Features EssaysPerformanceProvocations Published 9 July 2012

Up to Nature

Up to Nature was a festival organised by Bristol-based In Between Time in Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire from 29th June- 1st July. It brought together work by international and local artists, providing a different site and space for live art encounters. The festival is part of a wider international project across four different European forests, and a co-production with ANTI- Contemporary Art Festival (Kuopio), Black Box Theatre (Oslo), brut wien (Vienna) and Maska (Ljubljana).
Diana Damian Martin

I learn about  about the ways in which I can begin to distinguish the sounds of different birds, about the collectivity of camping, about the force of water and the plurality of ways in which we think about nature as either healing or destructive. I feel I am wandering through a living archive, this visual and aural landscape revealing more and more activity. Walking is an action equated with knowing in this natural maze packed with surprises.

It reminds me of my first encounter in the welcome field, with Action Hero’s James Stenhouse and his brother Rob, sat around an early morning fire, coffee brewing in a pot, reminiscing about childhood, the countryside, survival and what nature is really like.

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Antti Laitinen’s Tree has left a vestige at the edges of the campsite; a tree held together by nuts and bolts. In a durational performance, Laitinen felled a tree and transformed the natural into the artificial, surfacing questions surrounding nature and agency. Not far from the campsite’s new landmark, Zierle & Carter’s Ways of Water: A Love Potion for Nature is underway. A woman is perched high on a tree, a rope connecting her to a man stood on the soggy ground, ropes between them. Red balloons are making their way towards the tree whilst messages are returning on the way back, creating a visual interventions that crosses the field in magical anticipation for a viewer.

This is a different kind of space- one free from discourses on public and private, with its surprisingly nuanced rhythms that make the days undulate and choreograph our encounters. With these gentle contributions to this natural archive, the forest becomes not only the place of ritual, but also a space for appearances- perhaps an optimistic nod at the place of culture unrestrained by any conditioning. The collectivity is there, in nomadic networks and breezing encounters, in shape-shifting realities that conjure and evoke.

Ways of Water by Zierle & Carter. Photo: Oliver Rudkin

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In its in collective dissonance, Up to Nature revealed not only how naturally nomadic live art is, but also what dialogues it can create in search for more authentic experiences, encountering nature in all its plurality, with all its surprises and agency. As Nic Green demonstrates in her own piece, it invited us to look and see each other.

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And if my words are wrapped up in narratives, lost in shy nostalgia, it’s because they’re still there in the forest, and I’m trying to win them back.

To find out more about Up to Nature, visit the In Between Time website.

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Jean-Luc Nancy. The Creation of the World, or Globalisation. New York: Suny Press, 2007. Print.


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Diana Damian Martin

Diana Damian Martin is a London-based performance critic, curator and theorist. She writes about theatre and performance for a range of publications including Divadlo CZ, Scenes and Teatro e Critica. She was Managing Editor of Royal Holloway's first practice based research publication and Guest Editor for postgraduate journal Platform between 2012-2015. She is co-founder of Writingshop, a long term collaborative project with three European critics examining the processes and politics of contemporary critical practice, and a member of practice-based research collective Generative Constraints. She is completing her doctoral study 'Criticism as a Political Event: theorising a practice of contemporary performance criticism' at Royal Holloway, University of London and is a Lecturer in Performance Arts at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

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