msb ~010 Back to Tyger School

Back to Tyger School

Catman’s Blakean View – unknown Year 4 artist

It’s a foolhardy non-artist who puts his childish art on public display. The great drawing on the left isn’t mine, but a real work by a real, talented child artist. But I’ve drawn my morning online ‘learning to draw’ exercise for one of three great courses offered by artist-coach Jane Beinart (thoroughly recommended to anyone who thinks they ‘can’t draw’ and wants an unpressured, relaxing way to ignore that inner voice).

This exercise was to ‘recreate’ a picture by a child. I chose one we featured on the Finding Blake site I edit, in Linda Richardson’s post about a school class she took as artist-in-residence. She read Blake’s poem The Tyger. Then they all drew something. Continue reading “msb ~010 Back to Tyger School”

msb ~009 Fitting our oddness into the scheme of things

Fitting our oddness into the scheme of things

Nature Cure, by Richard Mabey; wood engravings by Jonathan Gibbs

A passage from one of my favourite ‘nature books’, Richard Mabey’s Nature Cure. Pondering the ‘opposition’ of nature and culture and the role of human language and imagination:

“It is odd that the gifts of image-making and language are so often seen as the attributes which irrevocably alienate us from nature, are the cause of our fall from grace. We will never know the state of self-consciousness of another species, but it’s a reasonable bet that most don’t use language in the way that we do, or think metaphorically, or meditate their vivid sense-experience through such a complex net of associations and references Continue reading “msb ~009 Fitting our oddness into the scheme of things”

msb ~008 In search of dark skies

In search of dark skies

A wise son makes a glad father – Photograph: Robin Stuart

Eating breakfast today, I was looking at this month’s image in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year calendar: Robin Stuart‘s Highly Commended ‘A Wise Son Makes a Glad Father’. Stuart shot this at Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. ‘The Maasai people are semi-nomadic, using the stars to navigate across the East African plains. My goal was to capture the moment when a father passes his knowledge of the stars down to his son, and how to use the Milky Way and their hut as compositional elements … It was a novel experience, but as the image shows, a fruitful one!’  Continue reading “msb ~008 In search of dark skies”

msb ~007 Through a lens clearly

Through a lens clearly

A new gravestone for William Blake
Photograph: James Murray-White

One of the projects I’m working on at the moment, mostly in the guise of web editor and researcher, is Finding Blake. Set up by Cambridge-based film maker James Murray-White, the project is a creative exploration of the relevance of William Blake, 18th/19th-century poet, artist, radical and visionary, for us today: reimagining our present predicaments through the lens of his work. 

I gave an interview recently with Sally Moss at Commonweal and she asked me about this project in connection with my own ClimateCultures site. At first sight, there might not seem much connection between William Blake and our climate crisis. Continue reading “msb ~007 Through a lens clearly”

msb ~006 Welcome to the snarge matrix

Welcome to the snarge matrix

Future Remains
Photos: Tim Flach / Cover Design: Isaac Tobin
University of Chicago Press 2018

I’m reading Future Remains: a cabinet of curiosities for the Anthropocene and one entry has collided with my imagination. Gary Kroll’s Snarge is a meditation on the impact – literally and metaphorically – between human and non-human in The Great Acceleration that is our age. 

Snarge, he explains is the term naturalists use for “the avian tissue that’s left over after a bird-strike … a horrible word that onomatopoeically conveys the peculiarly destructive violence of acceleration in the Anthropocene.”

Continue reading “msb ~006 Welcome to the snarge matrix”

msb ~005 Creating greener narratives

Creating greener narratives 

“Amazing eels”… Avalon Marshes, Somerset 2017
Photograph: Mark Goldthorpe

An email from a friend in Australia brought a pleasant reminder of a week spent at Bath Spa University one year ago. We were part of an Association of Commonwealth Universities summer school: Masters and PhD students from all over the Commonwealth and the disciplinary spectrum, all looking at the role of environmental arts and humanities. It was a great opportunity to build connections between ideas and practices as much as between people, thanks to the great work of our hosts, Bath Spa’s Research Centre for Environmental Humanities. 

Continue reading “msb ~005 Creating greener narratives”

msb ~004 Impact beyond the factory walls

Impact beyond the factory walls

Gripple Energy Lab – from Stories of Change

One of the many excellent passages in the book Energetic which didn’t quite make it into my ClimateCultures review today is this interview with Gordon Macrae at Gripple:

“One of the things we recognised, probably about seven or eight years ago, was that we have an environmental impact. It started from having the Carbon Trust come in and do an energy audit. They said, ‘Your carbon footprint is great, you’re only using 500 tonnes of carbon.’ And I thought about that and said, ‘That’s rubbish!’ because if you look at the amount of carbon that we’re using, up and down the supply chain, it’s significantly more than that.” Continue reading “msb ~004 Impact beyond the factory walls”

msb ~003 Getting energetic with utopias

Getting energetic with utopias

The book from Stories of Change: the past, present & future of energy

I’m drafting my ClimateCultures review of Energetic, the book from the Stories of Change project on the past, present and future of energy. I helped organise the 2016 launch conference, with TippingPoint, the Open University and others, and it’s great to see the wealth of thinking and creativity the project’s generated. Energetic includes an account from Dan Barnard of fanSHEN on engaging people with future thinking, and their principles are good ones to adopt and adapt: Continue reading “msb ~003 Getting energetic with utopias”

msb ~002 Prototyping Climate Museum UK

Prototyping Climate Museum UK

Group work at Climate Museum UK. Photo: Bridget McKenzie 2018

I took part in a first workshop for an exciting new initiative: a mobile Climate Museum for the UK. Created by Bridget McKenzie of Flow Associates, the vision is to creatively stir a response to the climate emergency, through an experimental mobile museum and a growing collection of artworks and activity tools; exploring climate change and the biosphere in ways that empower its participants to learn, share testimony and take positive action. Continue reading “msb ~002 Prototyping Climate Museum UK”