This chapter argues that 'art' and 'ecology' are terms with broad meanings which, when combined in the concept of 'eco-art', create an overwhelming array of possibilities, and make the problem of categorisation fundamental to eco-art. It considers attempts to classify the field, and suggests that, while they can be helpful, the full force of the problem of categorisation is better addressed by turning to the position given to aesthetics by phenomenology. Drawing on phenomenology, the chapter provides a way of understanding aesthetics as ecology. It looks at two examples of interested signification. First one indicates how aesthetics of ecology can critique and present alternative possibilities in response to a work that is already considered eco-art; the other shows how an artist might start given the infinity of possibilities available.
In this chapter, the author provides an account of a walking and camping tour of Iceland in the company of co-artists Julie Livsey and Lesley Hicks. He investigates contemporary interdisciplinary practice and ways in which artists work with delineations of 'nature in Iceland' in the face of serious environmental concerns. The author includes a discussion of writer Halldór Laxness, film maker Benedikt Erlingsson and artist Louisa Matthíasdóttir. Iceland's Nobel Prize-winning, and, arguably, national-identity-forming, work of literature, Independent People by Halldór Laxness contains several spectacularly perilous journeys, starting with one in which the central character Bjartur makes a very big mistake that will inform everything that subsequently happens. Ólafur Elíasson's exhibition Bílar í Ám / Cars in Rivers is a contemporary iteration of the perilous journey.
An ecocritical consideration of collaborative, cross-disciplinary practices of walking, writing, drawing and exhibiting
Harriet Tarlo and Judith Tucker
This chapter suggests that drawing and poetry share the conceit of lines and their relation to the space of the page or ground. It begins with introducing the work of Harriet Tarlo and Judith Tucker in ecocritical context. The short poem, Tributaries, was written by the poet Tarlo, watching artist Tucker draw, very early on in collaborative place-based practice. The chapter presents the poem in relation to an image of a drawing, which is in turn, of course, an image of a place. It also presents case studies of two place-based creative projects based in northern England. They are Tributaries, close to home on Black Hill, near Holmfirth in the South Pennines, and Excavations and Estuaries, located a little further away, on the estuarial coastline and Fitties Holiday Park, Cleethorpes.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book follows the belief that ecocriticism has relevance across disciplines. It explores the ecocritical implications of collaboration across genres in the humanities, and literary, artistic and performance production through direct collaboration between the creative disciplines and the sciences. The book considers the possibilities for literary critique to account for the difficulties, focusing on contemporary environmental crisis fiction. It provides an account of a walking and camping tour of Iceland in the company of other artists. The book explains how photomontage has been used during the planning process to address concerns about the aesthetic appearance and community acceptance of turbines and wind farms. It also considers how international treaties have imposed strict environmental controls on what is permissible on the continent, and its unique status as an area where military activity is banned.
Environmental literary criticism, usually contracted to ecocriticism, has advanced considerably since the term was widely adopted in the 1980s and 1990s. This book considers examples of this advance across genres within literary studies and beyond into other creative forms. It explores the ecocritical implications of collaboration across genres in the humanities. The book also explores literary, artistic and performance production through direct collaboration between the creative disciplines and the sciences. It introduces the idea that the human denial of death has in part contributed to our approach to environmental crisis. The book argues that ecocriticism is a developing field, so attention must continue to be directed at reformulating thought in the (also) still unfolding aftermath of high theory. Examples of two poets' shared exploration show one's radical landscape poems side by side with the other's landscape drawings. Ecocritical ideas are integrated with the discussion of how this creative partnership has led to a body of work and the subsequent exhibitions and readings in which it has been taken to the public. One poet claims that to approach any art work ecocritically, it is necessary to bring to it some knowledge of current scientific thought regarding the biosphere. The book then explores poems about stones, on stones and stones which are the poem. The big environmental issues and Homo sapiens's problematic response to them evident in the mundane experience of day-to-day environments are discussed. Finally, the book talks about ecomusicology, past climate patterns, natural heritage interpretation, and photomontage in windfarm development.
In this chapter, the author shows an ecocritical approach in poetry extending outwards into wider areas of cross-arts collaboration. In the event, it seems to have revealed the insights of ecology extending inwards, into the creative process, shared or individual, and into the ways we understand the self. He hopes it has seemed natural to recognise no boundary between creative work done on one's own or in collaboration. The author explains the moral or political imperatives of environmental writing and criticism. He explains how he started to explore the creative process as the terms 'ecocriticism' and 'ecopoetic' made an appearance. He also shows how natural phenomena and processes may offer themselves as a way to see the process of an individual's self, to imagine the self, as an ecology, with disparate elements in shifting but interdependent relationships with each other.
Contemporary environmental crisis fiction and the post-theory era
This chapter focuses on the thematic use of death in a particular strand of environmental crisis fiction. This fiction seems to enter into a dialogue with ecocritics in today's post-theory era. If apocalypse is a feature of some environmental crisis fiction, the thematic use of death also infiltrates the narratives of this fiction where the apocalyptic trope is entirely absent, as well as performing alternative roles within an apocalyptic frame. Novels such as the three books of Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy, Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide, Jeanette Winterson's The Stone Gods and various others, each exploring a notion of death-facing as an ecological imperative. Taking death-denial as the root cause of environmental crisis, they consider a conscious turning towards death, depicted as the recognition and acceptance of humanity's mortal status.
This chapter considers some art works by British artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey, who practise in partnership as Ackroyd & Harvey. Ecocriticism is often associated with celebration of the natural world; Ackroyd & Harvey's work certainly celebrates nature, but also celebrates human capabilities and potential, offering hope and possibilities when confronting apocalyptic scenarios. Relatively diverse as the tenets of ecocriticism appear to be, one key aspect is the imperative, the impetus to action: praxis. Polar Diamond was created by Ackroyd & Harvey as a result of taking part in an expedition to the Arctic with Cape Farewell, an artistled campaigning organization. With their artistic interests grouped around the ideas and realities of transformative biological processes, of change and decay, and with deep interest in ecology and biology, much of Ackroyd & Harvey's work engages with environmental and scientific concerns.
Visitors to the countryside are increasingly faced with a variety of panels, interpretation centres and other interventions that convey selected narratives and ways of seeing our natural heritage. This chapter explores the scope for these cultural objects to be included in ecocritical enquiry. The ubiquity and undemanding nature of many displays makes for an accessible source of information about basic ecology as filtered through the viewpoint of site managers for national and country parks, nature reserves and other protected sites. Interpretation is a broad practice that embodies, creative writing and art, constructing ideas of place, explaining the natural environment and promoting a corporate identity. While projects like that on the Tweed Rivers will be immediately accessible to ecocritics, the humble but ubiquitous interpretation panel and the increasing use of technology may be more problematic.
The role of photomontage in the meaning-making of windfarm development
This chapter explores the role of photomontage in the development of windfarms in Britain, and how the production of such an image contributes to the meaning-making and ontology of a new windfarm. It links the trajectory of the development of windfarm photomontage with insights from ecocriticism, an academic discipline which reads environmental texts with and against literary and artistic works and has developed contemporaneously, gradually widening in scope and praxis. The chapter also explores the policy and regulatory context for the environmental assessment of landscape and the visual assessment of windfarms. Visualisations of windfarms have been central to issues of their social acceptance and community support. Driven by the expansion of windfarm development and the demands for more information, the emerging practice of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has become ever more extensive. A critical component of the EIA is the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA).