Upstream Consciousness: exploring artists’ fieldwork through geomorphing, spiralling and co-productive ecologies

Harrington, Laura (2022) Upstream Consciousness: exploring artists’ fieldwork through geomorphing, spiralling and co-productive ecologies. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This practice-based enquiry examines the ways in which artistic practice encounters and then utilises the spatio- temporal, relational, material, and embodied nature of fieldwork.

The thesis is developed predominately through my own field based activities and artistic production within peatland landscapes in Finnish Lapland (Sápmi), Eastern Finland and at Moor House–Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve, UK research that I have conducted with and alongside other artists and scientists, supported here by a critical survey of other artists’ methods in, and approaches to, the field.

The research therefore develops, enacts and proposes practical strategies that investigate conditions in and connections between artist and field. To this end, the thesis finds value in three critical terms and approaches – geomorphing, spiralling and co-productive ecologies. Geomorphing is a practice which is reactive to material and experiential conditions; spiralling holds and works with indeterminate openness; and co-productive ecologies privilege collective actions as eventful and critical to field-based research. These methods not only position fieldwork as a situated, self-reflective and embodied practice, they also foreground ethical questions of environmental responsibility. As such, the research advances an ethos for a productive ethics of engagement, which I call upstream consciousness: a soft activism, potentially creating the conditions to reorientate ourselves within the current environmental crisis.

Through a practical and theoretical approach, building upon recent ecologically conscious geographical, feminist and philosophical insights, this research fosters a coming-together of bodies, temporalities, spaces and concepts, whilst also unsettling notions of established knowledge production. Informed by Doreen Massey’s notion of ‘spatio-temporal events’; Jane Bennett’s conception of enchantment and vibrant matter; and Donna Haraway’s situated and ‘response-able’ feminist thinking, the research broadens understandings of artists’ fieldwork as a discursive and creative activity of relevance to the arts, science and philosophy. In conceiving of such methods as productive and complex acts of engagement, it furthers discussion of diverse and interdisciplinary ways of knowing – and contributes to evolving discourses of more-than-human fieldwork, place-orientated thinking, and coproductive research.

In an era of increasing environmental instability, this research asks in what ways artists’ approaches might engage productively with a field in continual process, and in turn contribute to interdisciplinary and non-hierarchical understandings of particular environments. In doing so, the research contributes to contemporary epistemologies of place, landscape and related ecological thought.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: fieldworking, artists’ methods, peatlands, more-than-human fieldwork, place-orientated thinking
Subjects: W100 Fine Art
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Arts
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2023 08:22
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2023 14:30

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