Artful Ecologies 2

Artful Ecologies 2

Art, Nature & Environment Conference
9 – 12 July 2008, University College Falmouth

The second Art, Nature & Environment conference organized and hosted by the RANE research group at University College Falmouth, took place over four days in July. The conference aimed to bring together leading members of the artistic community and the growing community of artists and researchers already engaging with RANE, to consider and discuss how artists might best address current ecological concerns.

Since the successful inaugural Artful Ecologies conference in 2006, any doubts that our planet’s ecology is now in real danger have been left far behind. Many now argue that we are on the verge of a crisis that could very soon turn to catastrophe. The number of different scenarios we now face, largely of our own making, all present harsh realities and paint bleak pictures of our future. These problems include the creation of a climate that will make large regions of the earth uninhabitable and force an unprecedented loss of species to rival the planet’s previous mass extinctions. Within a generation, toxic levels of pollution and the predicted population explosion will begin to place huge demands on limited resources, with potential shortages of food and water making survival for many an impossibility. The magnitude of the task ahead is almost impossible to imagine, harder still to tackle.

The focus of this conference was to ask whether there is a role for art to play in facing this impending ecological crisis. If, among other things, art is to be seen as a method for making sense of the world; as a means of interpretation and communication; as a way of exploring and proposing alternatives, then is there more for art to do than simply foreground the problems? What can artists do to provide solutions and address practical concerns? With our environment in crisis, what role for art?

In addition to the formal presentations and debates at the college’s Woodlane campus, delegates were also able to explore and enjoy the local surroundings such as the sub-tropical gardens at Trebah, Trelissick Gardens via the River Fal and The National Maritime Museum at specially organised evening events. These settings provided an ideal backdrop to informal discussion and networking.

A full programme of events was enjoyed by over 50 delegates from across the UK and beyond, which included fourteen international speakers. The conference closed on the Saturday with an open session and discussion in which delegates were able to respond to the previous three days of presentations. Papers from the conference are planned to be published by RANE later this year.

Reviews of the conference are now appearing on various blogs, websites and publications. A review of the published papers from the first Artful Ecologies conference which was launched in July has now appeared in the Landscape & Arts Network online magazine, and a PDF of the publication is available here.

The Speakers

Artful Ecologies 2Brandon Ballengée
Exploring the boundaries between art, science and technology, Brandon Ballengée creates multidisciplinary works out of information generated from ecological field trips and laboratory research. Since 1996, Ballengée has collaborated with numerous scientists to conduct primary biological research and ecological artworks. A particular area of study is the occurrence of malformation and global declines of amphibians. These activities were outlined in Ecoventions, a book published in 2002 by the Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati. 

These projects have appeared internationally on ABC’s World News Tonight, BBC’s Today Show and in Audubon Magazine, GENEWATCH, ESPACE Sculpture The Guardian, MIT’s LEONARDO Journal, The Journal of Experimental Zoology, The New York Times, Newsday, The New Yorker, Orion, Sculpture Magazine, The Sciences, The Village Voice, and others. His work has been included in several books including the new Art in Action: Nature, Creativity and our Collective Future, published by Earth Aware Editions supported by the United Nations.

His Artworks have been exhibited in Australia, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Recent solo exhibitions of his work were held at The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park (NYC), The Peabody Museum of Natural History (Yale University), Archibald Arts (NYC), and Kunstverein Ingolstadt in Ingolstadt, Germany. An upcoming solo exhibition is planned for Yorkshire Sculpture Park (Wakefield, England). He participated in the 2004 Geumgang Nature Art Biennale in Kung Ju, South Korea the Waterways Project, which was installed at the 2005 Venice Biennale and Biennale for Electronic Arts Perth 07 in Australia.

Ballengée has been awarded several artist grants including funding from the Puffin Foundation, Maxwell Landau Foundation, Nature Conservancy, New York State Council on the Arts, and others. He also has attended several artist/ researcher in residency programs. In 2003, he was an artist in residence at the Natural History Museum in London, Gunpowder Park and [space] in London in 2007, and the Société des arts technologiques [SAT] in Montreal, Canada in 2008.

For over a decade, Ballengée has collected specimens for several scientific organizations, including the Peabody Museum at Yale University, The American Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at U.C. Berkeley and others. In 2001, He was nominated for membership into Sigma XI, the Scientific Research Society. His theoretical article, ‘The Origins and Application of Artificial Selection’ is included in the 2004 anthology Biomedialepublished by the National Center for Contemporary Art in Kaliningrad, Russia. In January of 2002 and 2006, he co-taught an ecology art and neotropical evolution courses in Costa Rica for Hartwick College. In addition, he regularly conducts ecology/field biology/genetics and digital imaging workshops open to the general public at urban parks, zoos, petstores and fish markets.

He serves on the board of directors for the Peoples Museum of New York. He currently is a Candidate for a Ph.D. at the University of Applied Sciences and Art, Hochschule für Gestaltung in Zürich, Switzerland.

Artful Ecologies 2Alan Boldon
Director of Arts & Ecology, Dartington College of Arts
Alan Boldon has spent the last 20 years working on interdisciplinary projects as an artist, curator and project manager. For 12 years he directed an international arts summer school devoted to exploring interdisciplinary engagement with place. He has an MA in Psychological Aesthetics and has taught Fine Art, Socially contextualised arts practices, public art and psychological aesthetics at BA and MA level for the past 10 years as well as lecturing throughout Europe the USA and Canada.

He works at Dartington College of Arts where for 4 years he has been leading the development of Arts and Ecology. One of the results of this is an MA in Arts and Ecology that began in September 2006. This course has attracted international attention and has been praised for being innovative and challenging on every level in terms of scope and depth of course concerns, design and pedagogy.

He is working with Arnolfini on ideas for a research base concerned with interdisciplinary approaches to complex relational systems. One of his main interests is in processes of consulting with places on what they want and need.

Artful Ecologies 2Clive Cazeaux
Philosopher and Author
Clive Cazeaux is Reader in Aesthetics at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff. He is the author of Metaphor and Continental Philosophy: From Kant to Derrida (Routledge, 2007) and the editor of The Continental Aesthetics Reader (Routledge, 2000). He is also the author of articles on the aesthetics of sound, the theory of description, and the relation between art and knowledge. He is currently writing a book on the philosophy of art-science collaboration.

Clive will present a paper on Aesthetics as ecology. This paper is offered more as an occasion for debate rather than as a fully formed thesis. It responds to the conference theme of art’s capacity to address climate change by focusing on the ways in which art might challenge the boundaries between self and world, and self and others. Fundamental to the promotion of ecological thought and action, Clive will argue, is the need to address the ontological distinction active in the way people conceive of what belongs to themselves and what does not belong to themselves. People disregard or do not value that which they perceive as being beyond or external to themselves. Clive will turn to recent accounts of aesthetic experience from continental thought which present our encounter with the work of art as an occasion in which the subject–other or subject–world opposition is transformed into a relational and, arguably, ecological exchange; ‘ecological’ in the sense that the subject becomes aware of their participation in and contribution to a world which, in some sense, is or belongs to them.

The paper will seek to offer support for Whitehead’s model of process thinking (the model which RANE declares as its philosophical framework). However, rather than taking his lead from Whitehead’s notion of moments of experience, Clive will draw on Merleau-Ponty’s aesthetics. The paper is in two parts. (1) The first part will set out the background to Merleau-Ponty’s theory of aesthetic experience, and argue that the ecological impact of his aesthetic theory is that we are asked to ‘re-inhabit’ the senses. (2) In the second part, Clive will invite contributions from the audience to consider how they approach works of art, especially the works of art being presented or discussed at the conference, and to consider how the notion of ‘re-inhabiting’ the senses might assist us in creating an ecological encounter with art.

Artful Ecologies 2Max Eastley
Sound Artist
Since the late 1960’s Max Eastley has been exploring the relationship between chance music and art alongside environmental forces such as wind and water. As a musician, composer and sound designer, his work creates moving forms which produce or play with sound.

Max Eastley is an innovative figure in the field of sound art, exhibiting at the Sonic Boom show at the Hayward Gallery in 2000. He has exhibited his sound installations internationally, and worked closely with a wide range of interdisciplinary artists, musicians and filmmakers, including Brian Eno, Peter Greenaway, Evan Parker, Thomas Köner, Eddie Prevost and The Spaceheads. In 2006 he produced ‘Ice Field’ a sound sculpture installed at the Natural History Museum in London, which incorporated found recordings from the Cape Farewell’s expedition to the Arctic.

In response to this journey, he also collaborated with sound designer Dave Hunt and artist David Buckland on exhibitions including ‘Burning Ice’ at the Metropole Galleries (in Oct/Nov/Dec 2007) and ‘Arctic’, an audio/visual installation as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. Max Eastley is currently working on ‘Blossom’ with artist Clare Twomey at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Cape Farewell are currently artists in residence at the South Bank Centre.

Artful Ecologies 2David Haley
Artist and Researcher
David’s work focuses on whole systems ecology and critical futures thinking, his art questions the ‘cultural industry’ that undermines creative practices and science in telling the story of global warming, the global economy and the Sixth Extinction. However, the dance of creation and destruction demands that we find new opportunities and meanings for the other side of collapse. 

These he currently pursues through arts projects, academic pursuits, education and various advisory positions. As a Research Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University David directs the A&E [art&ecology] research unit and leads the award winning MA Art As Environment programme. Recent projects in the UK, China, Taiwan, Germany and the USA include The Writing On The Wall, performed poetic interventions; River Life 3000: Like There’s No Tomorrow, sculptural installation; A Walk On The Wild Side, eco-urban art-walks and films; and Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground Gaining Wisdom, with Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison.

Artful Ecologies 2John Hartley
The Arts Council
John Hartley is Arts Council England’s Arts and Ecology Strategy Officer, supporting the development of practice and infrastructure in the face of changing contexts. He works on the Arts Council’s Arts and Ecology partnership with RSA, is on the GLA steering group for ‘Greening London’s Theatres’ and the ‘DCMS Climate Change Project’.

Previously he has worked in the visual arts, architecture and interdisciplinary arts teams of the Arts Council’s National Office developing, among other things, ‘Art in Industry Placements’, through action research with industrial partners across the UK, India, the Americas and Asia. He is also a practising artist, directs a collaborative experimental music group and has co-written a book published by Transworld.

Artful Ecologies 2John Jordan
Artist and Activist
John Jordan’s work merges the imagination of art and the social engagement of politics. He is concerned with making art that doesn’t try to represent our societies social and ecological crisis but to change it, applying creativity to protest cultures, especially the radical ecology and direct action movements. Co-director of social practice art group Platform (1987-1995) he then went on to be a co-founder of the infamous cultural resistance collective Reclaim the Streets (1995-2000). He has written and lectured extensively about the space between art and activism, ecological thinking and aesthetics, including at Tate Modern and Museum of Modern Art Barcelona.

In 2003 he co-edited the Verso book We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anticapitalism. He was senior lecturer in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University for 8 years until he gave up the relative safety of academia to go to Argentina during the popular uprising, to work on the documentary film The Take with Naomi Klein. Obsessed with developing new methodologies of direct action and civil disobedience that bring pleasure, the Carnivalesque, fantasy and the body into radical politics, he set up the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army which went on a national tour, with the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination, leading up to the G8 mobilisations in 2005.

Recent work includes an operatic downloadable guided walk And While London Burns that explores London’s Square Mile and its role in climate change. Whilst searching for ways to build lifeboats that will take us out of the ecological collapse of civilisation, he is working on a book and film Paths Through Utopias (to be published by La Decouverte) that explores anticapitalist and ecological living experiments in Europe.

Artful Ecologies 2Hildegard Kurt
Author and Researcher
Dr. Hildegard Kurt is a cultural researcher and author. Her work focuses on art and sustainability, the aesthetics of sustainability, and the dialogue of cultures. She is co-founder of und. Institute for Art, Culture and Sustainability (und.Institut), located in Berlin and Frankfurt/Main, and directs the Institute’s office in Berlin.

Through the initiative ‘Tutzing Manifesto for the strengthening of the cultural-aesthetic dimension of sustainable development’ in 2001 and ensuing collaborations with the German Council for Sustainable Development, Hildegard Kurt has played a significant role in Germany by linking cultural policies to sustainability policies. In 2005 the und.Institut became a member of the Round Table of the German National Committee of the UN Decade of ‘Education for Sustainable Development’.

At present Hildegard Kurt is working on a research project entitled ‘Concerning the Spiritual in Sustainability’. The outcome will be a monograph, to be published in German and English.

Artful Ecologies 2Vicky Long
Manager of Cape Farewell project
Cape Farewell brings artists, scientists and educators together to collectively address and raise awareness about climate change. Created by David Buckland, Cape Farewell has led five expeditions into the wild, beautiful and icy High Arctic, a place for artistic inspiration and scientific enquiry. On board the 100-year old Dutch schooner, The Noorderlicht, Cape Farewell has sailed right to the heart of the debate. From this vantage point the artists and scientists aim to illustrate the workings of this crucial part of the planet, drawing attention to the role ocean currents play and the effect rising CO2 levels and changing weather patterns will have on us all and our climate.

Artful Ecologies 2Dave Pritchard
Freelance arts & environment specialist
Dave Pritchard is an influential figure in contemporary agendas on art and the environment. In a 25-year career based mainly at the RSPB, BirdLife International’s partner organisation in the UK, and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat in Switzerland, he has had roles as international legal and policy specialist, advocate, book author, senior manager and board director.

Dave is a Board Member of the UK Government’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee, and also served two terms on the Board of Wetlands International.  He has had a particularly long and central association with the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands; and has played roles in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, in the governing bodies and technical committees of other Conventions, and in UNESCO.

In relation to cultural issues, Dave acts as an independent consultant, and persistently champions the building of stronger links between the worlds of environmental policy, cultural heritage and the creative arts. He is a practising artist, writer, researcher, member of several arts-sector working groups and Boards, and project adviser/collaborator in a number of pioneering environmental arts initiatives.

Artful Ecologies 2Alan Sonfist
Alan Sonfist is the originator of the movement to bring nature back into the city. His thinking has influenced a generation of visual artists, environmentalists, urban planners, landscape architects and urban dwellers. In his work, Sonfist seeks to conceptually expose the natural foundations of the urban landscape, and so bringing this sense of nature into life of the city. His projects address the amnesia that exists in the conceptual space of the city regarding the natural.

Sonfist engages the urban in a dialogue by using structures already present within it. In 1965, he created the Time Landscape, in which he reconstructed a 16th century primeval forest in Manhattan. The Time Landscape has been recognized as a land marked park, and has spawned related projects in Denmark, France, Germany, Japan and Italy. A book about his work has recently been published, entitled Nature: The End of Art; Environ-mental Landscapes Alan Sonfist.

Artful Ecologies 2Andy Webster
Artist and Researcher
Andy Webster is an artist based in Falmouth. In 2008 his work has been shown locally and internationally: ‘10 mic karaoke’, Falmouth Sports Club, ‘Social Cycles’, University College Falmouth and at Emoção Artificial, Itau Cultural, São Paulo, Brazil, 2008. Other recent exhibitions include Maverick Machines, Matthew Gallery, Edinburgh, 2007 and Living Architectures Laboratory, Demarcació de Girona del COAC, Girona, Spain, 2006.

Since 2001, Andy has worked extensively with artificial life researcher Jon Bird from the University of Sussex. They have collaborated on numerous projects and are the co-authors of several published research papers which include; Experiments in Open-Ended Curation, Hothaus papers: Perspective and Paradigms in Media Arts, Eds. Winwood, K. and Gibbons, J. Vivid/Article Press, 2006, and Better Living through Electrochemistry, Artful Ecologies:Conference Papers – Pub: University College Falmouth, 2008.

Andy is currently senior lecturer on MA Fine Art Contemporary Practice at UCF. Prior to this he was course leader of BA (Hons) Fine Art, and BA (Hons) Photomedia at Croydon Higher Education College. His current research project explores the potential of arts practice to act as a catalyst to provoke thinking which can give insights to contemporary ecological concerns.

Artful Ecologies 2Linda Weintraub
Author, Artist and Curator
In 2006, Linda Weintraub wrote and published Eco-Centric Topics: Pioneering Themes for Eco-Art. It inaugurated “Avant-Guardians: Textlets in Art and Ecology,” the first college eco-art text book series. Subsequent titles are Cycle-Logical Art: Recycling Matters for Eco-Art (2007) and EnviroMentalities: Twenty-two Approaches to Eco-Art (2007), and Minimizing Art’s Footprint/Maximizing Art’s Mark: Foundations of Eco-Art (forthcoming 2008). Weintraub founded Art Now Publications in order to produce these books in an innovative, sustainable manner. 

The intersection between ecology and art entered Weintraub’s professional activities when she curated an exhibition entitled In Search of the Picturesque: Nineteenth Century Images of Industry Along the Hudson (1983), and Land-Marks: New Site Proposals by 22 Pioneers of Environmental Art (1984), and Buckminster Fuller: Harmonizing Nature, Humanity, and Technology (1990).

Current curatorial projects include Thirty Below: Sustainable Cold-Weather Fashions, and Green Up Your Act. Weintraub wrote In the Making: Creative Options for Contemporary Art (2003) and Art on the Edge and Over: Searching for Art’s Meaning in Contemporary Society (1995). She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Rutgers University.

Artful Ecologies 2Andrej Zdravic
Film Maker & Sound Artist
Andrej Zdravic is an independent film and sound artist. Educated in Slovenia and the US, he has lived and worked in New York and San Francisco and taught at several universities including San Francisco State, UW/Milwaukee and SUNY/Buffalo. In 2006, he received an honorary doctoral degree from the Ljubljana University, Slovenia.

Andrej made his first film in 1973, inspired by music and nature, and has since created over 30 independent films mostly focusing on the energies and spiritual aspects of natural phenomena. He has also been commissioned to make numerous educational and scientific films. His work has been screened in over 200 one-man shows, retrospectives, festivals and seminars, across the US and Europe, and broadcast on ARTE, ZDF, RAI, KCET Los Angeles, and elsewhere. His original video installation concept the Time Horizon, is now a permanent exhibit in several science and art museums in the USA, Taiwan and Slovenia, and featured at the World Expo ’98 and Venice Biennale ’99.

Andrej has received numerous grants and awards from, among others, the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and CAPS New York, and the Preseren Fund National Art Award, Slovenia. Since 1997, Andrej has been based in Slovenia and worked across Europe.