Chris Fremantle


Educational theorist Gert Biesta proposes that we need to be “in the world without occupying the centre of the world.” (Biesta, 2017, p. 3). This injunction provides a frame with which to interrogate the hybrid practice of ecoart. This practice can be characterised by a concern for the relations of living things to each other, and to their environments. Learning in order to be able to act is critical. One aspect is collaboration with experts (whether those are scientists and environmental managers or inhabitants, including more-than-human). Another is building ‘commons’ and shared understanding being more important than novelty. Grant Kester has argued that there is an underlying paradigm shift in ‘aesthetic autonomy’, underpinned by a ‘trans-disciplinary interest in collective knowledge production’. (2013, np). This goes beyond questions of interdisciplinarity and its variations to raise more fundamental questions of agency. Drawing on the work of key practitioner/researchers (Jackie Brookner (1945-2015); Collins and Goto Studio, Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (b 1932)) and theorists (Bishop, Kester, Kagan) the meaning and implications of not ‘occupying the centre of the world’ will be explored as a motif for an art which can act in public space.


How to Cite
Fremantle, C. (2020) “The Hope of Something Different: Eco-centricity in Art and Education”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(4), pp. 67–86. doi: 10.32891/jps.v5i4.1385.
Art and Activism
Author Biography

Chris Fremantle, Robert Gordon University, Gray's School of Art

Chris Fremantle is a Research and Producer of public art and design projects. He established ecoartscotland in 2010. In 2015 he was invited by the Culture Network of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to Chair their Arts Focus Group. Several projects Chris has produced have won significant arts awards. ‘Place of Origin,’ a ‘landscape as art’ work in Aberdeenshire by John Maine, Brad Goldberg and Glen Onwin received a Saltire Award in 2007. ‘Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom,’ the project by the pioneers of the ecoart movement Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison (the Harrisons) received the first Nick Reeves Art and Environment Award in 2010, and the ‘Land Art Generator Glasgow’ project received the award jointly in 2016 with ecoartscotland. NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde’s new Stobhill Hospital, which Chris project managed in support of Lead Artist Thomas A Clark, won seven major awards including Prime Minister’s Award Better Public Building 2010. Chris has worked on 7 different art and therapeutic design projects for healthcare facilities as well as with PLATFORM London on ‘Remember Saro-Wiwa’, the Land Art Generator Initiative, and with the Harrisons most recently as Associate Producer for ‘On The Deep Wealth of this Nation, Scotland’.


Bateson, G. (1979). Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. London: Wildwood House.

Beuys, J. (2005). ‘Statements by Joseph Beuys’. Cencrastus: Scottish and International - Joseph Beuys in Scotland (80).

Biesta, G. (2017). Letting Art Teach: Art education ‘after’ Joseph Beuys. Arnhem: ArtEZ Press.

Bishop, C. (2012). Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. London: Verso.

Brookner, J. (2009). Urban Rain: Stormwater as a Resource. City of San Jose/Oro Editions.

Collins, T. (2001). ‘Conversations in the Rust Belt’ in Herzogenrath, Bernd (ed), Critical Studies, From Virgin Land to Disney World: Nature and Its Discontents in the USA of Yesterday and Today, (26). pp. 251-276.

Curating Cities: a database of eco-public art. (no date) Nine Mile Run - STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, Carnegie Mellon University. Pittsburgh, USA, 1996-2000. [online] Available from: http://eco-publicart.org/nine-mile-run/

Fabijanska, M. (2020). ecofeminism(s), Thomas Erben Gallery. Jun-July 2020. [online] Available from: http://www.monikafabijanska.com/s/ecofeminisms-essay-FINAL_FINAL.pdf

Fremantle, C. (2015). ‘The hope of something different’. In A restless art: thinking about community and participatory art [online] https://arestlessart.com/2015/12/17/chris-fremantle-the-hope-of-something-different/

Douglas, A., and Fremantle, C. (2016a). ‘What Poetry Does Best: The Harrisons’ Poetics of Being and Acting in the World’. In Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison. The Time of the Force Majeure: After 45 Years Counterforce is on the Horizon? New York: Prestel. pp. 455-460.

Douglas, A., and Fremantle, C. (2016b). ‘Inconsistency and Contradiction: Lessons in Improvisation in the work of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison’. In (ed) Brady, J., Elemental: an Arts and Ecology Reader. Manchester: The Gaia Project. pp. 153-181.

Fitzgerald, C. (2018). The Ecological Turn: Living Well with Forests To Articulate Eco-Social Art Practices Using a Guattari Ecosophy and Action Research Framework. PhD Thesis, National College of Art and Design, Dublin. Available from: http://ncad.academia.edu/CathyFitzgerald

Fremantle, C., Douglas, A., and Pritchard, D. (2020a). ‘In The Time Of Art With Policy: The Practice of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison Alongside Global Environmental Policy Since the 1970s’. In (eds) Cartiére and Tan. Routledge Companion to Art and the Public Realm. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 300-314.

Fremantle, C., Douglas, A., and Pritchard, D. (2020b). ‘‘The Harrisons’ Practice in the Context of Global Environmental Policy and Politics from the 1960s to 2019: A Timeline’. In (eds) Cartiére, C., and Tan., L., Routledge Companion to Art and the Public Realm. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 315-332.

Ghosh, A. (2016). The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Haley, D. (2016). ‘A question of values: Art, Ecology and the Natural Order of Things’ in Brady, J. (ed.) Elemental: an arts ecology reader. Manchester: Gaia Press Project/Cornerhouse pp 41-62.

Harris, P. and Fremantle, C. (2013). ‘Practising equality? Issues for co-creative and participatory practices addressing social justice and equality’. Participations: journal of audience and reception studies, 10(2), pages 183-200. Available from: http://www.participations.org/Volume%2010/Issue%202/11.pdf

Harrison, H.M., and Harrison, N. (2004). Santa Fe Watershed: Lessons from the Genius of Place, Santa Fe Art Institute. 11 December 2004-22 January 2005. Santa Fe, NM: Santa Fe Art Institute.

Harrison, H.M., and Harrison, N. (2016). The Time of the Force Majeure: After 45 Years Counterforce is on the Horizon? New York: Prestel.

Harrison, H.M., and Harrison, N. (1993). Serpentine Lattice. Portland Oregon: Reed Institute and Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery 2 February-15 March 1993. Portland, OR: Reed Institute and Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery.

Harrison, N. (2018). On the Deep Wealth of this Nation, Scotland. 11-25 September 2018 the Barn, Banchory, Aberdeenshire. Available from: http://www.centerforforcemajeure.org/deep-wealth-of-this-nation-scotland

Heim, W., and Margolies, E. (2014). Landing Stages: Selections from the Ashden Directory of Environment and Performance 2000-2014. London: Crinkle Crankle Press.

Kagan, S. (2013). Art and Sustainability: Connecting Patterns for a Culture of Complexity. 2nd Edition. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.

Kagan, S. (2014). “The Practice of Ecological Art”, Plastik: Art & Science, http://art-science.univ-paris1.fr/plastik/document.php?id=866

Kester, G. (2013). “On Collaborative Art Practices”, Praktyka Teoretyczna, http://www.praktykateoretyczna.pl/granth-kester-on-collaborative-art-practices/ accessed 7.12. 2015.

Kester, G. (2015) “Editorial”, Field: A Journal of Socially Engaged Art Criticism, Vol 2. http://field-journal.com/issue-2/kester-2. Accessed 7 December 2015

Lipton, A. (2017). Why Matter Matters? Women Eco Artists’ Dialog Magazine [online] Available from: https://directory.weadartists.org/jackie-brooker-matter-matters

Macdonald, M. (no date) Art and Science: A Note on Interdisciplinarity. [online] Available from: https://murdomacdonald.wordpress.com/art-and-science-a-note-on-interdisciplinarity/

Malen, L. and Schor, M. (2015). “In Memoriam: Jackie Brookner”, NewsGrist. [online] available from http://www.newsgrist.typepad.com/underbelly/2015/05/in-memoriam-jackie-brookner-1945-2015.html. Accessed 7 December 2015.

Matarasso, F. (2019). A Restless Art: How participation won, and why it matters. London Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation/Central Books.

Matilsky, B. (1992). Fragile Ecologies: Contemporary Artists’ Interpretations and Solutions, Queens Museum of Art, New York. September 15-November 29 1992. New York: Rizzoli.

Nicolescu, B. (1997). The Transdisciplinary Evolution of the University Condition for Sustainable Development. International Congress "Universities' Responsabilities [sic] to Society", International Association of Universities, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, November 12-14. [online] Available from:

Patrizio, A. (2019). The Ecological Eye: Assembling an Ecocritical Art History. Manchester University Press.

Saratsi, E., Acott, T., Allinson, E., Edwards, D., Fremantle, C., and Fish, R. (2019) Valuing arts and arts research. Valuing nature paper, 22. UK: Valuing Nature [online]. Available from: https://valuing-nature.net/valuing-arts-and-arts-research

Till, J. (2005). ‘The Negotiation of Hope’. In (eds) Jones, P.B., Petrescu, D., and Till, J., Architecture and Participation. London and New York: Taylor & Francis. Pp 23-41.

Turnhout, E., Metze, T., Wyborn, C., Klenk, N., and Louder, E. (2020). ‘The politics of co-production: participation, power, and transformation’, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. Vol 42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2019.11.009

WTM Study Group (2017). Drawn in Drawn Out, Studying the Commons. Utrecht: Casco: Office for Art, Design and Theory.