Collaboration 2 – Farming & Environmental Policy

Artists – Professor Karen Ingham, supporting artist Ben Sharpe

Scientists – Professor Michael Christie, Duncan Coston, Professor Simon Potts and Dr Tom Breeze from Reading University, Dr Sophie Bennett, Sinead Lynch, Dr Sarah Beynon, Dr Paul Thompson

‘When Less Is More’

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 When Less Is More is a film (a dual-screen diptych) installation with accompanying photographic images. The film uses an arts based ‘practice-led research’ methodology to explore: the public’s understanding of; conceptualization of; and willingness to accept behavioral change, in relation to how we value nature from the perspective of pollinating insects and their plant counterparts. From an arts perspective the film is a development of Ingham’s previous research into pollinators and their habitats as examined in the globally disseminated multidisciplinary art and science project ‘Pollinator Frocks’:

From the science perspective, the underpinning research for the film is based on Professor Michael Christie’s (Aberystwyth University) research in the areas of Valuation of Nature for Ecosystem Service Sustainability, and Economic and Social Valuation of Biodiversity and Ecosystems, which provide the key scientific data that the film explores. The research of Prof. Christie’s colleague Dr. Sarah Beynon, of Beynon’s Bug Farm in Pembrokeshire, is also of key importance, and her farm in Saint David’s provides the location for the film.

The film questions how two different farming environments – one a species rich, minimally managed parcel of land and an equivalent area that is intensively managed and species specific – attract, interact with, and sustain pollinators. The areas in question (which function as metaphorical ‘micro meadows’) are relatively small, about the size of a domestic front garden, with the intention of prompting the viewer to make the connection between the wider issues surrounding environmental farming practices in relation to domestic gardening practice. For example, the intensively mown, weed free, pristine green lawn is in effect a ‘green death’ for pollinators and is the equivalent of the intensively managed species poor parcel of land. The sense of transition, time passing, seasonal interactions etc. is achieved by using time-lapse images interwoven with a series of dissolves punctuated by static moments of quiet observation, where, for example, the sound plays an important role. The less intensive land is alive with buzzing and birdsong while the intensive ‘meadow’ is comparatively silent. The film also uses infrared night filming to observe how pollinators such as moths interact with the constructed meadows.

The film aims to influence public perception and thus inform future policy decisions by arguing for more complex farm diverse practice and less sterile and intensive management practices in both agriculture and domestic arenas (field and lawn).