(Un)natural Narratives: Explorations of biophilia and belonging in a decentred world17. Jan - 15. Feb 14 / ended Standpoint Gallery
Wednesday - Saturday 12-6pm
Edwina fitzPatrick Eleanor Morgan Sean Vicary
“Predatory life under advanced capitalism… a zone where nothing else – not bodies, social life, religion, or aesthetics – matters.” TJ Demos 2012
Discussed sporadically in the current surge of ‘new nature writing’ and continually in the heated debates around ecology, biodiversity and climate change in the press and blogosphere, is an acknowledged global crisis in our relationship to the nonhuman. We must, suggests Timothy Morton among others, come to terms with a radically decentred humanity: our “unbearable intimacy” and interdependence with other species (many of which are now under threat because of our own actions). Responses to this crisis are as diverse as advocating a programme of ‘re-wilding’ (restoring precious habitats to a pre-human state via the re-introduction of vanished native species) to consuming as much fossil fuel as possible to ‘bring on’ the crisis and thus force the governments /corporate behemoths to make the vast and complex global shifts in our capitalist system that is required to make the (impossible?) necessary difference.
Jane Bennett, with her writing on the vitality of matter, contributes greatly to the idea that as humans we must engage deeply and imaginatively with otherness in its many forms to promote a generous, thoughtful ethical response to that which is outside our direct self-interest. It is in the spirit of this ‘enchanted materialism’ that (Un)natural Narratives explores the evolving and contrasting languages in which three artists think and make work in and about nature and the nonhuman: borrowing from mythology, alluding to personal histories and experiences, collaborating with scientists on specific areas of research, and exploring ecological and philosophical theory.
Edwina fitzPatrick explores what happens when 'grey' and 'green' environments intersect, and how human interactions have, and are, affecting the nature/culture/ecology of a place. Her projects also reflect upon how climate change may affect this delicate balance. Edwina often collaborates with experts across a range of disciplines. These have included horticulturalists, biodiversity experts, engineers, architects, perfumers, foresters, archivists, and composers. Edwina has made a new piece for (Un)natural Narratives that forwards her proposition that the green environment is a landscape-archive. Wood for the Trees embeds miniature forests into an old encyclopaedia - questioning what we consider a natural landscape to be and raising the historically and politically determined nature of most of our supposedly ‘wild’ spaces in the UK.
In 2010 Eleanor Morgan travelled to Folly Island off South Carolina to create a golden ring from the silk of a local spider. She was following a tale of a soldier stationed there during the American Civil war who discovered the spider, created a machine to spin the silk into jewellery, and sold it as real gold. Eleanor found the spider, collected its silk and made the ring, but the effects of Folly Island continue. (Un)natural Narratives displays just a small selection of her ongoing projects into islands, follies, searching and phantasies, including a lithographed island-table and a video depicting her peculiar transformation into an undersea creature.
Sean Vicary’s extraordinary film Lament interweaves site-specific found objects, animation, spoken word and music to explore a personal narrative of loss, longing and belonging in the Welsh borderlands. The film incorporates Canu Heledd, a 7th Century Welsh poem cycle dealing with the fall of the Brythonic Kingdom of Pengwern, which referred to, Vicary discovered, the small rural village in Shropshire where he went to school. “I’m fascinated how the land has been shaped by generations of interaction with the environment – the enclosure of the commons, how the field names on old tithe maps are echoed in the remains of cottages and broken pipe stems that appear during ploughing, how everything exists simultaneously on different time scales: 8 bee lifespans to one fieldmouse, 40 mouse lifespans to one human, 4 human lifespans to one oak tree etc.”
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