The Summit 2012 – Artist Commissions

Emergence commissioned artists thanks to Arts Council Wales: Sarah Woods & Richard Gott, Ansuman Biswas, Fern Thomas & Owen Griffiths, Ben Stammers, Culture Colony, Simon Whitehead and Touchstone Collaborations.

Simon Whitehead
Sarah Woods & Richard Gott
Fern Thomas & Owen Griffiths
Touchstone Collaborations
Ben Stammers
Ansuman Biswas
Pete Telfer

Simon Whitehead

Simon Whitehead was invited to design and curate the Emergence Land Journey.

The original brief:
To design 2 practical walking routes for the delegates to be agreed with the mountain leaders and Emergence team. Simon will also agree the ‘shape and content’ for each walking day with the Emergence team. He will also make contact with a ‘visitor’ for each day of the walk for both routes and agree an ‘intervention / offering’ with each of them. Simon will also produce documentation relating to this for the Emergence website, printed matter etc. Simon was also asked to design and produce literature for 2 walks which can be walked by others in future. The walks could be publicized in leaflets or other literature for to complement other forthcoming events or as a ‘stand alone’ experience.

A preamble…
The shape of the routes came whilst walking in a small studio and thinking about the land north and south of the Dovey. I was walking the form of an ellipse. It had a certain momentum and offered openings and uncertainties, whilst keeping its integrity…I kept walking.

The approach to this brief therefore became more choreographic in its intentions than it was cartographic. The Land Journey for me began as a dance and continued so throughout the physical project.

Whilst using the template of the ellipse with which to navigate and devise the routes it became obvious to me that whilst the form was changed in its exchange with the nature of the terrain and available pathways, it still offered a circularity of experience, retaining these uncertainties and openings. The openings were used as themes to introduce new and sometimes surprising elements, including the arrival and disappearance of ‘visitors’, who offered different narratives of the places the walkers passed through.

The elliptical designs therefore offered up gaps to let people and chaos in, and a commitment to offer something incomplete, an open-endedness. There was also a built in ambivalence in these designs, which enabled me to avoid a process of choice based on any preconceived subjective or aesthetic notion of ‘beauty’, guide- book convention or former experience of the places these routes passed through. The designs anticipated that the walking and navigation of the routes on the ground would involve a process of improvisation and the inevitability of contingencies. It invited walkers to collaborate on finding solutions, best routes and to make decisions on ‘the hoof’.

‘The ellipses are imperfect and in places incomplete, they now resemble the shape of a pair of kidneys in this body of mid Wales, the larger one to the South. The routes as they stand therefore invite the walkers to improvise their own completions and become involved in a process of collective decision- making. This will happen each day, with the intention to provoke a collaborative process within each group and the landscape itself. I imagine the decisions will be based on identifying options of terrain and duration and consensus by which the group share their desires and indicators of their physical capacities and orientations at that time.’ Diary, July.

As it was, I walked each route before the Land journey began for real. Sometimes I walked just the beginning and end, sometimes the whole route…usually alone, sometimes with a friend.
Each time I got lost, had to find the path on the ground again, most times I had to adjust my route in the face of closed paths, pipelines, road building, ambiguity of the map etc. I also experienced certain places that I knew differently, because I was not walking the obvious route, I liked how the ellipse was revealing the landscape to me in different, non-linear ways. Like the grammatical form, the ways occasionally seemed to trail off into silence and uncertainty.
The routes through the land, like the walkers themselves were dynamic entities…they embodied change and the uncertainty of the future. I guess the mountain guides are trained to face uncertainty and to decode the uncertain into meaningful routes…

Sarah Woods and Richard Gott

The Roadless Trip

An urgent and irresistible invitation to imagine and create a positive future, The Roadless Trip is a very human and often hilarious journey through time. Mixing performance, film, audience interaction and the frenzy of the popular gameshow, this moving and funny production received a standing ovation on its first outing at the Emergence Summit at the Centre for Alternative Technology in 2012.

To watch a short film about The Roadless Trip see our Video page in Resources.

Owen Griffiths and Fern Thomas

Store (for future)

For their work for the Emergence Summit Owen and Fern participated in the Land Journey, capturing images and sounds as the walkers move through the changing (outer and inner) landscapes and terrain. When they reached CAT and for the duration of the conference the artists created a base in the darkened subterranean Food Store where participants were invited to enter into a process where they were able to share thoughts and reflections on their experiences and responses to Emergence, and to the wider context in which we all gathered.

The recorded exchanges in the Food Store were woven together with the filmed images and captured sounds from the Land Journey to create an alternative document of the Emergence Summit which exists as an artwork in itself, offering an imaginative space for entering into the thoughts and images shared and highlighting the important questions to carry forward.

The video work is available to view online on our Resources Video page.

Touchstone Collaborations

Food of the Land Journey

Food of the Land is a socially-engaged culinary arts practice, regenerating a multi-cultural and artisan gastronomy of the United Kingdom.

Ecological artists Miche Fabre Lewin and Flora Gathorne-Hardy of Touchstone Collaborations were commissioned to curate the food for the five day Land Journey. Food of the Land integrates the land journey with the food, and brought alive, every day and every mouthful, Emergence’s practical commitment to a low carbon future and life in balance with nature.

For Emergence’s Land Journey, the ‘deepened dialogue with our environment’ was nurtured by feeding walkers with energy sustaining and nourishing, seasonal foods which were sourced as locally as possible – from CAT‘s food garden, within Wales, and where necessary from small-scale, pioneering growers and artisan producers in the United Kingdom. As well as being a living connection to the land, the food revitalised our bodies, enlivened our thinking, and was sustainable for the planet. For Food of the Land we worked with Daphne Lambert, nutritionist-chef, who has trained marathon runners, and pioneered Living Nutrition – a seasonal course in sustainable nutrition. Food of the Land was a convivial intervention through awakening food. It contributed to envisioning and nurturing an embodied food experience that inspired radical change. In this way it formed an integral part the living artwork of Emergence Summit.

Ben Stammers

Land Journey Intervention

Ben appeared a number of times to the walkers on the land journey (North and South). His appearances were glimpsed ‘at the edge’ rather than at the centre of vision. His appearances were mostly in and around eater – the sea or the river as close-up or at a distance encounters. he has created a series of images and words which are the legacy of his appearances.

He speaks here about his intention….

I was asked by Simon Whitehead and Fern Smith to be one of the commissioned artists for the event, and specifically to respond to the Land Journey element of Emergence 2012.

Since taking on the commission I’ve been thinking about the concept of hope – what it could mean, and if and how it could be embodied. I’ve been thinking about it in relation to the image of the human figure and the landscape, and in terms of my own practice as a live artist.

Firstly in an abstract way, I’ve been trying to think about hope as distinct from expectation, or blind faith, or irrational courage… and about how it seems to only acquire meaning in really adverse circumstances, when it could be taken for foolishness. When evidence about people’s capacity to act cooperatively for a better future (on global issues such as climate change – see 2012 Rio Summit for example) suggests that acceptance of defeat is the rational response, is hope a noble stand, or just a stubborn denial of an unpalatable truth? Can an action be both hopeful and forlorn?

Taking inspiration from unexpected wildlife encounters, when you suddenly glimpse part of another world, another way of living, I’ve been imagining actions to be seen by the walkers on the Land Journey that are unannounced, and either fleeting, or distant, or in some way not fully explained. Could there be an action that will be in relation to the walkers’ own purposeful journey but different from / tangential to it, suggesting the possibility of other ways of inhabiting the terrain, other journeys happening alongside their own?

The flooding in Wales this summer, combined with general awareness of sea-level rise, have made me think about water as an elemental force that confronts people… Does hope consist in a courageous but forlorn resistance to the flow, or could it be in acceptance of change – a kind of abandonment or acquiescence to nature? Can hope on a species level lie in embracing a capacity to improvise within changing environments – in being adaptive, flexible, amphibious? What might that mean in terms of the body?

With some of these questions in mind, Simon Whitehead and I visited parts of the routes that both the North and South Land Journeyers will be taking around the river Dyfi. We talked about the logistical possibilities of particular settings, as well as how particular actions might fit within the daily / weekly schedule of the walk, and what resonance there might be with other interventions planned as part of the journey. We agreed that it might make an interesting connection for the 2 groups to have had an encounter in or around the Dyfi – one on the first day (North route), and one on the last day (South route) of their walks. We also discussed the possibility of other actions that might be glimpsed on other parts of the routes, specifically in the contested inter-tidal zone along the coast, and / or lake margins.

Ansuman Biswas

Creating the Future Guest Artist

Ansuman was an integral part of the entire Emergence Summit and was involved as walker on the North route of the Land Journey and as contributor to the conference weaving his way through the entire score of the event. He is also composer/musician for the score of the film ‘Walking to the Summit’. The final part of his commission was presented one year after the end of the Summit, in Summer 2013 and relates to the impact and echo of the whole event. He has created an audible art piece which can be downloaded below. It is in the spirit of the Land Journey, an invitation to walk and to listen, to connect the inner and outer worlds through which one travels…

Pete Telfer

Walking to the Summit

Pete Telfer was commissioned to make a documentary film for the Emergence Summit. Two versions were finally delivered, one feature-length version of ‘Walking to the Summit’ shot in HD for Emergence and a slightly shorter version to represent Wales on the BBC digital arts platform ‘The Space’.


“What will my mortgage payment be?

What will my baby look like?

What will the iphone6 have?

What will we do in heaven?

What will be will be”

Sarah Woods & Richard Gott

“Hope was the thing – that was what got tested through the week for me I think. I’d started out by trying to think about hope – how or if you can distinguish it from blind faith, or stubborn, irrational courage, or pie-in-the-sky. And where the line is


“A Taste for the Sea” – A guided tour of Anywhere You Like