Yearly Archives: 2019

B. D. Owens reviews ‘Water Makes Us Wet’

Water Makes Us Wet: An Ecosexual Adventure, a film by Dr Beth Stephensand Dr Annie Sprinkle which premiered at Documenta 14, defies any easy genre categorisation.

This film about H2O both charmed and surprised me. It is an artwork, a documentary, a sexy and outrageously fun (sometimes turbulent) love story and a valuable multi-layered chronicle of environmentalist activism. It incorporates a vibrant patchwork of film styles including: sweeping aerial landscape shots, experimental video art, animation and relaxed conversational interviews. These are threaded together by narration from the often aggrieved character of ‘their lover, the Earth’ (performed by Dr Sandy Stone, University of Texas). One of the engaging interviews is with the Distinguished Professor Donna Haraway during a visit in her garden.

Later in their Adventure, Stephens and Sprinkle (Annie’s feet clad with rather impractical shoes) are guided through the San Bernardino National Forest by Steve Loe, a retired U.S Forest Service biologist. Together, they battle through thorny bushes, on a steep dusty mountain side in the Strawberry Creek watershed, to witness for themselves the reckless and exploitative water extraction by the Nestlé corporation.

Through the duration of the film, Stephens and Sprinkle have embedded a trail of semiotic code that those ‘in the know’ will be amused to discover. To provoke and tease further curiosity, the film’s content warning declares that it contains “environmental destruction, explicit Ecosexuality and performance art”. In addition to focusing upon their own artwork, they generously platform the performances of several of their Ecosexual artist colleagues including: The Reverend Billy TalenDragon Fly (aka Justice Jester), Guillermo Gómez-PeñaBalitronicaSaul Garcia Lopez and Judy Dunaway. You might also spot a cameo appearance by Dr Laura Guy (Newcastle University).

For the initiated, Dr Annie Sprinkle (artist, sexologist, educator, researcher and activist) carries legendary clout from performance artworks and films that she produced in the 1980s & 90s, which includes a collaboration with renowned experimental composer Pauline Oliveros. Annie Sprinkle has shown her works at hundreds of festivals, museums and galleries such as the Guggenheim (NYC) and Glasgow’s Centre of Contemporary Art – during the Bad Girls Season (1994), which was curated by the trail-blazing Nicola White. The epic art, activism and education collaboration between Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens (interdisciplinary artist, researcher, activist and professor) began in 2002. Through their longterm partnership they founded the E.A.R.T.H. Lab (Environmental. Art. Research. Theory. Happenings.) based at the University of California Santa Cruz.

Throughout Water Makes Us Wet: An Ecosexual Adventure, Stephens and Sprinkle gradually introduce the viewers to the E.A.R.T.H. Lab’s areas of research in which they are pioneers; ‘Sexecology‘ (which links sex and ecology) and ‘Ecosexuality’ (a previously undefined sexual orientation). In their words,

Ecosexuality [is] an expanded form of sexuality that imagines sex as an ecology that extends beyond the physical body. [… Furthermore] Ecosexuality shifts the metaphor ‘Earth as Mother’ to ‘Earth as Lover’ to create a more reciprocal and empathic relationship with the natural world.

In one film sequence, they ‘anoint’ the ‘E’ of ‘Ecosexual’ into the LGBTQIA ‘alphabet’ during a jubilant ceremony performance in the San Francisco Pride Parade. Although Stephens and Sprinkle live and work in California, they have performed marriage vows to their Earth “lover” in various places in North America and Europe. These exuberant and sincere wedding ceremonies have, on occasions, become socially engaged artworks because the artists have invited others to join them in taking these vows of love and commitment to the Earth. In this way, they have used performance art as a means of radically shifting perspective in order to re-invigorate interest in environmental protection and climate change.

Because California has been ravaged by drought, destructive flash floods and ever-worsening, catastrophic wild fires, Stephens and Sprinkle have seen, first hand, the devastating, unpredictable and extreme effects of climate change. Concerns for the Earth’s wellbeing, moved the filmmakers to take a tour of the watershed, ‘wet spot’, map of California, to learn more about their relationships with the waters of their beloved. They spent intimate time with the Pacific Ocean, immersed themselves in physical union with pristine Big Creek (Big Sur) and shared lamentation with lakes and parched wildlife. On their expedition, they discovered some upsetting truths about pollution and corporate water ‘mining’. Whereas, they were buoyed by the news of intervention methods which clean and recycle water in both domestic and agricultural sectors. Some of their stops included visits with water treatment plant workers, biologists and a party of elephant seals. There were also some sweet and tender moments when they dropped by to see Annie Sprinkle’s family. In this film, there seems to be a greater emphasis upon Annie Sprinkle’s life-long Ecosexual liaisons with water. But, they perhaps made this directorial choice because their first documentary collaboration, Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story (2014), focuses upon the Earth’s Appalachian Mountain region, where Beth Stephens grew up.

Although Ecosexuality does not seem confined to the LGBTQIAE communities, and appears to extend through and beyond any (and all) sexual orientations and genders, it makes sense that Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle are pioneers in this pool. It is not only their own personal life histories that have led them to this place, but also the broader intermingling creative culture, communities and landscapes in which they have lived and loved. What comes to my mind, when listening to the recital of the Ecosexual Manifesto, is that these said “skinny dippers, sun worshipers and star gazers” (among others) populate the Radical Faerie Sanctuaries, the many Queer nude beaches, as well as the diligently sought out ‘secret’ swimming holes, deep in the forests. And those notorious Queercore punks in Olympia, who made a mud wrestling pit in their back garden (circa 1998), were possibly Ecosexuals too.

In some respects, there may be some cross pollination between Sexecology and Process-Relational Philosophy. However, Dr Sara Ahmed’s opening comments in her essay, Orientations: Toward a Queer Phenomenology, may offer more immediate insights:

“If orientation is a matter of how we reside in space, then sexual orientation might also be a matter of residence, of how we inhabit spaces, and who or what we inhabit spaces with.”

But, for those who might be sceptical, it could be argued that the roots of Ecosexual representations are clearly present in Lesbian and Feminist experimental film & video such as Barbara Hammer’s groundbreaking 16mm film Dyketactics (1974) and Shani Mootoo’s video Her Sweetness Lingers (1994). In addition, the literary groundings may have been laid out in the writings of Mary Oliver and Rachel Carson.

Whether they are ‘marrying’ the Earth’s bodies of water in lavish performance ceremonies or playing with sexual innuendo, Stephens and Sprinkle use mischievous humour and absurdity as useful tools to allow respite from heaviness and to enhance audience engagement. Water Makes Us Wet: An Ecosexual Adventure is a film in good company. In my opinion, it is among some of the most memorable and humorous screen-based Feminist performance art, a category in which I include Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno series (2008-2009). In a series that plausibly falls into Ecosexual territory, Rossellini has also demonstrated that absurd humour in performance art can be a remarkably effective tool for education.

Water Makes Us Wet: An Ecosexual Adventure is aimed at, and has the potential to reach, a wide variety of publics. Even though there are ongoing intimate discussions, mild nudity and displays of Ecosexual affection throughout the duration of this ‘Adventure’, there is a surprising ambiance of innocence and a refreshing lack of cynicism. It will likely draw the interest of: Environmentalists, Artists, Art Academics, Intersectional Feminists, Wild Swimmers, members of the LGBTQIE communities, Geography students and perhaps Process-Relational thinkers. As a consequence, it would add much to programmes in: film societies, art galleries, museums and university class rooms. There may be some who will claim that this film does not delve down far enough into some of the topics that it covers. However, it could be seen as an access point to deeper discussions about climate change, pollution, the Anthropocene, settler colonialism, Indigenous Water Protectors, sexual orientations and socially engaged/activist art practice. And, perhaps it could be a primer for films such as This Changes Everything (2015) and Water on the Table (2010) which provide more in-depth analysis of multinational corporate control of water and the impacts of capitalism upon climate change.

But, there are some things that have been lingering in my mind. I have been reminiscing about what might constitute my own Ecosexual journey: Skinny dipping after sundown, our bodies tracing phosphorescent trails in the dark waters of English Bay. Night sky gazing, transfixed by the Perseid meteor shower, warm beach-sand at my back. And, scaling majestic snowy Seymour in the brilliant Spring sunshine, with a romantic Radical Faerie. For those who are feeling crushed by impending climate doom, I feel that there is something unusually hopeful and powerful that Water Makes Us Wet: An Ecosexual Adventure offers the viewers. Near the end of the film, Katie Alderman (E.A.R.TH. Lab intern) attests that, for her, Ecosexuality is about “fighting the despair [of climate change] with joy”.

Water Makes Us Wet: An Ecosexual Adventure had its New York premier at MoMA in February 2019. It is distributed by Juno Films.


15 March 2019 17.45 Link to Bad Girls Season updated.
17 March Nicola White is now trail-blazing

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

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Treefxxxers – in a Climate of Change

Sheffield Hallam University in South Yorkshire, England, recently presented a student performance produced by Doppelgangster, a company that has become infamous for their avant-garde theatrical interventions into climate complacency. I went along, intrigued to see how this collaboration was going to work, particularly in relation to the community uprising against Sheffield’s tree cull led by Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG), which the show was responding to.

The acronym’s irony, combined with the arboreal loss, was not lost on me; with my own sci/art protagonist, The King of the Sea Trees, murmuring encouragement from West Wales as I trudged through Northern rain. The King of the Sea Trees is a mythical being who takes the form of a stag and speaks through poetry about environmental change, pollution and eco-responsibility. He haunts a submerged forest along the Welsh coastline, tending to the fallen and forgotten trees. His image, that of disembodied antlers, is plastered all around this city, as if watching from the sidelines.

The Performance Lab entrance was hidden away on the side of the building too. The  approach wasn’t quite like a Brith Gof bus ride into a darkening forest, which was how my first experience of a site-specific production began back in the early 1990’s, but it did disrupt assumptions about where access to a theatre should be. In this, it showcased the work in an official building whilst simultaneously breaking up our route to expectation. Inside, the foyer was lined with related propaganda and computer screens playing loops of scene snippets: young people in masks, felling an invisible array of trunks.

The tech standard was big, yet the view of it was otherwise: these were just every day screens, lined up like miniature versions of Pearson and Brooke’s gods in a recent production of The Iliad by National Theatre Wales. A row of computers as if in a college study hall. The audience seemed to bypass them warily, engaging only from a distance despite being within easy reach, interacting more comfortably with the traditionally-styled political statements plastered over unstable benches.

Photo by Erin Kavanagh.

Some attendees were clearly locals, clad with matching logos in defense of the 17,500 trees on Sheffield Council’s death row. Others, such as the representative from National Theatre Wales (and myself), had come from further afield. Undergraduate shows tend not to be out there in the “real” world, let alone in response to a £2.2 billion street project, or invite review, so this experiment held intricate layers of both professional and personal risk. Such risk is essential if the practice of theatre is to develop with the experienced and the emerging side by side. To create a performance with young people, both for them and a diverse city demographic, was a bold move for all concerned.

The value here is perhaps in giving alternative voices some control over their own platform. Encouraging political eloquence may seem frightening to those who wish to maintain the status quo, but for those who take the long view, educating all sides can lead to a more robust democracy. This is becoming an ever more pertinent demand as climate change debate rises in line with the seas.

All at the Lab seemed unified in our uncertainty about how to approach this show, with parents eyeing the direct challenge to sensibilities that the few visible flyers for Treefxxxers blatantly advertised.

Once the stage was set, Dr. Tom Payne, lecturer of Performance Studies at the university and co-director of Doppelgangster, took control, suggesting that we read up on the show via social media, which was the preferred medium for the students involved. This was instead of using up paper for  printed programs. It’s solid advice – and I urge you to follow the link and do the same.

Thus contextualized, he ushered us inside…

…where we filed quietly around the edge of a floor level stage, beneath huge photographs of the cast under which they each sat; art refocusing reality.

We edged along to a raised seating area, supervised at the decks by Doppelgangster’s other co-director, Tobias Manderson-Galvin . There was a friendly air of anticipation, not the usual theatre-going “must play this cool” attitude anywhere in sight. Yet it was a fragile space, the acting out of a Proof of Concept regarding what happens if… What happens if an established company puts young performers in the driving seat? What happens if students are encouraged to politicize themselves? What happens if site-specific theatre is inside an actual theatre, designed and acted by people who are only transient residents? What happens if the narrative is still being formed right up to Beginners Please…

The precarious nature of this collaboration was perhaps not on everyone’s minds, but the vulnerability of being on a stage with no wings was surely more than enough. Particularly when the front row was also the apron. All were exposed. Responsibility weighed heavy in the dry iced air.

The students on stage tried not to fidget. So did we.

Once the show began, any concern I may have had that this might require a large dose of tolerance, was soon expelled. My experience of academically-centered theatre is a mixed bag. This though, was certainly different.

We were immediately engaged by two hosts: a badger on the brink of death and the ghost of a wolf. Faded and fading inhabitants of woodland, figures of both public fear and public support. The exchange between these two was a strong opening – albeit somewhat bewilderingly abstract.

“Bewilderingly abstract” could describe much of what followed. However, a willingness to do away with ideas of chronology and scene cohesion allowed for the authentic randomness to speak for itself. It reflected notions of fragmentary unification, taking us back again to the work of performer Mike Pearson as we were partially submersed into a flurry of meta-stories; all held together with a score by Jules Pascoe that kept momentum fresh and unflinchingly loud.

The set was similarly direct, costumes were second skins to their wearers which gave the ambiance of a documentary, albeit a color-coordinated one. All movement was punchily choreographed by Sarah Lamb; not too smooth though, each person’s style shone through despite a general synchronization. Initially I found this annoying; but it rapidly won me around, resulting in my appreciating the original quirks and mis-timings as points of heightened interest rather than deviance from some polished visage.

The overall style was somewhat burlesque, a contemporary vaudeville embodying a political claim. For my taste, there was perhaps a little over indulgence regarding the subjects of Sex and Death, with an obvious satisfaction being gained from mocking up intercourse, and salacious verbal profanity. Whilst in some respects this detracted from my engagement, it still managed to relay an honesty that was effective. I’m still not entirely sure how they did that. Maybe it was that this was genuinely who and how their generation were in that moment; youth caught between procreation and destruction. The provocations were not superficial but a statement about human fragility paired with the mortality of nature at the hands of Big Brother. A fight led mainly by the city’s older inhabitants, to whom they were speaking out in solidarity. It was an accurate (re)presentation of collective frustration – offset with some beautifully poignant moments and splashes of inciteful humor (especially the song, where a dogged determination to fail made the whole thing a total success).

It’s rare to get an audience this supportive, so when a person was called out to participate directly by marrying an apple tree-that-wasn’t-actually-a-tree (and was already dead), this was met with cheers. Treehugga, the gentleman in question, did rather steal the limelight from that moment on. A big burly chap with quick wit, he was able to quip and banter as a bridge between watchers and players. This could easily have intimidated the actors, but instead, they bounced off his presence like true professionals. It was also extraordinarily funny – even it didn’t make much actual sense.

Perhaps sense-making is overrated. Perhaps we need more opportunities to let the abstract silent screams from our psyches take character and reach out – antlered and dancing. Throughout, the soundtrack held this space, even when the speakers and microphones briefly went mute… because the performers just paused, transforming it into a deliberate hiatus. It’s moments like that which make one realize that audience, actors and crew are breathing together to create a shared world; and that for me, is the true magic of theatre.

Meanwhile, the STAG campaign continues to try and protect Sheffield’s trees; habitats are being fought for flora, fauna and the folk who live amongst them. Unlawful arrests, investigations and inspections, a disease resistant Elm. The fight for unpolluted air is more than an aesthetic desire to see leafy terraces; it’s a collective call to breathe. Who knows if the students from Treefxxxers will continue to add their voices to this battle cry but by taking to the stage, they’ve had an opportunity to begin.


Erin Kavanagh is a poet and Creative Archaeologist who specializes in Sci/Art collaboration, deep-mapping and site-specific communication. With a background in philosophy, theatre and geoscience, her work is inherently interdisciplinary, with a particular focus on lost and submerged narratives. She is also currently a PhD Candidate at Sheffield Hallam University in English and Performance, funded by NECAH.

Making Climate Change Sexy: A Journey

As a cartoonist working on climate change communication for three years now, I’d like to share a story about what I’ve learned making a book about climate change into something people actually want to read.

On November 30, 2018, I launched a book on climate change called Eerste Hulp Bij Klimaatverandering in Dutch, or First Aid for Climate Change. The first printing consisted of more than two thousand copies and they sold within two months. I’m a nobody and I have no publisher. I made this book together with five other nobodies. Nonetheless, we sold over a thousand copies before the book was even finished. I’m still baffled by this. Proud of course. But mostly, I’d like to share some insights on how I’m trying to make climate change sexy.

Climate change communication is a science too

Back in 2015, nine months before the United Nations 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris (COP21), I got involved with climate change activists in the Netherlands, where I reside. After feeling lonely and disempowered for most of my life, it was great to finally find a crowd of people who cared as much as I did about the biggest challenge of our time. But it also struck me that we weren’t reaching a big enough audience with our actions. Since I already had an interest in psychology, I enrolled in a course about Psychology for Sustainability, offered by an initiative called Impact Academy in Utrecht. I vividly remember sitting in the room together with sustainability professionals and being told that all of us present were a complete underrepresentation of the larger population. We all suffered from a condition, scientifically known as “morally deviant behavior.” If there was one insight that helped me most, it was this one: Not everybody thinks like… me.

Studying the psychology behind climate apathy, I learned that most people simply avoid depressing news. But, people sensitive enough to engage with climate change and feel the pain, anguish, and terror that comes with knowing our window of opportunity to save the planet is closing fast while politicians argue over semantics, don’t avoid it. So there’s a gap there that’s hard to bridge. It turns out that there are effective ways of communicating climate change and downright useless ways of doing it. Because when you try to communicate, the most important lesson is to know your audience.

Learn from entrepreneurs

Caring about the person you’re directing the message to isn’t something activists are generally very interested in, and neither are artists. But there’s a group of people that does nothing else: entrepreneurs. Having been an entrepreneur myself, I was acquainted with some marketing literature and tricks of the trade. That’s why I started with defining a target audience. This quickly became: People who care but are too overwhelmed to become active. Who feel guilt and shame for not doing enough. The goal of the book: to deliver something that would make people happy. No guilt. No depression. Sounds impossible, so it gets the attention right away. A neat marketing trick.

I call the book a tongue-in-cheek self-help guide for people suffering from Pre-Traumatic Climate Panic. It’s a book for people who love the planet… and a good steak. People who care about coral reefs so much… they want to fly there. There’s no judgement, just acknowledgement that it’s a hard position to be in. The book addresses this cognitive dissonance with cartoons to make the subject matter easy to digest and fun to look at. Also, by making fun of literally everyone – activists and deniers alike – people won’t feel excluded.

However, the book is most definitely about system change and taking responsibility. It never shies away from the urgency of the issue. But it focuses on happiness, values, and purpose to help the reader carve out a new life that will not only be more sustainable… but also much more fun. It’s about compassionate, non-judgmental activism.

First the audience, then the product

Getting a book, any book, to sell like ours did, without a publisher, is no small feat. It doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s been three years of campaigning: social media posts, meeting other people, talking about the project at gatherings, building a newsletter fanbase, testing the concept, engaging with potential audiences. During this time, I stretched beyond my comfort zone and took up stand-up comedy, to further develop my presentation skills. Storytelling is everything.

This work made crowdfunding to cover sustainable printing costs in the summer of 2018 a smooth ride. We got 130 percent funded and the more people supported the project, the more people got interested. Harnessing herd mentality: another marketing trick. We received generous support from leading Dutch sustainable entrepreneurs, and major Dutch NGOs placed large pre-orders. As for the book itself? I drew 80 percent of it between July and November 2018. In my humble opinion, the biggest lesson for anyone doing climate change art is: don’t focus on climate facts or on your product. Focus on people and relationships.

Rise to attention

The day after the book launched, we were featured in one of the largest national newspapers in the Netherlands. We captured a lot of people’s attention. With climate change now firmly on the agenda, thanks to Greta Thunberg and Youth for Climate, media attention continues. Our book has been given to members of the City Council in Amsterdam, libraries are purchasing it, even the National Meteorological Agency of the Netherlands has ordered copies. Now that our second edition is out, we are planning for an English translation.

Our success is not only due to the quality of the book, of course. Great timing is essential and can hardly be planned. But it does make clear that in an era where the debate on climate change is often heated and filled with hatred and fear, the power of art can still make a difference.

I hope sharing this journey can help you bring your own project to life!


Anabella Meijer works as a visual storyteller, cartoonist, and graphic recorder, which basically means she gets paid to doodle during meetings. Turning complexity into attractive visuals is her core business. Besides that, she’s been specializing in psychology and communication on climate change since early 2015. Because she hasn’t always felt empowered about system change, she has a keen intuition on how to get there. For this book project, she joined forces with co-authors Rolf Schuttenhelm (science journalist), Hille Takken (human interest journalist) and Neža Krek (career choice mentor). Tim Witte (campaign video), Ruben Stellingwerf (overall concept and design), Ditta op den Dries (editing) and Aral Voskamp (sales and logistics) further supported the project.

Reflecting on (the) Rising Horizon

by David Cass

We have passed the turning point in terms of environmental change. To achieve the colossal aims of reducing our global average temperature, slowing sea level rise and decarbonising the planet, we must all do what we can: no matter how seemingly insignificant our actions may seem. For artists, this truly does come down to making conscious choices between using acrylic (plastic) paints or natural (handmade and completely lead free) oils; toxic resins or eco-resin alternatives; turpentine or zest-based cleaners; new papers or recycled papers… even one’s studio lighting should be considered. Every decision counts.

My most recent exhibition at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh – part of my ongoing series Rising Horizon – comprised over 150 paintings. The exhibition discussed sea level rise and in the majority of the artworks, it did this not only visually but through material choices too.

As an artist, I’ve received most coverage thus far for my repurposing of found objects – doors, table tops, drawers, street signs, matchboxes – into the foundations of paintings. These works have explored environmental themes both historic and contemporary. Every artwork I have created since leaving Edinburgh College of Art in 2010 has been made from recycled materials, and recently I’ve aimed to present commentary on sustainability and the need for a circular economy.

Years of Dust & Dry, gouache on 1750s wooden door, 2013.

Rising Horizon was perhaps the most far-reaching (by this I mean non-site-specific) exhibition I’ve ever created. The series describes the coming global crisis that is sea level rise: not exclusive to any one coastline. True, we see certain locations already impacted but overall, the rise affects the World Ocean.

Rising Horizon followed another exhibition of mine which described Venice, Italy as an example of localised inundation: a result of environmental, anthropogenic change. The series examined the tide-marked brick and plaster façades of Venetian buildings as we see them today: still exquisite but eroding, stapled together, plastered with advertisements and often covered with graffitis admonishing cruise ships and tourists. Venetians are already feeling the impact of sea level rise: many have permanently evacuated their ground floors and basements. Others have had the foundations of their homes raised hydraulically. Underwater walls are treated with waterproof (ironically, plastic) resin.

Waterline, Venice (detail), Pełàda Series, 2016.

This Venice series used the face as a vehicle to convey change, while the ongoing project Rising Horizon zooms out to illustrate, quite simply, a rising horizon line. The artworks in the show were hung so as to position the viewer within the exhibition: within the water. One simple goal behind the series overall, was to chart a gradually rising horizon-line, but we chose not to display the works along a linear path. In part, this was to mirror the non-linear way in which sea levels are rising. Ice melt, for example, is not a steady stream. Rather, run-offs happen in waves.

Rising Horizon, The Scottish Gallery, February 2019.

Scale and materials matter. Understated expression is important to me. Individually – no matter the scale, no matter how turbulent the sea surface – my paintings aim to be subtle. They do not shout. But when taken together, the obsession which lies underneath is evident. Surfaces are worked and re-worked, paint is applied and then removed and re-applied. This repetitive approach mirrors the functional past lives of the surfaces themselves: motorway signs, tins, advertisement plaques… these items aren’t fragile, they were built to withstand time and the elements.

The paints are handmade and the metal panels I painted upon for this show are recycled, reclaimed. I used these items to reference the impact of metal production on the environment: 6.5 percent of CO2 emissions derive from iron and steel production. Similarly, I painted upon panels made from re-formed plastic waste. One single square meter panel contains around 1,500 yogurt cups, for example. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2050, plastics will be responsible for nearly 15 percent of global carbon emissions. This predicted increase will lead to plastics overtaking the aviation sector, which is currently accountable for 12 percent of global carbon emissions.

Certainly, the most discussed piece in the show was a painted copper boiler. Titled Horizon 42%, this piece directly references the warming of (sea)water. The percentage is the proportion which thermal expansion contributes to overall sea level rise. It’s also the target of Scotland, my home country, which aims for a 42% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (and an 80% reduction by 2050). An apt metaphor, as the boiler itself came from a Scottish home.

Horizon 42%, oil on copper water boiler, 2018.

We dismantled the exhibition on February 25 and 26. Those were the warmest winter days on record in the UK. Radio stations were asking “how high will it get?” and the media used headlines like “UK basks in warmest February on record.” One newspaper dubbed the month “FABruary.” The media narrative was all wrong: this was not normal. At this exact time the previous year, we’d been suffering from extreme snow. The record-breaking temperatures should have been cause for alarm, not celebration.

Artists need to contribute to the global and growing bank of environmentally conscious artworks that carry a responsible narrative. The fact that art has the potential to convey messages makes it an essential tool for society. This website is one perfect example of the power of art.

Top: gouache paint upon assembled wooden finds, 2013. Bottom: oil paint upon metal panel, 2018.

Throughout the exhibition, I witnessed public appetite for bitesize environmental facts. My work will continue to explore themes of change; indeed, my next project is a collaboration with fine artist Joseph Calleja, in partnership with the estate of artist Robert Callender. We are exhibiting a series of works in An Talla Solais gallery in Ullapool, Scotland, and we’ve just launched an Open Call, seeking works from artists in response to environmental change. Consider applying (there’s no fee).

I have also just launched a petition. Given my location, it is UK-based but my hope is that it will gauge public interest in having a regular Environment News broadcast on radio. Here in the UK, we really are not hearing enough about climate change in mainstream news.

(Top image: Oil paint on re-formed plastic waste panel (detail), 2019.)


David Cass’s graduation exhibition at Edinburgh art school (2010) was created using exclusively recycled materials. As a result of that show, he received a scholarship to Florence, where he combined this process of re-purposing with topics relating to environmental extremes. He spent four years exploring the history and legacy of Florence’s 1966 Great Flood, which led him to Venice and a study of its rising lagoon. Soon after, working in the Almería arid-zone, he added the topic of drought to the exchange. His recent projects (such as Rising Horizon) are more universal in their environmental outlook. They take the form of paintings, drawings, collages and sculptures – never using new materials.

Symposium: Evolving the Forest

An international gathering celebrating trees and woodlandIn collaboration with The Royal Forestry Society and Timber Strategies, we are convening an international group of foresters, artists, writers, thinkers and do-ers to look back at the last 100 years of Forestry in the UK and forward to the next. It’s for everyone who works, wanders or wonders in our varied British forests, and to help us learn from others around the world about their own cultural connections to trees and woodland. 

You can join the event for all three days, or for just one or two of the three days. Only a limited number of places remain so don’t delay…

Read more…

If you would love to attend the whole of Evolving the Forest but are finding this rather beyond your means, we do have a number of Stewarding Bursaries available. In exchange for a few hours work you can be a full delegate for £35. Interested? Please contact us right away.

Special events at Evolving the Forest

There are a number of events at Evolving the Forest open to all, not just to delegates.

On  Wednesday June 19, join us for the opening keynote by Prof. Fiona Stafford with her reflections on Why Trees Matter. Author of The Long, Long Life of Trees(Yale 2016), writer and presenter of the BBC Radio 3 series The Meaning of Trees, Prof. Stafford will remind us of the cultural importance of trees within literature and society from the 18thC on. 

Later that evening we return to Dartington’s Great Hall for a public conversation between Sir Harry Studholme (Chair of the Forestry Commission), Beccy Speight (CEO of Woodland Trust) and architect and broadcaster Piers Taylor (Invisible Studio Architects) about the future of forestry in the UK, why we love trees, and how we must learn to live differently with them.

The final keynote will be delivered as the Royal Forestry Society’s NDG James Memorial Lecture. Prof Kathy Willis CBE will talk about The framing of the UK’s forests: past, present and future. This important overview will look at how as a nation we manage, conserve and enhance forests, and how our approach to policy-making has shifted radically over the past century. 

All of these events have a very limited number of tickets available and will fill fast.

Pre-conference workshops

Finally, there are three special workshops open to the general public taking place the morning of Wednesday June 19.  These include a tour of the Forest Garden site at Dartington led by its long-term designer and manager, Martin Crawford; a guided visit to Fingle Woods where forester Dave Rickwood will guide you through the woods and explore its history and close connection to Dartington Hall, and its new and experimental approaches to contemporary forestry. The third offer is to experience a three-hour Forest Bathing session with the Nature & Wellbeing Collective at one of the Dartington estate’s very special woodland places.

News: New river pollution artwork unveiled at Almondell Park

Waste collected from a new RiverRubbish initiative puts the pollution of the river in the frame.

Waste collected from a new RiverRubbish initiative puts the pollution of the River Almond in the frame. Artist Annie Lord has transformed a small portion of the river waste gathered by local volunteers into an artwork that will serve as a reminder of the impact rubbish has on our rivers.

Unveiled at Almondell and Calderwood Country Park on the 8th March 2019, River Series: Almond has been created by Annie using everything from Tennent’s cans to wet wipes and more to create a striking piece encased in resin. What at first appears to be a depiction of riverbank nature is on closer inspection revealed to be reclaimed rubbish in disguise. Set to be displayed at the Almondell and Calderwood Country Park Centre, River Series: Almond hopes to encourage visitors to think twice when it comes to dealing with our rubbish.

Join us in the toilet block at the park’s visitor centre to have look and meet some of those involved in its production or visit at any point to see the art work.

The post News: New river pollution artwork unveiled at Almondell Park 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

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Green Arts Competition: Win £50 to help your green work!

How could £50 help your organisation’s Green Arts work? Send in your ideas for the chance to win in our Green Arts Competition!

Creative Carbon Scotland came joint-1st (once more!) in the Sustrans Scotland ‘Scottish Workplace Journey Challenge‘, with everyone in the organisation logging a low carbon journey – as well as a few of our friends from Festivals Edinburgh. For our efforts we’ve got a new proudly-displayed certificate and a count of how many donuts our exercise was equivalent to (63!) but we also won the opportunity to donate £50 to a charity of our choice: could this be you? We discussed it as team, and decided we wanted to use the donation to help support the fantastic Green Arts community’s work.

We weren’t the only ones in the sector riding (and walking, taking the bus etc) high, a big congratulations to Green Arts Initiative member National Galleries of Scotland who were top of the category of organisations with 250-499 employees!

Win £50 towards your Green Arts work

Now we’re on the hunt for the best sustainability idea from our Green Arts community. We’re running a competition over the course of May 2019: anyone from the Green Arts Initiative can submit an idea, and we’ll pick a winner to announce at the end of the month!

We know £50 won’t cover the costs of all your sustainability ambitions, but we hope it’ll help you get the ball rolling on something in your wish-list. Perhaps you want to invest in a bicycle pump and puncture repair kits to support your staff using active travel to get to work; reward your green team with some sustainable treats or pay for (sustainable) transport to Green Champion training. Anything goes, as long as it contributes to your environmental sustainability efforts!

Last year’s winner

The Green Team at Edinburgh International Book Festival, had the winning idea in last year’s competition of sending out letters to their donors using seeded/plantable paper – to remind the donors of the setting of the Book Festival’s settings in Charlotte Square Gardens, whilst spreading wildflowers throughout the UK to support pollinator populations.

Key Information/Tips

  • Submit your idea by 5pm on Friday 31st of May 2019.
  • Keep it simple: try to keep your idea to three sentences or less.
  • Your organisation has to be a Scottish-based cultural organisation, and a member of the Green Arts Initiative (join, if you’re not already a member!).
  • You can submit as many ideas as you want, and different people from the same organisation can submit different ideas.
  • It can contribute to an existing sustainability project, act as seed-funding for something new, or cover the costs of something small.
  • The winning idea will be selected by the Creative Carbon Scotland team for its creativity/originality/effectiveness/quality.
  • We’ll share our favourite ideas on our website, through our social media, and in our monthly Green Arts Round-Up to members.

The post Green Arts Competition: Win £50 to help your green work! 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

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2019 GAMMA Young Artist Competition – Sustainable Art & Fashion for Better Life

2019 GYAC is finding excellent art works:

  • To focus on ‘Well-being and Sustainable Art & Fashion’.
  • To focus on ‘Health and Sustainable Art & Fashion’
  • To focus on ‘DNA and Sustainable Art & Fashion’

Competition Schedule

Submission Deadline: May 31st, 2019
Announcement of the 1st Screening: June 3rd, 2019
Announcement of the 2nd Screening: June 10th, 2019
Announcement of the Final Screening: June 10th, 2019
Award Ceremony at Paris, France, July 28th, 2019


Painting & Sculpture
Contemporary Media Art 
Fashion & Design 

Award Benefits

  1. The 1st screening (25 runners)
    • Included in the cyber gallery of the GAMMA homepage
    • Included in the introduction book by ACCESS which is an official cultural platform of Global Alliance of Marketing & Management Associations (
    • Award certificate
  2. The Final Screening (Final 5 runners)
    • One round trip ticket (economy class) and 3 nights’ stay in the conference hotel for ‘2019 Global Fashion Management Conference at Paris’ in Paris, France.
    • Included in the cyber gallery of the GAMMA homepage
    • Included in the Exhibition Book by ACCESS which is an official an official cultural platform of Global Alliance of Marketing & Management Associations (
    • Invited to a fashion show at 2019 Global Fashion Management Conference at Paris
    • Award plaque

Submission Guidelines

Submission Deadline: May 31th, 2019

Submit to:

  1. You can submit up to 3 works.
  2. Original size of the work: The original size of the submitted works should be bigger than 300mm by 300mm.
  3. Please download and complete ‘2019 GAMMA Young Artist Competition Application Form’ from ‘How to Apply’ in the 2019 GYAC homepage.
  4. Images of Works
    • At maximum, 5 digital images per work should be included in your application form.
    • Each image should not exceed more than 3MB
  5. Labeling your application
  6. Working language: English only

Please include your name, country and area which you wish to apply in the name of your application file.S ubmitted items should not have been submitted to other competitions. ‘ Please submit your portfolio here!


An Interview with Photographer Virginia Hanusik

Featured imaged: Lake Verret, Louisiana. Photo by Virginia Hanusik.

Happy “almost spring” to those of you in the Northern hemisphere, and a happy “almost autumn” to those of you in the South.

Happy wishes aside, I’m sorry to report some sad news: This February we mourn the passing of the “godfather of climate science,” Wallace Broecker, who helped popularize the term “global warming.” According to the BBC, Broecker “spent a career that spanned nearly 67 years at Columbia University in New York.” The scientist published an important study in 1975 that helped usher in a new era of thinking about the effects of carbon dioxide on global temperatures. Professor Broecker died on February 18th at the age of 87.

His legacy is felt by scientists, activists, climate communicators, artists, and writers around the world, all of whom continue to produce exciting and vital work that speaks to the urgency of climate change.

This month I have for you a wonderful interview with one of those artists. Virginia Hamusik is a photographer and architecture researcher whose work explores the effects of climate change on various landscapes. You may have seen her photos in The Atlantic, Places Journal, The Times-Picayune, Oxford American, NPR, or Fast Company.

Your project, A Receding Coast, features photographs of “the architecture of climate change.” Please tell us what you mean by that phrase.

We are living in the Anthropocene, which is characterized by human intervention on the natural environment. Climate change is a byproduct of human intervention and is shaping how we build, and will only continue to shape that process more so.

Architecture symbolizes society’s values: it is a physical manifestation of what we consider important and how we live our lives. When I’m describing my work photographing “the architecture of climate change,” I’m referring to the structural response to environmental issues.

Capturing the architecture of this moment is important because we are consciously changing the way we build and live based on environmental conditions, for arguably the first time in American history. I studied architectural history in college, and I approach my photography work in a similar way; I’m thinking about the structural details that describe larger cultural values.

What have you learned about how the communities you photograph are preparing – or not – for future extreme weather events and sea-level rise?

I think it’s important to understand that there isn’t one universally understood solution to the problem. It’s more common to hear about disagreements on the causes of climate change – or if it’s even happening – but with my work, I’ve become much more aware of the various types of approaches municipalities, organizations, and individuals have developed to combat the effects.

There are hundreds of challenges. Some challenges are specific to a community’s geography, some are not. There’s no one-size-fits-all fix, and I think that’s something the resilience field is focusing on too much. Organizations have done an important job of creating shared knowledge among cities, but there’s no global, local, or even state standard to how various communities (coastal and inland) should be re-imagining planning processes. As a result, some communities will suffer more than others due to inaction or policy failures. I’ve been following the work of scholars like Jesse Keenan at Harvard who are researching the impact of “climate gentrification” in Miami. The economics of coastal climate adaptation are already working as they were designed to –  benefiting those with more affluence and means to seek higher ground, and leaving poorer communities with few options but to be even more vulnerable to flooding.

In another project, Liminal Frontier, you explore the change in how people are thinking about coastal land. What has surprised you the most about what you’ve learned or witnessed?

Since this body of work is a lot larger in scale, I’ve spent a lot of time organizing and framing the project in parts. Most of the “chapters” are organized by geography (East, West, Gulf coasts), but there are also sub-categories such as recreation, transportation, and dwelling.

Through this process, it’s become so much more explicit to me that the history of landscape photography has been dominated by the male gaze. As a woman, I’m planning out my shoots based on time of day, whether I feel safer with a partner, and, if so, coordinating their schedules. There are a dozen other factors that I don’t think are the same for men. Some of my favorite projects about American land were all done by men (Ansel Adams, Joel Sternfeld, Walker Evans) who had the privilege to photograph in desolate landscapes alone.

That’s all to say that this project is really helping me think critically about the process and what it means to make a photograph about land as the climate is changing. I think it’s a critical time to not just think about how we live along the coast, but who is telling those stories and how American identity is captured.

Pierre Part, Louisiana. Photo by Virginia Hanusik.

As Susan Sontag writes, “The painter constructs, the photographer discloses.” What can photographs of architecture, land, and other objects affected by climate change “disclose” to us that perhaps other art forms (including the written word) can’t?

I love a good Susan Sontag quote. I think that the accessibility of photography is what drew me to it from the beginning and continues to do so. I was raised in a working-class family that was full of artists, but they never referred to themselves as such because of the elitist stigma. Art means different things to different classes. My dad is a sculptor and carpenter, but he never describes himself as one. It’s just what he does when he’s not working, nothing flashy.

I like to think that I make my images in the same way; I don’t manipulate or even edit them much. As a photographer, I control the light and the frame, but not much beyond that. In terms of subject matter, the architecture and landscapes that I photograph really speak for themselves. The evidence is there. It’s real life looking back at you.

As an observer, you are able to step back and take in the details within a frame that you may miss in the context of real life. I like to compare the “banal” landscapes that I capture to seeing photographs of yourself. You analyze pictures of yourself more than when you’re in front of a mirror because someone else’s gaze may have captured something you never noticed before.

Also, I’m really not interested in making work that exploits victims of environmental disaster, but can rather be used as an educational tool to help move the needle on environmental stewardship.

What has the response to your work been like? Have you experienced any push back?

Overall, the response has been encouraging. I’ve been really lucky to have my work published in a number of outlets that prioritize new voices in photography and architecture, and have been able to connect with so many thoughtful people changing their communities.

Most of the push back that I’ve received has come from individuals who don’t believe in climate change. Not a big surprise there, but this exists outside of the South!

Honestly, the most challenging conversations that I’ve had are with self-identified liberals and progressives whose prejudices of the South or rural communities come out with their comments. “How could people be so ignorant?” “Why don’t they leave?” “Why would you choose to live there?” These are all actual questions that I’ve heard posed in a serious way. It’s really disappointing to me, but just shows the work that still needs to be done.

What’s next for you?

I’m still disseminating A Receding Coast and connecting with leaders in the climate adaptation field on collaborations. Right now, I’m in the development phase of Liminal Frontier and am identifying funding to build out the project in phases. I’m hoping to spend time in the Chesapeake Bay this summer and photograph some sites that I’ve been trying to get to for a while. In addition to this project, I’m excited to be writing more and am working on a few pieces for the Louisiana-based store and publication, Defend New Orleans.

Read more about Virginia Hanusik and her work at her website.

For previous articles by Virginia Hanusik, check out:
A New Narrative for Landscape Photography in the Anthropocene

This article is part of the Climate Art Interviews series. It was originally published in Amy Brady’s “Burning Worlds” newsletter. Subscribe to get Amy’s newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.


Amy Brady is the Deputy Publisher of Guernica magazine and Senior Editor of the Chicago Review of Books. Her writing about art, culture, and climate has appeared in the Village Voice, the Los Angeles TimesPacific Standard, the New Republic, and other places. She is also the editor of the monthly newsletter “Burning Worlds,” which explores how artists and writers are thinking about climate change. She holds a PHD in English and is the recipient of a CLIR/Mellon Library of Congress Fellowship. Read more of her work at and follow her on Twitter at @ingredient_x. 


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

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Opportunity: Artist Commissions for Art Walk Project’s ‘Footprint’ project

Artists are invited to apply for one of a number of paid commissions for this project, responding to the urban environment to devise mapped walks or cycles for the local community.

‘FOOTPRINT’ is a walking and cycling map + guide planned for East Edinburgh (Portobello, Leith) & Musselburgh  with artist-led routes that intersect the urban with nature through lesser used habitats, encouraging everyday physical activity as a way to improve well being.

We will be holding a number of public drop-in sessions at local markets and street locations during April-May from which a range of artist initiated walking & cycling routes will be based. A map + guide will be produced by December 2019 that presents around 6 routes for cycling and walking, and highlighting relevant sites that local communities have mapped within each of their neighbourhoods.

Two distinct opportunities are available for this project:

  • multiple commissions for devised and led walks and sessions with the local community
  • one commission for an artist to design and create the final map


The project will involve the developing of mapped routes working with local participants from each area alongside Art Walk Projects, leading a number of walks or cycles during June to October 2019. A finalised printed map will be produced by Dec 2019, in which each artist will be profiled alongside their mapped route.

Commission Details

We invite imaginative proposals that engage with local neighbourhoods, mark out the local, and intersect the three areas through lesser used habitats. Improving well being for participants is also an important element of this project, working to increase regular activity.

Each selected artist will be expected to:

  • Devise 1 route involving one or more of the areas – Leith, Portobello, Musselburgh;
  • Attend in the region of 2 public sessions meeting with participants;
  • Lead 2 walks or cycle journeys during the period June to Oct (including Art Walk Porty Festival 7-15 September).


In the region of 4 commissions are available – each receiving a bursary of £1000.

How to Apply

We are keen to hear from artists whose practice involves walking, mapping, journeying through lost urban landscape, or involving the study of the living urban environment. Ideally with a knowledge of one or more of the areas: Leith, Portobello, Musselburgh.

Please apply by emailing Rosy Naylor:, with the following information (maximum 2 pages of A4):

  • Reasons for your interest in this project and how it relates to your current practice;
  • A description of the type of route or ideas you would be interested in exploring, including the area/s of most interest.

Please also include:

  • Your CV/artist statement
  • 4 examples of your recent work
  • Website/online links to view your work

Deadline for applications 1st May 2019 


We also are seeking an illustrator to work with us to draw out the A2 folded map and provide graphics that are relevant to the project.


Fee in region of £1000.

How to Apply

Please apply by emailing Rosy Naylor:, with the following information:

  • Details of what you believe you would bring to the project and your areas of interest/ or ideas you would seek to explore (maximum: 2 pages)
  • CV/artist statement
  • 4 examples of your recent work
  • Website/online links to view your work

Deadline for applications 1st May 2019 

#GreenArts Day: Wednesday 14th March 1Art Walk Projects are a member of our Green Arts Initiative: a networked community of practice for Scottish cultural organisations committed to reducing their environmental impact. It is free to become part of the community, and there are lots of resources and case studies (like this one!) to support #GreenArts organisations. Take a look at our Green Arts Initiative page for more information.

All images are from Art Walk Projects. Find more on their Instagram page.

The post Opportunity: Artist Commissions for Art Walk Project’s ‘Footprint’ project 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

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