Doing Art in the Countryside, Doing Rural Sociology with Art
Over the last couple of years, my explorations of ‘art in the countryside’, usually end up questioning and debating what ‘art’ is and what ‘rural’ is; what is their function, and what it might mean to bring these two systems of knowledge, of practice and experience together?
There seems to be an ongoing curiosity of how contemporary art might intersect with debates about rurality both in rural sociology circles and in contemporary art practice. Indeed, we have seen a great number of new papers exploring the ‘creative countryside’ and what creativity might suggest for rural development narratives. We have also seen developments in the ‘art world’, including an exciting seminar series about ‘The Rural’ at the Whitechapel, while Guggenheim has announced its promising exhibition on ‘Countryside, The Future’. And there is more, so much more emerging work: from Japan’s prolific contemporary art festivals in remote rural areas as a strategy for regeneration (have a look at this year’s Oku-Noto Triennale for example) curated by Art Front Gallery, to rural-fused exhibitions at this year’s Venice Biennale (see Charlotte Prodger’s intimate confessions about queer identities growing up in ‘the village’ in rural Scotland) and Iceland’s new wave independent cinema exploring rural dystopias, there is an awakening of ‘the rural’ as a discourse in artistic practice.
In this special section in Sociologia Ruralis, with my colleagues Julie Crawshaw and Marie Mahon, we have aimed to explore and further contribute to these developments by questioning what it might mean to ‘do art in the country’. As such we draw from diverse contexts, experiences and disciplines. Fois et al. explore how the recovery of historic rural arts and crafts traditions in China can forge new endogenous development pathways. Mahon and Hyyrylaïnen, through a comparative analysis of Irish and Finnish arts festivals, illustrate the diverse ways in which arts provide particular resources and ways of thinking about local development challenges, that include not just economic but also quality of life dimensions. We took a clear stance engaging artists in the production of this collection. Thus, we have included a contribution by Tarlo and Tucker who are both creative arts practitioners and offer original insights into the relational experience of artistic practice across nature and a coastal community in one of the UK’s last existing plotlands. The article by Gkartzios and Crawshaw is also situated within artistic research as a methodological framework, and draws on an experimental collaboration with Sander Van Raemdonck, an artist-in-residence at Berwick Visual Arts in England, engaging with housing research.
The Special Section is only the beginning of further explorations of these two words, these two worlds: art, rural. Our aim is to mobilise our disciplinary boundaries, appreciate and learn new ways of questioning the construction of rurality, thinking about rural development and rural governance, doing social science research and perhaps new ways of doing art as well. Join us.