This post develops a conversation with Jethro Brice, who is preparing for field work along the crane migration route in the Hula Valley of Israel/Palestine. My current foci include peat bogs, bog-mosses, and questions of scale.
Plunged into a new setting, what do you look at? how do you start drawing? what might a ‘more-than-human’ focus entail? what would make the work interesting to others (humans)? Here are some starting thoughts.
With bog-moss in mind, what more might I see? I have learned to isolate single sphagnum strands, as if for identification and pull them gently from a clump without breaking them. But they exist collectively, as part of a plant community, as part of a bog … What might sculptural attention yield?
Herbert George (2014) offers a sculptural approach, suggesting viewers can consider an object in terms of Material and Place and its characteristics include Surface, Edge, Texture, Colour, and Scale. Its physicality includes Mass, and Centre of Gravity, and it addresses the space around it through by Volume and Space. A sculptural object might challenge its own solidity through Movement and Light. Viewers (and sculptors) bring Memory to their consideration.
With this guide, I might start to survey found objects – both expected and disturbing components of ecological ‘habitat’. Drawings may become interventions in place, and investigation might lead to an animation of objects, perhaps including photographic documentation. Self-questioning (about why I am doing this) will fade as I become obsessed with a subject and become urgent again when a deadline approaches. Something might grip me – that I cannot explain and cannot assess. I might discard it. On what basis can I decide what to keep working on?
Timothy Clark’s argument ‘Derangements of Scale‘ (a contribution to Telemorphis: Theory in an Era of Climate Change) helps excuse an indecision in how to work. The setting of a peatbog might make it relatively easy to accord ‘the nonhuman a disconcerting agency of its own’ (p5). To look at bog-moss as a carbon landscape, I have already experienced the sensation that ‘Climate change disrupts the scale at which one must think, skews categories of internal and external and resists inherited closed economies of accounting or explanation (p7)’. Clark concludes:
‘It is far easier for critics to stay inside the professionally familiar circle of cultural representation, ideas, and prejudices than to engage with the long-term relations of physical cause and effect, or the environmental costs of an infrastructure, questions that involve non-human agency and which engage modes of expertise that may lies outside the humanities as currently constituted.’
Clark believes that the mainstream literary criticism make up ‘forms of ideological containment that now need to change.’
Audra Mitchell models a way of approaching such deranged scales through academic work on International Relations. Writing about extinction, she says ‘This is not the Schumpeterian ‘creative destruction’ that fuels and smoothens the processes of global capitalism. Rather, it consists in the punctuation and rupture of histories and lifeways through the intrusion of non-being, or the eruption of ‘the void’ into the realm of human-dominated worlding.’
Michelle Bastian works with creative imagination in combination with scholarship in a forthcoming chapter on leatherback turtles, ‘Encountering leatherbacks in multispecies knots of time’ (Rose et al, references below).
So – without knowing yet how it can shape drawing in the field, academic work by Timothy Clark, Audra Mitchell and Michelle Bastian inspires me. Mitchell Thomashow’s version of cosmopolitan bioregionalism also appeals:
‘Developing the observational skills to patiently observe bioregional history, the conceptual skills to juxtapose scales, the imaginative faculties to play with multiple landscapes, and the compassion to empathize with local and global neighbours – these qualities are the foundation of a bioregional sensibility…’
‘… Restore natural history to collective memory so that it is no longer endangered knowledge… Understand that different scales may yield contrasting observations… Avoid the illusion of contrived stability…’
What an excellent principle for field drawing!
Avoid the illusion of contrived stability …
• Timothy Clark (2011) Literature and the Environment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Timothy Clark’s article Derangements of Scale is available on: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/o/ohp/10539563.0001.001/1:8/–telemorphosis-theory-in-the-era-of-climate-change-vol-1?rgn=div1;view=fulltext
• Herbert George, The Elements of Sculpture, , Phaidon, 2014
• Deborah Rose, Thom van Dooren and Matthew Chrulew (eds.) Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death and Generations. Columbia University Press: New York. (including Michelle Bastian)
• M. Thomashow, ‘Cosmopolitan Bioregionalism’, Bioregionalism, ed. M. V. McGinnis (London: Routledge, 1999), pp. 121-32 (pp. 130-31)
Yesterday the weather warnings map looked like this …
… but still almost 40 folk gathered at MacArts in Galashiels to watch a film narrated by Naomi Klein – This Changes Everything. This was to coincide with the UN Climate Summit in Paris. The discussion after flagged up several local sustainable initiatives – many of which are in The Little Green List.
Introduced by Mark Timmins, the event was initiated by Inge Panneels, (below).
You are welcome to join us for a second event next week:
Inge Panneels, Kate Foster and Jason Baxter are organising a walk into the Heart of the Borders on Saturday 12th December starting at the Focus Community Centre in Galashiels to form a heart shape made up of people in the beautiful Borders landscape to be part of events taking place all over the world. If you can make it, wear something red.
This is a free event. You can sign up for the walk here
In the school of Fine Art (between the printing and sculpture workshops) some empty paint pots and used paint trays are heaped next to a rubbish bin.
Inside I notice an invitation by the City Council to ‘put our rubbish to work’.
But not, I learn, paint pots.
The paint pots lying on the ground must be locked up in the Flammable Gas shelter in the courtyard. Their disposal is problematic, the pile grows inside the shed.
I take a few to the Project Space, considering possibilities of Re-Use.
Download this pdf for an Ivy Proposal for the Caldewgate campus garden, re-using and recycling found materials:
With appreciative thanks to staff and students at the Department of Fine Art, University of Cumbria.
Two walks in changeable places on the south west and south east English coast:
muddy places full of overwintering wading birds
The Severn from Sand Point – overlooking the lowest point for a possible Barrage (plans now shelved)
Ray Island on the Blackwater Estuary in Essex, a stone throw from proposed nuclear power station (Bradwell 2)
Grazed by a flock of Shetland sheep
Ray Island, uniquely self-forming from mud in a sheltered creek
a line of shrubs just visible above the sea wall, reddening into spring