Yearly Archives: 2009

Almost Utopia


For the fourth and final installment of
Almost Utopia, the gallery at 18th Street Arts Center will be dedicated to an unprecedented investigation of 100 Car-Less Angelinos and it will tell their stories of living in Los Angeles.

Public Discussions are as follows:

November 6, 9:30PM
Ride-ARC Ride on Santa Monica Car and Pedestrian Culture: Alex Amerri

November 11, 7:OOPM
“Walking in LA” Panel/Discussion with:
Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Professor, UCLA Department of Urban Planning; author of Sidewalks: Conflict and Negotiation Over Public Space
Herbert Medina, Professor, Loyola Department of Mathematics
Nigel Raab, Assistant Professor, Loyola Department of History
DJ Waldie, author of Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir, Real City:Downtown Los Angeles Inside/Out and Where We are Now: Notes from Los Angeles, Public Information Officer for the City of Lakewood
Damon Willick, Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Art History, Loyola Marymount University

November 14, 2pm
“Transportation and the Future of Los Angeles”
Jessica Meaney, Transportation Planner, So. CAL Assoc. of Governments
Browne Molyneux, Journalist and Blogger, Shame Train LA
Claude Willey, Artist, Urbanist and Educator, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, California State University, Northridge

Others to be confirmed

Go to EcoLOGIC LA

Countdown to Copenhagen at Bristol’s Arnolfini gallery

Countdown to Copenhagen at the Arnolfini galleryThe 100 Days exhibition at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol marks the countdown to the Copenhagen climate conference in December by hosting a series of exhibitions, performances and talks highlighting climate change, social justice and art and activism

See the Video at:

Video: Countdown to Copenhagen at Bristol’s Arnolfini gallery | Environment | guardian.co.uk .

Inhabitat » GREEN RANT: Lame Eco-Art

1. Rock Stackers. Your skills are amazing. You can stack rocks higher and prettier than I ever could. You’re even kinda like Andy Goldsworthy, yes, of course. And I’m sure the process is amazing for you, and that the stones talk to you, and you get that beautiful in-tune-with-nature hum.  But I’ve see so many rock stacks at this point they blur together. My eyes glaze over.

2. Tr-art. This is a combination of terms: “trite trash art.” Thank you for rescuing all of those bottle caps, six pack rings, and other crap from the landfill. Thanks for making them into portraits, blankets, sculptures and people. Trash is now a viable medium. But you are not always making eco-art:  sometimes you just happen to make art with trash. Conversely: just because you made it with trash doesn’t mean it is powerful art.

3. Statistic-a-thon. Recycling one can saves enough power to watch 6 episodes of Law and Order. At this rate all of our children will be dead in 20 years. We need 16 more planets if we want to keep watching Comedy Central. Etcetera, etcetera.  I am so inundated with guilt-soaked statistics. Stop finding new ways to slap me in the face with them. If it’s powerful to you then help me understand why. See: Chris Jordan, who does an excellent job of making numbers real.

4. Eco-Snobbery. As a recovering eco-snob myself, I understand how hard it is to stop calling everyone out on their perpetual green sins. It sucks. There are to-go containers everywhere, and everyone drives, and not everyone composts, and what the hell?!?! The icebergs, people! The icebergs! But just because you make eco-art does not mean you have license to aggrandize. We’re a population of pots and kettles. Don’t mistake your good work for a kind of personal superiority. This is true of green culture in general, but it’s especially apparent in accusatory or guilt-trippy art.

via Inhabitat » GREEN RANT: Lame Eco-Art .

Declining newspapers: arts moving into empty spaces

bumblebee_page3_1000

Artists love disused space. Artists And Makers have been tweeting me about the Empty Shops Conference they’re running on October 19. Meanwhile here’s another example of a street artists moving into a disused property. The collapse of the newspaper market in the US has been even more precipitous than it has been here in the UK. Print ad sales fell by a horrendous 30% in the first quarter of 2009; titles have been disappearing at an alarming speed.  The newspaper is a strange but crucial part of the social glue in the US, a country where there is no such thing as a “national” newspaper outside of USA Today. Americans are losing a major part of the way in which they tell their stories.

Out of decline comes opportunity. Here’s an example of one street artist Bumblebee, who has been opportunistically taking over empty newsboxes on the streets of Los Angeles, to create a series of narrative tableaux, linking the declines of newspapers to that of another endangered species.

The art, it has to be said, is pretty grim. Nice idea, though…

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

CSPA October 09 Newsletter

Newsletter #3 is here! The quarterly is on its way out the door as well. Weve got a couple of very important events coming up as well and I hope youll join us for them. For those in technical theater, were helping Showman Fabricators with their Green Day 2009 at this years LDI conference in Orlando. And if that wasnt big enough news, well also have people on the ground in Copenhagen for COP15 and Wooloo.orgs New Life Festival.

All of the information on these developments is below as well. With all of this going on, wouldnt you considering joining the CSPA?

Ian Garrett & Miranda Wright
CSPA Directors

CSPA October 09 Newsletter.

Environmentalism: towards civilisation, or “uncivilisation”?


The environment movement is failing because it has only a negative vision of the future. Discuss.

That’s the nub of the argument suggested by Josie Appleton of the Manifesto Club in her essaythat we published last week, and one echoed by Emma Ridgway’s recent article for theRETHINK exhibition catalogue. Environmentalism, the argument goes, is about limiting possibilities. It’s about what we shouldn’t do. Appleton believes that art has a visionary role in thinking beyond this drought of possiblity; humanity must instead accept its place as the species that transformed the earth – we must take on that leap of consciousness when we start to think of solutions and not start from the romantic baseline of earth as a wilderness, despoiled by man. We must move forwards, not back.

A radical idea. And the polar opposite to another radical idea proposed recently by poet/writer/activist Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine. For them and their Dark Mountain Project, human civilisation itself is the toxic factor that has plunged the earth into crisis. In the blink of an eye – the five thousand years or so  in which  humanity has accelerated towards modern civilisation – we have so stamped over the intricacies of nature that the wheel is now flying off the machine. We must prepare our exit from civilisation, for “uncivilisation”. In the visual arts, this has echoes in the recent work of Heather and Ivan Morison, whose How to prosper in the coming bad years discussion takes place in The Black Cloud (see above) next weekend in Bristol.

Art, a place where the imagination can roam to extremes, is an excellent laboratory for ideas.  The Dark Mountain Project finds its inspiration in literature, particularly in the poetry of Robinson Jeffers – the Californian who shared a romantic vision of wilderness with environmentalist Edward Abbey, referred to below. It was Jeffers who had first suggested the idea of  “inhumanism” that  inspired the Dark Mountain Project. Human civilisation was, Jeffers suggested, always too self-centred to understand the complexity and beauty of the world around it. The Dark Mountain Project also plant their flag in the literature of Joseph Conrad and his “heart of darkness”.

There have been some interesting responses to the Dark Mountain provocation. In the New StatesmanJohn Gray responded to the Dark Mountain provocation by demonstrating that literature has in fact been much more successful at showing the catastrophic results of “uncivilisation” than eulolgising it. There is nothing romantic about the crumbling of civil society. Gray too cites Joseph Conrad, to make the point that Conrad, like J G Ballard – shows the genuine  horror of what a society in disintegration actually looks like. Both Conrad and Ballard were witness to the atrocities that happen when the crust of civilization is removed.

(On a sidenote, Paul Kingsnorth and I have disagreed elsewhere about whether Cormac MacCarthy’s The Road is a novel primarily about climate change. Gray’s line of argument  reminds you that MacCarthy’s book, in which baby-eating survivors scavage the land,  displays the awful consequence of uncivilisation.)

But as both suggest, it’s time to rexamine the givens. Environmentalism hasn’t produced the major shift in culture that the global warming era requires. Something radical has to shift.  Appleton’s idea is that to save civilisation we need more civilisation, not less:

The anthropocene is here, and there is no way back. To wish that we could retreat is the mythical fantasy of wishing that we never ate the apple or stole the fire. It is a wish that we were children again, back in a former stage of history. We cannot reverse out of the anthropocene but only go forward.

I doubt John Gray would quite see eye to eye with Appleton’s thesis either. Gray’s book Straw Dogs was a vigorous assault on the idea of that idea of human centrality in nature. Appleton’s argument is unashamedly anthropocentric; in fact the very notion of the anthropocene, by definition, is a human-centred concept. Gray follows James Lovelock: such assumptions of human supremacy over nature are fundamentally arrogant and hubristic.  Myself, I find the technological postivism of Appleton’s approach hard to embrace. Above all, I don’t believe, as she does, that, ” The climate moves slowly; we have time.”

The Black Cloud by Heather and Ivan Morison (Bristol, 2009)photographed by ac (y su camarófono)

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

RSA AGM: Rethinking the community garden

grow your ownTomorrow is the RSA’s AGM; the house will be full of RSA Fellows here to discuss the organisation, its future and the new charter. We’ve decided to shamelessly exploit the presence of all these experts being in a single place on a single day by running a series of brain-picking seminars.

I’m doing one with the excellentConnected Communities project which gives me a chance to start talking about something that I’ve been working on for a little while now. Back in the spring I was researching the subject of artists working in productive gardens, talking to people like Fallen Fruit, Amy Francheschini – and more recently Clare Patey of Feast. There is a huge enthusiasm around for this stuff. How can we create new ways to garden? How can we create new places to garden?

That connected with an idea that was put forward by a Fellow and so we’re now on the verge of launching our own project, Rethinking the community garden. The recession has meant that there is a lot of land – particularly building land – which is on hold in cities right now. How can we change the idea of gardens as permanent fixtures to something that’s more flexible, something that maximises land use throughout a city turning semi-derelict land into an asset?

We want to attach that to Fellow’s expertise and experience to make the project come to life in New Cross Gate, South London, an area that Connected Communities are already working in. If you are an RSA Fellow and you want to come along to this, or to any of the other seminars, it’s not to late to register. We need bright heads to brainstorm along the the following lines:

  • How can we persuade landowners to let us use small parcels of land for one, two or more years, and leave them confident that there’s not going to be local resentment when they need them back?
  • How can we persuade gardeners to pour their work into a piece of land they might only have for a single growing season?
  • How can we help the users design gardens in a practical way on land that may only be available for 18 months?
  • Research shows that successful garden projects are often run by a small group of people. How can we make a successful garden project that engages a wide slice of the local population?

Thanks to Harmen de Hoop for the use of Grow Your Own Vegetables – again.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Moving Stars and Earth for Water

TODAY, Guy Laliberte, Founder of Cirque du Soleil, will promote a special water conservation message from outer space. His water conservation organization, One Drop Foundation, is producing a 2 hour, ONLINE event which starts at 5pm PCT, Friday, October 9th. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Dr. David Suzuki, Peter Gabriel, Salma Hayek, Shakira, U2 and others will be joining Guy in the performance.

It’s called “Poetic Social Mission: Moving Stars and Earth for Water”. Yann Martel, Life of Pi author, has created a special poem for the event.
Check it Out: http://www.onedrop.org/en/default.aspx
Should be amazing… (yes, tons of GHGs have been expanded, but hopefully the positive impact from the water conservation message outweighs it)!
More details…

Go to Eco-Catalysts

APInews: Werewolves & Coastal Land Loss in Louisiana

A werewolf will prowl at dawn and dusk in the abandoned City Park of New Orleans as residents gather for “Loup Garou,” “part performance, part ritual, part howl to the world about southeast Louisiana’s plight.” The artists of Mondo Bizarro and ArtSpot Productions will present the outdoor performance Thursdays-Sundays, October 8-25, 2009, including post-show discussions about coastal land loss with experts from the Gulf Restoration Network. The artists say a “loup garou” is a “wild and dangerous entity some say a werewolf well anchored in the folk traditions of southern Louisiana,” going back to France and Acadia. The event is “environmental performance that uses rigorous physicality, poetry, music and visual installation to investigate the deep interconnectedness between land and culture in Louisiana.” Thursday performances begin at sunrise and weekend performances end at sunset; free gumbo on Fridays.

via APInews: Werewolves & Coastal Land Loss in Louisiana .

Encouragement of the Arts

I’m wildly excited about two books, one coming out this month the other next year – both are radical insights about what environmental change means for the human relationship to the planet. One is Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto and the other is Timothy Morton’s The Ecological Thought.

What I find so vital in their work is that they are strongly against the misanthropy that seems to underpin much of the dominant narrative around the environmental movement. To my mind, the idea that humans are stupid, indifferent and deliberately destructive is not only an inadequate account of human nature it is heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking because it is debilitating at every level. At a time when we most need compassion and creative thinking the very sentiments that block these – pervasive cynicism and conservatism – are prevalent. (I’ve used too many words beginning with ‘c’ in that sentence, I’ll move onto the letter ‘R’ for a while).

What roots the rigorous accounts given by ecological experts such as Brand and Morton is that people are hugely capable of complex thinking, adaptive living, resilience and resourcefulness. We have created this situation of environmental change so now we must rise to challenge of transforming how we think and behave in response to it. And when I read documents like Peter Head’s Entering an Ecological Age, and see speakers at the RSA like Graciela Chichilnisky, not only do these extraordinary changes feel crucial they appear do-able.

Drawing on Brand, Head and Morton, I have written a short essay for the Copenhagen exhibition RETHINK: Contemporary Art & Climate Change.
Here’s a bit of it:  Art and ideas are not timeless, they are historically specific. The uneasy realisation of our current situation is that we are part of an ecological system that we influence more than we previously thought was possible. We are not outside observers, we are participants; we engage and affect systems whether we intend to or not. … we are the co-creators of our environment. Yet we do not yet fully recognise ourselves as such. This is a revelation awaiting to be fully explored through the arts.

It is the beginning of some work I’m developing for the Arts and Ecology Centre on what the arts may contribute  in moving us towards an ecological age.  Some of the ideas are controversial. And as part of this, writer Josie Appleton has been commissioned to write an essay for this website, as her work sets out to explore fresh thinking about human capability.The Challenge of Climate Change: Towards a New Human Consciousness – is a ‘thought experiment’, as she says in her blog – so comments are welcome.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology