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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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.

 

The Possibilities of Place

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The Possibilities of Place is the title of The 9 Stones Artists exhibition taking place at Visual Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow in July.
New works by Rachel Joynt RHA, Anthony Lyttle, Remco de Fouw ARHA, Michelle Byrne, Annabel Konig, Gwen Wilkinson, Martin Lyttle, Jules Michael and Cathy Fitzgerald will be on display.
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9 Stones Artists, Rachel Joynt, Michelle Byrne, Cathy Fitzgerald, Gwen Wilkinson, Jules Michael, Anthony Lyttle, Martin Lyttle, Annabel Konig and Remco de Fouw in front of Mt Leinster, Blackstairs, Co. Carlow
Formed in 2004, The 9 Stones Artists is a group of professional visual artists all of whom are based in the foothills of the Blackstairs Mountains in South County Carlow. Its members work in a diverse range of media – film, printmaking, sculpture, photography, painting and installation.
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Cover of the new 9 Stones Artists Catalogue to be launched at the opening.
In conjunction with this exhibition the group is launching an anniversary publication kindly supported by the Carlow Arts Office. The work of each member is generously presented and a specially commissioned essay by Cliodhna Schaffrey also features.

 


The Nine Stones Show ‘The Possibilities of Place’ will open to the public on the 2nd July and will run to the 16th of October at Visual Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow.

The Exhibition launch is  9th July at 3.00pm at Visual Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow.

On the 9th July there will be the “Season Launch” of all the exhibitions at Visual at 3pm and there may be a short panel discussion also. This would be a friendly talk and involve the artists involved in the all the shows at Visual. Wine, tea and coffee, activities for kids 3pm- 5.30pm


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9 Stones artist Cathy Fitzgerald joins UCD Art in Science and The Lab Gallery talk on sustainability

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9 Stones artist Cathy Fitzgerald is joining a panel this Wed 11 March 2015, 6-7.3o  pm to discuss how the arts can contribute to conversations about sustainability. She’ll be talking about her ongoing eco art project that is transforming a conifer plantation into a permanent, life-sustaining forest.

Places are limited, more details here

Update 28 April 2015: a video of Cathy’s talk is available here

Live at Hollywood during the 1st Blackstairs Rural Film Festival 2014

Gathering under the trees at Hollywood, South Carlow, Ireland, during the 1st Rural Blackstairs Film festival. 9 Stones artist Cathy Fitzgerald holds a space for conversation about why transforming conifer plantations is such a rich and valuable means to relate and act more sustainably to our environments. Photo: Gwen Wilkinson.
Gathering under the trees at Hollywood, South Carlow, Ireland, during the 1st Rural Blackstairs Film festival. 9 Stones artist Cathy Fitzgerald holds a space for conversation about why transforming conifer plantations is such a rich and valuable means to relate and act more sustainably to our environments. Photo: Gwen Wilkinson.

brochure-cover-Rural-film-festival-2014-Blackstairs-449x10249 Stones Artist Cathy Fitzgerald is an artist currently completing her PhD on eco art practice at NCAD. She shared a developing audiovisual film book in a short walk around Hollywood – the smallest Close-to-Nature continuous cover forest in Ireland on Sat 8 November during the 1st Blackstairs Rural Film Festival.

Hollywood is tiny! It is a 2 acre, 35 year old conifer plantation being transformed into a permanent forest using a new-to-Ireland forestry approach. This artful eco project has many insights, and not only for forestry. Visitors learned how ‘the little wood that could’ has contributed to short films, national forest policy, forest science and an awareness about ecocide, whilst becoming an increasingly resilient home for all those who live within it.
See more info here

Review of 9 Stones Artists Show at Borris 13-15 June 2014

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“The 9 Stones Artists are a cut above most other groups of their kind. Their art is inquisitive of new technique and subject matter; they bring science and nature together subtly and convincingly and produce images that are pleasing and appealing. There is an intellectual weight to their art that lifts it above and beyond mere picture making, and it’s this quality that validates their practice as ‘capital A’ Art. Hung in the quirky surrounds of repairs and renovations to the building that houses the show, this is a perfect opportunity to see really good art being displayed right in the locality in which it was made. These are local artists making a big contribution to the art world. Up South Leinster!”

Jeremy Hill, The Norman Gallery 13 June 2014

Thanks to everyone who came and visited our exhibition last weekend. We were all thrilled with the response in our first exhibition in Borris during the Borris House festival of Writing and Thinking and the Carlow Arts Festival 2014.

Below is a slideshow with some images from the opening on Fri 13 June, and then images of the work exhibited.

If you are interested in any of the work, please see our website for details of the individual artists at https://9stones.wordpress.com

Continue reading

Preparing for the 9 Stones Artists exhibition in Borris 13-15 June

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Preparations underway for our 9 Stones Artists exhibition starting this Fri 13 June until 15 Sat June 10am-7pm.

The house we are exhibiting in is down from the Step House hotel in Borris, along the Main Street.

The Opening is on Fri 13th, at 6pm, all welcome! Continue reading

9 Stones Exhibition at ‘Borris Town House’ during Borris House Festival of Writing and Ideas 13-15 June

 

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9 Stones Artists Opening (the night before the Borris Festival of Writing and Ideas begins)
9 Stones Artists Opening 13 June  at 6pm – ALL WELCOME!  (the night before the Borris Festival of Writing and Ideas begins)

Uniting for our fifth group show,  the 9 Stones Artists will present an exciting exhibition of recent and site-specific works in Borris Village for the duration of the Borris House Festival of Writing and Ideas, as part of the 2014 Carlow Arts Festival.

A common thread to the 9 Stones Artists group is that we respond to the area and reflect new meanings and experiences of South Carlow to audiences; in the various media we choose, the themes we engage with or the practices and processes we undertake.

In creative ways, the 9 Stone Artists look to define and enrich understandings of the area; by examining its unique past, present and future aspirations; the geological, aesthetic, and ecological rhythms of the area and how these thread through local South Carlow life.

Some of the 9 Stone Artists are concerned with art-making, some with extended or site-specific studies of the area, others again work across non-art disciplines or connect and participate with non art-groups; all create works that transmit new understandings of this special area of County Carlow, still little known outside the county.

Our opening is on the evening before the Borris House Festival, Fri 13th June at 6pm and runs alongside the  Borris Festival of Writing and Ideas weekend event until Sun 15 June.

Please feel free to share this exhibition notice.

9 Stones artists meeting in front of the 'Town House Borris' (Main St. Borris) recently
9 Stones artists meeting in front of the ‘Town House Borris’ (Main St. Borris) recently

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Remco de Fouw, Michelle Byrne, Cathy Fitzgerald, Anthony Lyttle, Annabel Konig, Gwen Wilkinson, Martin Lyttle, Jules Michael and Rachel Joynt will transform one of Borris’s most charming and historic townhouses into a gallery for a single weekend.

Thanks to Andrew and Tina Kavanagh for the kind loan of the premises

Also to the Carlow Arts Festival Team 2014

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The Town House, Main Street, Borris, Carlow.

Opening Fri  13th – Sunday 15th June

10am – 7pm

Friday 13th June 6pm (0pening)

Cathy Fitzgerald’s ‘The black space (resilience) of the Ash night’ selected for 2013 UCD Science Expression film festival

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9 Stones artist Cathy Fitzgerald’s new experimental film ‘The black space (resilience) of the Ash night’ (2013) was recently selected for the 2013 UCD Science Expression film festival. The film was shown with others in a mobile pop-up cinema to celebrate and reflect on the natural world. It was held at the Botanic Gardens, Dublin.

 

Notes on the film: Continue reading