an activist group working towards re-establish water as a recognised commons. Whilst on residency, River Healers will be mapping corporate executives and government officials that are either directly or indirectly terrorizing New Mexican regional community rights to clean water resources. This will include the composition of a New Mexico water terrorist list that will serve strategic resistance for regionalist water protectors and redirect the U.S. federal administrations attempt to dehumanize and prosecute non-violent people by registering them as domestic terrorists.
  • Anna Macleod, an independent researcher and visual artist based in the northwest of Ireland. She will be expanding an on-going series of water projects which sit with the umbrella term, ‘Water Conversations’. Articulated in varying mediums the projects explore water as a global commons through cultural, political, social and environmental lenses. During her residency, Anna is researching cultural mechanisms of resilience and resistance in communities facing water threats by industry and climate change.
  • Dr. Fiona P. McDonald, a visual anthropologist who specializes in water as material culture. Fiona is the 2016-2019 Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Arts & Humanities Institute and co-founder of Ethnographic Terminalia Collective, an international curatorial collective that curates exhibitions at the intersections of arts and anthropology. While at SFAI, she is advancing a new research arts-based sensory ethnography related to Anthropology in the Anthropocene that looks at the role of water in our everyday lives.

The opportunity to focus on water within our individual projects and collectively, through formal and casual discussions that occur when you live and work together, can only be beneficial to expanding our approaches and supportive networks during and beyond the thematic residency format. Yet personally, I like to look at this thematic-residency as a micro-model of how water is a site that will always encourage a collating of difference around a shared focal interest.

Holly Keasey: Santa Fe Art Instutite Water Rights Residency – Introduction

February 11, 2017 by

Holly Keasey is currently undertaking a residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute as part of the Water Rights programme. During the next 8 weeks Holly will be sending regular updates.


“156. Why is the sky blue? -A fair enough question, and one I have learned the answer to several times. Yet every time I try to explain it to someone or remember it to myself, it eludes me. Now I like to remember the question alone, as it reminds me that my mind is essentially a sieve, that I am mortal.

157. The part I do remember: that the blue of the sky depends on the darkness of empty space behind it. As one optics journal puts it, “The color of any planetary atmosphere viewed against the black of space and illuminated by a sunlike star will also be blue.” In which case blue is something of an ecstatic accident produced by void and fire.”
― Maggie Nelson, Bluets (Wave Books, 2009)

A primary observation when arriving in Santa Fe, New Mexico is blueness. Blueness not of water like I am accustomed – that blue filled with surrounding green and a durational dampness – but rather blueness that reflects a niggling lack. A blue where no cloud resides.

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A second observation enforces that niggle further as you become physically aware that breathing in this geographical climate, and therefore basic survival here, is a laboured task.*

And a third observation then pushes that niggle down into the gutturals, as the dominant ‘Santa Fe Style’ architecture** conjures up an uncanny reminder of Disney World and yet inside a fe-adobe building you can still find an independent coffee shop, generic in style and intended cliental to any recently gentrified area.

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Yet, it is observations like these that make Santa Fe a prime site for reflections on ecological situations developing across the globe and fortunately, many individuals, community groups and organisations here are already undertaking such reflections and acting upon them. This includes Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI) that run an annual residency programme with set thematic, which for 2016/17 is ‘Water Rights’.

SFAI was established in 1985 by William Lumpkins and Pony Ault to provide unique opportunities for artists to conduct brief, intense periods of study. The current programme format continues and expands upon this original intention, hosting over fifty local, national or international creative thinkers, artists, designers, educators, policy makers, poets, architects, journalists, and activists to reflect on the issue of ‘Water Rights’ for one to three month periods. During these times, residents are able to establish a network of peers working within a common context; are provided support to develop collaborations such as with the Land Arts of the American West programme and the Academy for the Love of Learning; encouraged to develop their professional profile through press coverage with media consortiums such as Circle of Blue; given access to the community workspace MAKE Santa Fe; and invited to attend interdisciplinary discussions with other research institutes such as Santa Fe Institute that conduct research on complex system-theory application.

That said, the primary purpose is to provide residents the time and space to conduct research and/or develop new work in relation to ‘Water Rights’ which may, one-day, indirectly impact the water rights of the surrounding area.

New Mexico is a state where all its waters sources are transboundary (i.e. are shared with other States), a situation that continues to add to a complex history of water rights influenced by the cultures of the Pueblos, the Spanish Colonists and US Federal Government. This history includes occurrences, such as the use of written law as a weapon of dominating power, that reflect Karl Wittfogel’s theory of the Hydraulic Empire, when control of a society is established through the manipulation of its water supply.11 My particular area of research during this 8-week residency will be on this misuse of law and whether non-specialists can develop tactics that makes use of their potential misunderstandings of intended meaning to create space to dream of alternatives. This research will be part of an on-going body of performative work that aims to establish a need for critical formations of public art to aid ecologically sensitive modes of living, with a particular focus on Water Sensitive Urban Design.

So far though, myself and several of my fellow residents have spent our time soaking in much needed doses of vitamin D as we say hello to the sun after dark winters whilst accepting that altitude sickness has a similar and undesirable effect of a heavy night of drinking and a life-time smoking habit, and it can last twenty-five days.

* The human body works most efficiently at sea level whilst at high altitudes the saturation of oxyhemoglobin in the blood plummets. Santa Fe is situated at 7198 feet above sea level.

** Also known as Pueblo Revival style, it is a regional architectural style that is mandate on all new-buildings in the central Santa Fe area. This includes the use of rounded corners, irregular parapets and thick battered walls to simulate original adobe construction.


Holly Keasey is an artist currently based between Dundee and Stockholm. She graduated with a BA in Art, Philosophy and Contemporary Practice from the University of Dundee in 2011 and completed a post-masters course in Critical Habitats from the Department of Architecture at the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm in 2016. Holly’s focus is on the performative role of public art and her approach to practice has led her to take on a variety of roles including Chair-person for the Generator Projects Committee, lead-artist for the Clyde River Foundation and writer-in-residence for Doggerland. More recently, Holly has produced collaborative designs with artist-design Jessie Giovane-Staniland including finalists in the tender competition for the restaurant design of the Dundee branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum; been the DD artist-in-residence at THIStudios; and recently exhibited a solo show at the Scottish Jute Museum. She is currently working with Studio Mossutställningar to program work challenging the urban development at Norra Djurgardsstaden, Stockholm and producing a one-off publication with Kathryn Briggs of Ess Publications on over-coming trauma through aesthetics.

The trouble with rewilding…

December 19, 2016 by

If you are interested in ‘rewilding’ then it is worth reading this, oruginally posted on ENTITLE

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

By Irma Allen*

A rewilding movement that bases itself on arguments around overpopulation, without interrogating the power structures that are enabling it, is in danger of failing to generate the kinds of solidarities, social justice outcomes and progressive visions of wildness that we so desperately need.

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Reviewer needed: Gut Gardening

December 16, 2016 by

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Issue 3 of the Center for Genomic Gastronomy’s Food Phreaking Journal, entitled Gut Gardening, is all about the bacteria in our guts – our own personal microbiomes.

This issue explores some of the bacteria that populate the human gut and body. We asked a handful of the world’s leading experts to write a few words about their favorite microorganism, and we asked other contributors to reflect on their current relationship to the largely invisible and undiscovered world of the human microbiome. Food Phreaking Issue 03 assembles these short texts, which collectively provide a snapshot of a field in transition. How will this research into the mysteries of our internal ecosystems change the relationship between our brains, guts, and diets?

If you’re interested in reviewing Gut Gardening email chris at fremantle dot org telling us why and provide us with some examples of previous writing and reviewing.

CIWEM Award for LAGI Glasgow Project

October 31, 2016 by

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ecoartscotland is thrilled that the Land Art Generator Glasgow project has been awarded the 2016 Chartered Institution of Water and Environment Management (CIWEM) Arts, Water and Environment Award.

This award acknowledges the major commitment of all the partners, including Glasgow City Council, Scottish Canals and igloo Regeneration whose effective collaboration has made the project possible. And it celebrates the innovative work of the multidisciplinary design teams who participated, including the winning team (Dalziel + Scullion, Qmulus Ltd., Yeadon Space Agency, and ZM Architecture).

The combination of a Council committed to strategic planning and innovation with a land owner and a developer both committed to sustainability at the heart of regeneration has been crucial for the development of LAGI Glasgow.

CIWEM’s Arts and the Environment Network citation highlights the collaboration on the LAGI Glasgow project. The citation says,

The judging panel were particularly impressed by the practical orientation and ambitious scope of the initiative, which directly engages with management of the environment. They praised the multi-disciplinary structure of the collaboration, bringing together science, art, design and engineering expertise to tackle the transition to renewable energy in response to climate change, one of our biggest global environmental challenges. The open sharing of ideas and experience which is facilitated by the project will undoubtedly lead to an ultimate impact beyond the scope of the project alone.

The Nick Reeves AWEinspiring Award is presented annually by CIWEM’s Arts and the Environment Network in association with the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW). The award celebrates projects or practitioners who have contributed innovatively to CIWEM’s vision of “putting creativity at the heart of environmental policy and action”.

Dave Pritchard, Chair of CIWEM’s Arts and Environment Network, said: “The quality of nominations for this year’s Award was wonderful. LAGI and ecoartscotland’s work is a superb example of our belief that arts-based approaches offer massive potential for more intelligent ways of responding to environmental challenges”.

Clive Adams, Director of CCANW, said: “Such new forms of collaboration across disciplines are increasingly needed if we are to reach a more harmonious relationship with the rest of nature”.

CIWEM’s Press Release is here.

Sánchez-León and Douglas: There is a work in the interpretation of the Work* – A Report

October 21, 2016 by

An interdisciplinary “bing”** seminar and public discussion in four parts.

Nuria Sánchez-León and Professor Anne Douglas have very kindly provided ecoartscotland with a detailed report on the recent seminar, “There is a work in the interpretation of the Work”, organised in conjunction with the exhibition “Context is Half the Work: A partial history of the Artist Placement Group” at Summerhall Arts Centre in Edinburgh.  The seminar particularly focused on the contemporary relevance of John Latham‘s Placement in the Scottish Office and his work reimagining the bings of West Lothian.  The seminar was organised by Tim Collins, Reiko Goto and Ross Maclean, respectively two artists and a landscape architect.


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John Latham facing the Niddrie Woman. Photo Murdo Macdonald

On Saturday 1st October, Summerhall, Edinburgh, between 60-70 people met in the former Royal School of Veterinary Studies, now a creative hub for the arts with studio and workshop spaces. It is curious that a building previously used by scientists was now revived through the arts.  The seminar set out to revisit another example of an artist re-imagining something apparently redundant. The Cairn Lecture Theatre was almost full with students, artists, curators, researchers from different disciplines as well as philosophers, engineers, historians, social and natural scientists. Although only 10-15 people acknowledged ever having visited the bings, the focus of the event, in person, all of them were concerned with what early 20th Century spoil heaps could mean to 21st century understandings of art and environment. In fact an underpinning question of the entire event was this, ‘why is John Latham and Artist Placement Group (APG)’s  conceptual art under-recognized in Scotland?’ How would the valuing of this kind of work prompt a very different set of institutional policies and practices? The audience interaction, questions and activities revealed the resonance of such questions across the five or so hours of the event.

The symposium addressed the West Lothian bings as a context for exploring ecology from three interdisciplinary perspectives: art & aesthetics, landscape & ecology and heritage & community. The objective was to question if John Latham´s approach to the bings as a “process sculpture”, a “cumulative unconscious act”, provided a precedent for a different aesthetic/ethical relationship to post-industrial land. As part of this exploration was a possible paradox: while the Greendyke Bing has been recognized as a scheduled national monument since 1995, other bings are currently being mined as a source of aggregate. A clear objective of the seminar was to propose interdisciplinary ways of evaluating the bings, in part to prevent their removal altogether.

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Tim Collins opened the discussion asking about the aesthetic and social values that define these spaces.  Collins briefly reviewed their history in parallel with the history of art in public spaces from Alan Sonfist, Robert Morris and Land Art to Charles Jencks’ recent work at Crawick by Sanquhar in Dumfries.  He laid out a list of competing meanings of the bings such as ecological niche, public space, landform akin to earth art, and a veritable mountain of industrial waste.

The first panel included Prof Craig Richardson, Prof Emily Brady and artists David Harding and Barbara Steveni.

Craig Richardson offered an historical overview pivoting on the APG actions taken by John Latham during the period of three months he spent at the Scottish Office in 1975-76. Latham had opened up questions such as – Was removing them the only solution? -and in response he proposed a re-conceptualization of the bings. He viewed them as monuments to Scotland´s bygone industrial era. He suggested that we needed to accept the bings for what they were, or might become in a post-industrial culture. Re-naming them as ‘sculpture’ would be a way of redeeming the shame associated with this massive volume of inert material resulting from an industrial process. As a sculptor Latham could understand the bings as a process of movement of materials on a significant scale. As an artist he could read the aerial view of the bings figuratively: he renamed the cluster of Greendykes Bings as The Niddrie Woman, a dismembered figure reminiscent of pre-historic art.

Emily Brady, as a philosopher, presented an aesthetic overview based in David Hume´s ideas of the Sublime and Aldo Leopold´s holistic ethics regarding land, where humans are citizens in the land and part of a biological community that includes soils, water, animals and plants. She pointed out that, in the environmental discussion, thinking in the next generation is crucial to developing an intergenerational aesthetic in dialogue with environmental aesthetics. Environmental aesthetics, in her construction, goes beyond the visual and picturesque into the temporal. Cases like Fair Park Lagoon by Patricia Johansson and Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson could in her view, inform the bings in a new set of relations between art, land and ecology. Art is currently reconceptualising land and ecology just as John Latham reconceptualised the bings as a sculptural process layering time. The challenge now is how to imagine this place for future generations of humans and other beings in a complex way, a mixing of ecology and recreation, of an industrial past connecting a quite different present and future, in which people are embedded in place and part of its co-production.

Tim Collins raised the question of whether the bings were stuck in time? He asked whether the institutions of the museum and gallery in Scotland were open to accepting these as forms of art.

For Barbara Steveni this placement was one of the most exemplary from APG even though ironically, neither  the bings nor John Latham´s other proposals (the addition of pathways around The Five Sisters and additional sculptures on the high points of The Niddrie Woman) were recognized, let alone realised.

To value the bings Latham had proposed some sculptures on several summits to make the link between ‘just a bing’ or something with more meaning.

David Harding disagreed with this potentially tourist sense of sculpture. He also recognized that many were still reticent to accept this kind of public art even in the archives and collections of UK museums. Both agreed than just being in this symposium 40 years later discussing this work was already a major achievement.

For the second panel the scientist Barbra Harvie presented rigorous arguments based in an exhaustive study of the bings from the perspective of the science of ecology, stressing biodiversity and the scientific importance of the site. She revealed through her study how after 100 years of evolution, vegetation is now present in every habitat of the bings. The bings now support 350 different species in which we can find succession, colonization, transitory and rare species of flora, local rare insects and local rare birds. She pointed out the scientific interest of the bings in terms of the study of processes of ecosystem reconstruction in derelict land without human assistance.

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Reiko Goto on Empathy. Photo: Holly Knox-Yeoman

Harvie’s way of valuing the site from a classical scientific perspective was complimented and expanded by the perspective offered by Reiko Goto, artist and researcher who explored a ‘more than human’ perspective in relation to ecology. Starting from past projects such as Nine Mile Run (1996) developed with her partner Tim Collins in Pittsburgh, US, Goto realised that dialogue and the scientific study of biodiversity was not enough to understand nature. Her approach to ecology through the concept of empathy alongside scientific information, created a wider and more universal understanding of our relations with nature. In this construction nature is not something external as an object of study based on information, but a way of knowing through emotions and imagination, as part of ourselves. That wider vision motivates the artist to take action in an everyday context. She exemplified this by circulating vivid, very beautiful samples of the flora that she had collected at the bings, giving us an immediate sense of their extraordinary diversity.

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Reiko Goto’s examples of different plants from the Bings. Photo Holly Knox Yeoman

Ross Maclean in response to the presentations, raised the question: What happens if we don’t do anything (i.e. intervene in nature)?

This triggered two important observations by the respondents, Simon Burton and Wallace Heim, specialists in ecology and philosophy respectively. Burton noted the irony that the bings, effectively man–made waste, now have evolved naturally to be islands of high biodiversity within an otherwise impoverished countryside of intensive industrial farming. He illustrated this by pointing out that within the UK the richest biodiversity was 100 species in a 10 km site compared with 350 species in total within the site of the bings. He made a further point that when human beings intervene in the landscape such as through farming practices, they tend to produce low biodiversity landscapes.

Wallace Heim drew out of this discussion a further point. Before re-conceptualising the landscape, we need to re-conceptualise our understandings of waste. The waste of the bings happens not to be toxic and radioactive. It does not leach. It is waste that we can deal with in this way just as Goto and Collins’ work in Pittsburgh was a site that had the potential to regenerate itself. By implication Heim was suggesting that not all waste sites are amenable to this kind of intervention.

It would have been useful in the discussion to have developed Heim’s important point particularly in the light of the current retrospective of Mierle Laderman Ukeles at the Queens Museum, New York http://www.queensmuseum.org/2016/04/mierle-laderman-ukeles-maintenance-art. Ukeles’ practice is formed around a manifesto she wrote claiming that maintenance was art which in turn led to her 30 year position as artist in residence with the New York City Sanitation Department.  The opportunity to do so perhaps lies through this ecoartscotlandblog.

For the last panel about Heritage and Community Tim Collins revisited Ross Maclean’s question about leaving nature alone by provocatively equating the bings with a sick member of one’s family who is suffering. He asked, “Would we just let them suffer?”

For artist Peter McCaughey the solution lay in dialogue with the community who inhabit the area of bings. He juxtaposed human contact, listening, subjectivity to the accelerated processes he had witnessed as artist in residence in a new housing development in Winchburgh. The development company CALA was planning to build 3500 new homes in the area, effectively doubling the population. As resident artist McCaughey followed the processes of APG. As the incidental person, he was able to work across different interests, of developers as well as the community council effectively connecting these groups. Winchburgh would become a commuting rather than mining community. McCaughey’s work resulted in a feasibility study. In the final outcome and in an accelerated design process, newly appointed developers selected Dallas, Pierce and Quintero within a rapacious building process that did not, in McCaughey’s view, integrate the bings in the design. Without wishing to be critical of the outcome, these public artists as architects have ignored the bings instead of adopting a rhizomatic point of view involving all the stakeholders in a conversation and dialogue.

Prof Pauline Phemister concurred that dialogue is an important part of the answer. In recognizing the competing interests of ethics, art, biodiversity and people it was important to look at the problem from the perspective of what is shared, rather than what divides. She drew on the philosopher Leibnitz, his observation that the perception of beauty is key to a work of art. Beauty, ethical ways, pleasure are positive feelings which provoke love and care at the source. These are shared by the non-art world but perhaps what art, like maths, does is draw immense variety and diversity into a simplicity of form and order. Particular situations demand particular solutions as in the case of the bings, where accelerated construction appears to be counter to biodiversity, but where the energies of both forces shape the identity of individuals and their collective histories. Knowledge is essential to this process. The bings should not be ignored as they are part of a process through which we learn to live with love, just as attending to the individual plants that now grow there is to see beauty, to see the ecodependence between human and biodiverse species.

Finally David Edwards, a social scientist at Forestry Research working on environmental policy, suggested he would add economic interest and recreation values to the dimensions discussed in the seminar (art and aesthetics, ecology, heritage and community). Each represents a number of narratives that either impose meaning or build on context. The question that emerges therefore is – Who has the power? How can we mediate between the different groups to sustain the complexity of meaning embedded in the bings? He offered a very interesting triple approach to the problem. From the economist approach the range of options goes from reclamation to business as usual. In this sense an economist would undertake a cost analysis that concludes that building a golf course on the site adds to human well being as well as national wealth through raising house prices. A social scientist would map the stakeholders and their interrelations, bringing to the table a Habermassian deliberative process of reasoned debate. The Arts and Humanities are hardly mentioned in environmental debates. Whereas Economics and the Social Sciences would bring the problem to a close by seeking a solution, the Arts and Humanities would open the situation up to framing problems that we did not know we had, changing meanings in the process. Pauline Phemister developed this point by suggesting that the Arts and Humanities also brings into play the non-human and empathy. Their role was not that of neutral facilitator but one of putting into play different critical positions.

The audience justifiably pointed out that the community of the bings were missing at this event and at the debate. David Harding suggested that the politicians were also missing. Barbara Steveni reaffirmed the importance of working on the inside of power and understanding how it works in relation to past, present and future. She said, “This conference has been about how to bring all the rhizomatic structures of stakeholders together with love. I feel very optimistic about just being here discussing this…”

In conclusion the bings could be evaluated from multiple perspectives including ecological values such as biodiversity or as a site of scientific interest, or from the perspective of economic benefits through recreational values and potential tourism. However all these perspectives are quite anthropocentric, responding to the schemes of ecosystem services. Through this seminar Tim Collins, Reiko Goto and Ross Maclean wanted to address the anthropocene, exploring the implications of an environment that is now predominantly shaped by human intervention and self interest. In this light, they sought to move beyond utilitarian ways of valuing the bings, viewing this site as an opportunity to create an important mental and imaginative shift. As Barbara Steveni explained, John Latham established the first steps to another way of understanding the bings as a collective sculpture resulting from industry. In opening up this possibility, Latham enabled us to confront an instance of the anthropocene – a landscape that is man made, visual proof so to speak of radical intervention and disturbance. In the 100 years since the height of the Shale Oil industry the bings have lost their original utilitarian value and it is only now that we face the dilemma of whether or not to remove the evidence of our scarring. This is paradoxical in the sense that we are trying to save something artificial and more specifically, a product of a polluting industrial process. What has allowed us to make this mental imaginative shift, in addition to Latham’s intervention, is Nature’s capacity to heal the site over time.

The symposium was an historic occasion that brought together key individuals in a debate that reflected critically and from multiple perspectives, the implications of a human-centred era. It brought to the foreground the need for a different quality of relationship between human/non-human and the need for different temporality – not accelerated time but time paced, sufficient to put in place necessary processes of healing. It brought to the fore the complexity of diverse, potentially conflicting views that may not be solved simply but through processes such as these, processes of civic participation.
* Ref: Craig Richardson´s “John Latham: Incidental Person” (2007, pp 27.31)

** Bings are the Scottish word for industrial spoil heaps. The West Lothian bings are in some cases hill scaled and all form significant landscape features.

Authors:

Nuria Sánchez-León has a dual background in Art and Ecology. Her interest has evolved from the practice and study of the pictorical landscape to eco-art, interventions in the landscape and artistic activism towards sustainability. Her work is focused on the crisis in ecology and how artists contribute to environmental awareness and foster social transformation: addressing transition to sustainability.

Sánchez’s research involves ethical questions about the role of the artist in the community, the design of socially engaged projects, collaboration with communities, the limits of authorship, the role of empathy and the influence and real effects/impact of public art?

Currently, she has been awarded a research fellowship with the On the Edge Research, Robert Gordon University. Her objectives in the UK are to search for and analyse examples of how art (especially socially engaged art projects developed by communities) can lead to social transformation in the context of transition to sustainability.

Since 2014, Sánchez has been a research fellow at the Art and Environment Research Center (CIAE), Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), Spain. She is part of the government funded Research & Development Project team: Environmental Humanities. Strategies for ecological empathy and transition to sustainable societies (15-2018). which emphasizes the role of visual arts and literature as important vectors of change at an ethical level to achieve the ideal of a sustainable society. She is also the Coordinator of the postgraduate Diploma of Specialization in Sustainability, environmental ethics and environmental education at the UPV.

http://ecohumanidades.webs.upv.es/

http://ecoeducacion.webs.upv.es/

 

Anne Douglas is a research professor, co-founder with Chris Fremantle of On the Edge Research, a doctoral and postdoctoral programme investigating the  place of the arts in public life, predominantly through practice-led research approaches. An important research strand is art and ecology. Douglas has recently co-authored with Chris Fremantle two publications on the work of the Harrisons: 2016 ‘What poetry does best: the Harrisons’ poetics of being and acting in the world’ in The Time of the Force Majeure Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison. New York:Prestel pp 455-460 and 2016 ‘Inconsistency and Contradiction: Lessons in Improvisation in the work of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison’. In Elemental: an Arts and Ecology Reader. Manchester: The Gaia Project, 2016, pp 153-181.

Douglas is  the Principal Investigator on the AHRC funded Cultural leadership and the place of the artist (2015-16) in partnership with Creative Scotland, Clore Leadership Foundation and ENCATC, the EU network of cultural management and policy with Chris Fremantle (Co-Investigator) and Dr Jonathan Price (Senior Research Fellow). She is  a research associate with Knowing from Inside , an advanced research project funded by the EU led by the renowned anthropologist, Professor Tim Ingold.


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