Posts Tagged ‘Wide Open’

Environmental Art Festival Scotland 2015: what is art and ecology?

August 27, 2015
EAFS.  Photo Colin Tennant

EAFS. Photo Colin Tennant

The creative team at EAFS needed help this year and ecoartscotland provided some editorial support for the newspaper and an essay on art and ecology as voluntary contributions.  EAFS is an incredibly important development in Scotland (as was the UNFIX festival this year, also delivered by voluntary effort).  The essay below attempts to highlight some of the different ways of working that characterise ‘art and ecology’ practices.

Art and Ecology or “the context is half the work”

By Chris Fremantle with input from Ann T Rosenthal.

Landscape painting represents or idealizes ‘nature,’ usually by depicting wide vistas, such as seascapes, forests, and countrysides. Sometimes it also brings attention to the human impact on the land, such as wilderness vs. settlement. Given the environmental challenges we face today, however, environmental art goes beyond representation or even witnessing changes in the land to effect social change through raising awareness and/or actually restoring damaged landscapes. Some of the ways environmental art differs from more traditional art forms, like landscape painting, are discussed below.

Considering art made or in progress by artists who work with environments or ecosystems, there are a few key things to consider, such as whether the project is reflective, awareness-raising or interventionist. You’ll find various things called ecoartxxx but, unlike Young British Artists, such as Damien Hirst, this isn’t about individualism or celebrities.

So, what are some of the things that might characterise artists working with ecologies?

Context – this might be ‘place’ or ‘issue’, though in the interesting projects these are deeply bound together. The issue might be the deep experience of a place and its effect on a person. Personally I find Hamish Fulton’s piece NO TALKING: seven days walking in the Cairngorms (1988) to be a very personal provocation – could I not talk for seven days? The issue might be storm surges and their impact on coastlines. Eve Mosher was featured in The New Yorker because she had marked a high water line on parts of New York (2007). When Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012 the debris marked the same line. Everyone was amazed that an artist had predicted the impact of an extreme weather event. The context might be a remnant of the ancient Caledonian Forest. The Collins and Goto Studio have been working in the Blackwood of Rannoch (2012-ongoing) to imagine a future of eco-cultural well-being where the forest’s beauty and biodiversity become an icon for a different Scottish landscape.

Interdisciplinarity is often another central characteristic. Artists are using methods and processes that are selected based on the idea/issue/context rather than the skill they were taught at art school. Don’t get me wrong, if you ask the right questions you’ll find that what the artists learnt at art school is still fundamental to their practice. But whether in deep durational collaborations or in short interactions, artists working with environments and ecologies learn and use the knowledge and practices of natural and social sciences, read and seek to influence policy, work in teams and maintain relationships. The quality of interdisciplinarity is perhaps in the seemlessness of what results, such as with Cinema Sark in EAFS 2013 where Pete Smith, Professor of Soil and Plant Science, and John Wallace, film-maker, explored the ecosystem of the river Sark in a work that was at once excellent science and compelling film.

Education and volunteering is a common characteristic of those projects focused on awareness-raising and intervention. It is important to understand that this aspect of practice is not separate from the process of making the art, not ‘outreach’ once the art has been made – rather it must be understood to be intrinsic.

Novelty is less important than sharing. Iterating and the commons are recurrent themes. All of the characteristics noted above (context/issue, interdisciplinarity and education and volunteering) militate against that particular art world requirement for constant newness. In the art world too often the focus is on new things, whereas ecoart is more often about new understandings and revealing experiences of the world around us (and our place or impact within it). More specifically documentation of environmental and ecological projects often takes the form of action guides, sets of instructions, or toolkits. We can recognise the aesthetic of artists, but when groups in Miami (2013) and Bristol (2014) did versions of Eve Mosher’s High Water Line, it wasn’t a breach of copyright – in fact she celebrates it. They used the Action Guide produced by Mosher working with ecoartspace.

Leaving the world a better place than you found it might be an overarching concern. This is more radical that it might sound when you consider that the archetype of the ‘reckless, hedonistic and art for arts sake artist’ has been pervasive for the last century anyway. John Thackara suggested that we live between on the one hand the despair at the scale of the crisis and the complexity of the challenges, and on the other hand the hope in the multitude of examples of grassroots activism, but he also commented that ‘don’t be evil’ is not enough. We have to act in ways to leave things better than we find them as we move through the world.

Call for Submissions – Sanctuary 2015

May 6, 2015
Robbie Coleman, Enclosure, 2014, Photo: Mark Bolem

Robbie Coleman, Enclosure, 2014, Photo: Mark Bolem

Sanctuary is a unique 24-hour public art laboratory within the Galloway Forest Dark Skies Park in South West Scotland that runs from Noon 26th September to Noon 27th September 2015. It creates a space for new work that ranges from sound installations and radio broadcasts to interactive video and performance. At its heart is a temporary community that forms to camp, talk, explore and show work, providing opportunities for unexpected meetings, conversations and new ideas.

We would like to commission three new works for Sanctuary 2015 that explore Darkness and Light in new ways. As much of the Dark Skies Park is beyond the reach of communication networks, we are particularly interested in ‘electronic’ darkness, as well as exploring light across all its frequencies.

We are open to any art forms, interpretations or behaviours.

There are three commissions of up to £1000 to include all materials and travel. Please see for more information.

Sanctuary curators:
Jo Hodges:
Robbie Coleman

The Dark Outside FM curator:
Stuart McLean:

How to apply:

Please send an outline of your idea (no more than A4) including any technical requirements, 5 images of previous work – this may include links to video / sound works, and a C.V to:

Deadline 28 May 2015 @ 5pm

Supported by New Media Scotland’s Alt-w Fund with investment from Creative Scotland; as well as Dumfries and Galloway Council.  Sanctuary is a partnership between the Forestry Commission and Wide Open.

Art/Design Commission for Loch Ryan, South West Scotland

August 11, 2014

Jan Hogarth at Wide Open asked us to circulate this opportunity.

OPEN CALL for Expressions of Interest Sought for T8he Wig, Loch Ryan, Art/ Design Commission Opportunity – An imaginative art/design installation linked to the interpretation of the Loch Ryan.

• To create a sense of place inspired by Loch Ryan
• To create imaginative and thought provoking art/design works.
• To bring exemplar design to this stunning landscape location.

Loch Ryan is Scotland’s most southerly sea loch located between the Rhins peninsula, the low lying Stranraer basin and the western Southern Uplands. Its sheltered waters have been used by man since prehistoric times whilst its proximity to Northern Ireland has given it added importance as a gateway between Ireland and mainland Britain.

Many of the important historic sites and remains around Loch Ryan lie close to the shoreline with sites all the way along the east coast and clusters at Stranraer and in the area around Kirkcolm. The sheltered location means people have used Loch Ryan as a gateway for trade and communication by sea and lived on its shores since the earliest days of human settlement in Scotland. During World War II the loch was an important hub of wartime activity.

Project Challenge
This is a fantastic opportunity for an artist/designer or multidisciplinary team to respond imaginatively to place evolving a new aesthetic for a landscape location of this type.

We anticipate that the selected artist/designer will come up with a creative scheme which encapsulates a design vision for the three elements:

• Design bespoke seating for a public seating area. This might use scale and form to create new functional space which enhances the experience of the location.

• Design an entrance feature for the car park entrance. This is a way of highlighting the location and should have a similar visual character to the seating area.

• Redesign/represent in a creative way the WW2 look out. This disused structure has its own aesthetic character which may inform themes developed for the other two features. There is an opportunity to do something creative and imaginative which encourages people to use the lookout as a shelter and interpretation space to bring its history to life or reimagine it in today’s context.

The Wig area of Loch Ryan is the location for the bespoke seating area and the entrance feature. The WW2 lookout shelter is nearby at the eastern end of Wig Bay.

The total budget for all the works including artist’s fees is £27,500. We suggest the breakdown is as follows:

• Sculptural designed seating area £5000
• Entrance feature for car park entrance £7000
• Conversion of WW2 shelter into interesting installation/interpretation space. £10,000
• Artists fee £4000 (incl £200 development fee)
• Contingency £1100

Timescale and process
• September – Submit expression of interest. Artists/designers will be selected to submit initial ideas.
• Early October – Selection by design team of artist for ideas development by artist (design team will include representation from the community)
• Late October – Presentation by artist of developed designs to design team
• December/January – Construction of works
• February – Installation of works

Expression of interest
An expression of interest for The Wig Environmental Art / Design project is to be submitted by 1st September 2014 and include:

• Examples of relevant past work (up to 6 images or files). Weblinks may be used for video or audio files that are more than 5mb 
• Curriculum Vitae
• Letter of interest in the commission (1 side of A4)

Please save all word documents as pdf before sending. Please send to: or Jan Hogarth, Wide Open, Gracefield Arts Centre, 28 Edinburgh Road, Dumfries, DG1 1JQ. Tel.07801232229

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