Deep sustainability: art, ecology and politics of forests - Red Stables Art & Ecology Summer school
deep sustainability: the art, ecology & politics of forests cathy ﬁtzgerald red stables summer school july 2012Tuesday 17 July 2012Good afternoon everyone and thx to Denise and ANne for organising what I think is an import gathering. Also thx to Seodhin for putting my name foward. I feel honoured to share my workwith you.Iʼm going to v. brieﬂy talk about my workit has evolved in an odd slow organic way over many years with excursions into science, art & politices
‘We nearly always ask the wrong question —”What can I get from this?” And so rarely the right one — “what can I give back?”’Tuesday 17 July 2012Firstly however I Thought I would start with a quote which refers to what I am ultimately aiming for in my work -. This quote is from a writer poet activist who like several others has found thatby looking at how we treat forests is a good starting point to think about our relations to the world around and so to sustainabilty.ʻI thought again of our fundamental inversion of all relatedness, of how we nearly always ask the wrong question—What can I get from this?—and so rarely the right one—What can I giveback? Even when we try to learn from others, it is from the same spirit of acquisition: What can I learn from this forest ecosystem that will teach me how to manage if for maximum resourceextraction?
“What can I learn from this forest community that will teach me better how to serve it?‘“ Derrick Jensen, A Language Older than WordsTuesday 17 July 2012Rarely: What can I learn from this forest community that will teach me better how to serve it?ʻ Derrick Jensen, A Language Older than Wordsi.e a thriving forest ecosystem has much to teach us about multi-species sustainability
Tuesday 17 July 2012I didn’t start out in the arts, although all through my schooling i was passionate about art and nature.I was a microbiologist in research in NZ for 10 yrs and I found the change in going to art college extremely difficult.While its not evident in these photos I had in fact wanted to engage with ideas of ecology in my ﬁnal year of art college as when I had ﬁrst arrived in Ireland in 1996-7, in Ireland I hadbeen working for the tree organisation Crann in Leitrim.However, my hopes of writing my thesis on art & ecology, stemming from my newly found interest on forests were dashed - as unfortunately someone had written on the topic in the yearpreviously and I was told to look for another idea.This change in plan happened in the ﬁnal few months of my degree I had to change tack quickly so I returned to looking at science. HOwever even though these works referenced science Ifound I was expressing ecological concerns about genetic modiﬁcation & likewise my thesis was titled ‘science and the eclipse of the earth’ . I continued working in this way until about2005 but continued my interest in forests
Newton & Helen Harrison talking recently about the ethics of art & ecology practices 2012Tuesday 17 July 2012Who I had wanted to write about in particular for my art college thesis was Helen and Newton Harrison, who, as some of you know have been at the forefront of art & ecology practicessince the early 1970s.I was fascinated how the Harrisons managed vast ecological studies over large bioregions through an art practice that involved dialogue with scientists, politicians, general public. Centralto their work, and its something that I think I have long carried with, me was their key aim about seeing their art practice as forming a‘conversational drift’ amongst all participants. Theirultimate aim was to ‘change the conversation’. (some of you maybe aware of relational aesthetic in cont art practice, it is a much longer practice in art & ecology circles)However, back in 1999, I clearly remember thinking I could never imagine myself having the conﬁdence to do anything similar - it seemed a million miles away from the painting dept Iwas then in.
see youtube.com/cathnarniaTuesday 17 July 2012However several odd things, when I look back now completely changed and broadened my experience and confidence,Firstly I mangaged to create a solo show in Leitrim at The Dock in 2006 that gave me an opportunity to really focus on my forest art & ecology interest. I took it into my head to document all the new woodlandsthat Jan Alexander had inspired 13 years earlier in the biggest broadleaf plantings by individuals in a community in Irleand . When I had first worked with Crann many years before I had seen all the activity ofthe woodlands being planted... I was curious, as was Jan, to revisit and interview these new woodland owners and their young trees.I had never made a film before, I borrowed a video camera from the localarts office but I managed to created a half hr docum and installation that fully recorded this extensive community project. (the films are online)The other thing at this time was that I had unexpectedly started working for my neighbour, at that time, the deputy leader, of the Green Party Mary White. From the rel. slow reflective world of art and science,I was brought into the fast and challenging world of implementing policy -. Never having been involved in politics before this has given me an indepth insight to all the efforts and fustration of politics that has atits heart an aim for sustainable living and ecological and hence social justice. However, at the time, like with other things, I never really saw how this connected with my art practice.
Martin Salinas Save the humans (2010) Flickr - creative commons we have at best 3 to 4 decades to get humanity to live more sustainably on this one ﬁnite earth - culture|futures 2009Tuesday 17 July 2012Skipping on a few years, I managed to maintain an interest in this area despite it being little understood or discussed in the wider public or in contemporary arts. I wondered how best tomove forward
transforming my conifer plantation to a forest slow art residency of 40 years - native ash tree seedlings coming up in thinned conifer plantationTuesday 17 July 2012It didnʼt happen overnight but Iʼm in the very fortunate position to live in a small conifer monoculture plantation.I had with Jan A been aware of the the radical change in mindset amongst leading Eu foresters, who now thinking about long term sustainability are transforming monoculture plantations to permanent forests.It struck me one day, that I had, literally surrounding me, the opportunity to transform my own woodland & make a long term commitment to this diverse community. It could also be the site for my ﬁlmworks.At the point, I was working full-time on a project that involved building a large online community an became v. conﬁdent with social media. So in my spare time in 2008 I started blogging on art & ecology andwas close follower & contributor to the comprehensive UK Art & Ecology. Slowly I gained conﬁdence and quite an in-depth knowledge of key debates in the art & ecology area.
creating backyard ﬁlmic narratives connecting my local eco stories/actions to planetary concerns still from burning bright 2008 9Tuesday 17 July 2012In regards to my art practice i ﬁrst I thought my video work was just about creating short ﬁlms about environmental actions but I was soon returning to old questions that I have long had,
the ecocidal eye: beyond the anthropocentric to a relational gaze in cinemaTuesday 17 July 2012 & this has in fact lead on to my current phd work, where I’m looking at asking can we aspire to a more ecological, rather than human centered means of encountering the world beyond the tired conventions of current nature documentary formats
‘probably no substantial dimension of ﬁlm history that is so widely admired by a public audience... has also been so thoroughly ignored by ﬁlm critics, historians and theorists, as the nature (wildlife) ﬁlm’ (Upclose and political - three ruminations on nature ﬁlm, MacDonald 2006, in Adventures in Perception, Cinema as Exploration, 2009) 11Tuesday 17 July 2012to my surprise still, when I looked at ﬁlm theory I found very little critical analysis of the form of nature ﬁlms. Film writer Scott MacDonald has in recent years tried to alert the ﬁlm world aboutthis
Scott MacDonald believes experimental cinema has potential in ʻretraining perceptionʼ....allowing an examination of the conventions of media-spectatorship (and production) that largely ignores the earthʼ 12Tuesday 17 July 2012Encouragingly, MacDonald has also commented that he thinks
I’m learning with my neighbours and local green cllr about close to nature, non clearfell forestry 13Tuesday 17 July 2012 At the same time, I’m still learning with my neighbours and local green cllr about close to nature, non clearfell forestry; my site is now listed on the new Irish database - at just 2.5 acres its the smallest close to nature manged forest in Ireland; clever wee forest: every 3 years it produces 70 tonnes of ﬁrewood and is home to increasingly biodiverse communities!!!
With ProSilva, the EU wide close to nature forest group I have studied mixed species, permanent forests in Netherlands, Hungary, Austria and Slovenia 14Tuesday 17 July 2012 With ProSilva, the EU wide close to nature forest group I have studied mixed species, permanent forests in Netherlands, Hungary, Austria and Slovenia; clearfelling has not been practised in Slovenia for 64 years; this also led me to lead work on new national sustainable forest policy over the last 3 yrs which has been just been accepted.
see 40 yr+ residency in this forest as a continuing dialogue - my relational ﬁlms & forest learning becoming an audiovisual diary that I share with other humans online, an e.g of deep sustainability :-) n followers ...15 millio ecoa rtﬁlm.comTuesday 17 July 2012 I see my expected 40 yr+ residency in this forest - as a continuing dialogue, my relational audiovisual expts becoming a sort of diary that I share with other humans online - I see my forest interventions are not a conservation project but more a restoration, an active tending.
further reading www.ecoartnotebook.com and my research on experimental ecocinema and forests at www.ecoartﬁlm.com see also www.artsandecology.org.uk and greenparty.ie/policy articles and presentations: 16Tuesday 17 July 2012
A tiny forest in the making in rural ireland, it is now part of a conversation threading through art and politics of a new new way of relating to the more-than-human world: deep sustainability where all thriveTuesday 17 July 2012 A tiny forest in the making in rural ireland, it is now part of a conversation threading through art and politics of a new new way of relating to the more-than-human world: deep sustainability where all thrive by the way I had an unexpected email last Jan 2011, it was from the Harrisons! Iʼm not sure how they became aware of me but they wrote and said, Dear Cathy, from our perspective, very good workʼ. THANK YOU.