Yearly Archives: 2018

Designed by Sapiens, Powered by Wind

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

I was invited by the European Cultural Centre to participate in its TIME SPACE EXISTENCE exhibit in Venice, one of several concurrent international exhibits organized during the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, which I wrote about previously here and here.

Six of my wind energy photographs are on display on the second floor of the historic Palazzo Mora in Venice through November 25, 2018.

Grand merci à @CanadainItaly, @QuebecItalia_it, @StillworkGroup et #EuropeanCulturalCentre pour m’avoir parrainé pour l’exposition Time-Space-Existence, Palazzo Mora, à Venise en parallèle de la biennale d’architecture de Venise 2018, jusqu’à 25 nov 2018

— Joan Sullivan (@CleanNergyPhoto) June 6, 2018

I am very pleased to reprint below the text from my Venice exhibit for members of our Artists and Climate Change community.

*  *  *

At the dawn of the Anthropocene, there is one constant: everything has changed.

Wise Man has changed. The pale blue dot has changed. The rules of the game have changed. Food/water/energy consumption have changed. Even our DNA has changed in response to all these changes.

Time is ticking… Are sapiens wise enough to halt the further destruction of the fragile ecosystems upon which their very existence depends?

I cling to the belief, with all my heart, that the answer to this question is yes. Perhaps we are not as wise as we think we are, but just wise enough to avoid irreversible climate change for generations, if not millennia, to come. Our clever brains have already designed a multitude of technological solutions to climate change. But we lack the political will to go to scale.

What is holding us back at this existential moment? How can we shift the global climate change conversation from despair to hope, from apathy to action?

I think the answer is right here in front of us, in this beautiful space, in this magical city of Venice. We need… artists!

Throughout history, artists have played pivotal roles challenging the status quo. From medieval court jesters to Lennon/Ono’s masterpiece Imagine, artists have cleverly disguised their lyrics and images as barbs that force our privileged overlords to recognize the truth.

As a photographer, I have found my artistic voice on the construction sites of utility-scale wind farms. Surrounded by heavy machinery, noise and dust, I seek moments of grace and timeless beauty. To me, an industrial wind turbine is not an electrified tower jarring the landscape. It is a beacon of hope, designed by sapiens, powered by nature. My intention is to seduce, to inspire others to visualize – to imagine – what a post-carbon world will look like.

In the past, it was imagination that propelled homo sapiens forward. In the future, it is imagination that will ensure our existence in a rapidly changing world.

It is urgent therefore, for artists and architects and all creative souls to take their rightful place at the table alongside scientists, engineers, city planners, journalists and politicians. Collectively, we must “imagine that which we know” according to the poet Shelley. Collectively, we must design a future of clean abundance and endless opportunity. Collectively, we must immediately start to build this future. A future that, according to architect Alice Guess, not only insures we will persist, but that persisting can be beautiful, comfortable, safe and functional.

The Holy Grail is within reach: a 100% post-carbon circular economy in our lifetimes. To get there, Wise Man needs to embrace the arts, culture and myth. If not, we will lose our humanity in the Human Age.

Joan Sullivan, renewable, energy, photographer, RE, renewable energy, wind, sunset, orange

(Top and bottom photos by Joan Sullivan.)

This article is part of the Renewable Energy series.


Joan Sullivan is a Canadian renewable energy photographer. Since 2009, Joan has found her artistic voice on the construction sites of utility-scale wind and solar projects. Her goal is to help others visualize – to imagine – what a post-carbon world will look like. Joan is currently working on a photo book about Canada’s energy transition. She also collaborates with filmmakers on documentary films that explore the human side of the energy transition. Her renewable energy photographs have been exhibited in group shows in Canada, the UK and Italy. You can find Joan on Twitter and Instagram


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: Grow Wild Creative Youth Project Funding – Apply Now!

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Have a creative idea inspired by UK native wildflowers, plants or fungi? Aged between 14-25? Get £500!

Get ready for an experience like no other and join Grow Wilds mission to empower young people aged 14-25 to develop a creative idea into a project that helps raise awareness about UK native wildflowers and fungi! This could include transforming a space, holding an event or giving a performance. We’re looking for project ideas that will excite other people to get involved and make an impact in the community.

Successful projects will receive £500 to turn their idea into a reality. You can use photography, music, drama, dance, film, visual arts or more to celebrate UK native wild flowers and fungi in fun and inventive ways.

Visit for information on how to apply and for project inspiration.

Next Deadline

Our Youth Project funding is part of a rolling programme, which means you can apply at any time. However, there are set points during the year when applications are reviewed.

A panel of young people from across the UK will meet at each point to decide which projects to fund.

To have your application assessed at the next panel meeting (Winter 2018), please apply by:

Midday on Friday 30 November


The post Opportunity: Grow Wild Creative Youth Project Funding – Apply Now! 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

How the World of Pedigree Sheep Breeding Is Similar to the Art World

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

The first thing she cheekily asks me when I enter her stunningly light, stylish, modern house on the south-eastern coast of Ireland is whether I expected to see a traditional farm. Perhaps the expression on my face reveals that I associate sheep farming with dark stuffy barns, thatched roofs hiding swallow nests, and the smell of animal dung mixed with hay. But I should have known better: this sheep farmer doubles as a red-lipsticked artist, a feminist with a keen eye for beauty and style. Naturally, her sheep farm wasn’t going to be like any other sheep farm.

Orla Barry owns a flock of fifty pedigree Lleyn sheep, which can be seen grazing in the lush fields below her house in County Wexford. She’s addicted to her animals, she immediately admits with a loving smile, as they always provide her with a legitimate reason to be outside. “Whether it’s for lambing season (helping sheep to give birth) or to retrieve a chicken escaped from its pen, there’s always something urgent, some animal that needs to be saved,” she states. Being on the farm is in her DNA; Barry’s father was a tillage farmer and her grandmother was a feminist who wrote for the Farmer’s Journal. Barry very much identifies with her grandmother as she too was “learning by doing.” That it was never her career plan to become a shepherd is evident when Barry describes her shockingly small profits selling lambs that end up as meat on our plates: “Scale is the only way to earn money with farming, the market is dominated by big meat factories.” Rather then scaling up, she got hooked to pedigree breeding and proved a keen and curious learner; this “learning by doing” philosophy entails, among other things, learning from her peers, becoming invested in the agricultural community, paying close attention at pedigree sales, talking to a lot farmers about pedigree breeding, and visiting many flocks.

Ireland Lleyn Competition, Tullamore National Livestock show. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The world of sheep breeding has clearly informed her artistic practice. Recent art videos include two performers sitting in a big pile of wool performing a fictional story inspired by her experiences at the pedigree sales, but mixing the perspectives of the buyer, the seller, the breeder and the animal that is being sold. And she doesn’t only play with humans and animals – gender roles and stereotypes are also addressed. “Pedigree breeding is a male dominated world and I have fun reversing some of the roles. Humor is a very important element in my work.” Some of her other videos are rather fable-like: cats turn into women (The Fable Of The Man Who Fell In Love With the Cat Who Became a Woman (And Still Devoured Mice)), people into bees (Humming at the Hive), and sheep talk (Pedigree Sales: Technique, Emotion, Poetry). For Barry, storytelling is an important political tool; it can re-connect people to the land and the animals. “The fact that we have largely lost this connection is part of the ecological problem. We have to become non-consumers and reconnect to things that cost nothing.”

Orla Barry, Breaking Rainbows (still), 2016–17. Video. Photo by Jed Niezgoda

Barry underlines that she is not a “sheep artist” (smiling). Rather, she is someone interested in language and in the relationship between agriculture and culture as well as in the tension between being a farmer and an artist. It is apparent where she gets her inspiration. Overheard conversations and snippets of interviews about the sheep buying-and-selling process constantly re-appear in her videos, giving the viewer a curious insight into this niche world. According to Barry, the art world and the world of pedigree sheep breeding are not too dissimilar. She explains that by analyzing the methods the pedigree breeders use to sell a sheep, she was able to see the art world through another lens: “Both are about storytelling and a certain form of speech. Art is also shaped by storytelling, it’s always someone’s view that is being sold. It’s all about emotion and poetry.” Barry goes on, explaining how she sometimes just falls in love with a sheep and looks for its “aura”, reminding me how art can be a magical yet irrational purchase, indeed similar to falling in love.

Pedigree sales. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Like in the arts, aesthetics play an important role when purchasing a pedigree animal. Barry is always looking for certain criteria so that, through careful breeding, she can build her “perfect sheep.” When I ask her what a “perfect sheep” looks like, she takes me into the field and explains how to judge a sheep. Of course, the criteria are different for different types of sheep but generally it’s about “the back, the pasterns, testicles, udders, and teeth.” As we walk through the field, she lifts one of the rams’ tail to show me what the perfect distance between the butt and the mid-length of the leg should be.

While I ponder over the art equivalent of the ram’s butt, she has already moved on: the chickens need to be treated for lice.

(Top image: Orla Barry, Breaking Rainbows (still), 2016–17. Video. Photo by Jed Niezgoda.)


Curator Yasmine Ostendorf (MA) has worked extensively on international cultural mobility programs and on the topic of art and environment for expert organizations such as Julie’s Bicycle (UK), Bamboo Curtain Studio (TW) Cape Farewell (UK) and Trans Artists (NL). She founded the Green Art Lab Alliance, a network of 35 cultural organizations in Europe and Asia that addresses our social and environmental responsibility, and is the author of the series of guides “Creative Responses to Sustainability.” She is the Head of Nature Research at the Van Eyck Academy (NL), a lab that enables artists to consider nature in relation to ecological and landscape development issues and the initiator of the Van Eyck Food Lab.


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