Jonathan Baxter: Murmur – Artists Reflect on Climate Change

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Sarah Gittins, Chloe Lewis, Ellis O’Connor, Meg Rodger and Saule Žuk

5th August – 16th September 2017
10am – 5pm, Free Entry
An Talla Solais, West Argyle Street, Ullapool, IV26 2UG


‘The word “urgency,” rather than crisis, is an energetic term for me. Urgency is energizing, but it’s not about apocalypse or crisis. It’s about inhabiting; it’s about cultivating response-ability.’
(Donna Haraway in conversation with Martha Kenney)


When thinking about this exhibition – the reality of climate change, the devastating impact it’s having and will continue to have on the ecosystems that we all, human and non-human, depend on – the word ‘urgency’ comes to mind. So why is this exhibition entitled Murmur – Artists Reflect on Climate Change? Shouldn’t these artists – like all of us – be shouting out a warning or taking direct action?

It’s tempting to think that action is what we need. (And, of course, we really do need action to address climate change.) But before we act we need to notice there’s a problem. And before we notice there’s a problem we need to notice the wonder: the abundant multiplicity of lifeforms and living systems that make up this teeming planet.

One way to take notice is through art. Both the making of art and the engagement with art. Indeed, as Anne Bogart has written, ‘the true function of art’ is ‘to awaken what is asleep’.

This chimes well with the artists who have made work for this exhibition. When asked what they hoped the exhibition might achieve – knowing full well that art is only one part of a multifaceted response to climate change – their individual answers, although nuanced, were of a piece.

In the interests of opening up the conversation I share some of their responses here (edited and in the order in which we exchanged them):

Saule:

I would like the exhibition to be a space to stop/slow down, to listen to ourselves deep inside and to listen to our environment, to feel what is truly important to us, to feel nature’s impact on us. The only way my work can create a feedback loop is through people, if it pokes or touches them in some meaningful way so they can carry on the ripples … For me, the process of making work for this exhibition does create ripples in my life, and I hope that the workshops and talks will do a similar thing for the audience.

Sarah:

I would like it if my experiences and explorations during my research residency were in some way shared by the viewers of ‘the book’. My conversations and encounters opened up some understanding of what it can mean to work for your livelihood on, in or with the sea. I began to understand how this work depends on a finely balanced ecosystem, how it is being and will be impacted by climate change and how changes in the marine environment set off a chain reaction that is so complex it cannot be fathomed completely, and this complexity is a source of wonder that inspires respect.

With Murmur as a whole I agree with Saule that the exhibition could be a space to slow down, listen deeply and consider. What I wouldn’t like is for the exhibition to temporarily awaken an awareness of climate change that is so gentle as to wash over a person and fade away again quickly. I would love it if it was strong and deeply affecting in a way that makes the questions alive and ignited for the long-haul. If the exhibition inspires deep engagement then that will be a success I think.

Ellis:

I would like people to be challenged by the idea of what they think environmental art should be. I want Murmur to be about communicating climate change through various mediums, creating a dialogue in which people can connect with and understand that there are many layers to the question of climate change and sometimes it’s not about the macro but the micro. The smaller details, the stories, the layers of evidence that are often overlooked are sometimes the most important part of creating a conversation and conveying the evidence of climate change.

Chloe:

I’d like people to make a connection with the natural wonderland, kind of like bridging the gap, reconnecting and reminding the viewer of natural beauty in a positive way. For the exhibition as a whole, I like the idea of people ‘slowing down’ and allowing them to be drawn into the work. But I also think the exhibition should be a place to inspire conversation and interaction between the viewers, to create a buzz of opinions and questions revolving around climate change. Art about climate change can often be negative and uninspiring, leaving people feeling helpless and unmotivated. I hope the exhibition, workshops and talks are going to make a fun and uplifting experience for everyone involved.

Meg:

My work is not political, it is not a call to protest. However, so much of contemporary life is caught up in work, sitting in cars or at desks, taken up with a digital lifestyle. I guess my work is simply a call for us to spend more time outdoors. To breathe the air, to sit quietly and listen, watch, smell and touch … to be. To look closely at small creeping insects and delicate fungi, to watch the clouds and predict the weather, to listen to bird call. By doing so we may start to be more appreciative of what we have around us, what it gives us and what we are set to lose through climate change. By caring more, maybe we can all make changes to how we lead our lives and collective change can make a difference.

It seems unnecessary to add further interpretation. The artists have stated their aims. The rest is an invitation: to slow down, sit quietly and listen, to watch, smell and touch, to ask questions and enter the conversation. Each work is a ripple to inspire further ripples, a murmur growing louder with each call and response.

Jonathan Baxter, Curator


Accompanying the exhibition are a series of workshops and related events. For full details see http://www.antallasolais.org/activities.

Meet the Artists – Family Open Day
5th August, 10am – 12.30pm

From Here to There – Community Print Workshop
led by Jonathan Baxter and Sarah Gittins
15th – 18th & 21st – 24th August, 10am – 12pm and 1pm – 5pm
See the ATS website for timetable updates

Jewellery for Change Workshop
led by Chloe Lewis
12th August, 2 – 5pm

Creative Conversations #4
The Highland Youth Arts Hub in collaboration with An Talla Solais
18th August, 10am – 12pm

Ullapool Green Tease – To see, know, and act
presentations and conversation exploring creativity, climate change and community resilience
Creative Carbon Scotland in collaboration with An Talla Solais
19th August, 2 – 5pm

Deep Time Biodiversity Walk
led by Wayne Fitter (Scottish Natural Heritage) at Knockan Crag
25th August, 11am – 1pm

Deep Time Talk and Film Screening
talk by John McIntyre followed by Fabrizio Terranova’s film Donna Haraway: Storytelling for Earthly Survival
25th August, 7 – 10pm

Deep Time Drawing Workshop
led by Ellis O’Connor at Knockan Crag
26th August, 10am – 4pm

 



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It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

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