Yearly Archives: 2009

Celebrating insects in art, and the art of being an insect

PESTIVAL: Celebrating insects in art, and the art of being an insect, opens tonight at the South Bank Center in London.Glasswing Butterflys

The events for Pestival weekend look extraordinary and include a large Termite Pavilion, Praying Manitis Kung Fu andForensic Entomology (insect experts who are often called on to assist the police in cases of suspicious death). Needless to say there will be  lots of lots of insects.  And some excellent RSA Fellows who have recently worked with RSA’s Arts and Ecology: neuroscientist Beau Lotto is creating a large bee hive in the Queen ‘Bee’ Hall and Architect Michael Pawlyn will present his biomimcry work.

Pestival is a rare creature: an international, inter-disciplinary, community-led festival. Events include insect-inspired comedy, music, ID walks, talks, workshops, experiments, fashion and a termite inspired architectural structure at the centre of Pestival 2009. 80% of creatures on earth are insects, the ‘pests’ without whom humans wouldn’t survive. Pestival celebrates the 100s of millions of years of evolution, which places insects at the heart of human existence. Pestival 2009 celebrates how insects shape our world, and how humans shape the world of insects, in both science and the arts.

Check out the programme for 4 – 6 September: Pestival programme
The events will be broadcast by London’s favourite (and only) art radio station Resonance 104.4 FM and Tweeted on The Guardian’s Environment Blog.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Opera Grand Rapids Goes Green

Reprinted from DeVos Performance Hall

Opera Grand Rapids is rooting itself into a culture of green. The long awaited Betty Van Andel Opera Center will be a Silver LEED certified facility. The center, which will house a rehearsal hall, costume shop and offices, will be built on the West corner of Fulton and Carlton.

Currently a brown field, the parcel of land had been the home of Michigan Litho. After a fire in 2002 destroyed the printing company, the lot has set empty for years, an eyesore for a budding neighborhood on the edge of the City’s downtown.

The Opera’s future building is not the first to go green in Grand Rapids’ growing skyline, recent projects by the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Grand Rapids Ballet are also LEED certified. Planners from the Opera Grand Rapids facilities committee note that going green was always in the plan for the project. At question was the level of certification.

As a Silver level facility, the project will meet standards that include: sustainability, pollution prevention, water efficient landscaping, water efficient utilities, optimized energy performance, construction waste management and the use of regional materials to limit transportation pollution.

Fundraising efforts continue on the long awaited project, which was jump started by a $1 Million grant from the Jay and Betty Van Andel Foundation more than seven years ago. Construction and material bids for The Betty Van Andel Opera Center have come in higher than initially expected, driving the estimated cost of the project up from $1.95 Million to approximately $2.3 Million. A groundbreaking ceremony, originally expected for this fall, will be held when 100% of the funds needed to complete the project have been raised. Currently the Company has raised approximately 80% of the new campaign goal. A public fundraising campaign will be launched later this month.

Once open, in 2009, the facility will consolidate the Company’s resources in one location. Currently the Company stages its operas and fits costumes at a variety of donated spaces throughout Grand Rapids. This means for each of its three shows time, energy and money are spent to set up temporary rehearsal spaces. With the facility, the Company’s costume shop, property and set storage as well as vocal warm up rooms and rehearsal room will all be located in one permanent facility.

The Company will begin rehearsals for the first show of its season, “Tosca” in mid-October. The show will take place Nov. 7 and 8 at 7:30pm at DeVos Hall. Tickets are currently on sale through Ticketmaster.


Go to the Green Theater Initiative

Soundwave Festival : Presented by MEDIATE

Soundwave ((4)): Call for Proposals:

Summer 2010, San Francisco USA

The next season of Soundwave will explore our sonic connections to the environment. For GREEN SOUND, Soundwave seeks artists, composers and musicians to investigate the wonder of natural world, and
examine environmental responsibility and sustainability through sound.

Soundwave seeks experience-driven performances that interpret the connections between sound and environment through its instrumentation, concept, visual collaboration, installation, audience interaction, or production by local and international sound artists, designers, musicians,  and composers.

the questions

How does sound affect the environment and how does the environment affect sound? How can sound help the environment? How do we green sound? What compositions and performance can
influence environmental change? How can the environment innovate the sound experience? How can environmental concepts engage, inspire, and challenge audiences and performers with a new, exciting, bold and intense aural experience?

concepts to consider
Environmental/organic composition, production or performance, reusable/recycled/renewable/natural instrumentation, real and imagined natural environments and inhabitants, solar-wind-water-powered performances, low carbon footprint works, eco-systems, climate change, weather, environmental awareness and responsibility, sustainable performance/production, new sonic technologies supporting green initiatives, dance collaborations, film collaborations, theatrics, greening of environments, sound generating organisms, plantlife/animal life, green installations, audience greening, and other artist imaginations.

season 4 mission
GREEN SOUND hopes to engage artists and audiences in revealing an incredible natural world unknown/unexplored and re-imagining a world in environmental crisis and human consumption. It hopes to inspire thought and action while showcasing sound’s inherent connection to our environment and innovative artistic voices for environmental change.

important dates

Open Call Deadline: September 15 2009
Artist Notification: November 2009
Artist Performance Development: Jan-June 2010
Performance Dates: June through August 2010

festival details
Dates and Venues: Soundwave will take place on various dates between June and August at various venues in San Francisco. We work with the invited artist to schedule available dates, as well as venues appropriate for their work. Typically, specific dates and venues are confirmed three months in advance.

Artist Fees: Fees to performing artists are modest. Amount is dependent on grant awards and fundraising currently in process. Typically, fees are confirmed three months in advance of performance date.

Accommodations: We are unable to offer accommodation fees for international artists and American artists outside of the Bay Area. We can offer housing, with limited availability, in private homes of friendly and enthusiastic friends of Soundwave to sleep and store belongings.

Travel: We invite all artists to submit proposals, but we are unable to offer financial assistance to cover travel costs for those outside the Bay Area. We ask our international artists and American artists outside of the Bay Area to apply for travel funding through their national arts councils and private foundations in their home country (ie. Canadian Artists – Canada Council for the Arts).  We will need to be notified of your travel award or notification of self-travel by March 15, 2010 or the invitation will be rescinded.

We do, however, apply for a couple of grants specifically for our International artists and American artists outside the Bay Area. Artists that apply early will have better access to these grants.  These grants, however, would not be enough to offset travel and accommodation costs, so we encourage those to continue to apply for travel grants.

proposal guidelines
All proposals MUST include:

  • Your artistic resume and website (including past performances, exhibitions, commissions, discography, videography)
  • A concise project description limited to 500 words. Indicate whether this is a completed project, a work-in-progress or yet to be realized, as well as, the performance duration of your work (most performances are limited to 20-30 minutes long. Please indicated if it is time specific so we may have the ability to accommodate)
  • Support materials such as reviews, high quality images (photographs, slides, video) and recordings of past works and performances
  • A detailed list of your technical needs and space requirements
  • A 100-200 word typed bio of quality for publication in press materials
  • A high resolution photograph(s) of yourself, your group and/or your work for press materials. Digital images must be a minimum of 8X10 at 300 dpi. In Jpeg or Tiff format with the extension attached (.jpg or .tif). Do not embed photographs in Word or any other program.

how to submit
Email: (DO NOT send image, audio or text attachments the email over 5MB. We prefer you providing links to these supporting materials and hi-res pictures. Alternately, these materials can be mailed to the address below.
Mail: MEDIATE, P.O. Box 170305, San Francisco, CA, 94117-0305, USA

about soundwave
Soundwave is MEDIATE’s acclaimed biennial festival of innovative sound, art and music. Soundwave is a multi-venue and multi-date sound performance series happening over the span of two months every two years in San Francisco USA. Each season investigates a new idea in sound and invites diverse multidisciplinary artists and musicians to explore the season’s theme in new and innovative directions. Soundwave has completed three successful seasons: Season 3’s MOVE>SOUND in 2008, Season 2’s SURROUND>SOUND in 2006 and Season 1’s FREE>SOUND in 2004. Project>Soundwave, created by MEDIATE artistic director Alan So, explores the boundaries of how we see sound, language and music. It is a project dedicated to challenge and inspire artists and audiences to look deeper into the sound medium and discover new connections to sound making and the sound experience through the production of CDs, exhibitions and its marquee festival Soundwave. Soundwave was awarded Best Sound Sculptures – Future Classic by San Francisco Magazine’s BEST of 2007 issue. It has been featured on SPARK*, KQED’s (PBS) television arts show and Educator Guide on Experimental Music, SF Weekly, SF Chronicle, BBC Radio 3 (UK), San Francisco Bay Guardian, 7×7 Magazine, SFist, WNYC Public Radio, ResonanceFM (UK), KUSF, KALX, KPFA, amongst others.

“Soundwave has sought to make irrelevant the typical distinctions between artist, musician, audience, stage, and venue… idiosyncratic performances that are challenging, charming, magical, assaultive, and (as is always the case with really sweet sound art) deeply personal for everyone present.” – Frances Reade, SF Weekly

“It’s an artisitic and exploratory experience for your senses that will open your eyes and your mind.” – Nitevibe

Project Website:
Organization Website:
Inquiries and Questions:

via Project>Soundwave : Soundwave>Series : Soundwave Festival : Presented by MEDIATE.

30 Things You Should Never Compost or Recycle | Lighter Footstep

Remember the good ole days — back when we only had one bin for trash? In retrospect, those days were actually more wasteful that good. We sent things to the landfill that might have nourished our yards, and buried them side-by-side with materials which should have been reclaimed and put back in the production chain.

Today, most of us have two bins: one for compost, and another for recycling. They’re great for reducing curbside trash. But not everything is suitable for one bin or the other.

We’ve rounded up thirty things people mistakenly try to compost or recycle. In the case of composting, we chose items generally avoided by experienced compost gurus. For recycling, we’ve picked things prohibited by most municipal sytems, or of limited use to commercial recyclers. Ready? To the bins!

via 30 Things You Should Never Compost or Recycle | Lighter Footstep.

London Leaders Programme

London Leaders brings together London’s leading lights in sustainability, to deliver real change, and inspire others to do the same“.

The London Sustainable Development Commission (LSDC) launched London Leaders in October 2007 to inspire and catalyse positive change, demonstrate sustainability in action, and increase London’s capacity for sustainable development leadership.

By bringing together sustainability leaders from all walks of life across London, SDC’s intention is to demonstrate the power of crosssector partnership and innovation for tackling London’s sustainability challenges and delivering improvements in quality of life. The goal is to motivate and empower individuals, organisations and communities to take responsibility and make the changes necessary to realise the vision of making London a global benchmark for sustainable development.

To find out more have a look at:

Future Arcola was part of Ben’s London Leader pledge

Go to Arcola Energy

Cirque du Soleil focus: WATER & CSR

Cirque du Soleil is one of my favorite entertainment companies. I was so pleased to learn from Lyn Heward, their COO of Special Projects, that a strong environmental ethic guides their work, e.g. they installed a seven layer filtration system for their O show in Las Vegas.

Obviously, they are all about the arts. Not as obvious is the fact that Guy Laliberte, the Founder of Cirque du Soleil, is passionate about ensuring equal and clean access to water. He created the One Drop Foundation, and the foundation is breaking new ground by using theater and the arts to educate people in Central American about watershed management and water conservation practices.

“Making the most of what they have, five eclectic actors are touring the Nicaraguan countryside with a show designed to entertain and educate. This resourceful theatre troupe, HAYTA (Hay theatro del agua, “The Water Theatre”)—founded by the ONE DROP’s Water, Culture and Agriculture in Nicaragua Project combines local folklore and hard-hitting facts to push people to realize how much better life could be if water and other natural resources were used wisely.  In Texoxell y el Sueño de Clarita (“Texoxell and Clarita’s Dream”), our heroine meets several characters who use or misuse water. Performances are accompanied by educational and artistic workshops with the theme of collecting and using water more efficiently.”

Applying Cirque’s creative skills to water issues is an exciting marriage I’ll call CSR: Creative Social Responsibility.

Go to Eco-Catalysts

London to Groningen – across Europe by Train

Putting my bum where my mouth is, when invited to speak on arts and sustainability at the opening of the Noorderzon Festival in Groningen, I though I’d better go by train rather than plane. NB I didn’t look at a map before making this decision…. Groningen is a long way from London

Here is how it went:

From: London, South East UK
To: Groningen, North Netherlands
Distance: 500km approx
When: August 2009.
Via: Eurostar to Brussels then Intercity.
Alternative: Train to a London airport, flight to Amsterdam, train to Groningen

Summary: Train takes about twice as long (all day), costs about the same or less (EUR107 first class eachway) but is more pleasant and productive.

Details: The conclusion of my experiment is that it is fully possible to productively travel across Europe on business by train but that it requires careful planning and if planning for someone else very clear instructions – train systems are optimised for national rather than international travellers and are less accomodating of ignorance than airports.

Some notes:
1. The subtle changes in the way that platforms are arranged and information presented (particularly related to changes in schedules) across Europe make it difficult for unfamiliar travellers to quickly identify which train to take.

2. A simple google map of the route with changes marked and key city names highlighted makes understanding staff, friendly passengers and announcements much easier (google maps application for Blackberry is great)

3. The ability to use of a first class Eurostar ticket to travel first class on any (non-thalys) train makes an incredible difference – first class is quiet and comfortable and not needing to purchase individual tickets eliminates much hassle.

4. Travelling by train requires some thinking and planning of the route as well as the destination. Unlike plane travel which is point to point, train travel remains more like the ‘real’ travelling we used to do. This is the ‘price’ paid for avoiding all of the horrible waiting, queues, metal detectors and fear found in airports.

5. Interesting to note that we are willing to knowingly wait hours, find and pay for transfers and taxis in airports but get impatient in train stations.

6. Ability to remain in phone contact on trains is a great benefit. Lack of internet on many trains (like planes) is unfortunate but likely to be quickly remedied through proliferation of internet connected phones –
resulting in almost uninterupted business productivity throughout the journey (unlike on planes).

Specific to Noorderzon:
From Groningen to Rotterdam takes 3 hours even with perfect connections. Rotterdam to Brussels is 1h45 and the connection v.tight (I missed it and had to wait one hour) thus the non-eurostar part of the journey is a minimum of 5 hours and probably 6 hours (everyone I spoke to the night before it was 4 hours)

Post image is of the freak storm which caused the closing of the first night of the Festival (I did my presentation in the pub)… an example of the imact of climate change on arts?

Go to Arcola Energy

State of Climate Art: On FIRE!

The Arts (music, poetry, theater and film) are one of the best vehicle in which to reach specific target audiences with your message.  Hollywood films (An Inconvenient Truth), Live Aid, and Rock the Vote are some examples that come to mind. However, I think we’re only just scratching the surface and need to more fully integrate sustainability messages into cultural programming. Someone needs to create a Sustainability Hip Hop Dance that rivals the Macarena.  Maybe the movements could simulate recycling?

I’m glad to see eco-luminary, Bill McKibben, agrees with me and is spurring a tidal wave of climate change art. Check out Bill McKibben’s article on the state of climate change art, includes references to many great works of eco-art.  Also check out his Art Page which showcases the intersection of marketing, art, and climate change.

Go to Eco-Catalysts

Green Touring

The Elephant in the room for many arts organisations. For the record we are not against touring, any more than we are against having babies.

Arcola does not do much touring nationally or internationally, however we do have a sister theatre in Istanbul and we have plans to increase our own touring and our staging of international shows soon, so we are starting to think hard about this matter.

First thoughts…

Why are we touring:
1. Is a tour genuinely beneficial e.g. for artistic, cultural, financial reasons
2. Can similar outcomes be achieved in a lower carbon manner e.g. by a different artistic approach, alternative cultural intervention or different business model
3. Are we going to the otherside of the world simply because we met a producer from there – can we not meet someone closer?

How we are touring:
1. Can the miles involved in the tour be reduced e.g. through focus on a single or more proximate region (Europe rather than Australsia), or by programming a local rather than international company
2. Can the size of the touring party be reduced e.g. through local partnerships, revised set/technical, multi-tasking company members
3. Can the negative impact of the tour be reduced e.g. through use of trains rather than planes and by planning the intinerary to minimise distance between consecutive stops
4. Can the positive impact of the tour be increased e.g. by staying longer or adding engagement activities

Others looking at this:
British Council

Arts Admin

Some useful links:

Go to Arcola Energy