New art and ecology, or the non-intervention pact.
One may wonder about two things: what to prevent from happening or what to change by intervening? And: who is intervening and who is accomodating the intervention? Both questions render most interventions suspicious, and reveal the orchestrated nature both by the interventionist and the ones organising, accepting or accomodating it.
Some time ago, while working outside, I damaged both of my thumbs in one heavy hammerstroke. How this could be achieved is another story, but suddenly I had to re-learn the most everyday activities you normally do with ease and all the time - or better: without pain - to avoid using the thumbs at all. Imagine taking up a pot from the table, tying your shoelaces, buttoning a coat, drinking from a cup, writing… Interventions in everyday life act like that: they make you do things you are accustomed to in a different way, or even make you do different things, because it has become impossible to do them the way you did before. Intervention as an art practice has its long history from Dada till today, and is mostly belonging to a socio-political art approach style. From the Western art history one remembers the 'Two men jump naked into Tracey's bed' intervention from 1999, and many other stunts. Of course these are references to quite incestuous approaches, and promote superficially deviant art performances with a claim to remediate art, but in reality without any intention to really change it. It is rather set up as a matter of self-promotion by other artists than the ones embraced by the larger galleries. It doesn't even change the way a general public perceives the art work/world, as self-conceited, self-absorbed and self-contained. But certainly not as part of the creative potential of a society.
Probably most people will encounter the term intervention in an urban context, but nowadays, this is no longer the case. Let's take an example. Kultivator is a farm with artists, working and living in the countryside on Öland, the biggest island of Sweden. Kultivator has a residency, exhibition space and a dairy farm with 30 cows, chickens, ducks, sheep and horses. Since the start in 2005, approximately 80 artists, researchers and farmers have visited and worked there (http://www.kultivator.org). When going through the extensive list of artistic interventions, workshops, etc., it becomes obvious that most of the works don't interfere with rural activities but rather go along with them, making them a richer and a different aesthetic experience. Where the countryside used to be associated with backwardness and traditionalism, today the countryside is changing alongside the rest of the cities and periferies, mainly due to the presence of media (country kids use as much internet and play as many games as city children). To work in the countryside is therefore essentially not some hippyish escape from the maddening crowd and technology. On the contrary, it can bring out the terms for realising a more ecological world more explicitly and directly than in the massively artificial living environment a city stands for and always will be. Considering the fact that the countryside is a dynamical unit, and as much connected to the same media, the progressive tendencies that it is containing as well remain largely hidden. The dominant rhetoric of Green Cities, and Urban Farming, and its associated city representations of tools and constructions seem not to be applying here. 'This is not a modified car park, it is a real field,' somebody said the other day, sweating in the vegetable garden. So what can these interventions be about today, safely outside of the city?
An intervention has also been associated with therapy, and refers to an attempt to make people with psychiatric problems, mostly with an addiction or traumatic crisis, realize they need professional help. There are 2 types of intervention, by confrontation or invitation (with a lot of gradations in between). From the past, two interesting phenomena regarding these different approaches can be mentioned here: the Little Sparta and Kanonklubben gardens.
As a first form of intervention, the confrontation style, certainly the case of the artist Ian Hamilton Finlay and his wife Sue, Finlay's Garden Agon or Little Sparta garden has to be mentioned (1966/1983). Finlay was combining in his work gardening, victorian neoclassical and mythological aesthetics, and themes like war and opposition. He had been rebuilding his country garden along these lines. When the first conflicts with the authorities started over taxes and artworks, Finlay tried to register the garden as a religious place, which only made matters worse. Twenty years of conflicts ended with the local government being dissolved by the state. Today Little Sparta is public, can be visited in summer, and is maintained by the The Little Sparta Trust, a registered Scottish charity. A full account written by Susan Stewart can be read here (sorry for the long links), with an interesting introduction on gardens: https://books.google.cz/books?id=l3CwSWamWVwC&pg=PA124&dq=art+intervention++garden+london+tree&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj4-ea0rrHMAhWjDpoKHa0gBkMQ6AEIOjAB#v=onepage&q&f=false
As a second form, the invitation style can be illustrated by the case of Kanonklubben, a group of young Swedish artists (1969). They were initially invited to exhibit their art works in a new building in Copenhagen, a home for old people. Instead they started to ask the old people how they wanted the central garden to be done, including all their wishes, dreams, aesthetics and imagination. Together with the residents they started to build a garden, including a lake, bridge, rock garden and a garden house, a bird bath and most of the vegetation. So in the end there was no exhibition and the garden can still be visited today. For pictures and documentation please download the free pdf at http://www.ynkb.dk/pdf/tema14.pdf
But a garden in a city is not the same as a garden on the countryside. Urban permaculture is not rural permaculture. Neither in its culture, its politics, its shapes or forms. The current status of the farmland and natural areas has tremendously changed over the last decades. The mixture of declining production and rising leisure activities already is suggesting the conversion of the former economical model, and goes hand in hand with a new cultural awareness that is pervading the areas. One only has to browse the infamous Yo-Yo RurArtMap to understand the quantity and importance of sometimes radical cultural and artistic initiatives in the countryside (http://yo-yo-yo.org/rurart/).
From a new environmental point of view, an intervention within the current perifery and countryside can only be based on preserving the fragility of what is left of the natural, combined with a socio-economical (and thus cultural) quick reconversion, even if that would destroy our romantic and metaphysical view of what nature really is, including human activities. A non-intervening attitude includes a retreat from trying to change the environment for political and practical purposes. A non-intervention saves us from imposing artistic paternalistic actions on nature, and people currently living there. On the contrary, a return to a confrontation with what at this moment persists, probably can lead to more interesting developments conform to creating a better environment over the coming decades. Maybe then, a creative action, not a self-conceited, self-absorbed and self-contained artwork, can be appreciated again?
This morning, Saturday at 8:30 am, the village intercom (rozhlas) was announcing a celebration by the fire brigades, and inviting the villagers to come and participate, or have a drink and snack. The announcement is starting and ending with an short orchestral tune to attract attention. The wolf shepherd who usually howls its way through the music died last week, so now the announcements are less of an excitement here. But more is possible than meets the ear. On an island of Hailuoto in northern Finland, Haiart was established in 2012, inviting artists for sound art works, and children workshops. This is turning the remote island into an interesting music place, far away from the city venues. (http://haiart.net/ and https://soundcloud.com/haiart)
Back to Hranice, Maleč. Apart from the countrybands performing throughout the year in the local pub, there are 2 music festivals for youngsters in the small town. Brutofest is an annual outdoor festival in the centre of Maleč, with the usual hardcore punk, metal core and other guitar band flavours. It is producing quite some volume. Most of the surrounding hamlets don't have to leave their place to enjoy the music, reflecting long-distance between barns, walls, houses, and sheds. (http://bandzone.cz/koncert/341718-malec-malec-parket-za-mistni-hospodou-brutofest-vol-7)
But all good things come in pairs. And there is an alternative festival On/Off with more variety and a little more quiet, in an old cowshed in Hranice, 3 kms out of the town. The 15 or so neighbours tolerate the youngsters having their annual noisy night, with vegetarian snacks and homebrewn beers. The organizers, the mysterious Moth Catchers Collective, are maintaining their own website - so watch this for the next edition coming up July 2nd. (http://hraniceonoff.blogspot.cz/2015/05/kapely2015.html).
Back in 2012, someone said: 'no-one likes marching bands'. After asking people around, and getting confirmed there had not been played any marching music live over the last 20 years in Hranice, we were staging a small festival. Three bands were contacted and one was formed with artists. During the marching from 4 directions the groups were playing their own music. Once together they were playing a new score, unrehearsed. Then they would perform their own repertoire for the neighbours and visitors. What is interesting with marching bands is that they don't attract audience to one place, but gather them on the road by sonic invitation. In 2012, they played together a contemporary piece for the first time. A confrontation. But it seems as if everyone liked it very much. What can be more dissonant than the village bells? So fanfares can go far and still be appreciated. To be repeated. Somewhere remote but still belonging to the environment. (http://yo-yo-yo.org/vitr-vetrne-nastroje-a-pochodove-kapely/vitr-dokumentace/)
Back today. Back into content. Can we make compositions with a specifically interventionist character, yet conform with what is happening in the countryside? What could be a (non-prescriptive) poetics useful for making music there where there is hardly any, if you are ruling out the birds, dogs, deer, pigs, cows, airplanes, motors from tools and machines, … ?