what’s at stake we live with the uncomfortable knowledge of climate change/biosphere instability, peak resource limits, population now encountering biosphere limits/collapse recent global economic difficulties inherently connected to ecological limits been ignored how we view the biosphere/biospheric community critical Ecocritics, who analyse literary and other texts from an environmentalist standpoint, observe that environmental crisis poses not only technical, scientific and political questions, but also cultural ones. Mary Robinson has been strongly saying that contemporary society is ‘functionally insane’ that it can’t see this problem www.sinkorswim.ie 7 Sept 2011
*according to leading science institutions - though how climate disruption will play out is still hard to predict Professional scientific societies that agree with the IPCC on global warming * National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) NASA Woods Hole Resesarch Center US Geological Survey (USGS) National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) American Association of State Climatologists Federal Climate Change Science Program, 2006 (the study authorized and then censored by Bush) American Chemical Society – (world’s largest scientific organization with over 155,000 members) Geological Society of America American Geophysical Union (AGU) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) American Association of State Climatologists Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) American Astronomical Society American Institute of Physics American Meteorological Society (AMS) American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Stratigraphy Commission – Geological Society of London – (The world’s oldest and the United Kingdom’s largest geoscience organization) Chinese Academy of Sciences Royal Society, United Kingdom Russian Academy of Sciences Royal Society of Canada Science Council of Japan Australian Academy of Sciences Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts Brazilian Academy of Sciences Caribbean Academy of Sciences French Academy of Sciences German Academy of Natural Scientists Indian National Science Academy Indonesian Academy of Sciences Royal Irish Academy Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy) Academy of Sciences Malaysia Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Union of Concerned Scientists The Institution of Engineers Australia Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) National Research Council Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospherice Sciences World Meteorological Organization State of the Canadian Cryosphere (SOCC) International Council on Science American Physical Society (APS) Australian Institute of Physics (AIP European Physical Society European Science Foundation Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) Network of African Science Academies International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS European Academy of Sciences and Arts InterAcademy Council (IAC) International Arctic Science Committee Arctic Council European Federation of Geologists (EFG) European Geosciences Union (EGU) Geological Society of Australia International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society Royal Meteorological Society (UK) American Quaternary Association (AMQUA American Institute of Biological Sciences American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians (AAWV American Society for Microbiology Institute of Biology (UK) Society of American Foresters (SAF
‘ there is much work to be undertaken by ecocritics interested in unpacking the environmental means carried or enabled by, and the constraints and potentials inherent in film and visual media ’ - considering how powerful the cinematic form is in how we view and understand our world, I’m still surprised by the small level of activity in film studies regarding representations of nature/ecology ‘ remember that the celebration of nature (in film) has often played a part in obscuring an oppressive and even violent history’ Nature matters 2007 as much as it has tried to raise awareness
‘ What would a ‘green’ film & visual scholarship look like?’ question the relationship between visual representation and social and ecological reality it may seek to delineate ‘positive’ versus ‘negative’ images of nature, of environmental activism, and of human-environment relations or it may probe both the limitations and potentials offered by film and visual media – including the potential to expand awareness, empathy, and understanding across species and across socio-ecological cultural differences It would deal with what Andrew Ross has called &quot;images of ecology&quot; - those familiar images of &quot;belching smokestacks, seabirds mired in petrochemical sludge, fish floating belly-up, traffic jams in Los Angeles and Mexico City, and clearcut forests; on the other hand, the redeeming repertoire of pastoral imagery, pristine, green, and unspoiled by human habitation, crowned by the ultimate global spectacle, the fragile, vulnerable ball of spaceship earth&quot;
Scott MacDonald who coined the word ‘ecocinema’ believes experimental cinema has potential in ‘retraining perception’....allowing an examination of the conventions of media-spectatorship (and production) that largely ignores the earth’ tho some may argue exp. film work is impotent by the time it reaches mainstream, MacDonald & others argue such work is worthy of critical attention; inf the evolution of the cinematic language exp filmmakers work have been influential on mainstream cinema; Brakhage, Godfrey Reggio- Koyannaquatsi etc however one needs to be aware too of the camera’s notable critics - Heidegger to Sontag who say the camera serves as an instrument of distancing, decontextualising, commodifying, obscuring the power/politics of things that make up the world Ikahiv 2008 . p17.... what Heidegger called the ‘enframing’ and ‘conquest of the world’, setting it as a ‘standing reserve’ to be be objectified/consumed on first glance many would argue that much documentary work has engaged audiences to create films to highlight the beauty/diverstiy of the natural world that we need to conserve etc a lot of this is unpacked further in Willoquet’s Maricondi’s 2010 book Framing the world - explorations in ecocriticism and film, but still only small section on exp film
can more ecocentric cinematic forms and global networked filmic spaces reconnect us to a sense of place and planet are there formal/conceptual/theoretical tools that can expand the way we use film to present a more comprehensive ecological view, over and above films that primarily address environmental/conservation themes? what potentials are offered by new social media filmic spaces* to engage global audiences in ecological concerns or to envision more sustainable futures
presently considering looking at several theoretical ideas drawn from my practice that would form chapters - with possible examples of exp film work to further expand on concepts at end of each chapter initial 8,000 word paper would seem to indicate reasonable amount of the depth achievable for 3-4 topics
outlined here are key areas that I want to understand more and more importantly which I think will be of interest to others in visual/exp film culture area - my work is very much an indepth investigation/deconstruction of thinking about cinema in an ecological context I keep believing that a poetic strategy...& recently came across a ‘beginner’s guide to ecocriticism’ article by leading ecocritic Greg Gerrard, who clearly states ‘poetry seems somehow to straddle nature and culture. In fact, he sees that ‘ecocritics will ultimately want to use poetry to question that familiar dichotomy’ so it seems I’m following ideas others have thought before ... though it might have something to do with how a lot of research in literature & poetry, re-readings of the Romantic poets etc is colouring these academics perspectives?. beauty is a strong element in my work and I wish to examine in much greater detail - ideas from the conference that I presented at Nov 2010 on ‘can beauty save the world?’ - that in the industrial age & in much of contemporary art in the last century that beauty is something society in the west turned away from, this very much interests me; it seems somehow its v. subversive these days to create beautiful/nature work - why is that?? as a maker I will have to face the ecological costs of the media I use - the digital equipment, the net etc and the power to connect with audieinces online - green thinkers often fluent and influential online - new research 2010
Ecocriticism is the ability to investigate cultural artefacts from an ecological perspective. Greg Gerrard 2009 recent paper on ecocriticism argues ‘our habits of representation affect and reciprocally reflect our actions, but the enormous temporal and spatial scale of phenomena such as climate change and mass extinction, and the complex moral questions inherent in them, pose challenges for our existing artistic forms’ .
in recent months I’ve of Adrian’s work across fine arts and environmental studies and he writes about 3 overlapping spheres of analysis that need to be addressed in ecocinema - I won’t cover all of this in my study but its a useful guide to consider, both in theory and practice the materia l: the technologies and resources needed to make films and wastes involved, sets, locations, transport the social: access to production, consumption, interpretation and control perceptual : its effects on perception and culture, incl. changing aesthetic & visual cultures as these affect & shape philosophies/ideologies relating humans to the more than human world; phenomenology, cognitive, etc
there are extremely complex ethical, conceptual, linguistic, historical and political problems in the taken for granted notion of ‘nature’ - in fact the term nature can never be taken for granted ‘ ref. to nature in terms of what is really ‘real’ can close down discussions ’ Nature Matters conference: Materiality and the More-than-human in Cultural studies in the environment 2007 cultural studies - for e.g some have realised the difficulties in the term ‘nature’ have decided to use the term more-than-human; to overcome the obvious and limiting dichotomy that nature opposes culture. Such oppositional thinking leads to regarding nature as an object/s - something separate from humanity; creates distance and disinterest and is inaccurate and ethically problematic 2007 sometime useful to use the word ‘earth’ to present material nature; the word ‘world’ for the earth we construct and create Bates - Song of the Earth
ecocriticism in cinema is a very recent area of activity; researchers from literature, where such activity has been established over the last ~15 years are leading ecocritical analysis of culture (more recently joined by cultural studies, media arts, cultural geographers,) even in ecocritical cinema analysis, key people who have reviewed film ecocritically, like Scott MacDonald, have more often than not a background in literature
came across idea of empathy in several fields recently, even a mention in new PhD published book on rhythms in film editing - perhaps it was the new science that caught my attention? Rifkin 2009 argues that the evolution of human consciousness is related to complex developments of empathy and posits that new mirror neurons research is impt as we urgently need to empathise globally with other nations and our fellow creature, the more-than-human. recent cinema research argues that we are responding empathectically (physiologically) when we watch films - that our ‘mirror neurons are softwired to rhythms and subjects actions in films (Pearlman 2010) . ‘rhythm, created by film editors is a felt bodily phenomena - creating a feeling with rather than a feeling for something My general question is - if films were more ecocentrically considered, could audiences’ empathy be extended to envision relations with the wider global biospheric community? think I have some examples already to talk about this
plan of action - over next 3 months do a paper on history & current key concerns of ecocriticism - literature will have to figure out how to present the problem that is ‘nature’ identify current key strands for cinema keep eyes open for poetic/empathy strategies to bring to cinema theory ?my own work?
As outlined in my April presentation, my proposed research practice was to investigate the possibility of cinema providing an ecocentric perspective. Is it possible to imagine/ present biocentric or even ecocentric viewpoints rather than the anthropocentric view dominant in cinema - that human views or interests are of higher priority than non-humans. unlike much in contemporary arts that appears to challenge viewers, with the concerns in my work my chief concern is to engage wide/general audiences; the concerns (CC/biosphere instability) are abstract and difficult enough - seek to make personal, more intimate reflections that audiences can relate to. I’ve very much absorbed over many years working alongside scientists concerns from science which is always trying hard to engage general audiences in its work- * The term ‘ecocinema’ has only recently been formally suggested in cinema analysis in 2004, 2006 and refers to films that ‘engage with environmental justice concerns or those that make ‘nature’ from landscapes to wildlife, a primary focus’. However also of interest is the ‘broader philosophical implications of what it means to inhabit this planet.. to be a member of this ecosphere and to understand and value this community in a systemic and non-hierarchal way (an ecocentric perspective)
1 min lesson on sustainable forestry - in the last 150 years, forests worldwide have been mechanised most of ireland’s forestry like this this, similar for most of world; non-native, fast growing monocultures are planted in rows as a crop, mechanically clear-felled and replanted bad:for soil (in 3-4 rotations land will be degraded, 120 years) for biodiversity, waterways, bogs, for tourism, favours big operations rather than local communities, as single species - easy prey for pests/disease, pesticide heavy,resilience poor in face of climate changes scenarios quick profit but its short term, limited thinking - mirrors much of short-term thinking in cont. society, that denies the ecological ‘credit’ it is using up. Truly oversimplistic misunderstanding of nature’s inherent complexity/dynamics.
Ireland is in very fortunate position in that is could transform its monoculture plantations into permanent productive forests like this by selective thinning this is a radically differentbut not difficult way to manage forests: no clear-fell, biodiverse, carbon secure, managing for the long term - difficult concept for many ecological aims as import as economic however, forestry is like a train - can’t change direction overnight as industry built around monoculture - people don’t like to change, think in long term & have little skills in thinking ecologically - most ecological costs totally obscured in contemporary society
interested in creating work that references how we might more effectively co-exist with my/our environment have the smallest close-to-nature forest in Ireland - work alongside the top close to nature foresters here in Ireland, met leaders in Europe Over many years of trying to think about culture & ecology I have been for some time trying to situate my work in science/forestry that is ecological, with an acceptance of the stark ecological reality we are facing - and the need to rethink how we co-exist with complex ecosystems perhaps still like a scientist making observations - noting the details of complex ecosystems that are often overlooked, not understood - long term engagement with one (local) place critical -/ still the scientist underneath after all, have no worries about thinking of this as a 40+ year residency - ie the length of time to transform the plantation into a more permanent mixed species forest _______________________________________ in env communication you can work from so many angles: Gavin Harte Ireland env. communicator - has described this by comparing it to the Kubler-Ross phases of grief for the terminally ill you could examine ecological crisis from the point of different stages: think about this in regards to climate change for e.g denial anger bargaining depression acceptance - like to position my work here, many are now talking of new narratives that are needed to move to an ecological age, if that is at all possible?
my filmmaking could be just documentation of this process but I’m fascinated by the current limitations/potential of cinema as discussed previously breathing with the alder #alder jan 2011 -short experiment clip thinking about our breath, how its connected with other species… note: found I had too little footage and the camera must have moved, hence the break between breaths - could try slowing down much further
this self-narrated diary essay film perhaps follows on more directly with my previous short films, burning bright 2008, once i counted birds, 2009. Film s tyle is low-budget, personal, poetic, fresh? basically remembering an encounter with young trees, trying to recreate the experience, draw attention to what we often overlook…and draw attention to how we construct encounters with nature camera notes: used footage where I had accidentally left tripod in shot as had decided to explore handheld qualities of the 60D camera - first time use of suc h c amera, so great DOF but hard to control on the fly Made a decision to try some other strategies over summer! such narrated works can be hard to devise - other experiments with scripts have often resulted in pieces that are too contrived... felt needed to explore other means though haven’t totally abandoned this approac h, Mekas work very inspiring - Walden - a conversation with NY for e.g, Su Frederich Head of a pin etc
over the summer have been spending a lot of time learning about outdoor audio recording etc to improve quality and engagement with the work/ecosystem and this led onto other ideas have been thinking for sometime that it would be remiss not to explore the sonic world in regards to thinking about an ecocinematic form; have noticed this is lacking in the critical papers I have read so far - possilby as ecocrticism is coming from literary types??? whole world of acoustic ecologists - who share similar concerns re ecological crisis, though from another perspective; this area is new to me both theoretically and practically - v challenging
concentrate on the sound only, blur image - know its a forest but birds sounds are foregrounded - French acoustic ecology site often put up still images - tried the same to accentuate the sonic view of my forest. Odd thing is though the image is static on hearing the sound you sometimes catch yourself thinking that things are moving
In my more realised piece Transformation it was this experimental thinking about the ecological soundscape that has helped move my work into another directions; when I made the decision not to narrate my next piece. Though I didn’t set out to use the bird to present the forest, I found when I was cutting & ordering the shots I found I was using the sound to connect some of the narrative elements. This bird I recorded with a rifle mic - he was at the top of a 30 ft high conifer. However, to keep the work subtle care was needed to thread the sound just where needed, some shots form a contrast just with other recorded ambient sounds. My recording made me v. aware of the sonic landscape of my forest and the drift of outside sounds ; cars, flightpath, farm sounds, animals - some of these are threaded through but are less identifiable. Some leaves are flicking on and off to the hum of an approaching car. Transformation is not a complete work but an experiment to see how a film might be constructed without the ‘voice of god’ narration style so commonly associated with nature documentaries. this work didn’t start out wth the bird but thorugh listening and thinking about the sound, about half way through the project I realised I could offer another perspective through the birds notes - its not as comic as strapping a camera to an animal and in parts the editing process in images and sounds led to more abstract means to present the forest telling its own story elements I tried to present were the darkness of conifer forests, and what transformation of forests by selective harvesting is about - its subtle and perhaps not everyone will get the full picture at first this sketch is part of a long piece but at the moment this is the only part that is resolved more fully
I attempt through the device of the bird’s song to ‘present’, rather than literally describe the transformation of our woodland. Rather than relaying facts and figures, the more than urgent ecological and political reasons for transforming Ireland’s monoculture forests through either narration or text, I attempt to imaginatively thread the bird’s perspective through the work. The work is very constructed work as by altering the visual and aural aspects of the shots an engaging rythmic journey developed following the development of the young tree seedlings; some sections are very abstract though nevertheless visually/aurally engaging. By syncing visuals with sounds, matching/cutting footage to the birds trills and (next slide)
slowing the visuals down which unintentionally created interesting abstractions of the sounds from my wood, having some parts silent etc., I believe I am beginning to create a form that is engaging, manages obliquely to reference ecological ideas and concerns and at times more-than-human perspectives I still find I am preoccupied with a means to allow me to step back and provide audiences a freer, undetermined space (these are early attempts to understand what I'm trying to consider in my work as the work is new) - and one that offers a more ecocentric perspective.
These initail expts are not following conventions of ecological documentary, but are attempts at more a poetic cinematic reflection that obliquely refers to ecological processes and human interventions with nature. My work has always been rather subtle probably owing to an acute awareness that many people turn away from environmental concerns presented in overly dry, didactic manner, which more often induce guilt, dismay or helplessness than engagement (i.e acceptance and action - stage 5). Kubler Ross - denial, blame/anger, bargaining, acceptance (action)
leading acoustic ecologist is at DCU Tom Lawrence, another at Limerick, climate sound artist Mikael Fernstrom - seek some meetings with such people want to feed this knowledge practice into my work - need to be as confident with sound as with visuals explore further ideas of non-voice work look further at early 1920 doc makers Vertov etc, also 1950 poet/film experimental filmmakers
I have been blogging since 2008 on general art and ecology across all art disciplines, as in recent years I have been helping those in music, theatre, dance as well as the visual arts. Coming to my PhD I was uncertain whether to continue blogging for my research even tho I had training from some of the best social media experts in Ireland. However I see now blogging as important part of my practice in both theory and practice and my extensive social media skills are an advantage to disseminate the work. I have completely adopted the ethos of social media - to share and learn along with others, from practical learning of software, and i’m also aware that one can encourage readers as co-collaborators of the work/process See site as resource for other academics and ecofilmakers; As probably one of the most well known in Ireland for art and ecology, even though I’m in a rural location I’m well aware that today becoming an authority on a subject can often be assisted by the presence/networks you create online. In the last 6 months I’ve realised that quite a number of the literary ecocritic academics I have mentioned are bloggers and I would see this as an important means to connect and share my work in this small but growing area. It has been very heartening to see that the literary field is also extending an invitation to others in other disciplines to often submit visual work too. my site is new- haven’t begun to really push it yet some of these thoughts came from supervising 4th year theses this year - have a horror of my work locked up in black bound victorian looking theses/ inaccessible, feepaying papers
though my work has been fairly slow and painstaking, I could see that the work could become an important ‘node’ for eco and exp film work networks - value to students / yourselves all artists should become aware of the international organisation www.culturefutures.org I run a simple site and facebook page also on these topics: www.ecoartnotebook.com and www.facebook.com/ ecoartnotes
Professor Maziak writing in the leading art and science journal Leonardo, has strongly argued that “the strengthening and coordination of this movement has never been more urgent, and its reinvigoration by the critical mass of scientists and artists has never been more sorely needed … understandably, scientists and artists may be the least willing to be involved in politics, and many, rightly so, consider such involvement to be a distraction from creativity and inventiveness. Unfortunately, the luxury of devoting one’s whole self to probing into the wonders of science and the arts is one we can no longer afford. Neither art nor science can thrive in an unstable, depleted world” (1).
“ A tiny forest in the making in rural ireland may have something to teach us about one most important ecosystems on the planet on which so many of us depend, as well as teaching us a thing or two about the wisdom of employing an ecocentric perspective in our cultural activities”
nature on screen
can ecocinema forms and global networked filmic spaces reconnect us to a sense of place and planet
Theory and Practice
Martin Salinas Save the humans (2010) Flickr - creative commons
culture will have a critical role (perhaps more so than science and politics), to transition humanity to an ecological age culture|futures 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit to worlds Arts Councils/Practitioners
‘ there is much work to be undertaken by ecocritics interested in unpacking the environmental means carried or enabled by, and the constraints and potentials inherent in film and visual media ’ Ivakhiv, 2008 Green Film criticism and its futures - Int. study in Lit & Env
still: ‘the tree of life’ terrence malick 2010
‘ What would ‘green’ film & visual scholarship look like? ’
‘ it may probe both the limitations and potentials offered by film and visual media – including the potential to expand awarenes s, empathy , and understanding across species and across socio-ecological cultural differences’
Adrian Ivakhiv author of Green Film Criticism and Its Futures , Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature & Env, Summer, 2008
can more ecocentric cinematic forms and global networked filmic spaces reconnect us to a sense of place and planet
are there formal/conceptual/theoretical tools that can expand the way we use film to present a more comprehensive ecological view, over and above films that primarily address environmental/conservation themes?
what potentials are offered by new social media filmic spaces* to engage global audiences in ecological concerns or to envision more sustainable futures
research enquiry has originated and is very much led by questions that have evolved out of my art & science practice over many years
questions arising from my practice are pointing to possible chapters;
cover 3-4 topics in reasonable depth based on my first paper & refer to practices at the end of some sections
key strands ecocriticism in cinema ‘ nature’ (earth) ecocentric cinematic forms? increase audience EMPATHY to biospheric community? poetic rather than rational /overtly didactic documentary strategies, allow audience greater experiential spaces of possibility to engage with the subject? beauty can it save the world? ecocriticism in cinema c u l t u r e production & circulation of cinema on internet
maybe it’s too late? ECOCRITICISM the ability to investigate cultural artefacts from an ecological perspective ecocriticism image: Chris Sickles
ecocriticism in cinema material social perceptual Ecology of Images : from Adrian Ivakhiv’s paper: Green Film Criticism and Its Futures , Interdisciplinary Studies in Lit. & Env, Summer, 2008 production & circulation of cinema on internet technology
my practical research in experimental film will attempt to investigate the possibility / impossibility of creating ‘ecocinema*’ works
practice may include: extended formats, unusual montage and editing, use of silence and natural sounds, elimination of ‘voice of god’ narration , foregrounding of nature/time/seasons, capturing the everyday sublime in nature as a means of presenting the unknowingness/complexity of ecological world view , investigate ecopoesis forms - poetic format that is both pre-political and pre-scientific to lessen the didactic quality of the work
aim is to create work for general audiences: to engage not challenge*
“ A tiny forest in the making in rural ireland may have something to teach us about one most important ecosystems on the planet on which so many of us depend , as well as teaching us a thing or two about the wisdom of employing a more ecocentric perspective in our cultural activities”