Posts Tagged ‘Alec Finlay’

What can the arts contribute to a Land Use Strategy for Scotland?

December 22, 2015

Woodland cover in Scotland. Image from Scottish Government website

The Scottish Government is consulting on a new Land Use Strategy for Scotland. This builds on the first Strategy (2011) and also on the two pilot studies done (Aberdeenshire and the Scottish Borders).

At the heart of the Land Use Strategy are the ideas of Natural Capital and Ecosystems Services Assessment. and the use of GIS to integrate many different aspects of our understanding of the land.  Dr Aileen McLeod, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, says in the Introduction to the consultation document,

In the wider context we have seen the development of the natural capital agenda and the formation of the Scottish Forum for Natural Capital, the increased use of an ecosystems approach and significant developments in areas such as the use of spatial mapping tools.

Natural Capital and Ecosystems Services Assessment are problematic both in terms of the financialisation of everything, as well as in the fundamental anthropocentric focus.  But they also shift the framework from ‘single issues’ to ‘systems,’ and the Ecosystems approach recognises the cultural dimension, albeit mostly through a tourism lens.

It is acknowledged that the cultural dimension is particularly difficult to assess in part because it relates to both tangible (e.g. recreational areas, footpath networks, scenic beauty as well as perhaps traditional practices) as well as intangible (e.g. stories, myths and values as well as again traditional practices). Traditional agricultural practices for instance shape the landscape, but are also part of the cultural identity of a landscape. An example of the intangible aspect of this might be the Bothy Ballads of the North East. These form part of the landscape metaphorically, but also can perhaps contribute to understanding the pattern of land use.

But the cultural dimension is not only understanding and valuing the past, it can also be about the present and the future. This has been exemplified in two recent publications. Alec Finlay’s ebban an flowan is a poetic primer for the marine renewable industry and We Live With Water is a vision for Dumfries, where “…tak[ing] 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.”

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As previously highlighted in the blog Land Use Strategy Pilot: What’s it got to do with artists? there are many examples of contemporary arts practices which can contribute to the Land Use Strategy, and we highlighted ones which already work with GIS systems, the spatial planning tool which is at the heart of Land Use Strategy development.

GIS is very valuable for seeing the relations between soil, water quality, biodiversity, ecosystems health and resource extraction. But it is a particular challenge to introduce cultural knowledge into GIS systems both because cultural knowledge doesn’t typically have a spatial character in the way that knowledge about soil type, forest cover, water or agricultural land quality is inherently spatial.

But if we believe that ‘place’ should be at the heart of any Scottish Land Use Strategy then artists and other cultural practitioners across the humanities (cultural historians and geographers, environmental philosophers, anthropologists, literature and language studies and art historians amongst others) need to find ways to contribute to the Land Use Strategy, especially given that the inclusion of the cultural dimension within the Ecosystems Services Assessment legitimises that input.

Moreover arts practices that focus on the systemic, relational and dialogic, artists with social and community, environmental and ecological practices, can make very important contributions. They can ask questions such as,

“What would Scotland’s landscape look like if significantly more people had stewardship over it?”

“Is conservation, and in particular keeping people out, the only way to manage areas of iconic significance?”

“What does a river see when it looks at us?”

“How can brownfield restoration meet more than legislative requirements?”

“What if renewable energy technology was developed by architects, designers and artists for communities?”

You can contribute to the Scottish Government’s Land Use Strategy consultation here.  The questions seem to be very specific and directed at confirmation (or dissent) rather than any sort of open-ended discussion, participatory or deliberative process.

If you are willing to share your thoughts about what you you think the questions are and how the arts might contribute to understanding those questions (or enabling other questions to be asked) with ecoartscotland we’ll publish them to promote a greater understanding of the ways in which artists, producers, curators and cultural managers can contribute to this important issue.

Please include examples: we are particularly interested in examples of arts projects that address ecosystems, eco-cultural well-being, and ways of working with GIS systems (or challenge the spatial technologies).

ebban an’ flowan: a poetic primer for marine renewable energy

October 29, 2015

Alec Finlay recently announced the publication of ebban an’ flowan: a poetic primer on marine renewable energy.  More information below:

ebban an’ flowan
a primer for marine renewable energy

ebban an flowan sea structure
Alec Finlay and Laura Watts, with Alistair Peebles
pb, 56 pages, morning star, 2015; edition of 500 copies

Ebban an’ flowan is the world’s first poetic primer on marine renewable energy. The book focuses on the Orkney islands, as the leading international test site for this nascent energy industry, and expands to reflect on its relationship with the Nordic countries across the sea.

Through both language and technology, the book explores how use is inflected with locality. A number of tide and wave energy devices are illustrated, some in dock, others in the sea, along with an anthology of their characterful names–mixing humour with invocations of classical myth and metamorphosis.

Ebban an’ flowan explores the technical and mythic vocabulary which is evolving alongside marine energy devices. The book offers a unique, creative perspective on this social and technical world by gathering together maritime dialect expressions from across the Norse languages, connecting the older lore of the sea with the new lore of ocean energy generation. An innovative range of poems, maxims, and dictionaries connect tide and wave engineers with the older wisdom of mariners, fisherfolk, and mythic selkies or tangies, to suggest how a language of marine energy may, in some imagined future, grow from words, lodged in collective memory.

Languages also have their tides: the energy of speech, as its sound rises and lulls, is always ebban an’ flowan.

The project is inspired by ongoing social research in collaboration with people and places around marine energy in Orkney, conducted as part of the Alien Energy project at the IT University of Copenhagen.
ebban an flowan image

Laura Watts
writer, poet, ethnographer of futures, and Associate Professor at the IT University of Copenhagen; a writer who brings together the academic and poetic to imagine the future otherwise.

Alec Finlay
poet and artist; he has produced art and writing on all forms of renewable energy since 2005.

Alistair Peebles
artist and writer; the book includes his photographs of installations on Orkney, and a text work.

Price
10.00 GBP
13.00 EUR

ISBN: 978-1904477150

To get your copy please email info@alecfinlay.com, visit amazon.co.uk, or visit the bookshop at alecfinlay.com

Read more on Alec’s blog.

David Borthwick: Footings and Entanglements

November 22, 2013

Dave Borthwick highlights two new books of poetry.  Entanglements is an anthology for which Dave wrote the Introduction, and includes work by amongst others Alec Finlay, Gerry Loose, Em Strang and Jim Carruth.  You can find out more and order from Two Ravens Press.

Footings is a new collection of specially commissioned poems focused on walking and comes from Longbarrow Press in Sheffield.  Dave has kindly provided this review for ecoartscotland.

Longbarrow Press is a small publisher of a suite of experimental poets, producing a creative output whose eclecticism is its hallmark. Longbarrow believes that the poem should dictate the output, and has to date produced publications in the form of acetates, maps, and matchboxes. This commitment to formal and thematic experimentation is carried forward into its newly-published anthology The Footing, a collection of commissioned poems on the theme of walking and landscape.

This is not a walker’s collection in the sense of exploring pleasing prospects or aesthetic epiphanies, though, but rather a series of often weary journeys where history and memory make uneasy fellow travellers, where ‘Night settles over everything’, ‘the single row of shuttered shops. / 2.00am, deserted streets and cul-de-sacs’ (James Caruth, ‘Nocturne’). Less rooted in, but emanating from, Sheffield these are poems that move through edgelands and riparian zones, a hauntology of locations where the walker is perpetually disturbed, moved on, and so moving off. Andrew Hirst’s ‘Three Night Walks’ has the poet ‘scuttling along the curb’s ledge / alone, unsettled, residual.’

Rob Hindle follows ‘Flights and Traverses (5 itineraries)’ including ‘the supposed migration of Richard Marsden, an ancestor’ in 1782, the sequence ending on ‘a descent in the traces of the first of the Luftwaffe raids on Sheffield’. Chris Jones’ ‘Death and the Gallant’ reimagines the Reformation—with its destruction of artwork and symbolism—as seen through the eyes of a traveller contracted to daub and destroy iconography: ‘we’re pilgrims too’, he explains. Fay Musselwhite’s excellent poems are the voices of the Rivelin’s latter-day spirits ‘tunnelling / under a low stone bridge’ or trekking ‘though woods’ winter skeletons’ by the riverside.

The Footing’s seven poets each explore their territory with sensitivity, but without sentiment, their psychogeographical mappings manifesting the interconnections of territory, memory and experience in vivid, and wonderfully unsettling, terms.

Angelina Ayers, James Caruth, Mark Goodwin, Rob Hindle, Andrew Hirst, Christ Jones, Fay Musselwhite, The Footing (Sheffield: Longbarrow Press, 2013). pp. 95. £12.  See also http://thefooting.wordpress.com/, with links to SoundCloud recordings of poems.

David Borthwick teaches literature and the environment at the University of Glasgow’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies in Dumfries. His current research at the Solway Centre for Environment and Culture explores contemporary ecopoetry.


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