AALERT 4 DM - Art and Artists in Landscape and Environment Research Today for Decision Making

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Geography and Environmental Sciences

Abstract

The Arts and the Artist in Landscape and Environmental Research Today for Decision Making (AALERT 4 DM) project aims to explore and enhance the impact arts research, can make in decision-making related to landscape, land-use and land assets. It builds on the legacy of the AALERT workshop (NEC05173), held in 2018, and considerable contributions of artist practice & research in existing research projects (e.g. projects funded by the Valuing Nature Programme). A key focus is to understand how perspectives from the arts and humanities can be used to navigate the complex territory of cultural values in landscape and decision making.
Landscapes are dynamic entities resulting from long and multifaceted interactions between natural forces and human actions that reflect wider socio-economic circumstances and values. Informed decisions about land should appreciate simultaneously environmental, social, economic, cultural, and wellbeing values. This requires multidimensional approaches to decision-making and interdisciplinary collaborations between a broad range of different researchers, stakeholders and decision-making groups with interests in landscape management. It is in this context that perspectives from the arts and humanities can make distinctive contributions.
While there is already much activity from the arts and humanities practitioners that involves artists, communities and landscape decision making there is scope to align these more centrally with the work of planners, economists and other stakeholders involved in landscape. There is a need for a broad cross-section of decision makers to understand how critical reflections and creativity can enhance landscape decisions. It widely accepted that artists can articulate emotions and moral judgements and contribute to our understanding of values. However, understanding the ability of artists to create new knowledge, is not a trivial undertaking. It needs to be incorporated into models of decision making that accommodate other specialists such as economists and ecologists and requires engagement with underlying philosophical, ethical and political discourses across diverse subject areas.
The AALERT 4 DM programme will provide an opportunity for constructive dialogues to take place by cutting across disciplinary perspectives and professional practices. It will engage a range of actors from different traditions who share an interest in landscape and land assets management including artists, arts organisations, geographers, anthropologists, historians, sociologists, philosophers, ecologists, social scientists, designers, policy-makers and landscape managers, planners and regulators as well as land owners. It will bring artists into dialogue with wider academics and stakeholders through a programme of events consisting of five workshops (a Scoping workshop, three Regional Case Studies workshops, and one Synthesis workshop) and aligned with wider pathways to impact activities (e.g. writing retreats to produce outputs and actively promote findings in social media). In a period of twenty four months the network will critically reflect on emerging interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary examples from this country and abroad to create a shared understanding of the different aspects within landscape and land use management and will develop a clear articulation of the various roles (conceptual, practical, communicative) that arts and artist researchers can play in support of a new holistic land decision-making framework.
In sum, this programme will consolidate existing initiatives, break new ground, and be relevant to diverse academic audiences as well as policy development and practical landscape management in the long term.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries of AALERT 4 DM include all those concerned to develop holistic approaches to landscapes and land use decisions. In the 'Outcomes and Impact' (see CfS) we outlined how the project will forge collaborations and yield impacts for a range of key stakeholders e.g. artists, arts organisations, landscape and land assets managers, landscape partnerships, local authorities, government departments, advisory bodies, local communities and wider publics. In particular, AALERT 4DM will cultivate and sustain professional relations with a number of organisations, networks and initiatives who can support us further in disseminating outputs, including: art.earth, Arts Council England, Arts Council Northern Ireland, Arts Council Wales, Birmingham City Council, CANW, CIWEM, Climate Cultures, Creative Scotland, Defra, Forest Research Scotland, Greenspace Scotland, Historic England, Historic Scotland, HLF, IALE, IUFRO, LRG, National Trust, Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, Ramsar and the Valuing Nature Network. Impact will be delivered in the following four areas:
1. Creating best practice guidelines for policymakers, landscape and land managers, planners and other groups interested in a holistic interdisciplinary decision making framework.
2. Supporting artists to take more strategic and significant roles (e.g. as Co-Is and PIs) in landscape and environmental research and enhance their contribution to decisions.
3. Enhancing knowledge and collaborations within a transdisciplinary community committed to involving artists in landscape and environmental research.
4. Promoting understanding within artists and arts organisations of land issues and scientific practices of disciplines e.g. ecological science, economics, enabling their integration into transdisciplinary research and land decisions contexts.
Impacts will be generated by project outputs (see CfS and Outputs), engagement events, and the promotion of the project activities. We will create and maintain a project website to act as a platform of communications and knowledge exchange in the UK and internationally. We will produce journal articles, reports, briefing papers, commentaries, blogs, videos, webinars and social media (using #aalert4DM) in close co-ordination with network participants and other relevant organisations.
Collaborations and engagement of land management stakeholders with artists, their artworks and networks will yield 'conceptual' impacts by changing the way in which landscape problems are understood, framed and discussed in the land decision making process at local and national levels. We will monitor views expressed in publications produced by stakeholders and the media.
Publicity of outputs can potentially reorient the discourse within wider social contexts in which decisions are made, and lead to instrumental impacts on policy, decisions, land use practices and the behaviour of local communities (not always predictable). Impact on individual attitudes and institutional cultures can generate enduring connections and trusting relationships that bridge disciplines and stakeholder groups and provide a 'capacity building' legacy. To measure impact during and beyond the lifetime of the project we will monitor and keep records of: newsletter items carried by partner organisations; retweets, sign-ups to @aalert4DM Twitter; downloads of resources; artists work referenced in policy documents; numbers of artists involved in landscape decision-focused projects in the long term.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title 'Art is not an Island' 
Description A short film produced by the AALERT for Decision Making (AALERT 4DM) project about art and artists and their role in landscape decision making through community development and empowerment in the context of land reform and re-peopling in Scotland.The filmmakers: Ewan Allinson and Maria Rud Eirini Saratsi and Tim Acott - research Consultants. Read more at https://research.reading.ac.uk/aalert/art-is-not-an-island/. Watch the long version of the film on Vimeo https://vimeo.com/508595048 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact 'Art is not an Island' aims to stimulate discussion and debate about the role of the arts in the re-peopling agenda in Scotland, focusing in particular on the relationship between the arts and landscape values. It helps to think about and reflect on how the everyday practices of local artists, and the activities of arts organisations and enterprises, contribute to the wider sense of belonging that builds a community's co-identification with the landscape. It documents the experiences of eight artists and makers living on the Isle of Eigg and North Uist, explaining their connections to the special landscapes where they live and the importance of their artistic practices. The film was created as part of the preparations for the project's scoping workshop - creative conversations https://research.reading.ac.uk/aalert/a-scoping-workshop/ 
URL https://research.reading.ac.uk/aalert/a-scoping-workshop/
 
Description The key achievements of the award during this period were
1. we organised two very well-received engagement events despite the difficulties presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and the fact that the project had been awarded a six months extension.
2. we produced a film having to respect social distancing rules
Exploitation Route The outputs of the engagement events are going to be published in the near future and we anticipate to be well received within arts, scientific, policy and decision making communities.
The film is going to be used for further discussion and deliberation of issues related to land reform in Scotland and the role of arts in empowering communities. We expect to see further impact and outcomes of these activities.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description These are very early days to measure the exact impact of these outputs but both the engagement events we have carried out have been attended by a variety of stakeholders beyond the academic community and influence their thinking about making decisions. These include members of government bodies (e.g. natural England, environment agency), landowners, charities and communities. We will keep monitoring the impact of our outputs and will be in a better position to measure them in a few months' time. An indication of the impact of these outputs is the interest the project's scoping workshop has received so far. This event will take part in March 2021 and we will screen the film Art is not an Island and discuss the outputs of the previous events.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description AALERT 4DM - developing the Network web presence
Amount £2,500 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2021 
End 06/2021
 
Description Valuing Nature Programme Coordination Team
Amount £151,031 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/M005410/2 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2019 
End 12/2020
 
Description Art, Ecology, Emergency: Sustaining Practice Intersections of artistic practice and ecology, online (2-part) event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Organised by the University of Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute and the Eden Project, this two-part, free online event explores the intersections of artistic practice and ecology, bringing together artists, producers and academics to share their experiences and their research. Eirini Saratsi has invited speaker and took part in a panel discussion in the mornign session that explored the questions: What kind of ecological knowledge do we need to creatively navigate our way through crisis and uncertainty? How can ecological expertise inform creative practice? Are we all ecologists now? The event was well attended with participation ranging between 70 - 100 people during the day.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/events/details/?event=10345
 
Description Beautiful Disruptions, workshop Co-organised by Creative Carbon Scotland and the AALERT 4DM project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This event was framed around the idea of contested landscapes - be they urban or rural - and landscape decision making. Eirini Saratsi (PI) and Tim Acott (Co-I) of the AALERT 4DM project and Laura Campbell from NatureScot introduced the complexity of Landscape Decision Making to the event audience. Artists Jo Hodges and Kerry Morrison used participatory methods to explore the use of imagination, creative disruption and activism as methodologies to widen debate and action around landscape change and environmental issues. The event was attended by 25 - 30 people from a wide range of academic disciplines, stakeholders and the wider publics. It explored why and how artists and academics might work together to widen the debate and influence decision making using engagement across disciplines and collaboration as a means to share ways of knowing and modes of action that challenge current landscape decision making processes and policy. A reflections piece about the event is published on the Creative Carbon Scotland webpages.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://research.reading.ac.uk/aalert/https-research-reading-ac-uk-aalert-event/
 
Description Creative Approaches for Understanding and Influencing Decision Making. One day workshop organised by AALERT 4DM and the Landscape Decisions Programme Coordination Team. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The event brought together fifteen projects funded under the Landscape Decisions Programme and wider audiences to address two questions: How do we understand decision making? How do we believe creative approaches can influence decision making? This was one day workshop divided into two sessions and participation varied from 57 - 98 people during the day. It brought together artists, academics from a wide range of disciplines (social, natural sciences and the humanities), policymakers and decision-makers (e.g. representatives from Natural England, National Trust, local authorities, environment agency) and the UKRI. A group of those who were there, led by the AALERT 4DM PI and Co-I, are currently working on a publication to address some of the issues raised in the workshop. We anticipate this to be an academic peer-reviewed paper published in an interdisciplinary Journal.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://research.reading.ac.uk/aalert/hello-world/
 
Description The Multiple Values of Nature, Conference organised by the journal People and Nature, British Ecological Society and the Valuing Nature Programme. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a joint meeting of the British Ecological Society Journal, People and Nature, and the Valuing Nature Programme. It was an international, broad-scope, interdisciplinary event and cover many aspects of the multiple values of nature, broadly falls under three themes: Balancing Multiple Values: Opportunities and challenges; Values in action: Exploring processes of change and transformation, and Beyond the Usual Suspects: Finding Diverse Support for Nature Protection. The meeting fostered cross-disciplinary research collaborations and it was well attended by more than a hundred participants. Eirini Saratsi gave an oral presentation entitled Valuing nature by nurturing (artistic) values that considered the ways artistic practices can influence understandings, change attitudes and ways of thinking and enable the co-production of knowledge and the emergence of critical perspectives. The paper was well received and it will be submitted for publication to the journal People and Nature in spring 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/events/multiple-values-nature/