Receptivity

Approaches to Arts-based Environmental Education by Jan van Boeckel

Image from Nature Art Education site

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

The Shorelines Symposium which took place at Rozelle Maclaurin included presentations by two keynotes Ian McGilchrist (author of The Master and his Emissary), Chris Drury (artist) as well as a number of others.

The Symposium was organised in conjunction with Alison Bell and Cathy Treadaway‘s exhibition Shorelines currently at in the Maclaurin Galleries.  It was great that a Symposium of this quality took place in Ayr.  We need more of this quality of thinking and discussion.

Jan van Boeckel of the Nature – Art – Education research group at Aalto University, School of Art and Design, Helsinki, gave a short paper entitled Angels talking back and new organs of perception: Art making and intentionality in nature experience.  He has provided the abstract and link to the full paper.

ABSTRACT

This article is about the role of artistic process in connecting to the natural environment. In my research I have explored what participants experienced and learned when they engage in different types of arts-based environmental education (AEE) practices that I have facilitated. The premise of AEE is that efforts to learn about our (natural) environment can effectively take their starting point in an artistic activity, usually conducted in groups.

I found that, on the whole, two major orientations can be distinguished. One starts from the point of aesthetic sensibility: the tuning in with the senses, or with “a new organ of perception” (Goethe), in order to perceive “the more than human” with fresh new eyes. This tradition can be traced back to (but is by no means limited) to the Romantic Movement. Art in this context may help to amplify the receptivity of the senses and strengthen a sense of connectedness to the natural world.

The other major orientation in seeking bridges between nature and art builds on a view of artistic process as leading to unexpected outcomes and “emergent properties.” The fundamentally singular experience of making a work of art may evoke an aesthetic object that becomes a “self-sufficient, spiritually breathing subject” (Kadinsky). The art work can be spontaneously generative and multi-layered with meanings, some of which even ambiguous and paradoxical. But perhaps more importantly: it can catch the participant of an AEE activity by surprise; overwhelm him or her as “coming from behind one’s back.” The element of improvisation, of taking in the new and unanticipated and accommodating for it, is the core quality here.

These two orientations, when practiced as part of AEE, have implications to how we relate to nature through art. In the closing of this article I address the question whether it is possible to bridge the dualism between the two orientations.

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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ashdenizen: flowers on stage: the daffodil

In the second in our summer series of blogs, the artist Sue Palmerwrites about the daffodils and the desk fan in Mary Southcott’s ‘Let’s get some weather in here’

One moment – a movement – remains with me. I can remember none of the content now – it is about 8 years since I saw the theatre performance and the stories are blurred, fleeted. What I do remember is Mary performing her solo show, and one moment within it has fused itself onto my memory.

Just off centre in the performance space is a window box, a white plastic window box, and facing the audience are a row of daffodils, yellow and bright in the studio lighting. They are looking perky and buoyant as only daffodils can, and very yellow, the trumpet variety. At one point in the performance, Mary switches on a desk fan that stands behind the daffodils and a deeply satisfying event takes place.

As the fan turns its automated 120-degree span, so the daffodil heads respond – bobbing, nodding. The bobbing heads in the breeze are met by collective warmth and delight from the audience – our attention is absorbed by the responsive movement of the flowers that is so familiar, so recognisable.

Mary’s simple creation of a small ‘weather system’ in the studio is utterly captivating: the outside is suddenly on the inside. The relationship between the wind and the flower is placed at the centre of my attention, so I can see in absolute detail the architectural brilliance of the flower at being able to both receive and resist the wind. Due to the travel of the fan, the breeze interacts with the flowers over an arc of time so the daffodil heads respond to the beginning of the wind touching them, nodding vigorously as the full fan passes over them, returning to a small stillness before the process loops to a return.

The articulation of the flowers and their ability to work with the wind ‘speaks’; their ‘heads’ work with receptivity, capacity, intelligence. The daffodils have performed for us.

At ‘Presence’ Festival, Dartington College of Arts, Devon, June 2002

Photo: Ed O’Keefe

See also flowers on stage: the poppy. Next: flowers on stage: the lotus.

via ashdenizen: flowers on stage: the daffodil.