Yearly Archives: 2009

PLATFORM: ‘C Words’

PLATFORM: ‘C Words’ – 3 Oct-30 Nov
at Arnolfini’s ‘100 Days’ to Copenhagen – 29 Aug – 6 Dec

Marking the countdown to the 15th United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 15), opening in Copenhagen on 7 December, the artist-activist group PLATFORM and their collaborators are presenting ‘C Words: carbon, climate, capital, culture. How did you get here and where are we going?’ from 3 October – 29 November at the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol.

  • The PLATFORM events are the centrepiece to the Arnolfini Gallery’s 100 Days, from 29 August to 6 December, a season of exhibitions, performances, screenings and debate around issues of climate change, social justice and the relationship between art and activism.
C Words is a two-month investigation into carbon, climate, capital and culture. PLATFORM and their collaborators will hold over 25 events, installations, performances, actions, walks, courses, discussions and skills-sharing.

C Words cross-examines the present and looks to the next two decades. It investigates how everything from carbon offsets and transport, to racism and bank accounts play their part in the carbon web. How will culture be produced in a low ene rgy future? Can we imagine our way from here to there?

PLATFORM members will be in residence at Arnolfini throughout the project. The season will build towards a public departure to COP 15.

Seven new commissions are part of C Words:

  • Ackroyd & Harvey: The Walking Forest – In the spirit of slow travel, people are invited to bring a small tree or sapling to add to The Walking Forest, Ackroyd & Harvey’s Bristol time-based artwork.
  • African Writers Abroad: All Change! – African Writers Abroad (PEN) presents new commissioned work and workshops from poets Dorothea Smartt and Simon Murray on climate change and justice.
  • Hollington & Kyprianou with Spinwatch: Adams and Smith – Adams and Smith are auctioneers of late capitalist period artefacts, with provenance and history provided by Tamasin Cave and Spinwatch. Live auction included.
  • Institute for the Art & Practice of Dissent at Home’s Half-Term Holiday – Two adults and three children will set up a homemade activist cell to take action against Carbon, Climate Chaos and Capitalism. Join them for their half-term holiday.
  • Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination: Experiment Number 10 – This will involve building an irresistible weapon of creative resistance, which will be unleashed during the COP 15 summit.
  • Trapese Collective: Experiments against Enclosure – Tools to reclaim the Commons – The Trapese Collective present dayschools, film nights and an installation for your participation.
  • Virtual migrants: The Centre Cannot Hold – Multimedia installation, live dialogues and music performances explore the racial underpinnings of climate change, and the potential for a super-holocaust in the global south.
Also collaborating are Amelia’s Magazine, Art Not Oil, Carbon Trade Watch, The Corner House, Feral Trade, FERN, Greenpeace, Live Art Development Agency, new economics foundation & Clare Patey, Sustrans – Art & the Travelling Landscpae, Ultimate Holding Company and other artist and activist ‘co-realisers’.

Arnolfini’s ‘100 Days’

The title ‘100 Days’ refers back to the project for Documenta V (1972) by Joseph Beuys, the influential artist/activist, as well as aiming to give a sense of urgency in the lead-up to the Copenhagen conference. In addition to the PLATFORM events, the season includes exhibitions by Ursula Biemann, Ocean Earth and Barbara Steveni of the Artists Placement Group, and an ongoing Speakers Corner.

www.100days.org.uk has details of events and how to get involved, either by attending or posting news of other events and comments.

‘C Words: carbon, climate, capital, culture. How did you get here and where are we going?’

www.platformlondon.org

www.100days.org.uk

www.arnolfini.org.uk

RSA sets up Arts for COP15 network

The RSA Arts & Ecology Centre has set up the web-based network, Arts For COP15, for artists and arts professionals who are producing work in the run up to and during the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 09.

It is designed as a site to

  • publicise arts events that relate to COP15
  • Share knowledge and resources with other artists and arts professionals
  • discuss how arts strategy around climate and social change can evolve
  • research into the range and success of these projects
  • use arts to increase the noise around COP15
  • encourage artists and arts professionals who are producing work that is about the environment over the next few months to consider using the event as a way of discussing COP15 with their audiences.
For more information, contact Wiliam Shaw, webeditor at the RSA Art & Ecology Centre.

www.arts4cop15.orgwww.rsaartsandecology.org.uk

APInews: Indigenous Voices Intervene in Arizona

A Piipaash song cycle and dance recently filled the Arizona State University Art Museums Ceramics Research Center during an intervention by Postcommodity, an interdisciplinary indigenous artists collective. Postcommoditys installation, “Do You Remember When,” is part of the museums exhibition “Defining Sustainability,” August 28-November 28. The artists cut a square hole in the gallery floor, exposing the earth beneath the institution, and displaying the block of removed concrete, standing upright, on a pedestal. Its “a spiritual, cultural and physical portal,” say the artists, contradicting the rigid Western scientific world view of our environment. Postcommoditys Kade Twist Cherokee makes it clear that the piece was a collaboration with the museum – not the university. The show parallels ASUs October global sustainability conference. “Sustainability has become an academic gold rush; its been turned into a commodity,” Twist told the Phoenix New Times 8/30/09. “The university is having this discourse without including any indigenous people in it.”

via APInews: Indigenous Voices Intervene in Arizona .

Robert MacFarlane on literature that inspired action

There was a great article on Edward Abbey by Robert MacFarlane in the weekend’s Guardian.  [I’m inclined to superlatives here, as MacFarlane generously bigged up the RSA Arts & Ecology Centre and our fellow organisations TippingPoint, The Ashden Directory and Cape Farewell in the article].

Anyhow, to the point.

MacFarlane writes about how Abbey’s gloriously rambunctious novel Monkey Wrench Gang became the inspiration for the Earth First! environmental movement in the US, who set about turning Abbey’s fiction into non-fiction through a series of direct actions. Climate change, suggests MacFarlane,  requires not just a technological and political shift but a cultural one too – which is what Abbey’s writing set ablaze for the American conservation movement.

But then MacFarlane starts to ponder where that’s going to come from in relation to climate change. American authors, from Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey, Bill McKibben, Gary Snyder, Cormac MacCarthy and others have produced significant passionate works which have indeed had a galvanising impact on environmental movements. But where, he wonders, are the British equivalents? The British equivalents, he suggests, have an emotional distance which doesn’t “kick your arse off the page” in the way that Abbey’s prose does. But there’s something else too:

Perhaps the key ethical principle of British environmental literature has been that making us see differently is an essential precursor to making us act differently. So it is that each new generation of British environmental writers finds itself trying to design the literary equivalent of the “killer app”: the glittering argument or stylistic turn that will produce an epiphany in sceptical readers, and so persuade them to change their behaviour. I used to believe in the possibility of this killer app, both as a reader and a writer. But I’m increasingly unsure of its existence. Or, if it exists, of its worth. At least in my experience, environmental literature in Britain gets read almost exclusively by the converted to the converted, and its meaningful ethical impact is minimal tending to zero. As Vernon Klinkenbourg noted with glum elegance last year, most documents of environmental literature are “minority reports – sometimes a minority of one. The assumptions, the hopes, the arguments [of such literature] are contradicted by the way the vast majority of us live, and by the political and economic structures that determine that lifestyle … sceptical readers so seldom pick up this kind of writing, or submit to its evidence.”

The point is that Abbey’s fiction was in many ways hackneyed, fed by the cliche’s of the western pulp novel, but it was great because of the scope of its passion and the sureness of Abbey’s vision. In comparison, are European artists and writers just trying too hard to be clever? Does this create a kind of parochial vision that hobbles artists, blunting their chance of having the kind of impact Abbey did?

One of the things that I hope Arts for COP15 will be able to produce is some idea of how effective the various events are at doing what they all, presumably, set out to do, which us change minds.

Illustration: Robert Crumb-designed sticker for Edward Abbey’s book (1985).

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Call for papers: ‘Essays in Performance and Ecology’

Theresa J. May, founder and artistic director of Earth Matters on Stage, and Wendy Arons, director of the Performance and Ecology Public Art Initiative have issued a call for papers for a jointly edited publication, Essays in Performance and Ecology to be published in 2011.

The proposed anthology of essays, interviews, and artist statements will include papers dealing with ecocritical concerns as they relate to theatre and performance. The editors are especially interested in explorations that employ the science of ecology as a critical framework, or employ environmental history to contextualize performance.

The topics welcomed include, but are not limited to:

  • the ecological situatedness of language
  • the dialogic relationship between onstage/offstage ecological discourses
  • intersections and complications of landscape/body
  • performances that participate in/reflect ecological debates
  • ecology, technology and representation
  • the cultural (de)construction of ‘nature’
  • performative intersections of social justice and ecological issues
  • partnership projects in the arts and sciences
  • ecological dramaturgy
  • community/place and ecology
  • the body as a site of ecological intersections
  • the ecologies of theatrical space
  • semiotics of ‘nature’
  • subjectivity/inter-subjectivity and the ecological self
  • animal representation on/off stage
  • eco-activism/community-based performance.
The editors encourage submissions by artists working in the area of eco-performance and who reflect critically on their work and/or process, and encourage proposals that engage a question about how performance (broadly constructed) has or might function as part of ecological communities.
A working or final draft or an abstract of 500 words should be sent as an attachment to both editors by 15 October:
Theresa J. May, Assitant Professor Theatre Arts, University of Oregon
tmay33@uoregon.edu
Wendy Arons, Associate Professor of Dramatic Literature and Dramaturgy, Carnegie Mellon University
warons@andrew.emu.edu

Toronto to New York City Travel Options

This journey actually involves going from London to Toronto to New York with a stop over in Washington in an attempt to make the most out of one transatlantic trip. The following represents one leg of the journey.

Distance: approximately 500 miles

Option 1: Train

Route: Toronto (Union Station) to NYC (Penn Station) direct

Time: 13 hours (approx.)

Cost: $97 US (Coach)/ $127 (Business) -one way

Carbon output: low (~45.1kg)

Info: http://tickets.amtrak.com/itd/amtrak

Option 2: Bus

Route: Toronto to NYC (Port Authority Bus Terminal/Penn Station) direct

Time: 11.5 -12.5 hours (approx.)

Cost: $72 US -one way

Carbon output: low (~23.5kg)

Info: http://www.trailwaysny.com/index.asp

http://www.megabus.com/us/ (has free wi-fi)

http://www.greyhound.com/home/ (has free wi-fi and “eco-friendly” buses)

Option 3: Plane

Route: Toronto Pearson Airport to NYC La Guardia direct

Time: 1.5 hours

Cost: $203 CND one-way/$366 CND return

Carbon output: high (~111.7kg)

Info: www.expedia.ca

Option 4: Car share

Route: various – Toronto to NYC

Time: 9 hours (approx.)

Cost: various (gas money)

Carbon output: med to high (50-180kg depending)

Info: http://www.sharetheroad.com/categories.php?parent_id=259

http://toronto.en.craigslist.ca/rid/

To note: We’ve found an Amtrak train from New York to Washington. It’s only 3-4 hours and costs around $72 US.

Go to Arcola Energy

How the web changes what art will be

I have been spending time in the presence of cyber-dystopians.

Last Tuesday I went to great talk by Evgeny Mozorov at the RSA, to hear Mozorov pour scorn on the idea that the internet is the harbinger of a new democratic personal freedom. He suggests that totalitarians and corporate astroturfers alike love it when we unthinkingly accept the internet as a force for good; it makes their work so much easier for them. Institutions are weakened by social media? Bah! It strengthens their hegemony.

I went to Art of Digital, hosted by FACT in Liverpool, where a great line up includedAndrew Keen rehearsing the thesis he put forward in Cult of the Amateur, namely that the internet is destroying the underpinnings of our culture by making conventional cultural transmission valueless, destroying newspapers and publishers and replacing erudition with Wikipedia. (Actually he’s moved on a little since then – but I’ll come to that in a minute.)

It’s true we have lived in the age of technological positivism for a little too long. When I freelanced for Wired it seemed almost heretical to suggest that some of the things we were writing about might not actually ever happen. A little corrective to that relentless utopianism is no bad thing. However the new public speaking circuit – something which has blossomed unexpectedly in the virtual age – naturally magnifies the extremes of the argument. You’re more likely to be listened to if you say something is either brilliant or crap.

While it’s true that the internet is altering culture fundamentally, maybe it’s time we started being a little more systematic about finding out exactly what it is that’s really going on.Matthew Taylor said this in his blog yesterday; any change produces results that are likely to be both positive and negative; we need to start understanding what they are. So what does this mean for the arts?

The Art of Digital strand has, naturally, been looking into that. I’ve argued elsewhere that arts institutions don’t fully understand the unfolding changes that are taking place – and the various consultants speaking earlier in the day, who didn’t go much further than describe social media as much more than a particularly whizzy new marketing tool, weren’t doing a great deal to change that outlook.

It was, paradoxically, Andrew Keen who pointed out one silver lining for the arts – and one that is going to be undoubtedly very powerful in years to come. We live in a world in which almost anything can now be copied for free. As the financial value of anything that can be copied disappears, so too the cultural value becomes undermined. For instance, recorded music, one of the greatest forms of the 20th century, is in a major slump from which it will never recover. Sure, there is great music still being made, but it’s a lot harder to get paid for it, and as a consequence, its cultural heft is drifting away. We are unlikely to see a cultural force as strong as, say, The Beatles – whose greatest music was never performed live – ever again.

But – sticking with music – we’re living in a golden age for performing artists. Never have as many people flocked to live concerts. The recession hasn’t even begun to put a kink in box office receipts.

As the value of the reproducible declines, the value of the irreproducible rises. A DVD of a performance is relatively worthless. Actually being there is invaluable. We are becoming a culture that wants the experience, as much as the content itself. Keen’s idea is an extension of Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. What we want is the “aura” of the work of art, to use Benjamin’s word – and in the digital age, that aura becomes the uniqueness of a single performance. We want the now. We want the one-off. We want to be able to say we were present.

Not only does this mean that all arts that have that specialness of performance, from music, to live arts, to drama, can expect to thrive, but exisiting art forms seem to be changing too – and in the oddest way. For the last decade anybody who’s written a book knows you’re likely to make more money giving readings of the work than you ever receive in royalties. The literary festival – quite the most ungainly of arts events – has become a monster. Even the most tepid reader of their own work gets a look in. Crowds, who more likely than not haven’t even read the book, pay the price of a new book to hear the author read a small fraction of it. The “aura” becomes all important.

Of course that doesn’t mean that the world won’t still be full of struggling actors…

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Theatres Trust announces ECOVENUE project

Theatres Trust announced a new three-year programme, called ECOVENUE, to provide environmental advice and assessments to 48 small scale theatres in London. The announcement was made on 14 September, the first anniversary of the Mayor of London’s Green Theatre Initiative.

The programme will be funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and will receive £450,000 over three years.

After the Mayor’s Theatre Plan was announced last year, many large-scale theatres signed up to reduce their carbon emissions by 65% by 2025, but the smaller theatres did not have the budget to participate. With this grant, smaller venues will be able to apply for help to address environmental issues associated with climate change, and to reduce their energy use and to achieve Display Energy Certificates (DECs).

The Trust will be inviting theatres to apply, and details will be advertised in the coming months.

For more information, contact Suzanne McDougall
suzanne.mcdougall@theatrestrust.org.uk