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Madeleine Bunting's article on the role of arts in changing perceptions about the environment kicks off by looking at Radical Nature's The Dalston Mill project, and discusses new work Gustav Metzger and new thoughts from Tim Smit and gives a very warmly appreciated nod to the RSA Arts & Ecology Centre's work.

Madeleine Bunting's article on the role of arts in changing perceptions about the environment kicks off by looking at Radical Nature's The Dalston Mill project, and discusses new work Gustav Metzger and new thoughts from Tim Smit and gives a very warmly appreciated nod to the RSA Arts & Ecology Centre's work.

Something bizarre is happening in the area of Dalston, in London's Hackney, where I live. As I write, half a dozen men are hunched over planting half-grown wheat on derelict wasteland. Next to them, architects are building a windmill that will generate the energy to power two bread ovens. When it opens on Wednesday, it will host breadmaking, music, theatre and feasts for anyone who wants to step away from the noise of the shops and traffic-clogged nearby streets.

It's an installation linked to the Radical Nature exhibition, at the Barbican, in London, but it's evidence of an art that is penetrating some of the least hospitable places, very far from galleries, to open up conversations in unexpected ways around our relationship with land, food and each other. Can we think differently about the way we use land, produce food and relate to each other?

The origins of Dalston's wheatfield lie thousands of miles away, with Agnes Denes, one of a generation of American land artists who took art out of galleries and away from making objects to be bought and sold. In 1982 she planted wheat on two acres of wasteland on Battery Park, two blocks from Wall Street; her harvest was worth £158, produced on land valued at $4.5bn. The photos of waving golden wheat juxtaposed against the Manhattan skyline became an iconic image of environmental art. With her collaboration, her idea is now being recreated in Hackney.

At a time of growing anxiety about how we feed a crowded earth – food security was discussed at the G8 last week – her image of fertility and sustenance is even more poignant, and no longer outlandish. Such possibilities of food production in the city could be commonplace for our children. Havana, famously, learned to largely feed itself from within its city limits after imported Russian oil dried up in the 1990s.

The point about Denes's work in Dalston – and the exhibition at the Barbican – is that it raises for a new generation the role art can play in shifting attitudes towards our natural environment. With fortunate timing, Tate Britain also has a retrospective of another land art pioneer of Denes's generation, Richard Long. Or look north to Manchester's International Festival and Gustav Metzger's extraordinary uprooted, upended trees set into concrete. On every side, artists are putting their shoulder to the wheel, trying to prompt the revolution in values and attitudes required to deal with environmental crisis.

Read full article here.

The WWF have just published an interesting piece of work on the need for new ways of reaching out to different identity groups (more of that later today), but it's intersting to see Bunting spotting art's role in transcending the boundaries of existing interest groups.

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