A project in conjunction with the Field Notes Collective and the Alberta Rural Development Network
In 2008 a group of scientists and artists recognizing the overlapping interests of their disciplines began meeting under the moniker of the Field Notes Collective. Intent to stimulate discussion, actions and ideas surrounding the complex relationships that exist between people and their local environment, a symposium was proposed – Ecotone. Designed as three stages, the project would see artists, scientists, local ranchers and others from the community meet to explore issues ranging from engagement with the land to responsible food production. The first segment of the project offered lectures, video presentations, a 100km dinner and a walking tour of one of Canada’s oldest agricultural research stations. The second segment invited participating artists to spend time at one of the ranches in the area to live, work and develop ideas for the third segment: an exhibition based on the experiences and dialogues that surfaced throughout the previous stages of the project.
Ecotone has been generated from distinctly local investigations and responses to ecological issues. It looks to the experiences of those artists encountering firsthand an environment in many ways unfamiliar, despite its proximity and our complicity in shaping its form, function, and consequently, it’s social, economic, political and environmental structures. In fact, this condition is succinctly reflected in the title of the project: ‘ecotone’ being defined as that liminal space where two communities meet and integrate - a grey zone where ecologies are in tension and as a result, more biologically rich and diverse.
The works in the exhibition employ a range of material, medium and form as diverse as the issues and ideas that these artists approach. Lyndal Osborne pairs a selection of prints with specimens of rough fescue shifting from the characteristically long roots of a healthy plant to those starved and stunted from practices of overgrazing. Mary Kavanagh considers the inter-species dialectic of abattoir workers and animal subjects while examining the mythological scope of meat production. Dagmar Dahle’s delicately expressive gouache drawings of invasive plant species in Lethbridge underscore the reality that these seemingly benign flora have dramatic and often irreversible impacts on our local environment. From urban encroachment to resource extraction, the multiplicity of responses offered by the many other artists included in this exhibition speak to the enormous complexities at play in our local environment. In light of this, one cannot help but consider the bewildering reality of these same problems magnified and multiplied on a global platform. And yet, as projects like Ecotone are increasingly cultivated in communities around the world - sharing stories, perspectives, ideas and actions – there is a renewed sense of optimism and the promise of a future more accountable than our past.