As this blog is attempting to record the journey(s) to the Environmental Art Festival Scotland as a document of one event in Scotland at a point in time (last weekend in August to be precise) “how and why is this to be achieved ?” you may ask.
“Good question” I reply, and probably ask: “What’s the alternative? Or what makes this challenging and why wouldn’t I (or others) want to document?
We are constantly documenting and recording, we can’t help it. If it is those 40.000 year old cave paintings, hieroglyphics, rock formations of long gone human settlements, parchment with ink markings, stained glass windows, tapestries, wood carvings, paintings, books or the ruin of a 14th Century Castle in the South West of Scotland, they all fulfill functions as a now historic manifestations that references the many narratives of events, environment, community, individual, tastes, fashions, skills, practice, concepts, ideas, emotions, etc…
Some were created consciously as documents with the sole function to make permanent and/or communicate a message of meaning of some sort beyond the direct community and/ or present (now the past). The act of ‘recording’ making a meaning tangible and accessible. Over time and changing environment, conditions, human interactions, other narratives and meanings become evidenced in the alteration and/ or change of the physical media.
In addition hindsight may also in retrospect value these documents as they may be viewed or interpreted as a ‘witness’ to what today may be valued by association to an individual, community, environment, event, and location of some historic significance as part of the wider narrative for a region, society, ideology, religion as a shared and valued identity.
Quality, quantity and availability of documentation determine the interpretation and subsequently meaning of recorded data.
What exactly is documentation? I am sure there will be various definitions for this, I expect them to be as diverse as the number of individuals who have bothered to define and communicate their definitions of ‘documentation’.
Whatever you may think of documentation it is always an activity, sometimes accidental, sometimes targeted, sometimes desperate and sometimes ‘invisible’.
For documenting your journey to EAFS, I want to open up the thinking of and behind ‘documentation’.
Apart from utilising a media with which to make permanent markings on (stone and chisel, pen and paper, textile and pigment, celluloid and chemicals, binary code and micro chip,etc…) the recording of information- there is the other significant part of documentation: the communication or transmitting of the information to a recipient, most commonly not direct but indirect- across time and space. Perceiving and communicating a message directly is a conversation, relaying the message at a later time and in a different space is a story (history). Regardless it will still require a human to perceive-interpret to understand- and communicate/ transmit the message. In reality the human is therefore always the medium transmitting/ communicating a message.
The other significant action is that of ‘recording’, which the individual(s) arranging lines, shapes and colour over the stone surface of a cave (40.000 years ago) is one example of.
We all record and utilise other recordings continuously, perceived and expressed through our five senses and ability to shape, arrange, model, manipulate physical media. May this be to be up to date on the world news, study a specific subject, converse with the neighbor, mark an event, or wanting to influence others.
Documentation as an activity is neutral, the medium (a human being) however is always subjective which defines any documentation as relative and never absolute or ‘a true account’.
You may wonder where all this thinking on my behalf concerning documentation is coming from, well I am a professional ‘documentor’ so to speak, as in my professional life I have trained, studied and practice the conservation of cultural heritage-past and contemporary.
I am ‘geared’ towards perceiving, creating and using documents – physical objects, books, electronic literature, conversations, in order to gain insight and understanding of an object entrusted into my care- to not only preserve it’s physical material culture for longevity but to also to reveal avenues to it’s hidden narratives-the intangible culture- for present and future generations to access for learning, study, inspiration and subsequently care and appreciation of our shared cultural heritage. Everything I do, the sources for research, study of associated historical, art historical contexts, and resulting decisions for intervention such as cleaning, repairing or stabilising the physical and chemical condition of an object I document.
The purpose of documentation as a methodology goes beyond the recording of facts, tangible evidence and bibliography-it is the process of placing and connecting the quantitative data into and with the qualitative contexts. Information is communicated as narratives, and it is the story telling-rather than facts and measures-that allow us to comprehend meaning rather than fact.
Conservation is a funny profession, it is difficult to describe. In a nutshell it is both science and art, philosophy and experience, theory and practice.
The motivation for conservation (and in a broader sense conservation as a philosophy applicable to wildlife, and environment) is reverence, expressed as value through care.
Values are relative, subjective and continuously transitioning. In our present time we have experienced an overwhelming focus on the value of money. It is of such significance in our contemporary daily lives that it even defines the purpose and value of education, health, culture, art and environment in the thesaurus and quantifiable language of business.
In my understanding the nature of how and what we communicate shapes and manifests our reality, our values and perceptions.
There is a lack of quality and meaning in so much of our daily communication which determines our values.
It is not much of a coincidence that Art has become marginalised in societies that increasingly communicate economic driven values, where the measurable outcome (ideally in monetary terms) matters and success (profit/commodity) validated as ‘beneficial’.
The contemporary Art market may be seen as a somewhat disturbing consequence of the value of outcomes: the physical manifestation of ‘art at work’ is often disproportionately valued as a commodity over the dynamics of engagement, conversation, empowerment, inspiration, and community art facilitates.
The Environmental Art Festival Scotland is an opportunity to document not only the outcomes (locality, program, art projects, performances) as the final destination- but to document the dynamics, conditions, and energy that facilitate and nurture values, practices, opportunities, collaboration, engagement and networks to be recorded as a map for charting and navigating the journey towards a shared sustainable future and to sustain our ability to art and care.
No goals-only play.