Yearly Archives: 2018

Kill Climate Deniers: What Happens When You Threaten Murder in the Title of Your Play?

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

In 2014, I wrote a play called Kill Climate Deniers. It’s the story of a group of eco-terrorists who take over Australia’s Parliament House during a Fleetwood Mac concert and hold the entire government hostage, demanding an instant end to climate change. It’s an action/hostage drama with a soundtrack of classic House and Techno from 1988-1992. The play was scheduled for a production with a company in my hometown of Canberra, Australia. We received $19,000 AUD from the local state arts council to do a script development of the work.

As soon as the funding announcement came out, a bundle of right-wing commentators (BreitbartInfowars, and their Australian equivalents) expressed shock and outrage at the play’s title. A local conservative politician called for the funding to be revoked. It’s a tale as old as time: provocative (clickbait) artwork meets professional outrage merchants.

The script had been accused of “incitement” by its critics, who had threatened to turn us in to the police. This normally wouldn’t worry me, but the Australian government had recently passed new anti-terror legislation with unclear consequences. It is now illegal in Australia, for example, to incite terror through “reckless use of language.” What does that even mean, and would the play run afoul of it?

Following the burst of media attention, we had to make the hard decision of canceling the Canberra production. I sat down with director Julian Hobba and we made the brutal call that without real financial resources we couldn’t do the production justice, and more importantly, we couldn’t protect our creative team from online blowback. So we shut down the work. And then we went to work.

The next step was to meet with our lawyers. I hired a legal firm to go through the script line by line to make sure there was no material that could blow up in my face. Expensive—$2,800 AUD to get the whole thing vetted—but really interesting to get that legal perspective. (And cheaper by far than going to court.) Once I’d gotten the all-clear that there was nothing in the work that could land me in jail, the next step was to tackle the media-sphere. Before this play could ever be produced, there needed to be content in the public domain that countered the rhetoric being blown about by the outrage merchants and climate deniers.

We put together a package of other material: an album (with musician collaborator Reuben Ingall), a short film (with my brother Tom Finnigan), an ebook, and a website(with designer friends New Best Friend).

When I say “album,” what I mean is, we recorded the whole script as a radio play (directed by Julian Hobba). Then Reuben composed an album of techno bangers, in the style of classic early ’90s rave music, and sampled dialogue from the radio play the way dance music often samples dialogue from movies.

This all-digital content meant that anyone who wanted to could access the work, instead of relying on what journalists had previously written. Putting this together took thousands of hours of work throughout 2015-16, and the contributions of many friends and collaborators who volunteered their time.

I gambled on the notion that the little flare-up of controversy around the play’s funding would result in an audience for the digital material. I was wrong. The album and ebook had to build up an audience more or less from scratch.

Photo by Sarah Walker.

We started at the You Are Here Festival in Canberra in April 2016. We held a panel to talk about political art (and whether it should ever be government funded), and then had a no-holds-barred dance party DJed by Reuben to launch the website and the first single from the album. I also did a solo retelling of the work.

When the album came out in September, we launched it with a special listening party at Parliament House. Unescorted audience members walked through the House listening on headphones to an audio tour style version of the album, complete with gunfire and explosions, in the parts of the building where the story takes place. That was an interesting hook that garnered us some good coverage, so that if someone Googled Kill Climate Deniers, they wouldn’t just find a bunch of angry blather on Breitbart or Infowars. Now the ground was clear for a company to actually produce the script.

Musician Reuben Ingall at Parliament House Listening Party. Photo by Sarah Walker.

Clearing all that nonsense to one side, though, brought back to light two key issues that had been obscured in the back and forth with the right-wing media.

1.  Is the play any good?

Controversy doesn’t mean you’ve written a good play. You can have a clickbait title and an attention-grabbing conceit, and have written a total piece of trash.

Some of my closest collaborators, the people whose opinions I trust more than my own, pushed me to keep forging ahead. First through the small amount of resistance, and then through a great deal of public indifference, they insisted that the work was interesting, funny, fun, and worth producing. They kept me pushing the project forward, finding new ways to animate the work and manifest it in the world. One of the points of having close collaborators is that you can trust them when you can’t trust yourself, so I did what they said, and finished the play.

In June 2017, the play was awarded the Griffin Playwriting Award. This September, it’s getting its first run in Long Beach, California, thanks to The Garage Theatre, in March 2018 it’s being produced by Griffin Theatre in Sydney. So, I’m telling myself that my friends weren’t wrong, it was worth it to persevere. But you never know for sure, and one of the ridiculous things about our art form is that you have to balance total conviction in your own practice with the deep certainty that you’re also a terrible writer and you’ve got a long way to go.

2.  Is this play counterproductive?

Some very thoughtful people, including my mum, said that calling the play Kill Climate Deniers is needlessly antagonistic, reinforces tribalism and aggression between left and right, and does harm to the climate movement. This is what someone commented on a Guardian article about the show:

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people will react to the title, having never or being ever intentioned to watch the actual play…That’s how you unintentionally mess the world up in a direction that runs opposite to your initial objectives.

Is this true? Maybe. But how do you measure these things? Certainly, this work isn’t going to change anyone’s mind, but it was never about that.

Kill Climate Deniers uses the right-wing deniers to amplify the conversation around the work in order to access some of the many people who’d never come see a play “IRL,” but who might read an article about a “controversy.” Artists can’t control what happens in that media-sphere—the best we can do is ride the wave—but putting the work in that public space does put us in dialogue with a huge number of people we’d never have connected with otherwise. We don’t have to be pleading for column inches—we can be smart, we can make our own platforms, however compromised they may be.

I think, as artists, we can make the media work harder for us.

“But David, if most people reading about the work just hear a clickbait title and see some right-wing anger, aren’t you switching off people who might otherwise be productively engaged in climate activism.? Aren’t you worse off than when you started?”

Maybe. Maybe. I don’t think so, I doubt it, but maybe.

Stay live to that possibility. Keep asking the question. Keep looking for evidence that you’re wrong. Keep being ready to change your mind, change direction if you need to. Keep trying. Keep focused.

Good luck to all of us, I think. Here’s a song for you.

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David Finnigan is a writer, theatremaker and pharmacy assistant from Canberra. He is a member of science-theatre ensemble Boho and an associate of Coney and the Sipat LawinEnsemble. David is a Churchill Fellow and an Australia Council Early Career Fellow. David is online at davidfinig.com.


 

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

On Water Rights Residency

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

This is the final blog from Holly Keasey written in October some months after her return from Santa Fe. Holly reflects on her apparent diversion from her intentional misunderstanding of the ‘rights’ in Water Rights to be equivalent to the ‘rights’ in Human Rights. The delay in publishing it is entirely the responsibility of the ecoartscotland editor.

We have come a long way. But we still have a long way to go. There is still today a frontier that remains unconquered — an America unclaimed. This is the great, the nationwide frontier of insecurity, of human want and fear.

President Roosevelt, radio address on the Third Anniversary of the Social Security Act, 1938


Taken at the Bradbury Museum, Los Alamos.

It has been over three month since I left Santa Fe and a month since my first attempt, to write this final post – an attempt that hammers home the difference of focused residency periods and trying to creatively think in between paid employment. To try and find my way back into the particular space I created for myself whilst at the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI), I turned my attention to questioning why – when I set out to investigate how to establish a role for critical public art practices, and what shifts in public arts policy are necessary to facilitate such practices by focusing on the role of policy and particularly water rights – did I end up spending the majority of my time in New Mexico conducting an ‘Atomic Tour’. Is there a reasoning to this shift or did I get distracted?

Whilst in New Mexico, I had the pleasure of meeting Sherri Brueggemann, the Albuquerque Public Arts Officer, who explained that the Albuquerque Public Arts Policy, though drafted as an adaptive policy, is predominantly dictated by a requirement of acquisition by the Albuquerque City Council. In short, the commissioning of object-based art that therefore has a long-term economic value and can be seen as a physical addition to their public art collection. For me, this legally stated requirement, and simultaneous reduction of public art to the manifestation of an monetarily-valued object, presents a clear link to a mind-set that is embedded in property.

As has been reiterated in a previous post, water rights are also directly linked to property, and hence property rights, in that they are focused on a possession-to-use/entitlement-to-ownership ethos. Yet, due to an on-going interest in the expansive role of water, I was interested in how this could be swung into a relation with human rights ( the “rights” inherent in being human, to do or to have simply because they are human) through a simple play-on, or rather, intentional (mis)interpretation of language. What is water allowed to be, to do and to have simply because it is water? And how could such an ethos be applied to all living beings and elements of the Earth? And what effect would this have on humanity’s current resource-focused trajectory if we were to accept and take on board such rights? This led me to consider if non-specialists in policy could misinterpret a policy – or rather interpret it differently whilst legitimising their reasoning for this interpretation of language. Is there a potential to give and in giving policy multifaceted meanings?

To understand the potential of this shift (or strategy of misinterpretation), I chose to conduct site-responsive re-search into the role of water and property rights in New Mexico, which in turn led me to be ‘willingly lost’ in the history of the nuclear as a significant specificity to New Mexico’s history. An inescapable element of my ‘Atomic Tour’ was the development of nuclear weapons and a need to understand what drove such an invention, its use and continued use as a method for ensuring maintained peace – a peace facilitated by threat and fear.

The construction of ‘property’ and it’s relationship with fear also led me to the ‘Atomic Tour’. In 1900, over 12,000 Japanese citizens immigrated to the U.S. mainland, many just released from indentured labor with Hawaii’s 1898 annexation. California became a focal area for settling and farming a key economic foundation for the Japanese population. However, the sudden increases in Japanese immigration spurred the spreading of the xenophobic theory of the ‘Yellow Peril’, with some fearing that the Japanese were attempting to overtake white control of California’s farmland. This resulted in the implementation of The California Alien Land Laws of 1913 and 1920, that prohibited “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning agricultural land or possessing leases over it or owning of stock in companies that acquired such land.

Although only one early action in an extensive web of global imperialist territorial power struggles, trade route deals and resource embargoes that ultimately led to the attack on Pearl Harbour and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945 respectively – the California Alien Land Law, for me, epitomises the driving relations in a number of dimensions. The Act highlights the role of policy in the formation and maintenance of a static national identity as a meditation on the significance of land as property. Finally it makes clear the invisible violence located in such policy-making that is implicitly driven by a fear of the ‘other’ or how I would term a fear of the uncontrollable potential located in difference.

Psychological Operations leaflet. Image taken at the Bradbury Museum, Los Alamos.

Nicolas Bromley writes that, ‘…force and violence are the nemesis of property and their frequent use is a signal that a property regime is faltering…’ and yet that, ‘…law requires the construction of a constituted outside with reference to, and against which, it sets itself apart. And violence is integral to its construction.’ The development, imagined-threat, use and now threat-as-use of the nuclear bomb, therefore could be seen as the site where literal and imaginings of the extremes of globalised property as an individual right, and therefore the fear such a notion requires and perpetuates, are given location.

From such a large-scale look at property, I return to looking further at the current implications of gentrification in which the antithesis to property is embodied by the indigent, the homeless and the renter,

‘…the poor are, if anything, imagined as a threat to property, not only because of their assumed complicity in property crime but also because, by their presence, they destabilize property values, both economically and culturally.’

It is in this act, of identifying ‘threats’ and establishing a legal policy of property rights to ensure security, that simultaneously identifies a feared ‘other’ that must always sit out-with a law in order to maintain the need for a law, that I feel there is a use in noticing a scalable relation between gentrification and the emotional underpinning of the nuclear. Yes, gentrification is embedded in a capital-based power system that thrives on establishing replicable exclusivity and social divides, but in order to dream of an alternative, maybe there is use in investigating how we approach and deal with that which we fear, especially in relation to difference and our prioritised entitlement to survival which currently manifests as possession-to-use.

From the above approach, I wish to move from property back to water, and water rights. In a previous post, I spoke of the Santa Fe River as a site of complexity. Site as verb – the act of giving location. This understanding of the river, and water more generally, does not so easily allow a single concept of rights as the regulation of distributing powers to control valued resources.

I wonder if it is here that I am also able to locate a site to develop potential towards ecological-sensitivity in developing multi-faceted interpretations of policy, through a focus on water rights? A form of policy that is shaped through giving location to difference and hence not responding to fear as something to be excluded, but rather an emotion we must learn to sit with until difference itself, rather than specifically that which is identified as different, unknowingly shifts to the familiar. Could the formation of such an idea be developed by reflecting on my own process of overcoming the fear of feeling out-of-place, due to constant travelling? By allowing myself to get lost and over-time become familiar and give-site to my fear through a relational and scalar approach to the fear embedded in the nuclear? And how could the development of a critical public artwork that focuses on policy, gentrification and property act as a generative challenge to legal regulations that stipulate that Public Art practices must result in an acquisition, either as an object or even as Culture for the purpose of increasing capital-attractiveness of an area?

I will continue to develop this as part of my body of work that considers Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) as a theoretical modelling system for alternative forms of urban planning and where my practice, that focuses on water as a tool to criss-cross theory and ecological concerns, could be situated within such a model as a challenge for critical formations of public art practice.


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.

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Voices of Ecological Memory

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

In my recent projects, I have undertaken art-science investigations where a fusion of creative and scientific sensibilities can result in new ways of knowing and enable the emergence of novel approaches to creative inquiry where art and science are on equal footing for research – art informing science and science informing art.

With the overwhelming inundation of complex data, to find our way in the saturated drift that has re-characterized the ecological world, we must explore the possibilities of new sensoria to elucidate meaning and compose and configure accessible and novel interpretations.

My approach in these transdisciplinary investigations has been to facilitate access to new sensoria (sound, image and tangible interactions) to unveil innovative realizations, associations and insights into the fragility of ecological and biological patterns and conditions. These projects have creatively examined the concepts of the re-narration of extinction, the emergence of life, biological time and the essential links of bioculturalism to man’s cosmological placement.

The bio- and ecoinformatic data sources I work with can be from my field sampling, from sources shared with collaborating scientists or from open source public databases from the US, Europe or Asia. Initially my projects build up a sonic or visual foundation that was transcoded from proteomic and/or genomic information – i.e. protein or DNA/genetic sequence data is converted to sonic/visual sequence through custom-built software. I spent a number of years composing media (sonic and video) as works or sound objects from the genomes and/or expressed proteins of extinct or endangered species – specifically, species that were lost to the human hand in the 19th and 20th centuries, and conceivably species that our great grandparents could have seen daily and now we will never witness. This process gives me both a scientific transcoding platform to think and listen through as I further explore immersive content that I need to witness and acquire.

In light of our current environmental circumstances we have been presented with critical prospects for listening. It is implicit that the realizations of climate change will greatly impact acoustic ecologies – the core of acoustic variability is carried by the basic factors of temperature and humidity. On the bioacoustic side the induction of birdsong and auditory pathways is driven by environmental factors. As immediacy – in January 2017 reports of climate warming causing major shifts in the way sound moves in the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort Sea came in from the scientists at Woods Hole.

A channel in the ocean called the Beaufort Lens will undoubtedly change the acoustic ecologies and communication dependencies for species in this Arctic biome. Our consciousness of the fragility of acoustic ecologies needs even more attention – this erosion is yet one more cascade happening before us, and one that we should now be listening attentively for.

In continuing this creative line of inquiry, in 2016, I became engaged through the National Academies (of Science, Engineering and Medicine) Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) in a collaborative research project with the visionary composer Dr. Jonathan Berger of Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). NAKFI is an initiative aimed at breaking open high-risk and novel ways of collaborating and knowing in the sciences. 2015-16 was the first time NAKFI converged scientists and artists together in their think tank style collectives. Our hybrid investigation, Project ECAT (EcoAcoustic Toolkit), is a collaborative art-science investigation to advance the creative and scientific literacy of ecoacoustics.

To broaden ecoacoustic literacy we are developing new openly accessible digital sound recording hardware and software that can result in the three-dimensional resolution of ecological soundscapes. For example, we are developing methods for the recording of three-dimensional sounds in a number of Western Hemisphere at-risk ecologies where we can characterize the acoustics of a canopy forest space to understand the auralization or the way that sound travels, reflects and resonates in the natural ecological space. Through these methods we can model and archive three-dimensional acoustic environments for later reference for ecological protection and preservation. These tools will be made available to artists, scientists and citizen scientists.

Impulse response recording, Project ECAT, Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Communal Reserve, Amazon primary forest, Loreto Province, Peru.

To date, this project has been fieldwork intensive and has taken our recording sessions to far ranging remote field sites in the Western Hemisphere to spatially characterize the endangered and at-risk ecological soundscapes of the Amazon rainforest, the Peruvian cloud forests, the Cordillera Blanca of the Andes, the California redwoods and the ancient primary forests of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

Infrared clearcut, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Infrared digital photograph, Timothy Weaver, 2017.

In parallel to my time in the outback, Jonathan has done intensive development and creative work to advanced methods of 3D Ambisonic recording and auralization of archaeoacoustic and architectural spaces in Rome. He has produced multiple installation and new compositional works focusing on the notions of climate change and extinctions in the historical times of the Roman Empire. Project ECAT’s base methods for spatial sound characterization have been adapted from work conducted in the field of archaeoacoustics and primarily informed from a project base investigated at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) by Dr. Miriam Kolar and Dr. Jonathan Abel.

Wayfinding, Quebrada, Quilquewanka, Cordillera Blanca, Peru. Infrared digital photograph, Timothy Weaver, 2017.

In this our final year of this project we are building advanced 3D recording methods, solidifying our archive of auralization and ecoacoustics data and prototyping the ecoacoustic software and hardware toolkits we will be introducing. We are especially excited that we are now applying the results of our tool development and field sampling to new experimental sounds compositions, multimedia performance and interactive installations to creatively convey the fragile nature of ecological soundscapes to public audiences. Our initial prototype works are utilizing voice interactivity in a call-and-response configuration that places a participant’s voice into the virtual space of an endangered ecoacoustic soundscape as they recite classic texts from various cultural insights into the sacredness of forests. Through our custom software and hardware, the audience participant calls into the virtually modeled forest and their own voice responds back to them in the spatial ecological memory of the reanimated space.

The hope is that audience engagement with such immersive experience may re-mediate the patterns of lost ecological memory as a means of facilitating a discourse into the fragility and elusiveness of life in a time of cascading extinctions.

(Top image: ArthropodaChordataConiferophyta, live cinema performance, Timothy Weaver, 2013-15.)

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Timothy Weaver is a new media artist, life scientist and bioenvironmental engineer whose concerted objective is to contribute to the restoration of ecological memory through a process of speculative inquiry along the art | science interface. His recent interactive installation, live cinema, video and sonic projects have been featured at FILE Hipersonica (Brazil), Transmediale (Berlin), New Forms Festival (Vancouver), Subtle Technologies (Toronto), Korean Experimental Art Festival, Museum of Modern Art (Cuenca, Ecuador), the Seattle Center, the Denver Art Museum, Boston CyberArts, SIGGRAPH, the New York Digital Salon & the National Institutes of Health (Washington, DC). Timothy is Professor of Emergent Digital Practices specializing in biomedia, sustainable design and emerging forms of interactive expression at the University of Denver, Denver Colorado.


 

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

Alternative to single use plastic cups

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Single-use plastic, and particularly the use of single-use plastic cups and coffee cups, is an increasingly important area (socially, politically and legally) for organisations wanting to reduce their environmental impact. We’ve developed a new resource to explain where the major issues lie, and what alternatives may be available for cultural organisations.

Plastic has long been a visual representation of environmental impact, but the issue has risen up the agenda rapidly recently across many parts of society. The Scottish Government has pledged to ban single-use plastics by 2030 and there are initiatives to reduce plastic springing up across the country.

Members of the Green Arts Initiative have identified single-use plastic cups as a key issue in the Green Arts community over the past 12 months. There’s already a good deal of evidence of Green Arts Initiative members taking action including HebCelt festival which runs its own reuseable cup scheme, Film City Glasgow offer a discount for customers using their own mugs, MacRobert has created a ‘takaway cup recycling station’ to reduce their waste contamination and Dundee Rep is considering moving to compostables (and Fife Contemporary already does).

To help you to be part of the solution we’ve pulled together a resource on single-use plastics, with a special focus on single-use cups which are a common issue across various types of cultural organisations. This new resource is designed to help you to start taking action to manage your organisation’s plastic use, and outlines points to consider as you get under way.

Single Use Plastic Cups: The Alternatives



The post Resource launched for alternatives to single use plastic cups 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

If We Do Nothing

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

My project if we do nothing began as a simple concept born of a failure to comprehend the endless streams of visual data on climate change. My idea was to sonify climate change data. The dynamics of climate change’s various drivers, for example rising CO2 or disappearing Arctic sea ice, would be represented in sound. I wanted to exploit sound’s advantages over forms of visual representation, principally its potential to afford immediate transformational experiences. Sound, as a phenomenological reality in itself, invites audiences to feel the movement of data, offering unique perceptions of the abstract complexities of climate change data.

Whether this concept was somewhat pessimistic or entirely realistic I can’t say for certain, but the more I looked into developing global scenarios, the more I understood that human-induced climate change is a civilizational problem and that the artistic community is as well placed as any to generate fresh thinking. I came to appreciate some of the differences between strictly media-specific arts and the contemporary eco-arts. The former exists within largely self-enclosed modes of production and presentational forms (I myself work almost uniquely with sound). Art/science collaborations on the other hand thrive on complexity and transdisciplinarity and are often oblivious to the imperatives of the established art world. My research brought me face-to-face with current lines of inquiry into adaptation, sustainability, the conditions and limits of science, and the importance of artistic endeavor in reframing the important questions.

Coding and sonifying climate change data.

I began with “big data” – representations of rising global CO2 and falling glacier mass (Switzerland’s Aletsch Glacier). Data monitoring for these two goes back some time; I chose 1880 as a starting date, around the time when the effects of the industrial revolution kick in, and took forward projections up to 2050, when tipping points are predicted to cause chaotic or irreversible conditions. My initial model, using glissandi (sliding tones), ran into problems having to do with the unpleasant effect of very high frequencies on the ear. I set this model aside and, with specialist assistance, looked instead at pulsar synthesis, an exciting research field in contemporary electronic music. As the name implies the sounds are small pulses or ticks, each with an element of pitch embedded in them. The speeding up and slowing down of the ticks offers a robust and convincing representation of the data sets. The synthesis modules were coded to produce almost infinite variations of the model, as well as a suite of choices with respect to duration and other parameters. Here you can listen to variations of the model with further details.

Next, I developed a model exploring one unique phenomenon. One of my original ideas had been to create a permanent fixed installation that would sonify real-time (or near real-time) data. My cryosphere colleagues gently (but firmly) convinced me that this would be impossible with big data as the changes are too slow to be perceived on scales of less than a decade. We agreed eventually on the idea of investigating arctic sea ice, the volume of which is disappearing at an alarming rate. Revisiting the method of taking historical data and projecting forward using best estimates, I gathered data mapping the disappearance of sea ice from 1980 (earliest records) to 2080, when some predict it will have disappeared altogether. The model uses two tones, high and low, representing ice levels a century apart. A sweeping tone between the two at a user-defined interval emphasizes the difference. The simplicity of these models honors a fundamental principle of sonification.

From Elizabeth Nyman and Jeff Leer, Gágiwduł.àt: Brought Forth to Reconfirm. The Legacy of a Taku River Tlingit Clan.

With large-scale research projects, you often find yourself taking unforeseen detours. I was drawn to a consideration of adaptation from the perspective of indigenous communities living in and around the Arctic rim. With advice from anthropologists and climate scientists at the University of Aberdeen I learned that many such communities, though at great risk, are arguably better prepared, culturally and historically, than urban Europeans to adapt to and survive the effects of climate change. This led me to examine indigenous knowledge systems, myths, and stories of communities living in the North American and Siberian arctic regions. I provided a colleague specializing in these indigenous languages with specific “semantic fields” – key words and concepts around environment, weather, migration, and so forth. He in turn provided me with native language texts, pronunciation notes, and translations. I spent several weeks learning details of pronunciation and intonation, then read and recorded both originals and translation. My recorded voice was synthesized and transformed using customized software. Next, I looked at the United Nations literature for what I’d call “authoritative texts” related to the themes of the indigenous texts. These procedures led me to the largely ethnographic problem of the incommensurability of worldviews, or the porosity of knowledge, for example the differences between Western science and myth in defining and explaining the universe. I took the view that indigenous environmental knowledge, often inscrutable, irrational or non-rational, is itself a form of data (data = something given). A short excerpt of this model, using two bodies of text, can be auditioned here. 2019 will see a longer four-channel immersive work based on four bodies of text.

My fourth model takes me to (near) real-time data sonification. Where I live in the semi-rural Scottish Borders, the air is assumed to be relatively clean. I’m currently looking at ways of gathering, contrasting, and sonifying air pollution data from both rural and urban monitoring sites. To complicate matters, an environmental agency engineer pointed out that the Scottish rural air is often heavily polluted due to the proximity of methane sources (cattle) and drifting pollutants from continental Europe. My hope is that this localized model will ground the debate, drawing in people and communities, fostering discussion around local transport, food production, housing, land use, sustainability, and adaptation. I’m also investigating river level monitoring and the idea of creating sonic warning mechanisms to alert people to possible flood conditions, an undertaking that includes gathering stories from land and river workers around ad hoc adaptations to local effects of climate change.

Listening pavilion, proposed design. Old School Fabrications, East Lothian, Scotland.

All four models will be presented in the first instance as sound installations, with textual and other support. As part of the funding from Creative Scotland, and bearing in mind the importance of public engagement in the project, I had a pavilion designed to house the work. Finally, an open forum has been arranged in Dumfries in February 2018 to design and plan a series of future symposiums on eco-art, the aesthetics of sustainability, resilience, and emergence.

2018 is production year, during which I’ll be seeking partnerships with venues, curators and funders. I welcome any contact and will be happy to provide further details.

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James Wyness works across experimental music, radio art and eco-art. Developed in collaboration with partners from the creative, scientific, academic, engineering and civic communities, his current projects include the sonification of climate change data, and radiophonic investigations into language, the voice and listening. As an eco-artist, his interests converge on future sustainable ecologies, incommensurate epistemologies and conflicting understandings of the environment. His musical practice spans the improvisational, electroacoustic and electronic traditions. He works from a definition of music as an investigation of complexity and instability, a phenomenology of emerging forms manifesting deep-seated anthropological functionality, sound-as-sound over sound-as-sign.


 

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

Report: Farther, Faster, Together.

Helicon’s new report, developed in partnership with ArtPlace America and informed by conversations: Farther, Faster, Together: How Arts and Culture Can Accelerate Environmental Progress. For this research, they delved deeply into energy, water, land, waste, toxic pollution, and climate resilience and adaptation. Across the board, Helicon heard about five things that environmental sector leaders believe we need to do in order to secure a sustainable future:

  • Spark public demand
  •  Build community capacity and agency
  •  Bridge scales
  •  Enrich and activate the built environment
  •  Nurture sustainable economies

This report explores how arts and cultural approaches amplify and accelerate progress in these five areas, and shares examples of bright spots doing this work.

Environmental sustainability is at its root about the health and integrity of our natural ecosystems the places where we all live, work, and play.This report lays out a framework for understanding how place-based arts and cultural interventions are advancing sustainability outcomes for communities.

Click The article cover below to start reading below and share!

Follow their innitiatives:   ArtPlace blogFacebook pageInstagram and Twitter.

 

 

Events by York University

Join York University’s celebration of the Las Nubes Project and the Cultural and Artistic Practices for Social and Environmental Justice Certificate (CAP) on March 8th.

The evening will feature performances by Costa Rican Artist Guadalupe Urbina and/or Toronto’s own Long Branch and talented York University faculty and students. You won’t want to miss these stellar performances and reconnecting with friends of Las Nubes and CAP!



About Guadalupe Urbina
A multidisciplinary Costa Rican Artist, Urbina’s music explores social issues including gender roles, the environment and the cultural identity of Costa Rica.

March 8 at 6:30pm
Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St W. Toronto

Tickets: $10
Students FREE with ID or PWYC at the door 

BUY TICKETS AT: 
go.yorku.ca/lula-18

Dinner Reservations guarantee seating
call Lula Lounge at 416.588.0307 to make arrangements


About Long Branch
With four formidable frontwomen supported by nuanced, driving rhythms, Long Branch’s songs tell stories of overcoming hardship with grit and determination.March 8 at 10:00pm
Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St W. Toronto

 

Tickets: Students FREE with ID or PWYC at door

RSVP AT: go.yorku.ca/lula-18

The Eco-Arts Media Festival Cabaret
At 10pm following Urbina’s dinner performance, stay for the programming associated with Eco-Arts and Media Festival Cabaret. The evening will also feature a cabaret of performances by students and faculty from York University.