Biophilic Art

The Biophilic art project builds on our ACE funded artist-led climate change and art programming over the last 3 years. Including our ‘BioCity and the Fall’ and ‘Treeline’ Biophilic and Biomimcry programs, it will:

  1. Develop new ways of embedding art in current crisis dialogues; creating a project which has a symbiotic and complementary relationship at its core between art processes, crisis, trauma and climate change science.
  2. Research best practice and collaborating with leaders in crisis research, disseminating high quality practice.
  3. Engage with leading scientists and researchers in a series of on-line artist-led interviews creating a new moving image artwork. Asking how the covid-19 crisis links to climate change crisis, how they came to embody themselves into these subjects; we will discuss beauty, symbols and how they deal with the prognosis

We will:

  1. Work with Queenswood Sustinable Future Center to organise and facilitate an on-line focus group of vulnerable young people who do not normally engage in art. Who will work with the artsits throughout leading to a youth webinar. We will run a series of engagement artist-led workshops, with the group, where the young people will work with artists to test our new empathic art practice in covid-19’s crisis relation to the ecological crisis.
  2. Run a series of on-line workshops with young people, some will be 1:1; with our partner organizations that support young people including Crisis, FE and HE, so that we reach a broad range of participants.
  3. Commission four artists to develop new ways of engaging with participants on-line. By developing, adapting and disseminating new ways for everyone who engages in our work to develop ideas and empathy, creatively responding to Covid 19 isolation using new technology. Which will both increase peoples access to art, and develop the skills and experience of the artists.
  4. Engage with leading scientists and researchers in a series of on-line, person to person artist-led interviews, creating a moving image artwork. Asking how covid 19 crisis links to the climate crisis.
  5. Publish and disseminate commissioned work through on-line publications – our ambition is to have 3 online exhibitions. Promoting our English-based activities in related art events and seminars internationally through the Biophilic City Network Linking English communities collaboratively with arts and climate science using digital innovation, with communities in Spain through BC3

The project will help us respond to the crisis by placing new digital art-making technology with an artist- empathy together approach, linking covid 19 crisis to environmental-based loss and trauma; linking to the importance of global cohesion, personal well-being and the destruction of natural habitats as a risk factor in the transmission of diseases.

Presencing the Heating Sky is an innovative project which explores people’s reaction to the present crisis, with deeper awareness about what is happening. Which includes this disease and its manifold linkages to climate and ecological collapse. It takes an opportunity of reflection to improve the quality of our work and safeguard us in the future. Audiences will benefit by being more creativity engaged, experiencing the artist’s work and co-creating artworks, to articulate and accelerate the engagement with climate change for people, using visual art digitally. It is linked to the combined events of many councils declaring a Climate and Ecological Emergency in 2019 and the sudden and direct impact COVID-19 has had on cities and its citizens. The unprecedented actions by governments around the world to the COVID crisis has illustrated how significant step-change is truly possible.

Partners homlessness charity Crisis and Birmingham City Council

‘Many of our members have access to the internet (via smartphones at least) and the best way we can interact with them is online.

We are more than happy to work with and support Salt Road to develop content that can support individuals who are vulnerable and to discuss ideas with you about accessibility and sharing content online.

What Precensing the Heating Sky will enable us to do with Salt Road is really accelerate the engagement with people using visual art digitally, over the combined events of the City declaring a Climate and Ecological Emergency in 2019 and the sudden and direct impact COVID-19 has had on the city and its citizens. The unprecedented actions by governments around the world to the COVID crisis has illustrated for all to see how significant step-change is truly possible. That much of the negative impact of the COVID crisis has been a boon for the climate and ecological emergency.’

‘Birmingham is a self-declared Biophilic City, setting a generational aspiration to reach this desired goal of every citizen being able to enjoy their daily dose of nature; even in Britain’s second city. The citizens response to the COVID crisis has seen the unprecedented popularity of parks and green spaces, that serve as a de-stressor and health restoring city assets.

The City is engaged with the Future Parks Accelerator project sponsored by The National Trust and Heritage Fund from Lottery, all under the watchful eye of the UK Government’s Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Birmingham’s proposal is to find a sustainable model for the future of its green space and vital nature and to address the environmental injustice across the city. This seeks to address both the climate and ecological emergencies and re-write city policy and practice in response to community need and establish new lines of engagement.

The COVID crisis has compounded peoples fears over the climate emergency and the global threat to nature. This is where Precensing the Heating Sky will link with the City’s efforts to better connect with its citizens, its anchor institutions and its strategic future. This initiative will enable digital engagement across communities of practice, with the freedom of thought that the field of the arts can achieve. The unprecedented actions under COVID have demonstrated the real potential for change in this world. Through this artist- led initiative with Salt Road we want to source and capture people’s feelings and thoughts about their lives, in their city, and what needs to change to best deliver their futures.’

Biophilic Cities and the Garden City Movement background:

John Sutton Nettlefold became a town planner and was part of the early 20th Century Garden City movement, he established the garden suburb Moor Pool in Harbourne Birmingham. Garden Cities are a method of urban planning of self-contained communities surrounded by green belts, which aimed to reduce the alienation of people and society from nature and provide an alternative to the inner city slums.

Winterborne House and Gardens was built by the industrialist, town planner and social reformer John Sutton Nettlefold. Named after his grandfather and industrial revolution pioneer John Nettleford (1792- 1866), who set up the steam powered Nettleford factory in 1843 which was the world biggest manufacturer of nuts, screws and bolts. The business became Guest, Keen and Nettleford in 1902, and is now the global engineering business GKN registered in Redditch, Worcestershire.

Birmingham was the centre of the Midlands enlightenment at the end of the 18th Century. Linked to the lunar society, it was a scientific, economic, political, and cultural period of growth facilitating the exchange of ideas between experimental science, culture and practical technology, that enabled the technological preconditions for the rapid economic growth of the industrial revolution to be attained.

Technology and research partners:

Working with Dr Matt Disney (UCL Geography) and Dr Kim Calders (Wageningen University) “Terrestrial laser scanning, also called terrestrial LiDAR, allows us to measure biomass with far less uncertainty than before. The current methods yield results that may be off by as much as 37%. The LiDAR method, by comparison, delivers more than 90% accuracy and there is still room for improvement. We can now ‘weigh’ trees far more precisely and then determine their biomass. The current uncertainties about the presence of carbon in forests are, therefore, reduced.”

Moving image installation still, Jaime Jackson 2018.

Strategic partners and linkages:

Birmingham City Council Sustainability Officer, Nick Grayson. Birmingham is the UK’s Biophilic City, part of an international network of cities. Birmingham has more public open parkland than any other European city. Birmingham is the UK’s only city in the international Biophilic (literally love of nature/life) city network, Biophilic design aims to reconnect humankind with nature, sustaining a physical relationship in order to improve overall environmental condition as well as improving wellbeing, mental and physical health.

The project links to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and to Sustainability West Midlands Community goals. Both above-ground biomass and carbon stocks are important details for UN-REDD, the United Nations initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation that is striving to keep the destruction of forests in check and thereby preserve the uptake of carbon by trees.

The program builds on the Biophilic legacy of public access to parks, the birthplace of the industrial revolution and the establishment of workers rights from the Birmingham Enlightenment period and the progressive members of the Lunar Society. It is a program of artist commissions, exhibitions and seminars, part of BCU based New Art West Midlands exchange program. The project sits within the European Biophilic City Network and the European Green Capital program. The project connects artists with government departments, sustainability organisations, arts organisations and universities in the U.K. Midlands with the South West, Mid-Wales, the Basque Country and Oslo.

Moving image installation still, Jaime Jackson 2018.

Strands of research linked to UN, national and Birmingham strategic natural eco assessments and the research council’s liveable cities research:
Financial reslience. Natural Capital, carbon locking and innovation opportunities in product based biomimicry, sustainability through agricultural adaption. Social sustainability, adaption and resilience – process based biomimicry in the face of climate change, social anthropology health and wellbeing – open spaces in Cities, social change.

There is no chance of change, there is no potential for movement without creative engagement, without making use of our imagination. For us to realise our interconnectivity and mutual interdependency we must shift our fixed view perspectives of nature of materiality.

It is an art partnership network between New Art West Midlands  Birmingham/ the Midlands,RAW  in Wales, i-DAT  Plymouth, PNEK  Oslo (Production Network for Electronic Art, Norway)

When we lose our  connection to nature….then we do not know how to nurture their environment or how to govern our world. We destroy our ecology at the same time as we destroy one another. From that perspective, healing our society goes hand in hand with healing our personal, elemental connection with the phenomenal (material) world. Chögyam  Trungpa

We have a network of scientists and researchers that we are working with including Univeristy of Wales Trinity St David University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University, Plymouth University, Oslo University, The University of the Basque Country BC3 (the Basque Centre of Climate Change), Autonomous University of Barcelona Instittute of Environmental Sciences and Technology, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences and the Oslo Academy of Fine Art.

To create engaging transformative visions of a better world, to increase our chances of solving the unsustainability of present social-ecological system dynamics….To create spaces for imagination and engagement with communities to get ownership about their climate futures at local/regional levels…. ‘Conventional science methods are not enough (to create a change in behaviour)…climate change is mostly a symptom and amplifier of impacts rather than a cause, sustainability is mostly an engagement challenge, not only a scientific one…Art based methods are uniquely placed to foster collective imagination, social energy and awareness.’ J. David Tàbara & Diego Galafasi Sustainabilogy Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona & Stockholm Resilience Centre

Sally Payen, Greenham Symbole (c ), 2016

If you take any part of Nature and look at it, it’s edges will be ragged and twisty and not straight. So to measure parts of Nature, to make Nature accessible to linear-some would call it, practical thinking, all of us are taught to round off the edges, to create specific and distinct boundaries between one thing and the next. This actually only gives us an approximation, a guess. And no matter the power of our magnification, it remains only an estimation of the real. Stephen Harold Buhner

Arcimboldo ‘Flora Meretrix’ (detail) 1590

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, Greenpeace Environmental activist & artist

Treeline moving image installation for Lavish at Latitude Festival. Waterscreen projection, Jaime Jackson 2017

We know the catastrophe is possible, probable given recent events, yet we do not believe it will really happen…. I can understand, intellectually that ‘life’ in this country might not be the same in 30 years time as it is today: that if climate change goes ahead unchecked it could in face be profoundly and catastrophically different. But somehow I have been unable to turn this knowledge into a recognition that my own life will alter. Like everyone who has been insulated from death, I have projected the future as repeated instances of the present.’ George Monbiot – ‘In Heat’

Given the large impact of human activities on climate, it follows that a better understanding of the ways different socio-cultural groups think about CC is crucial for the development and implementation of effective climate policies. For effective climate action (mitigation and adaptation) to occur, CC has to be perceived as one of the greatest challenges for society today. BC3 University of the Basque Country ‘Drivers of Climate Change Opinion’

For more information on the Biophilic city network visit Guardian

Jaime Jackson, Treeline moving image, 1’11’’ loop installation 2017

At the same time the arts reflect and inflect a societies shared values its culture so a investigation by artists in a period of climate change could still be worthwhile. But only without a operation of art from the global scientific academic, political economic and social systems, in between our society’s ideas values and systems and the way that they are articulated. Art inflects life as life infects art, as it is what constitutes an understanding of what is the self and what constitutes an environment underpins attitudes to, say, the land.

A value of artists and modern art is its critical distance from which dominant trends and systems informing conditioned reality constructs can be seen, and be interrupted. Modern Art’s autonomy, far from being a disabling denial of the political, is a critical dimension in which the aesthetic is a refusal of routine. That is one point of departure; political activism is another. They overlap. For that reason I do not separate art from critiques of political and economic structures; nor do I separate arguments around ecology and environmentalism from those around social justice. Malcom’s Miles Eco-Aesthetics.

Jaime Jackson Biophilic Wishing Tree, National Tree Week, Queenswood 2017