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encountering the earth; experimental film and forest transformations

Hello from Ireland and from the middle of the smallest close-to-nature managed forest in Ireland. This is my first guest post and I’d like to introduce you briefly to my background, my arts practice and to some of the topics I’ll be presenting in my regular posts to HerCircle readers.

As an arts practitioner, my work over the last decade has chiefly been concerned with the interplay between art and science, broadly looking at how society relates to the natural world. My interest in this area stems from having an unusual background in that I came to work professionally in the arts after working ten years in biological research. Looking back, my practice as an artist has had no clear path but  it has been clearly coloured by my growing up in New Zealand, my early work in Ireland with an environmental forest group Crann, and having been taught by a Joseph Beuys scholar and a green-thinking aesthetics lecturer at the National College of Art & Design in Dublin. I’ve also had an unplanned detour into Green politics – the Green Party was in government in Ireland during 2007-11 and I have a voluntary role in promoting permanent, non clear-fell forestry management here in Ireland but also across Europe.

transformation (2011) Cathy Fitzgerald. HD video, stereo sound; 00:60s.
a bird ‘describes’ its forest; the bird lives in the smallest conifer plantation that is being transformed to a mixed species, permanent forest in Ireland, read more about this work here.

In my art practice I have created exhibitions and short films.  My early visual art installations reflected closely my interests from my early laboratory working-life but over the years my focus has strongly settled on ecological concerns, and forests have played an important part to work through these ideas. Over the last few years I also developed a small online art and ecology ‘notebook’ that reviewed arts & ecology works, sustainable arts practice and cultural policies that have inspired me and which surprisingly interested others. This online site www.ecoartnotebook.com also became the home of my long-term, slow art-forest transformation project, the hollywood diaries.

In the last year I have been very fortunate to return to full-time art study and I’m presently researching experimental film and ecology through my own practice and you’ve guessed it, forests have a large role in my current work. While I will be deeply focussing on one area, it will be important for me to keep aware of developments in the wider art & ecology field. I hope that I can share with HerCircle readers the work of growing numbers of creative practitioners  dealing with this complex area. Such practices are still often at the edges of contemporary arts practices but will undoubtedly continue to develop given that these issues will only become more problematic in the coming decades. I am also involved with networks that are trying to introduce best practice in sustainability across art-forms and I will endeavour to share ideas of how the arts will have a very important and significant role, alongside science and politics, in engaging the wider public in the urgent need to transition to a more ecologically-aware age.

Personally I have tried to position my artistic work as a narrative of sorts for the future (working alongside foresters one cannot escape from long-term thinking) rather than reflecting the loss or destruction of species, habitats or even entire ecosystems that we encounter in the news everyday. Specifically I’m trying to create a filmic space where audiences can reflect on a more sensitive, long-term means of relating to the more-than-human world.  While it can be very easy for anyone, let alone those of an artistic sensibility to feel overwhelmed by the ever-growing ecological uncertainties that surround us, I have a strong belief in the value of the arts to look beyond the myths of the globalised industrial economy. We also have much to learn and can most easily relate to the earth that is on one’s doorstep and hopefully, in our more connected world, we can learn from each other on how to thrive equitably on this one finite and still beautiful earth.

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Readers maybe interested in Cathy’s earlier featured article on HerCircle – networking the arts to save the earth

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Cathy Fitzgerald
Cathy Fitzgerald is a rural-based experimental filmmaker / visual artist with a background in research biology. Born in New Zealand she has lived in Ireland for 16 years. She is presently a Visual Culture PhD Scholar at the National College of Art & Design (NCAD), Dublin, Ireland. She is looking at experimental film (practice and theory) and ecology in this age of biospheric crisis. Her research work can be seen at www.ecoartflm.com
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