Yearly Archives: 2015

I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On

by Kendra Fanconi

Featured Image: Floating footpath by Cornelia Konrads, for Tinkers

This post originally appeared on Howlround, and is being posted under a under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0). You can find the original post here: http://howlround.com/i-cant-go-on-ill-go-on

This week on HowlRound, we continue our exploration of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change begun last April with this special series for Climate Change Week NYC. How does our work reflect on, and responds to, the challenges brought on by a warming climate? How can we participate in the global conversation about what the future should look like, and do so in a way that is both inspiring and artistically rewarding? Kendra Fanconi is a fellow Canadian and theatremaker who, in the last few months, has been watching the forests of British Columbia go up in flames. Addressing climate change in her work in not an abstract concept, but a real and immediate concern that is deeply rooted in a sense of place. —Chantal Bilodeau

Beckett said it.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

A statement from the Anthropocenic age. The epoch where human activities started to have a global impact on Earth’s ecosystems. The age of climate change.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

We get it, don’t we? I hope you don’t mind that I included you in that. I operate under the assumption that what I feel and what my audience feels are the same, and that I can refer to us as a “we.” “We like this.” “We want this.” “We need this.” But strangely, you, as you read this, you are actually my audience right now and I don’t know you well enough to know if I am like you. I accept that I may be the canary in the coal mine, and that you are not feeling this yet but I would propose that you will be, we all will be, that this quote sums up our lives, as real as the death of the newspaper, the wristwatch, and the oceans.

Okay, hang on, did someone really just say “death of the oceans?” I think I need to lie down for a minute. I’m not ready for that today. I need another coffee. Or a peek at my newsfeed. Maybe someone got married, went to Italy, or had a nice squishy baby. Or maybe my cousin in Washington State who just had a nice squishy baby is going to lose her house to a wildfire.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

I look at that quote. I note two things. “I can’t go on” speaks to the truth of everyday grappling with climate change. “I’ll go on” implies action.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

And, friends, theatremakers in the age of climate change, I propose to you that somewhere within these seven words is our stage.

I’m part of The Only Animal. We make original theatre out of a deep engagement with place. We’ve made shows in theatres of snow and ice, of sand, in swimming pools, and on working waterways an acre wide, with birds, boats. and a bicycle ballet. Because we work with place, we work with climate change. We made NiX, theatre of snow and ice as a part of the Cultural Olympiad in Whistler in 2010. It was the warmest winter in 126 years. I remember coming out of our snow theatre during tech and kicking at something funny on the ground. Where there should have been four-foot snowpack, there was grass. Our theatre was melting.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

The Only Animal have always had environmental awareness. Sickened by the familiar sight at strike of the five-ton loaded to the dump, we set the intention to be a zero-impact company, looking to minimize and offset our carbon footprint. We paid attention to where we sourced materials, hoping to divert them from the waste stream, and looked carefully at where they ended up. We haven’t always been successful at “zeroing,” but our mandate highlights sustainability. And, you know, that felt like enough.

Then we started making a piece in an old-growth forest near our home in the tiny town of Roberts Creek, on the slopes of Mount Elphinstone, outside of Vancouver, BC, where our company is based. It’s an adaptation of Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Tinkers. Tinkers is an ecstatic love song to the natural world. It is transcendental, proposing that Human = Nature = the Divine. The piece is off-grid, a roving show with twelve locations. A new addition to our creative team is German environmental artist Cornelia Konrads, who is making large, gravity-defying installations in some of these sites: a moss carpet that wants to fly, a cedar shake doorway that floats away, liminal green windows that are woven into the forest. The work seeks on many levels to integrate the site into the story—and into ourselves. It is a production that combines professional actors with cameos/choir made of locals, weaving the place into the heart of the production.

Environmental artist and designer Cornelia Konrads with maquette for Tinkers, The Only Animal, based on the novel by Paul Harding.

And we are siting the work within an old-growth forest—a large carbon sinkhole that is part of the climate change solution—that is being logged. Like, right now. I am writing this at 4:54 a.m. and the trucks are on their way to cut block A87126 and its 600-year-old yellow cedars. And a roadblock started 54 minutes ago. A few local activists are there. Later I will make muffins for them. But right now I am making theatre.

I believe that the fastest way of traveling to the human heart is through stories. These natural places have stories to tell, but we are losing the ability to listen. I include myself in that. I’m caught in my to-do list, I’m plugged into a podcast and the trail is just a treadmill, or I’m yakking on the phone the whole time. The forest is just a big green wall, and I don’t really know how to get in.

Theatre is a way for us to get in. Maybe it is even the best way.

The forest knows height in a way you and I never will. It is thinking backwards in time down to the ground. This mountain slope has a memory that is geographic. It remembers when the Earth folded rock and the sea drowned valleys. A beach remembers high tide. A snowflake remembers the sky. Like these sites, I, too am made of minerals and tidal waters, I know these upheavals. I’m begging these places to remind me who I am. To fill in the part of my story which is elemental, eternal, absolute. Right now, I need a mountain inside me, I need this story.

Theatre. In and of itself. Inherently. Is it the answer? Or is it just a thing you buy, like a pair of shoes that is pretty and distracting? Is that two-hour show ready to meet the challenge of the anthropocenic age and affect meaningful change?

The deeper background to my own practice is that I was raised by a political activist. My mom had me on the picket lines before my eighth birthday. I stood with her when she testified. I wrote letters with crayons that spilled out of the mailbag onto the county commissioner’s desk. She won some and she lost some. Oh, then came the Bush administration and she lost them all.

Naturally, I rebelled. I rejected the notion that protest was the way to create change. I looked at studies and stats and facts and chose fiction. More than that, I chose magical realism, that form that purports that the inner world is truer than the outer. I justified that creating site-based work was in itself a political act. I wrote this in grant applications. My work makes the real world the stage and changes it, creatively, impossibly, with a vision for something more. And I feel that this does, on some level, challenge our audience to transform the world.

But that was yesterday, that was last year, that was two shows ago. The present is not a time for “on some level” subtlety. Thematic resonance is not enough. I got to a point this spring where I just decided I needed to put climate change on my to-do list. ‘Cause I am practical like that. It’s the only way to get things done.

So I made categories and I said, “Every day I want to take action on climate change in a personal way, within my community, and a national/international arena.” And so, every day, I would do a brainstorm. (I get up early, right?) The personal was easy—I have daily work of homesteading for my family to get us off the grid, and reducing our carbon footprint. So I plant the beets, forage the mushrooms, plan the micro-hydro. I break it to my kid that we are not driving ten kilometres to Starbucks for a muffin. The community level took effort—I ask the principal of my older son’s school what are they doing on the climate change issue, I come “out” on the issue locally, and when I am buying beer at the general store and the talk turns to how hot it is this year, I call it climate change and talk about the local initiative for a solar co-op. On the national level, I try to get educated. (This is hard, I have a brain wired for fiction, and now I am trying to retain facts.) I sign up for 350.org and climatereality.com’s newsletters. I sign every online petition I can. I write letters. Still, it is a tall order. How can I begin to make a difference? It’s so, so daunting…

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

I go on making lists for daily actions on climate change, but mostly I work. I run an independent theatre company, right? So, sixty hours a week, I work… And I am in the middle of Tinkers, and I start looking at that.

Kevin MacDonald and the family at dinner, in Tinkers.

Tinkers is sited on private property, this old growth forest I mentioned. It’s ten acres. But of course, ten acres isn’t a forest, it’s a stand of trees. The property is part of a much larger forest—much of it old growth—that is slowly being logged. Not by a multi-national corporation, but by local and provincial government. I know about it because there is a local forest watch group. Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) is putting forward a plan to preserve 2000 hectares as a provincial park. (That’s sort of like a national park, for all of you Americans out there.)

I get involved with ELF in small ways. I come out with ten others for “groundtruthing” on a proposed cutblock to count and measure the girth of old growth Douglas firs that aren’t listed in the government assessment docs. After we count, the ten of us sit on the logging road and the talk turns to recipes for road kill. This is a very select audience, I think, those who are activated to save this forest: those with coyotes in deep freeze. I can rally a bigger audience, I think.

But the two-week theatre run of Tinkers is maybe not going to do it. It is a part, but not the whole. I need more engagement, more events, a buildup that can build the movement, that can maybe culminate in Tinkers next summer. What if we could open the show and the provincial park at the same time? That’s a vision! And so I approach Ross Muirhead who leads ELF. They regularly lead hikes into this endangered forest to stir up public support. I talk to him about partnering.

 

Tinkers director Kendra Fanconi with Ross Muirhead of Elphinstone Logging Focus at Tinkers development workshop.

Which pretty much brings me to the present. Where I doubt what my one body can do to combat climate change, I have faith in what this forest can do. The Only Animal is committed to the preservation of this rare, coastal, old growth forest, this beautiful and valuable carbon sink. A Simon Fraser University study from 2010 says, “The researchers conclude that when a conventional, narrowly focused valuation of forests is broadened to assess the value of forests as carbon storehouses, recreation sites, and sources of products other than timber—wild mushrooms, for example—increased conservation wins out over logging in most cases.” We agree. The Only Animal’s work is to push it to the tipping point. To engage an audience and connect them to this place. To activate that audience towards conservation. Our community is 10,000 people. I think we can reach 3000+ of them through our live events. More on social media. It feels hopeful, doesn’t it?

So now, we aren’t just mounting a production of Tinkers in the forest for a few weeks next summer. We have created ten months of programming leading up to it, with monthly theatrical activations in this endangered forest, including, Trail Mix: a mixtape musical adventure, an illuminated hike on the longest night of the year, an event with puppets made of only forest floor materials, an interspecies song collaboration called Dawn Chorus. If our local community has become disconnected from the forest then we are matchmakers. We are setting them up. We want them to fall hard. Doesn’t it make sense? That you could connect people with place and then that they would act to save it?

Still, I have so many questions.

How do we make activism palatable? The old paradigm was outrage to action. My generation is more likely to go from outrage to overwhelm to Candy Crush. How can we be reached? Urban Dictionary defines solutionary as “A type of revolutionary who makes change by providing a better way to do things.” The Only Animal love this word: it appeals to us as innovators. Can we be solutionary thinkers here? Can we innovate activism?

In our year of theatrical events, we plan to creatively document each piece in short form and feed our social media networks the bites. We know our work is sticky. Folks will share it. That is part of the public awareness piece. Maybe it can translate to public pressure. And we hope those documentation pieces themselves will market our movement to the decision makers. Our forest watch partners will help on that front. If people are too jaded/busy/whatever to go to their representatives themselves, then we will document them, their voices, their presence, their stand and take it forward ourselves.

Still, the questions. Can we save a forest? What is the to-do list? That’s what drives me crazy about trying to affect change in the political system. It’s so nebulous what one actually has to do. But, like any project prep I have ever done, I know I have to prepare my best plan, and then trust that better ideas will come in the room. Or the forest, in this case.

As the logging trucks are driving up the road.

I can’t even…

I’ll go on. It feels better to be in action than to be in despair. I’ll go on. I’m “out” on the climate change issue. It’s my work. I’ll go on. Creatively, with hope, with beauty. With a love of the impossible. I’ll go on.

The Arts on the Road: Accessing Smarter Travel Choices

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

During the early part of 2015 our Carbon advisers spoke with over 100 organisations and discussed how their activities affected the way they travelled. Avoiding travel is difficult, and many of the organisations we spoke to work with artists who have disabilities which constrain their travel choices, so it’s important to understand and plan around these. Among the arts, musicians, actors and dancers have to travel for rehearsals, workshops, performances and tours. Visual artists have to ship works to different locations or may have to travel to specialist facilities to create works.

Fiona MacLennan met with Garry Robson, the director and Green Champion for Birds Of Paradise Theatre Company and he spoke about their approach to organising travel and touring for artists with disabilities.

“Our particular focus in promoting the work of professional deaf and disabled artists and performers in Scottish Theatre and internationally brings with it its own challenges. We are a touring theatre company who present and develop work nationwide necessitating a degree of travel. Sadly trains are still relatively inaccessible with wheelchair users requiring assistance on and off the trains and support to negotiate stations, and once at the destination because of the inaccessibility of much public transport there is usually a need to make use of taxis to complete journeys, thus adding to the expense and carbon footprint. With this in mind, driving is often a preferred option though wherever possible we car share and try and fill the vehicle. We are currently carrying out nationwide outreach work directed towards aspiring deaf and disabled performers and young disabled people. To make this financially feasible and ecologically sound we’re currently looking at ways of delivering some of these projects on line and developing our website to include more distance learning opportunities.

There is evidence of an increasing demand for live performances in venues both nationally and internationally as well as an appreciation of the social and economic benefits of local performances for both performers and audiences. The social benefits are particularly important for the group of artists working with Birds of Paradise as underlined by Gary’s next comment:

‘In the general population disabled people are far more likely to be in fuel poverty. In particular, those people who are housebound will necessarily have larger fuel bills as they spend much longer in their homes. Many disabled people fall into the classic poverty/energy inefficient housing/increased fuel usage trap. We can’t sit around waiting for a strategic approach to accessible public transport and energy efficient housing so we try to work as carbon conscious as we can, but a bit of joined up thinking wouldn’t half help.’

As Gary points out, the lack of joined up infrastructure can make travel by public transport difficult for anyone less able bodied. This is also true for anyone travelling to more remote locations away from the major cities where public transport services become infrequent or don’t exist.

The best choices for travel will minimise emissions while still achieving the primary purpose of delivering the work of the organization. Providing guidance to everyone in your organisation via your travel policy can help them to travel the smartest way, save time and minimise emissions. Encouraging forward planning can also save on costs. Making the best travel choices can take some creativity and research so share the best ideas and knowledge with both your colleagues and your audiences. To see a simple and easy to share example you can download Creative Carbon Scotland’s travel policy.

Recording your travel and calculating your travel impacts is also important in developing your travel plan and finding ways to reduce your travel emissions. This helps you to develop an understanding of the emissions associated with different travel modes as well as highlighting the costs helping you choose between hiring a minibus for 8 or filling 2 cars or deciding between flights and trains.

Claimexpenses home pageWe know that recording travel can be time consuming so we have been trying help artists to understand how to measure their travel and develop an understanding of where their emissions are generated. Check out the project page for our online recording tool claimexpenses where you can find information and a video user guide for this tool which has been specially developed to help to capture your travel miles and calculate your emissions with the minimum of effort.

If you are an Arts organisation based in Scotland register for a free account on claimexpenses.com.

The post The Arts on the Road: Accessing Smarter Travel Choices appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

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Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

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Theatre Artists Unite Around Climate Change Action: Moving to Movement

by Alison Carey

Featured Image: Douglas County Complex fire, about 10 miles east of Waterville, WA, as seen on July 15.

This post originally appeared on Howlround, and is being posted under a under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0). You can find the original post here: http://howlround.com/the-sustainable-theatre-practice-treaty

This week on HowlRound, we continue our exploration of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change begun last April with this special series for Climate Change Week NYC. How does our work reflect on, and responds to, the challenges brought on by a warming climate? How can we participate in the global conversation about what the future should look like, and do so in a way that is both inspiring and artistically rewarding? For Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Alison Carey, talk about climate change is not enough anymore; we must, all of us, be willing to take action. —Chantal Bilodeau

So here we are. Here, for me, is Ashland, Oregon, where the Oregon Shakespeare Festival recently cancelled a sixth performance in our Allen Elizabethan Theatre because of smoke blowing in from the million acres that are burning in the bone-dry Pacific Northwest. I don’t know where your here is, but you may be experiencing record-breaking temperatures, land-sinking drought, flash floods, sea level rise, algae blooms, local species die-off, population change, or any one of the other effects of climate change.

Where are our theaters? They’re here, too, filled with decent, hardworking people who care deeply about the state of the world. But they’re not here here yet. As a field, we have not stepped up to our responsibilities in the face of this already-begun cataclysm.

It’s not a surprise. Climate change is terrifying, and despair, however painful, is easy. And, let’s face it, theater folks are overworked and underpaid, and going through unpredictable cultural and structural transitions that make the future unknowable and risky even without our lobbies getting storm-swamped up to the bar-tops.

But all that means is that we are just like almost everybody else alive. So we are in a perfect position to illuminate these important truths: we are in this together, change is possible, and our lives will be better after we do the work.

There are artists and institutions that are doing this work already, and I hope you are reading about them in this series and supporting their work. My two artistic homes have undertaken projects. OSF recently commissioned Idris Goodwin to look at a moment of change in the historical relationship between Americans and their environment, and OSF’s Green Task Force continues to lobby for sustainable choices within our business practices. Cornerstone TheaterCompany recently completed a remarkable state-wide tour of California: The Tempest, which looked at community and personal response to environmental destruction and rebirth.

But humans are still not doing enough of what is necessary and completely possible to change our devastating course. The only non-suicidal choice left is for the field as a whole to dig in deeper. We need more: more art, a cornucopia of aesthetic approaches, a constant re-affirmation that every piece of art we make is connected to our beautiful planet, a clear vision that this is an issue of social justice and basic decency that walks hand in vicious hand with all our other difficult but solvable ills, and a restocked imagination about how we talk to each other and our audiences. We need to build a wellspring of contagious joy to give us strength for the victories ahead. We need to apply our collaborative art-making habits to the imperative of movement making.

After the People’s Climate March in 2014, a group of interested theatremakers—both freelance and institutional friends—gathered to talk about how we could help this nascent movement get going. Our first instinct was to create a manifesto about the relationship between theater and climate change and try to get buy-in from people around the country. The more we worked over the following months, however, the more we realized that the last thing we wanted to do was generate wordsmithing chum that would distract from starting the actual work. So we decided to create Green Room, an online location for theaters and artists to…

1) Commit to engaging on the issue, with everyone crafting their own commitment based on their own capacities.

2) Find out what other folks are doing, so that our field-wide imagination and confidence around possible action will continue to grow.

3) Report out on successes and failures.

We hope this will provide community building, inspiration, and accountability. In the next few months, when the technology falls into place, we hope to get Green Room rolled out. We’ll keep you posted.

Green Room is obviously just a step, but we hope it will be a helpful one. Still, all the information and imagination in the world won’t solve the problem without leadership. Our leaders can come from our already-acknowledged leaders—extraordinary artists and artistic directors who will use their artistry, wisdom, and decision-making to help focus the collective will of the field, which in turn can help focus the collective will of our species to change laws and investment. But there is plenty of room for leadership, especially if we need to politely push a few folks out of the way to get where we need to go. Consider yourself anointed. Consider yourself required.

It’s very simple, actually. We are in a race. Either we win, bruised but still standing, full of joy at having saved our beautiful planet home, or global warming wins, and we don’t have healthy land to stand on anymore. Here we are. Here we go.

FiberSHED

This post comes to you from EcoArtSpace

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 5.12.24 PMFiberSHED opens October 7th at the Marin Community Foundation in Novato, California. Curated by Patricia Watts, the exhibition presents approximately ninety artworks by twenty-four fiber artists, primarily from the Bay Area, and also includes five artists from Los Angeles, Michigan, and New Hampshire. This survey exhibition includes a cross-pollination of Bay Area environmental sensitivity and conceptual art-making that pushes the boundaries of this medium in exciting and creative ways.

The title FiberSHED is a play on the concept of a watershed, an area of land where water flows from the mountaintops, downward to tributary creeks and rivers, and ultimately drains into lakes and oceans. For this exhibition, the title conveys the exceptional art that is being made by visual artists in the medium of fiber primarily located in the bioregion or “shed” of the San Francisco Bay Area. These are artists who share a unique relationship with the landscape and who are making cutting-edge artworks rich in craft tradition, while reflecting local sociocultural discourse.

Artworks in FiberSHED include: tapestry, samplers, embroidery, felted wool paintings, conceptual hook rugs, photographic transfers on woven fiber, clothes portrait quilts, hand-stitched banners and books, painted weavings, book arts, art and science weavings, felt sculpture, horse hair weavings, and woven measurements of environmental conditions, such as drought and tree rings.

Artists include: Adela Akers, Andy Diaz Hope and Laurel Roth Hope, Anna Von Mertens, Christine Szeto, Diedrick Brackens, Emily Payne, Esther Traugot, George-Ann Bowers, Kate Nartker, Jenne Giles, Lauren Hartman, Lia Cook, Linda Davenport, Liv Aanrud, Liz Robb, Lucy Childs, Luke Haynes, Paul Gillis, Sherri Smith, Stephanie Metz, Tali Weinberg, Topaze Moore, and Victoria May.
For more information on the artists in the exhibition go HERE

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ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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