It is still a surprise to me, after a rather tortuous and risky Creative Practice-led PhD, that The Hollywood Forest Story, and particularly my framework to explain long term ecosocial (ecological) art practice has found resonance with others. And, over and over again, creatives and educators come back to me, after reading my most popular post, now published, ‘Goodbye Anthropocene: Hello Symbiocene: EcoSocial Art Practice for a New World’ (2019), after my presentations and online ecoliteracy teaching (at Haumea.ie), to share how they meaningfully wish to contribute to the Symbiocene too.
So I am very grateful to Dr Anita McKeown approaching me the year before last to submit an academic essay about my creative practice and ecosophy-action research framework to the new and substantial Routledge Handbook of Placemaking (skilfully edited by Dr Cara Courage of Tate Modern), and through the dedicated work of inspiring co-editors, which included Anita.
This invitation came at a good time to reflect how I now use this framework that I developed to explain the creative processes behind The Hollywood Forest Story and how it radiates ideas, values and actions for the Symbiocene era, to guide another local art-led community programme The Drummin Bog Project, which modest as it is, is helping people in rural South County Carlow, Ireland reconnect to wetlands and ideas and practices for sustainable regeneration and renewal.
Of course, humans don’t make places! The wider community of life in forests and wetlands are intimately involved. But, I’m pleased that people are beginning to appreciate that creative activities can help us reflect on the alienation our culture has toward the wider living world, and in turn, help us embrace broader, more holistic ecosocial values for just and sustainable cultural regeneration. But as I say in my essay in this Handbook of Placemaking, responding to the ecological emergency is especially difficult for those working in the creative sector:
In such a publication, there are numerous excellent reflections by others working from different lifeworld experiences. Every time I look at this book, I’m deeply encouraged by the work of others similarly forging better relations with the wider community of life through placemaking activities that encourage ecological wisdom and an urgent, and necessary shift to help us all develop ecological worldviews. Such a huge shift in consciousness seems impossible in the less-than-a decade timeframe scientists have given us, when our leaders and media little discuss a necessary shift toward ecosocial, integrated values, when our education has not prioritised even a basic ecoliteracy. So people may wish to look at contributions from Cara, Anita, Frances Whitehead (her embedded artist idea has become popular recently), Ian Wight from Australia and the many others who have built on the marginalised, situated, slow art, ecological art practice field and this connected terrain of placemaking.
My sincere grateful thanks to Anita for guiding me through the exacting academic writing process. I had said to myself after my PhD, never again! Anita, thank you for being the most persuasive, intellectually generous, determined, delightful champion for arts-led creative placemaking. Anita’s significant contribution in this book of her own many dimensional creative practice arising from over 30 years experience, is a reflection on one of the most progressive, inclusive art-led programmes in rural, coastal Ireland, for co-designed community resilience. See www.codesres.ie
Please note The Routledge Handbook of Placemaking (2021) is an academic publication and a very substantial book. It is very expensive. A more affordable ebook version is available. I would encourage readers to recommend this book for their art college and public libraries.
Dedication: This post and the essay are dedicated to all the people who have contributed to The Hollywood forest Story from 2008, and to those supportive of my earliest forest work back with Crann in 1996, when I first came to Ireland. With special thanks to Jan Alexander, Wendell Berry, Anna Browne, all the hardworking, visionary foresters, ecologists, community developers, timber and furniture specialists promoting a new ecological vision for Irish forests at ProSilva Ireland since 2000, to others who have planted or are tended permanent forests since, to Green Party people who have supported the most progressive forest policy in this area, and my doctoral research team and the many writers, ecologically wise and generous thinkers, and academics and educators who inspire me. And, especially also to all the creatives, and philosophers, who are courageously turning their creative energies, who are directing their creativity in service to life, to help us envision a more beautiful, flourishing, just and peaceful world.