ecoartscotland

occasional papers #5 WetlandLIFE

Perceptions of wetlands vary considerably – from disease-ridden ‘swamps’ that should be drained for farmland or housing, to wildlife havens generating local employment and enjoyment for thousands of visitors. Meanwhile, the mosquitoes that live in them are typically seen as a nuisance with no useful purpose – few people champion them for their aesthetic or intrinsic value, and their contribution to the resilience of wetland ecosystems remains largely unrecognised.

(OPENING PARAGRAPH FROM THE ARTISTS’ BRIEF FOR WETLANDLIFE)

ecoartscotland published a number of articles on WetlandLIFE and the project’s work with artists Victoria Leslie, Kerry Morrison and Helmut Lemke during 2017 and 2018, including pieces from the artists as well as from other team members including Principal Investigator Tim Acott, Dave Edwards of Forest Research, and Adriana Ford.

The WetlandLIFE project focused on the multiple values of wetlands. It was part of Valuing Nature Programme which set out “…to improve understanding of the value of nature both in economic and non-economic terms, and improve the use of these valuations in decision making.”

WetlandLIFE and the contribution of artists came under scrutiny in a workshop organised by the Art and Artists in Environmental and Landscape Research Today(AALERT) as part of the AALERT4DM project

We have put together all the articles published on ecoartscotland as an issue of our series of occasional papers. We’ve also added Chris Fremantle’s piece for The Nature of Cities which provides a wider context of artists working with wetlands highlighting examples relevant to the major challenges identified by the Ramsar Conventionincluding pollution, biodiversity loss and urban development.

Download the collected articles here.

(Top photo: Tim Acott, Linear Landscape: South Swale Nature Reserve, Kent. From the photoessay ‘Wetlands, Wonder and Place‘. With permission.)

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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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Ecosystem Services and Gaelic report published Pt2

The intersection of the cultural and the ecological highlighted in the previous post, including the ways that artists and cultural practitioners engage with cultural dimensions of biodiversity, in this case manifest in language, engages the cultural sector directly with understanding and articulating ecosystem services. Ecosystem Services and the associated assessments provide a critical method used across environmental research and management. Too often the cultural dimension has been focused by tourism and the role of the arts and culture in opening up understandings of ecosystems has been overlooked.

Dave Pritchard contextualised the Ecosystem Services and the Gaelic language report(NatureScot 2021) in relation to wider policy work being done by different bodies. In terms of language and ecosystems, he highlights:

The cultural services chapter of the status & trends volume of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment places languages in the ecosystem services context – https://www.millenniumassessment.org/documents/document.286.aspx.pdf .

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment produced an excellent report on cultural services http://uknea.unep-wcmc.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=t884TkrbVbQ%3D&tabid=82 . It combines linguistics in the sense of vocabularies with linguistics in the sense of distinct languages.

In the wider context of language as part of intangible cultural heritage, Dave highlights:

The United Nations 2003 ‘Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage’.

There has been specific work to highlight the relationship between intangible cultural heritage and sustainable development (publication in English here other languages also available). UNESCO have developed an interactive interface highlighting the connections between specific exemplary intangible heritage including dance, rituals, festivals and other forms, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

UNESCO and the Convention on Biological Diversity have joint programme and have identified a range of resources https://www.cbd.int/lbcd/resources including publications on cultural and spiritual values of biodiversity. There is more information on the programme here https://www.cbd.int/lbcd/about.

According to Dave, internationally the pre-eminent organisation is Terralingua which promotes understanding and appreciation of the vital value of the world’s biocultural diversity for the thriving of all life on earth.— the diversity of life in nature and culture.

There is also the International Ecolinguistics Association, and its journal Language & Ecology – http://www.ecoling.net/ .

In a Scottish specific context he highlighted Museums Galleries Scotland’s report ‘Scoping and Mapping Intangible Cultural Heritage in Scotland Final Report (PDF)‘ from 2008 (which is on the website of the Fair Scotland, celebrating Scotland’s Show People).

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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Walking Publics/Walking Arts: walking, wellbeing and community during Covid-19

Dee Heddon asked us to share this, and to encourage participation in the research through completing the survey (below). Walking is an everyday activity (more so since the shops have been closed) and also an approach used by artists, whether as part of a social or solo practice, to create personal work or as part of larger projects. Rebecca Solnit says in Wanderlust, “Walking . . . is how the body measures itself against the earth.”


Anecdotes and data alike suggest that during the past year of COVID-19, people have walked more and, when restrictions were in place, such walking was necessarily hyper-local (within a 1-mile radius) or local (with a 5-mile radius). This certainly resembles my experience. I’ve lived in Glasgow for most of my adult life, moving here to attend University at the age of 17, spending a relatively brief 7-years in Devon, and returning in 2006. I’ve only ever lived in the west of the city (Maryhill, Partick, Kelvinbridge, and Hillhead). I thought I knew this area like the back of my hand. This year has taught me that, in fact, I knew very little. As well as walking familiar routes, sometimes daily (Botanic Gardens, River Kelvin), the restrictions also prompted me to do lots of urban drifting, traversing streets not yet walked, finding new (to me) cobbled lanes and mews houses, modern builds tucked around corners and down dead ends, residents’ gardens dotted across the urban landscape, and hidden alleyways. The west end of Glasgow is much more than tenement flats. I’ve also extended my pedestrian reach to new parks, including Dawsholm and Ruchhill, the first home to astounding old woods inhabited by parakeets, the second to the largest daffodil display in Glasgow and resident woodpeckers. I’ve been quite astounded by the city that’s surfaced from beneath my feet.

Walking and Covid research project / University of Glasgow Photograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000 http://www.martinshields.com © Martin Shields

Since 2010 I’ve been following, writing about and practicing walking as a cultural practice, first by interviewing women artists about their walking work and secondly by launching my own creative walking projects (40 Walks and The Walking Library). Now I embark on a new venture: exploring people’s experiences of walking during COVID-19, with a particular focus on felt experiences and the intersection of walking and creativity. At a time when restrictions have kept us physically distanced, the well-placed coloured stones or chalked messages seem to have been deployed artfully to keep us socially connected, and to keep our walking joyful and engaged. There are a lot of artists in the UK who identify as “Walking Artists”, and many of them have continued to create walking work this year, adapting their practice to the new landscapes within which we find ourselves. A brief scan also suggests that some artists have turned to walking as a new material for their creative practice, something that can still connect, can be convivial or restorative or attentive, and be undertaken safely. 

‘Walking Publics/Walking Arts: walking, wellbeing and community during Covid-19’ is an 18-month research project, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. We are exploring the potential of the arts to sustain, encourage and more equitably support walking during and recovering from a pandemic. You can find out more at www.walkcreate.org 

We’ve launched the project with two surveys about walking during COVID-19, one for the general public and one for artists who have used walking in their practice.

The aim of our research is to understand more about how creative practices can be used to support more people to walk well, during and out of a pandemic. We look forward to sharing our findings, but to help us please do complete one of our surveys. 


Dee Heddon is Professor of Contemporary Performance at the University of Glasgow(UK). She is a practice-based researcher and has published articles in peer-reviewed journals, as well as academic monographs and book-chapters. She is well known for her interest in autobiographical performance, site-specific performance and walking art.

(Top photo: Dee Heddon / University of Glasgow Photograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000 http://www.martinshields.com © Martin Shields)

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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Ecosystems Services and Gaelic Report published

NatureScot recently published a report on the relevance of Gaelic language, place names, literature and song, tradition and folklore to assessing ecosystem services. This is a very significant development in approaching ecosystem service assessment through a cultural lens, understanding that culture is not just tourism and beauty spots, but is the articulation of values, uses and meanings.

The Gaelic heritage of Scotland, despite being largely ignored by authorities and academics concerned with land and marine management, has much to offer those who seek to analyse how Scottish ecosystems might, and do, provide services to the population of the country and beyond. The Gaelic language, and its attendant culture and heritage give a unique and informative window on the landscape and natural ecosystems, and human interactions with both, in the Scottish Highlands, over a very long period, and therefore possess relevance for the Scottish people’s collective view of their land and its management, now and in the future. In this scoping report, the author explores Gaelic toponymy, literature and oral tradition, as they impinge upon Ecosystem Services, and makes twenty recommendations for future, detailed research on these issues

RESEARCH REPORT NO. 1230 ‘ECOSYSTEM SERVICES AND GAELIC: A SCOPING EXERCISE’

The next challenge is to explore how contemporary artists are involved in this. Artists across every artform as well as designers are engaged in the cultural ways of understanding ecosystems. Prof Murdo Macdonald explored Gaelic, colour and the indigenous plant life of Scotland in a paper given to the Black Wood of Rannoch Workshop, Kinloch Rannoch, 22 November 2013 organised by Collins and Goto working with Forest Research.

He concludes saying, 

To use another phrase from Gregory Bateson, ‘mind and nature’, what I have argued here is that, whether one looks at the Gaelic alphabet with its botanical references, or the landscape subtlety of Gaelic colour words, the Gaelic language facilitates the understanding of ‘mind and nature’ as integral to one another.

HTTPS://MURDOMACDONALD.WORDPRESS.COM/ALPHABET-COLOUR-GAIDHEALTACHD-AN-ECOLOGY-OF-MIND/

image from Alec Finlay/Gathering website

One example is poet and visual artist Alec Finlay – his work Gathering is just one example. 

Gathering is an innovative mapping of the Highland landscape in poems, essays, photographs, and maps, conceived by Scottish artist and poet Alec Finlay. The work guides the reader to modest and forgotten places in this complex region.

Finlay worked from Adam Watson’s published collection of names, one of the most significant modern contributions to Scottish folk-culture consisting of over 7,000 local place-names, covering every ruined farm, shieling, hill, glen, spring, burn, and wood in the region. Over a period of years, Finlay expanded Watson’s catalogue into a generous ‘ecopoetic’ and ‘place-aware’ account of the Cairngorms, accompanied by photographs showing the hills in all their seasonal variety. Essays guide the reader to names that reveal the haunts of wolves and wildcats, and cast a vivid impression of the great pinewoods that once grew there, and may again.

HTTP://GATHERING-ALECFINLAY.BLOGSPOT.COM/

screenshot from Mapping the Sea website

Another is Stephen Hurrel and Dr Ruth Brennan’s Mapping the Sea project which also focuses on place names and the seascape.

The idea of a dynamic map – to reflect intergenerational knowledge, fishermen’s ways of knowing the sea and the intangible cultural heritage* of the marine environment – had been discussed by Brennan and MacKinnon, and Hurrel proposed the idea of an interactive digital map. This was subsequently developed by Hurrel and Brennan as a way of bringing to life, and making visible, what is often invisible to most people.

HTTP://WWW.MAPPINGTHESEA.NET/BARRA/

There are many other examples of these approaches which need to inform ecosystem service assessment processes.

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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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Unfix in conversation

ecoartscotland has worked with UNFIX, the DIY festival of performance on several occasions, including in 2019 when we hosted Christiana Bisset’s embedded artist project. Chris Fremantle and Anne Douglas also performed at UNFIX 2019, with selected readings from the works of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison. 

With the next iteration of UNFIX planned for this summer, possibly with some haptic elements as well as some digital, Chris Fremantle met with Paul Michael Henry and Ane Lopez. They discussed performance as everyday life, what UNFIX stands for and how it relates to other projects that question our culture, as well as the climate emergency.

UNFIX 2021 is in partnership with The Barn in Aberdeenshire as well as CCA in Glasgow, and the Open Call for Proposals (deadline 2 April) includes opportunities to work with both those organisations.

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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David Haley ‘Going beyond Earthly’

Editor’s introduction:

The Barn, Banchory, has always had an environmental dimension, including allotments, a wild garden, biofuel boilers and shares the site with Buchanan’s, a slow food bistro. But as the largest rural multi-arts centre in Scotland, The Barn has used the challenges of Covid and the impact on the performing arts to rethink what it might mean to be an ecological organisation. To do that, amongst other initiatives, the team created the Becoming Earthly programme to engage with artists also interested in the question of what it means to be terrestrial. For the initial phase eleven artists/practices participated from across the visual and performing arts. This programme involved seven sessions, each led by a different person [1], and had physical, reflective as well as discussion elements. As David explains, Becoming Earthly isn’t a conventional project. It has generated its own energy and is continuing.

Chris Fremantle was an Associate Producer on the programme, and he put out a call to participants to reflect on what Becoming Earthly meant to them. This is David Haley’s response. The poem above and at the bottom is David Haley’s alternative to an image.


Reflection

This is not a review of Becoming Earthly and given the brevity of this text, much has been omitted, particularly the contributions of individuals at The Barn and each of the Session Leaders. The question is, how did Becoming Earthly influence my practice and thinking? This reflection starts with my application to Becoming Earthly:

Question: Emancipation from outmoded industrial urban infrastructures, corporate digital technologies and oppressive education is vital for human ecological resilience; how may we regenerate fundamental culture for critical recovery with Earth?

Expectation (extracts): I hope Becoming Earthly will enable me to explore and learn with others, new ways of thinking and doing to generate the critical mass for transition beyond the current straightjacket of social norms … I hope that we (will seek) timely, regenerative means of listening to others, human and non-human alike.

Together we may pursue diverse ‘capable futures’ to create the capacity to dream with passion, hope and grace.

Structure – Form – Process

Having the opportunity was very important, because it represented acceptance. Even as a mature artist, researcher and ecopedagogue, I still need assurances that the work I do is relevant, so being offered a place with Becoming Earthly (BE) was/is important. Zoom is a very particular environment to interact with others and given the ongoing pandemic, it is one that some of us accept as the ‘new normal’, some view as a great techno-communications advancement and others as a necessary evil. However, I think we must remain aware that it is not the same as meeting people face to face and it brings with it both favours and disadvantages different people’s communication and learning skills. At times, I find it difficult to contain my enthusiasm and have to rein myself in to ensure that others have space and time. Managed with care, as a co-learning dialogue, BEhelped my awareness to aim for listening in creative Zoom encounters I have created or participated in since.

Content, Relevance & Context

Given the conversational limitations of Zoom, notions of transition, transformation and regeneration did emerge and continue to do so. Some political widely/deeply cultural issues were explored beyond merely topical concerns, but overt expressions of outrage and passion are still considered unacceptable in polite society.

As for art and ecology, BE directly and indirectly touched on some aspects, particularly with John Newling’s work. While all participants seemed to be interested in his form of working and thinking, for some it seemed to be a relatively new phenomenon, so I learned that there is still a great need for further discourse on what ecological art might be and might become. Indeed, triggered by BE, the notion of ‘beginners mind’ [2] is something I have returned to.

There was some disquiet around the provision of academic texts, their relevance to artists and non-academic people. Personally, I wasn’t an academic until I, as an artist, needed to read and reflect upon complex issues. Given our contemporary, gross consumption of instant information and hyped culture of digital media, the texts provided by each session leader continue to provide good challenges and alternative perspectives for my slow thinking. It is worth noting the trust that built throughout the sessions, so maybe folk who were concerned about potential ‘academicism’ will be reassured and take the time to return to the texts.

Other Insights

Opening-up. Even as an aged, white, educated, male, artist, I thought of myself as pretty radical and empathetic to/with issues of colonialism and intersectionality, however BEopened me up to much deeper ‘acknowledgement’ – in the sense of John Coltrane’s Love Supreme, Part 1 [3] – re-examining the context in which we live, I see as essential to the process of BE. My reading has since found new paths of exploration, particularly around intersectionality, colonialism and nuances of pedagogy that previously I only saw as dialectical – rationalised arguments of political realities, now giving way to empathetic understanding. Dialogue as an art form is something I have been engaged with since the mid-90s and I immersed myself in Socratic and critical forms of dialogue, but BE expanded my capacity for feeling/experiencing perhaps, even empathising with these issues. And as personal transformative challenges, these are now embedded in my practice and engagement with others. Practically, I gained confidence and some skills to facilitate a series of Zoom, storying workshops with people experiencing stress and anxiety issues, What’s your story?.

Session 8 – BE was seven sessions, but ‘Unfinished…’ was generated by Paolo Maccagno’s initiative to self-organise. A great idea that takes the ‘what next?’ to a specific place of possible transformation, based on self-determinism. I like the idea of ‘Unfinished…’. It suggests evolutionary becoming, beyond hegemony; a dynamic to counteract many of society’s solution-led myths and takes Heidegger’s notion of daseinto that of grace (non-Christian) or becomingness [4]. If it works, it may emerge into a ‘Living Knowledge Network’; if it doesn’t, like most evolutionary events, it will at the very least have provided an opportunity…

Dreaming. Occasionally, at 3.30 in the morning, I find myself dreaming of cows at play, without guilt – an unresolved paradox that resonates from Wallace Heim’s session that found synergy between Play, Shame and Care.

Historically, emancipation takes time, sometimes a long time, for the conditions to be right. That is when ‘the most moral act of all is to create the space for life to move onwards’ [5] and when the time is right, like all revolutions, it will happen, ‘all at once and all together’ [6]. Becoming Earthy contributed generously to the former. I now await the latter; maybe a Second Becoming…?


down to earth dreaming

on becoming an artist

again and again


David Haley makes art with ecology, to inquire, learn and teach. He publishes, exhibits and works internationally with ecosystems and their inhabitants, using images, poetic texts, walking and sculptural installations to generate dialogues that question climate change, species extinction, urban development, transdisciplinarity and ‘critical recovery’ for ‘capable futures’.


Notes

[1] including Wallace Heim, Paolo Maccagno, John Newling, and Johan Siebers.

[2] Suzuki, S, (2020) Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: 50th Anniversary Edition Paperback. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala Publications Inc.

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Pi5ZJZ07ME and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Love_Supreme

[4] Hodge, J. (1995) Heidegger and Ethics. London: Routledge

[5] Pirsig, R. (1993) Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals. London: Black Swan, 407

[6] Harrison, N (2017) On The Deep Wealth Of This Nation, Scotland. Lecture for The Barn at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.

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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Reviewer needed: Earth Writings

Robin Wall Kimmerer helps us to understand how humans can be important parts of living systems in our interactions with other living things (Braiding Sweetgrass). Gary Snyder discusses ‘reinhabitants’. Barry Lopez identifies three qualities that are for him critical in indigenous peoples’ ways of living.

…three qualities – paying intimate attention; a storied relationship to a place rather than a solely sensory awareness of it; and living in some sort of ethical unity with a place… (Barry Lopez, ‘We are shaped by the sound of wind, the slant of sunlight’. High Country News, 1998)

ecoartscotland is looking to commission a response to or reflection on the book Earth Writings. The four practices highlighted all offer very different ways of thinking about art practice from conventional constructions. If you are interested please send a short note outlining your interest with links to two relevant pieces of your own writing to chris [at]fremantle [dotorg] .

Earth Writings (2020) is a richly illustrated arts book of essays, artwork, and exhibition vignettes that explore a range of Irish environments — Bogs, Forests, Fields, Gardens — through four artists creative practices. Written as an invitation to think and act differently about our current earth crises, readers learn how healthier places and worlds can be made through the work of MONICA DE BATH, CATHY FITZGERALD, PAULINE O’CONNELL and SEOIDÍN O’SULLIVAN, artists working in southwest Ireland who, to borrow Donna Haraway’s (2016) words, ‘stay with the trouble’. Scholars PATRICK BRESNIHAN, NESSA CRONIN, GERRY KEARNS and KAREN E. TILL, respectively, engaged with the artists and collaborated to write short essays that reflect upon the artists’ embedded ecological and social practices that make ‘kin in lines of inventive connections’ (Haraway, 2016). Introductions by LUCINA RUSSELL (Kildare County Council Arts Service) and Karen E. Till (Maynooth University Department of Geography), with a short inset of 2019 exhibition images and artist’s statements.

More info at earthwritings.ie

earth-writings-toc

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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Top 10 Discard Studies articles of 2020

Yes, 2020 was a dumpster fire. To celebrate its end, we think back on than a year’s worth of trashy insights. Here are the top ten posts from Discard Studies in 2020 as determined by our readers! Here’s what you all read the most:

#10: A history of New York City’s solid waste management in photographs (2013)

The New York City Department of Sanitation is the largest sanitation department in the world, and the only department with both an artist-in-residence and an anthropologist-in-residence. Not only does the DSNY continue to pick up waste and snow, it is also integral as first responders in urban disasters, such as 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. This is an abbreviated history via archival photographs of NYC’s municipal waste collection history, posted in 2013 but still viewed regularly. We hear there’s a sanitation museum on the way in New York City, so readers rejoice!

One of George Waring’s White Wings cleans NYC streets, 1880s.

#9: There’s no such thing as We by Max Liboiron

The ninth most read article this year was written only two months ago. It’s about how universalism eliminates and controls crucial aspects of difference. Evoking the universal “we” is a technique of discarding through differentiation in a way that upholds dominant power dynamics. If you’ve ever been convinced by claims that “we” are destroying the planet, or “we” have failed to advert environmental catastrophe, or “we” are consuming out of control, this post is for you. 

#8: Ethnographic Refusal: A How To Guide (2016) by Alex Zahara

This article has been in the top ten since its publication in 2016. Researchers have the potential to uncover particularly sensitive information that, when revealed, may have very real social and material consequences for research participants and their communities. Examples of this could include the presence of contamination (in places, bodies or animals), access to knowledge that is considered sacred, or interview responses that are political and potentially identifying. Additionally, we might be given access to potentially painful community events and experiences. As researchers interested in justice, how do we proceed helpfully and ethically in our research in such situations? Read on.

This image of a pregnant Inuk woman was taken during a four month long dump fire that occurred in the Arctic community of Iqaluit, Nunavut. During the fire, pregnant women and women of childbearing age were warned not to go outside due to risks of dioxin contamination. The Inuktitut syllabics written on her hand read ‘Taima’ or ‘enough’, referring to decades of government underfunding that contributed to this and many other dump fires. The image is an example of refusal, as the image refuses to depict Inuit as passive victims of slow violence, instead redirecting attention towards government institutions. The image was distributed to media outlets and became the Facebook profile photo of a local ‘Stop the Dump Fires’ protest group. Photo by Shawn Inuksuk, 2014.

#7: Introduction to Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (2015) by Anne Dance

A 2015 review with staying power! The central argument in Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor—that there’s a long history of people and their homes being treated as disposable—is worth restating. It’s worth shouting from the rooftops. Slow Violence is also a call to spend more time with literary efforts that stretch our understanding of temporal and spatial violence while evoking empathy without complacency, works that show how communities and individuals have lived with the ongoing legacies of this violence.

#6: The Art of Mould (2012)

It was a slow day in the office in 2012 when we put together this digital gallery of mouldy art. Really, it;s just some beautiful images of artists who use mould as a medium. Something about 2020 brought viewers in. It is beauty in slow destruction, after all.

Daniele Del Nero, After Effects, paper, flour, mould.

#5: Municipal versus Industrial Waste: Questioning the 3-97 ratio (2016) by Max Liboiron

A central framing question in discard studies is about the scale of different type of waste. This article from 2016 remains a touchstone that analyzes (and links to!!) some of the central figures in waste and disard studies: the oft-quoted statistic that municipal solid waste accounts for only three percent of the waste in the United States, and the world. It’s said that the remaining 97 percent is industrial. But how is that number made? Is it reliable? We dig deep.

Chart by the author, based on figures from MacBride 2012, Royt 2007, EPA 1987.

#4: Waste is not matter out of place (2019) by Max Liboiron

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a zillion times: trash is matter out of place. Waste is dirt. Or is it? Max Liboiron doesn’t think so, for two reasons: first, they find that many, many scholars are using the idea of matter out of place in contradictory ways that have acute implications for theories of power. This is important because many of us who might self identify with the field of discard studies are dedicated to justice and good relations in our work, and conflating different theories of power may actually have effects that scholars are opposed to! That is, scholars and students may be against oppression and would like to intervene into structures of power, but their use of “matter out of place” conflates different theories of power that can actually allow techniques of power to go unnoticed, and may even contribute to naturalizing them. Secondly, when they dug into the work of uncovering the uses and circulations of “matter out of place,” the editors of Discard Studies, three seasoned scholars of discard studies, came across some surprises! In short, while “matter out of place” has been used to talk about both blue bins and concentration camps, our theories should be able to distinguish between them.

#3: Waste Colonialism (2018) by Max Liboiron

Waste colonialism describes how waste and pollution are part of the domination of one group in their homeland by another group. The concept has been gaining traction since the 1990s to explain patterns of power in wasting and pollution. Because all waste and pollution are about power by maintaining structures that designate what is valuable and what is not, understanding the role of colonialism in waste is crucial for understanding waste and power generally. 2020 is a year where new forms of waste colonialism and imperialism have taken shape during the pandemic (particularly in flows of tourism and the class and racialization of essential workers that are both heroes and disposable simultenously), and in the effects of climate change and how the gains and burdens of extreme weather and wildfires are playing out at massive scales.

#2: Toxins or Toxicants? Why the difference matters (2017) by Max Liboiron

This very short article from 2017 has been making the rounds in 2020. Toxins are poisons produced within living cells or organs of plants, animals, and bacteria. Toxicants are synthetic, human-made, toxic chemicals. The article argues that the difference is not merely one of semantics, but of justice.

#1: Map of 40 most influential environmental justice conflicts in the US (2015) by Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade

Our top post this year is, once again, a map. In 2016 and 2019 it was our number two. In 2017 and 2018 it was our number one and it is again this year! What staying power!  It shows the 40 most influential environmental justice conflicts in recent American history  included in a Global Atlas of Environmental Justice. In the United States, decades of research have documented a strong correlation between the location of environmental burdens and the racial/ethnic background of the most impacted residents. In an effort to choose landmark cases in the U.S. the team from University of Michigan elicited feedback from more than 200 environmental justice leaders, activists, and scholars in identifying these case studies.

“The map shows some of the most representative environmental justice conflicts in the United States. In an effort to choose landmark cases we elicited feedback from more than 200 environmental justice leaders, activists, and scholars in identifying these case studies. These cases represent a range of time periods, geographic regions, communities, and environmental challenges. However, they are only a very small subset of the many influential case studies that have contributed to the U.S. environmental justice movement past and present.”


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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Call for Artists, The Nature of Cities Festival

The Nature of Cities’ Forum for Radical Imagination on Environmental Cultures (FRIEC) is calling for proposals.

“It is our pleasure to invite your submission for artistic contributions at The Nature of Cities Festival, a global virtual gathering of interdisciplinary thinkers and doers working toward greener cities for nature and all people.

We will review submissions for artworks, performances, films, interventions, micro-talks, and practical workshops about cities and nature that resonate with the theme: radical imagination with nature and all people

Submissions open to 30 January 2021.

Festival February 22-26, 2021

Read more here…

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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Deep Mapping Lough Boora – artists and peatlands

with additional writing by Gill Fremantle

Tim Collins and Reiko Goto Collins have spent the past year visiting the Midlands of Eire undertaking a Deep Mapping of Lough Boora. The thing they were invited to visit is a twenty-year old Sculpture Park looking for a new direction. The resulting publication By Collis and Goto is intended to contribute to the goal of an “exceptional and sustainable artistic vision” which will inform the future development of this Sculpture Park in the Land and Environmental Arts facility in Lough Boora Discovery Park.

Below you will find some key points on why peatlands are a current focus of policy intervention, and then you’ll find some examples of other artists and writers drawing attention to peatlands, working with scientists and communities, and representing peatlands to distant communities.

Collins and Goto describe ‘deep mapping’ as, “an attempt to become conscious of a place and its multiple layers of experience, meaning and value.” They say that is ideally a collective exercise which requires, “a commitment to lived histories and current discourse, walking and talking with a wide mix of people wherever possible.”

The land of Lough Boora Sculpture Park has a long and varied story to be interrogated. 10,000 years ago, with the end of late Devensian Glaciation, the depositing of fen plants, forest, heather and sphagnum started a process of forming the raised bogs. 

This landscape became the focus of resource extraction which “heated irish homes for centuries” and created jobs, prosperity and communities. Eventually, however, the move from resource extraction to renewable energy and land management became the new driver of change. 

The development of the award-winning Sculpture Park in the new millennium brought a different animation to the landscape as aesthetic and community values became of greater importance. This transformation of the land was both a success and a struggle. Just as the choices to previously experimentally reinvent the land with a variety of planting techniques was never straight forward, so it was with how to best make art which “opens a space to imagine new social, ecological and economic relationships.”

Read more on Tim Collins and Reiko Goto-Collins on Deep Mapping, ‘A dialogue about bogs, energy, art and landscape futures’ and listen to a narrative of the project…

You can download the Collins + Goto Deep Mapping book as a pdf or order a physical copy.

Why peat?

Peatlands are currently a focus at international, national and regional levels including in global environmental policy, UK and other national policy, and in Scottish Government policy and strategy.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, along with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Wetlands International and other institutions launched the Global Peatlands Initiative at the UNFCCC COP22 in 2016. This highlights, 

“Peat is partially decayed plant material that accumulates under water-logged conditions over long time periods. Natural areas covered by peat are called peatlands. Terms commonly used for specific peatland types are peat swamp forests, fens, bogs or mires. Peat is found around the world – in permafrost regions towards the poles and at high altitudes, in coastal areas, beneath tropical rainforest and in boreal forests.

Peatlands store large amounts of carbon. Although they cover less than three per cent of global land surface, estimates suggest that peatlands contain twice as much as in the world’s forests.”

And goes on to highlight threats, 

“The major threat to the peat carbon stocks globally is drainage. Drained peatlands are mainly used for agriculture and forestry, and peat is extracted for horticulture and energy production. Drainage of peatlands and poor management can result in a variety of problems, the most obvious of which are large and persistent peat fires, such as those in parts of Southeast Asia and Russia in recent years.

In addition to the often reported recent loss of tropical peatlands, degradation remains a significant source of emissions in many temperate and boreal countries after decades of non-sustainable use. In boreal areas, permafrost is thawing, causing land subsidence and potentially leading to high greenhouse gas emissions. Further degradation and loss of peat ecosystems, regardless of their location, could seriously hamper climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts and the achievement of the Paris Agreement.”

The UK Government’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) Natural Capital Account has a section on Peatlands which highlights, 

  • around 12% of the UK land area. 
  • provides over a quarter of the UK’s drinking water and 
  • stores a significant amount of carbon making it an 
  • important habitat for providing both provisioning and regulating ecosystem.
  • major tourist destination and provide cultural history 
  • form some of the UK’s most extensive wild spaces and are 
  • rich in rare and endangered wildlife boosting the UK’s biodiversity.

Key UK challenges identified include:

  • peatlands form both the highest and lowest value agricultural lands
  • agriculture on lowland peats, mainly in the east of England, include areas of high cropping value. However, this activity on peatlands has a negative impact on the peat from drainage and ploughing activities. It is estimated croplands on peat emit a total of 7,600 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per year (kt CO2e yr-1) in the UK.

Key drivers of peatland restoration programmes:

  • conservative estimates of the benefits of meeting the committee on climate change objective of having 55% of peatland in good status were of the order of £45 billion to £51 billion over the next 100 years.

Further detail can be found here https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/environmentalaccounts/bulletins/uknaturalcapitalforpeatlands/naturalcapitalaccounts 

Artists and Writers

Robert Macfarlane

Robert Macfarlane’s essay on ‘counter-desecration’ challenges the assumption that the Brindled Moor on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides is a ‘wet desert’. He draws together the arguments for understanding the moor as a lived in place with a deep cultural history and not merely terra nulis to be used for a wind farm. His essay re-frames our understanding of the landscape with the explicit intention of affecting landscape decision-making. Macfarlane on the essay which appears in his collection Landmarks.

In Situ and The Gatherings – part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership

Pendle Mobile Hut has been commissioned by In-Situ and Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership. The hut was designed and made by artist and architect Nick Wood of How About? Studio. It is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.

The Gatherings is a strand of work developed by arts organisation ‘In-Situ’ http://www.in-situ.org.uk/ as part of the £2.4m Pendle Hill Landscape Partnershipscheme, managed by Forest of Bowland AONB. In-Situ characterises itself as ‘embedding arts into everyday life’.

The Gatherings is described as follows,

The Gatheringscame about because of the recognition for the need to open up access to the Pendle Hill Landscape and introduce artists and creative processes to explore the hill and its past, its ecosystems and the way people connect with it. As In-Situ, we are able to bring to the project our experience of working with people in place connecting people and re-positioning how we experience a place through art or artists interventions and processes, which often involve conversation, listening and working in response to these.

Through The Gatherings we are aiming to find longer term approaches and collaborations with artists and embedding artists into longer term programmes. Through differences in the way we commission artists, support the artistic process and encourage a slower, more embedded way of working in place, we are challenging the traditional ways that artists are commissioned to work in the landscape.

Rather than bring something to a place and say “this is art”, we aim to find better or more embedded ways to work with artists in the landscape that lead to more unexpected, subtle or meaningful interventions – and there is likely not be a visible permanent end result. This is challenging because it involves risk on both sides, as it is not always clear what the result or methods will be from the outset, and is a slow process involving investment of time in getting many people on board and talking and revising, honing ideas in a collaborative way.”

https://pendlehillproject.blogspot.com/2019/10/the-gatherings-what-its-all-about.html?m=1

In Situ have delivered a number of elements within the Partnership, including: 

  1. commissioning a bespoke mobile hut, a touring art space, to be used as part of engagement across the project https://www.in-situ.org.uk/pendle-hut
  2. artists Daisy James and Hannah Kay, aka Lunchtime Practice have been working on an archaeology commission called ‘Beyond the Dig’ https://www.in-situ.org.uk/lunchtime-practice 
  3. a full-scale touring performance based on Five Verses on Six Sacks of Earth, a micro opera by artists Nastassja Simensky and Rebecca Lee. https://www.in-situ.org.uk/5-stacks 
  4. ‘Pendle Peat Pie’ is a new regional dish developed by environment artist Kerry Morrison and local chef Andy Dean, in conversation with Sarah Robinson, a Conservationist and Ecologist. https://www.in-situ.org.uk/peat-pie 
  5. Working with peatland ecologists to engage public in restoration processes (by asking people to carry small bags containing Cotton Grass up the hill with them for planting at the top), potentially to be developed into large scale performative work;
  6. Isabella Martin will be exploring the Pendle landscape and learning about the heritage of its drystone walls and hedges working with rural business partners.
Kate Foster, Galloway Glens and international projects
Kate Foster, line-drawing responded to the idea that Sphagnum species (bog-forming mosses) are typically 85% water.

Peat Cultures, Kate Foster’s work in the context of the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership. She worked with the Crichton Carbon Centre to pilot aspects of a wider project, Peatland Connections (2020-2023), which has a twin focus on restoration and engagement.

Foster’s approach draws on ‘citizen science’ approaches opening up the work of ecologists and hydrologists to wider participation.  A future series of workshops will enable those living in and around the Galloway Glens to understand the scientific processes of data gathering, measurement, etc, underpinning the peatland restoration project through hands on participation.

You can read a more detailed summary in Creative Carbon Scotland’s Library of Creative Sustainability. And joint blog post between Kate Foster and Kerry Morrison here.

Foster has also undertaken a residency in Wageningen University in the Netherlands with a creative investigation, Veencultuur, concerning entwined Dutch peatland histories. She supports the work of Re-Peat, including participation in the 24 hour Global Peat Fest. RE-PEAT is an international youth-lead organisation registered in The Netherlands, with members in the United Kingdom, Germany, Estonia, Sweden, and Chile. Re-peat’s creative campaigns include members studying peat at a university level, working with peat in a scientific field, and also simply amateur enthusiasts.

‘Mending the Blanket’, pantea and Kate Foster, 2020. 

Kate says,

“We made this short animated film to show how wetlands are now being valued across the world. An example from a remote part of Southern Scotland pays tribute to the commitment needed to restore a ‘blanket’ peatbog. Our Iranian – Scottish creative collaboration seeks to find new ways to say why wetlands benefit people, wildlife and landscape.”

Hannah Imlach, Cryptic and Flows to the Future

Flows to the Future, a Landscape Partnership led by RSPB and focused on the peatlands in Caithness and Sutherland, involved a number of artists residencies including by Hannah Imlach. The following film introduces Hannah’s approach.

You can read Hannah Imlach’s thoughts about working with Flows to the Future here.

Cryptic, a Glasgow based internationally-renowned producing art house, brought the Flow Country Blanket Bog to the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh in 2019 with the installation Below the Blanket, https://www.cryptic.org.uk/portfolio/below-the-blanket/ 

Note

A previous version of this was prepared for Art and Artists in Landscape and Environmental Research Today (AALERT) Landscape Decisions (AALERT 4DM) project and we are planning to develop further resources on this subject. Please contact ecoartscotland if you have other examples of arts, design and creative approaches to working with peat and peatlands that you think contribute to landscape decision-making.

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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