Cathy Fitzgerald is a visual artist-filmmaker living in rural County Carlow, Ireland. Her work is chiefly concerned with the interplay between art and science in how society relates to the natural world.
Originally from New Zealand, Cathy has a diverse work background in both art and science. Although always passionate about visual art, Cathy spent the first eight years of her working career working in biological science working at a agricultural research institute in New Zealand. On moving to Ireland, Cathy spent the next six years completing a First Class Joint Honours degree in Fine Art Painting and Irish Art History at the National College of Art & Design (NCAD 1996-2000), Dublin, then an MA in Fine Art (NCAD Virtual Realities) 2000- 2002. Her MA further developed her interdisciplinary approach with a novel residency in the leukaemia laboratory at St James Hospital in Dublin, while also allowing her to develop considerable knowledge of interactive online media, film and theory.
Since arriving in Ireland 15 years ago she has also been very involved in Irish and European forest NGO’s, and Green politics (particularly Green Party forestry policy). Recently she acted at the first Director of ArtLinks.ie, an innovative five county on and off-line programme of professional arts development catering to over 1500 creative practitioners through the Local Authority Arts Offices of the South East of Ireland (2007-10). Highlights in her art practice include an Art Council Residency and exhibition in the Zoology Genetic laboratories in the Zoology Dept. at Trinity College (2004-5), and the solo exhibition, ‘the local project’ at the Dock, Co. Leitrim (2006), comprising of a 30 minute film documentary and exhibition that celebrated a pioneering cross county local native woodland planting scheme.
Cathy’s ongoing film practice since 2008, loosely titled the ‘Holly Wood Diaries’, is a slow art project where she is creating short film works about converting her two acre spruce monoculture into a permanent sustainable forest with advice from professional foresters – it’s a small, personal and local response to climate change. In her actions she offers questions and reflections on individual experience from learning about ecology directly from her woodland and foresters, while also referring to the complexities of cultural and scientific discourse that relate or hinder our relationship to the natural world.
In her film work, she has considered the limitations of presenting scientific information as complex and as abstract as climate change in a documentary format that appear to little engage audiences. Much documentary and artistic works to date dealing with climate/ecological issues have also focused on the faraway ‘hot spots’ of climate change… the Artic, the Antartic and the Amazon. Instead she is drawn to developing a film practice rooted in her own environment while also experimenting with an ecopoetic narrative structure (more associated with literary eco-critical research) to allow a deeper, more personal realisation of place while envisioning responses to planet-wide concerns. Her short film poems attempt to articulate a personal ecological responsibility to climate change, by learning about and experiencing, the ecology of her own backyard. Distribution of her work on social networks and through exhibition attempt to convey to audiences that new narrative of sustainable ecological action must be centred on a deep understanding of place, as well as planet.
Cathy will investigate the complex history of how culture/society has mediated, related and represented nature, with particular emphasis on how society is failing to successfully frame a cultural response to imminent ecological crisis such as climate change and natural resource limits. A particular interest will be to explore how present cinematic conventions are engaging audiences in this area or not and the rise of grassroots activists filmworks through social media. Cathy’s research enquiry through theory and her own film practice will also focus on examining the small and newly developing field of eco-criticism as it relates to cinema, the more established field of literary eco-criticism, but also reference developments in environmental philosophy, environmental pyschology and environmental communication, cultural geography, network cultures and cognitive science as it relates to cinema.
Cathy attended the first UK Art and Forest conference (RSA, 2009), the first International Culture and Climate conference, Culture|Futures (Copenhagen COP15 Climate Summit, 2009). She wrote a review of this conference at which the first draft on an international policy on Culture and Climate Change was presented here. She presented her work at the doctoral research conference Will Beauty Save the World, (Bristol, 2010)
Cathy blogs about art, ecology, film, culture and climate change at www.ecoartnotebook.com
NCAD* PhD Researcher at GradCAM.ie
* National College of Art & Design,
part of the Graduate School of Creative Arts and Media, Ireland