The Ephemeral River (dancing, speaking, singing, laughing)

A Global Nomadic Art Project  |  #gnapuk  |  @ccanw

The Ephemeral River takes place at Dartington Hall in the UK from June 9 to June 18, 2018




Since 2001 CCANW has been exploring new understandings of our place within the natural world through the arts.

We are based on the 1,200-acre Dartington estate in rural southwest England, part of a new family of arts and ecology organisations. Since the 1930s this medieval estate has been a place for social, creative and cultural experimentation combining Western, Eastern and Asian philosophies and involving some of the world’s leading creative artists and thinkers.


The Global Nomadic Art Project and YATOO

Global Nomadic Art Projects bring together Nature Artists from around the world in order to work and live together. They were founded on the idea that ‘nature has no borders’. A GNAP typically consists of three parts: outdoor workshops, indoor exhibitions with 15-20 artists from around the world brought together over 1-3 weeks, and the publishing of documentation from this project.

The Global Nomadic Art Projects are initiated and supported by the Korean organisation YATOO (meaning to ‘throw in the field’) a group of artists working in and around Gongju. Their practice of Nature Art is best characterised by working together in harmony with the seasons, reflecting a traditional rural life-style and leaving no trace.

Since 1991 YATOO has also organised annual International Nature Art symposia, since 2004 the Geumgang Nature Art Biennale and since 2009 a twice yearly international artist-in-residence programme.

YATOO organised the first Global Nomadic Art Project (GNAP) in Korea in 2014 and has subsequently worked with partners to deliver them in India, South Africa, Iran, across Europe, and in many other countries.


About ‘Nature Art’

Through western eyes, the term Nature Art is contested and perhaps contentious. We use it here because this is the term embraced by many, particularly in Asia and particularly at YATOO. It has a particular meaning and refers to artists whose work focuses on the natural environment. In Korea (and across Asia in general) the relationship to and meaning of ‘Nature’ differs from our western perspective. There is often a more spiritual aspect to the relationship, and it is often about dwelling and being.

Nature Art, in this context, specifies neither an art form nor a style. It is instead of way of working and of being in the landscape. There is a strong history of performative intervention within the landscape at YATOO, as well as sculptural and other visual art form practices. Nature Art should also never be subservient to its message but keep aesthetics at its core.


Global Nomadic Art Project UK 2018

The UK Global Nomadic Art Project takes place in the UK from June 9 to June 18, 2018.

The Ephemeral River takes place entirely within the rich ecologies of the Dartington estate; it marks the launch of CCANW’s new Art+Science programme, a new three-year programme of exhibitions and activities reflecting our growing engagement with transdisciplinary and international working.

The Ephemeral River has a particular focus on river systems, and is followed by an international symposium Liquidscapes at Dartington from June 20-22 2018. As its name suggests, the River Dart wraps around and provides a focal point within the estate: the river will become a site for exploration and interrogation by artists and other invited specialists with expertise in river systems and water ecologies.

An important connection within the project is our research project with Science Walden (at Ulsan National Institute for Science and Technology) and our deeper engagement with the discourse around art and science. We look forward to working with researchers at Science Walden in this project.



GNAP-UK lasts for nine days and will invite fifteen artists and participants from other disciplines.  The majority of artists will be chosen through an open call process.

Like all GNAPs, GNAP UK is a site for cultural connection, exploration and experiment.

We would like to thank our research partners at Science Walden / UNIST, friends at YATOO and the Korean Cultural Centre UK (London) for their support in making GNAP-UK happen.



There are sixteen artists, supported by a small team.

See who’s coming

Nomadism as metaphor

We have recruited participants from a number of countries. Many of these artists do not consider themselves to belong to a particular country, so that state boundaries become blurred, even a little meaningless. Many artists live nomadic lives, where nomadism ceases to metaphorical but is a lived way of being.

We will focus on work and ideas that are ephemeral, thus embracing a metaphoric nomadism where work and ideas fly away within hours, within minutes. Work may for example be ritually burnt or sent downstream to the sea. It may be blown by the wind.

Although captured and documented, we aim to leave no physical trace on the site at the close of the project.


Themed enquiry

Although we do not at this point want to proscribe any direction of enquiry, we will open the event with these themes:

  • Water
  • Landscape
  • Waterspace
  • Poetics
  • Kinesis and the kinaesthetic
  • Immersion
  • Spiritual relationships with water
  • Water, the environment and politics
  • Ecosystems and river systems
  • Ecologies of other species within the river
  • Upstream ecologies
  • River science

The Dartington estate has good access to the river which houses a rich ecology of aquatic, animal and bird life. It also includes a working water meadow (currently undergoing restoration) –– a fast-disappearing ecology and habitat so important to aquatic birds and other species. In the West, our relationship to water is different from that in other parts of the world – particularly monsoon climates such as that in Korea. Our international gathering will allow us to explore such cultural differences.

The river at Dartington has been a site for gathering and recreation for centuries. In modern times, the river is remembered as a gathering and swimming site for the early Fabians such as George Bernard Shaw, Beatrice and Sidney Webb and HG Wells, Fabianism has social justice at its core, focussing on equality, collectivism, accountability and transparency in government, sustainability and internationalism. We are proud to embrace these philosophical tenets as part of our work at GNAP-UK 2018.

GNAP-UK will work closely with partner organisation (who will also produce the event on our behalf), and with the Dartington Hall Trust, the charitable trust who own and run the Dartington estate. Resources available to participants will include access to CCANW’s extensive library of books, media and catalogues, ecologists and ecological designers from Schumacher College, studios of various kinds, print and book binding and an extensive art collection from early 20th Century artists such as Mark Tobey and Cecil Collins. Also on site are hostels for accommodation and catering.


The structure of GNAP UK will be kept deliberately organic, in line with our practices and ecological principles. Above all, GNAP UK is a mode of enquiry rather than a site for production. As such, a great deal of the day will be left open for experimentation, reflection, walking, and sketching. This time is supported by sharing of work/thoughts with the whole group, and input from guest artists and guest speakers. An indicative day might look like this:

07.00 Meditation / outdoor yoga (optional)
08.00 Breakfast
09.00 Group gathering and housekeeping
09.30 Session with guest artist, guest speaker, or GNAP facilitator
11.00 Break
11.20 Sharing/ critique by three members of the group
13.00 Lunch
14.30 Working time
18.30 Supper
20.00 Group gathering / sharing OR more work time
21.00 Day ends / optional silence period / bar open


The event begins with supper on Saturday June 9 and ends mid-afternoon on Monday, June 18.


About silence

GNAP-UK provides an opportunity for refreshment, a space for new ideas and new thoughts, and to allow for a pause and a period of reflection. One of the things said to be missing from contemporary life is quietude and contemplation.

We invite participants to remain in silence from the close of the day’s activities until breakfast the following day. We encourage you to be outdoors during this time, being alone sitting perhaps by the river or apart from others.

This is optional. However in general we want to encourage every participant to find the time and space for stillness and contemplation.



A large black box theatre (seating pushed back) will be available as the main indoor workspace and teaching space.

Beyond this, participants will be able to take advantage of the array of facilities available at Dartington and largely open access to the wide variety of landscapes on the estate. These range from riverside and river plain to forest (managed and ancient), open farmland, formal gardens, the water meadow / marsh, and a newly-restored medieval walled deer park.

Dartington, however, is also a working environment. Many people live and work on the estate which is also actively farmed. We ask for consideration for others who inhabit this busy working place, including the animals who are also at work here.

This map shows the main Dartington estate and how the River Dart wraps around much of it. The HQ for GNAP-UK would be in building No 6.

And here is a water flow of the estate, showing where water flows collect, and how everything ultimately drains into the river.



Exhibition and other forms of dissemination

The final form of exhibition arising from the project will depend entirely on the wishes of participants and the kind of work that develops. As we have already noted, the project is a site for enquiry with an emphasis on ephemerality and as such participants may go away with nothing more than sketches, photographs and notes for further development.

However, it seems certain that some work and mini-projects will have artwork to show or listen to or watch. We will make our Garden Room Gallery at Dartington available for an exhibition in the period immediately following the residency period. There will also be a slot within the Liquidscapes symposium for participants to share their work and experience at GNAP.

We will capture work in progress through a resident artist-evaluator-documenter, and will create a video from the project.

We will publish parts of the online sharing (as participants agree). This will allow an international audience insights into the project and its participants.

And we will produce and publish a major publication, in Korean and English. This will be around 120 pages and will be made available both a hard copy and online. This publication is funded by YATOO and seen as their primary contribution to the project.