Expression of Interest
Current Research Project Aims or Questions
a. How can good Earth practices be learned and embodied through artmaking?
b. How can artmaking make the unseen visible in order to induce the magical?
c. How can artmaking convey indigenous knowledge and in doing so give agency to societal change?
Describe my projects/goals
I propose to question how art practice can engage with and become more entangled with the Earth in order to amplify the message that we are amidst an existential environmental crisis.
My project’s aim is to create art works that aspire to knowledge sharing without taking a dictatorial tone and attempt to create enchantment and evoke the magical in order to inspire or nurture action, as a call to rewild both nature and humanity.
I intend to research my questions around the theme of the climate crisis through the lens of spiritual ecology. This, I break down into the categories of: environment, conservation, spirit, eco-feminism and philosophy.
As a species we seem to be delaying our response to this crisis (perhaps due to its magnitude and complexity). More than ever, therefore, we need to apply constant pressure so that we keep the conversation, and humanity, moving forward towards the creation and implementation of workable solutions to the deeds of our past.
There are endless online resources available by which one can keep abreast of the latest environmental reports and statistics, such as the UN Environment Programme that (without limitation) brings regular and updated commentary, real-time data, key reports and publications, that cover everything from plastic pollution, air quality monitoring, famine, coral reefs and deforestation. High profile conferences such as the United Nations Climate Change Conference also provide a rich source of relevant data.
When I think of Environmental Art, I think of works that are heavy with scientific fact and whilst educational, sometime they are not necessarily spirited.
For example, I refer to the video by Unknown Fields entitled “The Breast Milk of the Volcano”. This highlights the ecological issues of battery production, as we are taken through the lithium lakes in Bolivia. Whilst it is an aesthetically beautiful and poetic take on the industry, and I can feel the weight of it (even to the extent that it induces the guilt that I, as a human, carry from playing my part in this toxic industrial ecology that we have knowingly built for our ease), it does not connect me sufficiently to the earth and thereby motivate me to act. In other words, it lacks spirit. I’m left feeling overwhelmed and without answers, and I’m left without any real connection to this desolate land. Is it too shocking?
Timothy Morton in his essay ‘On Ecological Thinking’ states that “Something slightly gentler could bring people in”.
Dineo Seshee Bopape’s installations are often made of soil and talk of memory, and has a socio- political and historical narrative. For me, this work immediately emits spirit, not because of the narrative but, due to the use of natural materials. When does it move beyond the artwork and into the psyche? Is it through touch or other senses? Is it the scent and texture of the soil in the case of Bopape? Does she choose to bring in spirit surreptitiously?
Could Morton’s “gentler” approach mean Ernesto Neto’s soft, nurturing, tactile and sensory social spaces (all which could describe the Shamanic space)? These are safe spaces (as are those that the Shaman creates) but Neto also pushes it to the obvious; he creates the tree of life, albeit crocheted or woven in textiles, and inside this he forms a circle, and then invites the Shaman in to share his wisdom. Are we provoked to act in support of the environmental cause by listening to the wisdom of the Shaman? Is it enough?
The Australian artist Karma Barnes, works in collaboration with Ekarasa Doblanovic to create artworks made of soils found on location. Visitors are then invited to make clay pots from the soil within the work, and to walk through the work and disturb the soil. Is this the point of connection, of being embedded in the work? Do we need to have participants in the artwork? Does it need to be performative in order for it to penetrate our senses?
Do we need to awaken all our senses to emit or imbibe the magical?
In “The Milk of Dreams”, curated by Cecilia Alemani at the Venice Biennale, Alemani noted key questions that kept emerging from many of the artists;
“How is the definition of the human changing? What constitutes life, and what differentiates plant and animal, human and non-human? What are our responsibilities towards the planet, other people, and other life forms?“
I felt the exhibition fell short of answering these questions.
My experience of the Biennale was not spirited, nor magical (although maybe I found it for a brief moment when in an empty room, I witnessed a women knelt in prayer at the foot of a sculpture by Simone Leigh).
Was there too much work? Did I not have enough space to be alone with the work? Was I dispirited?
Jakob Kudsk Steenson mixes real and virtual worlds to create his alternate vision of the environment. He induces the magical through myth, storytelling and the play of virtual against the real, whilst still making clear his environmental narrative such as in ‘Re-animated’ 2019, the song of the Kaua’i ʻōʻō bird, a now extinct species. Do we need to enter the virtual realm to fully encounter, and to feel, the spirit? We may be disconcerted by the animation, as dismembered objects float before us but, it captivates me, like a shamanic journey would. It is spirited.
Do we need to create an installation (whether physical or digital) for spirit to live within? Do we, quite literally, have to re-enact the ‘Shamanic space’? Can objects be imbued with spirit? And do we need this in order to become more concerned for the environment?
My arts practice begins with an investigation into current ecological issues, before honing in and building on a specific topic. Work may begin with a location or territory. Drawings or photographs may be taken in the early stages of the work, for information gathering (as well as often playing a role in the completed work), allowing me to work through ideas in image and space.
I usually perform the acts of research and making in tandem, as both provoke questions in and of one another, and I allow them to play off each other.
As images or objects evolve, new questions arise around making and prompt philosophical questions. I often position myself in the physical space or territories I am considering, so as to allow me to gather first-hand information which may take the form of photographs, video or sound recordings.
Another level to the research is spirit led. This revolves around my shamanic practice and is more experiential and intuitive but, will impact and feed directly to the practice and the direction that it will take. Careful consideration needs to be taken as to how this is dealt with in the research - whether it is evidenced and notated (ie. a diary of events).
I work in a multi-disciplinary manner, and final works may take the form of digital images, drawings, video, sound, objects or installation (or some combination thereof).
 Shown at the Royal Academy, London in 2019 as part of the Eco-Visionaries show.