Monthly Archives: March 2016

Working Together

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

This piece was first published in New Energies, the Land Art Generator publication for the 2014 Copenhagen competition. Land Art Generator will be keynote speakers at the ‘Feeding the Insatiable‘ Art and Energy Conference at Schumacher College in November.


Why is ‘working together’ so vital right now? It is at the heart of ecoart practices and at the heart of the Land Art Generator Initiative. It is one of the features that distinguishes these practices and programs. LAGI asks architects, designers, and artists (a.k.a. “creative practitioners”) to work with scientists, engineers, inventors, land managers, ecologists, manufacturers, and communities.

There are several elements to working together. Teamwork is considered to be an important skill. In fact, it is part of the national curriculum in Scotland (2009). Participation has become mainstream in art, design, architecture, and new media. Interdisciplinarity is the mot du jour in academic research. Collaboration and creativity, participation and knowledge have become powerful words in the discourse today, but they are double-edged. Do they reinforce existing marketization, or do they open up new forms of public space?

LAGI invites teams to form and work together, ideally with communities, to develop new solutions for our societies’ energy systems and to imagine new structures for generating renewable energy at the mid-scale—the scale that relates to settlements. LAGI wants us to embrace renewable energy as a beautiful part of the places we live.

“Embracing” is a good word in this context, because we need to embrace renewable energy. It is also a good word for the particular sense of working together, because creative and techno-scientific practitioners need to embrace each other’s skills and expertise, knowledge and methods. LAGI is not looking to decorate existing energy installations or plop down energy-producing sculptures. This embrace must not be uncritical. The future of energy must be renewable, and it must be socially just. The BBC reported when the renewable energy system on Eigg, an island off the west coast of Scotland, came online. What wasn’t reported was the social justice built into the system. Renewable energy is limitless over time, but limited at any point in time. On Eigg, every house and business has a cut-out switch, which stops an individual from using too much energy at any particular moment. This is a form of community collaboration, which is significant and which addresses the “tragedy of the commons” (the tendency for people to act in their own short term interests even if this has long term negative consequences for the community). On Eigg people embrace each other with social as well as environmental justice.

Greenhouse1

If we want to understand why working together with artists might be important, it is worth looking to the practice of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison. These eminent ecological artists responded to an invitation from David Haley (Director, Ecology in Practice, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK) to consider the impact of global warming on the island of Britain. The result was the project Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom (2006–2008) funded by the UK government as part of its Climate Challenge program. In the independent evaluation of that project, Wallace Heim comments on interviews she conducted with the Harrison’s project collaborators:

They all reported that the experience was illuminating, informative, challenging, imaginative, liberating. Their respect for the cross-disciplinary knowledge of the Harrisons was high, including both the science, the land-use planning and the architectural aspects, including Newton Harrison’s ability to ask ‘the right questions.’ Further, they had been taken on a journey, relieved of the strictures of their respective disciplines and work practices, and had found it in some way transformative of their way of considering climate change and possible adaptations to it. But, from their responses, the exercise was not just one of being relieved of limitations, but one which was highly informed, creative, and reflective, not just of their own methods of work, but of more conventional responses to climate change. They reported feeling supported, mentored, and reported an appreciation of what this kind of process of ‘art’ can achieve in providing the context, the time and space for imagining possible futures, for rehearsing what may happen. (2008, p.9)

The words that Heim chooses to characterize the experience of collaborating with the Harrisons are also used by others when speaking about the quality of collaborative relationships between artists and scientists. LAGI is seeking to provide a context, time, and space for that quality of informed, creative, and reflective practice to imagine possible futures and rehearse what can happen as we embrace renewable energy.

There are dangers, however, in focusing on an idealized form of collaborative practice, a fetishized meeting of minds. What Heim’s description does not suggest is that the result of Greenhouse Britain is a problem solved. Rather it is making sense of our new circumstances and exploring what some futures might look like.

In his essay The Negotiation of Hope (2005), Jeremy Till addresses John Forester’s argument that the role of designers in particular should be understood as “sense-making” rather than “problem-solving.” Till states:

“Central to Forester’s argument is that such a move from the problem to sense-making necessarily brings with it an acknowledgement of the contested social situation in which the design process is first initiated….”

When we step outside our specialized spaces, whether the galleries, concert halls, and theaters of artists, or the labs of scientists and engineers, we are negotiating our practices. Increasingly, we are negotiating with communities as well as other professions. Creative practitioners working with ecological systems, human habitation and development, energy and resource generation, and so on, quite specifically embrace other ways of working, in particular other methods. They can enter into deep relationships. There is a sharp edge here, because this involves dealing with other living things, not just inert materials. Therefore, this embrace has to be respectful, has to have an ethical dimension, has to be caring.

plein-air1

To understand what this might mean, Tim Collins and Reiko Goto’s project Plein Air (2010–2014) required that they work with engineers to develop a range of sensing technology. This technology enabled the public to perceive trees breathing and, in collaboration with musicians and audio artists, to transform the data streams of that breathing into acoustic experiences. Collin’s and Goto’s concern was to encourage empathy, using technology to heighten awareness.

In being collaborative, we are often being interdisciplinary—working between, with, across, into, and beyond disciplines and between different forms of knowledge and practice. Sometimes conversations explore the similarities between artists and scientists, designers and engineers, but a discipline is a specialization. With specialization comes skill and expertise. Ecoart always requires multiple and varied skills and expertise. There are many dimensions to this. Creative practitioners tend to have thematic interests, such as water, biodiversity, urban greenspace, brownfields, phyto-remediation, farming, orchards, and permaculture. Ecoartists will name their collaborators and will report, and sometimes document, the dialogues.

I’m increasingly concerned about the terms “collaboration” and “interdisciplinarity” because these words might be obscuring the basic act of “working together.” However, not all “working together” is the same. David Haley (2011), using the analysis of Basarab Nicolescu, suggests some ways of thinking about the differences. A group of people with different specializations can all work on the same question. This might be called “multi-disciplinary.” If those people exchange methods, so that the specializations become hybrid, then that might be called “inter-disciplinary.” Then there are circumstances where different specializations come together to focus on a problem, setting aside any hierarchies of specializations, and this might be called “trans-disciplinary” (the prefixes post- and extra- have also been used). Haley argues that the repositioning of specializations, clarified by this terminology, is vital to address 21st Century questions. I would argue that ecoart is inherently interdisciplinary—it is not just the knowledge domains that are embraced. If you look at a lot of ecoart, it actually sits in grey areas between art and design—not clever product design, but design in the sense of clear communication of information, clear construction of process resulting in impacts. Joachim Sauter opens up the issue when he states:

In short: the result of design work has to be understood immediately and should be directly legible by as many as possible. This means it has to be told in a language that everyone understands. Artwork however is produced using an individual and personal language and it is mainly not meant to be understood immediately or by everyone. The process of understanding an artwork by deciphering is very important. It forces one into a much deeper dialogue with what is presented. In design work it is the opposite—if there is a fire, you don’t want to decipher an exit sign. It goes without saying that the borders are blurry and that you find both approaches in both fields. (2010, p.250-251)

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Perhaps the Danish collective Superflex might exemplify this issue. In addition to their work 2000 Watt Society Contract, which relates to the collaboration on Eigg mentioned above, Superflex’ Supergas project sits in this blurry, in-between space. The Supergas website Introduction page states:

In 1996–1997 Superflex has collaborated with biogas engineer Jan Mallan to construct a simple, portable biogas unit that can produce sufficient gas for the cooking and lighting needs of an African family. The system has been adapted to meet the efficiency and style demands of a modern African consumer. It is intended to match the needs and economic resources that we believe exist in small-scale economies. The orange biogas plant produces biogas from organic materials, such as human and animal stools.

First note that the engineer is credited in the first sentence. Second, the Supergas project appears to conform to Sauter’s description of design. In Tanzania, Cambodia, Thailand, Zanzibar, and Guadalajara, the project’s function is clear. When seen in an art exhibition, however, for example at the Louisiana Museum, Denmark (1997) or at Marres, Centre for Contemporary Culture, in Maastricht (2011), it becomes a kind of personal language that requires deciphering. In those contexts, it becomes an “issue-based” work of art. There is a third position from which it also needs to be deciphered. As Mallans states in an interview:

“That’s also different from industry. In industry you don’t ask whether there is any money. Of course, there is. But here you know there’s no money.” (1999)

Creative practitioners working on environmental and ecological projects, including those contributing to LAGI, might be attempting to operate, like Superflex, in both of Sauter’s modes. Their works often operate at more than one level—to understand immediately what the project is doing and make it directly legible, but also to enter into a deeper dialogue through a more personal relationship with the work.

In exploring collaborations between artists and communities, Grant Kester is interested in the politics of collaboration:

In the most successful collaborative projects we encounter instead a pragmatic openness to site and situation, a willingness to engage with specific cultures and communities in a creative and improvisational manner …, a concern with non-hierarchical and participatory processes, and a critical and self-reflexive relationship to practice itself. Another important component is the desire to cultivate and enhance forms of solidarity…. (2011, p125)

Kester’s defining characteristics are leitmotifs. In particular ‘solidarity’ is a political word (perhaps more so if you are connected to Poland and grew up in the 80s), but it signals the importance of respect and justice in the process, echoing openness to site and situation, reinforcing engaging with specific cultures and communities, and embedding an alternative politics.

Kester’s phrase “a critical and self-reflexive relationship to practice itself” opens up space for the practice to inhabit the blurry space between clarity and directness on the one hand, and depth and personal language on the other.

The reason we might need to rethink our understanding of creative practice, as suggested at the start of this essay, is because the most provocative examples of ecoart, and LAGI in particular, are characterised by a shared process rather than an autonomous one. The artists are not adding decoration to something that engineers have designed, and the designers are not simply designing the logo for the product. There’s a deep understanding that to make sense of our energy challenges and to intervene effectively takes multiple intelligences, multiple practices, multiple creativities working together.

References

HALEY, David (2011). Art, Ecology and Reality: the Potential for Transdisciplinarity in the Proceedings of Art, Emotion and Value. 5th Mediterranean Congress of Aesthetics http://www.um.es/vmca/proceedings/docs/52.David-Haley.pdf accessed 12 March 2014

HEIM, Wallace (2008). Evaluation Report DEFRA Climate Challenge Fund CCF9 Project code AE017 Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom. http://greenhousebritain.greenmuseum.org/evaluation/ accessed 12 March 2014.

KESTER, Grant (2011) The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

SAUTER, Joachim (2010) interview in Data Flow: v. 2: Visualizing Information in Graphic Design. Berlin: Gestalten

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT (2009) Curriculum for Excellence: Building the Curriculum for Skills for Learning, Skills for Life and Skills for Work.

SUPERFLEX (1999) Superflex: Tools. Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig

SUPERGAS website http://www.supergas.dk/introduction/ accessed 12 March 2014

TILL, Jeremy (2005). The Negotiation of Hope, in Architecture and Participation London and New York: Taylor Francis

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

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The Greener Events and Innovations Conference

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Aimed primarily at green-field/open-air music festivals, and addressing the theme of ‘challenging the status quo’, the event covered everything from the formal mechanisms for change, innovative examples, and the different dimensions of sustainability through which festivals can make an impact.

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Two active initiatives leading the outdoor music festival sector towards environmental sustainability were presented publicly at the conference. A Greener Festival, having run their successful sustainability-assessment awards scheme for a decade, relaunched their application and assessor recruitment and training for their award. Applied for annually, the award rates festivals on their commitments and actions, and helps adapt and continuously refine their behaviour towards environmental sustainability.

This was followed by Chris Johnston (Powerful Thinking, Shambala Festival, Kambe Events), who emphasised the message of “Alone I can go faster, together we can go further”, when discussing The Show Must Go On report (created as a festival industry response to the Paris COP that took place in December).

Chris particularly urged those festivals present to sign up to the Festival Vision:2025 pledge, which encourages those committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 50% over the next 9 years. Audience comments and questions around the pledge were varied, with those festivals more established in their sustainability efforts unsure as to how to reduce their power consumption further, and those heavily reliant on generator power requiring significant management support to make the changes suggested.

However, presentations on Smart Power Plans for fuel optimisation and the how hybrid generators can provide uninterrupted power supply at festivals and in the developing world (Tim Benson, Firefly Clean Energy), provided rational, tested and current opportunities for realising these goals.

Tech innovations

Inspired by the ‘disrupting complacency’ element of the conference, there was a focus on new ideas and innovation, several of which seemed to co-incidentally address the issue of human waste at outdoor sites. Managing to avoid toilet humour, Jonathan Winfield of Bristol Bioenergy Centre excited the group with his explanation of the major scientific and practical advancements in urine-powered fuel cells, producing enough electricity to light their test toilet at Glastonbury Festival in 2015. Hamish Skermer (A Natural Event) also regaled the group with the various tribulations of beginning composting toilets at his own festival, claiming: “Port-a-loos are designed for building sites, not music festivals!”.

Interpreting sustainability

Consistent across the conference was the variety through which the presenting individuals and festivals approached different dimensions of sustainability. As well as the innovative technological developments, the speakers highlighted the areas of:

  • Society: Throughout the event, speakers from across the panel sessions highlighted the more social good and non-profit motivations of festivals and how these had typically been more explicit in the past. Particularly relevant to the arts and sustainability, WE LOVE GREEN’s upcycled ‘scenography’ opportunity for emerging artists combined professional opportunities with the circular economy. Panellists also highlighted the concept of festivals performing social good, and those working in the events and festivals sector having significant transferrable skills to offer – for example, in application to working at refugee camps with honed abilities in generator power, temporary structures, mass catering and working with people.
  • Behaviour: The role of festivals in affecting audience behaviour change is a hot topic, and Livvy Drake of Shambala discussed the positive and negative reception the festival faced when announcing their plan to go ‘meat-free’ in their catering. There was a conflict too between those with differing beliefs around audience engagement in behaviour change initiatives: whereas Steve Muggeridge’s Green Gathering background led him to appreciate the democratic and audience-demanded sustainability adaptations, Rob Scully (Glastonbury) explained the festival’s internal process for developing stainless-steel re-useable cups, and the executive decision, research and development taken by the festival to ensure that the process was well implemented in its first instance.

Overall, the event provided a snapshot of the varied and international avenues to increasing the positive contributions festivals can make to their societies and the natural world. Never before have we learnt about koalas, fuel cells, stainless steel and Japanese ski resorts in the one day!


At the Greener Events and Innovations conference, Gemma and Catriona also presented on their learning around working in collaboration with respect to cultural and music festivals. Click here to find out more about our Fields of Green project, the Green Arts Initiative and the work of the Edinburgh Festivals.

Photo: Shambala by Marc Reck via Flickr Creative Commons

The post The Greener Events and Innovations Conference appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

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Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

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The Boy and the Sunflower

This post comes from Ecoscenography

Since 2012, I have been developing a series of projects under the banner of The Living Stage, a concept which combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. In this post, I reflect on my time working with Glaswegian Children’s theatre company Eco Drama during the development of my third Living Stage.

bring life into concrete playgroundsIn the UK Summer of 2015, I collaborated with local theatre company Eco Drama to create a travelling garden with and for children that could brighten up Glasgow’s concrete playgrounds; fusing live performance with living plants.

me&gardening3The project involved working with four Glasgow primary schools to design, grow and build a portable stage. I joined permaculturist Katie Lambert and the pupils in their concrete playgrounds in late Spring to plant out quirky containers with basil, parsley, tomatoes and carrots. Despite the dreary Glaswegian weather, the children’s enthusiasm to be outside and get their hands dirty was infectious – placing their hands into the soil was regularly met with audible ‘aahs’ and ‘ooohhs’. Even in pouring rain, there was an instinctive desire for the children to engage with the world beyond the classroom walls.FB_IMG_1438862682003

Together, we planted seeds, made willow arches and wrote plant labels for the set. As we absorbed ourselves in the act of gardening, the children learnt to gently ‘tuck’ their seeds into the ‘bed of soil’ and give the earth a ‘good drink’ of water. By the time the children left for their summer holidays, the seeds had started to sprout, turning the once humble soil into hopeful speckles of green.

FB_IMG_1438862577280Through the growing season, the director, performers and I began building a show around the budding plants, coupling storytelling with experiences of gardening. The story that emerged followed three characters (Plum, Lily and Basil) singing to the salads, flowers and herbs amongst their curious home of plants. Told through music, movement and multi-sensory storytelling, Uprooted connected audiences with nature through the view of the wider planet as home. In true Living Stage spirit, Uprooted became part theatre show, part garden and part installation, where audiences had the opportunity to nibble at the stage and sample drinks made from the set.

FB_IMG_1439020088656FB_IMG_1439020306523Uprooted toured to various outdoor venues and schools across Glasgow, before finding its way back to the schools that helped plant it. As the students returned from their school holidays, they watched the performance and were excited to see how much their plants had grown. They were amazed at how the plump vegetables, bushy herbs and soaring sunflowers that inhabited the set had emerged from the tiny seeds that they had planted months ago. The students revelled in tasting unusual herbs and flowers, and embraced new textures, flavours and sensations. I have never seen so many children so excited about a zucchini. But more broadly, they also shared an immense pride in the space and the fact that ‘their’ stage had been touring around their home city.
After our final showing at Corpus Christi Primary School, we turned to the task of transplanting and installing the set as a permanent feature in the playground, turning an ugly metal fence into a beautiful space for future gardening and storytelling. Again, the children became an integral part of this process, transplanting the living stage pots into the soil of their garden beds and gently ‘tucking’ the greenery into its new home. This time, I witnessed an even greater eagerness to be in the garden and contribute to the next phase of the growing. There was clear comradery and confidence amongst the group, with many of the children playing a leadership role in the planting process. The pupils had been shaped by gardening’s lessons and its potential.

boy with sunflowerAs the children returned to their classrooms after the final session of planting, Eco Drama’s director Emily Reid pulled me aside. She had seen how a boy had taken the initiative to claim responsibility for a sunflower he had planted during the transplanting of the set – even giving the flower its own name ‘Jack’. Emily saw the boy standing by one of the garden beds and started walking towards him, when she suddenly stopped, intrigued.

Lost in his own world and focused inward, the boy did not know that Emily had been close by. As the boy stood there, sharing a moment with his newly found friend ‘Jack’, he began to sing softly to the flower. In the context of Uprooted, where the characters sing to their plants on stage, this would not have been considered unusual; however, it had been a striking moment to experience in the real world. It was only a moment (perhaps only a few seconds before the boy joined his classmates), but Emily’s description of the event bought me incredible joy.

FB_IMG_1438862648341This boy had found a way to break through perceived binaries between humans and nature, nature and culture. He had connected to the ecological complexity of the living world with such simplicity. In this moment of more-than-human communication, this small boy had seen himself as an integral part of the web of life, as though it was the most natural thing in the world.

A short documentary film of Uprooted here.

Photos by E. Reid and E. Carey.

 

The post, The Boy and the Sunflower, appeared first on Ecoscenography.
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Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.

Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).

Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)

Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com

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Piloting Strategies: Arts and Land Use

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Kate Foster and Claire Pençak have written this article to highlight the ways that they as artists (visual and dance/choreographic), have been engaged with land use and in particular the development of Land Use Strategy for Scotland through the Borders Region Pilot.  The article specifically responds to a previous piece on ecoartscotland which asks “What can the arts contribute to a Land Use Strategy for Scotland?”

Some of the really central challenges for artists working with land use issues are highlighted by Kate Foster and Claire Pençak including the discipline and practice specific languages used by environmental scientists and land managers as well as the dominance of Geographical Information Systems technologies.  Kate Foster and Claire Pençak’s projects demonstrate some of the best approaches that can be learnt from the past 60 years of ecoart and the longer history of art.


Introduction

Previous posts on this topic have pointed out that government policy has made an ecosystems service approach central. This opens up questions of what to place value on, and if, and when, it is helpful to monetise an ecosystem service. Too often human interests only are considered, leading to ongoing over-exploitation of ‘natural capital’. There has also been concern that intangible cultural elements cannot be recognised by an approach dominated by Geographical Information Systems, and mapping only what exists on the ground.

This article provides an outline of how we (choreographer Claire Pençak and environmental artist Kate Foster, who both live in the Scottish Borders), have worked in parallel to the regional Land Use Strategy pilot that was conducted in Borders Region.

Creative practices can contribute ways of relating to place, and offer alternative meanings and insights that escape conventional appraisal. Artists can act as connectors between disparate approaches, and re-enchant what is overlooked. The work we describe below is marked by a commitment to improvisation and responding to context. Our consistent theme is finding ways for rural-based arts practice to engage with contemporary concerns, regional and international.

Some background to the Land Use Strategy

In way of background information, the government Land Use Strategy initiative stems from the 2009 Climate Change Act (Scotland). The Scottish Borders along with Aberdeenshire was selected to develop a Pilot Regional Strategy, which would ultimately inform the revision of the national Land Use Strategy, to be published later this year. In our region, the process was led by Scottish Borders Council in partnership with Tweed Forum who co-ordinated the stakeholder engagement programme. Tweed Forum is a membership organisation whose collective purpose is to enhance and restore the rich natural, built, and cultural heritage of the River Tweed and its tributaries.

The Land Use Strategy regional framework in the Scottish Borders was developed through mapping and a series of public consultations to seek the views of communities. This came to our attention as it coincided with Working the Tweed, a Creative Scotland Year of Natural Scotland 2013 project which was an artist led partnership project between Tabula Rasa Collaborations, Tweed Forum and Southern Uplands Partnership.

From our vantage point, it was obvious that the LUS pilot strategy was beckoning to artists to contribute to it, but it was a question of how?

The following sections describe different art projects that were considerations of aspects of land use, emerging during the period between the Climate Change Act (Scotland, 2009) and the conclusion of the draft consultation for the Land Use Strategy 2016-2021, in January 2016. We were aware of the pilot regional strategy taking place in our area, and engaged with it by attending public meetings and filling in questionnaires. This activity fed into our work; we were inspired by the ambition of sustainable land use and searched for a way that we could contribute to the debate in a way that was meaningful for us – both as artists and as local residents.

Timeline2

A catchment map as a talking point

Seeking to engage with the Land Use Strategy, we found the vocabulary and frames of reference were clearly suitable for conversing with land managers and land owners who were knowledgeable and skilled at the interface with government and agriculture. We could sense that the kind of language used could be impenetrable, and wouldn’t empower the broader community to connect with the ideas, which is what Tweed Forum were keen to do. Having been to a few of the public consultations, we found it tricky to know how to engage with what seemed a very prescribed, compartmentalised and ‘male’ approach.

The Land Use Strategy pilot project used catchments to identify localities – an idea we had also used as a motif map for Working the Tweed (a project that is described in more detail below). Because a catchment map was not cheaply available in the public domain, we made a hand-drawn version. We found it an evocative image to engage with people. Looking at this catchment drawing moves you from the predominant perception of the Scottish Borders as a series of discrete small towns, towards seeing it as a region connected by the dense network of tributaries to the Tweed. This was an effective means for us to generate conversation and elicit local knowledge and viewpoints, for example by taking stalls in annual agricultural shows.

2. rivermapS

River Ways © Working the Tweed 2013

A Riverside Meeting concerning Resources and Land Use

Working the Tweed was an artist-led Year of Natural Scotland 2013 project that was planned prior to the Land Use Strategy pilot project. It was a nine-month programme that focussed on the diverse ways that people were working with the Tweed waters. It included a series of six riverside meeting with different themes. These meetings brought together professional creative practitioners living and working in the Tweed Catchment with scientists and environmentalists, to stimulate discussion, exchange and creative responses. They took place at different locations in the Tweed Catchment, and each meeting explored a different theme related to the Tweed Catchment Management Plan.

A first step in making the ideas behind the Land Use Strategy more accessible was to use the final Riverside Meeting to focus on two policy strategies being developed in parallel in the Scottish Borders: for culture as well as land use.  The final Riverside Meeting – Mapping the Future Scottish Borders – took place at The Lees fishing shiel on the Tweed at Coldstream and explored the themes of Water Resources and Land Use. Derek Robeson, Senior Project Officer at Tweed Forum, introduced the Land Use Strategy in relation to the Tweed Rivers through the frames of Environment, Culture and Economy. It was an opportunity to look at the maps that had been created through the lens of the Land Use Strategy (e.g. Biodiversity Networks and Resilience, Sporting and Recreation, Agricultural Crops) and to consider land use in the field through a riverside walk. The meeting placed the Land Use Strategy alongside the parallel development of a Cultural Strategy for the Scottish Borders which was introduced by Mary Morrison, Director of the Creative Arts Business Network. This brought a focus on cultural landscapes to the session. The final contributor David Welsh introduced an historical perspective, with his detailed knowledge of how the line of the Border has shifted around each field and burn in its path. In the year of the Independence Referendum this had an added potency. The session as a whole provided a challenge to how artists can work with complex histories and geographies, and engage with uncertain futures. It is fully reported on this link.

At this Riverside Meeting, the point was made that the lifetime of deciduous trees defied the short time frames for which policy is made, typically a five-year period. The mature trees along the River Tweed are evidence of much older strategies of land management.

Salmon scale – a link to different places and timescales

The catchment map acted as a motif for the Working the Tweed project, and provided an overview of our region. This was complemented by looking at something close-up, a scale from the skin of a Salmon (which is smaller than a finger nail).  Looking at magnified scales from migratory fish offered us another lens to perceive different rhythms of time and place that might influence daily life and work in our region.

Like a tree ring, a Trout or Salmon embodies a pattern of its growth into its scales. The Tweed Foundation collects scales from anglers, and accumulates data that helps interpret seasonal changes in the fishing catch. With a microscope an expert eye might see – for example – that a Salmon lived for two winters in the river, with a further winter at sea before returning to the Tweed to spawn.

These scales inspire a step backwards, to consider the larger picture. These fish deserve the name ‘Atlantic Salmon’ because they belong to a species who use ocean currents to drift to cold subarctic waters. Rich feeding to the west of Greenland allows them to mature before returning to their home river in mating mood.

There is room for speculation about future patterns that will be read in Salmon scales. Within ten years perhaps, the North Pole will become a navigable ocean, allowing seasonal passage to the Pacific. What impact will warming oceans have on their migration patterns and the patterns of their scales?

Thus a drawing of a Salmon scale became a second project motif, conveying connectedness to oceans, and hence the world. This led to the reflection that the Land Use pilot strategy was only considering land use within the administrative remit area. From such a narrow frame, events in wider geographical scales become ‘irrelevant’. Conversely, impacts on areas beyond the boundaries as a result of local land use can remain unconsidered.

This is a paradox for legislation stemming from a Climate Change Act, dealing with an international problem that is hard to fix in time or place, and where the actions of people in one place are acknowledged to have distant effects. To quote from an article by the academic Timothy Clark:

Climate change disrupts the scale at which one must think, skews categories of internal and external and resists inherited closed economies of accounting or explanation.  (2012, page 7)

Artists can contribute reminders of the unruliness of more-than-human timescales, explore the possible meanings and experience of climate change, and question the deranged scales in common currency.

We would argue that Salmon are integral to the identity of the Tweed Catchment, and its welfare cannot be seen as separate to the wellbeing of humans.

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Scaling the Tweed © Kate Foster, 2013

Approaching Choreography: A Proposal for Engagement

Following Working the Tweed, Claire Pençak began a research project funded through a Creative Scotland Artist Bursary by considering what a choreographic approach to thinking about Land Use might yield.

Approaching Choreography was an attempt to articulate an environmentally sensitive approach to dance-making and choreography through the frames of Placing and Perspective; Pathways Through; Meetings and Points of Contact and Working with Materials and Sites. It reflects on our positioning and shifts the emphasis from taking centre ‘stage’ towards margins and sidelines. This alternative framework emerged out of a series of riverside improvisations and conversations with dancers Merav Israel and Tim Rubidge, environmental artist Kate Foster and writer/researcher Dr. Wallace Heim. These took place on the Ettrick and Yarrow Waters in the Scottish Borders, and the East and West Allen Rivers in Northumberland.

Claire writes:

Choreography is concerned with space and I started by exchanging the idea of ‘space’ for that of ‘habitat’, and thought of the dancer as both creating and revealing habitat. Through this lens, habitat could be understood as ‘action spaces’ and land use became something that could be considered as performative, emerging and improvisational.

From this I developed a score as a way to proceed, a way to assist imaginative engagement, a way into playful encounters with land.

Further information is available here.

The score offers sixty examples of ways that habitat could be interpreted and worked by the diversity of species that use it – birds, fish, insects, mammals, plants and trees. It is easily understood, does not rely on land management knowledge and acknowledges multi-species. It suggests potential zones of action – on the ground, under the ground and over ground; on the water, underwater and in the air. The score can be cut up, shared, read out and passed on. Further information is available here.

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River Ways © Working the Tweed 2013

This thinking was made into a small illustrated A6 booklet (Approaching Choreography: A Proposal for Engagement) as part of a collaborative project, Speculative Ground which was conducted with Jen Clarke and Rachel Harkness of Aberdeen University.

Stone Lives 

Stone Lives was commissioned by Aberdeen University as a contribution to the Speculative Ground project which also included an exhibition curated by Jennifer Clark and Rachel Harkness at the Anthropological Association Decennial Conference in Edinburgh, in June 2014.

Stone Lives developed from an investigation of riverbank ecology at the meeting point of the Ettrick and Yarrow, at Philliphaugh near Selkirk. Our arrival at the riverbank in an afternoon in late May coincided with a hatch of Stone Flies – aquatic insects emerging from the water to find a stone to air themselves, and shed their final larval form. The river was low and we could walk on the smoothed rock, ancient mudstones shaped and sifted by ice and water.

This is an extract from Kate’s writing on this piece:

This set me on a trail, I collected husks for some days after – keen to find them before river levels rose. I searched online too, learning that of all the insects that live in water, Stone Flies need the cleanest water. They are ecological indicators of healthy streams, flattened and adapted to be able to cling to stones in rapid currents.  Apart from Trout who devour them, they are best known to fishermen, river ecologists and entomologists.  As one source remarks: “they are rather endearing little creatures once you get to know them”.

The fossil record of Stone Flies stretches far back to the Permian, but their adult life is brief.  A juxtaposition of Stone and Fly offers simultaneity at different timescales – a ‘so-far story’ (an idea that is further discussed in an article with Dr. Leah Gibbs and Claire Pençak  available here).

Stone Lives became an artwork inviting anthropologists at an international conference to share a sense of stone, and life supported.

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Documentation of Improvisation and Stone Fly Adult Emergence © Tabula Rasa 2014

Further documentation of Stone Lives is available here.

A bioregional sensibility

We have, so far, offered examples of how visual art, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary events, field work, and improvisational dance practices might offer further ways of thinking about land use. In combination, these directed us towards an ambition of bioregional sensibility, that has been articulated by Mitchell Thomashow:

‘Developing the observational skills to patiently observe bioregional history, the conceptual skills to juxtapose scales, the imaginative faculties to play with multiple landscapes, and the compassion to empathize with local and global neighbours – these qualities are the foundation of a bioregional sensibility…’

M. Thomashow, ‘Cosmopolitan Bioregionalism’, Bioregionalism, ed. M. V. McGinnis (London: Routledge, 1999), pp. 121-32 (pp. 130-31)

Borders Sheepscapes

An earlier project by Kate Foster, Borders Sheepscapes, was an exploration of sheep farming as a major land use in the Scottish Borders. This project is highlighted because it contributed a dimension to our thinking about Land Use Strategies, which are human-centred. The artist’s process of drawing in the field articulated some of the human resources of knowledge, skill and design underlying workaday pastoral scenery – as well as the part that sheep play in producing landscape. This project intended to shift humans from centre stage in landscape appreciation and reached towards a multispecies way of understanding how humans exist in the world.

A later addition to this body of work explored the widespread use of palm oil in livestock fodder through the example of an automated milk supply for orphaned lambs.

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Lac-tek, the electronic mummy © Kate Foster 2012

This work explored both the welcome benefit ‘Lac-tek’ brought to the farmers and possibly the orphaned lambs, and also the presence of palm and coconut oil in the sheeps-milk substitute (and many other animal feeds). Palm oil is an example of a highly controversial commodity, because increasing demand for this product has led to expansion of plantation monoculture in tropical countries, undermining climate change mitigation and creating further environmental injustice.

Carbon Landscapes

The Climate Change Act (Scotland) was a starting point for the Land Use Strategy. Atmospheric pollution by greenhouse gases is a complicated science, but there are straightforward ways that the movement of carbon can be inferred. These are not widely understood. Kate is piloting collaborative work that explores what artists can add to the environmental science of Carbon Landscapes.

The project Flux Chamber created a guide to carbon riverscapes with Dr. David Borthwick and Professor Susan Waldron of Glasgow University.

fcdraw

Image from Flux Chamber series © Kate Foster 2015

You need to have thought about what Carbon Landscapes consist of before you can start to see where carbon exchange between different reservoirs (terrestrial, marine, atmospheric) is taking place. If people are to protect naturally stored carbon, we need to develop sensibility to see how carbon is gained, lost and recycled.

For Peatland Actions, Kate worked with Nadiah Rosli on another pilot project exploring carbon landscapes, that brought together different experiences of the use and exploitation of peatlands in Scotland and South East Asia. The name of the work was derived from a government programme of  peatland restoration, and this piece was shown at the exhibition Submerge, as part of the ArtCOP 2015 programme at the Stove Network, Dumfries.

Nadiah Rosli used social media communications to convey how the toxic haze, that now frequently spreads from Indonesia to other countries in South East Asia, has come to feel normal to her family and friends in Malaysia. The haze from illegal fires makes blue sky  something to exclaim about.

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River Ways © Working the Tweed 2013

Here is an extract from Kate’s description of this collaborative work:

Until recently Mosses have not been valued for their ‘ecosystem services’ but peatbogs are the most effective carbon sinks known. Conversely, peat releases greenhouse gases when it is exposed. Damaged Scottish peatlands are being restored using public money for climate mitigation – but at the same time, peat extraction is pursued privately, for example at Nutberry Moss. I see this, passing by on the A75 to Carlisle. For me (Kate), this grim landscape of carbon emission is a glimpse from the car window. Nadiah Rosli has had to breathe far more damaging airs – the thick toxic haze from fires raging in Indonesian carbon-rich peatlands. Nadiah has courageously communicated about the situation in which Indonesian rainforest is burnt to allow commodity production (including palm oil and paper pulp for western markets). Her approach insists on a focus on environmental justice, including the idea that land abuse should be understood as a crime whose victims include humans exposed to the consequences of atmospheric pollution, amongst many other species.

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Nutberry Moss seen in passing, from a car © Kate Foster 2015

These are ways in which we as artists have worked to open out political attention to land use, to include more-than-human and intangible cultural viewpoints. Short-term economic gain for humans is often the main consideration within our globalised economy. However artist-led projects can explore how different kinds of land use bring both benefits and loss to different parties, by adopting an ecocentric viewpoint and juxtaposing different timeframes and geographical scales. In common with other strands of contemporary art, this work seeks to shift humans from centre stage in landscape appreciation. The anthropocentric idea that extraction of commodities is endlessly possible is challenged by eco-artwork that refuses to work within the deranged scales that are endorsed elsewhere.

Academic work informs our practices in different ways, for example there is a trend in the study of international relations that takes ecology into account. Also, the environmental humanities are producing multispecies perspectives: as Deborah Bird Rose argues, if we fail to grasp the connectivities between human and nonhuman, we cannot have insight into the ramifications of anthropogenic extinction and miss ‘our entangled responsibilities and accountabilities.’

Artists can work with these pioneering and inspiring influences to produce multi-layered understandings of place, which can also be thought of as developing a bioregional sensibility. This feeds into a process of shifting aesthetic appreciation, and being able to recognise patterns of land use – as well as land abuse – within global processes. We would also wish to take the more complex step of helping develop the relationships to place and its inhabitants, humans and others, that a contemporary land ethic requires.

Kate Foster and Claire Pençak, February 2016

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

Go to EcoArtScotland

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The Salmon Surveyor by Janne Robberstad

This post comes from Ecoscenography

Janne Robberstad is a Norwegian stage designer who is passionate about reducing waste in her designs, combining sustainability with creativity and place-based responses. Here, she talks about her sustainable approach on The Salmon Surveyor and how the unique cultural, social and environmental landscape of the Southwest region of Norway inspired her process and aesthetic. You can find out more about her work on her website: http://www.spindelmaker.com

12496428_10156299258010411_3776350336391254622_oBømlo Teater is an amateur theatre on a relatively small municipally on the west-coast of Norway.  There are 12,000 inhabitants located on a labyrinth of 1007 big and small islands. With a wide horizon stretching out beyond the land, the locals are immensely proud of this place they call home. Many of the inhabitants work offshore, as part of the oil-industry or farming Salmon (delivering 10% of the world market). As well as a booming economic market, the west coast has a thriving cultural scene, with three theatres, including Northern Europe’s largest outdoor amphitheatre. It is here that I find myself working amongst lots of half-crazy, creative people committed to making art and theatre.

This is also the background for the show which I designed in April 2015, called The Salmon Surveyor (Lakselinja). Based on Norway’s salmon industry, the narrative of the play deals with the people working on the assembly-line, their monotone daily rhythm (how it allows their minds to wander freely) and their relationships with each other. Part dance-performance, part theatre, the show also includes a unique music composition based on taped sounds from the real assembly-line.12496470_10156299258075411_6041454947268578407_o

The Salmon Surveyor ‘s author and director requested a simple and elegant design, with the potential of using Styrofoam fish-crates as multi-elements. I’ve worked in the theatre for 30 years now and I’ve seen firsthand how there is so much waste after a show simply because there is no storage-space.  As a designer dedicated to working as sustainably as possible, my initial thoughts were to check if Styrofoam would be safe to use (tick) and to see if I could recycle the boxes (tick). Once these aspects were approved, I began working on the aesthetics of the design.

12401682_10156299258085411_239556304560342281_oI was interested in expressing a sense of monotony with the Styrofoam – the institutionalised cleanliness of a food-factory in a massive scale while at the same time, maintaining a sense of poetry. I did this by making walls out of piles of 950 Styrofoam crates that I sourced at a factory only 2km away from the theatre. While it was very simple, when placed together the multitude of boxes had a lovely effect – perfect for the lighting-designer to play with, and for projecting video. 50 of crates were also used on stage by the actors as changeable items (e.g. chairs, beds, TVs, the assembly-line).

12401764_10156299258095411_8186048432705076507_oTo assist with the poetic feel, we collaborated with a local salmon-factory, who provided us with live film footage inside one of the fish-cages. With the music going, it looked like the salmon was dancing along with the actors, in their own ballet!  Another local salmon factory gave us the white overalls. They were pre-used so all we had to do was to cover their logo on the back.

After closing night, 937 of the crates were still in pristine condition and were sent straight to a nearby salmon-factory (only 3km away) to be used directly in their manufacturing process. The remaining 13 were sent back to the Styrofoam-factory, where they were recycled into little plates for the meat-industry. While Styrofoam may not be a particularly sustainable material, we considered it within a closed loop cycle, where The Salmon Surveyor essentially ‘borrowed’ the materials to help support the telling of a local story before being placed back into the assembly line once more.

The post, The Salmon Surveyor by Janne Robberstad, appeared first on Ecoscenography.
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Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.

Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).

Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)

Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com

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Open Call for Artists: Scotland + Venice Project

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland/This post comes from Creative Scotland:

Scotland + Venice provides artists based in Scotland with a valuable platform to showcase their work on the international stage at one of the world’s most prestigious visual arts festivals, the Venice Biennale.

It is a partnership between Creative Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland and British Council Scotland, and is now seeking notes of interest from experienced curators and/or visual arts organisations who will work with them to deliver an ambitious and imaginative project that will run during the Biennale (May 13 to November 26 2017).

The partners expect the selected project to deliver:

  • A significant opportunity for the selected artist/s to produce ambitious and original work, taking into account the particular challenges and opportunities of Venice and the wider context of the Biennale;
  • High impact and visibility within an extremely busy and ever expanding Biennale with a good level of attendance that builds on previous Scotland + Venice presentations;
  • Strong critical and professional responses from within Scotland, the rest of the UK and internationally.

Additionally the partners will work with the selected individual/organisation to deliver:

  • High public and media profile, particularly within Scotland but also in the rest of the UK and internationally;
  • An effective approach to managing the exhibition in Venice and providing a warm and informative welcome to all visitors;
  • Audience development opportunities within Scotland that take a number of forms during the period of the Biennale and beyond;
  • A series of professional development opportunities that build on the previous experience of Scotland + Venice and that sustain the partnerships established with Scotland’s universities and colleges;
  • Increased profile for the visual arts community in Scotland, making the most of the opportunity that Venice affords to increase professional interest in the artists and arts organisations that are permanently based here.

Outline proposals should be completed using the templates provided on the Creative Scotland website and should be submitted to Amanda Catto, Head of Visual Arts at amanda.catto@creativescotland.com by 5pm on 14 April 2016. A shortlist of a maximum of 6 proposals will be established and we will invite the selected applicants to discuss these in more detail at an interview to be held in Edinburgh on 25 April 2016.

The post Open Call for Artists: Scotland + Venice Project appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

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Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

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Ben’s Blog: Happy Museum and Salzburg

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

I made two trips in February to two very different conferences. The Happy Museum Project’s Happy and Green: Connecting Sustainability and Well Being in London aimed to draw out the connections between Sustainability and Wellbeing in support of individual, institutional and societal resilience – and the particular role that culture can play’. The keynote speaker was (Lord) Gus O’Donnell, formerly Cabinet Secretary and Head of the British Civil Service and (among other things) Chair of the Behavioural Insights Team Advisory Board at the Cabinet Office (otherwise known as the ‘Nudge unit’, as it basically follows the approach of Thaler and Sunstein’s book Nudge, about behavioural economics). Also speaking was Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Network.

Gus O’Donnell is an economist, and it shows. He spoke very lucidly about well-being and why it matters, how it can be measured and so on. I enjoyed his talk, but it was very focused on individuals – less about the environment that people operate in and that they have to respond to, and in the end rather simplistic. I spoke to him during the break and he wasn’t a great listener, shall I say: I just heard again what I’d heard in the talk.

Rob Hopkins gave a very inspiring talk about the Transition Network and what they’d done in Totnes, where it started. What they do is amazing and there are some lovely things going on in Totnes, so worth following that up. There are also at least 14 official Transition groups in Scotland, so there may be one near you. Transition always feels a bit small scale to me: I’m never quite sure that all the Transition Towns are ever going to join up enough to make a big change. That’s their thing, though: it’s all based on Think Global, Act Local. Inspiring. As is Tony Butler, the Founder and Chair of the Happy Museum Project.

Ben%2c Shahidul%2c Alain

February was the planet’s warmest seasonally adjusted month on record. Ben has some proof out on the terrace in Salzburg.

Very different was a trip to Salzburg (by cheap train!) for the Salzburg Global Seminar’s 561st session: Beyond Green: The arts as a catalyst for sustainability. It was a great experience, simply because of the quality of the other people there: from the Director of the Ecologic Institute, a sustainability and energy think-tank in Berlin to an ethnobotanist, agrifood-ist and activist from Greece (via Edinburgh), to a live-wire from Jakarta in Indonesia, doing extraordinary things with communities, working from the bottom up. Look at the list of participants to get the idea. We worked hard – 9am to 10pm most days – ate well and slept in a fantastic schloss.

I’m still processing the things I learned and heard. Some were familiar, others new. I was very taken by American ‘civic artist’ Frances Whitehead’s keynote speech in which she touched upon ‘What Artists Know’, her thoughts about the skills, competencies and attributes of artists and what they do. She summarises it well (and more deeply than me here): artists are responsive, they make the visible invisible, they evaluate and analyse. This is central to thinking about how the arts and artists can contribute to action not only on climate change, but other areas of work that are perhaps normally outside the arts. One thing that Frances doesn’t mention is art’s ability – no, almost its requirement – to fruitfully hold in tension ideas and concepts that are at odds with each other. Discussing the seminar with thinker and journalist, Joyce McMillan, after I came back she reminded me of this idea. Whilst politics and other areas either want one idea to ‘win’ or seek compromise to get consensus, the best art sings when the ideas bounce off each other. As a theatre director, the best cast is one with lots of competing opinions – my job is to knit them into an energised whole.

Ben at fireplace

Frances’ list doesn’t include something else she mentioned in her talk: artists use metis – the Greek term meaning ‘strategic knowledge, based in practice’. Artists are clever, cunning – they get things done, but not just out of a general wiliness but one aiming to achieve within a framework and a set of values built on practical and theoretical knowledge. Frances’ own work, using her practice to renew American cities devastated by population shift and post-industrial decline, not only stretches her metis to the full, but also points to how art and artists can contribute to addressing climate change.

Postscript: One gloomy aspect of Salzburg was when I was asked to facilitate a group of the European participants. The other groups covering Asia, the Middle East and Africa, the Americas etc had positive things to say when they fed back but the Europe group was very downbeat, pessimistic about the future and slightly fractious. The issues of the precarious EU, worries about attitudes to migration, Brexit and so on hung over us. It felt very much that we were the old world and facing a difficult future compared to the other regions.

The post Ben’s Blog: Happy Museum and Salzburg appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

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Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

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"Antarctica" panel discussion with artist Lucy Orta

This post comes to you from EcoArtSpace

On February 17th ecoartspace NY curator Amy Lipton participated on a panel discussion with artist Lucy OrtaNYU Professor of Environmental Studies and Philosophy Dale Jamieson, and founder of Parley for the Oceans Cyrill Gutschwho served as moderator for the event.

The discussion took place in conjunction with the Lucy and Jorge Orta exhibition, Antarctica at Jane Lombard Gallery in Chelsea.This ongoing project by the Ortas is based on their expedition to Antarctica in 2007 and was the title of this exhibition, their first solo in New York. Cyrill Gutsch asked the panelists questions about the relationship of art and design to environmental issues and activism. Discussed at length was the artists’ role in raising awareness and confronting urgent, challenging issues such as climate change, sea level rise, food and water shortages, ocean pollution and over-population.

Antarctica featured works created for the artists’ expedition to the Antarctic peninsula, addressing issues such as human survival in adverse situations. The Ortas installed an ephemeral “Antarctic Village” on the continent, composed of 50 domelike sculptures constructed with flags from countries around the world. They also created and raised the first Antarctic Flag, to symbolize the unification of nations around shared common values.

Antarctica embodies utopia: a continent whose extreme climate encourages mutual aid and solidarity, freedom of research, sharing, and collaboration for the good of the planet. The centerpiece of the exhibition was The Antarctic World Passport Delivery Bureau, a traveling installation recently presented at the Grand Palais in Paris during the COP21 UN Climate Summit. Visitors encountered an architectural assemblage made from reclaimed materials, and received a uniquely numbered Antarctica World Passport.  In exchange recipients pledge to support the project’s principles: to take action against the disastrous effects of global warming and strive for peace. Since 2008, 55,000 passports have been printed, and visitors to Lucy + Jorge Orta’s exhibition at the Jane Lombard Gallery were able to to register for their personalized passport edition, and to join this growing community of world citizens. www.antarcticaworldpassport.com

To watch a video segment from the panel discussion please go to this link.

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ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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Call for proposals – Feeding the insatiable – a creative summit – November 9-11 2016

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Real and imagined narratives of art and energy for a troubled planet

This international summit takes place at Dartington Hall in southwest England from 16.30 on November 9 to 16.30 on November 11, 2016.

Encouraging all manner of energy generation through creative intervention and invention and new approaches to scientific enquiry including the quirky, the impossible, the micro and the personal.  Encouraging debate – practical, philosophical, metaphysical, and theoretical – bringing creative minds from many disciplines to bear on these pressing issues.

We also offer an accompanying residential short for three days adjacent to the summit, from Saturday November 11 Monday November 13.  Special pricing is available for both if registered together

Principal partners are Schumacher College, and Regen SW.

Scope

COP21, the climate talks held in Paris in December 2015 produced a breakthrough agreement after twenty years of frustrations, meanderings, compromises, and political squeamishness. The commitment to limit temperature rise to 2°C (whilst aiming for 1.5°C) represents a global commitment to wean the world from dirty energy to cleaner forms in which renewables must inevitably play a significant part: the only way the commitment can be met. This, we were told, ‘was the last chance… and we took it’; not all voices purred so positively but the outcome was broadly embraced.

The politicians and diplomats, it seems, have finally been moved to action. Moving the general populace has proved more difficult. Twenty years of increasingly immoderate language bordering at times on the hysterical, broadly-aligned and finely-honed but progressively panicky science from some of the world’s brightest minds, and even a grudging political consensus has made virtually no impact on how people live and how they consume: energy, food, the planet. In the meantime our government here in the UK sends out the most mixed of messages, lauding the outcome of COP21 whilst legislating to undermine renewable and clean energy and many other initiatives aimed at mitigating harm to the planet. Clean energy becomes a discussion about money, not about our world.

Art can change the world.  Artists have played an important part in every major social change in our society and have an indispensable role today in helping us deal with complex existential challenges.  But issues-laden art can be bombastic, unsubtle and lacking in spirit, particularly when artists insist they have a message to send. Renewable energy can change the world, too. But we don’t have to accept that only industrial scale installations are the answer.

This gathering encourages through creative intervention and invention and new approaches to scientific enquiry all manner of energy generation including the quirky, the impossible, the micro and the personal. It encourages debate – practical, philosophical, metaphysical, and theoretical – about how creative minds and creative spirit can be brought to bear on these issues.

We explore ways in which creative makers and enquirers –– artists, scientists, philosophers, theorists and others –– can increasingly play a part in moving rather than cajoling, inspiring rather than scaring, succouring rather than scourging. The impassioned voice has an essential role to play in shifting the inert and entrenched thinking about how we live in the world, how we consume its resources and how we subvert and circumvent monolithic thinking. The danger lies not in those with abrasively negative views (as panic leads to stridency bordering on the absurd and numbers inevitably dwindle to irrelevancy under the growing weight of evidence), but those who have no views at all.  Flicking the switch is so utterly fundamental to our daily lives that we gasp with horror and puzzlement if it produces no effect.

How can the lights not come on?

Potential topics

This are suggested topics only; the list is not intended to be proscriptive

  • transformational potential of art
  • visioning change
  • imaginative and invented narratives and technologies
  • micro-generation and body-derived energy
  • plant and other organic power generators
  • beyond communication
  • energy and metaphor
  • message and instrumentalisation
  • slow art, process
  • non-literal big data visualisation
  • envisioning the profound
  • aesthetics of art/science
  • using imagination for social change
  • emotion / science
  • sensible / actual
  • new ways of seeing
  • new ways of knowing
  • evolving meaning
  • celebrating authenticity and ethos
  • energy in the animal world
  • ethnographics, big data, climate change, understanding
  • exploring chasms between artists and industry
  • energy futures and questions of design

Keynote speakers

Robert Ferry and Elizabeth Monoian of Land Art Generator Initiative

The Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI), provides a platform for artists, architects, landscape architects, and other creatives working with engineers and scientists to bring forward human-centered solutions for sustainable energy infrastructures that enhance the city as works of public art while cleanly powering thousands of homes.

Laura Watts (IT University of Copenhagen): writer, poet and ethnographer of futures

Laura is a Writer, Poet, & Ethnographer, and Associate Professor in Science and Technology Studies (STS) at IT University of Copenhagen. Her interest is in the effect of landscape on how the future is imagined and made in everyday practice. How might the future be made differently in different places? Over the last fifteen years, she has collaborated with industry and organisations in telecoms, public transport, and renewable energy, to re-imagine how the future gets made in high-tech industry, and how it might be made otherwise.

ICE Art & Energy 200

During the summit we will launch the callout for the ICE Art & Energy prize, an engaging, clean energy generating, international art competition, led by Regen SW and the Institution of Civil Engineers.

The competition challenges outstanding artists and designers to collaborate with civil engineers to construct an iconic piece of public art that also generates energy at scale. The winning piece will be installed in a UK city by 2020.

Day 0: Research Day

During the day on November 9 an invited group of artists, engineers and others will meet to discuss issues around art and renewable energy, public art, ephemeral art, and how to foster closer ties between artists and industry. A summary of this day will be presented during the main summit, and a report published. This meeting will be led by Chris Fremantle, founder of ecoartscotland and is hosted by Schumacher College‘s arts and ecology programme

Find out more

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

Go to EcoArtScotland

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Opportunity: Green Scholarship for Postgraduate Study

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge Scholarship is a competition for prospective and current students wishing to pursue a postgraduate degree with the view that it will help lead to the development of a ‘green themed’ commercial concept.

The competition rewards concepts and ideas that successfully combine sustainability, entrepreneurship and creativity. A judging panel will consider applications that could conceivably be brought to market and potentially make a contribution towards reducing carbon emissions.

The competition is a unique funding opportunity offering students the chance to win a scholarship of up to £20,000 to cover their postgraduate degree tuition fees for up to 3 years.

 

Apply here: http://www.postcodeculturetrust.org.uk/scholarship

Application deadline: March 30th

The post Opportunity: Green Scholarship for Postgraduate Study appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

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Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

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