Changeable Places brings together individuals from different contexts working with stories about particular places of environmental sensitivity. Individuals working with/in a familiar locality can share a layered connection, providing a thick account for visitors, while expanding their own readings of a place with the help of fresh eyes and varied sensibilities.
The project began with conversations between environmental activists, artists, geographers and writers. At its proposed start in Speyside, it was nicknamed a “muckle” plan. The work will strengthen as different expertise is shared – changeable places may be described in many voices, ranging from technical appraisal to ecocritical analysis.
- by untangling embedded narratives in the landscape, to share stories not featured in the political discourse, and to generate new ones which help us to look forward.
- to engage with the challenges of making visible uncertainty and loss – ranging from quiet registers of change to sites of imminent disruption.
- to strengthen and challenge our individual practices by working together to create new readings of a place. By taking our questions out into the field, we hope to see them in new light – how they measure up against the landscape, and in the eyes of fellow practitioners.
- to develop responses informed by expertise in diverse academic disciplines – accepting that we can’t all specialise in everything – exposing ourselves to varied and new ideas, adopting them with integrity.
- to situate individual place-based practices within a broader mesh of interconnected landscapes. Rather than becoming ‘solitary islands’ and working alone to stem the flood, we seek to create waterways.
A muckle method
Where possible, a field visit is an opportunity to come together to walk, talk and work in a particular setting. These encounters will be assisted by the specific expertise of individuals working with the future of a place – for example creatively, as an activist or researcher. Field visits might be initiated by someone with a particular relationship to a place or situation. If impractical, a contribution to the blog is invited.
The blog also provides an opportunity to pursue discussions and lines of enquiry arising from site visits, and to identify and share existing sources of information or inspiring precursors. Participants may post individual reflections on encounters in the field, creating a shared library of varying responses to inform our individual readings of a place.
Simply as a suggestion, we propose contributions in the form of brief visual essays of up to 20 images and 100 words per image. We anticipate inventive and experimental variations on this. The emphasis is on work in progress – a sharing of ideas and perspectives rather than a formal articulation of resolved positions.
Jethro Brice, environmental artist, Bristol:
Kate Foster, environmental artist, Scottish Borders:
Tilly Gifford, environmental activist, Plane Stupid, Grow Heathrow:
Merle Patchett, cultural geographer, Alberta, Canada:
This initiative works alongside an academic network discussing how creative environmental writing works with communication and action about environmental change:
Changeable places is about developing visual responses to support active engagement with environmental change, with various possible outcomes outwith academic research.