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A Sustainability thread

Space Studios has initiated...

A new series of residencies, talks, workshops and training opportunities exploring the convergence of art, media culture, technology and sustainability.

Details of the programme can be found here.

There seems an obvious overlap between Sustainability and permaculture. However, both are broad topics with an added layer of interpretation. This page will serve as a space to explore that overlap and develop a proposal that meshes respective aims and objectives.

Aim of PermaCultures

  • To support the creative research, development and production of new artwork exploring media culture, technology and sustainability.
  • To explore the impact and sustainability of creative technological practices.

Aim of Sustainability

  • To explore what the discourses of 'sustainability' might reveal about creativity, creative practices, and the structures that support them.

As a facet of the discourses of sustainability this proposal begins an analysis of a permaculture approach to creativity. Through research it will experiment with methodologies for observing the impact and sustainability of creative technological practices based on principles and practices of permaculture.

Critical Practice is in itself a creative technological practice. In addition to the specific project outputs it is 'the research' supported and in part 'the artwork' produced by the residency (to be expanded in an appendix). If supported the impact of the proposed work and the sustainability of the practice are to be explored, in accordance with the aims.

Reflecting on its own sustainability Critical Practice recognises that creativity exists as part of a sometimes fragile ecology of inputs and outputs. Through context, finance and association PermaCultures, and the case studies it enables, will sustain the organisation in its challenge to modes of cultural production.

Relevant quantities for meshing

Permaculture - an approach to designing human settlements and perennial agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in the natural ecologies - Wikipedia. Once established systems are generally understood to require a low level of maintenance.

Sustainability - Meeting the needs of an individual or community in the present, without compromising the ability of future generations or communities to meet their own needs - Sustainability

Creativity - New ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. - Wikipedia

PermaCultures - A general philosophy for design of sustainable systems with particular attention paid to the interconnection and relationships between differing areas or objects. It alludes to networked technologies through the prefix 'perma' (see permalinks) and has the aim of exploring the impact and sustainability of creative technological practices.

The aim would be to embody these themes and produce an accessible means to engage with them.


Case Studies - The Sustainability project refers to ethnographic Case_Studies in which specific creative 'ecologies' are 'mapped' to gain insight into benefits and deficits to creativity. The mapping will promote awareness of sustainability in creativity and inform the continuing development of guidelines for open, networked and collaborative practice. These guidelines are intended as a tool to better appreciate and nurture subjective creative ecologies. !!connect to open-source, commons and open-organizations!!

O'BREDIM could be adopted as a template. It is a method used in the 'Natural Systems Design' strand of permaculture for observation-based design of self-sustaining ecologies, pertinent to the aims.

It will be interesting to see whether methods of ecology 'map' to a social context (social far less predictable) so readily as the ethics.

The implied objectivity is dubious (but this doesn't seem to bother economists!). As the sub-prime crisis illustrates, systems must be implemented in order to evolve. The aim is to serve the national interest. There will be casualties.

Candidates for case studies may be instances of creativity or individuals and organisations that seek or derive some sort of value from creativity. In the vocabulary of the Creative Industries (sic) these might be Fashion Designer, Screenwriter or Musician. Less familiar (but perhaps more relevant anthropologically) might be Lawyer, Banker or Accountant.

These case studies will provide a valuable metaphor to engage with the principles of interconnection and interdependence that underpin the philosophy of permaculture.

Unconference - Aim: to share knowledge and experience of sustaining creativity, develop common vocabulary of terms and generate questions for a workshop.
Candidate cultures: Advertising, Art, Finance (Ecological Economics), Law, Architecture

Can it be said that there is strategic and tactical creativity? Some instances of creativity produce the conditions that others respond to e.g. rules and law. Actors pursue different aims and manouver to define differing networks of association. It would be interesting to represent these structural gestures alongside less formal ones. In this way two case study subjects could be a part of a discreet ecology. Lawmaker and Lawyer, Financial Services Authority and Trader, Inland Revenue and Accountant (interested in corporate tax avoidance).

Media technologies hold extensive democratic potential, posing interesting questions to existing systems such as finance, politics, ownership and art.

Democratising technology - access to means of production and distribution. Competitive advantage in agility at local level. To be viewed as sustainable a less finance-oriented economic model is necessary.

Agro-permaculture resembles command economy communism, rejecting as it does the free market of wild untended ecology in favour of a managed system. CP holds that culture is 'designed' and managed in ways that are harmful to creativity.

No-dig Gardening - low maintenance/low intervention approach to horticulture and aspect of permaculture offers tempting metaphors for this project. Some ecologies/habitats are better left alone. Once they artificially established the plot will naturally produce desirable crops.

Social analogies to permaculture - No-dig, nutrients, soil/medium, plot, beneficial organisms, perennial weeds

Intangible value and sustainability - In overtly technical practice, 'producers' are more sensitive to the inputs embodied in outputs, the less invested the 'users' (the old audience) the less (accumulated) time to appreciate intangible outputs. Historically the remedy is to fast-track the user/audience with information and explanation, or leave them to 'make their own meaning'. The turn toward co-production and collaboration concentrates investment and value. Bottom-up Localism and top-down placemaking both have aspects of permaculture about them and some knowledge-sharing relation to the philosophy of open source. The former would seem to more tactical (powerless) and the latter more strategic (powerful).

  • The term 'In the national interest' is invoked to justify all manner of pseudo-political capital ends. How about initiatives 'In the local interest'? Find ways to construct positive local narratives. 'Capture' opinion of the intangible (through mapping/interview) and make it visible, perhaps utilising accessible forms of media e.g flyposting, shop windows, a YouTube channel...

PermaCultures Residency Proposal

Deadline: 5pm March 23rd 2009. Documents should be sent in pdf format with images as jpg or pdf documents and video as URL links. Applications should include:

A short proposal (2 page A4 maximum)

An outline of the project containing

  • Aims
  • Methodology
  • Support / equipment you will need
  • How the project relates to PermaCultures
  • What you think you will gain from the residency
  • An idea for a workshop with our Youth Trainees.

A Sustainability thread