Drawing Energy – Book

Drawing Energy – Book

Power Culture

Drawing Energy describes a drawing-based research project undertaken by the Royal College of Art as part of SusLabNWE (2012-15). The project explored people’s perceptions of energy, by asking them to write, draw or illustrate their thoughts and reactions to the question ‘What does energy look like?’ Over 180 members of the public took part in the process. This site accompanies the book, published in July 2015.

The larger SuslabNWE study saw 11 partners from Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK come together to understand and investigate energy use in the home. At the Royal College of Art in the UK, we looked at bringing together two ideals and practices around inclusive design and sustainability. Both often have different starting points and deal with different scales. Inclusive design usually focuses on people’s needs and capabilities at the domestic scale, while sustainability embraces complexity and systems thinking, addressing systemic change.

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Dispatches from the Source: writings from improvisations

In June 2014 four of us went to look for the source of the Tweed.

Back in the studio  I was interested in exploring how we remember a place and what we remember about it through movement improvisation.

Below are a selection of short pieces of writing that came out of these improvisations.

The writings are illustrated by images made by Tim Rubidge at the source by pressing paper into the peat.

Imagine a path following along a curve.

The curve
The Tweed
And the imagining.

It was a green – veined white, its wings, tributaries of a river, flowing towards the source.


Who was the person to first put their hand into Tweed?
No, it wasn’t me.
One of the others.


And we listened
And we listened

What did you hear?


Trickling ?

Trickling underground.

You heard it even though you couldn’t see it?

You see it through the listening.

What else did you hear?

The lark.
There was a silence between the sound of the river and the song of the lark.

A sound. A silence . A song. What else did you hear?




We found something.
A peat bog,
A curve in the landscape.
Somewhere to sit.
I didn’t draw but one of us drew.
One of us dipped the paper into peat.

Later on I drew that scar.
I went with paper
I sat down on the edge.

I pressed the paper against it.

I used my fingertips to press even more.
It was a tracing, the print of a texture.

I wondered, should I do it a second time?
Don’t repeat anything, I thought.

What do you call the colour of peat?


I remember.

What do you remember?

I remember it was kind of emerging.

Is that emerging or kind of emerging?

It’s not definable.
I wrote those words in my notebook.


Should I have written there is no source as such?

June 5th 2014

Merav Israel
Tim Rubidge
Peat Pressings
Tim Rubidge
Claire Pençak

Source Materials: A proposal

dispathches from the source 009

In February we welcomed Christo Wallers, a film maker based in Northumberland, to the team of artists working on the Dispatches from the Source project.

This is Christo’s proposal for a 16mm film project in response to a conversation about the ideas we have been exploring so far around source materials. I had also recently discovered that the deep groundwater that feeds the source of Tweed also feeds the sources of Annan and Clyde.

This film project plays upon the shortcomings of primary source material. As you mentioned, the source of a river’s water is impossible to isolate, due to the plurality of sources of water that feed into a spot which is in itself only labelled as the ‘source’ because of a general agreement, as opposed to an empirically provable location.  The source of the river’s water becomes a mise en abyme, as each source has its own source, in an endless cycle of precipitation. 

Artworks are considered primary source materials because they communicate a creative authenticity, a record of a lived moment in time – so the film might stand as a primary source material even if the subject matter can’t be verified as the source.

The film is a photochemical record of the location.  It is more too, because the 16mm film negative will be buried on the spot which the lens focused on, for 6 weeks, resulting in a partial decomposition of the image (deleting source material) through contact with the ‘source’.  It will be the oxygenation, uv damage and micro-organisms living in that very spot that will be responsible for the decomposition, but is that not source material of a degree further veracity, the previous being only an image, the latter being a material record of the place.  Celluloid film, as opposed to digital, is considered indexical, because there is an inherent truth in the fact that light bounced off the pro-filmic object (the spot of ground agreed to be the source of the river) and chemically changed the film frame – as such it is an index of reality.  Digital video, with its translation of the same phenomenon into data that is distributed to a matrix of pixels, cannot make the same claim.  It is an old theory, suggested by Andre Bazin, a French film critic in the 1950’s predominantly.  It feels interesting here because of the notions of source material under investigation.  

Submerged Film Reel

Submerged Film Reel

I would shoot 400′ of 16mm colour negative, at the source of the river Tweed, or the source of a nearer river to you, if that made sense. That would be processed and printed, and the print sent back up to you to bury.  After this time, the print should be exhumed, dried very carefully, and then either run through the projector if it is stable, or I would have an interneg and a print made at the Star and Shadow Cinema, with the help of Mat Fleming.  This print would, if projected at 24fps, last approx 11mins.  For the processing of the print, it occurred to me that the chemistry required could all be made up using water from the same location, including rinse water.  This plays too on the ritualistic quality of the project – burying and exhuming film for the purposes of a quasi-scientific project is kind of a clash of ideologies – the mystical or the ritualistic.

The resulting film would I expect be full of cracks, mould formations, and other signs of decomposition, showing layers of contrast that will be unexpected.  It could be creatively projected in relationship to the choreography.  (Christo Wallers)

So that’s what we are doing.

Christo went to find the source on February 4th.

Dispatches from the Source

Dispatches from the Source

He returned with film documentation, several litres of Tweed Water and a china figurine of a lady with a parasol that he found lying on the ground.

I returned the developed film to the source on February 21st.

I also came back with Tweed Water but for a different purpose. Neil Manning, the farmer who works that land, tells me that it is the best water to add to whisky.

I’ll return in April to find the film and pass it on to Christo for the final process.  In the meanwhile I left a note in case anyone came across it .

Thanks to Neil Manning, farmer at Tweedshaws for permission to bury the film.

Claire Pençak

Sounds from the Source

As part of a Creative Scotland Artist Bursary project awarded to choreographer Claire Pencak, she went with her collaborators, dancers Merav Israel and Tim Rubidge to find the source of Tweed on June 3rd 2014.

This was a journey towards the beginning of a new piece of choreographic research – Dispatches from the Source. Working with the source of the Tweed as an inspiration, our project is asking questions and exploring ideas thorough improvisation, about source materials in terms of choreography as well as more generally. As one of us remarked, before we see a movement, there are lots of other things that have already happened – so too with rivers.

The first bridge over the Tweed

The first bridge over the Tweed

Here is some source material we gathered – a short field recording. It is the Laverock’s song at the source – in the foreground we hear the Larks and in the background lambs and traffic from the A 701.

Click here to listen https://soundcloud.com/working-the-tweed/source-of-tweed

Young Tweed

Young Tweed

Other questions that have emerged so far through improvisation are :

What comes before a river?

How do you find the source and what are we looking for there?

Can we know anything about the source? What do other species know about the source? Could we know that too?

Here is a second field recording – the sound of Tweed emerging – in the foreground the sound of water dripping from peat with lambs and traffic in the background.

Click here to listen  https://soundcloud.com/working-the-tweed/tweeds-well-lambs-and-traffic

Peat at Tweed's Well

Peat at Tweed’s Well

The source is an emerging place, fed by deeper source material – groundwater – that is not visible to us and shared by other sources.  As the Border rhyme tells us ‘Annan,Tweed and Clyde rise oot the ae hillside‘.

Layman’s Guidebook on how to develop a small hydro site

Archimedes Screws at PhiliphaughAnother rainy day and the Tweed Rivers will be running high – so here’s some ‘light reading’  to help you to to harness some of that hydro energy .

The Layman’s Guide on how to develop a small hydro site: A handbook prepared  for the Commission of the European Communities, Directorate-General for Energy by European Small Hydropower Association (ESHA).   Download the publication here EU_layman’s_guide_to_small_hydro

An updated guide to the above by the Thematic Network on Small Hydropower (TNSHP) includes the developments in engineering and science that have taken place since the first publication. Download here Updated Guide to Small Hydro

We also found this slightly slimmer publication – A Guide to UK Mini Hydro Development by the British Hydropower Association. Download Here A Guide to UK mini-hydro development v3

Be inspired by watching this short video of the Hydro Scheme at Philiphaugh.  https://vimeo.com/121903013


Approaching Choreography

Improvisation, Meeting of Ettrick and Yarrow Dancer Tim Rubidge. Photo Kate Foster

Improvisation, Meeting of Ettrick and Yarrow
Dancer Tim Rubidge. Photo Kate Foster

Approaching Choreography is an attempt to articulate a more ecological approach to dance making and choreography through the frames of Placing and Perspective; Pathways Through; Meetings and Points of Contact and Working with Materials and Sites.

It emerged through a series of improvisations and conversations in the Scottish Borders and Northumberland with dancers Merav Israel and Tim Rubidge, environmental artist Kate Foster and writer/researcher Dr. Wallace Heim.

Improvisations, Ettrick Water, May 2014 Photo Kate Foster

Improvisations, Ettrick Water, May 2014
Photo Kate Foster

The idea was produced into a small booklet as part of a collaborative Speculative Ground Project with anthropologists Jen Clarke and Rachel Harkness for the Anthropological Association Decennial Conference, in Edinburgh June 2014.

You can download a PDF of the booklet here:Approaching Choreography

Approaching Choreography is a Tabula Rasa collaboration.

Text and idea:  Claire Pencak

Design: Felicity Bristow

Video Images: Kate Foster

Dancer: Tiim Rubidge

Proposal for Engagement: An action score for place making by Claire Pencak

I had been wondering if there were other ways of considering how we use land that made it easier for more people to be able to engage with ideas around Land Use and feel able to contribute to debates and consultations around these issues. The Scottish Borders along with Aberdeenshire was selected to develop regional pilot Land Use Strategies which will ultimately inform the  revision of the national Land Use Strategy which is to be published  in 2016. In the Scottish Border this regional framework was developed through mapping and a series of public consultations to seek the views of communities. I had been to a few of these and found it tricky to know how to engage with it as someone that isn’t a land manager or land owner.

I wondered what might be a choreographic response to thinking about habitat and Land Use?

Current ideas around place-making seemed like a good start and I wanted to think about it from more than just the human perspective as it is an ecological issue.

What emerged out of several days of improvisations beside the Ettrick and Yarrow Waters in the Scottish Borders and the East and West Allen Rivers in Northumberland was the idea of habitat as action places and being a score for improvisation.

Improvisation beside dry river bed, River Allen,  May 2014 . Dancer Tim Rubidge.

Improvisation beside dry river bed, River Allen, May 2014 . Dancer Tim Rubidge.

What do I mean by score? A score suggests ways to proceed. It is a framework to assist imaginative engagement, a way into improvisation and playful encounters.

Here then are sixty ways that habitat might be considered by the diversity of species that use it –birds, fish, insects, mammals, plants and trees. They suggest potential zones of action – on the ground, under the ground and over ground; on the water, underwater and in the air.

Consider them as a way in to thinking about land use.

Resting Place                    Feeding Place                   Reflecting Place

Meeting Place                   Parting Place                     Growing Place

Fishing Place                    Nesting Place                    Gathering Place

Watering Place                 Flooding Place                   Grazing Place

Drowning Place                Building Place                     Crossing Place

Flying Place                      Exploring Place                   Swimming Place

Washing Place                  Hunting Place                     Waiting Place

Stalking Place                   Dying Place                         Passing Place

Seeping Place                   Learning Place                   Singing Place

Teaching Place                 Dancing Place                    Mating Place

Calling Place                     Swinging Place                   Perching Place

Hovering Place                  Playing Place                     Sheltering Place

Disputing Place                 Flowing Place                     Healing Place

Fighting Place                   Dividing Place                     Joining Place

Listening Place                  Hiding Place                       Lingering Place

Trysting Place                   Climbing Place                   Overhanging Place

Killing Place                       Digging Place                     Birthing Place

Flowering Place                 Falling Place                      Catching Place

Leaping Place                   Sowing Place                      Harvesting Place

Storing Place                     Burying Place                     Drying Place

How to use the score.

Cut them up, share them out, read them out.

Explore them through drawing, dancing, mapping and conversation.

Use them as a starting point for writing, photography, music making, walking or quiet contemplation.

Add to the list by creating your own.

Pass them on.

Download the ‘score’ here Action Score for Place Making

Claire Pencak, March 2015

This work is being supported through a Creative Scotland Artist Bursary.