An important and growing area for Littoral over the past twelve years is the focus on the cultural needs and creative potential of farming communities, and the development of cultural strategies addressing the problems specific to agriculture and farming communities.
Chris Drury sheep wool installation Abbeystead, Bowland 1999
We describe this work as “making the cultural arguments for agriculture”, which involves an emerging arena for critical work of special interest to artists, curators, and cultural policy makers. Our work in this field addresses six cultural propositions relating to agriculture:
1) Agriculture sits at the very heart of culture, in that early experiments with agriculture helped to evolve the first proto-urban civilisations in Mesopotamia and Egypt.
How do we go about repositioning agriculture at the heart of our culture?
2) The ‘wrong’ agricultural policy is threatening the health of society and destroying the environment. The dominant rationalist, scientific-productivist paradigm governing agricultural policy has resulted in unanticipated and potentially serious consequences for health, the environment, the economy for society in Britain and the world.
3) Agriculture is a key cultural responsibility, and therefore the safeguarding of sustainable food and agriculture, family farming traditions, animal welfare and soil fertility should be regarded as a cultural task.
4) Farmers and the agricultural sector are producers of cultural and intellectual property, and creative goods and services. They fulfill an important cultural role in taking the lead in creating future 'post-agricultural' environmental, economic, and social forms, and in proposing agriculture as a new cultural metaphor for environmental sustainability..
5) Agriculture therefore represents a significant new cultural site, capable of generating a new aesthetic and ethical discourse essential for the resilience and sustainability of society and the environment.
6) Farming practice and agricultural policy and theory provide a natural and compelling focus for new artistic, cultural and aesthetic inquiry and debate.
It can consequently be argued that farming, rural development, and agricultural reform and policy represent a compelling and legitimate new field for critical art engagement and aesthetic research also open to artists and curators in the urban sector. This may also provide a source of employment for the professional art world, and give rise to exciting and intellectually challenging new practice, aesthetic theory, and curatorial initiatives. .
The above six propositions can be summarised as two core strategic strands, which will form the focus of Littoral's work over the next 3 – 4 years, 2011 - 2015:
Art and Agriculture: a new context for critical art practice and curatorship
Establishing a new art genre, or set of arts and curatorial practices sustaining long term critical engagement with agriculture and farming communities, including the specific issues associated with rural reform post-CAP.
A Cultural Strategy for Agricultural Change
The framing of a cultural strategy for the agricultural sector: proposing new cultural and aesthetic interventions in the context of EU and UK agricultural and rural development policy.
Art and Agriculture
Agricultural practice is associated with a number of interesting ethical and environmental problems which would benefit by a cultural response, to allow re-framing of both discourse and national policy on sustainable food and farming, farm animal welfare, GMOs and bio-technology, and the future for post-agricultural land forms, economic issues, and settlement patterns. The term Art and Agriculture also applies to the many cultural and arts-based projects being developed by farmers, such as Art Farms, land and field art projects (corn mazes, farm sculpture trails, and crop circles), and farm-based art exhibitions and projects, alongside such major events as dairy farmer Michael Eavis’ hugely successful Glastonbury Festival.
It was for this reason that LITTORAL adopted the name NEW FIELDS to describe the overarching concept, and enable us to gather together what is still a disparate (and possibly problematic) area of artistic activity. Obviously a more detailed study of the field will need to be undertaken soon, which is the other reason motivating our work documenting the area, and the primary function of this part of the website. We are working on the outlines of a publication about Art and Agriculture, with proposals for an international conference and exhibition to further define the genre. NEW FIELDS is also the name that we will use for the proposed Rural Biennale initiative and related art and agriculture R&D work planned over the next five years.
Agriculture and Politics: reconnecting EU cultural and agricultural policy
We hope to encourage arts practitioners, curators and researchers to engage with the political discourse on Government policy governing the future of sustainable food and farming, and related rural development and agricultural policy in the EU and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). As arts practitioners we find this an exciting and intellectually challenging new arena for engagement. Almost ten years since we began to open up this area we are still arguing that the world debate on agricultural policy reform represents a legitimate new arena for critical art practice, curatorship and related aesthetic inquiry. We believe that the many new Art and Agriculture initiatives now being developed would benefit from the establishment of a formal Rural Cultural Strategy, and, alongside this, the possibility of funding support (via the Lottery Arts Fund) for coordinated professional development. This could give rise to the exciting possibility of developing a new 'post-agricultural' aesthetic and cultural discourse, based on environmental sustainability.
LITTORAL is a non-profit arts trust which promotes new
creative partnerships, critical art practices and cultural
strategies in response to issues about social, environmental
and economic change.
LITTORAL 42, Lodge Mill Lane, Turn Village, Ramsbottom
BL0 0RW, UK
Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1706 827 961
Reg. Charitable Trust No. 1002365;
Pivate Limited Company No. 2526443
Cultural Documents of Foot and Mouth conference and exhibition, 2006
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The Cultural Documents of Foot and Mouth - Evaluation
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