AGGREGATE: Kaitlin Ferguson

ASN MA DEGREE SHOWS

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Granton Harbour

On an overcast afternoon, I walked along the coastline of Granton, an industrial district on the outskirts of Edinburgh, on the banks of the Firth of Forth on Eastern edge of Scotland. Getting down to the beach involved stepping through overgrown bushes, thick with layers of discarded litter, likely from the road nearby. Eventually the coastline came into view, a partially sandy expanse interrupted by geologic formations which are only revealed when the tide recedes. Adjacent to the beach was a wall of stacked boulders forming a coastal defence, covered with the discarded remnants of the area’s industrial past. Stepping over broken piles of rubble and bricks smoothed by countless waves, I spotted a tangled mass of discarded waste. A strange hybrid, a dark amorphous entangled cluster of melted plastic, discarded tar, broken glass and rusted wires mixed together with sand and rocks. It was a piece of nature which had been formed by the glue of melted plastic: a ‘plastiglomerate’. They are categorised as:

an indurated, multi-composite material made hard by agglutination of rock and molten plastic. This material is subdivided into an in-situ type, in which plastic is adhered to rock outcrops, and a clastic type, in which combinations of basalt, coral, shells, and local woody debris are cemented with grains of sand in a plastic matrix’’ (1) 

These simultaneously disturbing and enchanting rocks are becoming common around the world, revealing how vast our increasing species footprint is becoming in relation to the planet’s geological strata. They are a startling manifestation of the earth finally hitting its limit.

The planet has gone through billions of years-worth of cycles of renewal and reformation, yet our species is the first in history to become the overarching dominant force in environment, climate, and the geological makeup of the planet – the era of the Anthropocene. Plastiglomerates represent an ominous new marker of the arrival of this epoch, bringing forth the consequences of the human species to be recorded in the strata of the planet forever. 

They signify a turning point in our relationship to the earth. As Kirsty Robertson describes:

‘‘In the past, it might have been assumed that “nature” was the one thing that could never be made from plastic. Plastiglomerate suggests that this is no longer the case. It is an ecological paradox such that the mind struggles to separate its plasticity from its telluric oily past. ‘’ (2)

These stones are both global and local, operating on universal and microscopic scales simultaneously. Plastiglomerates are complex assemblages which connect time, space, violence, empathy, and the worlds of humans and more-than-humans. 

It is within this framework my practice sits; exploring the ontological inseparability of all matter, between life and the planet, during a time where our existence resides on the precarious verge of environmental collapse.

 

Bedrock 

My practice is an aggregate, a combination of several process-based ontological investigations and individual elements which sit densely packed together to form a whole. These fragments represent intertwined research-based lines of enquiry through deep time, planetary shaping processes and exploring where the Anthropocene sits within this discourse. My approach is formed through interdisciplinary methodologies, all united in working in a site-responsive way.

It is through these applications that I seek to disrupt human centric perspectives of the Anthropocene, by taking its anthropocentric constructs and dismantling them via their limitations. To reveal new readings of the planet, ones that seek to deconstruct the deeply embedded nature/culture divides. 

My processes are governed by key phases of research and analysis of theoretical and cultural complexities across boundaries of science, culture, and the humanities, an exploration in order to lead to the genesis of interdisciplinary results. It is what Robert Smithson defined as ‘abstract geology’ tracing connections between the geological, the body and mental processes. (3)

Whether investigating the planet as a whole, a specific geomorphological process, a locality or a single physical fragment, I examine through enquires across temporal and spatial scales – these create the foundation of my process. 

 

Stratum of Time 

The methodologies which I adopt in my work are cited in the writings of James Hutton (1726-1797), the Scottish geologist; his understanding of time was not as a unidirectional linear course, but instead as a continuous process of cyclical deep time, which sees the planet in constant dynamic flux. Through this conceptual aperture the earth can be viewed in terms of dynamic geomorphological cycles: phases of sedimentary ocean deposits accumulating and being compressed over vast time scales, eventually resurfacing only to be eroded again. When discussing Hutton’s pivotal work, ‘Theory of the Earth,’ Tom Furniss states:

‘‘the Earth begins to sound more and more like a complex living organism and nature emerges as a sentient agent with its own creative powers….the materials of the Earth are not inert but in continuous vital motion’’ (4)

 

Through the application of deep time as a framing device, the geology of the planet transforms from inactive to alive. All environments are coated in time; a mountain is not motionless, but instead seen in constant dynamism, simultaneously building and eroding, in motion constantly, even on a molecular level, as atoms move in constant in flux. The strata around us provides a window into the history of the earth and its limits. 

When working directly with geological matter and its localities, I present this material in frameworks which symbolize the deep history of the planet and bring into question what the deep future may be. 

‘‘Deep time as a radical perspective, provoking us to action not apathy’’ (5)

Human agency is so often the central voice in the planetary narrative but listening to an alternative voice is now more importance than ever. Approaching the timescales of our species from the perspective of planetary time emphasises our insignificance but also reframes the scale and impact of our destruction to the earth. It is a call to action to tackle the overwhelming tide of the Anthropocene.

This approach to time has formed linking trajectories across a series of works.

Isolation

ISOLATION (2018)
The Lewisian Complex – Collaboration with Cody Lukas
Exhibited at ‘Umwelt’, Group Show, Tent Gallery, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

ISOLATION (2018) is a response to the vigorous shaping of geological processes, specifically those which have shaped the Isles of Lewis and Harris (Leòdhas agus na Hearadh), Outer Hebrides, on the most westerly edge of Scotland. Lewisian Gneiss is one of the most striking core components of this landscape, a metamorphic rock dated as the second oldest on earth, nearly three billion years old. It appears visibly crushed, contorted, and twisted, in arresting configurations reformed over the history of the planet.

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Butt of Lewis – Lewisian Gneiss which has been twisted and contorted from billions of years of renewal.

ISOLATION (2018) was produced from the analysis of a geologic specimen which was extracted from this landscape. The work exists within virtual reality, in tandem with the physical void in the gallery. Scanning the marker with a smart device reveals the spinning form in space. Through technological constructs, geological boundaries of form and materiality are called into question. The compositional footprint of the rock is reimagined, its cycles of transformation across deep time are paused, now existing within an anthropocentric construct. References of scale and time are removed, abstracted and placed within a technological and environmental entanglement. What does this give to the rock?  Perhaps nothing. The process calls into question futility of technology itself.

One Day � One Billion

ONE DAY | ONE BILLION (2019)
The Lewisian Complex – Collaboration with Cody Lukas
              Exhibited at ‘Testimony from the Rocks’, Group Show, An Lanntair Gallery, Stornaway, Scotland

A re-composition of geological matter from Mangersta Cliffs, (Mangurstadh) Uig on the southwest side Lewis. ONE DAY | ONE BILLION (2019) brings into question, through materiality, what constitutes the essence of a rock.

When a rock is sliced open a world is revealed for the first time – a fragment of the universe sees the light of day. The work consists of two separate structures: one a piece of pegmatite (a composition of feldspar, granite and quartz) and the specimens subsequent half replicated in cast glass. The forms are united by their silica compositional components and also both experiencing processes of renewal by fire, one from the depths of the earth the other through anthropocentric processes. Here time is paused, and the life cycles of a new “rock” begin. 

The complex exchange between these two forms represent tensions on a planetary scale, they call into question the convoluted relationship of our species with the earth. Mineral Evolution theory states we have been entangled in the geology of the planet since the beginning of life. Life and minerals have co-evolved simultaneously, indexically linking us to the planet. (6) This represents the visualisation of the turning point in this complex relationship.

 

Stratum of Scale

In my ongoing environmental research, I use the application of scale as a conceptual and analytical tool. In order to comprehend the vast complexities of the planet, scale is used to conceptually travel across boundaries, from the infinite through to the intimate, temporal and spatial. The paradoxical nature of scale is that the largest become accessible through the smallest (7) Scale when in relation to geological applications, is traditionally centred around size and level, Richard Howitt argued a third aspect for consideration: relation. As scale, relation addresses the connections between selected elements in their totality. (8) I use scale to disorient the viewer, to encourage them to rethink the physical threads which connect our planet and the cosmos. This approach can be seen in the following explorations. 

a mountain - glass

A MOUNTAIN IN A GRAIN OF SAND (2019) 
GLASS 
Exhibited at Bookmarks – Artist Book Fair, Edinburgh College of Art

A MOUNTAIN IN A GRAIN OF SAND (2019) is an on-going line of enquiry which takes a poetic approach to disseminating the vast complexities of the rock cycle and the dynamic processes which shape the earth. The history of the planet is stored within a minuscule geological fragment.  

In the form of an artist book, A MOUNTAIN IN A GRAIN OF SAND (2019) GLASS expresses this theoretical standpoint directly through the choice of materiality. Glass represents an anthropocentric intervention – the product of sand being treated by industrial processes. Here the entire stored history of a mountain rests in the hands of the viewer. This conceptual framework draws into question the vast temporal and spatial processes of the planet. It invites reconfiguration into different combinations, drawing parallels with the cyclical nature of geologic processes.

A mountain in a grain of sand

A MOUNTAIN IN A GRAIN OF SAND (2019)
Artist Book – Zine Edition

The zine edition of this work focuses on geological material in direct conversation with the poetic sentiment. It provides a framework which subverts the scale of the geological form, leading the viewer to question whether it is a fragment, an island, or even perhaps an entire continent. The format of a zine disseminates the concept in an accessible and democratic way. These works continue the ongoing trajectory of dematerialising the physical component of the landscape in the work. 

THE ATTRACTION OF A MOUNTAIN 2

THE ATTRACTION OF A MOUNTAIN (2019)
Exhibited at Remnants, Patriothall Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland 

THE ATTRACTION OF A MOUNTAIN (2019) is a response to the mountain Schielhallion (Sìdh Chailleann) in Highland Perthshire, Scotland. This is the site of an experiment in 1774 which measured the gravitational pull on pendulums as part of research to determine the mass of the earth itself. In the piece the mountain is represented by a fragment of its composition material: ground quartzite taken from the summit. It forms a highly concentrated version of the locality within the gallery. Magnetism is used as a tool to visualize the tensions between nature and the search for scientific knowledge – human advancements which unlocked new readings not only of the mountain but of the universe itself. 

 

Crystallisation 

The refinement of my approach to materiality has led to the creation of frameworks which expose the power of the object in its purest form. The agglomeration of these temporal and spatial strategies has been distilled in a pair of recent pieces: 

A restless earth - installaiton shot

A RESTLESS EARTH (2019)
Exhibited at MA Degree Show, Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh Art Festival, Scotland

‘‘Grammar and syntax exert powerful influence on the proceedings of language and its users. They shape the ways we relate to each other and to the living world. Words are world makers – and language is one of the great geological forces of the Anthropocene’’ (9)

A RESTLESS EARTH (2019) features poetic texts which sit as counterparts to rock and mineral samples that span the deep history of the planet through to the present day. Curatorial ontologies are applied then consequently unravelled, the anticipated relationship between text and object is subverted through poetry. 

A RESTLESS EARTH (2019)

Gneiss specimen – A RESTLESS EARTH (2019)

The framework of the museum aesthetic represents a visual language of ordering and control over the natural world, that of an anthropocentric hieratical construction. Instead these pieces of text pose more questions then they answer; they act as windows into deep time, portals into understanding the complex geomorphological processes which have formed them.

Plastiglomerate

Plastiglomerate specimen – A RESTLESS EARTH (2019)

Thirteen samples sit in the cases, twelve rocks and minerals. The thirteenth is a new type of stone, one formed through human actions – the plastiglomerate. This ominous and disturbing plastic rock represents the deep future of the planet, a hint of what the trajectory of the planet could look like. Plastiglomerates are hybrids that have been conceptualised as ‘technofossils,’ or waste materials made by humans, which are likely to provide materials for geological dating in the future (10). A RESTLESS EARTH (2019) forces the viewer to reflect and to visualise what the planet will look like through the actions of one species – our own. How will we be represented in the strata in millennia to come?

DISINTEGRATION � ACCUMULATION (2019)

DISINTEGRATION | ACCUMULATION (2019)
Exhibited at MA Degree Show, Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh Art Festival, Scotland

Through research of microscopic imagery gleaned from the thin slice sections of rocks and minerals DISINTEGRATION | ACCUMULATION (2019) has been created as a series of three large scale unique screen prints which re-compose the visual language of microscopy to offer new perspectives on geology. References to scale are removed, the barely-visible-to-the-human-eye is brought into sharp focus, allowing new relationships between components to form. Here time loses its significance – the microscopic represents the boundless cosmos.

Disintergration � Accumulation (detail)

Detail from DISINTEGRATION | ACCUMULATION (2019) Three

DISINTEGRATION | ACCUMULATION (2019) sees the geological phenomena the ‘Law of Superposition’ expressed through materiality and process. The theory states that in an undisturbed sequence of layers of rocks, the youngest layers lie on top of the older layers (11) The process of screen printing reflects geologic parallels; it’s a practice which involves slowing down, the accumulation of layers and building depth. The viewer is rewarded for investing time in looking at the work as subtle translucent layers slowly come into view. The curatorial composition reflects the format of scientific slide, whilst the visual language presents science entangled with the artists hand. 

The microscopic language of DISINTEGRATION | ACCUMULATION 2019) opens a thematic portal to the geological material of A RESTLESS EARTH (2019). Both pieces take the constructs of time and scale and twist and distort them. They disorient and realign narratives. They are the culmination of the thematic aggerate of my practice – an approach to the entanglement of the Anthropocene. 

 


Born in California, USA, Kaitlin lives and works in Norwich, UK. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art from Norwich University of the Arts, graduating with a First Class Degree and later received her Masters from the University of Edinburgh after being awarded the Andrew Grant Scholarship. Career Highlights include: co-directing the short environmental film ‘Living in the Ruins’ which screened at the Edinburgh International Science Festival (Scotland, UK), exhibiting at the Edinburgh Arts Festival (Scotland, UK), An Lanntair Gallery (Outer Hebrides, Scotland, UK), Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation and being commissioned to create the public sculpture ‘Wave Maker’ (Norfolk, UK).

www.kaitlinferguson.com 

 


Bibliography

 

  • The classification of plastiglomerates as a type of stone was proposed in 2014 by an interdisciplinary team, after surveying Kamilo Beach in Hawaii (Artist Kelly Jazvac and Geologist Patricia L. Corcoran and Oceanographer Charles J. Moore)

 

 

Corcoran, P. M. C. &. J. K., 2014. An anthropogenic marker horizon in the future rock record. GSA Today, Volume 24(6), pp. 4-8. 

  1. Robertson, K., 2016. Plastiglomerate. [Online]
    Available at: https://www.e-flux.com/journal/78/82878/plastiglomerate/ [Accessed 23 January 2019]. 
  2. Smithson, R. & Flam, J.D., 1996. Robert Smithson, the collected writings, Berkeley; London: University of California Press.
  3. Furniss, T., 2010. A Romantic Geology: James Hutton’s 1788 ‘Theory of the Earth.’ Romanticism, 16(3),
  4. Macfarlane, R., 2019  Underland : a deep time journey, UK: Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Books.
  5. Gillen, P., 2016. Notes on Mineral Evolution: Life, Sentience, and the Anthropocene. Environmental Humanities, 8(2), 
  6. Howitt, R. (1998) Scale as relation: musical metaphors of geographical scale Area Royal Geographical Society 30.1
  7. Howitt, R. (2002) Scale and the other: Levinas and geography Geoforum 33 
  8. Macfarlane, R., 2019 . 
  9. Zalasiewicz, J. M. W. C. N. W. A. D. B. a. P. H., 2014. The technofossil record of humans. The Anthropocene Review , 1(1)
  10. Rieppel, O., 2011. The “Law of Superposition.” In Evolutionary Theory and the Creation Controversy. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg

 

Artist-in-Residence Alix Villanueva’s display at the Scottish Poetry Library

ASN’s artist-in-residence Alix Villanueva has one of her handmade books displayed at the Scottish Poetry Library on Crichton’s Close.

« How do you do Bobby Blue? » is a poem printed on handmade lavender, nettle and comfrey paper, exploring the themes of health, connection, love, loss… Structured around 4 plants, the narrative takes the reader around the different themes like a pollinator around flowering plants. « Storytelling as pollination…. »
The book is displayed alongside hand-stitched ritual gloves made to the exact size of the artist’s hands.

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The work will be on display until the 9th of September.

 

 

 

ASN student exhibits in COAST exhibition at An Talla Solais Gallery

Pin-Erh Chen was one of twenty artists selected from an international call-out to exhibit in An Talla Solais Gallery, Ullapool. The exhibition looks at issues of climate change that affect coastal communities. The exhibition runs until 8 th September, 2019.

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Pi-Erh’s work, VIOLENCE OF SLOW TIDES, is a collage of quotations from climate change
deniers – details here..

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ASN Student commissioned to create work for Brandon Country Park

ASN student, Kaitlin Ferguson, has been commissioned, from an open competition, to create a new work for Brandon Country Park in Suffolk, England.

This adds to Kaitlin’s success, with fellow student Natalia Bezerra, in being commissioned to create a work for Poldra in Portugal – 

https://asnse.wordpress.com/2019/07/03/two-asn-students-win-commission-for-collaborative-sited-work-for-poldra-viseu-in-portugal/

CONNECT will consist of a series of geometric rope and copper wire ‘branches’ which will form a network which stretches across trees in Brandon Country Park. They will be dotted through-out the forest, encouraging visitors to the festival to travel through the woodland on a trail to experience the entire installation.

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The work draws on ecological research of the forest, specifically how trees communicate with one another. Trees send messages to each other and across species in complex underground networks made from mycelium the root systems of mushrooms. These pathways connect the roots of plants and trees by distributing nutrients and information to support the health of the whole ecosystem

ASN Programme Director exhibits in Saõ Paulo

Art, Space + Nature Programme Director, Donald Urquhart is currently exhibiting six drawings in the MEMORIAL DO DESENHO exhibition at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea of the University of Saõ Paulo, Brazil.

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Urquhart was one of five contemporary artists asked to exhibit work alongside a selection of the museum’s extensive collection of modernist drawings. The exhibition continues until 28th June, 2020.

 

https://jornal.usp.br/cultura/quando-os-modernistas-encontram-os-contemporaneos/

ASN Films exhibited in Mexico

Two films, RUSTING and CORAL involving ASN student Ana Cecilia Parrodi Anaya have recently been presented at the Capilla del Arte Gallery in Puebla, Mexico.

Both films looked at fragility in the landscape. RUSTING, was made in collaboration with two other ASN students Claire Burnett and Pin-Erh Chen. CORAL, being a solo work, consisted of stop motion documentation of a piece of coral slowly dissolving in water, made acidic by the addition of CO2.

Bound/Unbound

Natalia Bezerra

 

Each moment in time presents a unique stage in the evolutionary cycle of any ecosystem, being representative of the interconnectivity among all living and nonliving entities. Growth and Decay… Life and Death… Action and Impact… Bound and Unbound… Here, these seemingly rigid dualisms merge into coexistence, which is translated into a complex series of lines that intersect and cling to one another across space. My gaze is constantly fixed on this linear language presented in the uppermost branches above, where our individual and collective actions are documented in the dynamic metamorphosis of the forest, and moreover our societies. My focus on the intricate branching systems of trees, originally entirely aesthetic, has become ontological, as I’ve come to realize the ramifications of our actions on a global scale. As the impacts of the Climate Crisis accelerate, our chances of walking into a charred forest increase as we continue to establish rigid boundaries and break off into separate limbs. What started as a small and controlled flame becomes a massive wildfire, devastating the ties that bind our lives together.

I’ve always been drawn to woodlands and forests from an early age, forming a deep attachment to those behind my house in the area of Maryland, USA where I grew up. Having such a strong presence in my life, they’ve always represented a place of imaginative retreat and boundless exploration in the natural world. In this place of interconnectivity, each visitor is seeking connection in some form or another, whether with oneself, with others, or with the landscape. This unbounded connection with the natural world is present in the absence of boundaries and borders. However, what does boundless connection look like in our emerging future? How will our relations with all living beings be impacted by rising tensions over borders and the exploitation of our planet’s resources? My concerns with these issues seek to explore how humans have become powerful geophysical forces in our current global environmental crisis. My practice, which is based upon tension, boundaries, and interconnectivity, seeks to examine notions of boundedness and unboundedness through linear complexity.

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Photographed at Yosemite National Park, California (USA)

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Photographed at Yosemite National Park, California (USA)

Gaining a sense of place through direct immersion and engagement with my immediate environment plays a vital role in my creative process. Whether it is camping in a local wood or exploring the backcountry of a national park, these experiences help me to seek new awareness and union with the natural world. My experiences exploring landscapes have also led me to observe environmental destruction, from remnants of wildfires in Yosemite National Park California, USA to deforestation in the Amazon cloud forest in Peru. These direct observations and immersions into devastated environments have formed the basis of my practice-led research in an effort to establish a dialogue between our actions and the natural world.

My interest in woodlands and forests led me to undertake a residency at Pishwanton Wood, near Edinburgh, in January 2019. When I first visited the site, I became fascinated by a dense patch of birch wood and how tightly spaced these trees were together, many as close as one arm’s length distance. When exploring the woods, I could not help but notice that the views into the tree canopies above presented a uniquely complex interconnected language that amazed me, as an endless series of lines cross one another against the moving sky. Although appearing static against the sky, these lines are dynamic in their own right, moving across a spatio-temporal continuum.

I cannot help but think that what is in these canopies reflects what is below ground, and essentially what is all around us in the world: the inextricable links among all phenomena in life. Following these lines presents us with this idea that they can head almost anywhere and that in a world of life, everything is in movement and nothing is certain [1]. This idea makes me wonder whether this sense of connection I seek in the woods can be traced to these overlapping and intersecting lines in what anthropologist Tim Ingold describes as the meshwork [2].

This idea of the meshwork has influenced a great deal of my practice-led research when exploring interconnectedness. My first encounter with this insight occurred during my first visit to the Blackwood of Rannoch back in March 2018. Being one of Scotland’s iconic landscapes, the Blackwood is one of the only remaining ancient Caledonian Pine Forests. This is due to a long history of deforestation and land clearances dating back to Neolithic times. The rich social, cultural, and political narratives embedded in the forest, from the 18th – 19th Century highland clearances to timber exploitation during World War II, influenced my perspective on what constitutes the evolution of a landscape beneath its surface.

IMG_5702NETWORKS, 2018.

During my experience in the Blackwood, I became particularly interested in a fallen granny pine spread across the forest floor. Although dead, its sprawling branches and striking form made its monumental presence in the landscape. Noticing the many directions these branches took across space led me to consider the temporal markings of the forest’s evolution embedded in these linear forms. Having survived for hundreds of years, the impacts of human activity throughout time can be uncovered in these markings. The inevitable role humans play as powerful geophysical forces in shaping landscapes made me realize that this too is included in the meshwork, or as author and philosopher Timothy Morton calls it: the ecological entanglement.

In his book The Ecological Thought, Timothy Morton claims that, “no being, construct, or object can exist independently from the ecological entanglement [3]. This interconnectivity constitutes a vast entangling mesh, in which life-forms constitute a nontotalizable, open-ended concatenation of interrelations that blur and confound boundaries at practically any level: between species, between the living and non-living, between organism and environment” [4]. When reflecting on this notion of the mesh, I cannot help but think about how our everyday actions as humans impact this entanglement and what this means for our future existence in an age of environmental catastrophe.

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MOSAICS, 2019. In collaboration with and photography by Audrey Yeo.

c_00055MOSAICS, 2019. In collaboration with and photography by Audrey Yeo.

This idea of the ecological entanglement has led me to explore how I could imagine myself being entangled with the landscape. In MOSAICS, merging with my immediate environment through direct sensory engagement becomes an intimate and embodied experience in the woodland. This idea of delicate empiricism [5] by J.W. Goethe influenced my understanding of how close observation and direct engagement with the natural world can be imperative in introducing a sense of unboundedness and renewal for humanity’s relationship with nature.

As our world becomes more connected due to globalization, so do our impacts in the ecological entanglement. We are vastly connected yet disconnected, or rather disassociated, from the impacts of our actions. This tension manifests itself in everyday life, resulting in endless consumerism and neglect in ecological preservation. Reflecting on these ideas brings into question what Eco feminists Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva describe as the objectification and exploitation of nature, like women and other minorities, in our globalized world [6]. My concerns with this disconnect from our impacts have led to an ongoing series of sculptural works which explore the tension between our actions and the natural world.

The moment I step foot into the landscape is when I become completely embodied in the process of my work. Following the lines of my intuition become key when searching for fallen limbs. Which forms strike me most? The thought that these ecosystems may vanish with time slowly sinks into my consciousness. Impermanence prevails in a world of life as clearly evidenced with our warming planet.

As global catastrophic wildfires and deforestation activities are on the rise, we can no longer live in denial about Climate Breakdown. With 2018 being the fourth hottest year on record and with scientific predictions of Earth’s rise in temperature to reach 1.5°C by 2030, how can we imagine the state of our forests then? How can we imagine our forests and societies by the end of the century? Where will we fit in that picture? I cannot help but think that global tensions will only heighten if we continue to progress into a significantly warmer world. It’s like being trapped with several people in an enclosed space without enough resources to keep us cool in the middle of a long heat wave. I worry that aggression and hostility will thrive in the name of survival. Our actions will follow the lines that bind as environmental destruction and violence become so tightly entwined.

 

BOUND, 2019.

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CAPITAL ‘N’ NATURE, 2019.

As I reflect on these aforementioned concerns, complexities and tensions, I come to question what unboundedness entails in a world where humans tend to keep both other humans and nature bound. The ecological entanglement is unbound; however, we continue to create rigid boundaries and fragments of life. As people and the rest of life are restricted to boundaries, capital can move freely across borders. Has global capitalism really become the exception to boundedness? With these questions in mind, I seek to understand how this notion of boundedness contributes to the heightening of geopolitical tensions in our current global environmental crisis.

When we look at maps of the world, we observe the dividing lines that mark territorial boundaries at the macroscale level. These boundaries being dynamic are constantly changing with time and are embedded with endless power relations and tensions. Zooming into one of these territories shows us more and more subdivisions until we finally arrive at the experience of walking along these borders. Wall after wall… fence after fence… this feels strangely ordinary until the sudden realisation that these barriers are merely social and political constructs — anthropocentric attempts at separating from the ecological entanglement.

The privatization of land, and therefore establishing of borders, can be traced to what author Jason W. Moore calls the Capitalocene, which focuses on the endless accumulation of wealth and commodification of the natural world in our current era [7]. This global drive for endless capital has strong links to environmental degradation, systematic oppression, and geopolitical conflict. The idea of capitalism as a way of organising nature is one that troubles me deeply as I actively attempt to bring attention to these issues through my practice.

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WOUNDS, 2019.

Wounds_finalWOUNDS, 2019.

List of 21 current and emerging border conflicts (displayed from left to right):

Antarctica (UK) Overlapping Claim • Antarctica (Argentina) Overlapping Claim • Antarctica (Chile) Overlapping Claim • South Sudan – Sudan • North Korea – South Korea • Palk Bay (India – Sri Lanka) • Taiwan – China • Western Sahara (Morocco – Polisario Front) • Afghanistan – Pakistan • Gaza (Israel – Palestine) • West Bank (Palestine – Israel) • Golan Heights (Syria – Israel) • Kashmir (India – Pakistan) • Cyprus (Turkey – Greece) • Tibet – China • Kosovo – Serbia • Crimea (Russia – Ukraine) • Arctic (U.S. – Canada claims) • Arctic (Norway – Russia claims) • Arctic (Russia claim) • Arctic (Denmark – Canada claims)

Reflecting on these ideas directs me with a newfound perspective on boundaries and borders, viewing them as false lines carved into the landscape that attempt to further disconnect from the ecological entanglement. These lines are meaningless in the face of environmental catastrophe, but are the cause of so much violence and outrage in many parts of the world. To think that the expanding threats of border restrictions and conflicts can be closely tied to the Capitalocene greatly concerns me.

Ecologist C.S. Holling, in his theory of Panarchy, makes connections between the forest and human societies, claiming that these complex systems become less stable and resilient to change as they have completely adapted to rising connectedness and efficiency in their production cycles. During the late stage of its growth phase, the forest becomes extremely efficient as it effectively adapts to maximize the production of biomass from the flows of energy and nutrients in the environment. Comparatively, our societies have become extremely efficient and productive in maximizing profits from the exploitation of natural resources. However, this growth phase cannot go on forever; the high connectedness and efficiency of these systems eventually produce diminishing returns by reducing their capacity to cope with severe outside shocks [8]. As a result, these systems become more vulnerable to these shocks, which can trigger the collapse of the whole ecosystem.

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CIVILISED, 2019.

CIVILISED, 2019.

We have become completely adapted to ‘the way things are’ in society: the endless accumulation of wealth and race towards exhausting our planet’s finite resources in the name of advancement. These measures have become unbounded and self-regulated in a sense whereas life has become heavily regulated to the confines of its boundaries. There is something about Panarchy that resonates with the idea of what it means to be civilised in a world in urgent need of a healing and transformation. I believe achieving an unbounded connection with the natural world requires a radical shift of our ideas on boundaries and advancement, and deep consideration of what it means to be human in the ecological entanglement.

Throughout my work, I have sought to capture the complexity of interconnectedness through drawing, sculpture, installation, and printmaking. Investigating the role of humans as lines in shaping our planet forms the basis of my practice as I explore the tension between our actions and the natural world through notions of boundedness and unboundedness. The processes embodied in my work, from exploring the landscape to entwining branches, constitute an integral component of this inquiry in understanding what it means to be human in our current ecological crisis. When gazing up above in the forest, can we see the coexistence among all phenomena in life? Can we realize that the ramifications of our actions will inevitably impact us as the Climate Crisis progresses? Perhaps that gaze must be held a little longer for us to gain a deeper understanding of how to achieve healing and renewal for the human condition.

 

Bibliography:

Ingold, T., 2016. Redrawing Anthropology: Materials, Movements, Lines. 2nd ed. London, England; New York, New York: Routledge.

Ingold, T., 2015. The Life of Lines. 1st ed. London, England; New York, New York: Routledge.

Morton, T., 2012. The Ecological Thought. 1st ed. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England: Harvard University Press.

Morton, T., 2010. Guest Column: Queer Ecology. Modern Language Association of America, [Online]. 125, 273-282. Available at: www.jstor.org/stable/25704424 [Accessed 22 May 2019].

Mies, M. and Shiva, V., 2014. Ecofeminism. 2nd ed. London, England; New York, New York: Zed Books Ltd.

Homer-Dixon, T., 2007. The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilisation. 1st ed. London, England: Souvenir Press Ltd.

Moore, J.W., 2015. Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. 1st ed. London, England; Brooklyn, New York: Verso.

Robbins, B., 2006. The Delicate Empiricism of Goethe: Phenomenology as a Rigorous Science of Nature. Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, [Online]. 6, 1-13. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/20797222.2006.11433928 [Accessed 22 May 2019].

 

References:

[1] (T. Ingold, 2016, p. 2)

[2] (T. Ingold, 2015, p. 3)

[3] (T. Morton, 2012)

[4] (T. Morton, 2010, p. 275 – 276)

[5] (B. Robbins, 2006, p. 5)

[6] (M. Mies and V. Shiva, 2014)

[7] (J. W. Moore, 2015, p. 26)

[8] (T. Homer-Dixon, 2007, p. 227)