Art Therapy and Ecology 2

January 15, 2018

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Photo: Pamela in her garden

“For most people, art has nothing to do with ecology, or our relationship with environment…Yet ecology, or environment, is where we live, where all life lives – it is where cultures lives, where the arts and human endeavor lives, since culture also cannot be outside the world.” (Beth Carruthers, “Art, Place and the Meaning of Home,” Essay for the Vancouver Parks Board).

In his book An Ecology of Enchantment, Canadian gardener Des Kennedy has written that “a garden is a work in progress, an artistic exercise that’s never finished, but at every stage of its existence stirs with the excitement of the creative process. The notion of the gardener as a pilgrim denotes a journey of discovery, of learning as we go. Gardening is the chance to live in touch with the earth, to find ourselves within its seasonal turnings, and to truly appreciate the extraordinary beauty of each ordinary day”.

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Photo: Shelter made in Ravensdale Forest, Co. Louth

“The natural world is a vital and alive medium for art therapy…The outdoors can be experienced as a signifier for the extension of therapeutic practice into the world at large. The use of gathered, rather than bought, art materials fosters a sensing of one’s way through tactile exploration. The outdoor landscape offers a nomadic sense of exploration and spontaneity, mediated by surroundings that are not predetermined by function. This exterior space can offer the potential for rambling and gathering, a place for physical immediacy within many spatial dimensions that stimulate creative investigations. ..The reverie encountered when working within a natural landscape challenges one to view art therapy not as the creation of images, but rather as an overall experience of assembly…In this context, subjectivity relates to a natural terrain that is continually in flux, a mirroring of one’s own nature in motion amid changing circumstances”

(Quotation from Pamela Whitaker, “Groundswell: The Nature and Landscape of Art Therapy” in Materials and Media in Art Therapy: Critical Understandings of Diverse Artistic Vocabularies by Catherine Hyland Moon)

Inspiration for Outdoor Studios with Applications for Art Therapy

Sharon Kallis 

“Sharon Kallis is a Vancouver artist who specializes in working with unwanted natural materials. Involving community in connecting traditional hand techniques with invasive species and garden waste, she creates site-specific installations that become ecological interventions” (New Society Publishers, Author Description). She works with a “one-mile diet” approach to sourcing materials that are freely available and close at hand.

“In community outdoor work, my creative process begins with a harvest principal that embraces communal stewardship of the land; weeding, invasive species removal, coppicing, gleaning and gathering. Oral traditions of knowledge sharing occur; my own experience with plants and their uses are exchanged with those familiar to a place through close investigation of the surroundings, walking, sharing stories about the landscape and observed shifts in eco-systems. Installation ideas spring forth through conversation, idea sharing, identifying what materials are suitable for harvest and the consideration of the inherent physical properties of both place and material used.”

Sharon Kallis has written a book called Common Threads: Weaving Community Through Collaborative Eco-Art.

EartHand Gleaners Society

The East Hand Gleaners Society in Vancouver is a collective of artists who work with art, ecology and place. The word “gleaner” means to “gather something slowly and carefully in small pieces” (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/gleaner).

“By working with the plants around us using ancestral skills common to all cultures, we inspire participants to discover cultural connections, learn new skills, and discover novel sources of raw materials for creative practices, including garden waste, invasive plants, and textile waste.”

Oliver Kellhammer 

“I take biological systems and I remix them. In the way a DJ would remix music, I remix ecosystems and plants” Oliver Kellhammer 

“Oliver Kellhammer is an ecological artist, educator, activist and writer. Through his botanical interventions and public art projects, he seeks to demonstrate nature’s surprising ability to recover from damage. His work facilitates the processes of environmental regeneration by engaging the botanical and socio-political underpinnings of the landscape.”

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Oliver Kellhammer, Means of Production Garden, Vancouver

Artist Statement

“I am interested in exploring the processes of ecological regeneration in the wake of human disturbance, either through passive field observation (what can I not do?)… or by actively engaging the biological and socio-political processes that inform these landscapes by attempting to improve their relationships with each other. The latter approach often takes the form of what I call botanical interventions, whereby I employ horticultural techniques to mitigate problems between people and the landscape, enhancing both the sense of place and the ecological carrying capacity of a given site, as well as addressing such problems as erosion, food availability and the lack of local agency over the design of urban spaces.”

Perhaps we can afford to give up a little control to let this second ‘nature’ take its course. We’ll need to learn to tolerate a few weeds, a little uncertainty and a little mess, but we might just learn something” Oliver Kellhammer

The Means of Production Garden, Vancouver 

The Means of Production Garden in Vancouver grows living art materials for use by artists and community groups. Founded by artist and activist Oliver Kellhammer and the Environmental Youth Alliance in Vancouver (with land supplied by the Vancouver Parks Board) it offers “open source” resources that are harvested for “community creative use.” Kellhammer believes than an open source landscape encourages experimentation with botanical materials and an investigation into art and ecology.

There is willow for sculptures, flax growing for linen, plants for natural dyes, and foraged natural materials for weaving and fibre arts. Skill sharing, social gatherings, artist residencies and celebrations prevail within this artists’ garden. Kellhammer’s philosophy regarding open source landscaping encourages nature to enter the urban world in unpredictable ways. Kellhammer also believes that self-seeding trees, flowers, and weeds erupting along the edges of urban areas, may also stimulate experiments in community living.

The Means of Production garden is a living art installation. It is a gathering place for community, and an ecological art form. According to Kellhammer it is a biological intervention Inspired by Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics which encourages the practice of art within social environments,  Kellhammer’s living art acts as an event, and ecological improvisation. Curating gardens as art projects, can develop gathering spaces for spontaneous interactions. Gardens themselves are unpredictable happenings, where irregular growth cycles, weeds, decay, and weather all influence ever changing conditions. Gardens can be both public art forms and places/acts of environmental and community activism.

 Common Ground 

Common Ground is a charity, based in Dorset, UK that explores the relationship between nature and culture,”seeking imaginative ways to engage people with their local environment.”

Common Ground “plays a unique role in linking nature and culture, working to inspire, inform and involve people in learning about, enjoying, and taking more responsibility for their own locality. We champion popular involvement and inspire celebrations as one starting point for local action to improve the quality of ordinary places and everyday lives” (Common Ground, “ABC: Learning to Read Your Locality,” brochure)

Local Distinctiveness

Local distinctiveness is “the web of rich understandings between people and their land and their histories, it is not about scenery, it takes us below the surface, to where the land might reflect back to us purpose and belonging. Sometimes we forget that our everyday surroundings are nature’s greatest reservoir, history’s biggest book…By focussing attention on significance in our surroundings and helping build courage to be demonstrative and to take action on attachment to place, then perhaps we can make our surroundings better for nature as well as daily life” (Common Ground, “ABC: Learning to Read Your Locality,” brochure)

“We sometimes forget [that we live in] a cultural landscape.”

“Local distinctiveness is essentially about places and our relationship with them…Places are process and story as well as artefact, layer upon layer of our continuing history and nature’s history intertwined…Meaning is entrapped in the experience of change [and] symbolism and significance cling to seemingly ordinary buildings, trees artefacts…

“Locality needs to be defined from the inside, with a cultural and natural base…”

“We are talking of quality in the everyday…[which] involve[s] emotional attachment…”

(Quotations Above, from “Losing Your Place” an article by Sue Clifford and Angela King in a book produced by Common Ground called Local Distinctiveness: Place, Particularity, and Identity)

 

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