Celebrating with a NZ tree fern at UCD, 19 November 2018.

Cathy Fitzgerald celebrating with a beautiful NZ tree fern at University College Dublin, 19 November 2018.

I’m delighted to announce that this week I was conferred with a PhD by Practice in Visual Culture at the National College of Art and Design at a ceremony at University College Dublin. There are so, so many people to thank and I’m delighted to start to share some of my practice and research, FINALLY!

Sincere, heartfelt thanks to all who have supported me in a journey that covered many years and some unavoidable breaks for health and family reasons. A PhD is never created by one person alone and I wish to acknowledge my husband Martin, Holly (our late dog who kept me company on this adventure), my incredibly supportive family in Aotearoa New Zealand, my supervisors, examiners, friends, and people from many fields and places and of course, all who reside at Hollywood forest. This image below is a page from my eBook that I submitted for my PhD by creative practice. I had so much support from so many fields for my transversal adventures in academia, filmmaking, new-to-Ireland Close-to-Nature continuous cover forestry, environmental science, politics and philosophy.

Screenshot 2018-11-21 17.19.32

I had to prepare a short statement about my PhD for the ceremony, so this might give you an idea of what I was doing, this long, long time.

Cathy Fitzgerald, an Irish-based New Zealander, has a long history at NCAD, completing her BA in Fine Art in Painting in 2000, an MA in Virtual Realities in 2002, and now her doctorate.

Cathy’s previous career in biological science, her long involvement in progressive Irish forestry, the Green Party, and artists’ professional development in her former role as Director of ArtLinks, an Arts Office programme in the South East, informs her PhD by Practice called The Ecological Turn. As awareness of the ecological imperative for our and other species thriving increases, harnessing creative energies effectivitely will never be as vital. Cathy’s PhD contributes an accessible theory-method framework to explain the value and social power of ecological art practices in the still little understood but increasingly important art and ecology field. Through her creative practice and theory work, Cathy understands first-hand the challenges that occur when art and ecology are brought together; the science and political context is complex and necessitates an expanded ethic for future generations and nonhuman others. Such practices question the validity of short-term art residencies and inspire artists to collaborate with scientists, ecologists, politicians, philosophers and communities for the better world we know is possible. Overall, Cathy’s research more broadly increases understanding of why, and how, eco-social art practices increase ecoliteracy and grassroot political agency for practitioners and their audiences.

Of particular note, part of Cathy’s PhD by Practice submission provides an illustrated guide for others. In her now available audio-visual eBook The Hollywood Forest Story (now available on Apple’s iBook Store here), she reveals the usefulness of applying the framework to explain her eco-social art practice and her deep interest in new-to-Ireland continuous cover forestry, as an alternative to destructive monoculture clearfell forest management. In Cathy’s eBook, one encounters video footage, photography, and writings about the slow art and practice of continuous cover forestry that is transforming the small plantation-becoming a permanent forest that she lives within, in County Carlow. As a live, real-world example of an eco-social art practice, the ongoing Hollywood Forest Story develops new thinking that has contributed to new national forestry policy, begun a public discourse about the crime of ecocide and inspired others to live well with their forests. Cathy thus demonstrates how to develop and maintain effective eco-social art practices.

Cathy wants to offer sincere thanks to Dr Paul O’Brien, for teaching her why art, ecology and politics are always connected if we want a livable, just world – Cathy had the good fortune to have been taught by Paul for her undergraduate and masters degrees, and he was her key theory advisor for her PhD. For her practice, Cathy also wishes to extend thanks to Dr Iain Biggs, artist, transversal practice advocate and educator, and senior research fellow in the Environmental Humanities Dept. of Bath University. Iain supported Cathy to pursue an ambitious PhD by practice, that successfully wove adventures to and from many disciplines and real-world experiences.

And if you are interested, my ebook and thesis are now available to read online. Any comments welcome.

ibookstoreThe Hollywood Forest Story eBook is now available to download from the APPLE iBook Store.

The Hollywood Forest Story eBook is the cultural artefact (the evidence from my creative practice) for the key argument of my PhD by practice, on why and how a theory-method framework is essential for effective and engaging eco-social practices). As such, this eBook is the critical introduction for my successful PhD by Practice – The Ecological Turn: Living Well with Forests to Articulate Eco-Social Art Practices Using a Guattari Ecosophy and Action Research Framework (2018).

The text, images and video material in this eBook reflects the central creative practice of blogging for this eco-social practice, from my blog http://www.hollywoodforest.com. My blog follows the ongoing (since 2008) transformation of a monoculture tree plantation into a permanent, mixed species forest following new-to-Ireland Close-to-Nature continuous cover forestry practices.

Please note the eBook is a formal text that was presented as part of my PhD by Practice submission.  However, it gives a great introduction to Hollywood forest and my work to develop a straightforward theory-method framework to more simply understand how to develop and maintain effective eco-social art practices.

  • If you  have an iTunes account, The Hollywood Forest Story eBook is FREE AND available to download through the Apple iBook Store here
  • Alternatively, a copy of the eBook is available as a print-on-demand book here
  • or as PDF here

Note: if reading the print or PDF version, the videos from the eBook can be seen on Vimeo here

The full and accompanying written thesis

The Ecological Turn: Living Well with Forests
to Articulate Eco-Social Art Practices
Using a Guattari Ecosophy and Action Research Framework

is available to download here from https://ncad.academia.edu/CathyFitzgerald


Eco-social art practitioners routinely foster cycles of multi-constituent translation, reflection and action, across lifeworlds, art, science, and other socio-political domains to progress new life-sustaining knowledge. This enquiry, however, reveals the absence of a guiding theory and a clearly articulated methodology for such transversal practices. A lack of a general theory and methodology, I argue, significantly hinders the

education, practice, and appreciation of such practices’ value and, inevitably, understanding of the art and ecology field as an innovator of creative practice particularly suited to respond to 21stcentury eco-social concerns.

As a consequence, the central research objective of this enquiry is to model, through creative practice and theory analyses, why, and how, a selected theoretical-methodological framework may articulate a clearer understanding of eco-social art practice. This framework formulates a foundation to advance sophisticated transversal practiceresponses, and makes a contribution to knowledge for the art and ecology field in articulating an accessible, transferable framework for eco-social art practice.

The proposed framework builds on my ongoing Hollywood Forest Story eco-social art practice, ecological knowledge and actions, and criticalreview of a suitable theory and methodology. From 2008, this includes transforming Hollywood forest, the monoculture conifer plantation where I live in rural South County Carlow in Ireland, into a permanent forest.

This thesis is framed by critical reflection on and is an extension of new mappings of the emergent art and ecology field. Suzi Gablik (2004), Sacha Kagan (2011), David Haley (2011a; 2016), Linda Weintraub (2012) and others chiefly view transdisciplinarity as best describing long-term art practices that aim for a deeper understanding of sustainability in emergent eco-social contexts. While transdisciplinarity is evident in such practices, I propose a hybrid theoretical-methodological framework to fully articulate the overarching purpose and common methodology of transversal eco-social art practices. I apply Félix Guattari’s theoretical concept of ecosophy, which articulates transversality, with an action research methodological approach.

I thus define eco-social art practices as working creatively in an ecosophical-action research mode to develop ecoliteracy and agency for their practitioners, collaborators and audiences. Such practices encompass emergent transversal endeavours directed by innovative, yet recognisable pattern of social enquiry.

My research draws attention to recent advances in understanding the value of artful activities in action research for sustainability from Chris Seeley and Peter Reason (Seeley, 2011b; Seeley and Reason, 2008) and the usefulness, and under-explored potential of online social media to support the connected learning and sharing of eco-social art practice. The significance, challenges and transferability the eco-social art practice framework advances are characterised and evaluated in application to my practicand the exemplary eco-social art practice of Helen Mayer Harrison and  Newton Harrison. From these studies, I conclude that the eco-social art  practice framework has potential to advance understanding that transversal practices are as critical as scientific, economic and political responses to advance a life-sustaining, ecological turn.


art and ecology, eco-social art practice, Guattari, transversality, ecosophy, action research, ecoliteracy, agency, blogging, continuous cover forestry, social art practice


12 thoughts on “PhD by Practice – The Ecological Turn: Living Well with forests to explain eco-social art practices

  1. Big congrats Cathy! Really delighted to have received this update from Linked In! I hope you are keeping well – it would be wonderful to meet up again (after so long) and catch up! All my love Suzy x


  2. Dear Cathy

    Congratulations on this and all the work you have been doing down the years!

    You may be interested to know that I have recently published a Book of Hours that touches on a whole range of ecological issues related to our place in the world, via a collection of my drawings linked to found texts and amplified by a commentary at the back. It’s available for purchase from the relevant gallery on my website http://www.bloftus.co.uk.

    I attach a press release and some images to give you a flavour of it. (Further images are on the website and can be sent by WeTransfer). If you could give it a mention some time via your website/blog I’d be really grateful. (It’s currently in the Dublin Art Book Fair at the Temple Bar Gallery and Studio, till 29th November).

    All best wishes for your own continuing work.


    PS Nice to see you giving a mention to Julie’s Bicycle, one of my favourite organisations.


  3. A Cathy, a chara, This is totally amazing! Congratulations! An absolutely amazing feat. I cannot think of a more beautiful and essential combination for a doctorate and for the world! Well done, unbelievable! I cannot wait to check out your e-book! Fantastic news and I love your images! Beannachtaí, Róisín

    On Wednesday, November 21, 2018, The Hollywood Forest Story : An Eco-Social Art Practice | Co. Carlow Ireland wrote:

    > Cathy Fitzgerald posted: ” I’m delighted to announce that this week I was > conferred with a PhD by Practice in Visual Culture at the National College > of Art and Design at a ceremony at University College Dublin. There are so, > so many people to thank and I’m delighted to start to s” >


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.