A Critical Forest Art Practice. | Imagining Natural Scotland

Interesting to link with previous article on degeneration/regeneration of Highland landscapes.

The iconic Caledonian forest is a remnant ecosystem. Composed of vibrant living matter it has its own agency and significant generative and reproductive power. Culturally it is an idea lost in time that lacks presence and visibility today.


As part of their Imagining Natural Scotland project, Tim Collins and Reiko Goto’ s inquiry leads to a set of questions:

How do we contribute to thepotential for a tree or forest community to prosper in an age of environmental change?

Can we reveal empathic interrelationship between people and trees in urban and rural settings?

Can we work with others to embody ideas or experiences that effect or reshape the perception and normative value of extraordinary living things.

via 1. A Critical Forest Art Practice. | Imagining Natural Scotland.


Lairds, Land and Sustainability

From some folks at my past university research department, The Centre For Mountain Studies, a new publication that will inevitably spark some debate in relation to the current land reform discourse. I look forward to getting a copy at some point.

Lairds, Land and Sustainability – Scottish Perspectives on Upland Management. Edited By: Jayne Glass, Martin Price, Charles Warren and Alister Scott. Publication Date: Jul 2013

A wide-ranging study of how different landownership models deliver sustainability in Scotland’s upland areas

Scotland is at the heart of modern, sustainable upland management. Large estates cover vast areas of the uplands, with a long, complex and emotive history of ownership and use.

In recent decades, the Scottish uplands have increasingly been the arena for passionate debates over large-scale land management issues. Crucially, what kinds of ownership and management will best deliver sustainable futures for upland environments and communities?

Although the globally unique dominance of private ownership remains a distinctive characteristic of Scotland’s uplands, increasing numbers of estates are now owned by environmental NGOs and local communities, especially since the Land Reform (Scotland) Act of 2003.  A decade after the passage of this landmark Act, this book synthesises research carried out on a diverse range of upland estates by the Centre for Mountain Studies at Perth College, University of the Highlands and Islands. The findings from privately-owned estates as well as those owned by communities, charities and conservation groups will prove enlightening and relevant to upland managers, policy makers, and researchers across Britain and Europe.

With the Scottish Government promoting a vision of environmental sustainability, and with the new diversity of ownerships and management now appearing, this timely and topical book investigates the implications of these different types of land ownership for sustainable upland management.

via Lairds, Land and Sustainability – Edinburgh University Press.

Art, Maps and Books: Visualising and Re-visualising the Highlands

I’m re-blogging this mainly because the original link I posted has changed but also because it’s content and subject matter are really worth paying close attention to. Broadly, Murdo Macdonald examines how the visual arts have represented highland landscape and culture and in doing so I think asks questions of contemporary artists and curators to reflect on their own practice.

Art, Maps and Books: Visualising and Re-visualising the Highlands.

Art, Maps and Books: Visualising and Re-visualising the Highlands Plenary Address: Lie of the Land Conference, University of Stirling, 26-30 July 2006. Murdo Macdonald, Professor of History of Scottish Art, University of Dundee.

On the same site – Five Essays into Highland Space is also worth reading.


via Art, Maps and Books: Visualising and Re-visualising the Highlands.

Artists sense trouble early

“Artists sense trouble early, and rally to isolate and expose and defeat it, to bring to bear the human power for love and beauty and meaning against the worst results of carelessness and greed and stupidity. So when art both of great worth, and in great quantities, begins to cluster around an issue, it means that civilization has identified it finally as a threat”

Bill Mckibben, environmentalist

Atlas – Alec Finlay


owl shape

Based in Skye and Lochalsh, ATLAS was founded in 2010 with the aim of generating and presenting innovative and ambitious contemporary arts projects. An organisation “without walls,” we work with artists, curators, writers and the public to create work in response to a specific location or situation. We aim to inspire community interest in contemporary art by delivering a varied programme that is of local, national and international significance.



Alec Finlay’s còmhlan bheanntan | a company of mountains is a collaborative project comprising poems, photos, essays and “word-mntn’ drawings.” The project’s title is taken from Sorley Maclean’s poem “Ceann Loch Aeoineart.

Working with other artists, Alec Finlay has selected 14 sites, or conspectuses, on the Isle of Skye from which to explore the mountains, history, culture and mythology of the island.

See more images of this project here

Artists in the Highlands

This posting is not meant to be a negative reflection on the people involved but merely an observation on how people behave. The Highlands of Scotland have this effect of making people want to be Victorian tourists given the opportunity to do so. In the Highlands you see, we want to be ushered in to a large grandly situated mock Baronial house by helpful staff in kilts, shown to a sumptuous drawing room surrounded by stags heads and oil paintings, and hang out with pleasant company to the sound of a roaring log fire. Don’t we?

All this happens in spite of ourselves so pervasive has Highlandism become. So it was with little surprise I witnessed, from a safe distance, two separate artist hosted events in the Highlands within days of each other that appeared to buy in to this designer romantic colonial past, lock, stock and single malt barrel. What did surprise me was that the artists involved have a track record and manifesto that could be placed in the progressive or even avant-garde reaches of the arts. The hospitality and locations were as described above, the images and first hand descriptions of the events along with the sometimes breathless social media reports were straight out of a visit scotland tourist brochure. But how could it have been otherwise? What were they thinking of?

Can artists do better than this? Do we have to aspire to be landed gentry colonising and overseeing swathes of degraded landscape for sporting leisure? Can we avoid falling into this trap? Can we address issues of land use and land reform through our work? Can we look closer at what life is like in the Highlands for the 99% of people who don’t live like this? Can we look at the ecology and economics and society that impacts us all on a daily basis?

And most of all – can we just be a bit more real about this and not revert to cliche and play acting?