Opportunity: Becoming Earthly – Arts and Ecology Seminar Series

2nd July 2020

Learning space hosted by artists and thinkers, to reflect and imagine new ways of working.

Becoming Earthly reflects a need to develop a shift in perspective towards care for the thin skin of the earth that is the atmosphere and topsoil on which all life depends. We surprisingly know very little about this skin. It is only a few kilometres in depth and yet all our futures, human and nonhuman, are dependent upon it. In the thinking of Bruno Latour, anthropologist and an influential political philosopher, we have to land, become terrestrial rather than seeking escape to another planet. We are locked into this thin skin of earth.

Latour calls upon the arts to support a process of becoming terrestrial. In a quieter period, he argues, it might make sense for scientists to limit the collaboration of artists to decoration and popularisation. We now need aesthetics to sensitise us to other ways of life. We need artists to sensitise us to the shape of things to come.

However, becoming earthly is disorientating. It fundamentally challenges our beliefs, values and interests. For many artists, the pressure to address the climate emergency in which we are all implicated, can feel like an intrusion into creative practice. It can feel fundamentally at odds with established notions of creative expression. How do we create and develop artistic practice inside the thin skin that is our world, towards a future where both people and the planet will flourish? How can we work as artists and arts organisations in a critically informed way in relation to art and ecology?

The Barn is inviting applications from artists working across all media who wish to participate in an experimental learning space, a thought experiment of sorts. We are interested in practitioners who are open to the challenge that Latour presents in becoming earthly.

It is not necessary to have prior experience of ecology, but essential to be curious about exploring new forms of work through dialogue. We want to encourage applications across all the arts and are particularly keen to encourage those artists working in theatre, dance, performance and new media. We will consider applications from collectives and ensembles, as well as individuals. While we cannot support artists financially, our aim is to create the conditions to open up new innovative forms of practice that respond imaginatively to the challenges we now face.

The Programme

Becoming Earthly has been conceived as a process of thinking through doing, informed by many years of hands-on interventions at the Barn. The process is in itself ecological rather than outcome driven. It will consist of six sessions, two hours in length, delivered via Zoom. Four sessions will be hosted by different thought leaders including internationally renowned artist John Newling, artist researcher Wallace Heim, philosopher Johan Siebers, and anthropologist and feldenkrais practitioner Paolo Maccagno. The introductory session will be led by curator and head of programme at the Barn, Simone Stewart and members of the Becoming Earthly Steering Group. The final session will be a work-in-progress/sharing session. We will present ideas and thinking we have explored during our time together. This could be in the form of a live presentation, readings, or performance. The format for this will be determined collaboratively by the group. To this final session, we will invite key arts and ecological stakeholders’ and funders including Creative Scotland along with the session hosts, with the aim of opening up connections for artists and potential partners.

The Barn has conceived these sessions around the thematic juxtapositions of doubt and pleasure, lament and improvisation, shame and play as provocations or openings into possible connections between ecology and art. These themes lend themselves to performative explorations raising questions such as; What does it mean to perceive our condition as a fragile, temporary state of being, wholly dependent upon the natural systems that surround us? How can these pairings help us to explore the paradigm of ecology not just on the level of concept and structures but though the aesthetic and bodily plains of feelings and perceptions?

Apply for Becoming Earthly; imagining new futures – arts and ecology seminar series

Applications close: Friday 10th July at 5pm.


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