It also made me think of my own life and experiences of landscape and place, particularly the discussions around water. I had grown up around water in Australia – it was down the back of my grandmothers garden in the form of a reservoir; it was crashing onto the shores of the beaches we swam in and worshipped every weekend for all the hot, long summers of my childhood and it was glistening silently in the coves and hidden spots around Sydney Harbour, visible from the end of the street I grew up on. But, Id also been mainly absent from living in Australia over the last ten years during the severe droughts there. So I hadn't really reflected on water until now. And now England is expecting a drought this Summer.
Most of the information I was exposed to – the dangers of climate change on water levels; our ignorance and short sightedness of the practices of landfill - I already knew about intellectually, but here I was exploring it from a different angle and with a group of people who all brought new perspectives – scientists, artists and designers. It was an exchange and a shared experience and this was crucial.
Alot of the time we were moving between places, waiting for boats to arrive, or wandering as you do in large groups. Sometimes, it was boring, but sometimes you’d end up having a conversation with an expert in soil ecosystems. By sticking with it, and experiencing the whole three days, it started to make sense to me at a more profound level, the place inside me where personal meaning is formed by my past and present experiences.
This touches on something I have been thinking a lot about with my own research. Sustainability is personal – we have to make sense of it for ourselves as human beings.You can't force a design student to care about the environmental or social impacts that their future, distant actions may have. It has come from within them, but hopefully we can guide them towards that 'knowing'.
This experiment in new ways to teach art and design students about sustainability, has great potential. As they ask on the Short Course UK website: "What is the role of the art school in a time of environmental crisis? How can we reflect a growing interest in multi-disciplinary learning, where expertise is shared and where concern for sustainability and local environmental issues figure prominently? And what does it mean to be an artist or an art student; what is at stake, now, in being called a sculptor or a painter, an architect or a designer".
Some of the people involved went on to create new work based on the experience, and this was shown at Chelsea in February. For me, it has inspired my Local Textiles Project which had it's first iteration in Melbourne at Harvest Textiles in January.