The poetics of fiber (fabric, paper, felt, wool, fleece, etc.) contains folds, which can metaphorically link to physical and psychological dimensions of space.

What if the poetics of cloth were composed of ‘soft logics’, modes of thought that twist and turn and stretch and fold? And in this movement new encounters were made, beyond the constraint of binaries? The binary offers two possibilities, either/or; soft logics offers multiple possibilities. They are the realm of the and/and, where anything can happen…Soft logics are to think without excluding…And if soft suggests an elastic surface, a tensile quality that yields to pressure this is not a weakness; for ‘an object that gives in is actually stronger than one that resists, because it also permits the opportunity to be oneself in a new way’ (Pennina Barnett, “Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth in Jessica Hemmings (editor) The Textile Reader and Max Kozloff, “The Poetics of Softness” in Remderings, Critical Essays on a Century of Modern Art).


Philosopher Gilles Deleuze believed that the concept of the fold was an image of the mental and physical landscape. The fold is not unlike exercising the brain to perceive differently; it is experimental thinking, a creative activity that is triggered by a new encounter or conditions that are unfamiliar. The fold is tactile, embodied and sensuous. It is not an interpretation, but a response, a feeling of being ‘touched’ in a unfamiliar way. The caress of an unexpected happening can inspire and rejuvenate. The poetic fiber stretches out, enfolding a new set of experiences. The mental and physical sensation of being stretched (unfolded and unformed) through new ideas, new people, new places, and spontaneous activities exercises both mind and body to be more flexible.

The smooth space of experimentation, where ideas and body may flow is not unlike felt.

Because it is made by rolling fibers back and forth until they enmesh, felt can potentially extend in all directions, without limit, entangled in a continuous variation – a fabric, at least in principle without top, bottom or centre (Pennina Barnett, “Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth” in Jessica Hemmings (editor) The Textile Reader.


Felt is a metaphor for extended space, an enmeshment of influences that shape our character and actions. The friction needed to produce felt, is indicative of the effort and force needed to create the material of our lives. Rather than uniformity, felt is entanglement. It also reflects the transformation of one reality into another, as loose fleece becomes a strong cloth through concentrated action.


Pennina Barnett, “Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth” in Jessica Hemmings (editor) The Textile Reader

Max Kozloff, “The Poetics of Softness” in Renderings, Critical Essays on a Century of Modern Art


Crocheted Seed Sculptures, Suspended by the Grand Canal, Dublin

Sheep’s Fleece from Finland, Sculpted in a Washing Machine, Ireland



The creation of an environmental installation by many hands, is largely an improvisation of collective desire. An installation can be a meeting place. Manipulating materials and physicality, re-shaping space and investigating possibilities, composes a landscape of ideas. The desire of each participant generates meaning as a production. The energy of actions with others, can reassemble an area, and become an installation of a new environment, that unfolds within a pre-existing environment. Another location erupts from collective intentions.

As we reacquaint ourselves with our breathing bodies then the perceived world itself begins to shift and transform. When we begin to consciously frequent the wordless dimension of our sensory participation, certain phenomena that have habitually commanded our focus begin to lose their distinctive fascination and to slip toward the background, while hitherto unnoticed or overlooked presences begin to stand forth from the periphery and to engage our  awareness (David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous)

Poetry Fiber 2

Sculpting public space, through collaborative artworks, creates new arenas of exchange. Physical and mental affects are refreshed. Installation art can re-make a specific area into a new social ecology. Weaving the supports for new movements and new perspectives, can ignite the  adrenalin of experimentation. The desire to exceed pre-existing life structures, and make new formations broadens experiential dimensions. The architecture of life becomes malleable, a living art. Subjectivity is an ecology that involves a web of influences. Collaborative art can structure improvisation and new gestures of growth into a shared social assemblage.

The social context, is an ecology of human biodiversity. Relationships between people manufacture artworks that exude complexity, divergent paths of discovery and new areas of exchange. The collective takes us out of our habits, compulsions and routines. A social movement, can be a group artwork. Movement is a basis for perception; it can induce more fluid or lateral thinking that includes the ‘ands’ of the group experience.  Our own familiarity of how we do things, is challenged; it is not always ‘right’. Making art within a community of people, goes beyond personal limits, and we are challenged to create in ‘unusual’ circumstances.

The core of the movement experience is the sensation of moving and being moved. There are many implications in putting it like this. Ideally, both are present in the same instant, and it may be literally an instant. It is a moment of total awareness, the coming together of what I am doing and what is happening to me. It cannot be anticipated, explained, specifically worked for, nor recreated exactly (Mary Whitehouse, “The Tao of the Body” in Don Hanlon Johnson (editor) Bone, Breath, Gesture: Practices of Embodiment)


Community sculpts us differently. Physicality and structures of thinking can be re-shaped and opened through contact with others and new experiences. Certainty is questioned, and the power of improvisation is the capacity to experiment with materials, conditions and people without knowing what will happen. A certain reverie enters through sensory stimulation that takes us out of our usual physical postures, ways of moving, and social presentation.

And even more important, this moment of surrender and new sensation can demonstrate to me that I am not permanently obliged to continue acting out a habitual compulsion. I can see that the habit is a habit, that I am something else, and that for the moment I can choose to repeat it or not. And if I can drop a compulsive behavior or attitude for a moment without causing a crisis, then perhaps I can dispense with it altogether (Deane Juhan, Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork).


David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics

Felix Guattari, The Three Ecologies

Deane Juhan, Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork

Mary Whitehouse, “The Tao of the Body” in Don Hanlon Johnson (editor) Bone, Breath, Gesture: Practices of Embodiment.


Petronas Gallery, Habitat Exhibition, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1999

Body, Space, Image

March 8, 2013

Take an image, let it hang in the mind, let the sensation of the thought dissolve through the body. Let the movement inside the body…move outside. Allow the sensations their own time and expression…waiting for a space between the thoughts, an unlocking of the parts of the body – a gap into which something new can emerge (Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Performance).


Gilles Deleuze developed the concept of the fold in relation to developing an idea of space that actualized the body in different ways. Architecture has been influenced by his ideas of fluid space, which can influence the body’s capacity to move. Architecture is a frame or scene that can enfold the body within its dimensions. An inflection of space, can potentially be connected to improvisation.  Improvising movement in response to the topography of architecture experiments with the body in relation to the spaces of a built environment. Deleuze’s concepts of architecture understand it as a dynamic force which can influence physical possibilities. Architecture can direct physical formations and qualities of movement.

We improvise the moment we cease to know what is going to happen. Setting the mind loose from the ongoingness of everyday life (Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Performance).

Retreat 2

The surfaces of buildings and interiors, the spaces they inhabit and generate are the stimulants of exploring representations of the body. The body can repeat patterns of movement through space, or add on new ways of investigation spatial features. The desire of the body can be enacted within different kinds of spaces, that encourage instinctual expression. The body’s desire is about production, becoming and connecting. A community of bodies within a shared space will enact the space according to different desires. Each participant will go their own way, animating their shared space through their own interpretations. As animate forms, bodies imagine space differently.

Where you are when you don’t know where you are is one of the most precious spots offered by improvisation. It is a place from which more directions are possible than anywhere else. I call this place the gap. The more I improvise, the more I’m convinced that it is through the medium of these gaps – this momentary suspension of reference point – that comes the unexpected and much sought after ‘original’ material. It’s ‘original’ because its origin is the current moment and because it come from outside our usual frame of reference (Nancy Stark Smith quoted in Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Peformance).


Deleuze is interested in how we occupy different kinds of space within a social assemblage. Explorations of space using improvisation are nomadic, wandering through physical positions both familiar and unfamiliar with others simultaneously undergoing the same kinds of experiences.

Each person is at once responsive to others and independent of them, ready to be changed by, but not absorbed into another person’s activity. The skill lies in being able to include what another person is doing, while not losing one’s own momentum of thought. Each person must become an ingredient in the mixing and making of a piece. There is no place for manners or mannerisms. Social conventions, routine habits of polite or impolite daily life, suppress the sensory and imaginative world from which this work begins. (Simone Forti quoted in Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Performance).


Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Performance. 

Ian Buchanan and Greg Lambert (editors) Deleuze and Space


Graffiti The Royal Canal Dublin

Pigment on Handmade Paper at The Creative Arts Retreat, Wales

Drawing with Words Exhibition, Ardee Library, County Louth


March 7, 2013

There is no being, which is separate from the processes of becoming. Our world consists of moments of becoming, the mingling of bodies, the meeting of forces, a constant interpenetration and interconnection of all phenomena. (Simon O’Sullivan, Art Encounters: Deleuze and Guattari Thought Beyond Representation)


Simon O’Sullivan’s book Art Encounters: Deleuze and Guattari Thought Beyond Representation discusses how movement forms the basis of art that physically connects to instinct, impulse and improvisation. Movement connects locations of subjectivity, through transversal actions. Subjectivity is a becoming that can be appreciated more in the making of art than as a representation of an artwork’s meaning.

Meaning is always fluid and plural for Deleuze and Guattari, the self is never enclosed as an entity, but instead a work of potential becoming. Potential is in the production of “new plots of land”, it is not a re-tracing of one’s steps over what has gone on before, but instead creates a new landscape of connections. Each artwork adds on to identity as an accumulation, a series  of ands.

Retreat 5

Deleuze and Guattari use the word subjectivity to denote a system of environments that compose identity not as a singular entity but as an assemblage. Their plea is for everyone to experiment with opportunity, to realize potential in many different places. To embrace life as a learning system that grows laterally. In art terms this system of life locations, could be called an imagescpae, a collection of personal images that reflect a variety of life activities and circumstances.



Simon O’Sullivan, Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari: Thought Beyond Represenation


Textile Workshop – Stitching with Wire and Plastic, FE McWiliam Gallery, Northern Ireland

Scratched Line on Ochre Cliff, The Creative Arts Retreat Wales

Artist Book made with Sandi Sexton Book Artist, Ireland


Emotionally we derive from nature pleasure, fulfillment, inspiration and solace; nature is fundamental to our culture, language, psychological and spiritual well-being (Irish Environmental Information Service).

Plants and trees shape imagination, they are alive symbols rich in social history, customs and beliefs.  Historically they are emblems that inspire stories, poetry, and folklore. As living landmarks, they designate boundaries, record historic events, offer medicinal cures, and  become gathering places for communities.

May Bush

Tree and plant folklore in Ireland is rich with psychological references. Gathering bundles of plants for protection, influence, love, prosperity, and good health are a strong cultural tradition. All Celtic seasons involve the psyche within the dynamics of seasonal activity. Propagation, harvest, death and new growth are all reflected within particular seasonal intentions. Each Celtic season has customs associated with physical and psychological processes connected to change.


The great ideas in art often manifest in very humble forms, through a small area of colour, or through a green tone around a certain small form, or for instance through an olive leaf.

Agriculture is a question of art, which for me is is the engagement with substances. In other words, if one understands the spirit of substances, one can only really do agriculture. (Quotation by Joseph Beuys, What Is Art?).

Traditional herbalism promotes the restorative aspects of plants often mistaken for weeds. Charms and rituals were also connected to the picking and bundling of herbs, which would offer support during times of distress or aid in the acquisition of good luck. Dressing trees for May Day, promised fertility and abundance. Lighting a fire for Samhain (Halloween or Summer’s End) produced the fertilizing ashes for the next growing year, and distributed in its smoke the hopes and wishes of the community.


The production of amulets made from natural materials, are sculptural forms that can be carried by children and adults for a specific purpose. A bundle of symbolic natural materials, can act as a hand held sculpture. Collected while wandering through forests or naturalized areas, each plant and tree ingredient can have a particular meaning, and collectively act as an assemblage of influences from nature and the world at large.


Lisa Lipsett, a Canadian artist and environmental educator, believes that an empathic relationship to nature through touch, develops attention, contemplative action and spontaneity. Using nature as an outdoor studio, inspires art forms that can be embraced in a different way than bought art materials. The discovery of shape, texture and use of each found environmental art material, creates a composition of many influences, evoking a  personal ecology.


Lisa Lipsett,

Niall MacCoitir, Irish Wild Plants: Myths, Legends and Folklore

Ben Simon, Tales, Traditions and Folklore of Ireland’s Trees

Volker Harlan (editor) What is Art? Conversations with Joseph Beuys


St. Brigid’s Well, Northern Ireland

The May Bush (An Irish Traditional Symbol for Protection)

Young Girl with Bouquet Headdress

Children participating in Land Art Workshops, County Louth, Ireland 


An empathy with the natural world can become a vital part of children’s psyches; they will learn to take nothing for granted, and will continually probe and ponder. They will have a sense of wonder and mystery about the world around them; it will become a vibrant part of their consciousness…In short, they will feel committed and responsible for the world in which they have been placed as caretakers for a brief moment of time (Paddy Madden, Go Wild at School).

By cultivating gardens as art installations, children are producing habitats which combine aesthetic and sensory experiences. Working with nature, landscapes, and living art materials (foraged branches, stems, clay, flowers, seaweed, etc.) offers children the opportunity to become foraging artists, as they collect and harvest their own art materials. Making their own landmarks, dens, and shelters, supplies children with an escape route for a welcomed ‘time out’ from daily life. The emotional fulfillment and solace gained from  making their own environments, supports well being and has a restorative effect.


Community gardens can also offer a way for children to enact community activism. Guerrilla gardening (creating gardens within neglected or forgotten pieces of land in urban areas) can be a source of pride and a link to working with adults in a collaborative way. Intergenerational guerrilla gardening is a way to collectively envision social change, while also learning about gardening and how to work as a team. Guerrilla gardening offers children a conceptual understanding of the world at large, a way of developing analytical skills and strategies for community involvement.


The Children and Nature Network ( compiles international research supporting the educational and health benefits related to children’s contact with nature.

The following is a summary of some of these research findings.

1.  Nature enhances children’s skills in the following areas –

Problem Solving, Teamwork, Experimentation, Decision-Making, Adaptability, Confidence, Enhanced Communication, Sensory Development, Intellectual Stimulation (Carol Duffy, Childhood Specialist, Ireland)

2. Recent research proposes that exposure to the outdoors reduces anxiety, and enhances learning. (Dr. Dorothy Matthews, American Society for Microbiology)

3. “A den (made from natural materials) is the child’s sense of self being born, a chance to create a home away from home that becomes a manifestation of who they are. The den is the chrysalis out of which the butterfly is born.” (David Sobel, Antioch New England Graduate School)


4. “By bolstering children’s attention resources, green spaces may enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life stress”. Engagement with natural settings has been linked to a child’s ability to focus, and enhances cognitive abilities. Nearby nature is a buffer for anxiety and adversity in children. (Dr Nancy Wells, Cornell University, New York)

5. The outdoor environment enhances the understanding of social relationships, language, physical movement, reasoning, curiosity, and the capacity to imagine possibilities. (Jane Williams-Siegfredsen, Viborg University College, Denmark)

6. Fostering children’s identity to include personal and social relationships to nature, improves their empathy and sense of inter-connection with the world-at-large. (Anita Barrows, Clinical Psychologist, Berkeley, California)

7. Nature can activate sensory, emotional, cognitive, symbolic and creative levels of human experience through de-familiarisation. Taken for granted everyday things, are sensitively given new meaning and enhance a child’s capacity to perceive. (Jan Van Boeckel, Research Fellow Aalto University Helsinki, Anthropologist, Filmmaker)

8. “Involuntary attention, as opposed to directed attention, can be cultivated within nature”. The “soft fascination” of the natural world can restore focussed attention required for directed studies. Involuntary attention is achieved without effort by simply observing what captures our attention. Our mind wanders and takes a rest from concentrated effort, which in turn improves learning. (Marc Berman, Brain Scientist, University of Michigan)


Paddy Madden, Go Wild at School

Children and Nature Network

Nature Art Education

Wild by Nature

March 5, 2013

I needed to do something that would renew my spirit and give me a sense of peace and optimism. That’s when I created this garden. What continually amazes me is how something so simple as this garden has stimulated so many wonderful conversations with the people in my community (Vancouver, Green Streets Volunteer).

Art therapy can be cultivated within the common lands of community life. These might include community gardens, playgrounds, parks and schools. A boulevard might also be a place to cultivate food or flowers, leave symbolic objects, decorate trees, leave notes, and assert your identity. A front garden and green spaces lining sidewalks can be personalized with guerrilla art, homemade crafts, and free food stalls.


The Healing Fields: Working with Psychotherapy and Nature to Rebuild Shattered Lives by Sonja Linden and Jenny Grut describes how cycles of the natural world, and metaphors for gardening have rich psychological associations. For example –

Transplanting, Blossoming, Digging Deep, Grounded, Putting Down Roots, Cutting Back, Branching Out, Shedding, Weeding Out, etc.

Art therapy is largely an indoor activity that takes place behind closed doors. It is enclosed within a potentially claustrophobic space. Using the outdoor landscape as an art therapy studio liberates the senses. Participants are confronted with the ever changing conditions of weather, noise, seasonal materials, and varying temperatures.


Neighborhoods can be a series of interactive gardens, whereby householders create sidewalk galleries. In Vancouver, Green Streets neighbourhoods encourage idiosyncratic displays of community spirit at street level. Domestic decorations inhabit urban walkways. Front lawns can be places to grow food gardens and scenes for the imagination. The unpredictable display of the personal within public streets, either through unique gardening styles or through shrine like arrangements of offerings, is invigorating to both mind and body.

The aim of art is not simply to communicate something that has already been formulated, but to create something unexpected.

One of art’s attractions is that it constantly finds new ways of pushing forward into a territory that feels quite strange and yet shockingly familiar.

(Psychological Aesthetics: Painting, Feeling and Making Sense by David Maclagan)

Fritz Haeg is commissioned by cultural institutions to dig up grass and install vegetable gardens within suburban front lawns. These gardens become educational and conversational sites for neighbors and walkers. The front lawn is the canvas, a gallery of vegetables in front of the house. Working the garden is public, and interactive, the potential to share produce and ideas within a community context.


A garden is a work in progress, an art assemblage, a zone of shared imaginative experience. The ambiguous territories of sidewalk boulevards, playgrounds and parks offer spaces for processing, and connecting with a variety of people and activities. We move through collective community spaces and respond to different happenings along the way.


The Healing Fields: Working with Psychotherapy and Nature to Rebuild Shattered Lives by Sonja Linden and Jenny Grut

Fritz Haeg

Fritz Haeg Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn

City of Vancouver Green Streets Program 

David Maclagan Psychological Aesthetics: Painting, Feeling and Making Sense

Anthony Elliott Subject to Ourselves: Social Theory, Psychoanalysis and Postmodernity


Davie Village Community Garden, Vancouver



Community celebrations can be improvised happenings where the spirit of people and the energy of the landscape combine to produce an ecology of meaningful associations. Cultivating new ground for gatherings and productivity can also create a new local landmark. Re-visioning and re-shaping the everyday, into something unusual and fascinating, can be both an art form and form of social activism. Our landscape is influenced by nature and culture, and our relationship to places. Enacting rituals, improvising with others, sharing stories, poems, and social history, celebrates meaning within diversity.


Within the thoroughfares of everyday life, growth emerges. The intentions of many people produce happenings, and an adrenalin rush aimed at living within the pulse of a social naturescape. The eagerness by which community members (of all ages) participate in celebrations, is like a craving to be engaged more deeply with the people and landscapes that surround them. The desire to create, nurture and act out in public is a feature of community celebrations within everyday places. The local landscape is also the terrain of guerrilla gardeners and artists. What we pass by everyday can be a canvas for social action.


Common Ground Rules for Local Distinctiveness 

Local distinctiveness is about landscapes, buildings, customs, folklore, histories, art, diverse natures (biodiversity), languages, and the many ways people inhabit common lands.

The ephemeral and invisible are important too: customs, dialects, celebrations, names, recipes, spoken history, myths, legends and symbols. All these things are folded into identity. Localities are always open to outside influences, new people, ideas, activities,  and just as nature keeps experimenting, localities must face the paradox of persistence and change…Often it is the commonplace things, the locally abundant that we take for granted and let slip through our fingers (Sue Clifford and Angela King, Common Ground,



Refer to and click blogs for a list of case studies regarding community gardens including celebrations.

Common Ground is an arts and environment organisation championing local distinctiveness, popular democratic involvement, and celebration as the starting point for improving everyday places.


Blackrock Playground Garden Celebration, County Louth, Ireland

Peace Pilgrims Parade, St. Peter’s National School, County Louth, Ireland

The Tree Tribes Parade, Launch of National Tree Week in Ireland