The Art of Sustainability: the impact of the RANE group at Falmouth University
Submitting InstitutionFalmouth University
Unit of AssessmentArt and Design: History, Practice and Theory
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Art Theory and Criticism, Film, Television and Digital Media, Visual Arts and Crafts
Summary of the impact
Falmouth University's RANE (Research in Art, Nature and Environment)
research group, led by Dr. Daro Montag, interrogates nexus points between
the visual arts, the environmental sciences and ecological philosophy.
Established in 2004, RANE has held high profile public exhibitions,
lectures and events and is a leading figure of the global art and
environment field. During this period, RANE has raised public awareness of
environmental issues nationally and internationally; though creative
practice RANE has led public engagement and debate on questions of
The RANE Group examines the relationships between the visual arts,
ecological thought and environmental sciences, so contributing to a
sustainable world. With ever-increasing pressure on the natural
environment, RANE employs the arts to develop alternative models of
engaging/enacting. An inclusive membership — academic staff, PhD students,
MA Art & Environment students and external affiliated members — is key
to its success by ensuring simultaneous dynamism and continuity. In 2010
the RANE-linked Art and Environment Masters' degree programme was launched
to capitalise on the group's success; leading the only UK course of this
kind, RANE has is established as a leading site of study and research.
A central premise of RANE is that the growing environmental crisis is, in
large part, a systemic failure and so cannot be tackled solely through the
scientific disciplines. The arts are seen as particularly valuable in this
arena as they readily use flexible, open-ended, non-linear methods to
examine, explore and engage with issues and ideas. The scale of the
changes requires a radical reassessment.
The members' creative methods are not restricted to any specific media.
For example, Montag's pioneering `bioglyphs' visualise the activities of
soil microorganisms, indicating their abundance and their ecological
importance. Andy Webster incorporates humour into performances unpicking
perceptions of sustainability. Sustainable thought transcends the
boundaries of systemic dianoias. RANE is trans-disciplinary, drawing from
artistic, scientific and philosophical methods; this approach extends RANE
into praxes of scientific application.
RANE utilises a broad range of highly innovative practice-based
approaches, producing innovative artefacts, mesologies and praxes. RANE is
part of an expanding global network of creative practitioners, with
members in Europe, America, Australia and the Middle East, which produces
critical responses to environmental and social crises. As a founder member
of the Arts & Environment Network supported by the Chartered
Institution of Water and Environmental Management, and a key partner of
the worldwide Eco-art Network, RANE shapes cultural responses to
References to the research
Dialogues with Nature — this was a solo exhibition by Daro
Montag at Noosa Regional Gallery, Queensland, Australia, June-July 2013.
Selected and curated by Lisa Chandler the exhibition was designed to
coincide with and contribute to the Floating Land Festival and the
Balance/Unbalance conference, also in Noosa. A catalogue of the exhibition
was published: Montag, D & Lisa Chandler. Dialogues with Nature
(Queensland, AUS: Noosa Regional Gallery, 2013). http://rane.falmouth.ac.uk/pdfs/dialogues_with_nature_catalogue.pdf
RANE-Char — is an on-going project initiated by Cape
Farewell and supported by the Eden Project in which the artist creates and
distributes biochar as a means to mitigate climate change and raise
discussion on the subject. After its launch and performance in 2009 its
sculptural component has toured the following venues as part of the Cape
Farewell exhibition Unfold: University of Applied Arts, Vienna,
Austria (May-June 2010); Kings Place Gallery, London (Aug-Oct 2010);
University Gallery, Northumbria (Oct-Nov 2010); Newlyn Art Gallery,
Cornwall (Dec2010-Jan2011); Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago,
USA (Feb-April 2011); Parsons School of Design, USA (Sept -Dec 2011);
Liverpool John Moores University (Mar-April 2012); The Central Academy of
Fine Arts (CAFA) Beijing (May-June 2013). http://www.capefarewell.com/art/unfold.html
Leafcutter Learning — is an artwork consisting of drawings
and a video, and a chapter by Daro Montag in the publication, Expeditions,
Chris Wainwright ed., (London: CCW Graduate School, 2012) pp 29-39. The
essay articulates questions behind the drawings and the video, originally
made in collaboration with leafcutter ants in Peru, which are touring as
part of the same Cape Farewell exhibition listed above. http://www.capefarewell.com/people/arts/daro-montag.html
This Earth — The project, originally commissioned as part
of Future Palette that links chemistry to art through microbiological
creativity, was first exhibited at Sherborne House, Dorset. It has
subsequently been the subject of a publication Montag, D. This Earth
(Falmouth: Festerman Press, 2007) and numerous public talks and lectures.
The work was also featured in Wilson, S. Art & Science Now
(London: Thames & Hudson, 2010)
Dawn Chorus — Andy Webster was selected from 100+
international applicants for a solo exhibition at Waterfront Gallery,
University College Suffolk, Ipswich UK. The exhibition, held Feb / Mar
2012, had approximately 2500 visitors. As part of the exhibition Dr
Webster gave a public talk at the University about the project and wider
practice, and was awarded a prize by KLH Architects, London. The
exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue, Webster, A. & Jon Bird, Dawn
Chorus (Falmouth: RANE. 2012).http://rane.falmouth.ac.uk/pdfs/Dawn_Chorus_online_version.pdf
Unsustainable? — Andy Webster was selected from 150+
international applicants for one of four solo shows at the Ruskin Gallery,
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK. The exhibition was held Nov-Dec
2012. The show attracted approximately 1500 visitors. Dr Webster gave a
public talk in collaboration with Global Sustainable Institute, Cambridge,
about the exhibition and wider concerns about sustainability.
Action — Andy Webster was selected, from over 300
international applicants, to undertake a residency at Salina Arts Center
Warehouse, Salina, Kansas, USA. The work was exhibited between Mar-Apr
2013 to approximately 500 visitors. Dr Webster gave public talks at Salina
Art Center and the Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, Kansas, and an interview
was published in Salina Journal 30th March 2013.
Details of the impact
Cultural barriers exist between public attention and environmental
science. RANE recognises people rarely respond to dire messages about
climate change and dwindling natural resources with due vigour; using a
creative approach, however, the visual arts provide for public engagement
with troubling information and alternative strategies or behaviours. Art
research projects produced by members of RANE and exhibited at major
venues throughout the UK, Europe, the US, Australia and China all respond
to these cultural and environmental issues by stimulating critical
thinking and debate about our relationship with the natural world.
In 2006 and 2008 the group hosted two conferences, Artful Ecologies 1
& 2, attracting 180 international artists, writers and
environmentalists, and subsequently published the conference papers. RANE
organises and promotes the series `Comprehending Nature', public
lectures by world-renowned artists which examine contemporary
interpretations of nature from artistic perspectives, and have attracted
over 2,000 attendees. A RANE yearbook documents activities and outputs of
individual staff members and students.
RANE is linked to key international players through dedicated digital
networks and participates in the eco-art networks ecoartnetwork.org
and greenmuseum.org — two of the most significant international
networks of eco-artists from around the world. RANE's own email list
extends over 600 subscribers.
The group has developed strong links with external organisations such as
Cape Farewell; the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental
Management's (CIWEM) Arts & Environment Network; and the Centre for
Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW). RANE now works with the
National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). In
2013 the Cornwall AONB produced their annual, and widely circulated,
calendar using artworks made by RANE members as a alternative to normative
depictions of protected landscapes.
Cape Farewell, the leading eco-cultural organisation, currently partner
to the Environmental Change Institute at University of Oxford and the
Cambridge University Programme for Sustainable Leadership, invited Montag
to join the expedition to the Peruvian Andes and Amazon researching the
impact of climate change. The resulting works are included in the
international touring exhibition Unfold, which toured with a
global audience of over 26,500. Montag and members of the RANE group have
also contributed to Cape Farewell's education and outreach programmes, Shortcourse
and Sea Change. Launched in collaboration with the Eden Project,
the programmes' exhibition drew over 20,000 visitors (mainly families with
CIWEM is the leading professional body for the people who plan, protect
and care for the environment and its resources, providing educational
opportunities and independent information to the public and advice to
governments. As a member of the steering group since its inception, Daro
Montag has helped shape this network, which aims to influence national
policy and promote cross- sectoral coherence. In 2007, CIWEM formally
recognised the importance of the arts for engaging these audiences by
initiating a major new strategic programme, the Arts and Environment
CCANW is a community interest company providing exhibitions, artist-led
projects and educational activities to address urgent social,
environmental and scientific issues; CCANW is listed as a key organisation
in The World Nature Art Catalogue. In 2013 Daro Montag was appointed
co-director of CCANW which, in collaboration with RANE, initiated a
four-year project entitled `Soil Culture'. This project, to raise
awareness about the urgent need to protect soils globally, has received
£30,000 from the AHRC to establish the research network and £49,000 from
Arts Council England for exhibitions, residencies and outreach. As part of
this project RANE has so far participated in the Living Soil Forum, Jarna,
Sweden, and the European Network for Soil Awareness, James Hutton
Institute, Aberdeen and in October 2013 contributed to the Action Forum at
the Global Soil Week in Berlin. This event, led by the FAO of the UN and
the Global Soil Partnership, recognises the value of the arts for raising
awareness around the importance of soil for environmental sustainability.
Sources to corroborate the impact
In 2011 the RANE-char project was shortlisted for the COAL Art &
Environment Award, Paris.
Dr Daro Montag has been invited to give the following public lectures:
Soil Culture: Art & soil. Public lecture, Schumacher
College, Devon. 2013.
Dialogues with Nature. Guest lectures at Queensland College of
Art, Griffith University, Brisbane & The University of the Sunshine
Coast, QLD. 2013.
Knowing my place as a multitude of events. Research symposium,
University of Wales, Cardiff, 25 June. 2012.
Soil Culture: Don't soil your home, make soil your home! The
Home and the World Conference, Dartington, 21 June. 2012.
Looking to the Future. Sustainable Practice in Public Art,
Manchester Metropolitan University, 15 April. 2011.
Knowing my place: the creative unfolding of place through
indexical traces Creativity & Place — University of Exeter
conference, School of Geography. 2010.
Art as Ecological Thinking Art & Ecological Thinking —
AIAS conference, University College Falmouth. 2009.
The Global Environment — CIWEM conference, The Oval, London.
Dr Andy Webster has been invited to give the following guest lectures:
This is a Protest! Public lecture, Ulrich Art Museum, Wichita
State University, Kansas, USA, 2013.
Action. Public lecture, Salina Arts Center, Kansas, USA, 2013
Unsustainable? Public lecture, Global Sustainability Institute
and Ruskin Gallery, Cambridge School of Art, Cambridge, UK, 2012.
There Used To Be A Plan. Guest lectures at Omi International
Arts Center, New York, USA, 2012.
Dawn Chorus. Public lecture, Waterfront Gallery, University
College Suffolk, Ipswich, UK, 2012
A Minor Miracle. Public lecture, Lanternhouse International,
Ulverston, Cumbria, UK, 2011.
Crazy Tourist. Guest lecture, Cape Farewell and University of
Arts London Graduate School, Wimbledon, UK, 2009.
Finding Fluid Form. Public lecture, Emoção Art.ficial —
Emergência! Itaú Cultural, São Paulo, Brazil, 2008.
Better Living Through Karaoke. Artful Ecologies 2 Conference,
University College Falmouth, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK, 2008.