Welcome to Treeline – An international Black Hole Club, Vivid Projects, New Leaf and Salt road ecology biomimicry programme. Arts and science program linked with the University of Oslo, The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham and STEAMhouse at Birmingham City University. With Black Hole Club artists Rebecca Mahay, Daniel Hopkins, David Checkley, Kate Spence, Jaime Jackson Coral Manton and Salt road artist Sally Payen.

The tree line, like lake boundaries, appears well-defined from a distance, but upon sufficiently close inspection it is a gradual transition. Trees grow shorter towards the inhospitable climate until they simply stop growing. Wikipedia 

Can art move from a position of disinterested objectification towards nature to add to a shift in society’s culture to prevent catastrophic global climate change. Can aesthetics be a tool to move a position of understand and can artists work with academics to articulate scientific knowledge into social belief?

Based on the Biophilic city program and the European Green city program, we aim to foster a network of practice between Birmingham, Oslo, Vitoria Gastiez and its region.

Treeline Video by Jaime Jackson

The Treeline is an Arts Council England funded visual art commission program linking artists with academics, asking if artists can create a real state change in culture, a re-visioning of social value structures. If art is at the heart of our understanding of social values, can artists working with ecological aesthetics bridge the gap between knowledge and belief. Can artists and the art that they make re-vision the world’s value structure towards nature, the environment and the planet’s resources, to create a real state of emergency, to work with scientists to create a real state change in culture.

I’ve worked as an artist in the world of climate change for 15 years and have been part of many discussions… In moments of despair, it feels like art can’t begin to touch what needs to be done.  At other times, it feels like the creative world can open out the conversation and facts in a way that transcends science and also doesn’t alienate or intimidate the casual or lay audience. Michèle Noach, Norwegian Environmental activist & artist based in London, working as a writer on Treeline

9th December -Today we meet with Amelia Beavis-Harrison. A Midlands based video and performance artist from Oslo. Giving us invaluable insights and tips for our visit.

Video Still A Tragedy Re-Written, Amelia Beavis-Harrison (2015-17)

Amelia runs Kunst Vardo, a nomadic art platform linking Norway and the U.K. with a focus on performance. The platform takes its name from the nomadic Romani gypsy wagon which acts as both a home and a vehicle, carrying its inhabitants from place.

What is the link between the misogyny and ecocide? Does patriarchy treat nature the same way, othering, making into a resource to control?

This division between nature and culture is a central component of modern aesthetics. The concept of disinterest that announces itself during the 18th century….signifies exactly this kind of categorical division between culture and civilisation, governed by our desires and interests, and the natural realm that is conceived as a counterpoint, as something outside our human concerns. There is something deeply problematic about this categorical division.’ Fredriksson, A. ‘Environmental Aesthetics Beyond the Dialectics of Interest and Disinterest.

’Why? Fredriksson writes, ‘our understanding of nature…makes us forget the whole story of our natural life-form.’ This forgetting enables an overview whereby other humans as well as natural forms are treated as external, or as environment, enabling their categorisation as, for example, resource. Could natural scenes be a prompt for alternative perspectives or ditching the model of perspective itself which separates the viewer’s eye from the scene observed? Or would that elinate the distancing, which, in modern aesthetics, is the location of criticality.’

Malcolm Miles. Eco-Aesthetics- Art, Literature and Architecture in a period of Climate Change.


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Frosty and hot hot flowers in Oslo.

Oslo

Arriving in the City on a late Saturday afternoon, already dark and the cold hits my cheek.
First cup of tea – a huge earl grey with a stick
And a toilet miles from the floor
Climbing the stairs of the house we are staying in
Very old and characterful – already the noise of family and friends and welcome
Shock at the cost of a beer
And hearing about the problems of drinking in Oslo
I don’t care as I don’t drink much anyway

Wondering through crowed markets on a Sunday morning
Many knitted gloves and dogs in coats
Layers and layers of graffiti and posters piled on top of each other,
Seems to be as much about what went before and what might come after
As what is there now – a urban book turning its own pages.

Music on a Sunday afternoon,
helps to take away the exhaustion of the journey
In a venue with layers of rooms and bars.
Its old jazz from the 70’s and a funky master explaining
how the english don’t share but the funky men and women of hot cultures do
even though they have less
I wonder why he now lives in London.

Hot Botanical gardens,
taking off layers and layers of jumpers and coats
Making a small film of my grown up daughter walking towards me in a black dress with flowers
Enjoyed taking photos of the flowers and plants, time stops here, no talking.
I love painting flowers and thinking about the
Poetry of the eighteenth century explorers who travelled and painted and named
the flowers and insects as exotic specimens
Now they are vanishing, vanishing – will only drawings remain I wonder, and maybe these hot gardens hidden in cold places.

Moving through meetings in cafes made out of layered plywood into sitting quietly in other cafes and talking it through
Ideas, and planning. Sharing histories and observations. Cross cultural yet the same.
Talking to artists from Oslo
We share many connections like a breed of bird who sees the world through the lens of making and thinking yet needs to fly.
Its still home when talking to artists, we carry our twigs and can settle comfortably.
Visiting the Kunstnernes Hus and feeling Vanessa Baird.
Hearing about a impassioned political private view
Visiting RAM and hearing about the plans for future events.
Its a smaller more spacious art world yet seems kind and arms held wide.

Walking through the city snow scape,
Holding each other up
Glad I packed extra warm clothes
Later travelling high up past the clouds on a empty afternoon on a empty belly.
Into woods that go on and on and a frozen lake and a dog in boots.
Perfect afternoon and a snack in the cold, we danced, merry.
On the way back down
Rows of small children climb on the tram
They are passed out at each stop to waiting parents.
The organisation!

Spacious streets
Hunting out vegan food
Hot bean soup, potato pie and salad, all shared out
Delicious tea and chocolate crepes.
Everything has more salt, the crisps, all the food and its on the snowy ground.
I wonder about the healthy hearts of Oslo!
The fast little birds dart past the pigeons to get the bread
They hide the bread under bins where the pigeons can’t reach.

Meeting art world people who used to work in Birmingham
We share my book and talk about troubled pasts
And the troubled present. A flight to the north
Might bring a adventure I may need to do.
I look forward to returning soon.


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PNEK (Production Network for Electronic Art, Norway) is a national network for electronic, digital and inter-disciplinary art. Supporting a series of exhibition spaces and workshop laboratories funded by Arts Council Norway. Providing artists and organisations with project development, workshops and delivery. Developing international collaborative opportunities, seminar and exhibition programmes.

Notes on our metting with Katya, Director Office for Contempory Art, Katy spent two years working for the Ikon in Birmingham 2002/03.

OCA are working with the City Council to contribute to developing a 5 year cultural plan leading up to, and beyond, the 2019 Green Capital of Culture.

There is a triannual called Oslo architecture and there will be Oslo Pilot, exploring art in the public space, being developed by Curators commissioned by the City Council.

The OCA program empathise is on the North of Norway, in relation to Climate change, Borders, resource extraction. But especially the indigenous population of the nomadic Sami. Working on bringing visibility to and disseminating Sami culture. The region extends trans-nationally, with the indigenous area cut up by nation states. Katy’s has just taken part in an annual congress in Art, the last being ‘Sami Rage’. The Sami were subject to cultural discrimination, they had no land rights, their language and culture was disappearing. In 1989 they were granted a regional government. There is Sami House H.Q. in Oslo that is open to visit.

Olav Mathias-Eira is a reindeer-herder. He is a member of the Sami community, one of the largest indigenous groups remaining in Europe.

There is a series of court actions at the moment taken by young Sami acting as nature defenders. Green developments like the building of wind farms across rain deer tracks in Sami land, asks the question what does it mean to become Green, whose Green technology is it? What are the diversity plans. This is part of OCA’s program making.

There is a link with New York’s Eye Beam, Sally Swade’s leading a series of workshops on technology and how it can empower indigenous communities, called indigenous New York.

One of the only way to effect change is to bring in the international perspective, focusing the indigenous perspective on this international level. The situations in the other Baltic spaces are even worse.

Other project to look at is Dark Ecology, part of which was curated by Hilde Methi, who is based in Kirkenes City. There is a biennial called Liaf in Lofoten, just happened this September.http://liaf.no/?lang=en

Norway as a country is only 100 years old, and is still in a phase of nation building, a priority of which was securing the coast and so the Sami population on the coast was the most threatened.

In the north there is Pikene pa Bruce, in, Kirkeres, art centre for residencies and a gallery http://www.pikene.no/

OCA can help by proving funding for Norwegian artists working internationally, in the form of:
1. Travel and expenses for commissions and exhibitors
2. Expenses for giving lectures and presentations
3. The translation of texts.
OCA does not fund production costs, although Norwegian artists can apply to Art Council Norway for this, it can’t be matched with OCA funds

OCA will help us by a two bedroom flat and studio as part of our exchange program, depending on times.


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Brann Sjel (Fire Soul): A Norwegian name for someone who is an agent for change.

Notes from our meeting with Professor Karen O’Brien, department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo.

‘How can we adapt to the reality of climate change? We can study this question through a merging of science and art, and therefore create opportunities for academic and co-production perspectives.

Sea Change is a program we run for conscious change, collaborative change, and cultural change. We challenge people to take a series of small changes over 30 days, and therefore look at their socially constructed assumptions. Sea Change produces a critical change by helping people realise that they are the power to change, whatever their sphere of influence.

Climate change is part of relationship problem that we need to fix as a whole. Allowing the oil industry to geo-engineer a solution to climate change will not solve the problems with bee colony collapse or plastic pollution in the seas. These issues are all throughly interconnected and need to be addressed in this way.

The (Oslo) city council needs a story that people own, not an elite subjectivity – we need deeper human dimensions. We have developed great plans and road maps, like electric cars, that will supposedly save us. These ideas come from a story sense of ego. We need to address the bigger narrative.

We need new paradigms, a new materialism not dualistic to infect the narrative, to activate the entanglement. The question is ‘can I have a bigger impact than my carbon footprint, the idea that we have to limit ourselves just makes us feel small.’

Paul Hawken looks at Biomimicy and how we can put carbon back in the biosphere, and at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. (Art can make a situation where you could) imagine if everything could be seen, if it was visible.

Self organised change. We are a quantum social organism – when part of the system wakes up there is a change, we can use consciousness and the capacity of reflection, we have that capacity for deliberate transformation – to get to a state of critical mass.

Photo diary:

A question in my mind is how can we oppose the conditioned and patriarchal view in contemporary that art and nature are separate? That to try to bring them together would be an exercise of pastoral regression, a romantic, and in our conditioned minds discredited, dis-assembly of our innate nature. At a time of ecocide and catastrophic climate change can we afford to still accept this patriarchal meta-narrative as truth.

 

 


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While in Oslo, outside of the meetings we are having, I’m spending some time going on guided walks….guided by my 21 month old Son.

I have come here with my Partner, Robin, and our Son, Yves. We will be working together as a family unit guided by Yves.

This is not too dissimilar to our everyday life, myself and Robin are both freelancers and take equal share of looking after Yves. I have so far brought Yves with me through most of my projects, wherever possible.

Childcare is expensive (unaffordable) and I want to spend time with my Son so this is how we work.

I also believe strongly that the way we live impacts the generations that succeed us far more than our own and we should treat them as the most important people. When we make decisions, we impact them. So I’m letting Yves make our decisions by guiding our way round the city for a while each day, and seeing what  his points of interest are.

I am mapping our guided walks and marking Yves’ points of interest to make into some kind of visual art piece on return to Birmingham.

In a meeting today with Katya at OCA, I commented on how child friendly I had found Oslo so far in comparison to Birmingham. So many parks in walking distance for one. She informed us that it is not expected for people here to have meetings after 3pm as that is when they pick up their children from Kindergarten, then they finish their work from home! She also told us that if the Kindergarten never sees the Father picking up the children they question why as it is more expected that both parents will be involved in childcare here. Amazing.

 

DAY TWO

Today it snowed! This was the first time Yves has ever seen snow and he found it pretty exciting. The journey to this mornings meeting with Madeleine Park, Curator and Manager of RAM Gallery, was pretty tricky. Yves wanted to play in the snow NOT move in any particular direction we wanted to go in. This fight between working life and his wants/needs can get pretty stressful. He screamed pretty much the whole way to the meeting and me and Robin took turns holding him as he scrambled for freedom, refusing the pushchair. By the time I got to the meeting I was far from ‘together’ and Robin stayed outside with him so he could play in the snow. I felt pretty jealous to not be spending that time with him on the first morning he has ever seen snow. This is pretty representative of the constant pull between work and Yves we experience all the time.

One of the things that has pulled me to wanting to do a project where we allow Yves to direct the way, is a desire to give in, to stop fighting, to just say yes to him. Yesterday’s walk took us to places we never would have gone to if he hadn’t been leading the way, he is showing us new things. This isn’t just for him by any means.

After the meeting Yves fell asleep so we took the opportunity to visit The International Museum of Children’s Art. I wanted to see what they had in their collection, how do children draw the world? There were two sections that particularly interested me ‘Future City and the Green Shift’ and ‘Children and Nature’. It was very revealing to see how children perceive and conceive of how cities can develop in really creative and positive ways, their love of nature, of animals, their deep connection and total awareness of their (and our) dependence on it was very powerful.

There was no photography allowed in there in order to protect the children’s copyright which is excellent but also means I can’t blog any of the wonderful images. If you’re in Oslo check it out.

Then it was time for Yves to lead the way. Today was tricky because the snow meant that pavement and road became indistinguishable so to stay safe we went to the nearby park Vigelandsparken. This was an amazing park, massive, beautiful, full of sculptures and art and today, snow. Yves, however, was having a pretty grumpy day. Maybe it was the fact that he wouldn’t wear his mittens and his hands were red and cold, maybe it was that we had left it too late, but today his walk didn’t go further than 20 meters before he just sat and cried. So we went back to the house on the tram.

I suppose this is also a good reflection of our day to day life. We all have bad days.

 

DAY THREE

Today we went to the Nobel Peace Centre, currently exhibiting ‘Shifting Boundaries’ and ‘Hope Over Fear’.

‘Shifting Boundaries’ is an exhibition about the boundaries we face in our contemporary European society both physically and mentally. The exhibition presents photos from twelve European photographers, who have been assigned to work on the same theme, with wildly different results.

‘Hope Over Fear’ is the Nobel Peace Prize Exhibition 2016, a unique and intimate portrait of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Columbia people in the middle of a difficult peace process. The Colombian president dedicated the Peace Prize to the victims of the country’s civil war that has lasted for more than 50 years.

I found both exhibitions to be profound, emotive and strong. Very relevant to conversations we have been having about how everything is connected. You can’t save the planet through Green strategies if there is still war for example.

Everything and everyone counts.

I was immediately struck by Marie Hald, a Danish photo journalist whose work ‘The Girls From Malawa’ was on show. This featured intimate portraits of young eating disorder patients. It is a reminder that whilst we are at war with each other, there are many (in this case young) people struggling to survive the wars they have with themselves. I myself have battled eating disorders from a very young age so to see this work moved me intensely.

The images by Mads Nissen in ‘Hope Over Fear’ were taken on an assignment with journalist Dorris Salez in Columbia in October 2016. A family mourning there dead child, a little girl sleeping on a bed with a rifle slung on the bed post, the decoration painted on a child’s arm that has been amputated from the elbow down.

There is a sentence in the pamphlet to go with the work that I want to share;

‘Many years of work lie ahead to build peace – because true peace is not created by signing a piece of paper. It is created by people working hard together, living together and resolving their disagreements without resorting to violence. Peace is created when hope overcomes fear.’

So, my question is, no matter how small or large a conflict may be, from a disagreement between colleagues to a full blown war, what is it that makes us so quick to fight, how can we maybe become a species smart enough to maybe just talk about it instead.

There were three Yves led walks today. We are finding many things we might not have taken the time to appreciate or might not have noticed without him, including these butterflies in the ground;

This shadow of a tree;

And this group of snow covered bollards;

 

DAY FOUR

Today we went to the Munch Museum. There was an exhibition of two artists work, Lena Cronqvist and Per Inge Bjørlo, and a selection of works by Munch that had inspired them.

Mental health, the unspeakable, life, death and sickness featured prominently in themes, but joining them all together were relationships. The Mother figure and children were at the forefront. The relationships we have, the uncertainties in those relationships, and the importance of them in our lives, especially in regards to our own family.

 

We did another walk led by Yves. They often end abruptly when he finds something he doesn’t want to leave (today this was a particular tree) or he just doesn’t want to walk. Common themes of interest points for him are, unsurprisingly, playgrounds, puddles and anywhere he can see other children. It’s interesting how tactile he is with everything. He shuffles his feet through the snow and slush, scrapes them on the ice, rubs his face in bushes, smells things, bites twigs. He often gives us presents, tiny pine cones, handfuls of grass, leaves, conkers and, over the past couple of days, lumps of snow. He can stay for long periods of time enjoying these things where we would just keep walking. His relationship with nature, at such a young age, is of discovery and exploration. Everything fascinates, everything is interesting. Everything is to be looked at, studied, and felt.

 

 

 


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