Yearly Archives: 2018

Necessary Recalibration

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

I have travelled to many out-of-the-way places but the Antarctic landscape, or my imagined Antarctica, has been on my mind for as long as I can remember. It was like a mythical place that was rumored to be real. I visited Antarctica two years ago in January and feel like a part of me is still there.

Before leaving I read several books, but nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced while there. My initial impression was one of suspended belief – I had no point of reference for what I was seeing, making it impossible to take in. The scene from the ship felt like a backdrop for a movie or a play. When I finally kayaked and spent time with the landscape, I began to absorb what I was seeing and close the physical and mental distance I felt at first; I had to touch it to believe it was real. Because Antarctica is so quiet and the color palette limited to mostly grays, blues, and white, I could take in more than usual: limited distractions amplified my perceptions. Time felt suspended and this slowed-down quality allowed for increased sensitivity to my surroundings. Even my ability to listen seemed more acute. Sounds consisted of the ocean, wind, creaking glaciers, penguins, and whales blowing and breaching. Calving glaciers sounded like cannons going off – it was beautiful and terrifying and more alive than any landscape I have visited. The poet John O’Donohue wrote: “the landscape is not just matter but it is as alive as you.” The place has a palpable power that is indescribable.

Real Blue, 2017. Pigment print with gouache, graphite, and charcoal.

Antarctica is enormous in every way and the idea of “capturing” it with anything, including a camera, seemed ridiculous and not something I was capable of. I shot a lot of footage not knowing what I was going to do with it. After I got back, it took a year before I looked at the images. Instead, I researched and read to try to make sense of my intense response and the trip’s lingering resonance. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s essay  “Eye and Mind” was interesting and helpful. He writes about the world and the body being made of the same “stuff” and the “undividedness” of things. I read about “jouissance” from the perspective of Hélène Cixous and gained further insight from Donna Haraway’s brilliant book Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. These readings and more helped me understand the recalibration that occurred while I was in Antarctica. I realized I have always been uncomfortable with our culture built upon a platform of human exceptionalism. I experienced a place as alive and deserving of respect as any human being.

Blue Flow, 2017. Pigment print with ink and graphite.

I decided to document the feeling of Antarctica and continue to learn from it in my studio. I traced the architecture of the icebergs and glaciers with graphite and charcoal as a way of remembering the nuances of its form. I emphasized certain remarkable traits such as the impossible neon blue color as well as the millions of variations of blue. While studying my photographic documentation, I tried to mimic Antarctica’s palette and made almost invisible markings on the photographs with ink, charcoal, graphite, and gouache. When printing the final pieces, I played with the density of the photograph only to emphasize certain elements that I remembered but worried were easy to overlook at the reduced scale. I hope the viewer who hasn’t been to Antarctica might experience some of what I experienced. I would love to have the opportunity to take this work outside of art venues to the broader population, and share these observations with as many people as possible. The more the human population embraces the Earth as a companion needing our care, and not as a supply house and a sewer, the better our chances of stopping the destruction.

Lone Glow, 2017. Pigment print with charcoal and ink.

I’m still working on the Antarctica images in the studio and don’t know when I’ll move on to another body of work. I’ve never worked on a particular series this long but I can’t seem to let go. Since Antarctica is melting and could disappear soon, it’s difficult to stop. The government is working against us and Trump has no interest in accepting climate change or in protecting the environment. I feel committed to Antarctica as both a powerful teacher and a critical place that must survive if we are to maintain a thriving world.

Iceberg Study #2, 2017. Pigment print with gouache and graphite.

(Top image: Electric, 2018. Pigment print with ink and graphite.)

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Liza Ryan uses her work in photography, video and mixed media to explore themes such as the presentation and disruption of the visual narrative; the fluid psychological relationship between real and imagined spaces; processes of release, dispersal, and disappearance; and the intimate, undeniable connection between humans and the natural world.  Travel and extensive multi-disciplinary research are integral to her practice. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. She is represented by Kayne Griffin Corcoran Gallery in Los Angeles.


 

Artists and Climate Change is a blog 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 the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Opportunity: Green stories short story competition

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Writing a better future: writing competition

Enter a free writing competition to solicit short stories (<3500 words) set within a sustainable society. There are prizes and opportunities for publication, and the deadline is 19th April 2018. Details are on www.greenstories.org.uk.

Why we are doing this

We are currently living beyond our means – if everyone lived as we do in the UK we’d need 3 planets, so the aim of sustainable development is to find ways of living where there is less wasteful distribution of resources. We need to work out ways that we can all have what we need using fewer resources and be just as happy. The necessary societal transformations to sustainable societies require profound systemic changes across social, cultural, economic, environmental, political and technological domains. But to imagine how all aspects can come together within one society is more the domain of creative fiction. Therefore this competition aims to harness the creative visions of writers to imagine sustainable societies.

Why we ask for a positive view

Stories are powerful means of inspiring positive change. The Black Mirror series reflects anxieties about our future, and climate change discourse further creates fear and avoidance. What we really need are some positive visions that allow potentially transformative solutions to be showcased and played out. The difficulty in promoting sustainable behaviours is that they are often seen negatively as ‘doing without’ and the typical fear-based discourse can turn people off. This matters as in turn, political parties tend not to see environmental issues as ‘vote winners’ which limits potential for green policy making.

Just as some books/films product place products, we aim to ‘product place’ sustainable attitudes behaviours products and policies. The story doesn’t have to be specifically about climate change or catastrophic shortages, it can be any kind of genre – rom com, crime drama, legal drama, children’s book, sci fi etc. as long as it showcases sustainable technologies, practices, products or ideas in the background. Or another acceptable approach could be to focus on characters. Currently characters in fiction who are green/ethical are often portrayed as priggish or aggressive, we’d like to see attractive characters behaving in sustainable ways.

Future competitions

This is a small-scale competition just asking for short stories. But the hope is to run a competition on a much larger scale next year, with more formats (film, screenplays, radio plays, tv series, full-length novels etc.) and larger prizes and media involvement. We hope this will create a cultural body of work showcasing sustainable solutions. Entering this competition will not affect entry into the follow-up competition.



The post Opportunity: Green stories short story competition appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.



 

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

Striving for Meaningful Impact

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

The question of impact in the arts is a vexing one. Not only is impact difficult to define, it is almost impossible to quantify. Talking about impact can create the expectation that the transaction between art and audience is predictable and replicable. But it is not. Good art is unpredictable and unique, and its impact doesn’t translate neatly into a spreadsheet. As a young playwright, I used to think that impact was measured by the size of the audience: How many people bought tickets? Eventually, I came to realize that this view was reductive. By focusing on numbers alone, I was overlooking smaller, subtler clues that revealed a much more profound and, I suspect, lasting impact.

Four groups, organized in concentric circles from smallest to biggest, are invited to experience the impacts of a work of art: the artist(s), the audience, the field, and the larger community. In the theatre, many artists – actors, directors, dramaturgs and designers, to name a few – are involved in the production of a play. Therefore, before the work is shared with an audience, it has the potential to affect many people. This became apparent to me when I was working on productions on my play Sila in 2014 and 2015. Set in the territory of Nunavut, Sila examines the impact of climate change on the Canadian Arctic and local Inuit population. As the themes from the play emerged through the rehearsal process, actors and directors became more attuned to the reality of climate change, dramaturgs formulated new research topics, and designers developed an interest in sustainability. That is impact.

Artistic Vibrancy Onion – a way for arts organizations to conceptualize their impact and strategic investment. Courtesy: BYP Group.

After the artists, the next group to experience a work of art is the audience. In this case, numbers do tell a story. But by themselves, they don’t tell the whole story. Numbers are a refection of interest, not impact. Impact happens later, in the privacy of one’s home. It happens a day, a week, or even a year after encountering the work. And it is subtle. A friend once explained to me that political campaigns divide voters into categories, building a pie chart that separates groups into their political inclinations. The categories go from far left to far right, with a number of variations in between. The goal of the campaign is not to convince voters on the right to vote for the left, or vice versa. The goal is to move voters to the adjacent category in the chart. To affect one small, incremental change.

My plays focus on climate change. It would be tempting to think that impact means turning non-believers into activists. Or believers into fanatics. But that is unrealistic. Art opens up a space for conversation; it doesn’t, or shouldn’t, relentlessly push an agenda. We have to meet people where they are, and allow them to take their own journey, at their own pace. At best, I hope I can encourage people to move one step: to the adjacent category in the pie chart. Perhaps someone who doesn’t believe in climate change will be open to hearing more about it. Or perhaps someone who already believes will be inspired to take a more active role. That is impact.

Beyond the immediate transaction between artist and audience, the third group that can potentially be impacted by a work of art is the field. Every play is part of an ongoing conversation with the entire theatre community. As such, every play has the power to influence the next play – to expand our ideas about process, form, aesthetics, and ideology, and to shine a light on a conversation that may be missing from the stage. In collaboration with some colleagues, I have been working on a project called Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA) in support of the United Nations Conference of the Parties. CCTA is a series of worldwide readings and performances intended to bring awareness to, and foster discussion around, climate change. For our last iteration in 2017, 140 events were presented in more than 20 countries. Many of these events are intimate; they take place in classrooms or rehearsal studios, with only a handful of people in attendance. But the conversation within the theatre community is far-reaching. Already, the project has shown that it is possible to address climate change without sacrificing artistic integrity; that local action can translate into a global movement and that the theatre is a powerful tool for social change.

CCTA also creates community. Fifty playwrights wrote 50 shorts plays that were made available to collaborators worldwide. For each event, collaborators select the plays they want to present and send us the list. We publicize this information on social media and connect collaborators with playwrights, and other collaborators. In addition to the local conversation happening around each event, a greater conversation is taking place across time zones between artists who have never met. Plays adapted into short films in California are being screened in Germany and India. Playwrights in the US are reading their plays live on Skype for events in Australia. And so on. Some of these relationships may outlive the project and lead to more collaborations. Some of these events may inspire other organizations to do similar events. That is impact.

Sophorl Ngin, Reneltta Arluk and Nael Nacer in the Underground Railway Theater production of Sila. Copyright: A.R. Sinclair Photography.

Finally, the biggest of the four concentric circles is the larger community. Typically, this is not a group we think about. I certainly didn’t until I started focusing on climate change. Yet to achieve maximum impact, conversations have to transcend the walls of the theatre. With my play Sila, and the other seven plays of The Arctic Cycle, I strive to bring together people who may not normally encounter each other. I hope to build bridges between disciplines – science, policy, technology, humanities, and the arts. This means presenting the play in non-traditional settings such as academic conferences, scientific institutions, or university classes. It also means collaborating with earth and social scientists early in the process, inviting community stakeholders to participate in talkbacks, and engaging local environmental organizations. In 2014, excerpts of Sila served as the keynote for the conference “Warming Arctic: Development, Stewardship, Science” at Tufts University. The play introduced the topics that were going to be discussed during the conference, but framed them within personal narratives. It set a different tone for the conference and challenged scientists and policymakers to think beyond numbers. It also created a dialogue between science, policy, and the arts.

The same is true for the CCTA project. For one of the events in New York City in 2015, we invited a NASA climate scientist to talk about COP21 and the role of narrative in effecting social change. A dance company in Brooklyn, New York, invited a representative from the local chapter of the international organization 350.org to talk about their current initiatives. And various universities are incorporating their CCTA event into a larger conference that includes earth and social science, or in one case, leaders from three different faiths. This kind of cross-pollination promotes a better understanding of how people from different disciplines are tackling climate change, and how we can best support global efforts. It also creates a model for the kind of cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural collaboration that is possible in dealing with this global issue. That is impact.

Increasing self-awareness and affecting social change on a global level won’t happen overnight. It is unlikely someone will walk out of a play, sell his or her car, and sign up to Greenpeace. We do ourselves a disservice when we look for immediate impacts based on metrics. From time immemorial, the role of the arts has been to create the narrative that holds culture together. Rewriting that narrative won’t be easy. It is without a doubt the biggest, most fundamental shift humankind has ever had to make. Our job then is to celebrate every small step along the way. Our job is to recognize that there is potential for impact in every idea, every interaction, every performance, no matter how modest. Spreadsheets may lure us into thinking we are doing important work. But the faster we learn to see where meaningful impact is, the better our chances of creating the sustainable culture we desperately need to ensure our survival.

An earlier version of this article appeared in Fresh Perspectives 4: Art for the Planet’s Sake, published by IETM International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts, in December 2015.

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Chantal Bilodeau is a playwright and translator whose work focuses on the intersection of science, policy, art, and climate change. She is the Artistic Director of The Arctic Cycle – an organization created to support the writing, development and production of eight plays that look at the social and environmental changes taking place in the eight countries of the Arctic – and the founder of the blog and international network Artists & Climate Change. She is a co-organizer of Climate Change Theatre Action, a worldwide series of readings and performances of short climate change plays presented in support of the United Nations COP meetings.


Artists and Climate Change is a blog 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 the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Small Adaptation Miracles in Alaska

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Certain species of fish spawn in different locations. Pods of gray whales no longer overwinter at the equator. Yellow cedars are moving north. Those observations were related to us, a group of artists engaged with climate change, while we were traveling through Southeast Alaska as part of the Tidelines Ferry Tour in April 2016. It didn’t matter whether we were in Kake, Ketchikan, or Kodiak. The specifics differed, but the story was the same: Patterns of migration are changing.

The purpose of the tour, organized by the Island Institute in Sitka, was twofold: 1) to share our work with the communities we visited, and 2) to host public conversations where people were invited to talk about the changes they are witnessing in their respective environments. Throughout the month, we visited nine communities ranging in population from 600 to 300,000, hopping on and off the ferry, often in the middle of the night, and relying on strangers to open their homes to us. When we were lucky, we were invited into tribal houses and treated to stories about life in Alaska.

I was there to do research for a play about migration. This play is the third in a series of eight plays titled The Arctic Cycle that look at the social and environmental changes taking place in the eight Arctic states. The first two plays, set in Canada and Norway, deal with oil, sovereignty, cultural identity, responsibility, and legacy. I had been searching for a different angle with which to approach the play set in Alaska, the United States’ Arctic territory. When I came across an article about Syrian refugees crossing the border between Russia and Norway on bicycles, I decided to look at migration.

Migration is universal. Whether human or animal, voluntary or forced, fluid or disrupted, it is one of the most important survival skills we possess. We migrate for food, security, and better climate. We migrate to escape predators, birth our young, and seek opportunity. We migrate because the route is mapped in our genes, and because we yearn for change.

Porcupine caribou migration. Downloaded from http://www.learner.org.

At the top of the world, where everything is magnified, migration is a spectacular annual event. Whether it is porcupine caribou on the coastal plains, snow geese in the Matanuska Valley, or salmon in the Chilkat and Copper rivers, the astonishing number of individuals who gather in one spot year after year boggles the mind. And perhaps less visible but just as significant in shaping the Alaskan landscape are the waves of human migration that have washed over the state in the last several thousand years: the first inhabitants who crossed the Bering Land Bridge, Russian and British settlers, fortune seekers during the Gold Rush, and job seekers during the oil boom.

Sadly, with the onslaught of climate change, migration has taken on negative connotations. Increased warming has changed the Arctic environment. Some migratory birds now arrive too late in the spring and miss the most nutritious vegetation growth, sometimes causing massive die-off. The northern movement of shrubs is impacting caribou, muskoxen, and other animals that depend on tundra habitat. And several human communities are facing relocation due to severe erosion that threatens their villages and infrastructure. For months, I have agonized over this information, wondering how to write about it. What does this mean for our world and for us? Where is the poetic lesson? Where are the hidden metaphors that could point to possible ways forward?

Sunset on Kodiak Island. Photo: Chantal Bilodeau.

These questions were swirling in my head when, in September 2016, I participated in the first Citizen Artist Incubator hosted at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria. During the residency, I reached out to a number of scientists, including economist Jesus Crespo Cuaresma in the World Population Program and Ulf Diekmann, Program Director of the Evolution and Ecology Program. I asked about climate change and migration. I asked about evolution and intelligent design. And I asked about human nature.

In a cruel twist of fate, I lost the notebook that contained all this precious information a few months later, but two important points stayed with me. From Diekmann and his group, I learned that adaptation is a response to an immediate challenge. Then, as those challenges evolve, so does the response. In other words, any given species doesn’t start by migrating thousands and thousands of miles. The original migration was probably very short, but as the environment kept changing, the length of the journey slowly increased. The second point came from Crespo Cuaresma. After spending an hour poring over a Global Migration Data Sheet that showed human migration flows between 2005 and 2010 and discussing the pros and cons of immigration, I asked him if there was anything I could communicate in my work that he would like people to know. After the briefest of pauses, he said: “Migration is a positive thing.”

Downloaded from http://www.global-migration.info.

Sometimes changing the color of your lens makes a world of difference. I don’t mean to make light of the incredible hardship suffered by both humans and nonhumans who are forced to migrate under dire circumstances. But if we just put aside the cause for a moment and focus on the action itself, don’t we have plenty of reasons to rejoice? As an adaptation strategy, migration is an act of resistance. It’s the species learning to survive under new conditions. It’s life affirming its creative power.

Yes, we need to address climate change—even more urgently now that we have an administration determined to ignore it. Yes, we need to understand the risks and prepare for what’s to come. Yes, this is a scary time. But—and perhaps this is where the poetic lesson lies—let’s not forget all the ways in which we manage to survive. Let’s celebrate the determination and courage of those who either migrate for the first time or modify their age-old migration route. They are our climate change heroes.

I recently learned that beluga whales are delaying their migration south and staying in the Arctic longer because sea ice takes longer to freeze up each fall. Of course, we have no way to predict whether this will be a successful adaptation strategy, but while before, my first reaction would have been to fear for the beluga, today I say thank you. Thank you for adapting. Thank you for doing everything you can to survive. Thank you for giving me and the Earth the miracle of your continued existence.

(Top image: Traveling through the inside passage on the Alaska ferry system. Photo: Chantal Bilodeau.)

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Chantal Bilodeau is a playwright and translator whose work focuses on the intersection of science, policy, art, and climate change. She is the Artistic Director of The Arctic Cycle – an organization created to support the writing, development and production of eight plays that look at the social and environmental changes taking place in the eight countries of the Arctic – and the founder of the blog and international network Artists & Climate Change. She is a co-organizer of Climate Change Theatre Action, a worldwide series of readings and performances of short climate change plays presented in support of the United Nations COP meetings.


 

Artists and Climate Change is a blog 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 the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018)

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

We met Helen Mayer Harrison (along with Newton Harrison) in 2006 at a conference in Shrewsbury thanks to David Haley. We had the privilege to spend the next three years working with them to realise Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom, a project which prefigured their more recent work through the Center for the Study of the Force Majeure. It was through Greenhouse Britain that they first talked about the ‘form determinant’ which later became the ‘force majeure’.

“We suggest that the existing plans for greenhouse emissions control will be insufficient to keep temperature rise at 2° or less. In this context, the rising ocean becomes a form determinant. By “form determinant” we mean the ocean will determine much of the new form, that culture, industry and many other elements of civilization may need to take.” (Greenhouse Britain, 2007)

Throughout this time we heard Helen read from the end of their magnum opus, Lagoon Cycle, many times, in meetings and at events and performances. She read,

And the waters will rise slowly
at the boundary
at the edge
redrawing that boundary
continually
moment by moment
all over
altogether
all at once
It is a graceful drawing and redrawing
this response to the millennia of the making of fire

And in this new beginning
this continuously rebeginning
will you feed me when my lands can no longer produce
and will I house you when your lands are covered with water
so that together
we can withdraw
as the waters rise
(Lagoon Cycle, 1984)

Sometime she started slightly earlier in the text, with the list of rivers around the world, but she always read this last section and it always drew a deep, thoughtful silence.

Helen was the English Major with a Masters in Psychology who had worked in education extensively and to a senior level before becoming a full time artist and professor at the University of California San Diego. From this point she collaborated full time with Newton.

Living in New York in the early 1960s Helen had also been the first New York Co-ordinator of the Women’s Strike for Peace. As far as we remember she was also the one who had been reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a critical influence in Helen and Newton’s decision in the early 1970s ‘to do no work that did not in some way benefit the ecosystem.’

It is not useful to attempt to separate out who did what (or for that matter which one of them was the genius*). Rather it is useful to highlight that when we asked about their influences from literature, Helen mentioned Chaucer. You can see in particular works humorous comment on human frailty and weakness.

Helen had a lifelong interest in language, narration, storytelling, and the oral tradition. In San Diego the Harrisons were close friends with David and Eleanor Antin and with Jerome and Diane Rothenbeg. They were part of the ethno-poetic movement. Ethno-poetics as an aesthetic movement is concerned with the power and beauty of the spoken word. It is concerned to break out of the dominance in the Western tradition of the written word. Rothenberg pointed out,

“The suspicion came to be that certain forms of poetry, like certain forms of artmaking, permeated traditional societies ∓ that these largely religious forms not only resembled but had long since achieved what the new experimental poets & artists were then first setting out to do.” (Rothenberg, 1994)

Helen, in bringing a certain quality of literature into their practice, opened up the possibility that the “social ∓ spiritual as well aesthetic” (as Rothenberg puts it) can become intertwined. Whilst they recognised that boundary conditions were critical (just read their essay Public Culture and Sustainable Practices) they equally recognised that boundaries, “…seemed to exist only for a moment and thereafter fade back into a pattern of moments grouped within moments.” (Harrisons, 2001)

Helen introduced photography into their practice in addition to literature, but what is perhaps most remarkable about this partnership is that both photography and literature became part of a shared way of working and understanding the world.

In one of the articles which addresses their working together, they describe their process (speaking in the third person) as,

The work of the Harrisons has a great deal of writing in it. Their method is straightforward. Newton writes the initial text; Helen edits it, comments, and develops it, Newton comments, and Helen finishes it. Thus, they have evolved a very comfortable way of working where Newton has the first word and Helen has the last word. (Ingram Allen, 2008)

The two voices of the Lagoon Cycle, the Lagoon Maker and the Witness, are a very powerful evocation of the potential for two people to combine action and reflection in ways that lead to insight.

To touch and be touched by a life gives energy to the world. Helen gifted us with the energy to create, improvise and adapt to whatever life offers us, with humour, courage and with love. She achieved this through empathy, reaching out into the world and listening carefully without judging. Our first meeting created a quality of friendship and humanity that will be with us for the rest of our lives.

David Haley provides the final word,

I hear the warmth of her words
the passionate chill of her poetry
such fearless insight
such good fun
such a pleasure
such grace
(Helen, David Haley, 2018)

Anne Douglas and Chris Fremantle


* Apparently the MacArthur Foundation never gave them a Genius Award because the Foundation couldn’t decide which one was the genius.


References

Harrison, Helen Mayer and Harrison, Newton, 2001. From There to Here(San Diego: The Harrison Studio), unpaginated.

– 2007. Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom (Santa Cruz: The Harrison Studio & Associates (Britain)) pdf

– 1985. Lagoon Cycle. Ithica, NY: Cornell University

– 2007 ‘Public Culture and Sustainable Practices: Peninsula Europe from an ecodiversity perspective, posing questions to Complexity Scientists’, Structure and Dynamics: eJournal of Anthropological and Related Sciences: Vol. 2: No. 3, Article 3. http://repositories.cdlib.org/imbs/socdyn/sdeas/vol2/iss3/art3

Ingram Allen, Jane. ‘A Marriage Made On Earth: Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison’, Public Art Review, issue 38, spring/summer 2008, volume 19, number 2

Rothenberg, Jerome, 1994 Ethnopoetics at the Millennium A Talk for the Modern Language Association, December 29. http://www.ubu.com/ethno/discourses/rothenberg_millennium.htmlaccessed 26 March 2018.

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

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.

Go to EcoArtScotland

News: A living understanding of nature

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Exploring the space between contemporary art and ecological science to understand our natural world.

An enquiry into the possibility of a contemporary art practice to hone our sensory and intuitive capacity that we might gain an experiential understanding of our natural world. Picking up on Goethe’s plant studies and the desire of the Deep Ecology movement to value all life this short dissertation explores the ability of land art, environmental art, and ecological art to show us nature as it is so that we might experience it with our senses and contemplate our place within it. The focus of this enquiry is on plant growth and the soil that supports it. The document can be accessed at http://artdotearth.org/tina-scopa/and the Artplantae website.



The post News: A living understanding of nature appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.



 

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

TEDx Talk: Why Culture is the Key to Climate Change

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Creative Carbon Scotland’s Green Arts Project Manager Catriona Patterson was invited to present a TEDx talk at the TEDxUniversityofStrathclyde on February 17 2018. We’re sharing her talk below for World Poetry Day 2018, we’ll share the video once it is available.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the …

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date

Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

This quote is from Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare: potentially one of the most famous sonnets from one of the most famous writers in the world. Shakespeare calls upon our physical environment to woo his lover…I’d probably be convinced.

However, I’m also a bit of a cynic, and I spend a lot of time thinking about climate change. In the future, ‘summer days’ might not be quite so lovely: climate change predictions for the UK range around hotter and more stifling temperatures, and much more rain. In Scotland, we’re already receiving 27% more rain than we did in the 1960s. The ‘rough winds’ of May he’s talking about? Much more likely to be all year round, and much more extreme. 2011’s ‘Hurricane Bawbag’ doesn’t quite have the same romantic, poetic flair to it, but it might be a more contemporary (and accurate) reference point for those looking to impress me nowadays.

I show this to demonstrate just how ingrained are our culture and our climate, and how often the two are inextricably linked. I’m not here to convince you that climate change is real: we haven’t got time for that (not today, and actually not at all). But I am here to convince you that we can’t just consider issues of climate change to be something confined to scientists and policy makers.

Climate change is happening, and will continue to happen. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC, a international collaborative project, which combines the research and knowledge of 800 climate researchers to identify and publish expected trends), has said that:

  • Since the 1950s, the speed of the changes have been unprecedented, with increased temperatures, less snow, and sea levels rising.
  • Many aspects of climate change and associated impacts will continue for centuries, even if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are stopped tomorrow.
  • The risks of abrupt or irreversible changes increase as the magnitude of the warming increases.


Climate change is a huge physical threat to “the planet” (cute polar bears included), but mostly it’s a huge social, political and cultural threat to humans, to our society and to our way of life: our culture! Culture encompasses everything from our history, our homes, our language, our food, our architecture, our traditions: that which makes us people above all else. My concentration within this is on the arts: the visual, oral, audible manifestation of culture. Otherwise known as: TV, theatre, music, books, film, poetry.

I argue this: climate change is the biggest problem we’ve got, and we need to throw everything at it. The arts are an essential part of that. I’m going to give you a whistle-stop of tour why that’s the case, what’s happening already, and why “all the world’s a stage” should be taken more seriously.

The arts have always been central to how our society grows, shapes and develops, and this should, can and is extending to the biggest single issue of our time: climate change.

Art can show us where we’ve come from, and where we have been: 19th century romantic landscape painting was all about the aesthetics of the sublime – creating a picture-perfect view of rolling hills and dramatic valleys: imagery which we still use to describe the UK internationally. Our societal obsession and expectation of having a white Christmas can basically be traced back to Charles Dickens writing the weather into all of his novels.  Our whole cultural identity has been shaped by the words we read, write and listen to, and by the images and expressions we see reflected back to us from the walls of museums and galleries.

The arts can help us understand how we got here.

Art can explore the alternative realities and futures that we might face under new world conditions. Consider how George Orwell’s 20th century novel 1984 has been the warning and the prediction of the dystopian and tyrannical state which may result from surveillance and censorship. It still informs debates around data protection, net neutrality and the rights of the individual. It may be an extreme example of climate-disaster fiction (yes, it’s a genre!), but Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow did play out climate change impacts for the general population. We know that climate change is unlikely to happen quite that quickly, but it put climate change front and centre at the box office.

The arts can help us play out what might happen under different conditions.

Art can reflect our present, and the turmoil we currently face. It helps us make sense of the world around us – and sometimes more subtly than we expect. At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year, there were 61 shows about Brexit (including a musical, cabaret, theatre and comedy), helping everyone figure out quite what is going to happen – socially, at least. Skip a few verses into Rabbie Burns’ most famous poem, and you get straight into the existential questions around humans and their impact on the planet:

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

To a Mouse, Robert Burns

The arts can clarify and crystallise the issues of now.

Art is not merely a passive agent, serving to educate by translating concepts and science and make them more digestible. Art is an active agent of change, and we should consider, recognise and encourage this when we see it.  It’s a total cliche, but I might not be here today, were it not for Al Gore’s climate change documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and the Scottish Government making it mandatory viewing in all Scottish high schools in the late 2000s.

The arts can catalyse people’s lives.

There are already lots of examples where artists, writers, storytellers and others are explicitly tackling climate change head-on…

…in visual art. 

Jason deCaires Taylor’s ‘The Rising Tide’ combines images of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse (borrowing from historic cultural references), with the skeletal machinery of the oil industry. The sculptures were flooded twice a day with the ebb and flow of the tide of the Thames – a rise and fall which will become ever the more extreme as sea level rise impacts the capital.

…in literature.

There are novels, essays, short stories and poems dedicated to issues and concepts of climate: an issue where traditional scientific communication has failed, or actually turned people away from an issue that seems too difficult or too distant. Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – about a  scenario in which environmental concerns have created dystopia – was written in 1985 and adapted into an award-winning TV show. Jackie Kay, the National Poet for Scotland (our Makar) had her climate change poem published in the Guardian alongside 21 others from internationally renowned poets (her poem itself paraphrased another cultural reference point, riffing off The Wizard of Oz but talking about extinction: “No lions, no tigers, no bears!”).

Wizard Of Oz Bears GIF
 
…as figureheads in our culture.

Leonardo DiCaprio: arguably one of the biggest film stars of our time, upon finally receiving an Oscar for best actor, used his speech and his wider celebrity to talk about the urgency of climate change. More people listen to bigger voices.

“I am consumed by this…there isn’t a couple of hours a day where I’m not thinking about it. It’s this slow burn. It’s not ‘aliens invading our planet next week and we have to get up and fight to defend our country,’ but it’s this inevitable thing, and it’s so terrifying.”

…in our homes, through our televisions.

Blue Planet 2 was the most-watched TV programme of 2017, and although not explicitly about climate change, one of the episodes did feature a similarly complex environmental problem: plastic ocean waste. Since the episode has been broadcast:

  • Michael Gove, the UK’s Environment Secretary, said he was ‘haunted’ by the images;
  • Ullapool has banned plastic straws;
  • the Scottish Government has committed to banning plastic cotton buds;
  • hundreds of thousands have people have petitioned the UK government to take action on reducing ocean plastics and,
  • the Prime Minister has announced a 25 year plan to eradicate all plastic waste..

But the thing is…ocean plastic is not news! We’ve known about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch since the mid-1980s, but it’s taken an emotional, artistic and accessible presentation of the impacts to prompt this change to our wider culture. Moral of the story: get ‘national treasure’ David Attenborough to say it on a Sunday night to the great British public, they will take action!

These are just a tiny fraction of the countless examples of how our arts and wider culture are already taking on the mantle of climate change, but it’s still not enough. As audiences, consumers and producers of culture, we need to demand that our culture stares climate change in the face. 

Here are a few way that you can start to make this happen:

We need to celebrate and share examples of great work. It was a book that started the whole environmental movement – Rachel Carson’s 1962 book ‘Silent Spring’ – and both Al Gore and David Attenborough have cited it as influential to their work – but when was the last you heard about a great climate change book? With the advent of social media and ‘shareability of culture’, can you imagine if people recommended climate change art as they do that which focuses on romance or war? Could good climate change art go viral?

We need to challenge narratives that omit climate change. It’s irresponsible to ignore the existence of climate change, and it’s irresponsible to ‘leave it out’ of our current art forms and wider culture. Start asking questions of those art form you engage with:

  • Are there recycling bins in TV mockumentary ‘The Office’?
  • Are those electric cars they are driving Cars 3?
  • Is the protagonist in your crime fiction novel sipping on their black coffee from their re-useable coffee cup?
  • When the next sci-fi film comes out showing ‘the future’, is it a realistic depiction of what life will look like 1.5 degrees warmer?

We need to demand climate change be addressed more. Next time you’re watching a film – perhaps the next Avengers installment (filmed partly in Scotland: a country with some of the most stringent climate change targets in the world), see if, among the superhero technology, the superhero stunts, and the superhero morality…you can spot the concern for a very real threat to our species.

And so. I’d like to end at the beginning; back again with the bard:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

Climate change is the biggest problem we are facing as a species.
Culture and the arts are what make us human: they ‘give us life’.
Culture is the key to climate change.



The post TEDx Talk: Why Culture is the Key to Climate Change appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.




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.

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