Past activities of members research group

8 June, 2013

Alla kan vara konstnär - jordnära konst med den holländska konstnären och läraren Jan van Boeckel
Naturum Getterön, Varberg, Sweden

Vi ta lera - den fuktiga, degiga substans som ligger under våra fötter - i våra händer. Få din naturliga kreativitet till ljus och ge form till organiska former som uttrycker dynamiska naturliga processer av groning, tillväxt och förfall. Du behöver inte vara en konstnär eller har affinitet till de traditionella sätten att skapa konst för att njuta av denna dag. På förmiddagen riktar sig workshopen till barn och deras föräldrar, under eftermiddagen är workshopen bara för vuxna.

Transformations of organic forms in Nature workshop

Workshop at Naturum Getterön along the coast of West Sweden - in the morning with children, and in the afternoon with adults. Three stages of growth or decay and the fourth form connecting to the second sequence further down the circular chain. Participants move from time to time some steps along the circle, and mould a ball of clay adjacent to the organic form someone else made just a moment ago, taking the growth or decay process a step further. I learned this, in slightly different form, at Schumacher College, from Antony Gormley. The images in the centre are from the 19th century: photographs by Karl Blossfeldt and drawings by Ernst Haeckel.


8 June, 2013

Earth Art, Earth Walk
National Park Kennemerduinen, Netherlands

Jan van Boeckel (with Li An Phoa and Sarah Denie of Spring College)

‘The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper’
– Eden Phillpotts (English playwright), 1919

What happens when we seek to connect with the living world – not through pre-established scientific knowledge, but through an open-ended artful process? During this experiential course artist and teacher Jan van Boeckel joined Spring College. Together with Li An Phoa and Sarah Denie, he invited participants to explore the relationship of Art with Earth, through an open processes of creation. Jan invited the participants to engage with the living world and the moist, pasty substance that was below their feet and now in their hands: clay. Working the clay, they used their imagination to give shape to organic forms, expressing dynamic natural processes of germination, growth and decay.

At the beginning of the session, participants lay down in a circle and study the coverage of foliage above them. Silence and bird song, shade and light... The idea is that each participant starts at a certain clay ball, with three clay balls in-between her/him and the next participant. The participant starts to make an organic form there, expressive of a stage in growth or decay. The other participants do the same. After completing the form, the participants move along the circle, clockwise, and each moves to where someone else made a clay form, picks it up and attends to it carefully, and makes a new organic form, which takes the form that was left as starting point but develops it further. A new metamorphosed form comes into being. This rotating continues until all the clay balls have been moulded to sequential organic forms. When this is completed. From this we have a common dialogue about what people experienced and what they witness, observe, in the results.
One of us chose to make as a first form an object that expresses the open sky in between the tall trees above - the blue air between the dark silhouettes of the trees...

The clay form that was expressive of the open space above, between the trees - the one on the far right - metamorphoses into a form in which the clay bits are the contours of an open space in-between, as each following participant continues the sequence. (The whole session is done in silence.)

Inside the nature centre, we look at the incredible photos of Karl Blossfeldt (made in the 1920's!) and look at seeds through magnifiers.

During the Earth walk

 Later, after a long hike (Earth Walk) with Li An Phoa as our guide, we gather in an open field and work with found natural forms. Using color pencils and crayons, we combine the seeds or leaves we picked up and try to depict them enormously magnified, and combined with motives of the black-and-white images of Blossfeldt.


Website Spring College:
And on Facebook


June & November 2012

"Out from the classroom" course on Seili Island, and exhibition Seven Shores at Aalto Arts Gallery

Mari von Boehm, teacher in Aalto arts, art teacher education program

The Out from the classroom course was organized for the fourth time. The subject of the course is to study different approaches to art teaching outside the school environment by setting up a camp school together with the students. Every time it has led us to beautiful islands, in Finland and in Estonia.
In the Out from the classroom course, the efforts of the students have a great impact on the progress of the course and the teacher must try to keep herself in a minor role. This year's course started in March 2012 with planning the preparing period; the participants suggested or agreed on my suggestions for visits and visitors, presented their favourite subject in the field of art outside the classroom by gathering information from the Internet, and finally chose the place for art camp together.


Our first visitor was Anu Kuivalainen, film director. She presented and showed her new, artistically impressive documentary film about the marine research vessel Aranda. We discussed the borders of art and documenting. Then Erich Berger from the Finnish Bioart-society enlightened us about biological art. We also visited Harakka Island outside Helsinki and met with Kaisa Pajanen from the nature house. She introduced holistic environmental education with fairy tale adventures for children, and experimental exhibitions, where artists and art educators together with experts from other fields have worked together in realizing them. Some meetings were focused on the planning of the intensive camp.

Ella Eiranto: from the series "Island nightmares"

The selected place for the camp was Seili - called the "Island of the doomed", in the Finnish archipelago. Starting from the 17th century there had been a leprosy and mental hospital. No doctor worked on the island. Living circumstances were harsh and the only "cure" was the spiritual one in the church. Patients came to the island knowing there was no return home. They had to have a sum of money for the living and planks for the coffin. During the 18th the leprosy patients became fewer and finally Seili hospital accommodated mainly mentally ill persons. The church from 1733 is still standing, and the impressive plain classical hospital stone buildings are from the beginning of 19th century. The main building is from 1851. The last decades before closing the hospital in 1962, the patients were mentally disturbed women.

We sailed to Seili from Turku by a beautiful traditional boat, Storbåt Aura. In the harbour before leaving we had a chance to meet artist and art teacher Pive Toivonen, who inspired us by telling about her island studies through art. On Seili we had good time to concentrate on the working and discussions. We lodged in the old hospital buildings, nowadays run by Turku University research centre and ate many times a day the delicacies in their canteen. This was different of many of the previous Out from the classroom courses, where we have prepared the food ourselves and lived in tents.


Left on the wall Anni Toivonen's photographs about dark mindscapes, in the middle Maria Lindfors' stranded ceramic boats and on the window Mari von Boehm's installation Lost at sea. Left Ilmari Arnkil's one of the two video works, with quickened landscapes and extremely slowed down sound in the earphones. On the floor Saara Kähönen's photo installation about characteristic details of the island. On the wall syanotypia works of an installation on the island by Mari von Boehm.


In our exhibition we present "Seven shores", approaches, which were important to us on the five days camp on Seili Island. Our themes were BORDERS, UTOPIA, FEARS AND WISHES, COMPREHENSION, SCALE AND COGNITION, MEMORY. On Seili Island the students presented introductions to the themes of each day, worked with their own artistic project and discussed about existential issues from the art pedagogical point of view. Pedagogical aspects were present in everything; the introductions contained guided working schemes for the rest of the group.

The exhibition seems to have a common, dark but not depressive tone. The works support each other in a deep accepting way. The characteristics of the history of Seili are visible in almost everything; experiencing time, stranded boats, sailors lost at sea, profound views to nature, island nightmares... It is great to see how skilful the students are, and how wonderfully the discussions have became alive again in their independent works.


March 8-26, 2012

Course An Ecology of Mind - Bateson and the Arts

Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland

For the major part of March, Jan van Boeckel taught the course An Ecology of Mind, Bateson and the Arts to a group of students at Aalto University in the fields of architecture, art education and fine arts.
At the first session, Nora Bateson, the youngest daughter of Gregory Bateson, was present too. The same evening she showed her film An Ecology of Mind in the Media Factory of Aalto University.

Nora Bateson in discussion with Finnish students.

Nora Bateson and Jan van Boeckel.

Comments from students:

"The ecologic approach to art attracted me to attend the course. I also wanted to deepen my knowledge of ecology and the relations between art and science. The course met my expectations; it really focused on Bateson’s thinking and at the same time put it into larger context.
The films were great! It was amazing to have Nora there with us in the first session. The course works well and I really hope there is possibility to arrange it again. Maybe it would be nice to have examples of some art pieces and to discuss them in the context of Bateson’s thinking. It could be offered to bioart students from department of art.Thank you for the course! It really gave me new perspectives to think about."

Kasperi Mäki-Reinikka

"What attracted you to attending this course was its interesting name: Ecology of Mind. I was also attracted by Bateson’s philosophy that deals with questions that are fundamental for the artmaking and art education, such as meta-patterns, beauty, ethics and aesthetics, the relationships between the science and art, human and environment, culture and nature, systems theory, transdiciplinary learning, etc. I expected much and got out more than I expected in a such a short period of time.
The teaching was very appropriate, holistic and high standard. The discussions were interesting and the atmosphere in the class was open for a dialogue and discussions. There could have been more contributions from us, the students. Perhaps the group could have been bigger and more diverse: ecologists, antropologists, environmental scientists...
Once the key concepts were opened the reading was not that difficult.
It was unforgettable to have Nora Bateson opening the first course session. The film was great opening to the topic as well. Nora and the film brought Bateson as a person closer to us and clarified some of the very complex ideas and concepts. The learning process became more intimate and personal since we had ”met” Gregory through Nora and the film. Really an amazing and unique oportunity.
A huge thank you for the moving and inspiring course. Hope there will be many more to come."

Heli Mäkinen

Image from a workshop, entitled The Pattern That Connects. Heli Mäkinen co-organized this small symposium in June 2012, inspired by Bateson's work. Scientists, artists, poets and others engaged with the issue of Truth in the landscapes of mind and language.


February 29, 2012

Art Education as if the Environment Matters
Rubin Museum of Art, New York

In February 2012, Pirkko Pohjakallio and Jan van Boeckel of the research group on arts-based environmental education presented at the speak out session at the event "Earth Education: Art Education as if the Environment Matters," in New York City. The venue was the Education Center at the Rubin Museum of Art.

More information

See also:

On March 2, 2012, Pirkko Pohjakallio and Jan van Boeckel both gave a lecture a the so-called SPEAK OUT SESSION of the National Art Education Assocation, on "Environmentally Aware and Ecologically Activist Art Education."
The event, in the Sheraton Metropolitan Ballroom, was hosted by Tom Anderson and Peter London. An international panel of researchers and teachers from the United States, Canada, and Finland spoke about how they connect teaching, learning, and research centered on environmentally aware and ecologically activist art education. The panelists are engaged in global initiatives that aim to promote environmental education at all levels through the arts.
Website NAEA


15 November 2011

Lecture at Shorelines symposium
Ayr, Scotland

On the 15th of November, Jan van Boeckel presented a lecture as part of the Shorelines Symposium on Place, Creativity and Wellbeing
Organisers were University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, and South Ayrshire Council Museums and Galleries, with the University of the West of Scotland. This one day international academic symposium was held at the Maclaurin Galleries, Ayr, Scotland, Keynote Speakers were Dr. Ian McGilchrist BM, MA, FRCPsych author of The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, and Chris Drury, Land Artist.
The Symposium explored interconnections between creative spaces or locations and physical and emotional wellbeing. It brought together a multidisciplinary audience of researchers, academics and arts practitioners to present cutting edge research in their fields, fostering discussion and further understanding about the significance of place in the creative process and its potential to enhance the quality of human experience.



On Friday 18 November, Jan van Boeckel facilitated a morning-long workshop with some of the staff and students of ASN, the Art, Space + Nature Program in Edinburgh, at the Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland.


11 November 2011

Publication and defence of dissertation
Aalto University, Helsinki

On 11 November 2011, Leena Valkeapää defended her PhD thesis entitled Luonnossa, vuoropuhelua Nils-Aslak Valkeapään tuotannon kanssa ("In nature - conducting a dialogue with the works of Nils-Aslak Valkeapää").

All this is my home / these fjords rivers lakes / this cold this sunshine these storms” (Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, 1979)

Wind, reindeer, time, fire, people – the people living with reindeer in nature still have a straightforward relationship with the basic elements of life. Leena Valkeapää’s dissertation is a study aiming to develop artistic thinking in which the focus is on the way of life and the way of being in north-western Lapland which are both intertwined with nature.
In her dissertation, Leena Valkeapää goes beyond the traditional anthropological approach by engaging in a dialogue with Nils-Aslak Valkeapää's poetic, academic and literary portrayals of the Sami way of life and her own feelings. Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, Àillohaš (1943-2001) was a Sami artist working in a broad range of fields and he is probably best known in Finland as the creator and performer of the new yoik. He also published eight collections of poems two of which have been translated into Finnish.
In the dissertation, the dialogue intensifies as text messages of Oula A. Valkeapää, the husband of Leena Valkeapää, and excerpts from the work Kertomus saamelaisista (A portrayal of the Sami people) by Johan Turi, a member of the Swedish Sami community, are shown side by side with Nils-Aslak Valkeapää’s poetry. Turi’s work was first published in 1910 as Muitalus sámiid birra and it was translated into Finnish in 1979. The dialogue involving three different narrators reveals common experiences, which each of the three describe using their own background as a basis. All three are members of the Sami people. In her study, Leena Valkeapää calls the way of life and the cultural traditions common to them reindeer life. The core of Leena Valkeapää’s dissertation is the dialogue relationship in which Oula A. Valkeapää’s thinking and her own thinking create a state of discussion.
Leena Valkeapää is an environmental artist. Her work includes a large number of exhibitions (both group exhibitions and exhibitions displaying her own works only), environmental projects and environmental works of art. The best known of her works of art is “Jäähuntu” (Icy Veil; 1999) at the rock cutting of Helsinginkatu in Turku. In addition to her artistic activities, Leena Valkeapää has also worked as a teacher of environmental art in a number of educational institutions. Between 2005 and 2010, she worked as a teacher of environmental education at the Department of Art of the University of Art and Design Helsinki.
Leena Valkeapää’s dissertation (in Finnish) is published by Maahenki in the publication series of the Aalto University School of Art and Design. Orders: TaiK Publications, email:, online bookshop:


14-15 April 2011

Lecture on Art and Transition (Konst och omställning)
Gävle, Sweden

At the invitation of Högskolan i Gävle and Konstcentrum Gävle, Jan van Boeckel presented a lecture at Gävle art centre and workshops with students in horticultural design of Wij Trädgårdar.

Below are some images of the workshop.


26 February 2011

Conference Inspiring Change towards a Green Europe
Freiburg, Germany

Together with Ceciel Verheij, Jan van Boeckel presented three workshops at this conference: The making of a group painting to improvised music, clay metamorphosis of organic forms, and making of a mini version of the self in clay.

Read the workshop report here

"I was one of the participants of the Environmental Art Workshop in Freiburg. I just would like to tell you that I enjoyed it so much. From the first minute I knew that this will not be a workshop but something that is considered a beautiful act (if I may borrow Immanuel Kant's term). We acted with our inclinations and got in touch with our inner self. It was so evident in the way we expressed ourselves through art. You have planted in us the seed to appreciate the world we live in. It is only a matter of nurturing and propagating this seed to benefit a greater number of people. I dare say, that through this workshop, we have achieved the essence of 'inspiring change towards a green economy'."

Rowena Zapanta, a SPRING Participant/DAAD Scholar from the Philippines


Organizers Brindusa Ana-M Birhala and Sophia Carodenuto, in front of the painting, which is on permanent display now in the university. Under it is a a plaquette with the text: "The painting is the product of an environmental art workshop with the Freiburg Forum on Environmental Governance. ...The participants went thorugh a process of making a group painting accompanied by improvised life music. Each participant from a group of 26 contributed to the painting using organic acrylic colors, inspired by the natural surroundings of the Herderbau."



24-25 February 2011

Kunst og Økologi / Art and Ecology seminar
Kunsthøgskolen i Oslo, Fakultetet for visuell kunst

At this seminar on Art and Ecology that took place at at the National Academy of the Arts in Oslo, Jan van Boeckel gave a presentation and facilitated a workshop with clay. His theme was the relationship between the self, the used materials and the environment in arts-based environmental education. During the workshop, the participants modeled one of their hands in clay with the eyes closed. At the final moment the clay fingers were taken up so that the fingertips would meet each other in a circle, still with closed eyes.

From the flyer:
"Økologien og dens problemstillinger kan knyttes til personlige, sosiale såvel som materielle praksiser - seminaret vil ta opp ulike forhold mellom kunst og økologi som berører disse tre feltene. Forskjellige forelesere/kunstnere vil bruke sin produksjon og erfaring som utgangspunkt for videre diskusjoner."

Read more on the program


6-11 December 2010

Researching Art and Science
Doli, Peleponnes, Greece

The aim of this week was to explore the field of art and science – a field all of the participants are engaged in, in one way or the other. There are three layers which, for the sake of overview, might be defined separately; art, research and teaching and learning. In a phenomenological sense we could start the reflections on these by doing them, that is by actually practicing art, science and teaching/learning. Further, for this workshop week we found it useful to establish "art as practice" as the point of departure for moving into research, moving into teaching and learning.
One approach we practiced was working with "art as practice" as "a layer of return," grounding the discussions and reflections in common artistic work and exercises throughout the week. Topics in this field were:

  • Art and creativity: Are these “one and the same thing”? Or is artistic creativity something unique?

  • Is the skill of creativity transferable? Can the practice of creativity in art classes/exercises lead to creativity in for example science education?

  • Artistic research or research on art: What are the differences, the commonalities?

  • Has art a value in itself or a means for research or teachers? Of course art has a value of its own! But what happens when it is used in research, in teaching and learning? Or: How to avoid that art is reduced to mere means?

  • Deconstruction of the art/science concepts: Is there a need to establish new concepts by deconstructing the old ones? How to research the field where there is no separation between art and science?

  • Creativity of the mind and its relation to art: Can art promote thinking, and/or is art a form of thinking?

The aim of the week was to employ our own experiences in this field. The focus was on how and what we have experienced in this field rather than our (rational) thoughts about the correct blend of art and science – and the correct definitions.

A comprehensive report has been prepared on the whole seminar, which can be downloaded here.







10 October 2010

Wildpainting the autumn colors in Nuuksio national park on 10 October
Nuuksio, Espoo, Finland

On Sunday, October 10, 2010, we travelled with eight people to Nuuksio National Park, we we spent the afternoon making paintings with acrylic paint, using the colours in surprising new ways, in an effort to "see with fresh eyes."

See some images of the workshop


Wilderness and Blooming Flowers Art and Botany course

Engeløya, 6-12 July, 2010

Together with biology teacher Linda Jolly and art teacher Solveig Slåttli, Jan van Boeckel presented the 7 day course "Wilderness and Blooming Flowers" on the island of Engeløya, close to the Lofoten archipelago in Northern Norway.


Click here to see more pictures



Exhibition and workshop NEW IMAGE OF THE EARTH

InSEA conference, Rovaniemi, Finland, June 2010

Together with art education students from Aalto University, doctorate researcher Mari von Boehm and Professor Pirkko Pohjakallio organized a well-attended workshop and exhibition on environmental art education on the INSEA conference in Rovaniemi, Finland.

This time, the InSEA congress had a quite exotic timing together with the geographical location: Rovaniemi was lit in the midsummer-night’s sun. The theme of the congress was Sustainable Art Education, which is recognized internationally to be somewhat characteristic to the Finnish art education scene. The first InSEA congress with that theme was also in Finland, already in 1971. Today this field is evermore current, in the time of common environmental concern.
The Department of Art Education was invited to make an exhibition about the roots and history of arts-based environmental education. Professor Pirkko Pohjakallio collected a group of students: Elissa Eriksson, Elias Saura, and Juho Hellsten are preparing their final master's thesis and Mari von Boehm has started her doctoral research on the arts-based environmental education.

New Image of the Earth
The name of the exhibition is referring to a book Image of the Earth by Meri-Helga Mantere. It contains articles about Finnish arts-based environmental education. The book was published already more than a decade ago, so it was time to see where we had come in this field in 2010, when the InSEA congress again had sustainable art education as its theme.

Forest as a metaphor for Finnish arts-based environmental education
We wanted to make the exhibition visually interesting and to use both archive material (pictures, photographs, curricula, etc.) and make our own visual interpretation of the different paradigms on the theme. One of the interesting materials we had was pictures from a competition for school pupils on the theme of forest. Forest is an important metaphor in Finnish language and identity. Forest, "erämaa", means a place where you get your living from. The proverb "you cannot see the forest for the trees" means that you cannot see the bigger picture if you concentrate only in details. Something can go "to the forest" or one can "ram into a pine" – to get lost, to fail. "The forest answers in the same way you call." "Who reaches the spruce falls into the juniper" – you have your hopes too high. "Listen to the spruce, whose roots your home stands on."

Four stereotype art teachers approaching the environmental themes
Roots – that is what we are interested in. From the roots of Finnish arts-based environmental education, we built four overplayed stereotypes of art teachers. They represent different paradigms in art education approaching environmental themes. The paradigms are not so distinct as they appear, as they often overlap, intertwine, and sometimes use each other's methods. The different paradigms are emphasized during different decades but also appear during the same years, and even vary in the same practical projects.
In the exhibition our art teachers were standing tintamaresques, plates where you can step behind, see the small archive pictures and read some keywords about that paradigm, and stick your head through the empty hole. Your companions can see your face on the painted picture on the front side. This is how the plates were constructed:

The art teacher is standing in the stencil city with her camera. The visual messages are everywhere; commercial pictures, photographs, signs, buildings, objects etc. Coloured everyday pictures flow in the sky. Ethnographic methods are used – the teacher is inspiring pupils to see what cultural messages you can read from the environment, especially the urban environment. How a space becomes a place, what it tells about our history, about everyday aesthetics? The goal for art education is to train a critical eye for our habitat, and to learn to design and create a better environment.


Values – CARE for nature

The art teacher is standing in the crowd, participating in a demonstration, as he is socially and politically active. The visual signs call for change. Posters point out what we want or don't want. Performance can also make our will visible. Artistic methods are serving idealistic purposes: a sustainable way of life; peace education; protecting nature, human or animal rights. The goal for art education is to teach how to influence our own environment with our powerful visual tools.

Relationship with nature through SENSES
The teacher can be nature herself. Nature stimulates imagination. The art teacher puts his or her trust in experiential learning and the teaching can go out of the classroom. The pupils are encouraged to open their senses by artistic practices, which can be almost anything from drawing and building out of natural materials to making conceptual art. Through these practices it is hoped that the pupils recognize and study their own relationship with the surrounding environment, especially nature. The artistic result is less important when the art teacher wants to work for holistic well-being and embodiment. The goal for art education is to emotionally involve pupils in nature and to develop the ability to see the traces we leave in it.

Environment in ART – ART in environment
The art teacher is carrying a golden frame in the forest. In his or her view the environment is material for art – interpreted by traditional techniques or conceptual art. He or she wishes the students to see the aesthetic values in nature and also art as part of our environment. The teacher affirms that art is something sublime that we can highlight from our environment and culture with artist's eye. The goal for art education is to train the pupils' artistic view to see and express aesthetic or conceptual qualities in the environment.

The "new Image of the earth" workshop
In the workshop we invited participants to see the paradigms we suggested in the exhibition. First we introduced each art teacher stereotype, giving a short speech by playing the character with our heads in the tintamaresque holes. We also pointed out that this was a rough generalization, and told that we were interested in their own view: was there some view missing in our suggestion for paradigms, was there something too unclear or some cultural differences as our participants presented different nationalities?
We had asked the participants to bring pictures from their own work in the field of art education. The participants were divided in groups and asked to discuss about the four art teachers' views by getting familiar with the keywords and visual material on the backside of the plates. They also compared, with our help, their own thoughts and pictures to the presented ones. After giving attention to each of the characters we asked them to choose their place in the space according to which character's view to art education was closest to their own.
After that, we gave each group one tree stalk and asked them to present the results of their discussions by using the tree and given art materials for their statement. We got four different conceptual statements about our theme, and they were presented shortly in the end of the workshop. We thought that most important were the discussions while they were making their works. These statements did not really question our division, but evoked discussion about personal experiences of the participants and the feelings they had towards the given material, especially the leafless tree stalks we had provided. Many of our participants felt sympathy for the dead tree in the sterile classroom, and some of them wanted to take the tree stalk back to its own environment.

Thoughts about the project
For my own research, this exhibition project was very inspiring. We found much interesting material in the archives of the department of art education that will be of great importance later in my research. In many instances we found it quite problematic to classify materials appropriately in our self-constructed division of paradigms. It still needs further work and clarification, but this is a good start. I hope we can now present the tintamaresques again at the University of Art and Design Helsinki.

Mari von Boehm



Lecture 'The point of no return'

Falmouth, United Kingdom, 8 June 2010

One of the characteristics of arts-based environmental education is that it encourages participants to be receptive to nature in new and uncommon ways. To approach the world afresh through art, to look at a plant, an animal or even a landscape as if we see it for the first time in our life. In this, the participant is encouraged to immerse him or herself in nature, to seek a 'deep identification' (Arne Naess).
In this presentation, Jan van Boeckel explored if there could be cases where such immersion may reach – or even go beyond – a point of return. A point, where the 'intertwining' with nature causes the subject to sever the 'life lines' to the world which would enable him or her to maintain the psychological, cultural and spiritual integrity of the ego. The dissolving of the ego’s boundaries through artistic practice can be seen as having certain shamanistic qualities, specifically in case when this transgression involves efforts to connect with other animal species such as Joseph Beuys famous studio encounter with a coyote in his performance I Like America and America Likes Me (1974). Such undertakings may constitute – at least in the perception of the shaman-artist – a form of 'going native', becoming 'one' with the non-human Others.
As a case history, Van Boeckel discussed the 'trespassing' from the world of culture to the world of nature by Timothy Treadwell, entering the ecosphere and live world of the grizzly bears in Alaska, for which he ultimately paid the price of the death (the tragic story was documented by Werner Herzog in his film Grizzly Man, 2005). Jan van Boeckel analyzed the phenomenon along the distinction between Apollonian versus Dionysian sensibility in cultural activity as articulated by, among others, Nietzsche and Robert J. Pirsig, and see it as an 'unchecked' Dionysian immersion in the ecstatic.
Finally he tried to formulate some pedagogical implications for teachers and facilitators encouraging an attitude of radical amazement and vulnerability in arts-based environmental education.



video podcast download   Jan van Boeckel: Lecture
Downloadable Video and Audio Podcast


Children and Nature: Rediscovering a sense of wonder

Schumacher College, United Kingdom,
31 May – 4 June 2010

During this one week course with teachers Richard Louv, Kathy Louv and Jan van Boeckel, the participants looked at why nature is important for children’s development and creativity, and how the “nature gap” can be bridged. It included outdoor arts-based workshops and experiential exercises which can be used in environmental education contexts.
The course is intended for: teachers at all levels, environmental educators, childcare and family services professionals, and parents.

Other teachers:
Richard Louv is a journalist and international recognised expert on the connection between family, nature and community. His book “Last Child in the Woods” has stimulated a global debate about the relationship between children and nature. He is the chairman and co-founder of the Children & Nature Network.
Kathy Louv is a nurse practitioner whose current interest focuses on the relationship between physical exercise, health and brain development.



Wildpainting in Nuuksio national park

Espoo, 18 April, 2010

A full day workshop organized through The Public School Helsinki, in the early spring landscape of a lakeshore in a northern forest. The workshop was facilitated by Jan van Boeckel.

See more images



Seminarium "Konst för ett ekologiskt hållbart samhälle"
("Art for an ecologically sustainable society")

Wij Trädgårdar, Ockelbo, Sweden, 16 February, 2010

Together with Mikael Malmaeus and Gunilla Kindstrand, Jan van Boeckel was one of the keynote speakers at this seminarium about different perspectives on ecological sustainability and the role of art in environmental engagement. The day ended with a discussion about ideas for establishing an ecological art centre at Ockelbo.

More information:

On 18 February, Jan presented two lectures and a clay moulding workshop for the 63 garden architecture students at the Trädgårdsmästarprogrammet of the Högskolan i Gävle.

Images of the students' works:

Images of the 'mini-me' clay moulding  workshop:



Introduction to Wildpainting workshop

Helsinki, Finland, 18 October, 2009

On Sunday 18 October, Jan van Boeckel presented an "Introduction to wildpainting" workshop
at TaiK (University for Art and Design Helsinki).

Click here for images of the session


Smiling birches, weeping firs: Making contact with a tree through art

Oslo, 20 September, 2009, in the forest outside Soria Moria conference centre

In September 2009 the conference "Ecology and Forests for Public Health" of Nature-Culture-Health International took place. Its aim was to focus on environmental, climatic and cultural changes that threaten the public’s health today, and to analyze the importance of forests for people on our planet. One of the presentations was by Jan van Boeckel. His theme was "Connecting through art with trees." He discussed arts-based ways to connect to nature, and he took as point of departure a eco-phenomenologically inspired orientation. Part of this was the notion that a tree may " reveal" its being more fully to one who tries to increase his or her receptivity to its expressions. His presentation had as its motto, a line of painter Paul Cézanne: "The landscape thinks itself in me, and I am its consciousness."
Jan tried to compare this sensibility and state of mindfulness to the way people in traditional indigenous cultures seem to relate to the land, and, more specifically, to the forest, and discuss the challenges of reconnecting to the tree when we try to do this whilst living in and being part of a "disenchanted" (post)modern world.
The talk included the making of a painting of a fir tree – or, if one wills, allowing the tree to express herself through the painting.
The title of the session ("Smiling birches, weeping firs") was inspired on the chapter "From the opaque to the concrete: The poetic side of Arne Naess," by David Rothenberg, in his book Always the mountains.

Website of conference



Wildpainting summer art courses in the Norwegian fjords

At Jølster, 6-10 July, 2009 and at Skarstein gård, Kandal, 27-31 July, 2009

At these painting courses, which were taught by Jan van Boeckel, participants drew and painted the rough and breathtaking landscape along the steep slopes of Fjord-Norway. WILDPAINTING means two things: to paint wilderness and wild landscapes, and to paint in a different, surprising way. The aim was to open up to the aesthetics and the energies of the landscape through trying to see (and smell, know etc.) as if one perceives it for the first time. It meant basically to dare to draw and paint in quite a different way than we are accustomed to: leaves don't always have to be green and the sky not eternally blue. Instead the participants tried to observe afresh, deeper and deeper, letting the motive come to them as they experienced it there and then. In that way, the artistic process became something between meditation and perceiving the world in the way a child does. We used acrylic paints and heavy paper, charcoal and pencils.
The courses lasted five hours each day, for five days with regular breaks for tea and coffee, for lunch, or for taking some time to talk about what had happened to that point. Every participant got also personal comments and advice from the course facilitator.
There was no demand of having prior artistic skills. What was needed was the enthusiasm to participate and a desire to learn something new, and to dare to participate in this process. The inspiration to the Wildpainting courses comes from painter Paul Cézanne, who wrote: "The landscape thinks itself in me, and I am its consciousness."

See and read more

Location of Jølster      Location of Kandal (Google maps)



Wind and Water Intensive course on the Baltic Sea

From 19 until 29 April 2009, the Wind and Water expedition took place on the schooner Helena, from Kiel - via Gotland - to Uusikaupunki (Finland).

This EDDA Norden intensive course entailed a distant learning period (17-31 March 2009); a sailing and working period (19-29 April 2009); and a period for preparation of a temporary exhibition and evaluation (30 April - 3 May 2009). Participation on the course required taking part in all three parts of the course.
The participants were students from Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, at EDDA Norden institutions that offer teacher training in art, media and design. Teachers were Mari von Boehm and Jan van Boeckel  of the TaiK Research group on arts-based environmental education.
The core of the course was the voyage on the sailing vessel through the seas that are connecting us, the Nordic and Baltic people. The schooner Helena sailed from Kiel – via Gotland – to Uusikaupunki (Finland).

During the course the participants investigated the ways in which art can be of added value in the context of environmental education on marine ecosystems and climate change. The participants travelled the natural slow way by wind-power, and concentrated on the basic experience and appreciation of the small size of humans in the whole, on engagement with the environment, and on what the preconditions are for creating art in extraordinary circumstances.

It was the first time that it is carried out on this basis and with this structure as a pan-Nordic project. It built further upon the established tradition within EDDA Norden of using nature as a resource in art education (Snow and Ice Sculpting at Laino Snow Village, Finland, in 2007; and the Light and Fire workshop in Notodden, Norway, in 2008).



Teaching of course: Arts in environmental education (4 ECTS)

19.02.2009 -15.05.2009


This class was practice-based and self-directed. It intended to introduce participants to the potential role and existing field of using art in increasing ecological awareness. There was only guidance by the tutor (Jan van Boeckel, PhD candidate, Dept of Art Education) and supervisor. Students had to take responsibility for their own desired learning. The course was further monitored by Professor Pirkko Pohjakallio.
Central to this course was the triangle of art education, nature education and pedagogical science. In the context of the education, we asked what the benefits are of looking with an artist’s gaze at environmental or outdoor education, and of looking with an environmental educators’ gaze at the possible benefits of engaging art in the context of environmental educational practices.


Participants were expected to read a reader and selected works from the reading list. Every participant was required to write an essay of 6 to 8 pages on a subject relevant to the theme of the course.

* The work further consisted of practice exercises, resulting in an open format presentation.
* The course startedwith putting together a personal statement of one page.
* Participants developed their ownteaching module based on previous examples. (Example: Chosing of 1 place and 3 tasks with different approaches.)
* Participants performed planned activities, including methods of reflection (feedback from everyone involved), and conducted research on the field, resulting in one written essay on a related issue based on articles, lectures, books, films, interviews, etc.


Lecture: "Opening the senses to the more-than-human-world: the role of art"

Helsinki, Finland, April 2009

Doctor of Arts Seminar at Media Lab, Thursday, April 2, 2009, 17:00-19:00, 4th floor lecture room

In his lecture, doctorate student Jan van Boeckel talked about the research theme that he has taken up at TaiK's School of Art Education. In short, Jan is interested in how education about nature would look like if it starts from an artistic process-oriented perspective. Usually environmental education is founded on the premise that pre-established scientific knowledge is handed down from teacher to student.
Jan will present his lecture in such his way that it resonates as fully as possible with the open ended quality and rhizome-like character of his research project. The aim is that its form will not be too different from the content, and the medium in accord with the message.. Therefore the listeners to the lecture will be encouraged to be active participants in a co-creating dialogue on the interface of art and nature education.
A short film, accompanying Jan van Boeckel's lecture will be shown on Friday April, 3, at 15:00, in the 3d floor meeting room at Media Lab:

The Betrayal by Technology: A Portrait of Jacques Ellul
"Technology forces us to go faster and faster. One does not know where one goes. The only thing that matters is the speed." French philosopher Jacques Ellul has analyzed modern Western society on basis of the premise that technology has become an autonomous, all-determining factor.
In 1950, Ellul finished his manuscript La Technique ou l'enjeu du siecle (The Technological Society), his seminal analysis of the way technology shapes every aspect of society. As contemporary thinker, he was strongly influenced by Kierkegaard, Marx and Barth. After a life, in which he wrote close to fifty books, Ellul died in the summer of 1994, at the age of 82.
The team of ReRun Producties visited Ellul in 1990. During five subsequent days, long interview sessions were held with him in his old mansion in Pessac. The Betrayal by Technology is one of the very few existing filmed recordings of Jacques Ellul speaking.
ReRun Producties: Karin van der Molen, Pat van Boeckel, Jan van Boeckel, Frits Steinmann.

Dr. Lily Diaz, Professor, Systems of Representation
& Digital Cultural Heritage, University of Art and Design Helsinki
135C Hämeentie SF 00560. Helsinki, Finland




'Art Outside of the Classroom'

Weeklong workshop with art education students on the island of Nötö in the Finnish archipelago (May 2008), followed by an exhibiton at the Art Pedagogy Department of the University of Art and Design Helsinki in September 2008.

In May 2008, Mari von Boehm did a workshop with Master students in art education on the Finnish island of Nötö. This workshop could be regarded as the establishment of a temporary environmental research station, based on art. The idea was that the participants would be doing their own arts-based research on the island, choosing one point of view and one method on forehand, with which they would work during a week. This could of course change when they would actually see what the place was like. It was in a way similar to other field research, which takes place within a pre-established framework, with the idea to work further with the results.

Read more



Painting improvisation rotating circle at river Simoa in Norway

Kunstnerdalen. Sigdal, Norway, 14 October 2008

As part of the conference "How to Cope in a Changing World? - Environment, Culture and Health in Transition", Jan van Boeckel organized a improvisation painting workshop. Moving from one conference venue to the next, the participants joined in a one hour surprise event on a Sunday late afternoon at the river Simoa.
They gathered in a circle on the river bank, amidst the beautiful autumn colors and the setting sun. Every conference participant was divided in a group: "air", "water", "earth" and "fire".

Read more



Colours in the Landscape

Wij Trädgårdar, Ockelbo, Sweden, 5 September 2008

As part of the three day conference "New energy in old landscapes" at Wij Trädgårdar in Ockelbo, Sweden, Jan van Boeckel presented a workshop "När vi formar landskapet: Färgar i landskapet". 40 participants painted an agricultural landscape in different colours than usual. The worked in groups of ten, one group following up after the other had left. The painting easels remained and the newcomers had to continue on the painting as it was left by the previous participant. At the start, each group of ten was devided in a "wrong colours" and a "right colours" group. The "wrong colours group started painting the fields as wrong as possible, using the complementary colours (e.g. instead of painting the sky blue, it would be orange). The "right colours" group started with an "accurate" impressionistic depiction of the colours they saw in the same landscape in front of then. Each subsequent group continued on the same paintings for half an hour. But slowly the paintings would change: The paintings in which wrong colours were used would slowly move a bit to the right colours, and the ones in which the "appropriate" colours had been used, would slowly move to include unexpected colours.

See here for some of the results



Workshop with the Reggio Emilia Network in Finland

Kuusiluoto Island, Helsinki, 6 September 2008

On a nice Saturday, 14 participants of the Reggio Emilia Network in Finland gathered at the University of Art and Design for a presentation on arts-based environmental education. In the afternoon, they walked to the Kuusiluoto island. Together with Jan van Boeckel they did different exercises there, connecting the imagination, nature, the human body and its senses.

The Reggio Emilia Approach is an educational philosophy focused on preschool and primary education. It was started by the parents of the villages around Reggio Emilia in Italy after World War II. The destruction from the war, parents believed, necessitated a new, quick approach to teaching their children. The Reggio Emilia philosophy is based upon the following set of principles:

  • Children must have some control over the direction of their learning;

  • children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing, and hearing;

  • children have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world that children must be allowed to explore;

  • and children must have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves.

The Reggio Emilia approach to teaching young children puts the natural development of children as well as the close relationships that they share with their environment at the center of its philosophy. A child must have control over his or her day-to-day activity and learning must make sense from the child's point of view.

Website of Reggio Emilia Finland



Environmental Pedagogy

Helsinki, Finland, August 2008

Between 25 and 29 of August 2008, Pirkko Pohjakallio, Mari von Boehm and Jan van Boeckel of the research group led a introductory week for the new students in art education at the University of Art and Design Helsinki (TaiK). The theme of the week was environmental pedagogy. Below an overview of the week's programme.

Monday 25 August
Sharing of preconcepts of "art", "pedagogy", "environment". How do we construct our ideas? Lecture by professor Pirkko Pohjakallio.

Tuesday 26 August
Arts-based environmental education (AEE) and art of the environment: lectures by Mari von Boehm and Jan van Boeckel. Afternoon: AEE exercise on Kuusiluoto Island.
See images and read about the exercise

Wednesday 27 August
Integration in environmental education
Lecture: Pedagogical ideas in design education by Leena Svinhufvud. Visit to the Fennofolk exhibition at the Design Museum. In the afternoon: Visit to the Ämmässuo dump yard, guided by Riikka Hietala.
See images

Thursday 28 August
Visit to ARKKI, the School of Architecture for Children and Youth. Lecture by director Pihla Meskanen. Exercise in making constructions with toothpickers and candy as building elements. Afternoon: Building willow huts on a kindergarten play ground.
See images

Friday 29 August
Visit to the Environmental Education Centre at Harakka Island. Exercise in using the senses: Splitting up in small groups and individually  focussing on "only" hearing, "only" seeing, "only" tasting, "only" touching, or "only" smelling the island environment.
Joint lunch with each subgroup preparing a special colour. Everybody brought a special drinking cup of their own and told what it meant to them, at the same time each gave their individual evaluations of the week.
See images


As part of Environmental Pedagogics course Autumn semester, art education students Ilmari Arnkil, Tiina Humaloja and Tuuka Seppälä. at the University of Art and Design (TaiK) in Helsinki, Finland. The film is about the sense of hearing and plays with the combination of different, unexpected sounds and visual experience.

Click below to see (and hear!) the film on YouTube:


'Wild Painting' summer art course in the Norwegian mountains

Sandane, Norway, 28 July - 1 Aug. 2008


At this 4 day painting course, participants painted the rough and breathtaking landscape along the steep slopes of Fjord-Norway. Teacher was Jan van Boeckel. "Wild painting" aimed at connecting with nature in new and exciting ways, in an effort to see the colors in the world around us with fresh eyes.

See images



Creating Nature. Art in the Landscape

Schumacher College, Dartington, UK May 26 – June 6, 2008

At the course 'Creating Nature: Art in the landscape' at Schumacher College in the United Kingdom, Jan van Boeckel was facilitator and one of the teachers. Other teachers were Susan Derges and Lynne Hull.

The participants discussed the relationship between art and the natural world. The course involved exploration, discovery and creative practice in landscape. Nature in all its beauty and complexity has been an integral part of art from the first images and artefacts ever created by humans. Recent years have seen a resurgence of its importance for artists, not just as inspiration but as the actual medium within which they work.
Susan Derges introduced participants to the unique way she works within the landscape to create works of art, and help them make their own art inspired by the woods and gardens around the College and the wilds of Dartmoor. Susan Derges is a photographer who uses the natural world as her darkroom to create images of water flows and the night sky around her Dartmoor home.
In the second week, Lynne Hull worked with the group to create, within the College grounds, a piece of "trans-species" art which restores habitat damaged by human impact while encouraging humans to understand wildlife needs and to shift attitudes toward other species. Lynne Hull has pioneered "trans-species" art, creating sculpture installations as wildlife habitat enhancement and eco-atonement for human impact. She has worked in the American West and eight other countries with a variety of wildlife agencies. Currently she is working on Migration Mileposts, linking communities in the Americas who share migratory birds.
Lynne’s sculpture and installations provide shelter, food, water or space for wildlife, as eco-atonement for their loss of habitat to human encroachment. Her current projects link communities from Canada to South America through their shared wildlife. Some raise human awareness of our trans-species relationship and harmonious ways to live that relationship in the landscape. While assisting wildlife, when possible projects are also designed with components of sustainable economic development for humans. Lynne will work with the group to create a piece of trans-species art within or near the grounds of Schumacher College. She comments on her work: "I believe that the creativity of artists can be applied to real world problems and can have an effect on urgent social and environmental issues. I am increasingly aware that the greatest challenge faced by other species is the need for change in human values and attitudes toward conflicting rights, wants, and needs. I hope my work offers models for equitable solutions."

See images of course
Website Susan Derges
Website Lynne Hull

Schumacher College



The Art and Sea expedition

Oslo-Uusikaupunki, April 2008

Twenty artists from Finland, Poland, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Sweden, plus crew of four, sailing with the schooner Helena from Oslo, Norway, to harbor Uusikaupunki in Finland, during April 2008. Mari von Boehm co-ordinated this project.

See images
See more images and read blog 'Artsailing 2008'
Read another blog
(at Sail Training Association Finland website)
Article in Gotland's news portal (in Swedish)


Fire and Light workshop

Notodden, Norway, March 2008

Jan van Boeckel participated in and teached at the Fire and Light workshop of the EDDA Norden network at the department of art education at the University of Telemark in Notodden, Norway.



Snow and Ice Art Workshop

Lainio, Finland, January 2007

Mari von Boehm and Jan van Boeckel participated in the Snow and Ice workshop at Lainio Snow Village, north of Rovaniemi, Finland. The workshop was organized by the Art Education department of the University of Lapland.
Goal: The course aims to enhance students’ understanding in snow and ice as artistic material, the dialogue between sculpture and its environment and winter art as an architectural element. Students learn to apply the acquired skills in art education with various materials in their local environment.
Content: To provide students with basic theory of winter art, snow and ice architecture and practice in snow and ice sculpting.
Methods: Orientation studies based on web material and given literature (see below) prior to start of the course. Lectures in Rovaniemi, visits to local instances involved in northern environment and culture. Collaborative snow and ice sculpting in Lainio Snow Village in Ylläs. Students will work in small groups to design and realize interiors to snow hotel. The themes of the designs are related to the northern environment and nature. Written and illustrated documentation of the project.