Last Friday I attended the Arts and Climate Change Symposium at Plymouth Art Centre, from the very moment Jessica Rayner, the first speaker, began discussing her practice I felt inspired.
Her newly published book The Metabolic Landscape: Perception, Practice and the Energy Transition, in which art, science and philosophy are used to explore the earth’s current state of metabolic distress opened up to me new ways artists can manipulate the natural world in their practice. Jessica’s presentation, although perhaps not the most inspirational to me personally in terms of directly influencing my work, is the one I remember in greatest detail. Jessica’s language was academic and although the world of academic artists is foreign to me hearing this language being used clarified a number of ideas and concepts that I have heard artists discussing since getting involved in the arts. I am not a classical trained artist, I enjoyed art at GCSE but I wanted to be a scientist and now I am curving back I have begun to stumble upon artistic theory. Art is not just pretty pictures it means a lot to so many people regardless of whether it is a hobby or a fulltime pursuit, from all the community groups I have worked with I know it doesn’t just belong to the highly educated or archaic social elites but there is a sector of professional artists in our society and I think that it is just as important to understand the language and thinking of classical trained artists as it is to appreciate the role of art in the community. Before when asked about developing ‘my practice’ I would talk about the technicalities of capturing shots under certain lighting conditions not the in-depth meaning or social context of my work, of course obviously there has to be a reason behind every shot but suddenly I feel underdeveloped in this area.
I left the field of Geography for much the same reasons as James Balog of Chasing Ice, I enjoyed the science but felt disillusioned with being a scientist, I was recording and processing all this data that build a picture of the state of our natural world but nobody other than my lecturers and peers were ever going to see it. My data was meaningless outside of my office, my hard work did not in the end amount to anything more than wasted space on a hard drive. I wanted to create something more and as cliché as it sounds the only man in the world that I knew who people actually listened to when it came to the natural world was David Attenborough. I have always enjoyed photography, I abandoned it academically in AS to reconstruct myself as a scientist worthy of Oxford but this idea grew in my mind that I had to make documentaries, I had to go to remote locations around the world and film the extremes of our environment. I’m not sure if I ever had the naive outlook that I might actually change the world but I want people to see what I saw whilst staring down into a cravas, not in my measurements and datasets but through my eyes. I do not yet know the meaning behind my work beyond the importance of it to my clients but I think that by working with artists from the local area, at PCQ Arts and Flameworks I will develop a practice that links my pretty, technically average, pictures to a greater reason why I feel compelled to create.