Yearly Archives: 2010

Agent of Change – James Reed in San Francisco

In 2008, ecoartspace co-curated an exhibition for Exit Art in NYC entitled Environmental Performance Actions, which included a video documentation of Agents of Change, a Unit Earth Agenda project developed by Shelley Sacks and James Reed of the Social Sculpture Research Unit, Oxford Brookes University (UK). Although I was familiar with the work, yesterday I had the opportunity to meet Reed in San Francisco and to experience first hand what it might be like to be an “official” agent of change.

A group of five participants met at noon at the new Intersection 5M gallery, located in the San Francisco Chronicle building at Mission Street and 5th, where we spent three hours in an open discussion on what is agency and sharing personal experiences that catalyzed change in our lives. We then heading down to 4th at Mission Bay where we put on customized Agents of Change life preserver vests and held large wooden measuring sticks that illustrated the depth of several meters of potential water encroachment due to climate change. Each participant stood on their own along the waterway and was encourage to reflect on our own sense of agency in this situation, the site, and to record others concerns. Attached to the life preserver was a booklet where we could register and offer a receipt to passersby, confirming their concerns about climate change.

Reed studied under Shelley Sacks, a former student and collaborator of Joseph Beuys at Oxford Brookes from 2005-2007. It was during this time that they developed the Agents of Change climate change kits and began what has become a series of workshops and public interventions initiated at the Social Sculpture Today exhibition in Basel, Switzerland in April 2007.

Questions this project asks are:

How do we develop a wider personal and philosophical framework that cultivates a deep sense of personal and shared meanings?

How do we develop a culture of transforming our mode of consciousness?

How can we begin to realize our full potential as human beings and work as transformers of the materialist thought systems that shape our world?

How do we excavate the insights of the heart?

Go to EcoArtSpace

The Plus/Minus Dilemma: The Way Forward in Environmental Guidelines | ArtBabble

The Plus/Minus Dilemma was the third roundtable discussion in the ongoing IIC series Dialogues in the New Century; events that explore emerging issues in the modern world and their relationship to heritage conservation. The event took place at the Midwest Airlines Convention Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 13, 2010 as part of the AIC annual conference. The IIC is pleased to have collaborated with the AIC to have brought together experts to discuss environmental guidelines, advances in environmental research, and the way forward to solve the plus/minus dilemma. This collaborative event has been made possible by the generous support of: The Booth Heritage Foundation, the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

via The Plus/Minus Dilemma: The Way Forward in Environmental Guidelines | ArtBabble.

Staging Stustainability : April 20-22, 2011 at York University

Call for Papers

The conference committee invites proposals for papers addressing the relationship between the cultural and environmental aspects of sustainability.

Potential topics and questions might include:

  • performance ecologies
  • green design for performance
  • theatre and eco-activism
  • How can the arts widen our perception of nature and our ability to experience, reflect and adapt to the environment?
  • What is the relationship between aesthetics and ethics in terms of our consideration of the environment?
  • How are cultural values expressed in rituals and public events creating a human ecology?

Proposals should include:

  • a 250-word abstract
  • presenter’s name & affiliation
  • mailing & email addresses

Please forward proposals to:

Ina Agastra, Executive Assistant to the Dean
Faculty of Fine Arts, York University
4700 Keele St. Toronto ON Canada M3J 1P3

Submission deadline: September 1, 2010

Introduction to Water, CA

Water, CA grew out of our mutual connection to the Salton Sea.

The largest lake in California, the Salton Sea is bound by a sordid history of unchecked development and foreseeable natural disaster. In the 1920’s, land developers gambled on plots of land surrounding a flash-in-the-desert resort. After two major floods, the landholders could trade their chips only for the bleached bones of tilapia that now cover the neglected sea’s shore. Miles of developed plots, with electrical and plumbing piped in, now sits abandoned. Popularly referred to on the Internet as the only “manmade mistake visible from space, the Salton Sea has become a symbol for the mis-engineering of water on a galactic scale.

However, the remaining residents of Niland, Salton City, and Bombay Beach refuse to give up on their marginal communities. In Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer’s documentary Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea (2006), local holdouts traverse the Colorado Desert shores in golf carts, sharing mid-morning cocktails and fond memories of the great parties of the past. They are articulate about their shared history on the sea. They share a mythology, as well, extolling the healing properties of the salty, wine-colored water. Such awareness of the water that connects them and holds them close is unusual in the West. But then, this sea calls to mavericks.

The Salton Sea also calls to artists. Its sublime, apparitional presence in the middle of a desert at the foot of the stark Chocolate Mountains, anchoring hot,dry borderlands, is the perfect end for the San Andreas Fault. Photographers, painters, and writers describe the abandoned resort structures, outstanding vernacular architecture, and the spectacular sense that here something reveals what is often hidden. History shakes off the palimpsest of progress.

Although its re-creation may have been wildly accidental, the survival of the Salton Sea is vital. Even as the structures on its shores decay in a picturesque soup of salt and rust, the sea serves as a last refuge to many species of birds. It shakily stands in for wetlands now covered with the asphalt of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties.

Perhaps it is this familiar state of watershed paradox—infused with apocalyptic splendor, fueled by myth, forged in the violence of dams, and swamped under secret decay—that inspires so many artistic investigations into California’s water.

The projects featured in Water, CA delve into buried histories, uncovering convergences and unexpected connections. They revive dead languages, speaking words in ways that signify forgotten meanings. They meander down unexpected paths, reminding us of the joys of discovery. They are gentle, yet forceful, warning us of the impossibility that became California’s water.

Best described by Marc Reisner in Cadillac Desert, California’s water policies over the last 150 years directly manifest the mythology that made the West. “Clouds follow ploughs, the notion that tilled earth would create moisture, sent American settlers West with magical thinking. Unusually wet weather patterns temporarily supported the theory that the bustle of settlers and the noise of imperialism would create moisture clouds and alter the climate. Dynamite exploding in arid skies to create clouds set the tone of the century. The superhuman irrigation of a “semi-desert with a desert heart” (Reisner) shaped the politics of the world.

As the landscape was reengineered, so was language. One can track the cultural consciousness of water through the shifting vocabulary of the 20th century. “Conservation” once meant exploiting every possible resource for human use. “Waste” was letting water reach the ocean unhindered. “Reclamation” required draining lakes and moving wetlands off the land.

Along with the riparian areas, the watershed citizen has become dislocated. In a 19th century business strategy of supporting private concentrations of power and wealth through land development, water ended up as state property. As citizens, we have lost our connection to where our water comes from, where it goes next, and what is sacrificed along the way. What is at stake is the evaporating illusion of our civilization.

Each of these acts of art resensitize us to our environment, remind us of lost histories, and reenvision our communities. In an age where “green” has become just another corporate branding strategy, artists offer new strategies to affect social change. The collected works of Water, CA inspire us to break from isolation, seek out hidden links, and amplify quiet voices.

In 2010, beyond the hot, pungent beaches strewn with bones and dying birds, the ruins of Salton Sea resorts continue their slow decay. As California faces multiple simultaneous crises, the abandoned gated communities that surround the Sea silently demonstrate the disastrous intersection of economic failure, real-estate collapse, and misunderstanding of local water. Water, CA offers us an opportunity to restore our vision of local ecology, so that we may create a different story for California’s water – a sustainable future.

– Enid Baxter Blader and Nicole Antebi

via Water, CA – Introduction.

NEW LIFE CANCUN Call for Proposals

Call for Proposals

Artists working with interventions, activism and other participatory practices are invited to apply for participation in NEW LIFE CANCUN. This experimental hospitality project will take place during the UN Climate Change summit (COP 16) in Cancún, Mexico from 29 Nov – 10 Dec 2010.

In continuation of Wooloo’s NEW LIFE COPENHAGEN festival – in which we secured housing for more than 3.000 activists coming to the Copenhagen summit – NEW LIFE CANCUN is aiming to connect visiting activists and NGO employees with local families in the area of Cancún, infamous for its vulnerability to climate disasters (mainly hurricanes), as well as for the high-CO2 emissions associated with its tourism sector.

Utilising this meeting of hosts and guests in Cancun as our exhibition platform, artists and activists are invited to explore its social architecture and suggest work proposals of an awareness, educational and/or practical-action nature designed around the topic: “NEW WAYS OF LIVING TOGETHER”.

Up to five artists will be selected for participation and will get all travel, accommodation and production costs covered by Wooloo. Proposals must include a detailed budget. As fundraising efforts are still ongoing, we do not yet know the size of our final production budget. However, it wont be large – so please be aware that your project must be able to be realized in a low-budget manner!

The deadline for work proposals is Thu 1 August 2010.

Please direct all research questions to contact[at]

NEW LIFE is an ongoing series of works focusing on social and artistic experimentation. Staged by Wooloo and taking place in institutions and public spaces worldwide, NEW LIFE aims to be a test field for new ways of living together on our planet.

NEW LIFE CANCUN is a collaboration between and the Mexican climate change collective Carbonding.

via ==criticalnetwork== NEW LIFE CANCUN.

Back to the Future: The NEA Survey on Arts Participation

FROM THE GREEN ROOM: Dance/USA’s e-Journal

By Marc Kirschner

The ultimate conclusion of the National Endowment for the Art’s Audience 2.0 survey, that “Arts participation through media appears to encourage – rather than replace – live arts attendance,” is neither a surprise, nor news. It’s not the first study to come to that conclusion, and, in fact, any other outcome would have flown in the face of conventional wisdom. That said, for the NEA to supplement its 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts with an edition focused purely on media is an important first step in changing the dialogue, and putting to rest some basic fears that have impeded real progress in the performing arts.

The NEA survey’s primary function is to serve as a snapshot: here is the state of the art at this particular time. It serves this function well. But it’s not enough, nor does the NEA claim it to be. Whereas the survey provides a valuable data point that can kick-start forward-thinking dialogue, the practical impact of the survey is limited by the rapid rate of innovation that has taken place over the past few years. Since the beginning of the May 2007 survey period:

• Facebook’s user base has grown from 20 million to 400 million users

• The entire book publishing industry has been turned upside down by e-readers, such as the Kindle, Nook and iPad

• Millions of set-top boxes, Blu-ray DVD and home theater PCs have connected televisions to broadband Internet

• Hulu launched its online video service to the public

• More than 300,000 people viewed simulcasts and encores of the Metropolitan Opera’s Carmen

• The first 3-D network began broadcasting

• Four generations of iPhones have been released

Three vital audience behaviors – seeking, browsing, and consuming content and information – have changed dramatically over the past few years and are going to continue to evolve with new technology. The most popular technologies now in wide use are not the latest fads to hit the market – they are in their second, third and fourth generations. New business models have emerged, failed, succeeded, been modified, adapted, discarded and improved in real time over just three years.

There is value to all organizations in being able to recognize how out of date the research contained in this report is.

While some dance companies are still wondering what to do about YouTube and Facebook, and continue to take a “wait and see” attitude toward more intensive and productive uses of technology, other organizations and artists are taking risks and challenging long-held assumptions. The UK’s National Theatre (NT) released a report earlier this month about the impact of satellite cinema broadcasts of Phedre on its audiences. Dance can learn from this survey not because cinema audiences “reported higher levels of emotional engagement” than live audiences, but because the NT has already implemented the findings into its strategic plan.

Which raises another key issue: Once a dance company has actionable information and presumably wants to act, can it?

A general consensus throughout many dance company boards maintains that risk should be avoided, instead of managed. Progressive initiatives are stalled because decision-makers are unfamiliar, don’t understand, condescend toward or don’t even use the new technologies. A few months ago, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts President Michael Kaiser wrote in The Huffington Post:

“… the biggest problem we face in the arts is a lack of trained arts managers and board members. One can trace the demise of virtually every bankrupt arts organization to a lack of competent staff and/or board leadership.”

Understanding these new technologies has to be included in the definition of organizational competency. Funders need to be a part of the process. They need to share in the risk and mandate progress by funding short-term technology-rich projects capable of returning incremental and current knowledge and experience. Failure should be viewed as being as valuable as success. Instead of funding a few massive multiyear programs where, by the time targets are defined, funds are awarded, data is analyzed and findings are shared, all of the basic assumptions have changed, let’s put future funding resources into smaller, faster, more nimble projects.

Fail. Fail again. Succeed. Build on that success. Move forward.

We can’t wait for long-range studies to tell us that three years ago data showed engagement via electronic media encouraged arts participation. We can’t wait for studies to tell us, three years from now, what is happening today.

Marc Kirschner is the founder and general manager of TenduTV. TenduTV aggregates and distributes dance-related programming through its network of more than 70 digital platforms capable of reaching over half a billion devices in ten countries. He currently serves on the Dance/NYC advisory committee.

via Back to the Future: The NEA Survey on Arts Participation — FROM THE GREEN ROOM: Dance/USA’s e-Journal.

Institute of Contemporary Arts : Talks : The Climate for Theatre

8 July 2010 –  £5 / £4 ICA Members plus + £1.20 booking fee per ticket in advance

As theatre makers struggle to create the iconic work about climate change, should they borrow the models of local activism practiced by the anti-globalisation movement? Can theatre that inspires change by virtue of its rootedness in real life concerns also connect and inspire on an international stage? Chaired by Chris Smith, previously secretary of State for Culture and now chairman of the Environment Agency, and with speakers including John Jordan, artist and activist and author of We Are Everywhere, this debate examines theatre makers’ attitudes to environmental concerns. Why, unlike AIDS, the conflict between Israel and Palestine or even the global financial crisis, has climate change not inspired a potentially attitude-shifting piece of theatre? Films and literature have tackled the subject through fiction and polemic; where is the theatrical equivalent?

But is there actually a need for a catalyst, a great inspirational moment, or should we just continue at a local level, building from the grassroots up and up? As climate change activists deal with the failure of the Copenhagen talks last year, there is a move away from global mobilisation towards specific and local targets such as particular fossil-fuel power plants or mines, focusing more on local grassroots campaigns, “to start from the bottom” as the Rising Tide spokesman puts it. Should theatre makers take a leaf from the activists’ book and think local? As a subject that touches the daily business of life, is it more appropriate that theatre that addresses climate change and the need for action should itself be created in a local and practical context, intimately connected to its audience or participants’ daily life?

Held in association with Artsadmin, This is the third of four LIFT Debates that form part of LIFT Club at the ICA. These debates aim to explore our new relationship with theatre in the company of international theatre makers, critics and commentators.

Special Offer

Buying a ticket for this event and for the ICA featured LIFT performances at the same time – Revolution Now, Best Before, FML or Oxygen – entitles the purchaser to a discounted ICA Members price on their chosen performance. Call the ICA Box Office for details.

via Institute of Contemporary Arts : Talks : The Climate for Theatre.

BP arts sponsorship: can Tate afford it? | John Sauven, Greenpeace UK | Culture |

More from the Guardian on the relationship of BP to the Tate Modern…

Tate director Nicholas Serota needs to consider this risk carefully. Does his institution want to be associated with one of the world’s biggest single sources of pollution? One that has actively lobbied to undermine clean energy, pouring huge sums into industry groups that campaign to lower carbon taxes and weaken climate legislation? BP’s alternative energy business is a plaything of former boss Lord Browne that has been consigned to the corporate rubbish tip. For these reasons and others, BP is certain to remain the focus of environmental resistance and public anger for years to come. Similarly, those who choose to lend the company an air of acceptability by receiving corporate sponsorship will continue to be seen as legitimate targets for protest around the world. This movement is still in its infancy, but will only gather in strength.

BP arts sponsorship: can Tate afford it? | John Sauven, Greenpeace UK | Culture |