Cape Farewell

The southern most tip of Greenland is called Cape Farewell. Cape Farewell is also an organization created by artist David Buckland in 2001 to “instigate a cultural response to climate change.” They bring scientists and artists together to explore the effects of climate change in a landscape where it is becoming more directly apparent every day.

Today I started working on a fresh canvas and took a bit of time to browse through iTunes University under the fine arts category (of course), and happened upon a very interesting series of lectures and symposiums hosted by Tate Britain. The particular symposium that I clicked on was a discussion between Ruth Little, Michele Noach, and Sunand Prasad. Ruth Little is an australian dramaturg and author, Michele Noach is an Australian born artoonist, and Sunand Prasad is an architect who has won awards for his firm’s commitment to sustainable design. In this symposium they speak about the varying experiences they had on their trips to the arctic. Ruth had a few gems that I transcribed, as they are very relevant to my current practice and research:

“It’s not so much that art is being made about climate change, but that we are all changing in response to our relationships with one another. And that’s my really big thing, is that until we change, and that means changing our minds, we’re not going to change anything about our external circumstances. We might learn some new behaviors, but were not going to fundamentally influence or respond to the fundamental influences on our lives that come from our environments.”

And further in the symposium:

“Everywhere you go in the Arctic you see sort of splatters of blood on the ice mainly because the Greenlanders are just killing and eating everything that breathes, and the snow is full of these cloud berries and you step on them and they just leave purple blood stains, and you come to the conclusion that our life is a stain in the snow, that’s all it is, and it’s fantastically simple and absolutely ridiculous. You know the complexity of the human system counts for nothing within the complexity of a monumentally enormous living system like that, and for me one of the really important insights is yes we feel ourselves to be very separate; we define our separateness with this little membrane of skin, but actually the same patents, the same processes and the same fundamental forces that are acting on that landscape are acting on us too. And without that insight we can’t move forward. But it’s humbling to recognize that that’s all we are is just a part of that landscape. It is totally oblivious to us and will be for all time. And all of our gaping and awe counts for absolutely nothing.”

There is one particular sentence in my artist statement that I have come back to countless times; “My interest lies in exploring the self-defeating urge to conquer, and the struggle to reform a sustainable union with and within nature.” The significant part of this sentence being ‘with and within nature.’ I have been pondering this for months and intend to elaborate upon it in the next drafts of my statement, but essentially, I think the change that Ruth is speaking of is the same change/reform that I am trying to provoke questions toward. A shift in our mentality toward our relationship with the environment and landscape. Western Culture is especially good at elevating humanity above nature, speaking about nature as if we are not a part of it.

There is a part in the symposium where Michele speaks about the art being made at Cape Farewell:

“…they’ve got to work as art pieces first, that if they don’t work you’re just sort of a hectoring, campaigning ranter, and actually you turn people off with your political message.”

And that weighs heavily into my work as well. The goal, if any, is not to preach or rant, but simply to provoke questions about Humanity’s relationship within nature, with these questions hopefully developing in to a larger dialogue within one’s self.

The symposium is available on the iTunes store and also at Tate Britain’s website. It is titled “Sublime Environments – Art and Climate Change.”

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *