Dartington LASER talks: Speaker profiles
Harriet Bell will speak about the River Dart Charter, one of the first ‘declarations of interdependence ’ by a river in the world. ‘We are living in an era of global, systemic (start anywhere and it goes everywhere) and wicked (hard to solve) problems. It is beyond the capacity of governments, state agencies, research labs and experts of all kind to solve these issues alone—especially when part of the solution lies in large-scale, behavioural change across society. The imperative now is to work together. How do we do that? In the context of the Dart Charter, the Bio-Regional Learning Centre is inviting many stakeholders to find common ground; prototyping the roles that citizens can step into; opening up a conversation about sharing responsibility; imagining a generative process for holding to account; building trust; and valuing community-sourced innovation in solving many of the big issues around water. The Dart is not currently managed from source to sea, and there is an opportunity here to include the voices of community in what happens next. We have taken the first step towards trialling this approach and this is likely to be the first section of the Dart to have a river charter.’ Harriet Bell is Community Resilience Food & Farming Manager at Dartington Hall Trust.
Paul Chaney is a self-taught artist whose practice explores the metrics of self-sufficiency and human hand labour, human/non-human relations, and post-collapse futurologies, using a mix of participation, long-term engagements with land and agricultural processes, and digital modelling. He has twenty years of experience in horticulture and agronomy. For six months of the year he lives and works on a small off-grid settlement in Cornwall – End of the World Garden – an ongoing research platform where he is lead artist. His project Lizard Exit Plan (commissioned by Kestle Barton Gallery in 2013) imagines a comprehensive speculative design projection where a catastrophic event cuts off Cornwall’s Lizard peninsula, in turn, leading to a full-scale, zero-fossil fuel, horse-driven agrarian economy. In the latest segment of the plan located on Goonhilly Downs, Chaney discusses the metabolic “tyranny” of the thin acidic soil that faced local people who made several attempts to improve soil quality and establish subsistence crofts on the heathland in the 18th and 19th centuries. In those days, as in contemporary potential collapse scenarios, attempts to achieve landbased autonomy are made harder by the fact that the land is always already occupied—only the most inhospitable and infertile tracts are available for the disenfranchised poor, and future displaced masses fleeing defunct urban centers. He currently undertaking a PhD at Falmouth (UAL).
Shezad Dawood is an interdisciplinary artist who uses research and collaboration as a way of informing his work in film, installation, writing, publishing, VR, and sculpture. His key concerns with marine ecology, non-aligned movement and the ethics of place recur across different projects including Leviathan: an ongoing multimedia project and public programme that launched at the Venice Biennale in 2017. As much open source resource as artwork, the project looks at the fault lines between climate change, migration, and mental health and is informed by an ever-growing number of activists and academics including marine biologists, oceanographers, and anthropologists. These researchers shape the narrative of the ten-episode film at the heart of the project, which imagines various speculative futures that may extend from the present moment. Dawood’s films and installations have been exhibited and won awards at multiple biennales and film festivals, and his work features in the permanent collections of LACMA, TATE, and The British Museum.
Alexandra Geldenhuys is co-founder of New Dawn Traders, which builds ethical supply-chains across oceans, using sailing cargo ships. Geldenhuys comments: ‘A sailing ship physically and metaphorically bridges the gap between distant communities and cultures. The Slow Food Sailing Circus not only carries cargo, but has sailors who are also artists, teachers, makers, performers, musicians, scientists, and chefs. At the moment, 90% of what we buy arrives by container ships, which often use the worst type of polluting fuel, and many treat their crews appallingly. The bigger question is how much of what we buy do we actually need? Ultimately we should look to fulfil most of our wants and needs locally. The cargos that New Dawn Traders choose to ship are of value mainly because they are goods that cannot easily be grown locally, such as olive oil, or they are of cultural significance, such as the luxuries in life that are worth savouring: coffee, chocolate, and rum. We believe that fine quality, especially in food, is intrinsically linked to ethical production and that, therefore, an epicurean nature is something to be nurtured in all of us, and need not cost the earth’.
Luce Goutelle is co-founder of Unbewitch Finance Lab, an autonomous laboratory for experimental research that brings together artists, citizens, and activists to question our relationship with global finance and reclaim the economy. Unbewitch creates visual and sound works, participatory workshops, experimental conferences, creative tools, and speculative stories in relation to finance, using the prism of witchcraft. It aims to envision a narrative of how the world would look if freed from the malevolent powers of finance, through new forms of creation, expression, and popular participation, fostering a dialogue between the creative work of artists and the know-how of activists;
making correlations between the mystical aesthetics of witchcraft and the austere aesthetics of the financial sector, apprehending the financial sector from a situationist angle, and making the world of finance porous and palpable in order to get a hold on it as citizens.
Ellie Harrison is an artist and activist based in Glasgow. In 2009 she founded Bring Back British Rail, the national campaign for the public ownership of our railways, and has been campaigning for the public ownership of all our carbon-intensive services and infrastructure ever since. In 2016 she slashed her carbon footprint for transport to zero and made headlines with her ‘controversial’ project The Glasgow Effect, for which she refused to leave Glasgow’s city limits, or use any vehicles except her bike, for the whole calendar year. Her book The Glasgow Effect is out on 20 August. Harrison comments: ‘It has taken a whole year of my life to complete, where there has been absolutely no escape literally or metaphorically…. In its simplest terms, it was just a personal challenge, to see what would happen if I refused to leave the city where I’ve lived since 2008 for a whole calendar year. On top of that, I decided that in order to reduce my carbon footprint to the absolute bare minimum, and also to reduce my expenses to the bare minimum, I wouldn’t go in any vehicle at all for that whole time. And… I did it! I did do it. So I travelled 3,753 kilometres, which, as I’ve worked out, is as far as travelling to London and back three times. So just one of the many issues that I wanted to highlight in doing this project is that the value systems and the incentive structures promoted by our society are not always geared up to acknowledge that less is sometimes better’.
Dougald Hine (appearing remotely)
Dougald Hine is a writer, speaker, curator of conversations and creator of organisations. In 2009, he co-founded the Dark Mountain Project (‘changing the environmental debate in Britain and the rest of Europe’, New York Times), which grew out of a manifesto he wrote with Paul Kingsnorth. Having moved on from Dark Mountain after ten years, his current project is a school called HOME, ‘a gathering place and a learning community for those who are drawn to the work of regrowing a living culture’, created in collaboration with his partner Anna Björkman. Originally from the northeast of England, Dougald now lives in central Sweden. He spent two years as leader of artistic development at Riksteatern, Sweden’s touring national theatre, and he has an ongoing collaboration with the Centre for Environment and Development Studies at Uppsala University. In the latest issue of Dark Mountain, he writes: ‘We can come alive in the face of the knowledge that we are all going to die. And in the meantime, before we die, we can try to live out some of those possibilities: the ways of being human together that are hidden from view when the world is seen through the lenses of the market and the state, the ways of feeding ourselves that get overlooked because they don’t work as commodities. We can try to negotiate the surrender of our way of living, without pretending there’s any promise that this would make it all OK, without pretending we even know what OK would look like. We can have some beauty before the story is over, without pretending we can be sure how long we’ve got.’
Rob La Frenais
Rob La Frenais is an independent contemporary art curator, working internationally and creatively with artists entirely on original commissions. He believes in being directly engaged with the artist’s working process as far as possible, while actively widening the context within which the artist can work. His recent exhibitions and events include Aerosolar with Tomas Saraceno in White Sands Desert, New Mexico; No Such Thing as Gravity at FACT and the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art; Exoplanet Lot at the Maison Des Arts Georges et Claude Pompidou, Cajarc, France; Earthlab at Westminster University; and Continuum in collaboration with Allenheads Contemporary Arts. He has been curator in residence at Helsinki International Art Programme and is about to be a fellow at the Saari Residency, Turku, Finland. He has edited the book Self Etc on the artist Anne Bean and writes regularly for Art Monthly and Makery.info. He is also a rower and recently made a rare one-off performance, Close To The Water, opening the New Performance Turku Festival in collaboration with Turku Rowing Club, where he delivered a keynote address while simultaneously balancing a single-scull boat.
Ingrid Pollard is a widely-exhibited photographer, media artist, and researcher who has developed a photographic practice concerned with representation, history, and landscape with reference to race, difference, and the materiality of lens-based media. Her work is included in numerous collections including the UK Arts Council and the Victoria & Albert Museum. In her ‘tidealectic’ work The Boy Who Watches Ships Go By, made on the Lancashire coast, ‘the viewer enters into a world of imagination, memory, and narrative created by images of land and sea. Sunderland Point, through its involvement in slave trading in the Americas and the Caribbean, became one of the busiest ports in northern England in the 18th century. Today, the quiet coastal village of Sunderland Point is the site of ‘Sambo’s’ grave, a person buried in 1739. According to one of the local traditions, a sea captain, returning from the Caribbean, brought him as a boy to the village’. In her spare time, Pollard has been an active member of rowing clubs and will talk about aspects of collaboration in rowing in the context of her own work. She is also a member of the Fire Choir which performs regularly at climate protests.
Rupert Read is one of the definitive spokespersons on ‘The Collapse’. He is the co-author of This Civilisation in Finished: Conversations on the End of Empire, with Samuel Alexander. The book describes how ‘Industrial civilisation has no future. It requires limitless economic growth on a finite planet. The reckless combustion of fossil fuels means that Earth’s climate is changing disastrously in ways that cannot be resolved by piecemeal reform or technological innovation…. Unless humanity does something beautiful and unprecedented, the ending of industrial civilisation will take the form of collapse, which could mean a harrowing die-off of billions of people’. He has been a frequent spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion. This has involved meetings with senior politicians from across the political spectrum. He recently represented Extinction Rebellion on national radio and television, including Radio 4’s Today programme and the BBC’s Politics Live. He teaches philosophy at the University of East Anglia.
‘Jennet Thomas’s films conjure delirious parallel universes in everyday Britain’s most mundane corners…. Preachers, teachers, and quasi-political pundits with bright yellow or purple skin harangue its denizens with songs and slide presentations; the beliefs and rules they champion are full of promise, but always obscure’ (The Guardian). Jennet Thomas was co-founder of the Exploding Cinema Collective in the 1990s. She is interested in belief systems, ideas of truth, power and pleasure, and how cultural memories are re-made and distorted according to the needs of each era. Often darkly comic, her films tell warped folk-tale narratives that mix elements of the banal and the bizarre. Recent solo shows include ANIMAL CONDENSED> ANIMAL EXPANDED at Tintype, 2018; THE UNSPEAKABLE FREEDOM DEVICE at Grundy Gallery, 2015; SCHOOL OF CHANGE and All Suffering SOON TO END! at Matt’s Gallery, London. She is a member of Extinction Rebellion’s London Working Arts Group.
Vivek Vilasini is a multimedia artist, trained as a Radio Officer at the All India Marine College, Kerala, India and then in sculptural practices from traditional craftspeople. His works—installations, paintings, photographs and sculptures—have been well received internationally. His latest artistic intervention is a food forest to address society’s everyday concerns about food and water. Vivek conjures up a magical landscape where butterflies hover over the Pala Indigo plant (Wrightia Tinctoria), hordes of dragonflies arrive from Africa to swarm over puddles and ponds as they migrate towards the lower Himalayas, there are berries on shrubs and fruits on creepers, the low-chill apple and greengage blossoms and mushrooms sprout on wet earth. The Inca nut vines thrive along with Jicama (yam) and Chayamansa (the Mexican tree spinach). When the forest is in motion, each species—plant and animal—live symbiotically. ‘There are predators and survivors and there is food at all times,’ says Vivek, who set up the forest in 2014. ‘This is my creative intervention for a society that needs agriculture that will be free of pesticides, reduce its use of water and provide perennial food…. In this time of rapid climate change, food forests or forest gardens are the future…. creative adaptation of several sustainable models can lend itself to creating this edible landscape.’
Tracey Warr is a fiction and non-fiction writer who often writes in the vicinity of art. Her future fictions have revolved around the behaviours and properties of water. The Water Age is a series of three small books she developed during her participation in the Frontiers in Retreat art and ecology research project. The books are future fictions, adult art and writing workshops and children’s art and writing workshops—all focused on the idea that we may be living with more water in the future. During Frontiers in Retreat she participated in the Zooetics project with Jutempus and undertook residencies at HIAP, Suomenlinna Island, Finland and Centre d’Art i Natura, Farrera in the Catalan Pyrenees. She was an artist/writer in the Exoplanet Lot exhibition organised by Maison des Arts Georges et Claude Pompidou and installed extracts from her future fiction Meanda alongside the River Lot. She developed Meanda during a residency at Maison Daura in Saint Cirq Lapopie. She worked with Gediminas and Nomeda Urbonas and Giacomo Castagnola on River Runs at Modern Art Oxford and on the River Thames, where she organised an entire conference taking place in the water, entitled The Wet Symposium, and supported by the Canal and River Trust and the Outdoor Swimming Society. She is currently Head of Learning Programmes and Research at Dartington Hall Trust.
Neal White is an artist and researcher with a background in art and technology. His work draws on a recent history of art that has roots in experimental practice, conceptual and socially engaged forms. In his collaborative practice with the Office of Experiments (founded 2004) he has led a series of projects that concern experimental forms of research. Frequently undertaken with fellow artists, academics, and others within the network, the focus reflects on the growth of the techno-scientific and military industrial complex and is grounded in fieldwork that includes observational and documentary forms of media, temporary interventions, and social or conceptual apparatus for experimentation, including bus tours and site visits.
He has recently developed a potential, new floating vehicle called Rowed Lab, which will be an artist-designed, lightweight, ‘contingency vehicle’ equipped with a radio station, mobile wifi and GPS hub for explorations of water bodies, or in extreme cases, emergency use in disaster scenarios. It will be designed in collaboration with rowing clubs and is intended to be a human-powered vehicle using the same principle as Buckminster Fuller’s Rowing Needles powered by two sliding-seat rowers. He is currently Professor of Art and Science at Westminster University, London and co-director of the Centre for Research into Art and Media (CREAM).
Farhana Yamin is an internationally recognised environmental lawyer and climate change and development policy expert specialising in international law, disruptive legal strategies, coalition building and fundraising. She has written numerous climate related books, articles and published peer reviewed literature and consequently was nominated by the UK government as a Lead Author for three assessment reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She has provided high level strategic and legal advice to ministers and leaders of vulnerable countries for nearly 30 years on the international legal implications of climate change including policy responses such as international and European carbon markets. After a period working in global climate philanthropy, she founded Track 0 which co-created a global campaign to unify the climate movement focusing on a full phase-out of greenhouse gas emissions to zero in line with climate science. Her work is widely credited with getting the goal of net-zero emissions by mid-century into the 2015 Paris Agreement. She is an Associate Fellow at Chatham House and has a number of advisory roles including as a Trustee for Greenpeace UK and Julie’s Bicycle, and being on the Programme Committee of WWF-UK. She also co-coordinates Dartmouth Park Talks. She joined Extinction Rebellion (XR) in 2018 because governments were not acting in line with climate science and their legal obligations. She has published numerous articles and blogs advocating the use of peaceful, mass civil disobedience as a key response to inaction. As Coordinator of XR’s Political Strategy Team until June 2019, she played a central role in the Rebellion by devising a nimble political strategy that underpinned the negotiations between XR, the Government, the Mayor of London and other political parties. Additionally, she was a core member of XR’s Finance and Fundraising team and their Partnerships Team, helping XR create networks and international allies to forge a “movement of movements”. She remains a member of Extinction Rebellion’s International Solidarity Network which aims to link grassroots and frontline communities with those supporting global societal transformation. She was arrested in April 2019 for gluing herself to the HQ of oil giant, Shell.