Yearly Archives: 2013

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Database of Eco Public Art

Curating_Cities

The Curating Cities Database maps the increasingly important and emerging field of eco-sustainable public art. It is developed as a resource for researchers, academics, artists, curators, educators, commissioning agencies and sponsors working in the field as well as those interested in promoting sustainability via public art. In addition to descriptive information, the database evaluates the aims and outcomes of each project as well as the external constraints (and subsequent negotiations) that influence the production of public artworks. eco-publicart.org

EDITORIAL COMMITTEE

Jill Bennett, Felicity Fenner, Lindsay Kelly and Veronica Tello. Sustainability Consultant: Jodi Newcombe.

INTERNATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE 

T.J Demos (University College London); Ian Garrett (York University/Director, Center for Sustainable Practice); Natalie Jeremijenko (New York University/Director of Environmental Health Clinic); Sacha Kagan (Leuphana University Lüneburg/Founder of Cultura21, Network for Cultures of Sustainability and the International Summer School of Arts and Sciences for Sustainability in Social Transformation); Adrian Parr (University of Cincinnati).

We invite submissions from curators, researchers, academics and creative practitioners.

PURPOSE

Our intention is to develop a resource that will be of value to all those interested in public art, including specialists and the broader community. The database entries are concise but designed to go beyond the short profiles readily available on other sites. To that end, we have developed a template and guidelines designed to elicit key information regarding the sustainability (as conceived within the particular project), legacy, engagement and circumstances of an artwork’s production. Recognising that public art is not always well served by bureaucracies, entries may also record useful information on external constraints and how these were negotiated.

SCOPE

We are looking to achieve expansive coverage and are open to suggestions for inclusion (geographic remit is global). Generally, we interpret public art as a creative art form produced for non-gallery contexts (exceptionally, it may include gallery exhibitions with an explicit external engagement focus). We define “eco-sustainability” to signify an evident interest in ecological, sustainable and/or environmental concerns. It is not our intent to ‘police’ the definition of eco-sustainable public art: we are keen to include work that challenges definitions and expectations. As a general indication, we are interested in substantial work that actively engages with its environmental context (rather than in work that merely represents or symbolises an environmental concern).

SUBMISSION and REVIEW PROCESS

Submissions are peer-reviewed. Each submission should focus on a particular public art project, which must be proposed to the Editorial Committee in advance. Contributors are welcome to profile their own work, either by evaluating their own project or by referencing a larger study or thesis written by them on the same subject. We also invite academics that research and teach in this area to encourage student submissions. We are happy for the template to be used for course assessment exercises and can confer with lecturers regarding the process by which a batch of entries from a class can be peer reviewed/considered for inclusion in the database.

For the template and sustainable evaluation framework and to discuss a potential submission please email v.tello@unsw.edu.au

“Sonic Bloom” a new Interactive artwork showcases solar, sound and education at the foot of the Space Needle

In the playful context of Seattle Center’s festival groundsSonic Bloom is a new energy-neutral permanent interactive art installation at the foot of Seattle’s Space Needle and a defining entry sculpture to the Pacific Science Center. The signature sculpture is designed to demonstrate the science of solar energy in an accessible way as well as becoming a new icon for Seattle Center.

“Sonic Bloom” is a solar-powered work of art created by Dan Corson for the Pacific Science Center on behalf of Seattle City Light’s Green Up program, which supports the development of new renewable energy sources.

The project is composed of 5 super-sized flowers (up to 40’ tall and 20’ across) sporting frosted acrylic petals that glow like glass when backlit.  Mounted on the top of each painted flower head are 46 locally made photo voltaic cells. These solar cells collect the energy from the sun and are fed back into the electrical grid and completely offset the energy-efficient LED lighting and speaker electrical consumption for the project.

“There’s a myth that solar power won’t work in Seattle” said artist Dan Corson. “But even with our often cloudy weather, solar works well here”. The challenge was going beyond simple rooftop installations and engaging people with solar

After dark, the sculptures make a dramatic illuminated presence, revealing the domed undersides of the flowers as dynamic illuminated surfaces awash in moving color and concentric echo-inspired patterns. The backlit painted fiberglass diffuses the energy-efficient LED lights and creates an interesting patterned surface in the daytime.

The title Sonic Bloom refers not only to our defining location “on the Puget Sound” but also to the artwork itself that sings as the public approaches each flower.  Every flower has its own distinctive series of harmonic notes simulating a singing chorus. A hidden sensor located in each flower identifies movement and triggers the sound.  So if there are 5 people engaging the flowers together, it is possible to compose and conduct music together or by walking through, randomly set off a harmonic sequence.

The colorful striped stalks of the flowers not only accentuate the curved stems, but are also actual “barcodes” that can be deciphered by inquisitive sleuths motivated to decode the super-sized puzzle.

Seattle, with its mild maritime climate, hosts some of the most enthusiastic gardeners in the country. The artist is not only a self-described “plant geek” and has created an award-winning garden featured in a number of magazines, but has also created the garden concept for the planting beds below the sculptures as well.  The Sonic Bloom garden is designed for a year-round viewing highlighting certain flowers and color combinations that echo the sculptures every season.

Interpretive signage at the exhibition and inside Pacific Science Center explains how solar energy works and shows in real-time how it is powering the flowers.

Living Data: Art from climate science at the Muse

Image: ‘When I Was Buoyant’, Josh Wodak

Image: ‘When I Was Buoyant’, Josh Wodak

A dramatic art exhibition inspired by climate science.

See through icy veils of mesh as art and data come together to create past, present and future forms of life. Wonder at physical and virtual models of life forms as they evolve. Discover your genetic ancestors in the algae that photosynthesise light to make the energy that sustains us.

Immerse yourself in an exhibition that challenges your senses with artworks that combine scientific and sensory knowledge of climate change.

Curated by Dr Lisa Roberts, Living Data program leader and Visiting Fellow at the University of Technology,Sydney, you’ll have a chance to take part in ground-breaking art and science talks, see dramatic climate-inspired dance and hear primal music.

Dr Roberts is a multimedia visual artist whose work combines scientific and sensory knowledge of climate change. Her formal studies include dance, visual arts, animation, Indigenous perspectives and Antarctic perceptions. Lisa Roberts is the great grand daughter of the prominent Australian painter Tom Roberts.

Living Data program for the 2013 Ultimo Science Festival, Sydney, September 12-21.

What do we know about climate change and how are we responding to it?

There’s a lot of talk about the need for collaboration between cultures, disciplines and institutions, to develop a sustainable future, but not a lot of time to build trust to share the data, stories, hypotheses and images to inspire and enable action for change. For the 2013 Ultimo Science Festival, scientists, artists and designers come to Sydney from as far away as Antarctica to contribute what they know about climate change and how they are responding to it.

Contributors: Kirralee Baker, Jennifer Clark, Martina Doblin, Christina Evans, Paul Flecther, William Gladstone, Peter Jones, Rose McGreevy, Madison Haywood, So Kawaguchi, Eveline Kolijn, Anthony Larkum, Carina Lee, Andrea Leigh, Brad Miller, Caterina Mocciola, Steve Nicol, Simon Pockley, Antonia Posada, Vikki Quill, Daniel Ramp, Lisa Roberts, Juanita Sherwood, Melissa Smith, Paul Sutton, Takuya Suzuki, Leanne Thompson, Dean Walsh, Shona Wilson, Josh Wodak, Malou Zuidema

EXHIBITIONS

Living Data: Art from climate science The Muse, Ultimo TAFE, Harris Street Ultimo (opposite ABC Studios)
Sex in the sea Living Data Atrium level 3, Building 4 (Science), University of Technology, Sydney (UTS)

9-5pm Monday-Sunday, 12-21 September 2013

Curator: Lisa Roberts,Artist, Living Data program leader, Visiting Fellow, Science, Design, Arts & Social Sciences (UTS)
Shadow curator: Paul Sutton, Photographer, Associate lecturer in Design (UTS)
Exhibition designer: John Cabello, Designer, Lecturer in Design (UTS)

EVENTS

Food: Relationships with things we eat

At The Muse 12-21 September 2013 – Opening, Thursday 12 Sept. 4-6 pm

  • Professor William GladstoneHead, School of the Environment, Science (UTS) leads a Discussion with:
  • Professor Juanita Sherwood Indigenous Australian scholar from the Transforming Cultures Research Centre, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (UTS)
  • Dr Steve NicolAdjunct Professor at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and an Honorary Fellow at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, University of Tasmania
  • Dr So KawaguchiPrincipal Research Scientist at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) and Manager of the AAD Krill Research Program.
  • Dr Daniel Ramp,Senior Lecturer, School of the Environment, Science (UTS) and Co-founder of THINKK – the think tank for kangaroos, an academic forum that fosters greater understanding among Australians of kangaroos

How we know things: Understanding through art and science

Forum, Sunday 15th Sept. 2-3pm

Presentations and Discussions

 

Data for action: How we act on what we count, weigh and measure

Forum, Wed 18th. Sept. 6-7pm

  • Dr Simon Pockley, Designer, Activist and former Business Analyst for the Australian National Data Service (ANDS)
  • Dr. Martina Doblin, Senior Research Fellow and Kirralee Baker, PhD candidate, both C3 (UTS)
  • Brad Miller,Researcher and Design Senior Lecturer at the The College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales
  • Dr Josh Wodak,Artist, Researcher, Creative Director 350.org Australia

THE OIL SHIP BY CONRAD ATKINSON

img_0748Signed artist’s print by Conrad Atkinson; buy yours now and support Liberate Tate

Artist Conrad Atkinson has produced a limited edition print to support the activities of Liberate Tate. The new A1 sized work For BP  is now available to buy in a limited edition of 75. All the funds raised from the sale of this print will support the work of Liberate Tate. As a group concerned with issues around ethical funding choices, it is important that we raise our own funds responsibly. Liberate Tate members are dedicated to continuing our voluntary work to free art from oil, and all funds raised from the sale of these prints will go directly to support the material costs of our performances.

Title of work: The Oil Ship | Date: 2013|Dimensions: 59 x 84cm | Edition: 75

Conrad Atkinson has 10 works held in Tate’s collection. A well known trouble-maker and political artist, he even has two works held on display atDowning Street. His work often troubles power and makes explicit corporate and government hypocrisy. Conrad previously contributed to our publication ‘Not if but when: Culture Beyond Oil’.  Check out his stunning new work The Oil Ship which presents a new twist on the Tate-BP deal.

 Please support our work, and bag yourself a beauty of an artwork at the same time! And please share this page with friends and networks to get a copy of this limited edition print.

INFORMATION ON HOW TO PURCHASE HERE

Please share this page and tweet @LiberateTate to link up with us on Twitter, and ‘Like’ ‘End oil sponsorship of the arts’ on Facebook.

‘Eco-sustainable public art’ mapped in new database

This post comes to you from Culture|Futures

curating-cities_entri590With searchable artwork themes such as ‘Atmosphere’, ‘Energy’, ‘Renewal & Regeneration’, and ‘Waste, Recycling, Consumption’, a new ‘Curating Cities’ database was launched on 30 August 2013. It maps “the increasingly important and emerging field of eco-sustainable public art.”

The ‘Curating Cities’ database is developed as a resource for researchers, academics, artists, curators, educators, commissioning agencies and sponsors working in the field as well as those interested in promoting sustainability via public art.

In addition to descriptive information, the database evaluates the aims and outcomes of each project as well as the external constraints (and subsequent negotiations) that influence the production of public artworks.

Curating Cities is an Australian Research Council funded Linkage project led by Professors Jill Bennett and Richard Goodwin, and Chief Curator Felicity Fenner of the National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA) at the University of New South Wales’ College of Fine Arts.

Linkage Partners: City of Sydney, Object: Australian Centre for Design, Carbon Arts, University of Cincinnati.

Research Team: Jill Bennett, Felicity Fenner, Richard Goodwin, Jodi Newcombe, Adrian Parr, Margaret Farmer and Kerry Thomas.

curating-cities_scrdmp

curatingcities.org

Culture|Futures is an international collaboration of organizations and individuals who are concerned with shaping and delivering a proactive cultural agenda to support the necessary transition towards an Ecological Age by 2050.

The Cultural sector that we refer to is an interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral, inter-genre collaboration, which encompasses policy-making, intercultural dialogue/cultural relations, creative cities/cultural planning, creative industries and research and development. It is those decision-makers and practitioners who can reach people in a direct way, through diverse messages and mediums.

Affecting the thinking and behaviour of people and communities is about the dissemination of stories which will profoundly impact cultural values, beliefs and thereby actions. The stories can open people’s eyes to a way of thinking that has not been considered before, challenge a preconceived notion of the past, or a vision of the future that had not been envisioned as possible. As a sector which is viewed as imbued with creativity and cultural values, rather than purely financial motivations, the cultural sector’s stories maintain the trust of people and society.
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Art about climate change: a new trend

This post comes to you from Culture|Futures

rain-room590

“Wow, I wish I knew someone dealing with climate change. How is it that no artists are working with the most compelling issue that affects all of us?”

Jane Tsong said this to Robby Herbst when he asked her if she would direct him to an Los Angeles-based artist addressing the topic in May 2013.

“Climate change poses some tough problems for artists: as a concept, it has long seemed too big, too grim, too abstract, too political and too far away. Efforts to portray it quickly become too preachy, too scientific, too shaming. Few can make a living from making people feel bad about themselves and doomed about the world.”

An anonymous reporter wrote this in the Economist on 20 July 2013. The Economist writer sees a new trend where cultural meditations on climate change are becoming more popular, and mentions three recent examples of this:

• New York’s Museum of Modern Art has had a summer-long arts festival, ‘Expo 1: New York’, that attempts to address climate change and the ecological challenges of the 21st century. The exhibitions of the festival will be on view until 2 September 2013.

• In January 2013, Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt began what it calls ‘The Anthropocene Project’ — a two-year culture programme that considers the human impact on the natural world.

• In October 2013, Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, one of the largest in North America, will host ‘Carbon 14’ — an art exhibition and four-month programme of plays, talks and seminars about climate change.

Touch and disturb
The exhibitions, shows and festival ‘Expo 1: New York’ at Museum of Modern Art features the short film ‘The Drowning Room’, an installation by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson called ‘Your Waste of Time’, a ‘Rain Room’ by the London-based group Random International which is a room of falling water for visitors to walk through, and an exhibition of a group of large photographs of the American frontier by Ansel Adams.

Anchoring the exhibition/show/festival at Museum of Modern Art is ‘Dark Optimism’. “The name, coined by online publication Triple Canopy, encapsulates the sentiment of being on the edge of apocalypse, tempered with the hope of technological innovation. Featuring work from 35 artists, including Joseph Beuys, Adrián Villar Rojas, Meg Webster, Agnes Denes, and Anna Betbeze, a selection of landscapes by Ansel Adams, and a group exhibition curated by Josh Kline preoccupied with the human body and technology, Dark Optimism seeks to reconcile the failure of Modernism’s ideals with humanity’s capacity for an improved future,” wrote Colleen Kelsey in Interview Magazine.

The Economist interviewed Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1, the contemporary wing of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, who explained:

“After Hurricane Sandy in late 2012 — which destroyed New York’s coastline, ruined many art galleries and left locals feeling vulnerable — the show’s environmental concerns became more urgent.” At a time when climate is vanishing from the political agenda, Klaus Biesenbach believes art can “touch and disturb” in ways that charts and articles cannot.

Can artists do better?
“Climate change is one area where the communication of uncertainty has landed scientists in dangerous territory. Can artists do better?,” asks art and science blogger Johanna Kieniewicz, who herself is a ‘bridge-crosser’ between the two worlds holding a PhD in Earth and Planetary Science as well as a foundation degree in fine art.

In her blog ‘Plos – where art and science meet’, she concluded in a blogpost on 25 July 2013, titled ‘Art of Uncertainty’:

“Artists are not going to solve scientists’ problem of communicating uncertainty pertaining to climate change. This is something that scientists themselves need to do, perhaps with help from sociologists and innovative designers. But in so doing, scientists must recognise that in the communication of uncertainty, they must not just win minds, but also hearts. This does not necessarily come naturally. I suspect that there is a great opportunity for artists who are interested in collaborating with scientists to engage in this area.”

Art contest: CoolClimate
Luis Hestres wrote on 1sky.org:

The folks at the Creative Visions, Crosscurrents and Quixote Foundations realize that art has the potential to move and inspire people the way facts and figures, necessary as they are, simply can’t. After all, there’s a reason why a copy of Picasso’s Guernica is hanging at the U.N. building instead of a fact sheet about casualties during the Spanish Civil War.

That’s why they’ve launched the CoolClimate Art Contest, which has been running since 12 July and closes on 6 September 2013:

The contest seeks to generate iconic images that address the impact of climate change and spurs participation in the climate change debate. Create a work that encompasses the questions above and explores our relationship with the climate — from clean energy jobs to pollution-free oceans — the subject choice is yours.

The contest will be judged by a who’s who from the artistic, scientific and climate advocacy worlds:

  • Jackson Browne (musician)
  • Jayni Chase (philanthropist)
  • Chevy Chase (comedian)
  • Mel Chin (artist)
  • Dianna Cohen (environmental artist)
  • Philippe Cousteau (ecologist)
  • Agnes Gund (renown art collector)
  • Van Jones (environmental activist)
  • David Ross (former head of Whitney Museum and SF Museum of Modern Art)
  • Carrie Mae Weems (artist)

The deadline to submit artwork is 6 September 2013. If you’ve decided to participate, good luck!


Sources:

The Economist – 20 July 2013:
Art about climate change: Chilling
“The future is uncertain. It is also inspiring.”

Interview Magazine – 24 April 2013:
MOMA PS1’S Current Climate
By Colleen Kelsey

ArtNews – 13 November 2012:
A Climate Change in the Art World?
The art community is digging out, drying off, counting its losses, helping its neighbors–and starting to prepare for the hurricanes of the future. By Robin Cembalest

Artbound – 10 May 2013:
Who Makes Art About Climate Change?
By Robby Herbst

Plos – 25 July 2013:
‘Art of Uncertainty’
By Johanna Kieniewicz

1sky.org – 11 August 2013:
CoolClimate Art Contest sets out to inspire climate action
By Luis Hestres

Culture|Futures is an international collaboration of organizations and individuals who are concerned with shaping and delivering a proactive cultural agenda to support the necessary transition towards an Ecological Age by 2050.

The Cultural sector that we refer to is an interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral, inter-genre collaboration, which encompasses policy-making, intercultural dialogue/cultural relations, creative cities/cultural planning, creative industries and research and development. It is those decision-makers and practitioners who can reach people in a direct way, through diverse messages and mediums.

Affecting the thinking and behaviour of people and communities is about the dissemination of stories which will profoundly impact cultural values, beliefs and thereby actions. The stories can open people’s eyes to a way of thinking that has not been considered before, challenge a preconceived notion of the past, or a vision of the future that had not been envisioned as possible. As a sector which is viewed as imbued with creativity and cultural values, rather than purely financial motivations, the cultural sector’s stories maintain the trust of people and society.
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Ken Weitzman And Taking To The Streets

This post comes from Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

Rendering of set design idea for Reclamation by Rachel Hauck

Rendering of set design idea for Reclamation by Rachel Hauck

I have been on the lookout for plays that deal with climate change for quite some time. Being interested in the subject myself, I’m curious to see how other playwrights are tackling the issue. Two plays by Ken Weitzman were recently brought to my attention:

Fire in the Garden (Indiana Repertory Theatre, 2010), co-winner of the Fratti/Newman Political Play Contest, is  inspired by a true story. In 1965 Norman Morrison, a Quaker from Baltimore, drove to the Pentagon and, in protest over the U.S. policy in Vietnam, doused himself in kerosene and lit himself on fire. In his arms as he did this, was his one-year-old daughter. Morrison died within minutes, Emily (his daughter) survived. Fire in the Garden explores this act through the eyes of a new father whose son is one week away from his first birthday. As he delves into and learns more about Morrison, about his beliefs (that the human family should be valued as much as one’s own nuclear family), about historical cases of extreme self-sacrifice, about the continuing legacy of Vietnam, about Quakerism, and about the most pressing moral imperative of our day, he comes to see Morrison’s act (and fatherhood itself) in a very different light.

Reclamation (developed at the O’Neill Conference, 2012) is set in the American West in year 2020 when water shortages are forcing entire Western towns to relocate to “conservation clusters.”  On the very brink of relocation, Leland and Zach, a water manager and his nephew assistant, must strike a deal to save their town and what they call the “spirit of the West”. (You can read an article that was crucial to the creation of Reclamation here.)

I asked Ken to talk a little bit about his experience writing and presenting those plays.

 What compels you to write about climate change and environmental issues?

Climate change is the moral imperative of our time.  To me, it’s impossible to avoid as a writer.  It’s something I certainly wrestle with daily.  As I say in Fire in the Garden, I know one day my children (and grandchildren) will ask me if I knew, if I knew what was coming.  I will have to say yes.  And I can imagine the question that follows my admission will be:  “Then what did you do?”  I wonder every day what my answer is going to be, what my answer should be.

Unfortunately, and obviously, my writing plays about climate change is hopelessly inadequate.  I do believe theatre has the power to reframe a debate, to use metaphor to fundamentally change the ways in which we see things but, ultimately, it’s not action or at least rarely incites it on a level that can bring about change.  Perhaps it can be a step along the way?  That’s the question at the end of Fire in the Garden anyway.  Though I must say, this quote, from an open letter written in response to Norman Morrison’s self-immolation (the subject of Fire in the Garden) sticks with me:   “…at some point you may be required by the exigencies of your time to come down from the mountain and sacrifice yourself – or at least part of your life – because there are certain moral evils that cannot be countenanced.”   That quote has resonates for me on a number of levels.  I’m fascinated, horrified, and inspired by acts of extreme self-sacrifice.  Such acts are often what inspire me to write plays, as with Norman Morrison and Fire in the Garden.  But at the same time, writing and exploring and wrestling with such acts as Morrison’s makes me question and doubt my writing, and theatre in general, as a useful response to the pressing issues of our time.

Rodeo MoA photo of Weitzman’s son Rodeo Mo which was projected at the end of Fire in the Garden.

 What was the audience’s response to Reclamation and Fire in the Garden

I’ll discuss Fire in the Garden first.  I had people ask me, after a reading in which I performed the character, if I thought an extreme act such as self-immolation was what was necessary now?  And was I planning to commit such an act?  My answer was no, of course not.  I’m not planning to light myself on fire to raise awareness or in the hope of spurring change or action.  But I do think that kind of extreme action is indeed necessary, and on a daily basis I feel cowardly for not doing more, for not doing something extreme.  I write my plays, I call Congress, I write letters to the editor, I sign email and facebook petitions, etc., etc.  But in the end I agree with what Morrison wrote, the quote found somehow unburnt in a little notebook in his suit pocket,

“Without the inspired act, no generation resumes the search for love.”

Some audience members, after the Indiana Repertory Theatre production, said “your play, your play is the inspired act.”  They meant for me, not in general, that writing, that this play was how I would answer my children’s future “Then what did you do” question.   But all I can think in response to that is, as Hemingway said, “isn’t it pretty to think so.”  No, this play, in my heart of hearts, is meant not as an answer in itself.  It’s meant as a note to explain some future extreme act that the character plans to take to hopefully bring about real and lasting change, as Morrison’s very nearly did.

“Then what is ‘the inspired act’ that will finally make us finally address the coming catastrophe?” asked another audience member.  A good question.  And at the risk of sounding pessimistic (which I am), I’m afraid the inspired act that will finally make us address climate change will be one of mother nature’s design, not ours.   That drought, hurricanes, fresh water shortages, heat waves, disease, etc. will be what forces us to act, desperately, reactively, and out of necessity.  I think we’ve passed the point of delaying and/or truly stopping climate change with a change of behavior and lifestyle.  I think it’s now about finding and inventing ways, carbon sequestration or some other technique, to address the inevitable.  Sorry, I feel I should be more hopeful than that, but I’m not.

This is not to say, at least not completely, that citizens or artists have no role here.  I’m not advocating a total abdication of personal responsibility.  The response to Reclamation was interesting in light of this.  Reclamation deals with the current and coming fresh water shortage as perhaps the single biggest consequence of climate change.  And many people responded to the play by saying they hadn’t realized a fresh water shortage was something that was so inextricably linked to climate change.  Many, especially on the east coast, had very little knowledge of the interstate and international issues related to water rights and the dwindling Colorado River.  (This is the quote from the National Research Council, in 2007, that I put on the title page of Reclamation: “More than 25 million people in seven states – Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming – rely on the Colorado River for water and power.  The combination of limited water supplies, increasing populations, warmer temperatures, and the specter of recurrent drought point to a future in which the potential for conflict among existing and prospective new water users will prove endemic, and the basin will face increasingly costly, controversial and unavoidable trade-off choices.”)

Most audience members knew nothing of the water settlements reached in the last decade with western Indian reservations and how the reservations have had to, and continue to battle for a reasonable allocation of water (which they’ve been denied for well over a century.)  So I suppose I’m saying that consciousness-raising is one function the writer can serve as related to climate change.  Though I’d be lying if I said that was the main reason I wrote Reclamation.  I do feel a responsibility, as a writer, to wrestle with, as I say above, the moral imperatives of our time.  But, cynically, selfishly, the issues and the story of Reclamation were so rich metaphorically, with ideas about original sin, self-sacrifice, and spirituality, that I couldn’t help but write it.   My political agenda was, I will admit, secondary.

I will say, though, that the theatre offers a unique way to explore and collide with environmental issues: obliquely and metaphorically.  Personally I find such techniques and explorations to be more effective and affecting than straight-up agitation propaganda or plays that address the issues directly.   But that’s a gross generalization and I want to take it back now (or at least temper it by expressing my desire to take it back, without actually taking it back.)

What do you think is the single most important thing artists can do to address the problem of climate change?

I suppose I addressed this a bit above.  But I think my most direct answer would be to take to the streets.  Write, create art, sign facebook petitions, yes, but also take to the streets.  I’m not sure why I haven’t yet. Why we all haven’t.

Filed under: Featured Artist, Theatre

Artists and Climate Change is a blog by playwright Chantal Bilodeau that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

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