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artful eco workings that cycle through: Close-to-Nature continuous cover forestry, experimental film-making, the eco-humanities field (deep ecology, ecocriticism, ecosophy, ecofeminism), writing & forest policy development; by cathy fitzgerald, visual culture, ncad, ireland

Featured video: hollywood diaries screen reel: 2008-2012... SD & HD 8:54
notes on a small conifer plantation being transformed to a mixed species, permanent forest

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He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.

It doesn’t matter if you sit at home and stare at the ants on your veranda
    or the shadows of the trees and grasses in your garden.

It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.

                                                       e.e. cummings

Since my recent talk in Hollywood, I have being startled to reflect how my artful forest work might affecting others… and how, in turn, it is highlighting others’ special skills of relating to place.

In fact, I’ve been surprised by the trickle of visitors coming to Hollywood over the last year– how rich some of the discussions are, the gifts people are bringing back to the work and what gets noticed.

A couple of visitors in the last week have certainly astonished me and I talk about the first visitor in this post.

A longtime visitor to Hollywood is a friend and gifted woodworker, Albert Fogarty. Although the term woodworker doesn’t really do Albert justice. Albert has been working, on and off, at our place since we have built our home in Hollywood ten years ago. He skillfully put in our wooden floors, and also constructed a wonderful custom-made slatted shed for drying the logs we thin from Hollywood (dry wood is a necessity as we are in the process of getting a wood gasifier to heat our home to move away from oil and all the dilemmas that relying on fossil fuels entails). Albert also last summer created a unique one-off open studio for my husbands’ stone carving work.

Albert’s ethos shines through all his work – the selection process of the timber he works with is always carefully attended to; for example, our own Sitka spruce is not suitable for construction (it grows too fast for strength) so Albert sources all the timber locally, if possible, or uses recycled timber. Sometimes this can take time; there will conversations to assess a balance in cost and timber availability, but this a crucial attending that sustains a local forest economy. Albert is a 4th generation woodworker so I expect at times he doesn’t realise the care he gives in this respect. Far too many rush thoughtlessly to use imported timbers in Ireland, that may be more easily available but in doing so give little support to our fledgling forest economy, or worse, ignore the devastation imported timbers from other regions may incur.

Over the years Albert has also been witnessing the development of my own artful forest work. Many times over shared lunches we’ve been discussing all things ‘foresty’ – from the values of different timbers to the despair we share about the negligent use of timbers imported from communities afar, also knowing that this is a tragic irony when Ireland itself still suffers from the consequences of a long history of deforestation.

But what astonished me was a work, just installed here last weekend, that Albert created in a barter exchange for one of my husband’s stone sculptures. (see slideshow below)

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The light was just fading but I was so delighted to hold a conversation about

Gathering under the trees at Hollywood, South Carlow, Ireland, during the 1st Rural Blackstairs Film festival. I was delighted to hold a space for conversation about why transforming conifer plantations is such a rich and valuable means to relate and act more sustainably to our environments. Photo: Gwen Wilkinson.

I was really delighted and surprised to have my talk in Hollywood so enthusiastically received last Saturday during the 1st Blackstairs Rural Film Festival. I was expecting 15 but we were a group of 24 in the end!

What made the event special was the diversity of interests and experience in the people attending: a forester, a local forest owner, a 4th generation woodworker, arts officers, artists, curators, gardeners, a teacher, a former local councillor and just the very curious. This mirrors the cross-disciplinary aim of my project, that we need to hold spaces for many perspectives, other than just science, to advance learnings for eco-social change.

However, it was a real challenge for me to plan a talk through Hollywood as this project has been developing along many different strands since 2008 and I knew my audience would be varied. I decided to stop in several places in Hollywood (it has several distinct areas of forest transformation) to discuss some of the insights from ‘chapters’ in my draft audiovisual ebook and I shared a couple of the short films too. Martin gave a lot of wonderful support as always and “Kiwi Sean” Hoskins (our forest contractor) also gave practical insights about how he transforms conifer plantations such as Hollywood. All in all, it was a lot of fun and great to begin to share the Hollywood ‘story’ with my local community, right in Hollywood (with Holly in charge of course!).

Many thanks again to Orla Ryan for seeing the potential of my sharing my short films (embedded in my ebook) during the Blackstairs Rural film festival (which was a great success). Its truly been the most meaningful presentation I have made of the Hollywood project so far. Hope you like the photos below – my special thanks to local photographer Gwen Wilkinson who took them at short notice.

Any comments welcome!

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Some of the local film ‘stars’ at Hollywood: Robin, Sitka Spruce, Alder

brochure-cover-Rural-film-festival-2014-Blackstairs-449x1024UPDATE: NOW FULLY BOOKED!

I’m delighted to announce I will be sharing the Hollywood artful forest transformation project in a couple of weeks in the new Blackstairs Rural Film Festival.

I will be taking a small group around Hollywood (near Borris, South Co. Carlow) and opening a conversation around eco art practices and how I have applied them to changing a small monoculture conifer plantation into a forest.

During the walk I will share my draft audiovisual ebook – the ‘journey’ of this forest transformation of this small woodland that I’m preparing for the practice part of my art practice PhD studies. Bringing visitors around our forest with my ebook has evolved as over the last 6 months when I’ve found a number of visitors are coming to Hollywood, local people yet some from far away as Australia, Northern Ireland, just to learn about the project (I have to thank Green Sod Ireland for asking me to do a walk and talk back in April for helping me develop this idea).

So depending on who turns up we may very well discuss the practicalities of forest tending, the challenges of creating artworks, writings in an age of catastrophic biodiversity loss, the idea that local activities may help influence national land policies or contribute to science or we may very well get distracted by Holly, our dog, who lent her name to this project and the project being put on the local map.

The places are limited. Bookings are to be made directly through me at cathyart@gmail.com.

Date: Saturday 8 November 2014 at 4pm. Ticket price €5.
Please wear warm clothing. Tea and coffee will be available afterwards.

See the full festival programme here

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