How are your relationships with Other Than Humans ?

Two Social Sculpture artists explore Human-Nature relationships

Natalie comes from a background in mental health, wellbeing and photography. There was a pivotal moment in her teens when she saw the film Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, a 1982 experimental cult film directed by Godfrey Reggio with music by Philip Glass. The film is full of images of the world that we live in, that had been speeded up and slowed down. This film made her see the world through new eyes and ask questions about the impact of technological advancement, on us as humans and the rest of the inhabitants of the earth.

As a child Flora always went walking in the woods to find her answers. More recently her horse, Jack, reminded her of the many answers that can be found with the help of nature. Now that he is no longer young and fit enough to be ridden, Flora walks with him and he helps slow her down and be quiet and listen. Jack can read the tracks that they walk, he can tell what has gone before, and he looks for and likes particular food when they go foraging - now it’s the season for blackberries and they both like those.

Humans are driven by progress but there is rarely a moment when time is taken to reflect on how ‘ideas’ once developed may play themselves out. Is this the progress we want? What brings us happiness as humans? Are progress and happiness related? Much of the progress we are making seems to take us further away from the world that we are part of, further away from nature and the universe of which we are an integral part and unhappy. How often do we notice the other life that exists around us or consider what their lives might be like or how they perceive us as humans?

These questions have never gone away and they are questions that both Natalie and Flora look at in their work as Social Sculpture Practitioners. Social Sculpture is an extended concept of art, coined by the conceptual and performance artist and co-founder of the German Green Party, Joseph Beuys. Beuys believed that everyone is an artist and that art had the potential to transform society. Through human activity we can structure and shape society and the environment. It’s up to all of us to choose.

Inspiration for the pair’s work has come from various places, including looking at our past relationships as humans in nature; the recent groundswell at grassroots level of human communities fighting to protect their own local environments and the work of organisations such as the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund in the US,and Nature’s Rights in the UK.

This September, Natalie and Flora are running three events in Oxford, at Barracks Lane Community Gardens. The team see Barracks Lane Community Gardens as an important place for the event. The gardens represent so much about our relationship with nature, as a human community, and the realisation that having a healthy relationship with nature is crucial to our wellbeing and sustainability as a species. These events at Barracks Lane take the form of participatory explorations, sometimes with discussion, they are not a traditional lecture format.

A question that we don’t often ask in ordinary conversations with each other, ‘Do You Have A Special Relationship With An Other Than Human ?’ on 9th September looks at other people’s experiences and their relationships to Other Than Humans and asks what is yours ?

‘The Inverted Ark’ on 16 September is an immersive story telling taking you on a world where the animals and other humans have had enough. It asks, ‘What is your role in this story ?’ and ‘Nature Rights’ on 23 September is an invitation to explore the history looking at the human relationship to nature and your personal thoughts on the question, ‘Should Nature Have Rights ?’

The events are free. If you’d like to go along to the events register on Eventbrite, so that Flora and Natalie know you’re going to be there !