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THE DEVIL’S DOOR: A CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO ISSUE 12 – Dark Mountain

by Dougald Hine on www.dark-mountain.net 

Old churches were often built on older sites of worship, places held to be sacred long before Christianity arrived. At first glance, this looks like an erasure, a demonstration of dominance; look closer, though, and the picture becomes ambiguous. Officially, a people might have been baptised, yet in practice the results were not always so clear-cut – local understandings had to be reached. One form this took was a custom by which different doors of the church were used on different occasions: the main door, usually on the south side, was the one through which the priest would enter; the north door was used for those ceremonies to which the priest was not invited. Such arrangements could last for centuries, though for obvious reasons they tended to go undocumented.

I first caught a trace of this phenomenon some years ago, visiting a Saxon church in Sussex. The building was unattended, the door unlocked, an information sheet pasted to a wooden paddle to guide the visitor around the building. One line on that sheet lodged in my imagination: the north door, it stated, without further explanation, used to be known as ‘the devil’s door’. This felt like a glimpse of another story to the ones we’re used to hearing from either the enthusiasts or the critics of religion: a story of uneasy coexistence, the persistence of supposedly extinct beliefs and practices, and how different stories about the world and our place within it may share a sense that there are certain places where the veil between time and the timeless grows thin.

That image of the devil’s door came back to me, this winter, as the editorial discussions about this year’s special issue of Dark Mountain got underway. Any issue of Dark Mountain is a strange beast; award-winning authors and new literary voices sit alongside the words of people who make no claim to be writers. What they have in common is that they bring stories, perspectives and experiences that add to the conversation this project has sought to foster over the past eight years. It’s a conversation about what it means to live in a time of social, economic and ecological unravelling – a time when the way of living which many of us grew up taking for granted is being brought into question by its own consequences.

We set out to see what happens when you accept that the mess in which we find ourselves is deep enough that to try to acknowledge it can sound like falling into despair. We set out to trace the roots of that mess in the dominant stories of the societies in which we grew up: the story of progress, the story of human separation from and dominance over nature, the story that we have grown beyond being shaped by stories. We set out to see what role those of us who are, in one way or another, storytellers and culture-makers might have to play in finding our bearings within this mess. We did not set out to tangle with questions of the sacred – but it turns out that, if you deal seriously with any of the above, then such questions begin to present themselves.

Although it has rarely been brought into the foreground, the theme of the sacred runs as a subtle thread throughout Dark Mountain’s books, posts and gatherings. Our first issue opened with an essay by an archdruid and went on to include a roaring invocation of the wildness of Francis of Assisi. We’ve run contributions from activist Quakers, Hindu clergy and Zen Buddhists, alongside those of no named religion who nevertheless have come to see that their desire to defend the living world is, at its heart, driven by a reverence that owes nothing to the realm of carbon calculators and environmental statistics.

In our festivals, meetings and gatherings, another aspect of the role religion used to play, and still does for many, came to the surface – the effect that quiet contemplation, collective endeavour and even simple ritual can have in reminding us of deeper meaning and value, easily forgotten in the haste and exigencies of modern life. I remember one of our contributors saying in a discussion at the second or third festival, ‘This is the closest thing I have to going to church.’ Not for a moment would I want to set this project up as any kind of religious congregation, but I recognise what she was getting at.

Dark Mountain offers no dogma or moral instruction, but if it has sometimes brushed up against the experience of the sacred, I guess it’s because that is just what happens when people come together in the face of the unknown, finding a sense of communion that is often lacking elsewhere, and making room for the strange kinds of words that point towards the wordless.

You may have other terms in which you would choose to talk about this – and for some, any talk of the sacred may sound like drawing on a poisoned well, or simply a nonexistent well, dreamed up to pull wool over gullible eyes – yet this language keeps returning, as does the experience of those who, whichever door they enter by, find themselves drawn to the ground which it seeks to name. So it seems like time to stop skirting around the edges of the topic, and to bring together an issue of Dark Mountain that takes the sacred as its focus.

* * *

What are we looking for, then?

We want to do something slightly different with this book. We’re not making our usual open call for submissions with a deadline in three months’ time. Instead, if you have an idea for something you want to write – or someone else we should be talking to – we want to hear from you straight away.

We’re looking for proposals for long pieces (probably non-fiction of one kind or another – essays, memoirs, reflections, interviews, dialogues – but we’re open to other suggestions) of 4000-6000 words that tell stories that touch on the experience of the sacred in a time of unravelling. You could be writing about something you’ve experienced first-hand; or taking us into the back-alleys of myth or history, into ways of living and making sense of the world that call our contemporary assumptions into question. But whatever you want to write about, there should be a sense of why this calls to you, how it has helped you to find your bearings.

Have a think about whether there’s a piece you could write – and email us with a short outline, no more than three paragraphs, to dm12@dark-mountain.net. We’ll be pulling together a shortlist in the next few weeks, so get your ideas to us as soon as you can. If what you’re proposing seems like a good fit, we’ll work with you to develop it into a piece for the book. If you have something you’ve already written that you think would fit, you should still start by sending us a summary. (In general, we’re not looking for pieces that have already been published elsewhere, though where the existing audience has been limited and unlikely to overlap with our readership, we may make an exception).

We’re also looking for fragments: short pieces of prose or verse that give a glimpse of the different ways in which people have drawn on the experience of the sacred to make sense of times of unravelling, disorientation and despair. These could be original work, but we’re also particularly interested in translations of texts from different times and places. Send these to us at dm12@dark-mountain.net.

Finally, we’re looking for suggestions for people we should be contacting: to get as wide a range of voices as we are hoping for in this book, we will need to reach beyond the existing network of readers and writers around Dark Mountain, so if you have ideas for people we should be approaching about writing for this book (or being interviewed for it), then we’d like to hear from you – again, via dm12@dark-mountain.net.

It might also be worth saying a couple of words about what we’re not looking for – we’re not particularly interested in polemics for or against religion, nor overarching theories that try to explain the entire history of civilisation. This won’t be a book that seeks to settle age-old arguments, but it should be a space in which different ways of seeing the world meet.

In terms of the range of voices we’re looking for, we imagine this will include:

  • Those who stand, one way or another, within a variety of established religious traditions.
  • Those unable to abide within an established tradition, who find themselves nonetheless drawn to improvise alternatives to some of the institutions or practices that such a tradition might have offered (for example, we think of people we’ve met who are trying to recreate things that resemble certain aspects of the monastery or the weekly gathering for worship) – or who have something to say about where else the cultural ‘energy’ of the sacred is showing up these days.
  • Those who stand within cultures whose understandings of the sacred have never been enclosed within a church or a temple, or within dogma or the written word – and especially voices from indigenous cultures.

As we say, there isn’t a submissions deadline for this issue – we’ll be starting to work with contributors over the next few weeks, on the basis of the proposals we receive, and when we get to the stage where we have a full set of pieces underway, we’ll update this post to say so.

Finally, if you’d like to follow the progress of this issue, we’re starting a special newsletter that you can sign up for here. We’ll be sharing more of the process by which a Dark Mountain book comes about, the conversations going on among the editorial team, the things we’re reading and thinking about, and the places where we need help to fill the gaps in our knowledge and contacts.

Dougald Hine is co-founder of Dark Mountain and one of the editors of Issue 12 which will be published this October.

Image: Lud’s Church, Andrew Barclay (CC)

The intersection of contemporary art with ecology, climate change, and environmental activism – Call for papers

Cogent Arts & Humanities welcomes submissions of research articles, critical and curatorial essays to a special collection on “Seeds of fierce engagement: Creative work at the intersection of contemporary art with ecology, climate change, and environmental activism”. Artwork, films, audio pieces, datasets and other multimedia files can be submitted as supplementary material.

Humans are having an unprecedented and devastating impact on the earth. Our way of living is causing disastrous climate change, unsustainable levels of toxicity of the water, air, and soil, and shocking extinction rates of organisms that form the fabric of life. We have made decisions that led us to this current situation and we can make decisions to change course. What we need is fresh vision and collective will. Artists, activists, political and cultural theorists, philosophers, curators, architects, designers and others are doing creative, unconventional, and ambitious work to expand our vision in ways that cultivate positive change.

Although we welcome a variety of approaches, authors and artists are invited to consider the following questions in preparing submissions:

  • What are the possibilities for and limitations of artistic and curatorial models that respond to climate change and ecological crisis, including the massive depopulation of non-human life on the planet known as the sixth extinction?
  • In this time of climate crisis, what role is contemporary art playing in advancing an understanding and valuation of biodiversity, in shaping the relationships between people and the non-human world or in advancing rights for non-human entities?
  • The Global North is largely responsible for the environmental problems at the heart of the climate change crisis. How are artists, activists and theorists working between the Global North and South to generate harmony and collaboration with the goal of environmental justice?
  • How are creative practitioners and cultural theorists constructively troubling definitions of “nature” or “sustainability”?
  • How are creative practitioners engaging ideas of energy futurism in relation to alternative structures of living and locality in production and consumption?
  • How are artists, media producers and other visual culture practitioners catalyzing positive changes toward solving ecological concerns (a “Great Transition”) and against the paralyzing narratives of disaster capitalism?
  • How does environmental activism function within the spheres of art / creative practice?
  • How is the art historical field framing work by artists and artist activists engaged with issues surrounding climate change and political ecology?
  • How does work in aesthetic fields join with activism and Indigenous philosophies to suggest a future of increased environmental justice?
  • How might art recover environmental understandings held by indigenous populations that are lost or nearly lost?
  • What role does art have in interrogating our assumptions about agricultural and industrial revolutions and about pre-modern peoples?
  • What historic creative or scholarly works inform contemporary art as it grapples with climate and ecological crises?

To submit your work, and to view our author guidelines, please visit the journal’s website: https://www.cogentoa.com/journal/arts-and-humanities

The deadline for submissions for this special collection is 15th August 2017.

During the submission process you will be able to confirm that your work is intended for the special collection on art and environment.

We look forward to working with you to bring exciting new scholarship to the widest possible audience.

Zoé Strecker, Senior Editor for Visual and Performing Arts, Transylvania University.

Local focus, global challenges A photography competition – The Sustainable Earth Institute – Open to all, focused on global sustainability

Sustainability challenges are global, but affect us locally.

Rail lines under increasing threat as sea levels rise, meaning South West of England could be disrupted for more than ten per cent of each year by 2040, bee numbers in decline globally due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and disease, and tiny plastic microbeads being released into waste water during each use of a domestic washing machine, with many of them likely to pass through sewage treatment and into the environment.

These are some of the greatest sustainability challenges we face today.

This competition opens on Monday 16 January 2017, and closes on Friday 31 March. 

Competition categories

This competition asks you to photograph environmental and sustainability challenges in the following categories:

  • Sustainable Plymouth
  • Sustainable South West

Themes within these categories include but are not limited to food, health and wellbeing, education, clean air and water, energy, and growth.

Prizes

  • Student winner: £100 photography voucher
  • Staff winner: £100 photography voucher
  • Public winner: £100 photography voucher and 2 free places at Sustainable Earth 2017 (29 and 30 June, Plymouth University)

Visit the website for more information

Submission instructions

Your photo, along with a 200 (max) word summary of how your photo represents sustainability should be sent to Kirsty Henderson no later than 12 noon on Friday 31 March 2017. Please send your email as an attachment or as a link on a file hosting website.

Please include the following information in your submission:

  • Full name and email address
  • Contact number
  • Title of your photo
  • Which category you are entering (Sustainable South West or Sustainable Plymouth)
  • If you’re a staff, student or a member of the public

Winners will be announced Monday 5 June 2017.

Terms and conditions are available on the website

Open call: Empathy as Resistance facilitators

In 2017, Pixelache will present Empathy as Resistance, an open working group that will meet throughout the year, every other month.Empathy as Resistance explores how empathy can be employed for constructive and direct political and social action. Picking up from the theme of the 2016 festival (Interfaces for Empathy), as well as the recent emphasis on this topic in the local and international culture community, EaR seeks to wield empathy like a weapon (as paradoxical as this may seem) for concrete effects on policy, institutional structures, and daily life.This project was conceived in early 2016, intending to question if empathy (generally seen as an internal, personal trait) could be converted into something external, without its very nature changing into something polemic or divisive. As the year progressed and the liberal concepts of progress and democracy began to melt down (vis-à-vis Aleppo, Brexit, Trump, etc.), the EaR concept is now bathed in a sense of urgency that is only likely to increase.

 Project details

Each session of Empathy as Resistance will be led by a different facilitator (or group of facilitators) and tackle a specific topic, with a goal to create a decisive output. This open call seeks facilitators (from any background) and ideas. All EaR meetings will be open to everyone, but with the hope that participants will return each time to build deeper, lasting collaborations with each other. The sessions can take any form: workshop, direct action, game or contest, collaborative creation, etc. and their length can range from a few hours to a few days – it’s up to you.Note: The September session will meet as part of the 2017 Pixelache festival, and thus will have a potentially different audience and visibility.Our budget is still unknown due to funding decision timelines and the usual precariousness, but we will be open and direct with all facilitators as soon as the situation becomes clear.

Deadline for proposals1 February 2017

About Pixelache

Pixelache Helsinki is a transdisciplinary platform for emerging art, design, research and activism. We have been producing an annual festival since 2002 as well as numerous year-round activities, projects, residencies and other events. For more information, please see our detailed ‘about’ page. To get a better sense of the types of content Pixelache works with, please check out our projects, have a look through our past festivals, get to know our members, and check out our Facebook page.

Application

LAGI Seeking New Board Members in 2017

The Land Art Generator Initiative is growing fast and seeking dynamic leaders for new Board positions in 2017.

If you think that may be you, please get in touch with us!
Click here for more information

This is an exciting time for exploring the impact of new energy technologies on our landscapes, cities, and cultures, and we would love to have you join us as we implement innovative solutions to site-specific energy needs.

As we continue to expand our impact around the world, we are looking for three new Board members who have experience and passion in areas of business planning and implementation, philanthropy, intellectual property, law, non-profit governance, fundraising, organizational development, and finance especially within the disciplines of arts and culture, energy, and environmental protection.

Board members may reside in any geographic location—in the United States and around the world. If you know someone who may be interested, please forward this newsletter to them.

LAGI brings forward human-centered solutions for sustainable energy infrastructures that enhance communities as works of art in public space. Land art generators educate the public, inspire the next generation, celebrate local culture, and contribute renewable electricity to the grid to meet the existing demand loads of neighborhoods and cities.

lagi-pp

For look back on 2016, check out our most recent publication, Powering Places, which is now available at your local bookseller. Click on this link for online purchasing options.

Participating teams were challenged to create a piece of civic art that also acts as sustainable and renewable energy and drinking water infrastructure for the city of Santa Monica, California.

The result is an astounding sampling of innovative and artistic solutions that employ the latest wave, tidal, wind, solar, and other technologies.

Art and the end of the world (as we know it) – A five day course at Schumacher College

Course leaders: The Dark Mountain Project – Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine

Date: 20th — 24th March 2017
Location: Schumacher College, Devon, England

Booking details

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‘The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop.’ 

– Uncivilisation: The Dark Mountain Manifesto

We live in a time of great unravelling.

The climate is changing, a mass extinction is under way, and our economies, cultures and technologies are changing everything. The future no longer seems to serve as a vessel for our hopes, but a shadow that we try not to think about. Much that we grew up taking for granted will not make it into the world that waits for us there.

So what does it mean to live in such a time? What can we do with this kind of knowledge? And what does art have to do with any of it?

In 2009, Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine published the Dark Mountain manifesto: a call for honesty about the depth of the trouble the world is in – and for recognition of the deep cultural roots of that trouble. From a short self-published pamphlet, the Dark Mountain Project grew into a global network of writers, artists, musicians, performers and creative thinkers, many of whose work has appeared in the pages of the Dark Mountain books or on the stages of the Uncivilisation festival, Base Camp, Carrying the Fire, The Telling and other events.

At the heart of the Dark Mountain Project is the claim that the global crisis we are facing is not a crisis of politics, economics or technology, but a crisis of stories. The stories which our culture likes to tell itself about humanity’s place on Earth and its relationship to the rest of nature are like bad maps, leading us towards unmarked hazards. We have narrated ourselves to the edge of a cliff.

If this is true, what can we do about it? And what, in particular, can writers, artists and other creative workers offer in response? If we have been telling the wrong stories, how would we recognise the right ones – and how could we begin to give them a voice?

This course is open to anyone who wants to engage with these questions and is willing to bring their own creativity into play. Through a mixture of workshops, teaching sessions, creative exercises and space to explore the big issues, it aims to give writers, musicians, performers and artists of all kinds a stronger sense of their place in a time of upheaval, change and unexpected possibilities.

Bring a notebook, a clear head, a sense of excitement and a willingness to be honest. Please leave false hopes and all-encompassing solutions at home.

Booking details

Q&A Arts Writers Event – Plymouth – 25 Jan 2017

Are you interested in arts writing? Or maybe you want to hone your reviewing skills? Made in Plymouth is partnering with the Arts Writers Group, Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth Arts Centre to deliver a series of wonderful opportunities for any aspiring arts writer.

We will be opening this project with a Q&A event investigating the core skills needed for good arts writing. Our two writers-in-residence (Lizzie Lloyd and Tom Jeffries) will sharing their extensive experience and advice. The event will be held at the Jill Craigie Lecture Theatre in the Roland Levinsky Building (Plymouth University) from 1.30 – 4.30 pm on Wednesday 25th January.

Book now