Yearly Archives: 2009

Ghost Forest by Angela Palmer, Trafalgar Square

It’s an amazing achievement, to unlock this space for this kind of exhibit. The crowds I saw were drawn to the sheer strangeness and hugeness of the shapes of the trees, which are supposed to link the ideas of deforestation and climate change. Angela Palmer has done something remarkable in persuading the Mayor’s office to let her use this space for this work. Its scale and ambition makes the current occupant of the Fourth Plinth look rather irrelevant.

But, being honest, I’m not sure it works that well, either as a polemic or as art; I’m not sure it left people convinced. Palmer had originally envisaged the stumps as standing straight up, which would have made it easier to understand them as the leavings of human greed, rather than the lumber they look like. I’m guessing that it simply wasn’t practical to display the stumps like that. And the huge text billboards seemed to be as much about Palmer’s struggle to realise the work, with Antony Gormley saying “the project can’t be done”, as they were about the issue of deforestation and simply added a level of  Fitzcaraldo-in-reverse hubris. (This is like dragging the rainforest to the opera-house rather than vice versa).

When artists create events like this why don’t they let the art speak for itself and instead work closely with an NGO who can make the polemic explicit on site, and far more effectively?

Anyway, please disagree with me.

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Call for artists: ‘…Louder than Bombs’: Art, Action & Activism – 4 Dec

‘…Louder than Bombs’: Art, Action & Activism

Live Art Development Agency and Stanley Picker Gallery
call for artists: 4 December deadline
event: February – March 2010

Over the course of seven weeks in February – March 2010, the Stanley Picker Gallery at Kingston University, will host a series of week-long residencies entitled ‘…Louder than Bombs’: Art, Action & Activism.

Co-curated with Live Art Development Agency, ‘…Louder than Bombs’: Art, Action & Activism will focus on challenging social, political, global issues addressed by seven invited artist/activists, working in a series of weekly occupancies of the space.

The issues addressed by the programme of activities will include a range of political, ecological, social and personal causes, as to be defined by the seven participating individuals and groups.

The programme will provide each participating artist/group with the space, resources and supportive environment for their work to be developed over an intensive five-day period. During their week-long residency each participant will be required to deliver at least one participatory workshop and a public event.

One of the seven invited projects will be developed to engage directly with a local primary school, in order to pilot the introduction of performative practice into the classroom.

‘…Louder than Bombs’: Art, Action & Activism has been developed as part of the research project, ‘The Art of Intervention: The Intersections of Public and Private Memory’ between Kingston University, London and Kyoto Seika University, Japan.

For information on how to make a proposal, email: .

Events: ‘Anthem’ – Beth Derbyshire at Eden Project – 14 No


Beth Derbyshire
with Ulrike Haage
opening performance: 14 November
exhibition continues to 9 December
Mediterranean Biome at the Eden Project, Cornwall

The Eden Project and Cape Farewell present the premiere of Beth Derbyshire’s live performance and film work, Anthem, with music by composer Ulrike Haage. Anthem is a trilogy of films with a choral component, exploring notions of land, place and nation.

Anthem assembles ideas around nationality, identity and language using the symbols of landscape and song to explore our cultural relationship to landscape. Song and landscape have long been associated with expressions on nation. Derbyshire borrows from sources such as national anthems, ancient land names and etymology to capture cultural and natural settings, to explore the connections between people and landscape through balancing components of voice, music, word and image.

The opening events will feature the early music ensemble Stile Antico. Beth Derbyshire will be in conversation with Ulrike Haage and Dr. James Ryan, Associate Professor of Historical and Cultural Geography, Exeter University.

Anthem was filmed in Newfoundland, the UK and in the Arctic during the Cape Farewell research expedition of 2007.

Steve Waters’ Contingency Plan and the Rubik’s Cube of climate change

Resilience, one of the two plays that form The Contingency Plan by Steve Waters

Given that theatre presents itself as a form that is profoundly engaged in the politics of the present, that we’re a country that produced David Hare, David Edgar, Howard Brenton and Harold Pinter, why has there been so little theatre about the most central political issue of the time?

Last night I was at one of the events put on by the Cultures of Climate Change group at the University of  Cambridge; Time To Act: The Theatre of Climate Change. The blogger/journalist Robert Butler was interviewing playwright Steve Waters about his play The Contingency Plan. The Contingency Plan at The Bush Theatre earlier this year was the first time someone has pulled off a really intelligent piece of theatre about climate change. Even thecritics agreed. Set in the very near future, it involves events – personal and political – leading up at a major storm surge that appears to be about to flood a significant section of the East Anglian coast. (Rob mentioned a great moment at the press night for the play when the Daily Telegraph’s reviewer turned to him at the interval and said, aghast, “Robert, tell me all this isn’t true?” Robert had to break the news to him).

Waters made the point that he was initially taken aback that no one else had written a play that dealt directly and successfully with the subject. He also became very conscious at the time of writing that the British theatre establishment wasn’t really looking a play on the topic.

Partly this is because theatre acknowleges something we all understand. The complex, slowly unfolding narrative of climate change is one that’s incredibly inconvenient for artists. It is not, we tend to assume, particularly dramatic in itself. Robert Butler discussed this in a review ofThe Contingency Plan in Intelligent Life magazine earlier this year:

Climate change is a difficult subject for dramatists. Three years ago Caryl Churchill, a playwright, introduced a talk by two leading environmental scientists by stressing that their work raises an essential dramatic problem: one of distance.To transport science to the stage, a playwright must not only clarify complicated ideas for laypeople, but also evoke the tension of cause and effect. The problem with climate change is that what happens in one place often ends up affecting people in an entirely different place, and at a remote time. The two worlds can seem unrelated. Where’s the catalyst for drama?

As Butler went on to say, Waters succeeds in closing that gap by a having two plays within the single work – and as Peter Gingold of Tippingpoint mentioned on the way out, by being very clever indeed. Having written it though, Waters is also aware that the UK theatre establishment was probably only looking for one play on climate change.

In response to that thought Butler mentioned a discussion he’d heard on Radio 4’s The World Tonight the night before, in which Mike Hulme, Professor of Climate Change at the University of East Anglia, said we have made life difficult for ourselves by the way we’ve approached the issue of climate change:

One of the arguments I make about Copenhagen, says Hulme, is that we’ve stitched together so many concerns – quite serious and real concerns – under one umbrella [namely, the reduction of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere]. It’s a bit like the Rubik’s Cube that came out some years ago. There are so many different combinations that I could never solve it. And this is what we’ve created with Climate Change. A Rubik’s Cube that we can’t solve. Whereas if we begin to tease out the various elements of the problem – the problems of development, the problems of adaptation, the problems of short-lived greenhouse gasses like methane or black soot, separate those out from the problems of long-lived CO2, we could find a much easier set of pathways.

It was a great discussion; Butler did a brilliant job of throwing new thoughts into the ring for Waters to bat back. I’m still trying to work out whether I agree with what Hume says as a political way to approach climate change, but artistically that makes a lot of sense. Even if , hypothetically speaking,  Steve Waters has written THE play about climate change, there is huge scope still to pull the Rubik’s Cube apart to allow us to make profounder sense of climate change.

Thanks to Benjamin Morris and Bradon Smith for the event.

Steve mentioned that the The Contingency Plan will be aired by the BBC on Dec 13 to coincide with COP15. I’ll keep you posted with the details.

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Green web awards: upwards, onwards

I’ve been invited to be one of the judges on the Green Web Awards, alongside Caroline Lucas, Green Party MEP, Adam Vaughan of The Guardian, Ed Gillespie of Futerra. Bonnie Alter of Treehugger and others. The Green Web awards were launched last year by Nigel Berman of, so it’s a chance to figure out how much has changed in those 12 months.

Please get nominating.

Last year the standout winner for me was Freecycle, which won the Favourite Online Community award. It’s easy to forget what a quiet revolution that has been working on so many levels – building community, recycling tonnes of goods and  saving landfill.

By adding a Best Greenwash category the Awards also ensure that they get great national publicity. Last year Mattel’s range of Eco-Friendly Barbies sashayed straight into the top spot.

But 2008 seems a long way away.  Blogs themselves have lost some of their shininess in the intervening months. This is partly because the ADD-style attention span of the web has already moved on to social media, but I’m not sure if blogs themselves have grown as successfully as they should. While independent sites like DeSmogBlog are still lynchpins, and sites like Treehugger remain central, those of the major campaigning NGOs like Greenpeaceand WWF are looking sadly corporate and staid, as if their copy is part of a greater PR machine, rather than exuding the passionate intelligence that so many people who work for them have.

To acknowledge the shifting emphasis there’s a new category Social Media Hero. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. I do follow people like @revkin@sustainblog and@adamvaughan_uk, but I’m not sure the environment movement yet has its own Stephen Fry. Take a look at Mashable’s list of 75 green tweets and see how many you would really want in your Twitter window every day.

On the plus side, sites like Naresh Ramchandani and Andy Hobsbawm’s Do The Green Thinghave a real elegant simplicity to them and have proved continued to prove that the web is a brilliant tool for behaviour change.

But as these projects integrate with the social web, I suspect we’re on the verge of harnessing something quite spectacular. RSA Projects like Design Behaviour and The Social Brain tell us again and again we behave better when we act together.

We perceive it’s hard for us to lower our energy use on our own, but when we start comparing our use with our friends and neighbour’s, we suddenly start finding new ways forward.PriceWaterhouseCooper’s Carbon Bigfoot app on Facebook is one great new tool which does exactly that. Pachube is another fantastic mash up of technologies to create a live online community energy use comparison site.

I’m sure you have your own favourites.

I’d be particularly interested in seeing nominations for sites that aim at reaching the “other half” who are the least engaged in environmental issues.

And of course should anybody want to nominate and vote for us…

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2009 Green Day LDI

Greening in the Entertainment Industry

Thursday, November 19, 2009 – Room# N322
Join LDI in going GREEN! A full day dedicated to what the industry is doing—and can do—to reduce its carbon footprint and be environmentally smart!  A special full-day conference organized in conjunction with Showman Fabricators, as LDI “goes green.”
Sessions open to all LDI full-conference badge holders, and four-pack or eight-pack tickets.

PLUS: The Green Technology Today Showcase on the LDI Show Floor: November 20-22


Welcome and Kick-Off
Bob Usdin of Showman Fabricators kick off Green Day with an overview of what’s happening in various aspects of the industry.


GD01 Why Bother? A Session for Skeptics!!!!!
Is there a Crisis?  The facts are indisputable when you see this evidence. Why is Greening in the entertainment industry important?  Beyond just the immediate carbon footprint of an event, talk about the ultimate payoff: Getting your audience to be green in their lives.
Learn about the 4-D’s, and how to deal with skeptics.

Paul Reale, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Green Allowance and trained speaker from Al Gore’s The Climate project will present the undeniable evidence from the Inconvenient Truth with updates on today’s global climate.


GD02 Green Standards: Alphabet Soup
LEED, CRI, Greenguard, FSC, Greenlabel, VOC, MERV, 3 R’s, CFC’s, Carbon Offsets: A whole new language has evolved around greening. What does it all mean? More importantly, what standards are useful for the entertainment industry? We’ll look at how to weigh claims and benefits in materials, products, and practices.

Josh Allen, Theatre Consultants Collaborative
Seema Sueko, Moolelo Theatre
Mitchell Kurtz, AIA, LEED AP
David Weiner, Scenic Designer
View Green Products from the LDI Show Floor

What are manufacturers and suppliers offering that are green?  LDI exhibitors are invited to showcase their products that can contribute to making productions greener and more sustainable.

AC Lighting • Apollo • Clark Transfer • Creative Stage Lighting • Doug Fleenor Design • GekkoPRG • Green Scene / Pro Tech • Iluminarc • Rose Brand • Rosco • Showman Fabricators • Stageline • Tomcat

Coordinated by: David I. Taylor, ARUP


GD03 Breakout Brainstorming Session:
This roundtable discussion will seek out Best/Better Practices being used around the country, in a completely ‘hands-on’ traditional brainstorming session with post-its and white boards. At the end of the session all ideas will be compiled and posted on a website. Bring every idea to the table no matter how crazy.

To focus attention, there will be three separate groups:
* Lighting / Sound / Projections
* Scenery / Staging / Props / Costumes
* Buildings / Facilities / General Operations

Introduction: Bob Usdin
Coordinators: Bryan Raven, White Light Ltd, Ian Garrett, Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts
Speakers: Bryan Raven, White Light Ltd, David Duell, Jonathan Deull, Laurel Dutcher
Scenery/Staging/Props/Costumes Coordinators: Annie Jacobs, Showman; Peter Monahan, Rose Brand
Buildings/Facilities/General Operations Coordinators: David Taylor, ARUP; Curtis Kasefang, Theatre Consultants Collaborative


GD04 Closing Session: The Proof is in the Pudding:
A look at projects from the past year that incorporated some green projects (productions, events, buildings, theatre companies, etc.) followed by a general discussion of where the entertainment industry can and should go to be green.

Bob Usdin, Showman Fabricators
David Taylor, Arup
Charlie Duell, Clark Transfer, Touring Green and Broadway Alliance
Katie Carpenter, Green Media Solutions
Meredith Bergmana, Green Media Solutions
Ben Todd, Arcola Theatre

more greening news « Mo`olelo Blog

Scenic Designer David F. Weiner and Artistic Director Seema Sueko will be speaking — via skype — at the LDI Green Day Conference on Thursday, November 19 in Orlando, Florida. They’ll share the lastest versions of Mo`olelo’s Green Theater Choices Scorecards. You can read about the conference here:

You can download the latest Green Theater Choices Scorecards here:

via more greening news « Mo`olelo Blog.

The Berlin Wall and other falling dominos

Upright Figure No 7, 1970, Berlin, by my uncle René Graetz

I grew up in a world in which East was East and West was West. People operated in separate realities that seemed absolute, even if they were only four decades old.

I had an aunt and uncle – both artists – and cousins living in East Berlin. When we visited them it felt like another world. In some ways it was.

This week we remember the fall of the Berlin wall. In space of two months between now and the New Year a world suddenly changed. The entire Eastern Bloc fell apart as the Eastern economy crumbled and the popular desire for change ripped the old accommodations to shreds.

Though both my uncle and aunt had been famous artists in the East, friends and collaborators of Brecht’s, the world they existed in was swept aside. Their considerable reputations vanished overnight as the communist East was absorbed into the free West. Not only was the cultural structure that supported their work suddenly swept aside, the work itself seemed suddenly old-fashioned and irrelevant in the new paradigm. The fundamentals changed within the blink of an eye.

We are living in a world of old assumptions that are about to be knocked apart. Today’sGuardian leads on the remarkable story that a whistleblower in the International Energy Agency claims that the IEA has been fudging its figures to keep oil prices low. The facts of the story aren’t what are remarkable. Scientists have been discussing peak oil for years; what is signficant is that the IEA, who for years have been producing figures which make little sense, is finally starting to show signs of cracking. Supplies, say the whistleblower, will struggle to meet a low target 90 – 95 million barrels of oil a day in the next few years. “We have already entered the ‘peak oil’ zone,” says the source.

The Transition Town movement has for years asked serious questions about how we will live in the post-peak oil world. It is an optimistic viewpoint, looking to the positives of what a new era can bring. Of course it has remained largely a fringe movement, its policies given a lukewarm welcome by the administration but almost entirely ignored. In Britain we still have no serious plan to make the most of the coming paradigm shift.

Rising oil prices will mean massive changes in our culture and society. We are used to imagining ourselves only as part of the triumphant West. We were, until recently at least, theend of history. What if right now we’re more like the old East whose fall was said to create history’s end? If oil prices rise as fast as may predict, like the fall of the Berlin wall, they will catch everyone by surprise and sweep much of what we know aside unless we start getting our heads round what’s about to happen.

We will look back, like the marooned men of the old regime and wonder how come we didn’t see that coming.

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Arnolifini’s 100 Days: a post-capitalist auction? Er…

Pictured above is Item No. 12 from the entertainingly dystopian project by Hollington & Kyprianou , Adams & Smith, An Auction of Late Capitalist-Period Artefacts. It’s part of the last day of Platform’s 100 Days series at the Arnolfini. [Hollington and Kyprianou, you may remember, took part in our Nuclear Forum last year when they discovered a neglected and hitherto unheard of nuclear facility in East London].

The artwork consists of an auction. That auction is set 25 years in the future, in 2034. Up for sale are 15 items that say something about the capitalist culture which collapsed, apparently spectacularly, in the years prior to the event. This is how the catalogue describes the pictured object:

Banking counter pen and holder

Date: 2006

2008, 2013, 2019, 2021. Dates that every school child knows. The first three, huge tremors within the capitalist financial industry, the latter its final glorious collapse.

The system was definitely terminally ill before it’s eventual enforced demise, but it was by direct action that it was put out of it’s own, and our, misery. And what a misery.

Adams & Smith are delighted to offer this well preserved 21st century bank pen and holder, a slightly comical device that was nonetheless widely used for many years.

It would be found on the ‘public’ counter within high street banks, enabling the ‘customers’ to fill out forms and provide a signature as a form of security.

What is most telling is that the base was fixed to the counter and the pen (joined by a chain) was fixed to the base, meaning that no customer could ‘steal’ the pen.

It in it’s own way this let’s us in to the very thought processes of this ‘banking’ industry. The customers actually trusted the banks to look after their money, – sometimes all the money they had.

And the bank? The bank didn’t even trust the customer with a cheap plastic pen.

Also on sale: Smoke Detector, Double Buggy and Penalty Charge Notice. Paradoxically, for an auction that takes place in the post-capitalist era, it intends to create proceeds. They will be distributed among activists going to COP15.

See more about the event at Adams & Smith (est 2034) which takes place on Nov 28.


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