Tracing Inspirations

To follow on from the last blog, and before this blog roll begins to feature reflections from other artist members, we wanted to reflect on some of the inspirations that have fed into the PLACE Collective. Life is a continuous learning journey and we all pick up so much – often without realising that it will filter into later decisions.

We’ll continue to share influences, ideas and projects that have pricked our interest at intervals over the coming months. Some are artworks, some are performances; we’ve been provoked by reading books, articles and poems; and there are also random conversations that trigger ideas, or sometimes give the opening that’s needed for an idea to grow.

For now, we wanted to look at some things that have influenced the way we think about ‘art’ in the context of research, specifically academic research. I, Harriet, went on a huge learning curve when I did an MPhil at Glasgow University, at the school of Interdisciplinary Studies. It was a Masters by practice, with active research involving long distance walking and working with farmers, and experimental poetry. Many times along the way I wondered about how the art of poetry and landscape interventions could work as a research tool. I stuck with it and realised that using art as a tool for enquiry, navigation and connection was not just powerful, but valid.

Along our far-from-linear journey of learning, we’ve been inspired by the people and conversations involved in a network called AALERT – Art and Artists in Landscape and Environmental Decisions Today. We learnt a huge amount at their conferences about work that’s already being done, about obstacles to the integration of arts and sciences, and opportunities for change. We’ve also learnt a huge amount from being part of the excellent team at Ensemble at Lancaster University, with researchers from multiple disciplines exploring the role of digital technology in better understanding and communicating climate change, with specific enquiries into flooding, soils, biodiversity and complex systems. Our role as artists in residence over a five-year period has provided us with no end of insights into the value of art in shaping research and helping to bridge disciplines, typically by stepping outside complex or impenetrable languages of particular disciplines. And we’re looking forward to helping to shape an artful presentation of the five year’s of work later in 2021.

At all levels of enquiry, and certainly when it comes to understanding the impact of human actions on natural systems (both positive and negative), and the many factors influencing those behaviours, research and data collection continue to be vital. But not on their own: data doesn’t make decisions – people do. Creativity and imagination are part of the picture. When teams conduct good research and deliver results that can not just inform, but also inspire individuals as well as businesses and policy makers, that’s a great result.

If you’re curious about AALERT there is an excellent paper on Valuing Arts and Arts Research, co-authored by Eirini Saratsi, Tim Acott, Ewan Allinson, David Edwards, Chris Fremantle and Rob Fish. We’re very proud to be acknowledged as contributors to this, and we really enjoy staying in conversation with the AALERT team as their work continues.

Click on the image below to flick through the PDF.

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