Health, Nature and Art: the GROVE project at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s New Stobhill Hospital

Posted in CF Writing, CV, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on March 2, 2010

New Stobhill Hospital Sanctuary, Photo: Laurie Clark

Invited paper as part of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh,  Theory in Practice programme:

“Health, Nature and Art: The Grove Project at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s New Stobhill Hospital”
2 March 2010.


This paper sets out the Art & Architecture collaboration resulting in the GROVE project for NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde’s New Stobhill Hospital.  This project, based on a strong conceptual framework, uses artworks as part of the construction of a environment where the experience nature plays an important role in healthcare. The paper discusses the practical aspects of this major new public art work and looks at the theoretical ideas of the artists, architects and NHS Arts & Health team.

The author, as part of NHSGGC’s Arts & Health team, has worked closely with Thomas A Clark, lead artist-poet; Reiach & Hall Architects; four other artists, and NHSGGC’s Capital and Commissioning Teams to deliver the project.  The project was conceived and developed by Thomas A Clark and Reiach & Hall over a 6 year period prior to commissioning, and has been funded by Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Public Art Fund, NHSGGC Endowments, NHSGGC Staff Lottery, as well as a wide range of community groups.  It forms one of a series of Arts & Health developments as part of NHSGGC’s Modernisation programme.

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What art have I seen?

Posted in CF Writing, Sited work by chrisfremantle on October 23, 2009

I travelled up to Cairngorm Mountain for the official opening of the second phase of Arthur Watson’s Reading the Landscape.

There are many parts to this, developed in collaboration with a number of other artists.

The first phase works in the base station (images below), Drawing Dangerously, were installed some time ago.   This is a series of images and texts created out of the mountain climbing culture. The huge screen prints were developed from photographs taken by Andy Rice, one of Watson’s collaborators.  The words surrounding the images are the names of climbs.  As climbers explore the rock face and discover a route, they give it a name, subsequent climbers discovering variations of the climb, in turn use variations of the name.

The image below introduces another dimension, collecting Scots and Gaelic words for snow.  I have a small contribution to the first publication on Reading the Landscape and it focuses on this aspect.

The new works include several viewpoints and the Camera Obscura.

At the western end of the site a structure, designed by Watson and Will Maclean, has been built channelling a mountain stream through a platform and down three buttresses.  Within the structure, poems and texts draw attention to the outlook. This is a development for Maclean from Cuimhneachain nan Gaisgeach (Commemoration of our Land Heroes) on Lewis.

Images of construction of viewpoints on CairnGorm Mountain’s Flickr Photostream

Nearer the base station, at the top of a set of steps from the carpark, is a seat built into the wall.  Sit down and Stanley Robertson‘s voice comes out of two speakers built into the walls starts to tell you folktales.  Robertson (1940-2009), certainly one of the foremost traveller storytellers of the North East of Scotland, and a longtime collaborator with Watson.  This is an outdoor version of works that Watson made for Singing for Dead Singers.

In the mountain garden Fergus Purdie, architect, Lei Cox and Mel Woods, artists, have created a Camera Obscura.

This is a built structure sitting over and along a path.  There is a small bay, something like a side chapel, which you enter through heavy curtains.   Inside the landscape is laid out before you on a table, turning gently.  Periodically you move in giant steps along cardinal lines to the sea.  These latter steps are the art introduced by Cox and Woods, a series of videos taken at regular intervals of distance (12 steps to the sea in each direction) and time (going north is winter).

The rangers are already using this particular feature when the weather is bad and the school kids can’t do anything outside.  Lay a piece of paper on the table, show the pupils all Cox and Woods images, let them choose one, and then they can collectively draw the image superimposed on the paper.  Suddenly landscape drawing is both incredibly literal (the image is projected on the paper) but doesn’t come out looking literal – mark making takes precendence.

Images of construction of Camera Obscura on CairnGorm Mountain Flickr Photostream

It was great, eight years after my first journey’s to Cairngorm Mountain to meet Bob Kinnaird, to go back and see something so good.  I suppose my job at the outset had been to suggest what might be possible, to help Bob see that something really interesting might emerge.  I remember writing the application to Scottish Arts Council with the help of … and then being involved with the selection, which by then was being organised by Susan Christie, to whom I had handed the project when I left SSW.

Studio International on Arthur Watson

Previous post.

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Radical Nature at the Barbican

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on August 31, 2009

Radical Nature: Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969-2009 is an important exhibition.  Much has been written about it in the papers and on the Eco Art Network.  It is a really valuable opportunity to see seminal works by a range of artists and architects.  I hadn’t seen Beuys’ Honey Pump, nor the film of UkelesTouch Sanitation, nor Smithson‘s film Spiral Jetty, nor any of the Harrisons’ Survival Series (1970-1973).

But I finally worked out the essence of my problem with the exhibition.  The title frames ‘art and architecture’ and there are works by both artists and architects included in the exhibition.  The artists and architects included, particularly the works from the 60s and 70s are radical, there’s no question about that.  But the real radicalism of some of the artists and architects is in the scale of their work, and in the exhibition this is only really conveyed in the Center for Land Use Interpretation work The Trans-Alaska Pipeline.  Even the film of Touch Sanitation doesn’t convey the eleven month performance of shaking 8,500 sanitation workers’ hands and saying to each of them “Thank you for keeping New York City alive.”  The exhibition feels like its driven by a curatorial focus on artwork as object, rather than artwork as question or consideration of context.

The real shared territory between artists and architects is in thinking at scale about boundary, organisation, information, energy, metaphor, systems and people; not the superficial similarity of objects.

Think about Hans Haacke’s Shapolsky et al., Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971,  shown at the Tate’s exhibition Open Systems: Rethinking Art c.1970 a couple of years ago where he focused on the ownership of tenaments in New York by one family through a network of businesses.  This would have been as relevant an introduction to social ecological concerns.

Think about the Harrisons’ work Peninsula Europe (2001-2003)which presented the European peninsula as single entity considering the role of the high ground in the supply of fresh water to the population.

Think about Tim Collins and Reiko Goto’s work 3 Rivers 2nd Nature (2000-2005) which involved the strategic planning of the whole Pittsburgh river system area.  Goto and Collins “addressed the meaning, form, and function of public space and nature in Allegheny County, PA.”  They developed the Living River Principles which were used as a tool for lobbying public officials.  They worked with a team of volunteers to develop monitoring systems documenting land use, geology, botany and water quality.

Or PLATFORM’s work Unravelling the Carbon Web (2000 ongoing) which asks us to understand the social and environmental consequences of oil through multiple iterative works drawing attention to the oil industry and its associated networks to Universities, Government and other corporates, working with inhabitants, NGOs and Unions along BP’s Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, and in Iraq.  The purpose of this work is social and ecological justice, but it is also to relate this distant business to the lives of people living in London and the UK.

Or even Peter Fend, one of the most interesting artists, whose work with the Ocean Earth Development Corporation actively seeks to challenge the relationship between art and business by developing approaches to ecological problems through the means at the disposal of artists – colour theory, conceptual synthesis and the use of emerging tools such as satellites.

All of these works:

  1. Are of a scale which touch on or encompasses whole political, social and ecological systems.
  2. Involve communication between artists, scientists, politicians and inhabitants (i.e. in multiple and complex ways, rather than from singularly from artist to audience).
  3. Foreground the connections between living and non-living structures, such that the work is relevant to our daily lives, rather than objects for aesthetic contemplation.
  4. Blur the idea of the artist, raising the question “is it art?” because the work and the artist are also  economist, environmental scientist, planner, etc..
  5. Raise the question, “Who made the work?” breaks down the idea of the artist as individual, because the work is made through the input of a range of people.
  6. Embody diversity of description (something very problematic in museum contexts).
  7. Embody and make relevant all phases of the life-cycle of the art.

Whilst much of the work in the exhibition is also characterised by the above points, it has not been chosen to emphasise these points.  Rather it has been chosen because it meets a different set of criteria, criteria of objectness.  Thus there are at least five works that involve plants in the gallery – Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison’s Farm, Hans Haacke’s Grass Grows, Simon Starling’s boat for Rhododendrons, Henrik Håkansson, Fallen Forest, 2006.  But the differences between these works, between ironic comment and practical application is lost.  The Harrisons’ work is of a practical character “What can we do in these circumstances?” where Starling’s work has an ironic purpose, raising questions about nativeness and protection.  Haacke’s work Grass Grows is a work that demonstrates the Manifesto he wrote in 1965,

…make something which experiences, reacts to its environment, changes, is nonstable…
…make something indeterminate, that always looks different, the shape of which cannot be predicted precisely…
…make something that cannot “perform” without the assistance of its environment…
…make something sensitive to light and temperature changes, that is subject to air currents and depends, in its functioning, on the forces of gravity…
…make something the spectator handles, an object to be played with and thus animated…
…make something that lives in time and makes the “spectator” experience time…
…articulate something natural…

Hans Haacke, Cologne, January 1965 republished in Art in the Land. A Critical Anthology of Environmental Art, ed. by Alan Sonfist, (New York: Dutton, 1983

The off-site project in Dalston, which I wrote about earlier, is a more interesting work than some in the exhibition, precisely because it was not curated, but rather made.

Sculpture Parks and Gardens

Posted in CF Writing, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 14, 2009

International Directory of Sculpture Parks and Gardens

New resource developed out of Cameron Cartiere’s research.  The section on Scotland includes Galloway Forest, Glenkilns, Jupiter Artland, Little Sparta and Tyrebagger.  No reference to those that are gone, including Cramond and Glenshee.

The category Sculpture Parks and Gardens raises a few conceptual challenges and complexities.  Because ‘public art’ is associated with regeneration and the creative city, it has gain far more bureaucratic currency and also funding.  Is a group of work by a number of artists in the landscape a public art project or a sculpture park?  Is a landscape made by artists a sculpture park?

So some other possible inclusions:

Place of Origin though I’d say its a park as sculpture rather than a sculpture park? see essay in writing.
Place of Origin

Yet to be completed is Arthur Watson’s Reading the Landscape, a collaborative scheme developed with Will MacLean, Lei Cox, Stanley Robertson and others for CairnGorm Mountain.  All the works are intended to contributing to a cultural understanding of the landscape as lived in and used.
CairnGorm Mountain Ltd,
Cairn Gorm Ski Area,
PH22 1RB
tel: +44 (0)1479 861261,

I was very pleased to see Glenkilns included, but I wondered why Charles Jencks and Maggie Keswick’s Gardens at Portrack House, Dumfries were not included?  Best reference I can suggest is It’s only open once a year for Scotland’s Gardens Scheme, usually first weekend in May.
Portrack House

And you cannot leave out the Hidden Gardens behind the Tramway as a new and award winning ‘art garden.’  The Hidden Gardens are a project of NVA, and are a focus for intercultural dialogue and shared experiences.  Very much driven by community focused activities in a brilliant space.
The Hidden Gardens
25 Albert Drive
Glasgow G41 2PE
0141 433 2722

There is a group of works by Ronald Rae in the grounds of Roselle House/the Maclaurin Trust in Ayr.  I understand that they were made as part of a Manpower Services project in 1979
Roselle House Galleries
Roselle Park
Monument Road
Ayr KA7 4NQ

Finally the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Aberdeenshire has a Sculpture Walk
AB54 4JN
01464 861372

See also thoughts on Sculpture Parks after visiting Centre international d’art et du paysage de l’île de Vassivière.

Pecha Kucha: 6 mins 20 secs

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, Producing, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 7, 2009

If you start with the sentence “My practice is focused by place,” then the next sentence that logical follows is “I’ve been working in … Ireland, Palestine, Siberia.” Whereas if you start with the sentence “My practice is focused by context,” then the next logical sentence can be any one of a very large number of things… [more]

This text and the associated slides were presented at the Pecha Kucha held at the RSA in Edinburgh.

Pecha Kucha Invite

What art have I seen?

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 6, 2009

Don’t go and think about Dalston Mill as a whacky eco retro art project.  Think of it as architects working very hard to imagine a future for us all.  And bear in mind that they are sleeping in this structure, above the bar cafe, next to the seminar room and adjacent to the toilets.

The bus dropped me on Dalston Lane and I towed my wheelie suitcase over the uneven pavement.  Leaving Liverpool Street and the skyscrapers we’d passed through Little Nigeria on Shoreditch High Street.  I’d seen the main Radical Nature exhibition at the Barbican a few weeks ago, and Dan Gretton had said this “off-site” project was really worth seeing.  I’d caught a glimpse of the mural you are meant to look out for and seen a black painted wooden wall with words hand painted in white saying Dalston Mill, but it looked closed.  So thinking that there was another entrance I walked through a yard, caught sight of a scrubby patch of wheat, went through an opening in a builders temporary fence and wandered around.  It was 2pm and a few people were casually doing stuff.  One guy in a t-shirt and shorts was sweeping up fag butts whilst smoking.

Going to Nils Norman and Michael Cataloi’s University of Trash at the Sculpture Center, my mother’s comment “I saw this in the 70s” is still firmly with me.  She’s got a point.

And the answer may lie in the blurb about the show Into The Open currently in Philadelphia.  This was the official US representation at the 2008 Venice Bienniale of Architecture.  The sixteen groups represented are at the cutting edge of thinking about the urban, the landscape, the recycled and the social.  I immediately recognise Center for Land Use Interpretation, Center for Urban Pedagogy, Project Row Houses and Rural Studio as landmark initiatives.  I have a collection of CLUI and CUP materials, the book Rural Studio produced on my shelves and I’ve been to Project Row Houses.

The blurb goes:

“Critics noted the exhibition’s unusually sober assessment of the challenges America faces, as well as the inspired attempts by grassroots architects to mitigate these conflicts.”

But I do have a problem, and it was hell of an easy to walk in look around and walk out – to do the artworld strut – and say “seen that”.  I did end up talking to the guy clearing up the fag butts and he turned out to be one of the architects.  I nearly voluntarily got roped into making dough, and I really should have (no strutting making dough) but in the end they were just getting organised and I was heading for a train.  Vidokle does address this so directly and effectively: The Martha Rosler Library as well as the Video Store and the Night School are all about stopping (or tripping) the strut.  And I wish the University of Trash and Dalston Mill had, in addition to the events programme, something which when you walk in off the street, sucked you into ‘the sober assessment of the challenges,’ whatever time of day it was.

Because in reality, these architects and artists have created a structure which is lightweight, adaptable, portable, generates energy, supports social activities, addresses questions of food and land use, and therefore embodies some very serious issues.  And I loved the scarecrows with milk containers for heads.  And I hope that as they take it all to pieces and move on, that they clean up the site, including the archaeological trash from the periphery, which has clearly been there longer than the three weeks of this exercise, and leave the site better than they found it, whether they have left us wiser or not.

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What art have I seen?

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on July 9, 2009

Art Sites in Riverhead. I noticed a sign saying art + architecture. It’s a gallery with an outdoor sculpture space that also seems to be involved in local green developments. The building looks like it used to be a light industrial unit and is really well converted, both the building and the landscape.
I’d have liked to see the exhibition Called to Action, curated by Lillian Ball, on Restoration projects.

Outdoors there was an interesting mix of large scale sculptures – some made of very permanent materials (steel)

and others clearly very temporary tent structures.
The relationship of the tents to the ground, the way they protected an area of grass and weeds, was interesting.

There was a small patch of plants with a sign indicating that this was based on work done by Cornell University Extension programme: Weeds and Your Garden.

Rural and city

Posted in Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on July 4, 2009

Martin Wolf in the FT (3 May 2006) summarises Jane Jacobs’ arguments for the importance of cities (not countries) and their role in relation to regions.

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What art have I seen?

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on June 11, 2009

This Land is (Y)our Land at CCA, Glasgow

Walking with a pepper plant, free with the exhibition, but actually a specific responsibility, in the smur, going right left right left right left…

Sauchiehall Street
Pitt Street
Bath Street
Douglas Street
across Blytheswood Square Garden
West George Street
West Campbell Street
St Vincent’s Street
Wellington Street
Bothwell Street
Hope Street
into Central Station

I like the zig zag, knowing its not actually any shorter than straight down Sauchiehall and onto Hope, but the pattern is more interesting.

Is it psychogeography, a derive, or systems thinking?

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Posted in CF Writing by chrisfremantle on June 8, 2009

Whilst working at the University of the Arts Berne, had the opportunity to meet and speak with George Steinmann.  His work From-To-Beyond highlights what was missing from the discussion at LANDWORKERS.  We heard about wonderful cultural projects in Samiland, in Dogribland and in Scotland.  All these places continue to suffer the environmental and social impacts of extraction.  Steinmann went to the Kola Peninsula in Russia (part of Samiland) and saw the massive environmental destruction:

“In the autumn of 1995, after thorough preparation, and having contacted scientists in Norway, Finland and Russia, I headed for Murmansk to travel the Kola Peninsula with a Russian Guide.  The itinerary included a visit to Severomorsk and the nuclear submarine base there, as well as excursions to the nickel smelting works in Montsegorsk, Apatity, and Nikel, and a trip to Teriberka on the Barents Sea.  I have never travelled in a region so scarred.  It is one huge pathogenic zone caught between primal nature and industrial exploitation.  This vast region is fatally polluted and damaged by the huge amounts of nuclear waste in the Barents Sea and on the island of Novaya Zemlya, and by the gigantic sulphur-dioxide output of the smelting works. “

(p.166, George Steinmann: Blue Notes, Helmhaus Zurich, Verlag fur moderne Kunst Nurnberg, 2007)


There is a real danger in focusing on the art, and the art focusing on aspects of the cultural, and thus missing the real environmental, social and economic dimensions of extraction and pollution in these remote places.

What art have I seen?

Posted in CF Writing, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 24, 2008

Centre international d’art et du paysage de l’île de Vassivière

Some images at Flickr
Vassiviere is listed on the ISC‘s web site as one of the few sculpture parks in France. It describes itself variously as ‘a centre for art and nature’, ‘art and the counryside’, and ‘a centre for land art’. It has a few internationally known artists (Goldsworthy, Pistoletto and the Kabakovs) and many French artists; I found a work by Brad Goldberg, who collaborated on Place of Origin, and work by Roland Cognet who had worked at SSW and seems to have had a one person show at Vassiviere,

This place is interesting; having come about as a result of a major hydro-electric scheme, it conceptually raises issues of our relationship to our environment and our tendency to manipulate it in order to extract benefit. It has real character, but it suffers from neither owning its history, nor clearly adressing its apparent mission.

It has a mixed bag of sculptures that make up the park – some the result of a sculpture symposium in the early 80s. More recent and jokey post modern works are also incorporated. The gallery seems to work in partnership with some high profile institutions like the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The building by Aldo Rossi is striking.

But there is a lack of clarity – there are cornerstone international works, but I couldn’t discern a curatorial strategy. Likewise I guess that the works by French artists are significant, but I didn’t get a sense of a collection of work of significant French sculptors (or artists working in three dimensions on an outdoor scale). This would be a good project in itself.

The work by Samakh is a good response to a natural event, but the replanting of an area of forest to promote biodiversity is not radical.

Thinking about the work of Littoral in particular, but also of PLATFORM, and others involved in dialogic practices, there are so many ways in which this amazing place could speak of itself. Funnily enough it is Goldsworthy who draws attention to the drowned land, but for instance the larger ecological landscape is not drawn out.

But as it stands it clearly has a history of being a centre for sculpture during the second half of the 20th century, and is trying to redefine itself. Using the gallery to do this is OK, but in the end it remains in conflict with the permanently sited work which speaks of a previous project.

What am I reading?

Posted in Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on February 18, 2008
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Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty threatened

Posted in CF Writing by chrisfremantle on February 5, 2008

Some of the many histories of Spiral Jetty


20 years ago a massive campaign led by Nancy Holt, and supported by cultural activists across the world, saved Spiral Jetty from a plans to pump oil from under the Great Salt Lake. Arguing that Spiral Jetty and its context were of international importance, a swift and successful international action was mounted. The UN declared Spiral Jetty a World Heritage Site, putting it in the same category as Machu Pichu and the Great Pyramid of Giza. On the back of this campaign, the Dia Foundation secured donations in excess of $1 billion. With this funding they were able to secure land around all the major Land Art sites – De Maria’s Lightning Field, Heizer’s Double Negative and Holt’s Sun Tunnels. They joined these parcels up to create Entropy Park which now forms a complete ring around the State of Utah. Arguments continue to rage amongst art historians and critical theorists.


20 years ago a spoof email and web site initiated one of those brief flurries that characterised the early 21st century internet. The email suggested that Spiral Jetty was endangered by a proposed energy development which would involve pumping oil from beneath the Salt Lake. Although it did not come from Nancy Holt, it intimated her involvement in a campaign. The net result was that Jonathan Jemming, a Planning Official in Utah State, received approximately 1,500 emails within a one week period. These emails, from artists and academics, museum directors and critical theorists, were in turn abusive, erudite, impenetrable, passionate, and in every case objected to a planning application that did not exist. In fact Jonathan Jemming had never heard of Robert Smithson or Spiral Jetty. Meantime arguments raged amongst art historians and critical theorists.


20 years ago, despite protests by Nancy Holt and others, they started pumping oil from under the Great Salt Lake in Utah, near Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. Unfortunately no one realised that, due to a lack of maintenance, pressure would build up in the underground pipes and explode on July 20th 2033. The blast made a crater nearly a kilometre across and caused a tidal wave to travel across the lake. No one was killed. Spiral Jetty ceased to exist. This caused outrage in the art world. The Dia Foundation secured donations of $1 billion to reconstruct the work as well as undisclosed damages from the ExMoBphell conglomerate operating the installation. In the past 5 years no work has been done to reconstruct Spiral Jetty. The Dia Foundation have bought additional parcels of land encompassing the whole of the crater and its surroundings. They have designated this Entropy Park. Arguments continue to rage amongst art historians and critical theorists.

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What art have I seen

Posted in CF Writing, Sited work by chrisfremantle on September 13, 2007
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Posted in CF Writing, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on April 20, 2007

Oren Lieberman, at a dinner during Wendy Gunn’s Making Places workshops in 2002-03, offered an interesting analysis of collaboration. I was reminded of this and encouraged to actually note it down by Tony Beckwith (from Gunpowder Park) phoning up and asking me to remind him about it – I had offered Oren’s thought up during the Bright Sparks Seminar (9 March 2007).

So back to the point, Oren’s analysis of collaboration. He said there is Multi-disciplinary practice. This might be characterised by a group of different disciplines (architects, engineers, planners, perhaps even artists, sitting around a table, each addressing their area of responsibility within a project. Having them round the table is useful, but collaboration is functional. Then you have Interdisciplinary practice. I would understand this to be when the people around that table are interested in understanding each others roles, skills and tasks. I might further suggest that they draw on each others roles skills and tasks through interest. Finally Oren offered Transdisciplinary practice – when people change roles and start doing each other’s jobs. I would offer Michael Singer and Linea Glatt’s 27th Avenue Waste Transfer Station project in Phoenix Arizona as an example – as I understand it they had been employed as artists to decorate the building, found their were decorating a basically bad building and persuaded the commissioner to allow them to redesign the building as a public space which in the documentation, looks like the hanging gardens of Babylon (case study at publicartonline).

The first thing to say about Oren’s analysis is that it is not an increasing scale of good: Trans- is not better than Inter- which is not better than Multi-. They are different. Trans- is more difficult than Inter- which is more difficult than Multi-.

Given that they are more difficult, and probably in the context of any form of collaboration, we need to think about how to achieve collaboration. To achieve collaboration you cannot start around a table in an office. You can only do it by constructing shared experiences, relevant to the project and characterised by conviviality.

Here I would point at John Maine’s tactics at the beginning of Place of Origin (for more on this project follow this link). He insisted that we (himself, Brad Goldberg and Glen Onwin and myself) go on a road trip. We went to Lewis, via Clava Cairns and Assynt. Ostensibly we went to look at the interpretation centre at Callanish, but in fact we went to get to know each other and to develop a shared visual language. Interestingly, though John and I had been to Kemnay Quarry on a number of occasions, this road trip happened before either Brad or Glen saw the site. I suspect the result was that when they saw the site, at the end of the road trip, we all had a shared experience to interrogate it from. What was averted was each artist arriving at the site and immediately going into a singular “what do I do here?” and instead, what occurred was “what do we do here?”. I think this latter point may be very important – it certainly resulted in an amazing collaboration over 10 years.

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Posted in CF Writing, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on January 26, 2007

Ivan Illich's Address to CIASP

Posted in Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on January 18, 2007

Cut and pasted from

An address by Monsignor Ivan Illich to the Conference on InterAmerican Student Projects (CIASP) in Cuernavaca, Mexico, on April 20, 1968. In his usual biting and sometimes sarcastic style, Illich goes to the heart of the deep dangers of paternalism inherent in any voluntary service activity, but especially in any international service “mission.” Parts of the speech are outdated and must be viewed in the historical context of 1968 when it was delivered, but the entire speech is retained for the full impact of his point and at Ivan Illich’s request.
IN THE CONVERSATIONS WHICH I HAVE HAD TODAY, I was impressed by two things, and I want to state them before I launch into my prepared talk.

I was impressed by your insight that the motivation of U.S. volunteers overseas springs mostly from very alienated feelings and concepts. I was equally impressed, by what I interpret as a step forward among would-be volunteers like you: openness to the idea that the only thing you can legitimately volunteer for in Latin America might be voluntary powerlessness, voluntary presence as receivers, as such, as hopefully beloved or adopted ones without any way of returning the gift.

I was equally impressed by the hypocrisy of most of you: by the hypocrisy of the atmosphere prevailing here. I say this as a brother speaking to brothers and sisters. I say it against many resistances within me; but it must be said. Your very insight, your very openness to evaluations of past programs make you hypocrites because you – or at least most of you – have decided to spend this next summer in Mexico, and therefore, you are unwilling to go far enough in your reappraisal of your program. You close your eyes because you want to go ahead and could not do so if you looked at some facts.

It is quite possible that this hypocrisy is unconscious in most of you. Intellectually, you are ready to see that the motivations which could legitimate volunteer action overseas in 1963 cannot be invoked for the same action in 1968. “Mission-vacations” among poor Mexicans were “the thing” to do for well-off U.S. students earlier in this decade: sentimental concern for newly-discovered. poverty south of the border combined with total blindness to much worse poverty at home justified such benevolent excursions. Intellectual insight into the difficulties of fruitful volunteer action had not sobered the spirit of Peace Corps Papal-and-Self-Styled Volunteers.

Today, the existence of organizations like yours is offensive to Mexico. I wanted to make this statement in order to explain why I feel sick about it all and in order to make you aware that good intentions have not much to do with what we are discussing here. To hell with good intentions. This is a theological statement. You will not help anybody by your good intentions. There is an Irish saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; this sums up the same theological insight.

The very frustration which participation in CIASP programs might mean for you, could lead you to new awareness: the awareness that even North Americans can receive the gift of hospitality without the slightest ability to pay for it; the awareness that for some gifts one cannot even say “thank you.”
Now to my prepared statement.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

For the past six years I have become known for my increasing opposition to the presence of any and all North American “dogooders” in Latin America. I am sure you know of my present efforts to obtain the voluntary withdrawal of all North American volunteer armies from Latin America – missionaries, Peace Corps members and groups like yours, a “division” organized for the benevolent invasion of Mexico. You were aware of these things when you invited me – of all people – to be the main speaker at your annual convention. This is amazing! I can only conclude that your invitation means one of at least three things:

Some among you might have reached the conclusion that CIASP should either dissolve altogether, or take the promotion of voluntary aid to the Mexican poor out of its institutional purpose. Therefore you might have invited me here to help others reach this same decision.

You might also have invited me because you want to learn how to deal with people who think the way I do – how to dispute them successfully. It has now become quite common to invite Black Power spokesmen to address Lions Clubs. A “dove” must always be included in a public dispute organized to increase U.S. belligerence.

And finally, you might have invited me here hoping that you would be able to agree with most of what I say, and then go ahead in good faith and work this summer in Mexican villages. This last possibility is only open to those who do not listen, or who cannot understand me.

I did not come here to argue. I am here to tell you, if possible to convince you, and hopefully, to stop you, from pretentiously imposing yourselves on Mexicans.

I do have deep faith in the enormous good will of the U.S. volunteer. However, his good faith can usually be explained only by an abysmal lack of intuitive delicacy. By definition, you cannot help being ultimately vacationing salesmen for the middle-class “American Way of Life,” since that is really the only life you know. A group like this could not have developed unless a mood in the United States had supported it – the belief that any true American must share God’s blessings with his poorer fellow men. The idea that every American has something to give, and at all times may, can and should give it, explains why it occurred to students that they could help Mexican peasants “develop” by spending a few months in their villages.

Of course, this surprising conviction was supported by members of a missionary order, who would have no reason to exist unless they had the same conviction – except a much stronger one. It is now high time to cure yourselves of this. You, like the values you carry, are the products of an American society of achievers and consumers, with its two-party system, its universal schooling, and its family-car affluence. You are ultimately-consciously or unconsciously – “salesmen” for a delusive ballet in the ideas of democracy, equal opportunity and free enterprise among people who haven’t the possibility of profiting from these.

Next to money and guns, the third largest North American export is the U.S. idealist, who turns up in every theater of the world: the teacher, the volunteer, the missionary, the community organizer, the economic developer, and the vacationing do-gooders. Ideally, these people define their role as service. Actually, they frequently wind up alleviating the damage done by money and weapons, or “seducing” the “underdeveloped” to the benefits of the world of affluence and achievement. Perhaps this is the moment to instead bring home to the people of the U.S. the knowledge that the way of life they have chosen simply is not alive enough to be shared.

By now it should be evident to all America that the U.S. is engaged in a tremendous struggle to survive. The U.S. cannot survive if the rest of the world is not convinced that here we have Heaven-on-Earth. The survival of the U.S. depends on the acceptance by all so-called “free” men that the U.S. middle class has “made it.” The U.S. way of life has become a religion which must be accepted by all those who do not want to die by the sword – or napalm. All over the globe the U.S. is fighting to protect and develop at least a minority who consume what the U.S. majority can afford. Such is the purpose of the Alliance for Progress of the middle-classes which the U.S. signed with Latin America some years ago. But increasingly this commercial alliance must be protected by weapons which allow the minority who can “make it” to protect their acquisitions and achievements.

But weapons are not enough to permit minority rule. The marginal masses become rambunctious unless they are given a “Creed,” or belief which explains the status quo. This task is given to the U.S. volunteer – whether he be a member of CLASP or a worker in the so-called “Pacification Programs” in Viet Nam.

The United States is currently engaged in a three-front struggle to affirm its ideals of acquisitive and achievement-oriented “Democracy.” I say “three” fronts, because three great areas of the world are challenging the validity of a political and social system which makes the rich ever richer, and the poor increasingly marginal to that system.

In Asia, the U.S. is threatened by an established power -China. The U.S. opposes China with three weapons: the tiny Asian elites who could not have it any better than in an alliance with the United States; a huge war machine to stop the Chinese from “taking over” as it is usually put in this country, and; forcible re-education of the so-called “Pacified” peoples. All three of these efforts seem to be failing.

In Chicago, poverty funds, the police force and preachers seem to be no more successful in their efforts to check the unwillingness of the black community to wait for graceful integration into the system.

And finally, in Latin America the Alliance for Progress has been quite successful in increasing the number of people who could not be better off – meaning the tiny, middle-class elites – and has created ideal conditions for military dictatorships. The dictators were formerly at the service of the plantation owners, but now they protect the new industrial complexes. And finally, you come to help the underdog accept his destiny within this process!

All you will do in a Mexican village is create disorder. At best, you can try to convince Mexican girls that they should marry a young man who is self-made, rich, a consumer, and as disrespectful of tradition as one of you. At worst, in your “community development” spirit you might create just enough problems to get someone shot after your vacation ends_ and you rush back to your middleclass neighborhoods where your friends make jokes about “spits” and “wetbacks.”

You start on your task without any training. Even the Peace Corps spends around $10,000 on each corps member to help him adapt to his new environment and to guard him against culture shock. How odd that nobody ever thought about spending money to educate poor Mexicans in order to prevent them from the culture shock of meeting you?
In fact, you cannot even meet the majority which you pretend to serve in Latin America – even if you could speak their language, which most of you cannot. You can only dialogue with those like you – Latin American imitations of the North American middle class. There is no way for you to really meet with the underprivileged, since there is no common ground whatsoever for you to meet on.

Let me explain this statement, and also let me explain why most Latin Americans with whom you might be able to communicate would disagree with me.

Suppose you went to a U.S. ghetto this summer and tried to help the poor there “help themselves.” Very soon you would be either spit upon or laughed at. People offended by your pretentiousness would hit or spit. People who understand that your own bad consciences push you to this gesture would laugh condescendingly. Soon you would be made aware of your irrelevance among the poor, of your status as middle-class college students on a summer assignment. You would be roundly rejected, no matter if your skin is white-as most of your faces here are-or brown or black, as a few exceptions who got in here somehow.

Your reports about your work in Mexico, which you so kindly sent me, exude self-complacency. Your reports on past summers prove that you are not even capable of understanding that your dogooding in a Mexican village is even less relevant than it would be in a U.S. ghetto. Not only is there a gulf between what you have and what others have which is much greater than the one existing between you and the poor in your own country, but there is also a gulf between what you feel and what the Mexican people feel that is incomparably greater. This gulf is so great that in a Mexican village you, as White Americans (or cultural white Americans) can imagine yourselves exactly the way a white preacher saw himself when he offered his life preaching to the black slaves on a plantation in Alabama. The fact that you live in huts and eat tortillas for a few weeks renders your well-intentioned group only a bit more picturesque.

The only people with whom you can hope to communicate with are some members of the middle class. And here please remember that I said “some” -by which I mean a tiny elite in Latin America.

You come from a country which industrialized early and which succeeded in incorporating the great majority of its citizens into the middle classes. It is no social distinction in the U.S. to have graduated from the second year of college. Indeed, most Americans now do. Anybody in this country who did not finish high school is considered underprivileged.

In Latin America the situation is quite different: 75% of all people drop out of school before they reach the sixth grade. Thus, people who have finished high school are members of a tiny minority. Then, a minority of that minority goes on for university training. It is only among these people that you will find your educational equals.

At the same time, a middle class in the United States is the majority. In Mexico, it is a tiny elite. Seven years ago your country began and financed a so-called “Alliance for Progress.” This was an “Alliance” for the “Progress” of the middle class elites. Now. it is among the members of this middle class that you will find a few people who are willing to send their time with you_ And they are overwhelmingly those “nice kids” who would also like to soothe their troubled consciences by “doing something nice for the promotion of the poor Indians.” Of course, when you and your middleclass Mexican counterparts meet, you will be told that you are doing something valuable, that you are “sacrificing” to help others.
And it will be the foreign priest who will especially confirm your self-image for you. After all, his livelihood and sense of purpose depends on his firm belief in a year-round mission which is of the same type as your summer vacation-mission.

There exists the argument that some returned volunteers have gained insight into the damage they have done to others – and thus become more mature people. Yet it is less frequently stated that most of them are ridiculously proud of their “summer sacrifices.” Perhaps there is also something to the argument that young men should be promiscuous for awhile in order to find out that sexual love is most beautiful in a monogamous relationship. Or that the best way to leave LSD alone is to try it for awhile -or even that the best way of understanding that your help in the ghetto is neither needed nor wanted is to try, and fail. I do not agree with this argument. The damage which volunteers do willy-nilly is too high a price for the belated insight that they shouldn’t have been volunteers in the first place.

If you have any sense of responsibility at all, stay with your riots here at home. Work for the coming elections: You will know what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how to communicate with those to whom you speak. And you will know when you fail. If you insist on working with the poor, if this is your vocation, then at least work among the poor who can tell you to go to hell. It is incredibly unfair for you to impose yourselves on a village where you are so linguistically deaf and dumb that you don’t even understand what you are doing, or what people think of you. And it is profoundly damaging to yourselves when you define something that you want to do as “good,” a “sacrifice” and “help.”

I am here to suggest that you voluntarily renounce exercising the power which being an American gives you. I am here to entreat you to freely, consciously and humbly give up the legal right you have to impose your benevolence on Mexico. I am here to challenge you to recognize your inability, your powerlessness and your incapacity to do the “good” which you intended to do.

I am here to entreat you to use your money, your status and your education to travel in Latin America. Come to look, come to climb our mountains, to enjoy our flowers. Come to study. But do not come to help.

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Carron, Ravenscraig, Glengarnock

Posted in CF Writing, Sited work, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on July 10, 2004

Starting at the only remains of the Carron Works, looking at the stone tower with carronades in the gateway.  Finding the blue gate (a triumphal arch) from the Edinburgh International Exhibition of 1886.  Going to the cemetery and seeing family graves, crying.

Through Ravenscraig without stopping (Gavin was not there to ground us).

Ending in Glengarnock, seeing Lorna’s gate, finding all the different bricks telling a story of industries drinking in the Masonic Lodge.

Photos by Chris Fremantle, Anne Douglas, George Beasley

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James Turrell

Posted in Texts by chrisfremantle on February 7, 2004

Extract from James Turrell’s lecture on Roden Crater at the ‘Art in the Landscape’ symposium at the Chinati Foundation.

“I suppose this is how artists think: you take a photo of it; you make plans of it. It was all pretty reasonable. I got the land. I had to buy a ranch to get the volcano. It’s hard to just buy a volcano. I made the mistake, though, of not ranching out there first, because this is open range. Arizona and Nevada are still entire states that are open range, so if you don’t want cattle on your land you’re obliged to fence them out. Even Texas has changed those rules, although there are open range areas here as well, but not the entire state. Arizona claims to be open range, as well as to not change its clocks. It doesn’t recognize daylight savings time, but that has more to do with militia-favoring political views.

I began to plan how this space at the top, in the top, would shape the sky. At the beginning, I phased it in three steps to change the shape of the rim so that it began to shape the sky. I made a plan so that I could present it to the contractors, and then they could use machinery to move the earth to shape the sky.

This is similar to breaking a few eggs to make an omelet, and it is something to take such a beautiful geologic formation as a volcano and change it. The change was not large in my mind, and there was this chewing up so it would still be a volcano and look as one, no matter whether you saw it from outside or from above. But it would then have this aspect of changing perception. That had some effect on people in terms of ecological thought. Also, the fact that I had bought this ranch and decided not to ranch or do anything with it was, to some degree, like buying a farm and letting it lie fallow, and it actually had more effect on people than I had realized it would. There is more to it than the fact that I wanted to change the volcano. The nearby volcanoes are being mined for cinder, because cinder block and cinder tracks that people run on are made from this material; this is a great building material and people have no qualms about mining it there. There are four hundred volcanoes in that volcanic field, and twelve of them are being mined actively. I see now that it was not so much that I was changing the volcano as that I was coming in and not needing to ranch as anyone else would have who bought the same land.

At any rate, I began to work on it. I had the plan of what it would take to change the sky. The problem is that sometimes you have these ideas, and it’s like having an idea to make an acoustically beautiful symphony space. Some of the worst spaces are made in the name of acoustical engineering. A lot of it is the fact that it is an art that doesn’t scale well from one situation to another; it’s something you have to inherently discover. I had an interesting way of going about that, in the sense that it was about 220,000 cubic yards before I had any way of knowing how to do this. At a dollar-fifty a yard, we were about 300,000 dollars into this and the sky hadn’t moved. Of course, the other situation is that the people form the community who were actually working on it wanted to know what it was that they were doing. After dealing with the landowner and finding that the best way is to put people aware of the truth, I said, “You know, the reason you’re moving this land, this earth, is to change the sky.” Well, they just asked if they were going to get paid on Fridays.

This is the most work that was dine to the outside of it, right here, and you can see that it did take quite a bit of changing and moving to begin to do this. I think that it is very interesting that, after the workers would work on this moving of earth, they would leave and go eighteen miles to the 2 Bar 3 Bar, which it the closest place you could get a telephone and also the closest place you could get a beer. They would go there, and they would talk to their friends about what they were doing. But after about 220,000 cubic yards, after I had changed plans on them as to what they were doing and figured out that it took something different from what I had first thought to effect this shaping of sky, they would get down off their graders and Caterpillars and come down and look – they would stand there and look at it and lie down and look at it and get back on and do more work. Pretty soon, they were bringing their friends out from the 2 Bar 3 Bar, and they would stand there and look at it and lie down and look at it, and they would get up and exchange money.

Here it is now, shaped this last winter [1994-95]. I’ve also since been convinced that we did have to ranch there, and that was because a rancher that came in had a vested interest – they seriously overgrazed our land – which, of course, everyone in the area realized was my fault. We actually had to sue and get involved and get leases back for every other state section that was leased to somebody not in the area. We’ve been ranching this land for five years now, and it has helped a considerable amount. There has been a lot more support for the project, and, in fact, there was unanimous support at the planning and zoning meetings that we had, which required that we actually zone this for art, which has been done.”

Art in the Landscape, Chinati Foundation, 2000

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