Art.Earth artist of the month Cathy Fitzgerald and The Hollywood Forest Story: an ongoing eco-social art practice for permanent forestry in Ireland and elsewhere

9 Stones artist Cathy Fitzgerald, was selected as artist of the month for May by the international art.earth network. Here’s what Cathy wrote in response to her selection.


Ahead of the international summit on cultural responses to  ‘Evolving the Forest taking place in Dartington Hall, near Totnes, Devon, England this June, Cathy was asked by Mark Leahy, of the Directors of the international ecoart network art.earth, to respond to some questions and discuss her work as featured art.earth artist of the month.

Reposted article from art.earth below:

The Hollywood Forest Story: an ongoing eco-social art practice for permanent forestry in Ireland and elsewhere

Hollywood, ‘the little wood that could’ is a small 2-acre Close-to-Nature continuous cover forest growing under the Blackstairs Mountains, in South County Carlow, Ireland. Photo: Martin Lyttle

by Cathy Fitzgerald, 1st May 2019

My ongoing eco-social art practice The Hollywood Forest Story (begun in 2008) explores how a move toward ecological forestry will be a critical response to the ecological emergency. My practice draws insights from the art and ecology field and my involvement in forestry circles since I came to Ireland from New Zealand in the late 90s. This was also around the time I started my undergraduate studies in contemporary art practice at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin after previously working in research science.

Ireland has a sad forest history. Impoverished by colonization, only 1% of its native forests remained in 1900. Continuing rural hardship in Ireland saw justifiable enthusiasm in the 1950s for afforestation with monoculture plantations of the fast-growing North American conifers.

When I first came to Ireland, I worked with Jan Alexander, founder of Crann (the Irish word for ‘tree’), her nonprofit organisation. Crann drew public support for growing environmental awareness that monoculture clearfell forestry limits biodiversity, and negatively affects water quality and soil fertility. Crann successfully lobbied the Irish government to introduce incentives for significant native tree planting that have significant ecological and natural heritage value. I highlighted community planting of native trees in County Leitrim in a celebratory exhibition, The Local Project Revisited in 2006.

Today broadleaf trees continue to be planted but only as as a minimum percentage of national afforestation. Critically, Ireland lacks broadleaf timber volume and mills to cater for diverse tree species, despite their greater ecological and social amenity value. Overall, Ireland’s forestry remains, as in many part of the world, ecologically limited.

Eco-social artist Cathy Fitzgerald with Crann founder, Jan Alexander in 2005.

Jan Alexander and foresters, such as Paddy Purser, realised that establishing mixed species, mixed aged forests in perpetuity would be critical for a sustainable and life-enhancing forest industry. Interested in alternative continuous cover forestry as practised in Europe through the Pro Silva (Latin ‘for forests’) organisation, and with support from The Continuous Cover Forestry Group (CCFG), the UK Pro Silva group, they and others established Pro Silva Ireland in 2000. EU and UK Pro Silva forest experts then shared practical knowledge with pioneering Irish landowners, foresters and forestry students about how to transform Ireland’s monoculture tree plantations into naturally regenerating permanent forests. I later became part of these discussions as from 2000 I found myself living in a small plantation conifer woodland.

These forestry discussions were the background to my art college days. Not surprisingly, I found myself drawn to the pioneering eco-social art practices of Helen and Newton Harrison. I was fascinated by how they facilitated open participatory dialogues in their creative ecological practices. They welcomed artistic, scientific, political, and local knowledge to form inclusive practices to envision improved wellbeing for diverse communities and bioregions. Their practice of collaborative works and conversation fueled communities with new ideas of how to sustain natural environments, and importantly, expanded ideas of art, and education in general, toward what constitutes an ecological education. The Harrisons’ Serpentine Lattice (1992-3), that presents a restorative bioregional vision through participatory practices to ameliorate devastated US Pacific coastal forests, was particularly inspirational for me.

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Similarly, my slow art ways of working across disciplines whilst living within a forest gave me opportunities to develop a fulfilling eco-social art practice. My work developed ecological depth as I realised that I had expert forestry contacts to help me and my husband transform the woodland and that I knew forest policymakers when I had become involved with my local Green Party.  I also had the Harrisons’ work to guide me and their recent book The Time of the Force Majeure: After 45 Years Counterforce is on the Horizon (Harrisons, 2016), detailing their practices over many decades, is the book I wish I had when I first started. It is the critical text for any artist or art educator seeking to understand what an eco-social art practice may involve.

As transforming a conifer plantation will take several decades I found I had ample time, amongst other work, to develop my eco-social art practice chiefly through blogging about it at The Hollywood Forest Story. My Hollywood Forest Story became the basis of my art practice doctoral research. I came to understand that eco-social art practices, those that are embedded in a particular community over years, foster relevant ecoliteracy for practitioners and their audiences. Eco-social art practitioners and their audiences become ecoliterate – they quickly understand the connections of what sustains their environments and their lives (an illustrated, interactive online book gives details of my research).

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Increasing ecoliteracy from eco-social art practices inevitably fosters our agency for change. We can see this in the new ideas and policies to safeguard environments that often arose from the Harrisons’ work. I found this happening unexpectedly in my work too, when on the basis of my eco-social art practice, I successfully argued that continuous cover forestry be the key point of the Green Party of Ireland and Northern Ireland’s forest policy in 2012. My practice also actioned me to promote the late Earth-lawyer Polly Higgins’ work on developing  a law against the crime of ecocide to the Irish Green Party.

My forestry friends often smile at the small scale of Hollywood forest but they intuit that the story of Hollywood Forest, the ‘little wood that could’ adds a more public vision to how forestry must change. And just a few months ago, something important happened in Irish forestry. On the back of the work of Pro Silva Ireland, the Irish Department of Agriculture announced the first pilot scheme to financially assist landowners to move toward continuous cover forestry. Pro Silva Ireland’s guidebook on how to transform a plantation into a forest has gone into its second printing and Pro Silva Ireland’s first two training days last month were oversubscribed.

Children of Pro Silva Ireland members Anna and Brian Browne enjoying a visit to Hollywood forest in 2010. Photo: Cathy Fitzgerald

Looking back, it has taken much hard work and many conversations over some decades to develop the beginnings of sustainable vision for Ireland’s forests. Continuous cover forestry is to be welcomed but given how fast the planetary ecological emergency is unfolding, and the short decade deadline climate scientists have announced to change our ways, such integrative forestry practices must be mainstreamed with the utmost urgency. Forestry education will have to recognize the endgame plantation forestry promotes and reinvent itself rapidly.  And dialogical creative practices must be recognized for their significant role to reinvent education more broadly, to help communities imagine how living well with forests, lands, rivers, oceans is essential for a sustainable, just and beautiful world.

Cathy Fitzgerald PhD    


Cathy’s PhD thesis ‘Living Well with Forests to articulate eco-social art practice’ (2018) and her interactive ebook on the development of her ongoing Hollywood Forest Story can be read here

Follow The Hollywood Forest Story at https://hollywoodforest.com/ – comments always welcome! Cathy is also the first Irish signatory to the global #culturedeclaresemergency movement

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The 9 Stones Artists’ Book Project

The 9 Stones Artists' Book installed in Visual on a special bench of flattened corrugated iron and glass, designed by 9 Stones Artist Remco De Fouw
The 9 Stones Artists' Book installed in Visual on a special bench of flattened corrugated iron and glass, designed by 9 Stones Artist Remco De Fouw
The 9 Stones Artists’ Book installed in Visual on a special bench of flattened corrugated iron and glass, designed by 9 Stones Artist Remco De Fouw

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On display at Visual, Centre for Contemporary Art Carlow.
09 February – 19 May 2019
Opening Sat 9 February 2019, at 3pm.

9 Stones Artists members:

Michelle Byrne, Cathy Fitzgerald, Annabel Konig, Anthony Lyttle, Remco de Fouw,
Martin Lyttle, Jules Michael, Rachel Joynt, & Gwen Wilkinson.


The 9 Stones Artists’ Book Project is a collaborative project by 9 Stones Artists and  Ciara Healy, a Curator, Critical Writer, Book Artist and Lecturer in Art, Culture
& Heritage at IT Carlow.

9 Stone Artist, Anthony Lyttle, uses woodcuts as an integral part of his practice. In sharing his specific knowledge through workshops, the 9 Stones Artists were introduced to a new skill and visual language.

 

The outcome, a book of hand-printed woodblock prints, reflects on a relationship to their practice and place of work.

About the Artists
9 Stones Artists, formed in 2004. Its members are professional artists living and
working in the foothills of the Blackstairs Mountains in South County Carlow.
Dr. Ciara Healy is a Curator, Critical Writer, Book Artist and Lecturer in Art, Culture
& Heritage at IT Carlow.

Associated Events:

Artist Talk: Practice and influence
Saturday 2nd March, 3pm (Free)

Curator Emma-Lucy O’Brien in conversation
with members of 9 Stones Artists.
Wood Block Print and Book Binding Workshop
13 & 14 April, 10am–4pm (Cost: €80)
(Bookings through www.visualcarlow.ie)

Facilitated by Anthony Lyttle and Ciara Healy.

In this two day workshop participants will learn bookbinding and woodblock printing techniques.

Taking inspiration from the work of artist Stephen McKenna, participants will create a series of prints.

Emerging from this workshop you will have learned the process involved in block
printing, book binding, and come away with a book of your own prints!
Materials included.


This project was generously supported by a Carlow Arts Office Award.


The 9 Stones Artists especially wishes to thank Dr Ciara Healy for her inspiration and skill in helping us develop and produce our 9 Stones Artists Book.


The 9 Stones Artists also wish to acknowledge the skill and generosity of 9 Stone Artist Anthony Lyttle in sharing such a wonderful art technique and process with the group.


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The 9 Stone Artists also wishes to thank artist and researcher Pauline O’Connell on her essay on the 9 Stones Artists presented for the 9 Stone Artists’ Book installation at Visual Carlow.

‘Food – Newfoundland’

Friday 8th September 2017.    Flight 17, West Jet to St. John’s

I am at the gate, on my way to St. John’s in Canada. Outside the morning brightness reflects on large cumulus clouds: soft cream and blues. It may have taken a few years of talking about Newfoundland, but I am now lucky enough to have a two-week residency on this island.

Since pre Irish Famine times, people have been emigrating to Newfoundland from Ireland. They were going for the fishing but often came from farming backgrounds. Of all the emigrants, the Irish were the largest consortium to move their lives to Newfoundland and many families came from counties Waterford, Wexford, West Meath and Carlow, a place that I call home.

I am particularly curious to discover if the historical link with Newfoundland still exists though farming practices, methods or specific plants and if these were integrated into modern day food production.

I know it won’t be like stepping back into history yet I am looking for connections, traditions or knowledge that may have been passed down through families, I think about the emigrants in boats, bringing with them what they could carry, making this same journey but going to start a new life on a different island.

For full text and images, please see: https://annabelkonigvisualartist.com/2017/09/19/food-newfoundland/

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Max’s dried fish. Phillip’s Cove, Newfoundland.

Richard Scott Sculpture at Ballymaloe 2017

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The Annual “Richard Scott Sculpture @ Ballymaloe” opened at Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Co. Cork on Wednesday 21st June 2017. Three 9 Stone Artists – Michelle Byrne,  Martin Lyttle and Gwen Wilkinson had work in the show.

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RHA Annual Exhibition 2017

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The 9 Stones Artist were well represented this year at the RHA Annual Exhibition – Rachel Joynt, Remco Defow, Anthony Lyttle, Martin Lyttle and Michelle Byrne all had work in the exhibition.

Congratulations to Rachel who won a prize for sculpture.

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‘River Goddess’ bronze Photo: Aisling McCoy

Loosen Art ‘Shift’ photobook

I am delighted to have had my work selected for the Loosen Art photobook ‘Shift’.

The selected images are from my project:  https://annabelkonigvisualartist.com/2017/05/05/this-i-can-carry/

Shift” is a matter of movement, “shift” is a matter of change, of displacement. The images, the artworks are there, we can see them, but at the same time they are dis/placed in another reality, in another dimension. Again, a “shift” is a path towards the unknown, considered in its different layers of meaning and it is a topic completely up-to-date, in line with the needs and the circumstances we live in our ordinary life. It is not a coincidence that many of the artists in the show are interested in political and social topics, although this book cannot be limited to that. Actually, looking at the artworks, we can perceive the presence of three main thematic groups: the first one related to the human race, the second connected to the nature and the last one linked to the ‘artificial’ world, from technology to geometry.
Being men constantly migrating from one place to the other – and, especially, departing from difficult places in search of a different, ‘easier’ dimension –, they are at the centre of some of the artworks, representing an interesting metaphor: they are the symbol of our contemporary living.

Product details

Authors Silvia Colombo, Antonio Muratore
Publication date 15 November 2017
Publication City/Country Rome, Italy
Publisher LoosenArt
Language English
Format Hardback Laminil | 92 pages
Dimensions 210 x 297 x 16mm | 260g
Illustrations note 82 colour illustrations

'Shift' Loosen Art magazine. Nov 2017

‘This I can carry’

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Everyone has, at some point, packed a bag to take with them on a journey; but how many of us have packed a bag that will hold all we have left in this world?     When you’re forced to leave your home, what do you bring with you?  What will fit into the rucksack or bag that you, yourself must carry for such a long way?  What size is this bag, how much does it weigh?  How much can you carry; physically, psychologically?

On the 11th of May (2017) Annabel will be travelling to Athens to meet up and work with refugees who find themselves held up in Athens, Greece, waiting for a new, safe place to live until it is possible for them to go home.  She will be working under the umbrella of the UNHCR and the Nostos Organisation to make work for her project ‘This I can carry’.

For more information, stay tuned to:

This I can carry

Demonstration in stone sculpture with 9 Stone Artists Michelle Byrne and Martin Lyttle

 

As part of the 9 Stones Artists ongoing Possibilities of Place exhibition at VISUAL Carlow, 9 Stone Artists Michelle Byrne and Martin Lyttle (lithicworks.com) will be giving an absorbing introduction to the challenges of working with stone.

Michelle and Martin employ a variety of techniques and work with the local stone of the area, chiefly Kilkenny limestone and Carlow granite.

The demonstration will take place in Martin and Michelle’s studios in South Carlow.

Date:  Saturday 13th August 2016. 10am- 4.30pm, €40, inc. artists lunch at Osbourne’s Bar in Rathanna, Blackstairs, South Carlow.

Time: 10am- 4.30pm

Fee: €40, inc. artists lunch at Osbourne’s Pub in Rathanna.

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Book at VISUAL Box Office: 059 9172400

Review and Opening of the 9 Stones Artists Possibilities of Place exhibition: continues to 16 Oct, 2016

We have been delighted with the response to our exhibition which opened 4 July with the new season of exhibitions at VISUAL Carlow.

Celebrating our ten years of working together, The Possibilities of Place exhibition has been an exciting means to share our work, and in an incredible venue.

Below are some photos from the opening and if you missed it, you can listen again to the review on RTE Arena by Cristin Leach in conversation with Sean Rocks.

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Annabel Konig was also interviewed at Visual about the 9 Stones Artists exhibition by the Art in Ireland TV crew:

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We have also published a catalogue to accompany the exhibition, with a foreword from Jeremy Hill (curator of the former Norman Gallery) and an essay by curator Cliodhna Shaffrey. You can purchase the catalogue from Visual or email us at 9stonesartists@gmail.com.

The exhibition continues until Friday 16 October, do hope you can drop in to see it.