Yearly Archives: 2011

A metaphor from politics: ‘Be a part of better’

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

In response to our New metaphors for sustainability series, Chris Ballance wrote to us and agreed we could post his email. As a playwright, Chris was one of our earliest listings on the Directory. He was Green Party Member and Member of the Scottish Parliament from 2003 – 2007, and now works for Moffat CAN, (Carbon Approaching Neutral), a community-owned company and charity. 
One of the ideas that’s concerning some of us here is ‘how do we tell the cultural story of how good it could be to go green’? It’s inspired by the recent success of the SNP who – helped admittedly by dreadful campaigns by their opponents – based their huge election victory by selling independence as ‘Be a part of better’; a direct reference to a literary quotation from the author Alasdair Grey ‘Live each day as if you were in the first day of a better nation.’
A quotation doubtless unknown in London, but well enough known here in Scotland to be inscribed into the stone walls around the Scottish Parliament. The phrase has passed into commonplace so much that I’ve even seen ‘Be a part of better’ used to advertise merchandise in a shop. The SNP are using a cultural story and cultural references to achieve independence. (That’s to say nothing about planning to hold their referendum shortly after the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.)
How do we create a cultural story which can then be used to make sustainability attractive? So often it is seen as ‘sacrifice’, doing without, enforced change. (I often remember being on an election hustings with a UKIP candidate who told me “Look, we all know your green world is coming. It’s just that we don’t want it, and we’re going to do everything we can to put it off for as long as possible.”) How do we conjure up images of something that people will actually want?
Your exploration of metaphors is definitely a step towards this. It’s not just sustainability – the whole concept of environmentalism lacks it: the only metaphors to have attached themselves to environmentalism are those framed by our opponents; ‘yoghurt knitters’, etc. Thank you.
(And I love the Madagascan-based tapestry.)

 

“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)

The editors are Robert Butler and Wallace Heim. The associate editor is Kellie Gutman. The editorial adviser is Patricia Morison.

Robert Butler’s most recent publication is The Alchemist Exposed (Oberon 2006). From 1995-2000 he was drama critic of the Independent on Sunday. See www.robertbutler.info

Wallace Heim has written on social practice art and the work of PLATFORM, Basia Irland and Shelley Sacks. Her doctorate in philosophy investigated nature and performance. Her previous career was as a set designer for theatre and television/film.

Kellie Gutman worked with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture for twenty years, producing video programmes and slide presentations for both the Aga Khan Foundation and the Award for Architecture.

Patricia Morison is an executive officer of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, a group of grant-making trusts of which the Ashden Trust is one.

Go to The Ashden Directory

New metaphors for sustainability: nine so far

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory
From the ‘iron curtain’ to the ‘glass ceiling’, metaphors are one of the most powerful ways in which we frame the way we think.

Yet one of the key concepts in environmentalism – sustainability – seems to be remarkably short of vivid metaphors.

So we asked some artists, writers, architects, cultural commentators, environmentalists, activists and scientists to come up with their own metaphors for sustainability.

We’ve published nine new metaphors so far. More to follow.

New metaphors for sustainability: mercury
New metaphors for sustainability: symbiosis
New metaphors for sustainability: “Come into my house” (DVD)
New metaphors for sustainability: ‘art & grace’
New metaphors for sustainability: my sweet pea
New metaphors for sustainability: water on a fire – helping turn the page – a child asleep – the family – failing better
New metaphors for sustainability: the shopping divider at the check-out
New metaphors for sustainability: the sailboat
New metaphors for sustainability: the act of breathing

Watch a film about four of the new metaphors.

Please suggest metaphors of your own. As @TheMuseDailytweeted yesterday, “The drive toward the formation of metaphor is the fundamental human drive. – Nietzsche”

 

“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)

The editors are Robert Butler and Wallace Heim. The associate editor is Kellie Gutman. The editorial adviser is Patricia Morison.

Robert Butler’s most recent publication is The Alchemist Exposed (Oberon 2006). From 1995-2000 he was drama critic of the Independent on Sunday. See www.robertbutler.info

Wallace Heim has written on social practice art and the work of PLATFORM, Basia Irland and Shelley Sacks. Her doctorate in philosophy investigated nature and performance. Her previous career was as a set designer for theatre and television/film.

Kellie Gutman worked with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture for twenty years, producing video programmes and slide presentations for both the Aga Khan Foundation and the Award for Architecture.

Patricia Morison is an executive officer of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, a group of grant-making trusts of which the Ashden Trust is one.

Go to The Ashden Directory

CSPA Supports: New Deadline October 1

The deadline for Round Two of CSPA Supports has been extended to October 1.  The CSPA Supports grant program is designed to support the projects of our members as they consider issues of sustainability (ecological, economic, or cultural) in their professional work.  Artists from all genres are encouraged to apply, and international applications are accepted!

Grants range from $200 to $1,000.

For our Guidelines and Application, visit sustainablepractice.org/cspasupports.

New metaphors for sustainability: mercury

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

Mario Petrucci, poet, ecologist, physicist, essayist, continues our series of New metaphors for sustainability with shape-shifting mercury.

My chief reservation about sustainability is that it can mean so many things to different interest groups. For one protagonist, sustainability may demand a massive redistribution of resources and wealth, coupled with radical reassessments of consumer values and economic practice; for another, it involves no more than modest adjustments to what we already do in order to accommodate a few of the most urgent ecological imperatives.
As with Climate Change, then, there’s no overall consensus concerning the precise shape sustainability will take. ‘Sustainable forest’ can mean a rich and ancient woodland drawn upon occasionally but left mostly to its own devices, or it can be a perpetual pine plantation supplying wood pulp and with practically zero biodiversity in it.
That’s why I’ve chosen mercury as a metaphor for sustainability. It challenges any assumption we might have that sustainability takes a uniform or consistent form among those considering it.
The image of mercury scurrying across a surface is familiar to most people, and is apt here because it allows us to better grasp the current ungraspability of sustainability. Sustainability is a fraught and fugitive issue, beset by political and personal evasions and manoeuvrings.
What’s more, the way in which sustainability can be made to adapt shape is both weakness and strength. On the negative side, if mercury is mishandled it becomes a toxic nuisance; likewise, sustainability can be distorted, misrepresented or misapplied, either through ignorance or cynically, to allow damaging practices to continue beneath a veneer of acceptability.
On the positive side, if put to proper use in a careful and structured way, and if its complex nature is understood and worked with, sustainability also provides an extremely valuable, if not life-saving, tool.
Mercury can communicate what the weather’s doing outside, or signal the degree of fever in the human body; sustainability, too, could be harnessed to monitor and sustain the wellness of our species in relation to its environment. Either that, or we can let the concept mess with our brains and slip through our fingers.

 

“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)

The editors are Robert Butler and Wallace Heim. The associate editor is Kellie Gutman. The editorial adviser is Patricia Morison.

Robert Butler’s most recent publication is The Alchemist Exposed (Oberon 2006). From 1995-2000 he was drama critic of the Independent on Sunday. See www.robertbutler.info

Wallace Heim has written on social practice art and the work of PLATFORM, Basia Irland and Shelley Sacks. Her doctorate in philosophy investigated nature and performance. Her previous career was as a set designer for theatre and television/film.

Kellie Gutman worked with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture for twenty years, producing video programmes and slide presentations for both the Aga Khan Foundation and the Award for Architecture.

Patricia Morison is an executive officer of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, a group of grant-making trusts of which the Ashden Trust is one.

Go to The Ashden Directory

New metaphors for sustainability: symbiosis

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

Zoë Svendsen, theatre director and researcher, continues our series New metaphors for sustainability by turning to ‘symbiosis’ as a better term.

When I was given the challenge of thinking about a metaphor for sustainability, I realized I didn’t really know what it was, other than the idea that maybe you shouldn’t do quite so much of something so that you could do things again in the future. But then I got to thinking about the underlying questions. What do we need to sustain? What’s the idea of sustainability? It’s linked to current discourses against consumption and to ideas about austerity and about doing less.

What could you replace sustainability with as a metaphor that would allow you to do something as opposed to just not doing something? I was thinking about things like conversation and reciprocity and some kind of interaction with your environment that didn’t deny the pleasures of exchange and of use. I eventually arrived at the term ‘symbiosis’ and symbiotic thinking.

What’s interesting about the term ‘symbiosis’, is that as a metaphor it takes us away from the ‘nature versus culture’ idea or ‘human benefit versus benefit for nature or the environment’, and rather asks us to think about how there might be certain kinds of human symbiotic interactions and at the same time benefits for the environment.

The symbol for this kind of activity are bees, and bee-keeping. There can be a human relationship to these kinds of symbiotic practices that happen in the environment already – such as the spreading of pollen and the creating of honey.

And around that word ‘symbiosis’, there’s a whole series of other underlying terms or thoughts that could be replaced. Instead of thinking about ‘austerity’ – which is a negative thinking towards the future – that we can always only do less and life isn’t going to be as good – you might replace that with ‘ingenuity’. This celebrates invention and entrepreneurialism and thinks about what’s at hand and what possible in what may be limited circumstance but treats those circumstances as a pleasureable challenge.

Part of the problem with austerity is that it makes you want to rebel. I have occasional bouts of recycling rebellion – I go ‘fuck it’ and throw it away. ‘I want to waste, I don’t want to be sensible’.

This is something to do with the moral imperative around the idea of austerity – it’s just not fun. Part of the idea about  ‘symbiosis’, is that you don’t have that same kind of moral anxiety around all of your actions. You’re directed to a positive action instead of endlessly thinking about the negative – which just makes you want to be naughty and not do it.

Zoë is included in our film

 

“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)

The editors are Robert Butler and Wallace Heim. The associate editor is Kellie Gutman. The editorial adviser is Patricia Morison.

Robert Butler’s most recent publication is The Alchemist Exposed (Oberon 2006). From 1995-2000 he was drama critic of the Independent on Sunday. See www.robertbutler.info

Wallace Heim has written on social practice art and the work of PLATFORM, Basia Irland and Shelley Sacks. Her doctorate in philosophy investigated nature and performance. Her previous career was as a set designer for theatre and television/film.

Kellie Gutman worked with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture for twenty years, producing video programmes and slide presentations for both the Aga Khan Foundation and the Award for Architecture.

Patricia Morison is an executive officer of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, a group of grant-making trusts of which the Ashden Trust is one.

Go to The Ashden Directory

Good Cents in the Museum – a case study

This post comes to you from the EcoMuseumMany people will wonder at first, what the connection is between immigration, museums and the environment.

For the last two and a half years Melbourne’s Immigration Museum has been developing a unique and contemporary exhibition based on what identity actually means to those living in Australia today. The transient nature of ‘identity’ as a concept meant a high degree of creativity was required. The project team worked on this challenge for over two years, and in addition, managed to integrate a high degree of environmentally conscious initiatives. Identity: yours mine ours launched on May 9, 2011 and has an eight to ten year life span.

 

COMMITMENT

 

One of the first commitments the project team made came in 2009, with a collective agreement to seriously consider environmentally sustainable initiatives within the concept and development process. Each important element of an event – be it exhibition, festival, theatre production – needs a champion.Identity had champions for content, multimedia, lighting and so on, but it also had a champion for environmentally preferable initiatives.

 

METHODOLOGY

 

Keeping an eye on the overall production, and another on the possibilities of integrating sustainable initiatives into the proposed design, isn’t that difficult.

 

Re-use (re-using stuff)

 

The demolition of the exhibition previously occupying the Identity gallery enabled the team to save various materials for use in Identity itself, and for use throughout the rest of Museum Victoria.

 

Around 18m² of laminated glass was saved and reinstalled into purpose-built Identity cases, a saving of around $8,000. Around 500kg of timber was saved for other uses as well. Graphic panels from the old exhibition were reused for education and decorative purposes in the Immigration Museum’s Education Room and Theatrette. Public programs took possession of older bespoke plinths and cases, and fitted them with wheels for portability, thus extending their original life expectancy many times over. Another site rich in immigration history, Station Pier, is negotiating with the Museum to take the remainder of the exhibition graphic panels in order to augment its premises on the pier.

 

It is worth noting however, that construction methods and material choices made much of the pre-used timber untenable. ‘Screw don’t glue’ is definitely something the team has a deep understanding of after watching the demolition process and noting the broken and torn elements thrown in the skip. Undaunted, ‘small steps’ was a common maxim throughout, and one which reminded us that every environmental achievement enables future teams to take our lead, and go even further.

 

De-materialisation (using less stuff)

 

Knowing that exhibition graphics are one of the most energy, material and maintenance intensive components of exhibition production, keeping a vigilant eye on the emerging design is crucial. WithinIdentity, the unique line-work developed by Gina Batsakis emerged as a major graphic feature. Previous work with a landscape artist/signwriter provided the impetus to explore similar possibilities withinIdentity, and although the team initially felt anxious, our early commitment to facilitate a sustainable outcome determined the contracting of a specialist painter.

 

The results are surprising – far superior to that which could have been produced mechanically by a printing machine. Early planning and decision-making enabled enough time for the extensive paintwork to take place – a crucial factor in an innovative environment. The final outcome consumed similar financial resources to that required from graphic printing and related materials. More importantly, the 150m² of painted graphic will require very simple, low energy maintenance across its ten year life – involving human dexterity, paint and a paintbrush. What could be more…sustainable!

 

This environmental achievement was important in terms of boosting the project team’s satisfaction in their commitment, and gave an eye-opening model initiative to other Museum Victoria exhibition project teams. Scienceworks has taken up the scenic painter challenge and greatly benefited from it. Being brave and trialing new concepts has always been crucial, especially in the world of the museum. Have we forgotten this in our world of automation and programmed productivity? The Identity project team discovered an unexpected delight and control in veering away from machine-led production.

 

Identity is a big exhibition in a small physical space. How does one do justice to such a broad, contentious topic and still keep the exhibition spatially contemplative? By using hundreds of intangible layers of digital information of course. These digital stories are interpreted through touch-screens, the web and multiple projections.

 

The project team wanted gallery products that combined reasonable financial outlay, with low energy usage and long lived consumables – like globes. Using a range of product information and organisational experience, different products were put through a data-crunching excel calculator. After putting the exhibition’s lighting through the same rigorous process, the completed Identity now consumes the least amount of energy per square metre of any exhibition at Museum Victoria, and has set an organisational benchmark.

 

The environmental consequences of energy creation arguably impact our lives more significantly than any other human activity, and consume a huge amount of our finances. Reducing our need, and therefore general demand, is definitely something worth giving some time and thought to.

 

Some of these practices are standard in many smaller organisations throughout the country because of individual budget restrictions. Some are practices that have died out only in the last few years. Even so, it’s liberating to explore and rediscover new frontiers, and if you can save money and time while simultaneously reducing your impact on the environment, it just makes good sense (and cents) to continue pushing those boundaries.

 

the EcoMuseum, is a project of Carole Hammond, Exhibition Manager and museum professional: combining the complex ideologies of aesthetics, culture, objects, entertainment…and environment.

Go to the EcoMuseum