Breachacha Embrace Program 2023

‘Taskscape’ is a term coined by Tim Ingold (British anthropologist, Emeritus Professor University of Aberdeen, Scotland). He proposes that we speak of ‘taskscape’ instead of ‘landscape’, in that it emphasises the necessity, if we are to save the world, of human beings collaborating with the earth and not the exploiting in the way that has led to the crisis we face. ‘Landscape’, says Ingold, is either tied to a distinctly cultural perspective (as it is in the visual arts), or to a natural perspective (landscape as an ecological background against which—not ‘with’ which—we organize our lives). The term ‘taskscape’ does not aim to obscure the ecological and cultural side of ‘landscape’ but adds another layer of meaning.
‘Taskscape Breachacha’ can then be read as ‘a beautiful field to collaborate with’. The subtitle ‘rewilding the literary field’ points to the importance of literature with its stories and narratives in giving insight and in helping to inspire and mobilize people to ‘work with a field of wildflowers, in short ‘rewilding’. And the act of thought and writing can be regarded as an essential part of this ‘taskscape’, informed by the view of philosopher Martha Nussbaum that more literature inciting people to reading can make a crucial contribution to creating a better world. Our ‘literary project’ offers a platform to authors of visual or textual work with eco-novels, essays, theatre, film scripts. ‘Taskscape Breachacha’ can be seen as a literary ‘rewilding’ project broadening the ecological discourse in the face of climate change.


Rewilding the Literary Field

DAVID PELEMAN (B, 1979): engineer-architect and urban planner, author

David Peleman is writing a book with several essays on the (un)ecological history of Belgium. The starting point is formed by a series of images—photos, drawings, paintings—images that ask for a story. And his story hints at how we can and must interact differently with the environment, no longer seeing it as a mere projection of our own dreams, but as a partner with whom we need to actively work in shared relation. Today, we need stories to address ‘the ecological issue’—stories that reach out to various aspects of everyday life to make sure it doesn’t remain closed in a debate among specialists or a polemic between left and right, north and south, between ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’ of global warming.

Bois-du-Luc (2017, © David Peleman) 

DONNA GLEE WILLIAMS (US, 1955): novelist and fiction writer

In 2008, while a Fulbright Senior Environmental Leadership Fellow in India, Donna Glee Williams was inspired by the heroic efforts of small farmers around Andhra Pradesh to free themselves and their communities from the devastation caused by pesticide use. She spoke with many people who were attempting to bring back strategies that relied on the natural checks and balances of rewilded agriculture.

Their story continued to grow in Williams’ soul and came out in the form of her novel The Night Field, scheduled for simultaneous release in the US and UK in July 2023. This book describes, in a world that is not this world, the ingredients of environmental success as analysed by her mentor and friend Gerry Marten, drawing on 60 years of eco-tipping-point stories from around the world—stories of ecosystems that were once rich, diverse and stable, but which had fallen into disrepair, and then, crucially, were tipped back into restoration.

In the hope to bring these successful concepts of environmental tipping points to a wider audience in her stories, she wants to broaden the conversation in a sense that textbooks or research papers never could. Currently, her interest is entirely focused on alternative, ecologically responsible ‘agriculture’: the ‘rewilding’ of agriculture.

“I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity the Embrace Space Program offers to do just this: walk without direction, and listen, and receive my next mission from Earth,” writes Donna Glee Williams.

CLARISSE DERRUINE (B, 1995): engineer-architect, novelist

Clarisse Derruine is the young literature laureate of the Fintro Prize 2023. In 2020-2021, she was also laureate of the Foundation Laure Nobels prize with her novel Décomposition. For her, the structure of a novel resembles the design of a building.

Décomposition tells the story of a society in which mushrooms and other plants predominate. Everywhere in the houses and deep in their foundations, nature has become so entrenched that the inhabitants are forced to leave certain places, overwhelmed by this increasingly invasive vegetation. In this universe, where nature becomes a threat to other living creatures (and not the other way around), the protagonists must adapt, reinvent themselves and survive despite everything.

“There is probably a connection between architecture and writing a book,” says Clarisse Derruine. “It is mainly a matter of representations. When we create architecture, we create living spaces. So we necessarily think about the stories that will play out in these places that we imagine. We think about making everyone feel good, it’s the same with writing. I wanted to create a familiar universe with a few parameters changed. There, exceptional events take place, forcing the protagonists to react, adapt, rebuild and survive. Personally, I didn’t want to oppose man and nature. Décomposition is rather the story of an evolution that is seen as a chaos we must learn to live with.”

SASHA HAILS (UK, 1968): writer for stage, film, TV and radio

After a first stay at Breachacha Castle, Alice Albinia returns. She is joined by playwright Sasha Hails to adapt her book Cwen into a play for The Arcola Theater in London. Through collaborations like this, Embrace Space contributes to the dissemination of literature and knowledge to wider audiences. In 2022, a first step in this direction was taken with the publication of texts from Albinia’s new book The Brittanias in the winter issue of the Dutch art magazine See All This #28 that appeared on December 1, 2022.

Sasha Hails has a notable career as a writer for film, TV, theater and radio. She has extensive experience in adapting novels and historiography to stage and film and is currently lead writer and co-creator of season four of Malory Towers, the hit BBC/King Bert series of Enid Blyton’s classic. This is the latest in a long list of significant writing credits and is to be followed by a number of projects currently in development. Her work has been widely recognised and has received many awards.

Although many books are created in the intersecting ‘domains’ of ecology, architecture, urban planning, and agriculture, the residents believe that the most ‘fruitful’ way to look at these related domains is from a position on the margins from which there may be a perspective that allows a greater freedom of understanding. By writing literature and stories from outside ‘a discipline’, exciting, refreshing and enriching insights come to life, which could not possibly arise even by turning the archives of one’s own knowledge domain inside out. Getting closer to nature, as Bruno Latour says, can only be done by accepting that man is not opposed to nature, but part of it. That acceptance also requires or presupposes the presence of other ‘voices’ in the conversation: human voices—but also ‘voices’ of living creatures, indeed of all living entities, animals and plants, which Latour described as a parlement des choses. The location of Breachacha Embrace in the middle of a large nature reserve, home to rare bird species (including sea eagles) and marine animals (otters, seals, basking sharks, orca’s, whales, etc…) will certainly contribute a singular context to the writing of eco-novels and screenplays.

Although global warming is a problem with universal effect, the response to it and the thinking of how to deal with it is still shaped by culture. We do not separate culture and nature in this. Although there is only one planet earth, and one process of planetary warming, it takes many stories to translate global warming from scientific observation to an understanding of its profound and complex effects in everyday life. Stories that, so to speak, ‘have their feet in the earth’ in the place and in the communities where they need to be heard. We feel that this cultural aspect forms the core of the residency at Embrace Space, because here people come together from different corners of the world, but also from different domains of the cultural field. Moreover, the natural environment here is overwhelming both in its beauty and in the raging fury of its storms, in the rich diversity of its vegetation and in the fascinating prolixity of its sea life with its algae and creatures…