More Green

More Green is a seven-and-a-half-minute video piece I made in January 2010 for DEAR SHELTER, a group installation which appeared in Chicago the following month as part of the College Art Association’s annual international conference. An explanatory commentary follows below, which you might – or might not – want to read before viewing it.

– Steve Bottoms

More Green was commissioned by artist and curator Dolores Wilber, who had invited friends and colleagues from around the world to contribute exhibits to the DEAR SHELTER installation that described aspects of their domestic lives. If a growing sense of responsibility for our personal carbon footprints means that people start to travel abroad less, Dolores asked, how might we communicate something of our home lives to others, without them actually needing to visit us physically? This was, perhaps, a ‘research question’ framed as a creative invitation.

As Dolores would be the first to acknowledge, she has travelled extensively – and indeed had visited me in Leeds less than a year earlier, in March 2009. During her trip, we together visited James Turrell’s Deer Shelter Skyspace at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (installed 2006). The veteran American ‘light artist’ had taken the shell of an eighteenth-century deer shelter, standing on the parkland site, and created within it a white, temple-like space with seats looking up towards an open hole in the ceiling – which frames the light, sky and clouds as a permanent but ever-changing exhibit. The piece connects the very local (the distinctive history and topography of the Yorkshire landscape) with the global (the sky we all share, and which many of us travel through), and proved a key source of inspiration for Dolores in her plans for the DEAR SHELTER installation – as its title suggests. When she invited me to contribute something to the exhibit, it made sense for me to revisit Turrell’s site, together with the cornerstones of my own domestic life – my wife Paula Rabbitt, and our daughter Eleanor (then five years old).  More Green is composed of video shot at the site, and an audio track recorded the next day while Eleanor painted a picture inspired by our visit. Dolores then edited video, audio, and painting into the composite form seen here.

I should note that Turrell’s Deer Shelter and Dolores’s commission had also formed a kind of subtext for me, during the autumn of 2009, when I wrote the funding application for the research network project that this website was set up to support. More Green was shown to network members during our second meeting in Scotland, as part of a very productive group discussion on a range of climate-change related films and videos (see my Cove Park-tagged blog entry, ‘Cultivating Attentiveness?’).

My thanks to Dolores Wilber for kindly agreeing to the exhibition of More Green on this web page. Further details about the DEAR SHELTER installation follow below. SB.

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College Art Association 2010 Annual Conference presents DEAR SHELTER multimedia installation. Friday, February 12, 2010 Hyatt Regency Chicago 7:30AM-5PM.

Featuring the work of artist and DePaul University professor Dolores Wilber (Chicago) in the second-annual solo invitational exhibition with collaborators Jaan Toomik (Estonia), Chi Jang Yin (China/Chicago), Steve Bottoms (Leeds, UK), localStyle (Chicago/Amsterdam) and Heitor Alevelos (Porto, Portugal).

One of the most important ways vastly different cultures grow is through global travel, often accomplished by plane. My interest in personal responsibility for one’s actions is intertwined with issues of personal space, relationships and the home, particularly home as a site of knowledge as well as comfort and sustenance. Knowledge of physical and emotional space in isolation does not provide enough information, a flatland lacking the intersection of intimate friends from other places. Therefore, I invited collaborators from Portugal, Amsterdam, China, England, and Estonia to participate, providing a deep mapping of a personal space of their choice. Understanding our carbon footprint undeniably suggests we should limit plane travel that provides an irreplaceable, precious, and unmediated
experience of other cultures. Travel undeniably strengthens our capacity for compassion, understanding, and hope. The question at the heart of this investigation is: can we experience other cultures in intimate ways of knowing other people without travel? Can we leave home without leaving home? These works answer that question in different ways. (The title of this piece takes inspiration from James Turrell’s “Deer Shelter” in England.)

— Dolores Wilber

Picture Frame Video (More Green) by Steve Bottoms and Eleanor Rabbitt (7:36M) introduces piece. Five other works are projected simultaneously and in featured looped order for total running time of 29 minutes.

Special thanks to Brian Bishop and Paul Jaskot from the College Art Association Services to Artists Committee in supporting this project.

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