I am a visual artist filmmaker engaged with ecological concerns. My doctoral transdisciplinary work is a long term artful action eco-forestry transformation project. I am helping transform a monoculture conifer plantation into a permanent forest in South Carlow, Ireland.
Beyond ecocide toward deep sustainability: stories from within a small Irish forest
‘Learning how to live responsibly with forest communities,
is transferable to all other areas of human interaction with nature.❜
Wild Foresting, Drengson and Taylor, 2006
Cathy Fitzgerald is a visual artist filmmaker engaged with ecological concerns. Her practice-thesis transdisciplinary eco art project involves and traverses; new to Ireland, non clearfell continuous cover forest methods, experimental film-making, writing, eco-philosophy, national forest policy development (she succeeded in getting continuous cover forestry as the key point in the new Irish Green Party Forest policy (2012) and the adoption that The Green Party of Ireland and Northern Ireland recognise that a crime of ecocide (the long term destruction of ecosystems by man) be supported in international law (2013). Cathy’s work is centered and informed by the small conifer plantation community which she lives with, in County Carlow, Ireland.
In her work, Cathy argues that emergent insights from transdisciplinary eco art practices produce new understandings of a ‘deep sustainability’ relevant to a specific bioregion. Such understandings will be critical in adapting to exponentially accelerating ecological changes. Emergent understandings are argued to be urgently needed, in going beyond the illusory practices and false promises of ‘sustainable development’ policies.
Shared online, audio-visual works, writing and theory under the title ‘The Hollywood Diaries’ contribute a synergy of reflexive praxis. Observations and lessons gathered from tending to a forest’s emergent self-sustaining dynamics, ultimately argue for ecological, deeply sustainable relational processes, that are transferable to other situations.
- history of the Hollywood Diaries forest transformation project, started in 2008
- news: talks, exhibitions, publications
Biggs, Iain (2014) extract from article ‘Identity, contemporary art and ecology’ 12 June. [Accessed: 18 Aug 2014)
Cathy Fitzgerald – www.ecoartfilm.com – trained and worked as a biologist but now works as a forester, artist filmmaker, blogger, green political activist, and writer. She’s also studying for a doctorate. She lives in a small wood owned by her and her husband in County Carlow in Ireland and her larger concerns radiate out from her long-term commitment to this one place. Ireland has the lowest proportion of deciduous trees in Europe after Iceland and Malta. While it has extensive but piecemeal forestry policy, addressing everything from water quality and archaeology through to biodiversity and the conservation of the freshwater pearl mussel, it shows little understanding of complex underlying issues like the relationship between appropriate tree cover and pluvial flood management. The immediate context for Cathy’s transforming a Sitka spruce plantation into a sustainably managed mixed species wood is the tension between this piecemeal official policy and grass roots public interest in planting sustainable forest that includes broadleaf native tree species.
However, while the wood is her focus and will be regularly assessed by the Irish Council for Forest Research and Development, Cathy is also engaged in a mesh of projects that set out to built links between silvicultural specialists, local communities, timber users, artists, and environmental enthusiasts to further eco-cultural, scientific, economic and green policy concerns locality, across Ireland, and internationally.
The orientation of Cathy’s activity is simultaneously ecological, creative, political, and educational. It’s cross-referenced through extensive personal interaction and strategic use of social media – both of which are aimed at multiple constituencies. Her intention in cross-fertilizing forestry with creative film work, writing, and political action is to encourage exchange between diverse constituencies so as to provoke ecosophical thinking. So her public self-education as a forester creatively sets out to mesh together innovative forestry practice, new conceptions of the nature/culture relationship, and fundamental issues of community and environment – thus offering new ideas and models to a variety of lay and specialist constituencies.
Till, Karen (2012) extract from the ‘Field Findings’ essay in The Red Stables Art & Ecology summer school catalogue. Dublin City Council Arts Office, p.25-26.
Attending to places: sustainable transformations
Environmental artists also collaborate with places as communities of human and non-human natures. Cathy Fitzgerald’s ongoing forty-year, two-and-a-half acre forest project in the making is a good example. Drawing inspiration from the Irish Tree NGO Crann, Cathy has create a forest in transformation, now classified by an Irish Forest Continuous Cover database as a ‘low impact silviculture system’ (close-to-nature continuous cover woodlands). Her experimental films depict this forst as an inhabited place thorugh different temporal rhythms and spatial scales. In Transformation 2011, we hear ‘a bird describe its forest… the bird lives in a small conifer plantation that is being transformed to a mixed species, permanent forest’.
Cathy understands her work as a form of ‘deep sustainability;: in includes ecological functions, aesthetic innovations, and most importantly, community-based environmental consciousness through forest policy development, which entails an alteration in how individuals relate to their communities. She first learned about community forestry practices in 1995 through a South Leitrim Crann project; eleven years later, she revisited the place through a documentary lens and exhibition space, with support from Crann and The Dock in County Leitrim. In these artistic works, Cathy brought together the voices and images of local people who volunteered to plant broadleaf woodlands almost twenty years ago. This new sustainable wood culture in what was a monoculture conifer region now offers an ecological and economic model for other regions in Ireland.Cathy argues for careful tending of landbases that we must return to if all species are ‘to survive and thrive’. Her attention to place also asks us to slow down and pay attention to the richness of forest lives. There is a practical value in slowness: it’s healthy for us to pay attention to the textures of places. It allows us to create unexpected networks with lives that we wouldn’t have otherwise come into contact with.
Helen and Newton Harrison (24 Jan 2011) personal communication (pioneers of eco art work from the late 1960s)
“Dear Cathy, From our perspective, very good work.”
Kevin Buckland, Art Ambassador, www.350.org (Oct 2010) personal communication: Global grassroots climate and culture change organisation headed by leading US environmental writer/activist Bill
‘Thank you so much for your fantastic videos. They are deeply moving in their simplicity. The videos are very moving, – a very clear way of communicating this huge catastrophe on an intimate scale ‘