Laura Donkers

PhD Thesis DJCAD, University of Dundee

Considering local experiential knowledge through ‘slow residency’ artistic actions, aiming at ecological change

From the perspective of the resident artist’s complex connection with place and people my research investigates the significance of embodied knowledge as it affects how a community creates a sustainable, meaningful future, focusing on issues of decision-making, agency, and translation of ideas in ‘living deliberately’.

This is a creative practice that aims to work with the community in such a way as to embed sustainable eco-social values and methods. It explores how communities can be supported to take local action to tackle global problems through assimilating cultural understandings of identity, place and ownership, and examines how the resident artist can contribute to this process, when she has developed a navigable position within that community that enables facilitation, interpretation and intercession. Ultimately, the objective is to devise an eco-social model of project delivery that incorporates the whole community of human and non-human players: A concept of local that represents ‘what is meaningful to us’, in the place where we live – ‘the critical zone’ (Latour) [1].

As an environmental artist, originally from London, now permanently based on the Isle of North Uist, Outer Hebrides since 1990, I investigate bio-cultural links between people and land at a time of social, economic and ecological turmoil. In 2011, I set up earth | environmental art hebrides as a creative platform to explore the interconnectedness of art, ecology, site and politics, and how art can expand ways to reflect and develop our lived experience. Through the dialogical processes of field research, such as interviewing, fieldwalking, and surveying via photography, digital recording and drawing, I collect and present primary observations, which interrogate the political, physical and material conditions of landscape as experienced through the body.

Recent drawings explore making as a means to investigate and document ideas of collaboration. Based on physical mark making, the creation of these frottage works involves an intention to ‘make with’ the tree/paper/graphite and the climatic conditions present that day, rather than a process of exploiting materials and conditions to produce work that ignores the elements of co-production involved. The final works become relics that document these engagements and preserve the ephemeral presence of the collaboration.


[1] ‘Nature is too big to understand – we are interested only in the part of nature on which we live – the thin skin – the ‘critical zone’. Bruno Latour presented on “From the Anthropocene to the New Climatic Regime” at the RCC Lunchtime Colloquium on Thursday, 8 December, 2016. Published on Apr 18, 2017



PhD Candidate, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee


MFA Art Society and Publics, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee


BA Fine Art Honours (First Class) – UHI, Moray School of Art, Elgin



Weit Genug, Kulturzentrum Klosterkirche, Angermunde, Germany

DRAWinternational Studio Exhibition, Caylus, Midi-Pyrennes, France

Worlding Place. Art and Geography Exhibition, CIG, St Patricks College DCU, Dublin

The Monument Game – Performance, Timespan, Helmsdale, Scotland

Vancouver Biennale I Have a Dream Global Art, Farming & Peace Project


Raising Farmers Voices in Paris, ‘Faith in Paris’ ArtCOP21

DRAWinternational Studio Exhibition, Caylus, Midi-Pyrennes, France

Proposition for a Reading Group, Performance, Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Art Centre


SSA Annual Exhibition, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh

‘So much depends upon…’ Members Lounge, Scottish Parliament; The Tent Gallery,Edinburgh

Winter Salon, Timespan, Helmsdale

Land Radius, MFA Show, Cooper Gallery, Dundee

Landship, Public Art sculptural intervention, Dundee City Council, Dundee


New Highland Graduates, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, Inverness

Feat SBK, Äkkigalleria, Jyväskylä, Finland


Cove, Beach Hut, North Light, Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland

Cuan Uhibist/The Secret Sea, Taigh Chearsabhagh, North Uist


Arteles Studios, Arteles Creative Center, 38490 Haukijarvi, Finland



Creative Scotland/CNES Visual Arts & Crafts Award

Connected Communities Bursary – Writer and Travel Grant


Creative Scotland/CNES Visual Arts & Crafts Award

Selected artist, North Light, Dunbar


Creative Scotland – Investment Programme 4 Talent Development

Stanley Smith (UK) Horticultural Trust – Research Grant



DRAW International, Artist-in-residence Oct ‘15, Jun ‘16, France


Outlandia, Glen Nevis, Fort William


North Light, Dunbar


Cuan Uhibist (Secret Sea), Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Art Centre, North Uist


Arteles Creative Centre, Hahmajarventie 26, 38490 Haukijarvi, Finland

Collaborations | Commissions


Collaborating Artist – Vancouver Biennale ‘I Have a Dream’ Global Art, Farming & Peace Project

Collaborating Artist – So much depends upon… Nil By Mouth, Crichton Carbon Trust, Edinburgh

Commissioned Artist – ‘An fheadhainn tha laighe sàmhach’, (They lie silent and still) Comann Eachdraigh Uibhist a Tuath (North Uist Historical Society) WW1 Project


Commissioned Artist – ‘Art and the Machair Project’ for MachairLife+

Academic Papers


Slow Residency In A Taskscape: The Haunting Process Of Critical Reflection And Creative Experimentation Whilst Living In The Same Place As The People And Things I Study, “Being In Place” Conference (PLaCEInternational/Dundee) 2016

The Monument Game (2016) (Memory, Identity and Landscape – Geographical Perspectives, DCU, Dublin, Republic of Ireland)


Wall-Paper-Plant: Putting Agential Realism into Practice (‘Matter Matters’ Symposium, Leeds University/Land2);


How I found my way to the written word through visual art, (IAWIS/AIERTI 2014, published Philosophy Study, Vol. 4, No. 7, 2014, David Publishing, New York)

Reading Landscape: The Deception of Simplicity [MFA thesis]


Cognition: Mind and Terrain [BFA thesis]

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