9 Stone Artist Michelle Byrne in Irish Arts Review

‘Great review of 9 Stones Artist Michelle Byrne’s work (by Carissa Farrell) in the Winter Edition of the Irish Arts Review Magazine and a fabulous discussion by the artist about a recent public artwork in the November-December Visual Artists’ News Sheet.’

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Cathy Fitzgerald, 9 Stone Artist, offers an Essential Ecoliteracy for Creative Workers and Educators Workshop in Rathanna, Co. Carlow, with Lyric FM

Reposted from 9 Stones Artist’s Cathy Fitzgerald’s ecoliteracy blog Haumea

“Do artists have the right kinds of tools to imagine new ways of living for the earth and its inhabitants?”

Luke Clancy, RTE Lyric FM Culture File, 11 Nov, 2019

I had such a wonderful time on Saturday 2 November 2019, giving my first Essential Ecoliteracy for the Arts workshop for creative people and art teachers in Rathanna village, Co. Carlow, Ireland.

Developing this workshop has been a long-held wish of mine since I suggested the need for urgent ecoliteracy for the Irish arts sector, at the conclusion of my doctoral thesis, when I submitted it back in 2016. I have felt this keenly for many years as I have a previous career in research science and I know the cultural sector needs to be better informed and supported to effectively engage with this topic.  I also know that societal shifts, like the urgent need for society to live in more life-affirming ways, are always related to new cultural activity. Sharing ecoliteracy with other creatives is part of how I am contributing as an Irish signatory to the international #CultureDeclares emergency campaign.

Essential Ecoliteracy for the Arts workshop

I  designed this one-day ‘Everything Must Change: A Paradigm Shift for Society and the Arts‘  workshop specifically for creative workers and art educators, art researchers, who have some knowledge of expanded, socially engaged, community art practices. This workshop was NOT about how to make an environmental artwork. Rather, it was a course to start thinking about how you might transform your creative practice or your art teaching for the environmental-social emergency.

I was delighted to welcome participants from as far away as Kerry, Cork, Clare and Dublin and people who were living in the Carlow – Wexford area.

Ecoliteracy is a big, heavy topic

With workshop participants, I shared how ecological insights and science data demand an unprecedented paradigm shift for modern society.  I covered several topics to fully present the history, science, philosophy of how ecological insights can empower us in these urgent times. As this is a confronting topic for anyone and from my experience, I also introduced a range of pyscho-social supports for creative workers and educators engaging with this topic.  I was blessed on the day of the workshop to have assistance on bodywork practices with the wonderful subtle anatomy educator Veronica Larsson. I also shared encouraging new insights for mindful practices for a more compassionate and creative era from US philosopher Dr Nikos Patedakis. I presented a way to understand the environmental science more easily and introduced concepts and new words like solastalgia, soliphilia, The Symbiocene, advanced by Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht, that help us better identify the emotions of the age we are in, and how our creative work may contribute to a more compassionate era, the Symbiocene, where the welfare of all of Earth’s inhabitants are prioritised (it was great to share the new Solastalgia film as well).

Visual art, music, film, drawing flowers, fungi and eco jazz

Amongst a range of cultural works I shared that engaged with the ecological emergency, I also shared new Irish eco #jazz music from The Carole Nelson Trio, and showed the  ‘Fantastic Fungi’ (2019) film trailer (the sensational new US film by inspired filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg, forest mycologists like Paul Stamet and forest ecologist Prof Suzanne Simard who are sharing new advances in symbiotic science that underlines growing appreciation of the interconnectedness of all life to growing audiences around the world).

At the end of the day, listening to Carole Nelson’s Trio new ‘canopy’ and ‘under-the-ground’ tracks, we each of us drew our own ‘flower of sustainability’ (a personal map-making drawing exercise designed by eco-social artist Dr Insa Winkler). This allowed us to reflect and visualise our unique gifts, intersecting interests, concerns and joys, as an ecology of practice for these urgent times.

Overall, it was a day full of sharing, laughter, feet stamping, reflecting, feeling, learning, tears, leaning on each other,  and great local vegetarian food by Trish Markey (who I later discovered had done cookery classes at Ballymaloe – how we did enjoy the food Trish).

My Interview with Rachel Andrews for Lyric FM

Also, it was a real surprise to be interviewed by one of the workshop participants, writer, journalist and cultural researcher Rachel Andrews for Lyric FM’s Luke Clancy Culture File Weekly show. Thank you so much, Rachel, for recording the day. What an unexpected gift to reflect on too!

Listen to my interview with Rachel, and introduced by cultural broadcaster Luke Clancy below. (Participants will smile when they hear the intro to the Katie Goodman music clip that I shared during the workshop 😉 )

These are just some of the highlights of the day – its a day I will treasure for all the insights and learning.

More Workshops and an Online Course early January 2020

PS – I’ve had invitations to give more workshops across the country and I will shortly be offering a 6-week online version early in the New Year.

Please subscribe to this blog to hear of future workshops and online courses.

Thank You Everyone!

Very special thanks to my philosopher coach and anam cara, Dr Nikos Patedakis; to Veronica Larsson, what a joy to reconnect recently and thank you for the gift you gave us – we all felt so supported and connected to new understandings in our bodies. Heartfelt thanks to my magic biz-tech-art mentor Mary Carty, my wonderful sculptor Lithicworks husband Martin Lyttle and new dog Willow. Hugs to Kate Flood and thanks for setup and ongoing support from Jules Michael, Eoin Mac Lochlainn, Mairead Holohan, Dr Eileen Hutton, Rosie O’Gorman, and Orla Callaghan. Thanks also to Drs Iain Biggs, Paul O’Brien, Karen Till, Gerry Kearns and Nessa Cronin. Thanks also to all the participants who have given such rich, detailed feedback. Also a big thanks to Arts Officer, Sinead Dowling and all at the Carlow Arts Office. And to the Rathanna Community Hall Committee – the venue was perfect. Thanks also to the Local Carlow Enterprise Board, business mentor Bernie Tracey and my online course mentor Jim Wright at Mirasee, Montreal.

PS

Cathy’s latest article on ecological art practice, has also just been published in the US Minding Nature journal, Fall 2019. ‘The Hollywood Forest Story: an eco-social art practice for the Symbiocene’.

 

 

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

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.