We are passionate about mentorship. Over the years, we have had the great privilege to work with some exceptional practitioners, thinkers, and doers who have helped us expand our thinking and supported us in growing as artists.
As parenting artists, it can be a challenge to balance the needs of a young family with the demands of our creative work and the inevitable administrative and organisational tasks that go along with that. For us getting to workshops and networking events has often been impossible. Mentorship has allowed us to talk to and learn from people we would not otherwise be able to meet. It has given us the time to build relationships with other practitioners and thinkers who are further down the road than we are and who are willing to share their time and wisdom with us. This has been invaluable to our development both as a company and as individual artists, and taking time to reflect with a mentor has become a practice in itself.
We have worked with some truly great people. Over the last two years, during the height of the pandemic, we had the privilege of being guided by Ruth Ben-Tovin, who co-founded Encounters Arts UK. Encounters developed a professional practice as forensic artists working on location to discover and represent real people and places. As a professional artist and consultant, Ruth has used the transformational power of the arts to work with thousands of people over the last 20 years. Ruth supported us to look deeply into not only our practice but how we interact with our audiences and the people we collaborate and work with.
As we have been gathering interviews for our upcoming podcast, Mythic Space, we have been able to reconnect with some of our previous Mentors. Sue Gill and John Fox, who founded Welfare State International, "A collective of radical artists and thinkers who explored ideas of celebratory art and spectacle between 1968 and 2006". Now in their 70's and 80's they run The Dead Good Guides, An artist-led company, seeking a role for art that weaves it more fully into the fabric of our lives. Conversations with these two are so incredibly inspiring, and we love to hear their tales of being on the road, making incredible art with a whole band of small children in tow. They are prolific artists and have a whole host of art books and publications available on their website and create many projects, including Wildernest, a devotional space on a public footpath on the beach infant of their house.
Internationally regarded therapeutic Storyteller Nancy Mellon, USA, has been another wonderful mentor. Nancy has helped lead the rebirth of international storytelling since the 1980s. Her books have been guides to us for many years as we have created work for young audiences, and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to spend time talking with her and exploring the power of story. A conversation with Nancy leaves you both floating in the clouds and firmly rooted to the Earth.
The need for reflection in art-making as in life is crucial. We live in an age where we are often encouraged to be 'mindful' to become conscious of our actions and thoughts but often find it hard to make time and space to reflect. For us, mentorship has become part of a mindful practice. Each mentor has helped us look at a different aspect of our work, sometimes from a broad perspective, sometimes focusing on a specific area. Their reflections and insights have often crossed the perceived boundaries between our artistic lives and our home lives and helped us acknowledge and respect the interweaving links between life and work. They have encouraged us to push the boundaries of our work but also to respect and nurture our wellbeing by acknowledging our boundaries and celebrating what it is to be a full human being.
This year, as we begin our new project, More Than Human, we have the honor of working with two amazing people. Renowned author and Deep Ecologist Dr. Stephan Harding will be guiding us as we collaborate with a woodland in Co Kilkenny. Hamburg-based Artist and Researcher Dr Sibylle Peters will be supporting us as we develop methods of including children and adults in our research and creative process.
We can't wait to see where our conversations with Sibylle and Stephan will lead us, as we deepen our connections to the earth and explore how to create safe spaces to explore new and challenging ideas around our relationship with the More Than Human beings that we share our home with.
If you would like to know more about Sibylle and Stephan, read on...
Stephan Harding is the resident scientist and senior tutor at Schumacher College, the renowned international center for transdisciplinary ecological studies in rural England. He is the author of the acclaimed book, Animate Earth: Science, Intuition and Gaia (2007, Chelsea Green). Holding a doctorate in ecology from the University of Oxford, Dr. Harding taught wildlife ecology at the National University in Costa Rica before joining Schumacher College at its inception in 1991. He is also coordinator of the college's highly successful Master's of Science degree in Holistic Science, a program offered in partnership with the University of Plymouth. At Schumacher College he has worked and taught alongside many of the world's leading ecological activists, thinkers and writers, including Arne Naess, Fritjof Capra, David Abram, and the planetary biologist James Lovelock (founder of the Gaia Hypothesis) with whom Stephan collaborated for many years. He also collaborated closely with the pioneering evolutionary biologist, Lynn Margulis.
Keenly interested in the experiential approach to natural science first developed by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Dr. Harding's scientific practice has been fed by his close friendships with theoretical biologist Brian Goodwin and philosopher of science Henri Bortoft. Stephan is also an accomplished classical guitarist. He has set several poems by Federico Garcia Lorca to music, and he recently completed (with Martin Shaw) a volume of fresh translations of Lorca's poetry into English.
A uniquely gifted teacher and lecturer, Stephan uses the natural sciences to awaken a deep experiential understanding of the Earth as a vast sentient being that nourishes our every breath, our every thought, and indeed our every action, as a result of the astonishing relationships between our planet's biotic organisms and her waters, rocks and atmosphere.
Sibylle Peters is a Hamburg-based artist and researcher. As well as working as an independent artist in theatre and performance, she is the co-founder and artistic director of the FUNDUS THEATER / Theatre of Research a theatre for transgenerational publics, where children, artists, researchers and citizens of all ages meet to explore and change the world together.
In her work for stage and lectern Peters combines wishful political thinking, the history of knowledge in its stranger parts and accounts from her own artistic experimentation into the improbable, the dangerous and the paranormal.
She is co-founder and director of the PhD program Performing Citizenship in Hamburg and recently has been guest professor for transdisciplinary design at HETEROTOPIA / Folkwang University of the Arts.