- Carys Mainprize
Hi Kerry, tell us about yourself.
Hello. My name is Kerry. I’m an artist, natural beekeeper, and the new Peatland Connections Officer. Making connections is something I am passionate about. I love having conversations with people: listening to what others have to say and hearing about different experiences. Talking and listening to one another helps us understand the world from different perspectives and see things in new ways. I also love hanging out and taking things in. In the social sciences this has a name, it’s called deep hanging out. It made me giggle to learn that hanging out is an academic methodology.
Nature fascinates me. I am irresistibly drawn to landscapes and species like wetlands and mosquitos, and mucky natural cycles like rotting and decay. Where others may see ugliness, nuisance, or negative impacts, I see interconnected cycles of life, and as such, I see a beauty and value that can often be overlooked or misunderstood.
As an artist, my work is interdisciplinary and collaborative. I merge art with ecology through processes of action, collection, dialogue, and performative patterns that result in new, shared experiences and unfolding narratives, which hopefully connect us to our landscapes in unanticipated ways.
How were you involved with Peatland Connections prior to joining CCC?
It is via working with the arts organisation In-Situ that I came to know Galloway peatlands and the CCC. I was working on a peatland restoration project in Lancashire as part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership. We reached out to other Landscape Partnerships with a peaty focus integrating art approaches. That connected us to CCC, the artist Kate Foster and Galloway Glens who organised and hosted a great Galloway peat meet. That was back in 2017. In 2018 I moved to Galloway. I was still working in Pendle on the Pendle Hill peat project, developing a Pendle Peat Pie and the film sowing in time. Kate continued her artwork with CCC. Bonded by peat, Kate and I struck up a friendship, sharing our peaty stories, experiences, and growing knowledge. We also explored Galloway’s Knowetop and Beggars Moss peatlands together, along with the CCC team.
Two peat projects, each with it’s own unique character, inspired very different artworks. To share our collective learning of interdisciplinarity and collaborative working (arts and sciences), and why it is critical that we protect and restore our peatlands, we ran two seminar events. The first was pre Covid, the second, Deep Peat (editor's note: see the blog we wrote about that event here) in November 2021. In the closing session of Deep Peat, this question was posed: what are the next steps you would like to/will take to help shape the world you want to live in. I stood up and proclaimed that my next step would (ideally) be to work with and for an environmental organisation. It’s amazing what happens when you voice steps you want to take, as here I am.
What was your path into socio-ecological art?
From a human perspective, the social and the environmental are inextricably bound. We manipulate, manage, control, and design nature and our landscapes. We destroy existing habitats to create new landscapes. At the same time, we highly value ‘nature’ and recognise its many benefits. Everything to do with us, and the environments we inhabit, creates a rich and complex picture, a tangled complexity that has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. Since graduating from art school, all of my work has been about nature and how we connect to it. I used to call this way of working: ecoart or environmental art. But when art is as connected to society as it is to nature, and the social element is as relevant as the ecological, it becomes socio-ecological art.
You have a science background too – how do you think art and science can collaborate together, to benefit each other?
Yes. I did a PhD in environmental science. I wanted to explore the ways in which art and science can come together and help us learn and understand more about nature and the environment. Both science and art are fascinating subjects. Both inform us about the world we live in, just from different angles. Imagine what we can learn about the world and our place in the world if we bring these two ways of ‘knowing’ together. Unfortunately, we still put learning and knowledge creation into categories. Disciplines. This can make finding a partner from a different disciplinary background challenging. How do scientists find artists and how do artists find scientists? The peat seminars aimed to bridge this gap by brining artists, ecologists and socio-ecological scientists together.
What are you looking forward to about your role?
Although I have worked and collaborated with professionals and academics from the social and environmental sciences before, I have always done this as an independent freelance artist. This is the first time I have been an employed team member working with and amongst ecologists. I’m really excited to explore what an artist in the mix can bring to an environment organisation and how being embedded in CCC changes the way I interpret and know Galloway’s landscapes and our peatland connections. I’m looking forward to all of it.
We're thrilled to welcome Kerry and her passion for art to the CCC team. Peatland Connections will soon ramp up for its second year and there will be lots of news. You can view the project's website here.