In 2015, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) commissioned John Holden, visiting professor at City University, London, and associate at the think-tank Demos, to write a report on culture as part of its Cultural Value Project. The claim within the report was to redirect culture away from economic prescriptions and to focus on ecological approaches to ‘value’. Holden considers the application and use of ecological tropes to re-situate culture as ‘non-hierarchical’ and as part of symbiotic social processes. By embracing metaphors of ‘emergence,’ ‘interdependence,’ ‘networks,’ and ‘convergence,’ he suggests we can “gain new understandings about how culture works, and these understandings in turn help with policy information and implementation”. This article addresses the role of ‘cultural critique’ in the live environments and ecologies of place-making. It will consider, with examples, how cultural production, cultural practices, and cultural forms generate mixed ecologies of relations between aesthetic, psychic, economic, political, and ethical materialisms. With reference to a body of situated knowledges, derived from place studies to eco-regionalisms, urban to art criticisms, we will consider ecological thinking as a new mode of cultural critique for initiating arts and cultural policy change. Primarily, the operant concept of ‘environing’ will be considered as the condition of possibility for the space of critique. This includes necessary and strategic actions, where mixed ecologies of cultural activity work against the disciplinary policing of space with new assemblages of distributed power.
- Department of Art and Communication - Director of Graduate Education
- School of Art, Design and Architecture
- Centre for Cultural Ecologies in Art, Design and Architecture - Co-Director