Core Group Presentations: Group 2, Janey Hunt

Seminar 4: A public conversation

(pdf: Janey Hunt)

Janey Hunt:  Hi.  My name is Janey Hunt.  I studied at Glasgow School of Art recently, so I have some connection to Scotland.  I am now based in Totnes in Devon – which is a long way to come, but very well worth it because I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole seminar series.

I am undertaking a PhD which is based on socially engaged practice and I am seeking to encourage pro-environmental behaviour.  Another of my roles is as the Arts Facilitator for something called ‘Transition Town Totnes‘.  Transition Town Totnes is a local initiative to develop a community response to peak oil developing a responsive plan for the community based on oil reduction that encompasses the society, the environment, and the economy.

What I have chosen to share with you tonight is actually one of my own art projects which examines environmental behaviour and, actually, my failure to adopt environmental behaviour – something shared by us all, I am sure, calledEco-Renovation: House Receipts  That is certainly the reaction that I have had from many people that have seen this work.

My work takes place outside of the gallery (which characterises socially-engaged practice) and often on the street.  I engage people in conversations provoked by an initial art work on the theme of encouraging pro-environmental behaviour.  These conversations are recorded in some way through my recollection, written comments from participants, recorded sound and image.

Focusing the work, which encourages participation, on my own failure to adopt pro-environmental behaviour, my way of working reveals intimacy at extraordinary levels in regard to myself, and as an artist, by sharing the analysis (if you like) in my failure to adopt that behaviour.  This intimacy disarms and encourages a sharing of information by people that participate and come to see the work about their own lives, revealing more than sociological data-gathering processes.  It also, encourages and empowers and revalues a recognition of our individual knowledge that is too often ignored in our society of experts.

As a result of gathering this data, I am also investigating within my PhD the ethical responsibilities of the artist to the participants, particularly when the work engages people in real world issues and is recorded for re-use in succeeding art works.

Environmental behaviour and life style is an area that is really not yet defined or codified and by encouraging intimacy, my conversations often reveal the unexpected which can challenge both participants and myself.  So my work is a shared learning process.  By representing the unexpected, it allows the knowledge that we (myself and the participants) have reached to invigorate others.  So, for me, ‘public’ is a pooled knowledge; it is learnt by hard experience which, unless it is revealed, could die with the individual.  It is an individual experience of living environmentally that can provide models for others’ lives.  Individual experience and pooled learning contributing to an expression of ‘public’ knowledge, for me, is where the real wisdom lies.

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