Monday, October 8, 2007

The Land tells you what to do...


I watched a documentary film yesterday called 'TableLand', which was being showcased as a part of Pop Montreal's yearly movie series: For more info:
The movie's focus was on small-scale food production, and the leaders of the movement towards a sustainable food system.

I was drawn to it for inspiration for my own investment in ecological conservation as well as for my research paper on artists who work with land, using knowledge of natural forces and plant life to inform and empower their work.

It was clear to me that the individuals interviewed for the documentary were artists in their own right, but ones working within concrete means; towards practical and activist-oriented goals. Their shared vision and respective labours of love were rooted in a desire to see changes in the way in which their local economies operated, a desire to provide basic sustenance to family and friends, and protect the land that surrounds them and that keeps them in turn, alive.

The interviews were focused on a dialogue around locally produced, community-oriented food systems, the conservation of seeds to ensure the propagation of varieties for the future, and genetic integrity of the food that feeds us. The occupations of the individuals ranged from farmers, chefs, teachers, writers, activists, program managers and oyster cultivators. I perceived them all as artists who are quite literally labouring to fight for a world whose genetic diversity remains intact and where the health of one's commnity and the land upon which the community lives is a priority.

Watching the film and relating it to my research paper led me to inquire into where the traditional role of an artist lies when they commit to ecological conservation. Art (as lifestyle) and the work committed to land is an inquiry into the fabric of everyday existence, where vision meets action that carries out into the world with true impact.

"The land tells you what to do.." is a quote on creativity which came up in the film, (though I'm not able to remember the name of the person who expressed it). This quote stirred me to broaden my notions of how an artist can bridge their creative vision into actions that are deeply rooted within the needs of their community and their environment. A symbiotic relationship develops when one stays in an environment for an extended period of time: with the plants, the people, the landscape, the bio-region. As alluded to in the quote, a place for intuitive understanding of environment opens up where knowledge of land in all its extensions becomes important. The land will indeed speak, so any individual choosing to put their focus into a particular environment will learn to listen to it as a living entity in order to enter into a full understanding of what creative and practical needs are to be addressed.

A committed relationship to one's sense of place in the world becomes possible when one enters into a relationship of understanding with a chosen environment. I am curious about artists who challenge their creative drive and allow it to emerge beyond individual self expression into a relationship to place, to community and to environment.