Embercombe is a beautiful and wilding 50 acre valley on the edge of Dartmoor. It is a place to find a deep connection with nature – wild nature around us and wild nature within us. It is a place to breathe, to reconsider, to regenerate and to relearn. It is a place to get clear on what it is you have to offer the world and become passionate about who you are and what you do. It is a place to join the conversation, pick up the skills and get started.
I provide this context in order to give the reader an idea of how this project came to be. I wish to highlight the importance of describing the thread that led me to be part of Embercombe through this project. This "approach" towards the project is in itself a process that, through attentiveness and reflection, is shaped by the relationship between my intention (inquiry and action) and the context (place and community) I step into.
It started with a question of "stewardship." While in my MA's second term (Jan 2019), I collaborated with Eliane Cohen, a fellow student and stewardship explorer, in exploring what it means to be in stewardship with each other and place. Later on in the term, our MA class came together to work on a project with Embercombe, designing a document that outlined an "Embercombe Way." The document was a guideline - a sort of cultural branding for Embercombe - to three main fields: How to integrate rewilding and the role of "stewardship" into Embercombe's offerings and organizational structure; Guiding principles for designing "rewilded" outdoor and indoor spaces; and a ceremonial process that seeks to bring a reminder and embodiment of stewardship in the everyday.
I mostly focused on stewardship, and how to bring this concept into the organizational structure of Embercombe. The idea of an Embercombe Residency emerged from this collaboration with my fellow students, as I decided to take it further through my dissertation.
In tracing this thread, I reflect on how the residency idea emerged from a relational space between people and place organically. I merely choose (or was chosen) to give breathe and form to it.
The year-long Embercombe Residency program is designed as a process to bring about greater participation between people and place into the organizational structure and culture of Embercombe; and to enable a space for continuous reflection and generative inquiry on the purpose and direction of the organization; while creating a unique land-based and interdisciplinary arts residency program.
The residents become witnesses of the organization and the land it resides in. Through their daily observation and interaction with the community at Embercombe (staff, course participants, visitors, etc.) and the happenings on the land, the resident provide insight into the stories of the place. Thus, through writing, land-work and various art mediums, residents describe Embercombe's story in a continuous thread, and create spaces in which the story can be reflected and developed on.
The residents gain a space to go deeper into their practice, specially looking at the relationship between humans, place, and rewilding in the "long now" and "big here." They discover ways to collaborate and integrate their deepest questions with the inquiry of a place-based community. Their final work involves designing a collaborative making process for the Embercombe community to share and reflect on the year. Through sharing and making together, the community then builds a new story and direction for the coming year - much like holding an annual business strategy meeting by engaging playfully in reflection and imagination.
Below is the initial, and more detailed, description of the Embercombe Residency, that is part of my MA dissertation.