Performing Eco-Recovery: A Trial Run in Our Skins

Dr Alice Charlotte Bell  (Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, University of Lincoln)

In 2022 the artistic partnership, Fossey+Bell, Dr. Steve Fossey and Dr. Alice Bell; artists, practice-researchers and educators at the University of Lincoln, undertook a research experiment. Methodologically, we used artistic multidisciplinary approaches to immerse ourselves in a landscape undergoing a process of rewilding. As researchers we sought to unearth questions and find answers through wandering, dwelling, and ambling within an estate for extended periods of time. As scholars we sought to involve our students in a pedagogic process. As creative practitioners we invited spontaneous encounters with human, animal, mineral, vegetable with our entire beings. Funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC, UKRI, as part of a bigger investigative project), we sought to illuminate biological, historical, political, ecological and poetic connections, documenting our perceptions and interactions. 

Our investigative practice-research methodology saw us take photographs, videos, collect objects, conversations, and audio. Our embodied multimodal process made clear the complexities of such a site and the politics of power, ownership and authorship within the construction of new rewilding narratives. Indeed, our artistic responses, at times, contested and provoked expectations of the artist’s place in the greater politics of climate debate and institutional power.  Moments of transgression became necessary interventions and, unexpectedly, opened the way for us to move forward.

To progress, we took the more immediately digestible creative stimuli forward and next utilised Lois Weaver’s Long Table format to invite publics to share a meal with us (made from foraged and locally-grow ingredients from the land). Along with several students (as co-producers-researchers-creatives) we invited participants to consider their own engagement and relationship with the site as potential acts of eco-recovery. Over food, we shared individual responses to questions of climate responsibility, blame, liability, victimhood, justice – themes stimulated by various multi-sensory and artistic artefacts from the land.  Together we considered the experience of the place and its emotional and physical effect on our wellbeing and senses of self, foregrounding the notion that a reciprocal relationship of recovery was at play: people and place working together to explore through creative currency; a process of eco-recovery. All conversations were recorded, the tablecloth notated, photographs and video taken.

Following our communal feast, Fossey+Bell assimilated all material gathered and produced artistic responses to the encounters experienced personally, as a duo-collective and with the sites inhabitant’s animal, mineral, vegetable. A Trial Run in Our Skins, became a multimodal exhibition that included, sculpture, clothing, projections, vegetables, performance, video, and audio works. It was a living laboratory of time-based, living, dying, and reoccurring expressions. It comprised pedagogical, ethical, aesthetic, and sensory thinking, with the intention of finding forms that might in time make the climate discussion accessible to a broader spectrum of contributors. Indeed, our playful, relational, experimental, and multi-disciplinary modes of engagement are allowing us to open a more inclusive ongoing conversation with academics, audiences, and other interested parties.  Our conversations are dialogical spaces whereby we all become interlocutors whose participation is necessary in understanding how lived experiences and shared his/erstories can create new blueprints for urgent change.

2 thoughts on “Performing Eco-Recovery: A Trial Run in Our Skins”

  1. Peter Leyland

    Well that sounds really exciting Alice and I hope to hear more about it. The Art world can contain so much. I referenced your Project in my first idea for this year’s ESREA conference contribution. I also have an article on bibliotherapy in next month’s Aeon Psyche. Things are looking up.

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