Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh College of Art’

Final Straw

November 15, 2013

Final Straw by Patrick Lydon and Suhee Kang, 26 November 2013, 5pm, Evolution House, ECA, West Port, Edinburgh.  Final Straw is a work in progress.  On the 26th there will be a panel discussion with Emily Brady, Mike Small and Ben Twist, Chaired by Chris Fremantle.

Spirited Discussions Pt. 3

August 22, 2013

Wednesday afternoon 14th August, third discussion around the issues of art, science, environment, monitoring, CO2.

Andrew Patrizio started us off by taking us back to Renaissance Florence. His summer reading had been Michael Baxandall’s Painting and Experience in 15th Century Italy. In that he found a description of the particular characteristics of the mercantile mind, the ability to gauge quantity, weight, volume and space accurately. According to Andrew, Baxandall argues that the circumstances in which Florence was a nexus for trade meant that a significant proportion of the population were involved in activities requiring gauging. By gauging I imagine we mean forming accurate judgements about things which can be weight and measured, but where some of the technologies for doing that which we take for granted didn’t exist or were relatively unsophisticated. We can perhaps imagine parallels with the emergence of monitoring in the 21st Century. Can we imagine the flows of energy through the grid when we are told about the impact of everyone turning on their kettle in the break for advertisements during a major sporting event? Or that animation of aircraft moving across the Atlantic and then moving back? As we have previously discussed, the calibration of our experience of CO2 through art is a particular challenge.

Renaissance Italy was at a critical point of social, economic and cultural development and the arts were deeply enmeshed in that. Trade was central, but the ramifications are much wider. The emergence of the new painting characterised by the use of perspective, but equally importantly including specific identifiable individuals such as patrons in real space with divine figures also treated as if they were human, is well known. We can imagine the pleasure that a painting which expressed space through perspective, and depicted fabric realistically, would bring to a person who could fully appreciate the space, volumes and sumptuousness – the play between the aesthetic and the mercantile mind. The late 20th and early part of the 21st Centuries has as Andrew drew our attention to, been characterised by conceptual, performative and participatory practices, sculpture in the expanded field, systems theory, data visualisation and new media.

In Renaissance Italy we know the practices of art and science were not separated out in the way that they are now. The enquiry into what can be understood about the world, whether through philosophy, science or art, was a process that individuals participated in as what we might now call public intellectuals, rather than as distinct disciplines. The methodologies were broadly similar and compatible if the manifestations were different. We know of Leonardo’s sketchbooks but we are less familiar with Piero della Francesca several treatise on mathematics of which the most well-known are those on perspective. The emergence of the artist researcher who plays across these two fields is a relatively recent not always welcomed development. It is criticised on the one hand as institutionally driven, and on the other perhaps because it seems to ‘explain’ the work, which by rights should stand on its own. The 20th Century in particular has been dominated by a resistance to the instrumentalisation of art, a resistance to a ‘unified reading’ of the work of art. The artist researcher, writer of papers as well as maker of art, seeks to understand the world and share that understanding. The artist researcher might seek to intentionally change the world (though probably not through simplistic cause and effect processes).

Setting aside the question of who writes papers and who makes artworks, Andrew was asking us to think about the comparison between then and now, the extent to which we are living through a period of more than just social, cultural and economic change. The shift taking place in Renaissance Italy might be characterised as the emergence of the idea of the human as being at the centre of everything, able to shape the world according to our desires and for our convenience. The word ‘environment’ means the circumstances or conditions that surround one, or that surround and organism or a group of organisms. It is predicated on an assumption of a ‘thing’ which has ‘an environment’. Without a ‘thing’ there is no ‘environment’ because the word is describing that relationship. Perhaps the Renaissance is the point in modern history where the human moves to be the de facto ‘thing’ – where the human environment division is crystallised. If we look at the paintings we see the human at the centre of the environment, the focal point.

We feel that we are living through another key paradigm shift, or rather that we need to be living through a paradigm shift, because the current paradigm, that we can use the planet and everything on it for our own convenience and comfort and it will just carry on, isn’t working anymore. If 500 years ago it seemed that we needed to learn how the world worked so that we could control it to make it safer (and make no mistake life was short and painful 500 years ago), at that point it seemed that nothing we could do would impact on ‘nature’. Science and technology offered ways to protect ourselves, live longer, avoid illness, be warm and comfortable.

If we accept that our world view is changing again, that the Anthroposcene is the result of a trajectory that has social, economic and cultural roots in the deep past, it is interesting to imagine the arts’ involvement in the process 500 years ago. Did artists sit around and worry about being instrumentalised? How would they have felt about Samuel Beckett’s statement, “Art has nothing to do with clarity, does not dabble in the clear and does not make clear.” Of course that resistance of Beckett’s is precisely because art has been implicated in the paradigm that created the problem. And Beckett has contributed to our understanding of the world. But Ian Garrett, one of the founders of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, led us into another possible construction of the avoidance of ‘making clear’ in a simplistic sense (where frankly Design Communication has the task of ‘making clear’). He talked about the project Fallen Fruit which used maps in a way which is reminiscent of the work of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, where the layering of information creates a density that requires thought and interpretation. CO2 Edenburgh layers information on carbon dioxide monitored in the City over greenspace and urban fabric, it performs the movement through the landscape of CO2, and overlays the social cultural activity associated with the Edinburgh Festivals. It could add economic layers or regular traffic movement layers, or any number of other factors. The point is to create questions in the mind of the person engaged with the work of art.

Spirited discussions Pt. 2

August 14, 2013
Carbon Catcher Catriona Patterson taking discussion participants on a monitoring walk

Carbon Catcher Catriona Patterson taking discussion participants on a monitoring walk

Sat. 10th August. We dug back into the question of the role of the artist, in particular working with other disciplines such as scientists and public engagement professionals.

The discussion highlighted a couple of slippages: one towards science and another towards public engagement. These are points of blurring – things that the artist might be doing. For example, CO2 Edenburgh involves environmental monitoring and this has been developed between the artists, Tim Collins and Reiko Goto, and Creative Carbon Scotland, Ben Twist and Gemma Lawrence). Both teams have specific skills in this area. CO2 Edenburgh also involves public engagement and both teams have specific skills in that area. So the Carbon Catchers walk the streets of Edinburgh, stop to take readings and talk to people.  The install in the Tent Space at Edinburgh College of Art is like a lab studio combination with data readouts on maps on walls which also have notes from discussions and photos of activity. Both of these tactics are designed to make the monitoring very visible and engaging. Both are also elements that we might find in other activist art projects, such as Tushar Joag and his Unicell Public Works Cell.

If we want to make claims for the role of art in relation to the social and environmental, and in particular to make a case for high level involvement, then we need to be able to articulate the distinctive contribution, otherwise the role of the artist could be replaced by the environmental scientist or the public engagement professional.

So let’s just note that one of the things Tim Collins and Reiko Goto highlighted is that it feels like CO2 is talked about as a bad thing in public discourse at the moment. It’s also talked about as a very abstract thing. One of the messages that has been used in campaigns to influence the public in the UK as been “Act on CO2”. There’s a danger that the discourse around CO2 become like the discourse around smoking or drink driving. There’s another connected issue with CO2: the climate change discourse focuses on specific thresholds 350 parts per million, 400 parts per million. The environmental science that monitors climate change ‘flattens’ and abstracts CO2. The importance of this point came home when Joel Chaney, one of the panellists, mentioned in passing that the national grid, the infrastructure by which we move electricity from the point of production to the point of consumption, requires ‘grid stability’, again a metaphor for ‘evenness’.

So two points in relation to these issues: firstly CO2 isn’t in itself ‘bad’. In fact it’s only the release of currently fossilised carbon into the atmosphere as CO2 that is a problem. Carbon and CO2 is what we and all of the living world is made out of. Secondly, what is coming out of the CO2 Edenburgh monitoring is that CO2 is anything but flat or evenly distributed. The monitoring is beginning to enable us to perceive the complexity of the pattern of CO2 in central Edinburgh. As Tim Collins said, this project tries to “…calibrate an experience of CO2.”

Tim Collins and Reiko Goto’s central focus in recent work is empathy. The work Plein Air that they installed in the Tent Space in the spring (and Plein Air is an ongoing project) seeks to enable us to experience trees breathing as a means to engage us empathetically with trees. Of course trees are other living things which we know, experience, and understand (reasonably well). Some people have planted and nurtured trees. Some people have pruned or cut down trees. CO2 on the other hand is a molecule, something which we, particularly if we focus on the science, can’t experience. On the other hand if we begin to pay attention to the locally specific then perhaps we can experience – the stuffy room, the fresh air, etc. And as Simon Beeson noted that experience of CO2 should inform architecture – thinking about CO2 in the environment of buildings.

Perhaps, as Tim Collins pointed us to, we need to deeply engage with the shift from Subject Object (me and CO2), to Subject Object Environment (me, CO2 and the interrelations embedded in the environment). As someone pointed out, one of Scotland’s great scientists, James Clerk Maxwell, was at the forefront of a shift from looking for ‘evidence’ to looking for ‘interactions’.

But we need to go back to the top – trying to understand what it is that the artist ‘does’. Another trope is to talk about the artist as a storyteller. This is in danger of being a slippage towards the public engagement we mentioned above. Wallace Heim, another panellist, started us off with Alan Badiou and the importance of events. For Badiou there are four critical forms of event – love, politics, art and science. For Badiou these forms of event change our perception of reality in a way that require us in the future to act in ways that are true to that event (so we are not talking about everyday politics, science or art, but those moments when something is revealed and understood). Badiou is of course not writing about art, not trying to tell us what art does distinctively. Rather he’s attempting to describe something about life, something fundamental about being human. And art is part of that, for Badiou, enscribed at the heart of it, but not exclusively.

So we believe that artists can change things (Tim Collins and Reiko Goto talk about three aspects to art, the lyrical, the critical and the transformative). But the difficulty is that science, public engagement, politics (and love) also change things, transform them. What we want to be able to do is to understand and share the ways that artists such as Collins and Goto, Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, Amy Balkin, Hans Haacke, Suzanne Lacy operate because they can make a significant contribution to deep social and environmental issues. We also don’t want to let that potential contribution be reduced to a description of storytelling, or public engagement, or public science, or creating spectacular events. But we also don’t want to set it on a pedestal as a form of magic.  Anne Douglas said we need to understand the high level contribution that some artists can make.

Collins & Goto at the Edinburgh Art Festival

April 30, 2013
Edinburgh Art Festival – Exhibitions – Edinburgh College of Art Tent Gallery

Eden3, Collins & Goto, 2006 ongoing

ecoartscotland is pleased to partner with Creative Carbon Scotland and Edinburgh College of Art to present Collins & Goto’s Spirit in the Air at the Edinburgh Art Festival 2013.

Collins & Goto, the eminent US ecological artists now based in Scotland, will present new work, using the Tent Gallery as a base of operations and performance to explore the actual rate and flow of CO2 in the environment in Edinburgh.  This project asks the question If humans produce gas in cities and there are no trees around to breathe it, does anyone care?

Eden3: Trees are the Language of Landscape

April 5, 2013

Eden3: Trees are the language of landscape exhibition image

Exhibition – April 22 to May 25, 2013
Tent Gallery, in Art Space and Nature
Edinburgh College of Art
Evolution House (corner of Westport and Lady Lawson Street)
Edinburgh, EH1 2LE, Scotland
Phone: 0131 651 5800
Hours: Tues-Fri 12noon to 4:45PM or by appointment on Saturday.

The Collins & Goto Studio presents an on-going series of works with trees, including Eden3 an installation of trees and technology that provide an experience of photosynthesis through sound, and Caledonia: The Forest is Moving a series of expeditions and related inquiry about specific forests. The exhibition includes a brief overview of previous work from Pennsylvania and California to provide context for the current creative inquiry.

This work has evolved through collaboration with other artists, musicians, scientists and technicians. The exhibition is partially sponsored by Trilight Industries, Glasgow. Engineering support for the development of Eden3 is provided by Solutions for Research, Bedford. Special thanks to Helen de Main, Sogol Mabadi and Chris Fremantle.

Opening – Thursday April 25, 4 to 6 PM
Artist’s Talk – Thursday May 16, 4 to 6 PM

Collins and Goto will host an open discussion with friends and colleagues about their work and the role of art in relationship to a changing environment.
Space is limited please RSVP if interested in attending the artist talk

Eden3 Exhibition Flyer w Image

Eden3 Exhbition Press ReleaseSM

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