A BUNDLE OF STICKS @ COURAGE COPSE CREATIVESPosted: July 24, 2012
Residency and Workshops for ART TREK 2012
An ongoing collaboration with site-artist and dancer Katy Lee has most recently led to a 3-weekend residency exploring the possibilities of creative ecological engagement with a 15.5-acre woodland in North Devon. COURAGE COPSE[i] is a PAWS (Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site) that Katy and her partner are attempting to restore to a more diverse managed woodland, involving hazel and oak coppicing, charcoal burning, firewood and woodland hens, as well as ecological art courses. Following my previous excursion along the Pebble Ridge[ii] I was keen to explore the narrative possibilities associated with such a process and to find activities to engage a range of participants with the issues surrounding the project.
The residency was promoted as part of ART TREK 2012[iii], an open studios event organized by North Devon Theatres. My own motivation was to provide an ecological art event within the otherwise ‘object-based’ programme, while exploring the potential of COURAGE COPSE CREATIVES as an ecological art project and developing some ideas for my forthcoming MA show in Falmouth. The residency was also proposed to research ideas for a future collaboration with Freddie Opoku-Addaie, associate choreographer with the Royal Opera House, as part of Dance in Devon’s Devon Dance Compass[iv] project later in the year. Freddie will be helping develop a community based dance project around my current practice – A BUNDLE OF STICKS.
After a period of practical research and experimentation around the site, combined with Katy’s intimate and growing understanding of it’s ecology, a number of workshops were held. The first involved a group of children; the second adults and the third invited fellow artists. Each was introduced to the idea of the woodland as a long-term sculptural work while being reminded that Nature is not simply something pretty to look at but the practical means of our survival and part of ourselves. While Katy told the story of the woodland, people were invited to respond creatively to it through using the materials at hand and exploring the various possibilities of art as both a means of investigation and expression. Activities were geared particularly towards practical aspects of woodland management, such as gathering wood and stacking and moving timber. We looked at some of the difficulties that working with Nature may evoke, such as the amount of hard work it would be without a certain degree of modern technology and the destructive behaviour of grey squirrels in respect of our own aspirations.
Each activity was accompanied by much constructive and interested conversation and followed by structured reflection. The workshops provoked a diverse range of outcomes and responses and have led to a number of interesting future proposals within the area, including work sharing, skills networking and an ecopsychology/healing project. In terms of my own hopes the residency consolidated my belief in considered, process-based, guided narrative structures to promote ecological dialogue and action, as well as confirming the healing and inspirational quality of locally gathered natural materials. It is hoped the residency will be repeated in future years both as an example of ecological art within the event and as a means to engage with the temporal and seasonal dimensions of such an ambitious project[v].