SHORTCOURSE/UK/Cornwall I

SHORTCOURSE/UK/CORNWALL – CAPEFAREWELL

eden project 5/6511

‘The landscape around the Eden Project forms the setting for the first day’s programme; the drained clay pits of St Austell plays host to shamanistic rituals, sweat lodges, a conjuring of Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’, a walking tour foraging a new kind of eco-literacy, and a black, sweltering night in a bug-filled biome…’  

video : searching for the spirit of eden http://vimeo.com/23526120

spirit of eden 1 (digital photo; pward 2011)

art & POLITICS

an initial response 

Firstly, I must say what a fantastic and exciting privilege it has been to share the ecological intimacy of a day and night with everyone as part of the SHORTCOURSE/UK project at Eden. For myself the importance and necessity of conversation, community and connection between like-minded people is essential in the face of the social and environmental challenges we are presently facing, as of course they are at any time. The mutually invigorating experiences of eating, listening and sleeping in the tropical BIOME, the gentle intensity and beauty of the sweat lodge and the fun and frivolity of the expedition all powerfully affirming our connections not only to each other as humans but also to “all our relations” in the abundant ecology which we gratefully and harmoniously inhabit with the earth, the air, the plants and birds and beasts. I wholeheartedly and eagerly anticipate our continuing capitulations toward understanding and earthly transformation.

spirit of eden 2 (digital photo; pward 2011)

In light of the frustratingly brief discussion that was ventured upon in the Quarry-with-No-Name after lunch on Friday, I would like to raise some further points, and repeat others, with regards the role artists might play in relation to the question of political action and involvement in state instigated community development projects. Of course, the issue of the ECOBOS venture in the ‘redundant’ clay pits near St. Austell is a case of individual complexity, the perceptions of failure and success within our contemporary, materially-biased society are food for continual contemplation, and the institutional adoption of the ‘sustainable’ trademark for the justification of any corporate action is well-known, but the implications of such issues maybe have broader ramifications. I hope that such surreptitiously unsolicited soliloquies may provoke and precipitate a deliberately open-ended dialogue of decisiveness and obligingly inconclusive inventivity for performative prowess and empowerment. I, you and we are all well able to speak our minds in the silence of soporific egality – or we may, of course, just respond…

Primarily, we are human beings (or becomings) as part of the universal community before we are artists (and despite Joseph Beuys’ observations)…

 “Every human being is an artist, a freedom being, called to participate in transforming and reshaping the conditions, thinking and structures that shape and inform our lives”

However, ART is integral to any and every human society as a manifestation of its creative potential. In western society ART is predominantly considered or seen as a separate entity and it is maybe this ‘visibility’, this ‘Cartesian dis-integration’ from the flow of mainstream society that undermines the political and transformative powers that it may offer…

ART is inherently political in nature through its power to transform and question perception both physically and intellectually (if such existential concepts are indeed separable?), but essentially through its practical and experientially engaged participation in the creative process. However, to use ART for purposes of secular political or corporate manipulation is, in my opinion, a contradiction of the integrity of the artistic process. As I understand it, this process is one that celebrates, enriches and affirms our intelligences and sensibilities as universal beings, rather than one that undermines, suppresses or dictates such gifts…

As humans and ecologically-implied responsible beings we all have the power and right to act politically on behalf of ourselves and the earth community of which we are a symbiotically and harmoniously engaged part. Any action, artistic or otherwise, that contravenes such freedoms should be treated with suspicion and great caution…

“ecology expresses the interdependence of this existence; how the action of a part affects the whole”

As artists we do not need to define our political actions artistically – if we feel strongly that there is injustice, or corporate deception with the intent of secular profit or violence, or behaviour that is both ecologically inappropriate and destructive, then we have the ability and freedom to respond in whatever way we see fit…

For example, in relation to the ECOBOS project, if I decided as an individual to deposit 40 tonnes of cattle excrement and slurry on the doorstep of the development office (in the spirit of my continental cousins) accompanied by a banner politely proclaiming “I would rather not have your shit on my doorstep either!!” – then of course such an action could be analysed and justified artistically, but essentially its ramifications are political. The action would obviously raise awareness of the issue to the broader public, but continuation of the action from the security of a prison cell may be somewhat difficult!? If, alternatively, I chose to write an erudite missive to influential people outlining and explaining why I felt the development was not sustainable or ecologically appropriate to the area both socially and environmentally, and how it might in fact create a massive drain on its already depleted and undeveloped natural resources, despite the aesthetically satisfying design of the proposal, and that their efforts may be better applied thus… then, if well recorded, documented and framed this action too could be regarded as ART. It would however raise little awareness of the issue amongst my neighbours as it would probably be swiftly made familiar with the wastepaper bin, or if lucky the recycling pile. If, I was to maybe communicate my thoughts, feelings and misgivings to my neighbours in an unpretentious, sensible and understandable way and then later to maybe ask them to add their names to a petition of support against the development or to attend a meeting to further discuss the feelings of the broader community to the development plan, and the actions were again well documented and presented within an ART context, then such activity could also be construed as ART. I could of course continue this line of argument ad infinitum, but think that maybe the points have been made – as artists we do not have to constantly justify or present our art or actions politically, that ‘Gentle Actions’ may be as effective as noisy ones, both having energetically amplifying implications, and that politics may sometimes be artful as well as aesthetically representative…

“Yet the power we sense in a seed, in the growth of a child, the power we feel writing, weaving, working, creating, making choices, has nothing to do with annihilation. It has more to do with the root meaning of the word power, from the (late popular) Latin, podere (“to be able”). It is power that comes from within.”

from DREAMING THE DARK by STARHAWK (Unwin Hyman Ltd; LONDON;1990)

Personally, I feel it more important that we develop ourselves as humans above our artistic development, but also realise and appreciate that art in itself is an extremely potent instrument for our individual and societal political and spiritual evolution…

  spirit of eden 3 (digital photo; pward 2011)

If we live in a place, breathe its air, drink its water, walk on its earth and engage with a place in relation to others then we are essentially a part of that community irrespective of our birthplace, our class or our political or spiritual sensibilities, or the opinions of those who have lived there longer than ourselves. It is important to remember, and remind others, that our successful and continued evolution as a race has involved constant movement and migration in search of resources, comfort and safety, and in the spirit of our determinate inquisitiveness. If people do not accept us or support our actions as humans, or artists, within a community then either it is their problem or we are behaving in a way unbefitting the ecologically determined bioregion in which we exist – it is simply for us to determine the integrity of our actions, to listen to ourselves and ‘all our relations’, to adjust and adapt, and to continue. We must face the fears and paranoias that disempower our creative action and embody the beauty and intelligence that is our individual birthright in harmonious communion with this infinite universal reality of which we are an integral part…

I hope that the points raised are sensitive to the spirit of the SHORTCOURSE/UK and that they inspire further engagement and dialogue of the issues with which we are involved.(pw 7511)

…more photos may be seen at

http://www.flickr.com/photos/selfcontained/sets/72157626556455877/with/5702527521/

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