A one-day symposium, 'Staying with the Trouble' on Wednesday 4th October, 2023 marked the closing of the KinShip project's 'Tentacular Thinking' exhibition, at the Rory Gallagher Theatre, MTU Bishopstown Campus, Cork.
The symposium showcased through a series of talks and presentations, the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and the input of diverse forms of knowledge in addressing rights of nature and climate action. By embracing multiple perspectives and ways of knowing, the kinShip project aims to stay engaged with the complexities of the issues at hand when confronting environmental degradation.
The sessions have been recorded and are available to view below on this page, full introductions and time stamps for the different presenters are available in the video descriptions which accompany the videos in Vimeo.
Welcome to both the Tentacular Thinking exhibition and the Staying with the Trouble symposium.
For those of you who don't know us, we're LennonTaylor an artist collaboration who initiated the KinShip Project in partnership with Cork City Council at the end of 2021. We're both practising artists who work collaboratively within the public sphere. We’ve worked together for over 15 years both as educators and as social art practitioners. We will be your MC’s for the symposium today.
If you've not yet seen the TENTACULAR THINKING survey exhibition (2022-23) in the James Barry Exhibition Centre, we encourage you to take some time to experience the varied responses and creative outcomes from a selection of exhibitors who include, Collette Lewis, Finn Nicol, Jesse Hallaway, Chelsea Canavan, Gerry Murphy, Ann Burns, the CorkTraveller Women's Network, Students from MTU’s Fine Art programme at CrawfordCollege of Art and Design, Fuinneamh Workshop+ Engineers, Fiona Kelly, Maeve Lynch, Disco Milk, as well as ourselves LennonTaylor.
The KinShip exhibition Tentacular Thinking is both a chance to celebrate the work of the exhibitors, and it's a moment to pause and reflect on the ongoing focus of this public art project.
An overview of what’s going to happen throughout the day and who is presenting -
Adjacent to the Rory Gallagher Theatre entrance, KinShip partners Cork Nature Network and the MTU Clean Technology Centre have set up information stands. You will be able to chat with members of both groups about their recent research. You might find the Tramore Valley Park Biodiversity Plan by CNN and the CTC’s National Waste Study particularly interesting in relation to the topic of today's symposium.
The title of both the exhibition Tentacular Thinking, and the symposium, Staying with the Trouble are inspired by Donna J Haraway’s book, Staying with the Trouble, Making Kin in the Chthulucene.
In her writing she encourages us to resist the temptation to retreat or disengage in the face of environmental crises.Instead, she calls for active participation and collective efforts to mitigate the damage, restore ecological balance, and build sustainable futures. Thismeans acknowledging the complexity of the issues at hand, embracing uncertainty, and persistently working towards positive change.
The name of the project ‘KinShip’, is drawn from a number of sources. Our definition of kinship is a profound sense of interconnectedness and respect for all living beings, where humans are seen as part of a larger family of life rather than separate from it.
To that end the KinShip project initiated four programmed strands over the first year and a half. We asked artists to engage with the site giving them ‘the subterranean, the ground and the aerial as provocations that might prompt their creative enquiry. We also created an international architectural competition for an EcoLab. The ‘Becoming Kin' programme helped us to build an understanding of the available lay skills, and know-how in the locality. And finally, we created an ongoing archive, the Midden Chronicles, which recorded theday to day activities, dialogues and contestations of the project.
This morning's presentations in the symposium are led by artists, architects, engineers, and scientists who through KinShip, investigate the site through a number of creative enquiries.
At 10.00am Fuinneamh Workshop architect Sean Antoin O’Muirí and engineer Kieran Ruane will talk about their construction of the EcoLab in Tramore Valley Park.
At 11.30am KinShip longterm artist in placement Colette Lewis is in conversation with Helen O'Shea, a textile artist focused on new narratives for waste plastics. They are joined by Eileen O' Leary, a senior researcher with the MTU Clean Technology Centre who's research includes waste flows.
Video includes -
12.00 mins - Opening address by President of Munster Technological University, Professor Maggie Cusack, introduced by Munster Technological University Arts officer Sarah Morey.
22.40 mins - Introduction to the KinShip project and the symposium by artist collaboration LennonTaylor.
37.00 mins - Presentation by Fuinneamh Workshop Architects - Seán Antóin Ó’Muirí and Kieran Ruane (KinShip EcoLab, sustainable construction and material processes). Fuinneamh Workshop Architects are the team responsible for the design and construction of Ireland's first public rammed earth EcoLab shelter currently under construction in Tramore Valley Park commissioned by the KinShip project through an open call competition. The team will talk about their construction ethos and the use of rammed earth, thatch, hoggin and wood as sustainable materials in the building of the EcoLab.
1.35 mins - Colette Lewis in conversation with Helen O'Shea and Eileen O'Leary: (Sustainable materials, waste, circular economy, creativity). Artist Colette Lewis created the (Waste) Fibre Flows Laboratory on her long-term KinShip Artist Placement, as an experimental space to process materials and ideas for new ways of thinking about our complicated and entangled relationship with waste. The laboratory is a space where policy, philosophy, speculative design and hands-on material processes meet.Colette will be in conversation with Helen O'Shea, a textile artist focused on new narratives for waste plastics.
1.50 - mins They are joined by Eileen O' Leary, a senior researcher with the MTU Clean Technology Centre who's research includes waste flows. (This session is continued in the KinShip Symposium_AM_session2 video) Helen worked with Colette on the (Waste) Fibre Flows Laboratory workshop at Cork City Chambers, 2022.
At 12.00pm Socially engaged artist, Ann Burns will be in conversation with visual artist and KinShip filmmaker Linda Curtin, to discuss the role of XR technologies and climate action.
12.30 - 12.40 - Award winning poet and Aosdana member Gerry Murphy will contextualise and read Mounds of Earth, Mounds of Memory, a poem commissioned by KinShip as a result of Gerry’s residency in the park in2022.
Video includes -
0.15 mins - Helen O'Shea, a textile artist focused on new narratives for waste plastics. Helen collaborated with Artist Colette Lewis who created the (Waste) Fibre Flows Laboratory on her long-term KinShip Artist Placement, as an experimental space to process materials and ideas for new ways of thinking about our complicated and entangled relationship with waste. The laboratory is a space where policy, philosophy, speculative design and hands-on material processes meet.Helen O'Shea and artist Colette Lewis are joined by Eileen O' Leary, a senior researcher with the MTU Clean Technology Centre whose research includes waste flows. Helen worked with Colette on the (Waste) Fibre Flows Laboratory workshop at Cork City Chambers, 2022. Eileen was a participant on that workshop.
10.20 mins - Ann Burns: Socially engaged artist, Ann Burns will be in conversation with immersive filmmaker Linda Curtin, to discuss the role of XR technologies and climate action. Ann undertook a KinShip artist placement in Tramore Valley Park in '22-'23 and Linda is currently making an artist film documenting the EcoLab construction.
54.50 mins - KinShip Poet Gerry Murphy reading his new poem for The Kinship Project, 'Mounds of Earth Mounds of Memory'
Over the second half of the lunchtime break, here in the theatre the 'Anthem' for Tramore ValleyPark, Deciduous, Soniferous composed by artist Jesse Hallaway in collaboration with plants in the park will be playing.
Alongside the Anthem, a looped film will screen the individual names of over 260 birds, botanicals, mammals, insects and invertebrates that currently make Tramore Valley Park their habitat.
The anthem will also be played for the closing of the symposium at the end of the afternoon presentations when we will ask you to stand at attention for the first minute of its playing .
We should also mention that Disco Milk have created a limited edition Zine, copies of which will be given away free to you,in a reciprocal contractual exchange. The covers of the zine are impregnated with wild irish flower seeds, so we’re asking 40 of you to exchange a zine for your promise to plant, grow and document the growing of the seeds.
Afternoon session -
This session concentrates on Rights of Nature for Tramore Valley Park
We’r every excited to bring to Cork the next two sessions speakers
14.00pm - 14.45pm From the Love Our Ouse Project -Cllr Matthew Bird (Mayor of Lewes) and Natasha Padbury (Founding Director ofLove Our Ouse) who are part of the first successful campaign to declare Rights of Nature for a river in England.
Video Includes -
Love Our Ouse Project (UK) -Cllr Matthew Bird (Mayor of Lewes and Town Councillor (and Natasha Padbury (Founding Director of Love Our Ouse).On 20 February 2023, Lewes District Council (Sussex UK) passed, by 27 votes to 2, a Rights of River motion for the river Ouse. The passing of this motion, the first in the country, means a charter on the river Ouse’s rights will be developed over the next two years. The motion was proposed by Matthew Bird, who is a former cabinet member for sustainability as well as climate lead for Sussex Wildlife Trust.Love Our Ouse is the lead organisation who has initiated and is developing and delivering the Rights of River work for the River Ouse with community participation as a big part of the remit.
And following this is Dr. Peter Doran, an activist-law academic lecturing in Law and Sustainable Development at the School of Law, Queen's University Belfast. Peter has a long-standing interest in political ecology and international affairs, and sits on theSteering Group of the Environmental Justice Network Ireland.
Video Includes -
Opening sound - 'Deciduous, Soniferous' an ‘anthem' for Tramore Valley Park, created in collaboration with plants in Tramore Valley Park and Artist Jesse Hallaway.
00.10 mins - Peter Doran is an activist-law academic with a long-standing interest in political ecology and international affairs. His research and interests include degrowth and the wellbeing economy, climate justice, global environmental politics, and the intersections of Zen philosophy, ecology, and wellbeing. His most recent publication is the book, A Political Economy of Attention: Reclaiming the Mindful Commons (Routledge 2018). He is also a senior editor/writer for the International Institute for Sustainable Development at United Nations conferences on the environment and development. He has worked on environmental policy and campaigns in both government and NGO settings for over thirty years. Peter is on the steering group of Environmental Justice Network Ireland."The Rights of Nature movement is capturing the imaginations of communities across the world because it helps to turn our narratives of transition towards the ‘more-than-human': that intimate web of nature and meaning in which we are all entangled and implicated. It also represents an expression of a ‘biocentric’ or ‘ecocentric’ turn in the law: a decentring of ‘the human’ in favour of protecting the intrinsic rights of other beings”. Peter Doran et al, 2021.
15:30- The last session of the day is the KinShip Imagining Session where we pose a number of pertinent questions
Now for a little context about the symposium
Before we conclude our introduction we’d like to briefly talk about Tramore Valley Park. From 1964 to 2009, the site was used as a municipal landfill for Cork city. The area first opened up as a park in 2015 before fully opening to the public in 2019.
The public park is managed by Cork City Council, and it has been their mission to oversee the closure of the landfill, its remediation and the engineering of anew ‘natural’ habitat there.
Ecology writer Emma Marris challenges traditional notions of what is considered "natural" and questions the idea that pristine wilderness areas are the only places worthy of conservation efforts. She argues that many ecosystems are already altered by human activities, advocating for biodiversity conservation in every possible place from toxic brownfield sites to small corners of concrete filled cities. We need every small scrap of land to build viable ecosystems and preserve them for future generations.
What is the role of art in climate change?
We know that there is no single answer to the question of what art should do under the looming shadow of the climate crises. What is clear is that the old stories of modernity that sustained us in the world are becoming obsolete. For Tramore Valley Park we need new stories, beyond the human centric, we need multispecies stories that will assist us in truly knowing and being in the world.
Venessa Machado de Olivera in her book, ‘Hospicing Modernity’ makes a distinction between ‘problems’ on the one hand -things that can actually or potentially be fixed and on the other hand, 'predicaments’ , which she says are things that must constantly be dealt with on an ongoing basis, but they won't be solved, and they won't go away.
Artist inquiry isn't about finding easy explanations or solutions, it's about an ongoing endeavour to work with, to stay with, the trouble of climate change.
Making KinShip understands that we are in a space of predicaments that need to be confronted, not problem solving. De Olivera wraps this approach in a beautiful metaphor, she tells a story…. in a flood situation, when the water is up to our ankles or knees, it is still is possible to walk or wade, however when the water reaches our hips then it becomes possible for us to swim, in other words we may only learn to swim or act differently once we have no other choice.
This points to an experiential knowledge that artists can employ. There is a big difference between knowledge of climate change and knowing about climate change. This afternoon our presenters, LoveOur Ouse, will introduce the creative and activist work that their community has undertaken with River Ouse. As a community they have learned how to knowabout climate change from within their experience of being with River.
Knowledge can often be what we hold out thereat arms-length, this may be the result of the enormous wealth of scientific knowledge and the trust that we place in it.
‘Knowing climate change is what happens when that distance between knowledge and encounter collapses, when we are faced with it, through lived experience.
We must call on all disciplines, forms of knowledge and bearers of knowledge to work together. How do we, “stay with the trouble” when staying with the trouble requires “making odd-kin”, that is, we require each other to engage in unexpected collaborations and combinations, in hot compost piles. We become “with each other or not at all”, as Haraway would put it.
On a final note, we know that there’s a significant amount of experience and knowledge already here in the room and we hope that you’ll have opportunities to respond, to meet, share ideas and network with us and each other over the course of the day.
Days like this are dependent upon the generosity and support of a large number of collaborators, and funders, who have made the KinShip Project at Tramore Valley Park possible. First of all we would like to thank our host MTU President Professor Maggie Cusack for opening the symposium. Thanks also to our hosts in the MTU Arts Office - Sarah Morey, Kevin Twomey and Sharon McCarthy.
Also a huge thanks to our funders - CreativeIreland’s Creative Climate Action Fund, Cork City Council Arts Office, Cork City Councils Creative Climate Action Fund. and for supporting this exhibition and Symposium MTU’s Create Le Cheile Arts Fund.
Finally thanks to our partners and all of our KinShip Working Group. We especially want to extend a huge thanks to the KinShip Project Assistant Angela Houlihan and Assistant Arts Officer for Cork City Council, Siobhan Clancy for keeping our heads above water.