by Chris Fremantle, originally posted at eco/art/scot/land

Art, particularly sited work, can create a ‘third space’ for public discourse.  By ‘third space’ we mean a space other than the commercial or governmental spaces for people to engage with issues.  This is often characterised by being non-hierarchical, open and willing to embrace contradiction, uncertainty, etc.  Probably because it’s created by artists who have no ‘locus’ for instigating it, the power relations are different.  No-one is trying to sell you anything and there isn’t a policy agenda being fulfilled (and these days the people selling you stuff aren’t hidden behind the people claiming to represent you).

Examples include Tim Collins and Reiko Goto’s recent work imagining the future of the Caledonian Forest through the Blackwood of Rannoch(and previously their work on rivers in Pittsburgh) and Suzanne Lacy’s current project in Pendle with superslowway and immigrants and locals as well as her previous work including 10 years of work in Oakland, CA, or Jonathan Baxter and Sarah Gittins’ Dundee Urban Orchard.  Jay Koh, who wrote Art-Led Participative Processes: Dialogue & Subjectivity within Performances in the Everyday, recently spoke in Glasgow.

The Land Art GeneratorPLATFORM London’s 25 years of work on fossil fuels, the actions of Liberate Tate, Ellie Harrison’s RRAAF project intended to use renewables to finance activist art and many others have created this third space to address power and the social, cultural and environmental impacts of our insatiable need for energy.

The Feeding the Insatiable Art and Energy Symposium at Schumacher in November will bring together an outstanding line-up of artists and activists to reflect on the current state of work in this area.

Amongst the people presenting are Cathy Fitzgerald who is an artist and Irish Green Party’s spokesperson on Forestry; David Haley who has written extensively on art and uncertainty; Beth Carruthers, one of the key art and sustainability theorists working with deep ecology approaches; Hannah Imlach is a young artist from Scotland who’s recent projects directly engage with renewables; Laura Watts describes herself as a writer, poet, and ethnographer of futures – she is one of the authors of ebban an flowan along with Alec Finlay and Alistair Peebles; Ian Garrett is a key theorist and practitioner of sustainable design for theatre and behind the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts; and finally Loraine Leeson who is one of the foremost practitioners of socially engaged art in the UK and is currently working with a group of geezers on renewables on the River Lee in East London.  And these are only some of the people presenting.

Feeding the Insatiable promises to be a key moment for sharing practice, exploring theory and imagining policy.  As Chloe Uden of RegenSW’s Art and Energy programme said, “Energy Policy needs to become interesting”.  The arts are key to creating spaces for that to happen.

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