About the event
In Other Tongues: a conference and creative summit
conference June 7-9 2017
a residential short course June 10-14 2017
Dartington Hall, Devon UK
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day.
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
— Wordsworth (1804)
art.earth has a deserved reputation for curating special conference gatherings and other knowledge-sharing events. Our event this June, ‘In Other Tongues’ is no exception with its two distinct parts: an international gathering featuring artists, writers and thinkers from across the UK and well beyond and a five-day residential short course led by poet Alyson Hallett and writer-illustrator Mat Osmond, with special guest Alice Oswald.
‘The mix of presenters and participants…resulted in very lively and friendly encounters, new faces, and idea, with plenty of space for conversations…This is down to what felt like a light touch programme, mixing plenaries with smaller groups, providing choice, and being able to find the space in between for a bit of personal reflection.’ (Delegate at ‘Feeding the Insatiable, November 2016)
The conference, from June 7-9, is held in the beautiful medieval courtyard at Dartington, one of the UK’s more interesting centres for thought and creation. Keynote events at the conference include a talk by Prof. Wendy Wheeler who will introduce us to the ideas in her recently-published ‘Expecting the Earth: Life/Culture/Biosemiotics’ (Lawrence & Wishart). This opening keynote exposes many of the themes of the conference: that animals, plants, fungi, bacteria – the stuff of life – are far from being mere living machines, but are semiotic, interpretative systems. ‘It turns out not to be so strange that humans have made art and song, because the nonhuman living systems from which humans have evolved are organised via structuring principles that are much more like art, music and poetry’ she tells us. Prof. Wheeler will introduce this new world of biological, cultural, human and more-than-human living meanings that biosemiotics uncovers and explores – Wordsworth’s ‘mighty sum of things for ever speaking’.
The other keynote speaker is poet Alyson Hallett who will explore the relationship between the human body and stones: how we interact and how we communicate with one another. ‘At many times in my life,’ Alyson says ‘a stone has acted as a compass and pointed me in a direction I might not have taken if I hadn’t listened to it. What did this listening entail? What did I hear when I listened? Was it a stone language? Or was something in my own imagination drawn out by the stone?’ Instead of seeking to identify answers, her talk will meander along probable and improbable pathways in search of a door that we can slip through and, if we’re lucky, find something we didn’t know we were looking for.
Many of the other presenters will explore this world of the non-human or more-than-human. We have brought together an eclectic collection of voices, forming an event that mixes the best of academic thought and tradition with the experiential and the experimental. Sound artist Tony Whitehead leads us into the sonic world of night-time and dawn-time; Felix Prater, Laura Cooper and Cherie Sampson lead us toward animal lives and our animal selves; Lori Diggle, Nancy Miller and Melissa Sterry amongst others remind us of the power of myth and story-telling and its continuing and new relevance; John Hartley leads us on to the river; others are materialists, guiding us to new insights of stone, field, water, fungi. Stephan Harding talks about the science of interspecies communication.
In addition to this rich array of speakers are an equally rich selection of hands-on small- group workshops. There are three sessions of workshops (11 in all) over the course of the three days, meaning that you can choose to participate in up to three workshops.
We will encounter languages familiar and strange, and we’ll aspire to co- elaborate new forms of communication together through this unique gathering amongst the long, heady days of summer along the River Dart.
Following on from the conference is the residential short course (June 10-14) – ‘In Other Tongues: intimate geographies, ecologies of conversation’. Taking the idea of geographical intimacy as its starting point this five-day residential course offers a special opportunity to explore how we relate to the poetics of place. A willingness to participate is more important than previous experience: we welcome anyone interested in creating new work, or bringing new light to bear on work that’s already in progress. It’s a chance to engage in practical, playful and serious enquiry into our experience of landscape and all things that inhabit it – from those that can be seen and heard, to those living in more in-between or imagined spaces.
Creative use of words form the core of the course along with image-making, voice and embodied exercises. We will work both indoors and outdoors as we deepen and attune more to ourselves and our experiences of place. Developing our ability to listen will be key to this process, as will remaining open, always, to the unexpected. There will be plenty of exercises to fire and inspire the imagination, as well as time to go exploring, to contemplate, to be still, to wonder.
Central to this short course is an approach of generous, vigilant enquiry, with ample time for reflection and sharing. There will be group workshops as well as opportunities for individual sessions with the tutors.