Yearly Archives: 2020

Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘This week, restiamo a casa’

By Allison DeLauerBarbara Curzon-SiggersBrittany AdamsGabriella BrandomMichael Terry

Reader-submitted stories of the COVID-19 pandemic, in no more than 100 words. Read past stories hereSubmit your own here.

SOCIAL ISOLATION

It is four of us and a dog
in one house with a porch
facing west and as much
of the world as will fit
through two copper wires buried
in a hill that is wringing out
five days of rain that ripple down
the storm drain into the creek
that winds toward the whistle
and rumble of an upriver train
and a single swift
against the sunset.

— Michael Terry (Columbia, Missouri)

(Top image: The view.)

* * *

CELLS

A gibbous moon rose, we slept through Wuhan, another SARS thing, it’ll blow over, the south-east Australian autumn, relief from the broiling summer we’ve survived, the pain in our chests, pushing out against our ribs to envelop the billion sentient mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, cremated in fire storms even hell trembled at; now the unemployed queue, one million, two million, hungry like the land is thirsty; I’ve given instructions: no funeral, burn me to ash, let the wind carry me with the cells of the billion to the sea, mountains, desert, let me go home at last.

— Barbara Curzon-Siggers (Clunes, Victoria, Australia)

Blazing silky oak.

* * *

A STEP AHEAD

It is the same every day. Wash your hands. No, you touched the sink handle. Wash your hands again. My brother struggles with OCD, and he also has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He is in a wheelchair and can’t move his hands, so we serve as his hands. Disinfect the package. Did you disinfect it with the wipes? I didn’t see you do it, you have to do it again. And again. And again. We are on full lockdown. We stay one step ahead of the news. Spray it down with Lysol. We can’t take any chances.

— Gabriella Brandom (Newport Beach, California)

Dusty spending time with our cat, making the most of the small moments.

* * *

ORDINARY THINGS

I wonder how we got here. To the place where ordinary things frighten. A doorknob, the handle on the mailbox, the faucet, our own hands.

When our daughter learned to walk, ordinary things frightened us too. The corner of the coffee table, the brick fireplace, the stairs. It took six months for her to steady and for us to take a breath. Once she swallowed a small piece of plastic. A trip to the ER. A kind, older doctor who blew bubbles to calm our fears. Does that kind doctor have ordinary things: a mask, gloves, time to calm fears?

— Brittany Adams (Huntington Beach, California)

Steps.

* * *

QUARANTANGO

We came to create an artist-residency program in the half-abandoned, mountain village of Fontecchio. Last month: Rome, no lines at the Vatican Museum, the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a dentist appointment. Three weeks ago: a winding drive for blues at a rural restaurant, to kiss both cheeks of everyone is good manners. The week after: a small dinner party where we sip rum, tap shoes, joke about The Decameron. Last week: to see friends or hike trails solo is a violation of the order. This week, restiamo a casa: he teaches me Tango, I remove wallpaper in long strips.

— Allison DeLauer (Fontecchio, L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italia)

The master bedroom of a vacant house that sits prominently on the piazza with a view of the fountain. It will be transformed.

______________________________

This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.

———-

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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Green Tease Reflections: Renfrewshire Arts and Culture

4th March 2020: This Green Tease brought together representatives from Renfrewshire’s arts organisations and local government alongside visitors from further afield to discuss the ways that arts and culture in the area could respond to the climate emergency as declared by the council. 

Introductions
  • Leonie Bell, Paisley Partnership Strategic Lead, gave us a quick update on Future Paisley, a programme of events, activity and investment that aims to harness the power of culture to radically change the area’s reputation and help lift its communities out of poverty. As part of this, a major exhibition and events programme will launch in Paisley’s Piazza Centre, which will involve opportunities for communities across Renfrewshire to feed into discussion about the area’s future.
  • Colin Grainger, Renfrewshire Council, discussed the council’s declaration of climate emergency and its target for net zero emissions by 2030, emphasising the role that arts and culture in the area could play in this and the importance of the response to the climate emergency recognising the specific economic and social issues that Renfrewshire faces.
  • Lewis Coenen-Rowe, Creative Carbon Scotland, laid out the argument for why urgent action on climate change in the arts and culture sector is necessary. He pointed to the recent storms and how climate change is making Scotland’s winters wetter as well as making extreme weather events more likely. He also showed a map showing how predicted sea level rises would significantly affect Renfrewshire. He discussed how responding to climate change is a matter of culture as much as science and requires fundamental changes in the ways we think and operate. Arts and culture are well positioned to do this, reaching most of Scotland’s inhabitants and having the resources and mindsets for tackling our ways of thinking, but they must also ‘walk the walk’ by reducing their own environmental impact. He recommended joining the Green Arts Initiative as a good starting point.
Green Tease Reflections: Renfrewshire Arts and Culture
Image obtained from https://coastal.climatecentral.org/

Presentation from Heather Claridge, Architecture and Design Scotland

Heather set the scene for us by laying out some of the ways that arts and culture can be mobilised towards sustainability goals. Her presentation discussed three projects that involved creative means of tackling sustainability issues in the west of Scotland.

  1. Living, working, playing with water was a project involving artist Minty Donald using creative methods to engage members of the public on our relationship with water and how it could become more positive in light of increased rainfall and flooding following climate change
  2. Land Art Generator Initiative had artists, architects and engineers collaborate on designing innovative renewable energy generation facilities that integrated social, cultural, and aesthetic concerns into their designs, trying to simultaneously work on technical and social solutions
  3. Stalled Spaces was a project that encouraged and supported community groups to make creative use of unused land within cities, with an emphasis on environmentally inflected projects

Her main lessons from this work were:

  1. Create a flexibility-defined brief: artistic and creative work is most effective when open-ended, allowing development during the project rather than working towards pre-defined outcomes
  2. Nurture a sense of partnership: take the time to allow people coming from different fields to properly understand each other’s perspectives in order to collaborate effectively
  3. Connect dots to strategic outcomes: think about how artistic and creative work can collaborate with work in other areas and support wider strategy
Green Tease Reflections: Renfrewshire Arts and Culture 6
Group Activity: Walking the walk and talking the talk in sustainability

We then moved on to trying to think about how we might apply some of the things that Heather had discussed. In groups we designed and planned cultural activities of a wide variety of kinds, depending on the experience and backgrounds around the table. The aim was for these events to engage with specific issues pertinent to the climate emergency that would make a contribution to our wider culture shift, but would also avoid negative impacts by being designed in a sustainable way. Responses included:

  • A bike-powered film screening
  • An event promoting sustainable and active travel taking place alongside a congested road
  • An event taking place at a stalled space starting as a performance and creating something permanent to remain on the site
  • An event getting people to weave or knit together a poem that could then be displayed in public
  • A green celebration of Ferguslie Park, working with artists and members of the community to change perceptions of the area
  • A litter-pick where the rubbish is then used to make art or for other creative purposes
Green Tease Reflections: Renfrewshire Arts and Culture 11
Speaker Panel

We finished with quick-fire presentations from arts organisations who are already carrying out environmental work.

  • Becca Lewis, Glasgow Women’s Librarydiscussed her involvement in their ‘Green Cluster’. She emphasised that worldwide gender inequality means that climate change impacts fall more heavily on women than men, making it a feminist issue. She led us through practical actions they had taken, including joining the Green Arts Initiative, developing and publishing an environmental policy, carrying out an energy audit, using vegetarian catering, installing a more efficient boiler, and encouraging staff to travel using low emission forms of transport. Their current plans include a strong ecofeminist angle to their Open The Door festival in May 2020 and running a consultation with their local community using Climate Challenge funding.
  • Gillian Steel, ReMode, introduced us to some of the environmental issues in the fashion industry, with less than 1% of discarded clothing being recycled and clothes now being worn fewer times before being thrown away. She pointed out that clothes require a huge amount of water to be produced and many cannot be recycled. Renfrewshire-based ReMode sells re-used and upcycled clothing through their shop, offers creative workshops and training in clothing repair, and puts on talks, events, and fashion shows. They aim to help shift the fashion industry towards more sustainable ways of running.
  • Scott Morris, Scottish Ensemble, led us through their sustainability ‘journey’, from beginning to record their emissions, to writing an environmental policy, to advocating within the cultural sector, to premiering Elemental, their first creative response to the climate crisis. He emphasised the importance of getting buy-in from management staff and board members in order to make progress and pointed out that, like many arts organisations, travel was by far their largest source of emissions and the issue that most urgently needs to be tackled across the sector. He finally led us through potential future steps for Scottish Ensemble, suggesting potential methods of reducing travel emissions from touring.

The post Green Tease Reflections: Renfrewshire Arts and Culture 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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Fluttering her Wings Across the Globe

By Lana Nasser

I was never one to believe in “art for the sake for art.” There are simply too many imbalances, injustices, and ignorance in our world (and in ourselves) – it would be a pity to waste our creativity on nonsense. The divorce from the environment, the abuse of Mother Earth and our single-sided relationship to it… these underly much of our suffering. For, what is war but an attempt to control, monopolize, and deplete natural resources? What is the root cause of many diseases if not the toxins we pump into the Earth and our bodies? And what is gender inequality if not a reflection of our skewed attitude towards all things feminine, beginning with Mother Earth?

In 2019, I was invited to participate in Climate Change Theatre (CCTA), spearheaded by The Arctic Cycle in New York City. CCTA is a biennial, worldwide participatory project that coincides with the United Nations COP meetings. It utilizes theatre to bring people together to shed light on climate change issues and encourage communities and individuals to take environmentally conscious action. 

It was my first time participating in CCTA. I was asked to write a 5-minute play about an aspect of the climate crisis. The project resonated with every level of my being, as a writer and theatermaker, an ecofeminist and a human being.

Seeking inspiration for writing, I walked among the trees. I am one of the luckier people who live close to nature – in a forest to be exact. If you listen with all your senses, you can hear the song of all that lives. I dialogued with the elements, and from that, The Butterfly that Persisted was born – an ode to Nature, the ultimate warrior that persisted to exist and abound in spite of everything. And to the human being who persisted to envision and strive for betterment, taking action no matter how small.

I wrote The Butterfly as a poem, a lyrical spoken-word poem, with two primary voices – one in “regular font” and the other in “italics.” One voice represents the elements of nature, beginning as a butterfly and morphing into Water, Wind, Mother Earth, and the Thought itself. The other voice is that of the human being.  

I was tremendously pleased to see The Butterfly land in more than 24 cities, to places I’ve never been… from Australia, to India, England, Canada and across the US.

I wish I could have seen all the presentations, but that would have been a financial and environmental catastrophe. The great thing about writing, however, is that your words can travel so you don’t have to! Thus said, as a playwright who also directs and performs, I was terribly curious about the process and staging of the various Butterfly editions. So, I contacted the organizers and directors… and I am so glad I did. 

The casting and directing was so diverse, it was quite exciting. I had written the play for one feminine voice, suggesting the possibility of a duet or an ensemble. Not only were all these options realized, but in combinations I would not have thought of – and transcending gender. 

Faces of The Butterfly

The Butterfly’s first appearance was in Bridport, England, performed by Sally Lemsford as a one woman play, in a street car. I am quite fond of site-specific performances and the new and unexpected flavors that come along with that. I recall an instant when a cat walked onto the podium while I was performing my play Turaab in Turkey. Another time, dancing with bird wings in the Bay Area, the sun shone at the very end of the performance – as if the sky was “working the lights.”

At Iowa State UniversityThe Butterfly was staged as an ensemble piece, with the butterfly in the middle (see photo below.) The organizers had contacted me earlier to ask for a family-friendly version of the play, with three instances to consider. It’s not so straightforward to censor one’s own work, but I’m glad I did it. I even ended up keeping one of the changes for my final version of the play. An unexpected result. 

Britney Walters in The Butterfly That Persisted at Iowa State University.

Theater Alliance Kansas staged The Butterfly as a solo reading with the actress rotating the music stand while taking on the different voices. At the National Center for Performing Arts in Mumbai, it was presented as a staged reading with two women.

In New York, Hudson River Playback Theater staged The Butterfly with two females, accompanied by sparse improvised music. This was followed by audience members’ personal stories enacted on the spot, echoing the emotions in the play. Powerful!  

The Wilbury Theater Group at the University of Rhode Island cast The Butterfly with one female actor playing the elements and several mixed-gender actors playing the human(s). This surprised me at first. My inclination would have been to cast one human and many elements, as I regarded the human as the one going through a transformation and the elements of nature as “the one and the many.” However, if we look at the butterfly as the metamorphosing being in conversation with multiple humans,  it makes the experience universal. Again… another way to look at it – another effect.

Culture*Park Theatre in Massachusetts staged the play with a woman and a man, standing with their backs to each other. Now that would have never come to mind! But oh wow, what a beautiful image. I might have thought of including male voices amongst the elements of nature, but as a duet with a man! But why not? Nature has both a feminine and masculine side – and we have both expressed within us.

Another staging that would not have immediately come to mind took place at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia. There, The Butterfly was on stage in a spotlight, and the actor playing the human was seated in the audience, just as a voice. This must have made the audience feel part of the play, part of the problem (and the solutions.) Very nice!

Then there were the Young Womxns Voices in Colorado, whose poster keeps drawing a smile on my face. They represented the humans with three performers standing center stage, and the elements with seven performers appearing around them – as if heard and not seen. A few weeks before the performance, the team had gone on a retreat in the mountains to work while being immersed in nature. “The tone and content of this play unleashed a new maturity amongst the group,” said Sarah Fahmy, who directed the play in Colorado.

This is the ideal scenario, when a written play results in a product (performance) and serves as a process for the actors, and hence the audience. Add to that an environmental initiative… well, it doesn’t get any better!

Climate Strike on the CU Boulder campus. Photo by Beth Osnes.

The Young Womxns Voices took the symbol of the butterfly and made it their own during a Climate Strike on September 20, 2019 on the University of Colorado campus, while 16-year-old Finny Guy declared on the megaphone: “If a dove is the symbol of peace, then a butterfly is the symbol of change.” 

Yes. Young people will lead the way to a greener future. I know that with all my heart. 

As a performer, I couldn’t resist doing my own interpretation of the play. I presented it as a one-person audio performance, launching with it my podcast ArabWomanTalking. 

Finally, I’ve said this before, but I will say it again: Thank you CCTA for a most rewarding experience – professionally and personally. From the theme of “Lighting the Way,” to the process of writing, and the insight that it brought, to seeing The Butterfly spread her wings, to connecting with wonderful people around the world who share a love for the environment and the performing arts – it all leaves me feeling expansive and optimistic. I guess that’s what happens when you talk about something that really matters to you. Always good to remember. When it comes from the heart, it’s usually right on.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Raúl Hernández and Homero Gómez, two activists campaigning for the conservation of monarch butterflies and the woods in which they hibernate in Mexico. Both men were found dead at the beginning of 2020 as a result of their activism. May they rest in peace, and may our world be freed from the greed that is killing Nature and the heroes who strive to honor and protect it.

(Top image: Young Womxn Voices at the University of Colorado. Photo by Beth Osnes.)

______________________________

Lana I. Nasser is a Jordanian-American writer, performing artist, facilitator, and researcher based in the Netherlands, telling stories on the page and on the stage. Working across genres, wearing various hats. Informed by academic background in psychology, consciousness studies and dreams. Inspired by language, nature and mythology. Working internationally; an award here – a grant there; publications in Arabic and English, and most recently in Dutch. Founder of Aat Theater and Maskan for artists in a forest. An ecofeminist, beginning permaculturist and beekeeper.

———-

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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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘Searching for her courage’

By Bethia Sheean-WallaceCameron DiiorioLisa KitchensMelissa Knoll

Reader-submitted stories of the COVID-19 pandemic, in no more than 100 words. Read past stories hereSubmit your own here.

PANDEMIC REVISITED

I spoke with my 95-year-old aunt yesterday. Her mind is on her parents, Americans who met in Paris after losing their spouses to the 1918 flu epidemic. They had their first baby out of wedlock, more common than scandalous in a time when a quarter of the world’s population was infected by the flu. That baby was my mother. As a widow in her eighties, my grandmother penned poems of longing about her true love, whom she hospiced in a deserted hotel in Kissimmee, Florida: the young husband who died in her arms.

— Bethia Sheean-Wallace (Fullerton, California)

(Top image: My grandparents home, The Jungle Prada, in St. Petersburg, Florida.)

* * *

I HELD HER

The morning they announced the pandemic, my grandmother died. She died in one day.

My grandmother’s body shook on that afternoon. I held her. It would be the last time I would hold her. In the afternoon, I was visiting her and doing my homework and there was no quarantine. Eight hours later I was sitting inside the car and my mom sent me a text. She couldn’t make the phone call.

All of that seems far away because my dad bought twenty rolls of toilet paper and now I’m making my way through twenty bottles of beer.

— Cameron Diiorio (Costa Mesa, California)

 Cameron with her grandmother, taken in 2018. 

* * *

THE OFFLINE PROFESSOR

I wake at 3 AM, as if prompted by an alarm, but I have nowhere to go. My school is closed; I am suddenly supposed to teach online. Fuck online. I miss my students, my colleagues, work. Do the students have reliable wifi? Do they even have computers at home? Are they working because they need to pay rent? So many of them work in food service. What is this tickle in my throat? Was that a dry cough? I get up and find the thermometer. No fever. No fever, but no more sleep tonight either.

— Melissa Knoll (Corona, California)

Missing home from home.

* * *

SEARCHING FOR COURAGE

I’m thankful my mother isn’t dealing with all this. I’m thankful she doesn’t have to live in fear of another disease infecting her compromised body, though I do wish I could hear her voice.

She would respond to the current state of the world with words of courage and comfort. Neither dismissing my fears nor playing into them. She would repeat the words she always spoke to her students:

“Face the future with warm courage and high hopes.”

My days at home begin by looking out the window and searching for her courage.

— Lisa Kitchens (Brooklyn, New York)

A view from my kitchen window, where I spend most mornings. 

______________________________

This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.

———-

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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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘Taking the time to let nature heal’

By Alyssa HullBrooke WoodRebecca SchultzVirginia Shank.

Reader-submitted stories of the COVID-19 pandemic, in no more than 100 words. Read past stories hereSubmit your own here.

IN THE DISTANCE, LIVE OAKS

“Any kids or dogs?” the ranger asked.
“No.”
“Playground’s closed. I can’t touch money.”

Driving toward the trailhead: mother, father, son; near a picnic spot, not eating, not playing, just standing bewildered by sun and silence.

The same sun beats brutal on the steep, dry trail. I snap photos of empty ridges, brief green in the wake of rain, soon to be desiccated, dangerous, latent flames.

This desert climb offers poor comfort for a transplanted daughter of streams and trees. But on the path down, grasses aglow with wildflowers, poppies flashing hope, and in the distance, live oaks still stand.

— Virginia Shank (Orange County, California)

(Top Photo: Badger Pass trail in Casper Wilderness Park.)

* * *

SEEDS

Last week, my students asked a hundred questions to which I gave only tentative answers: Am I going to get sick? (Maybe.) Am I going to die? (No. I couldn’t bear it.) What about sports? What about prom? What about graduation? Am I going to graduate? (YES.) Am I going to college in the fall? (I feel much less certain about the answer I gave a week ago. Did I mislead them? I cannot imagine being seventeen, eighteen, right now.) Is this the Rapture? (This—leaving me the most shaken.) The peas we planted in September refuse to stop growing.

— Alyssa Hull (Wilmington, Delaware)

Studying the history of the climate—a tree that kept growing despite its scars.

* * *

QUILLS

Today I couldn’t breathe. Not because I am infected with the virus, but because worry, anxiety, and uncertainty have settled in my chest and hold tight. So, I took a walk in a snow-covered forest, grateful to live in Alaska with easy access to trails safe for social distancing. There I spied a porcupine high in a spruce tree. I thought, “I didn’t know porcupines could climb.” Then, “oh, to be like a porcupine, able to climb out of the chaos and carry my armor with me, so trouble does not wish to come near me.”

— Brooke Wood (Anchorage, Alaska)

The porcupine, sheltering in place.

* * *

OUT IN THE WOODS

Went to the woods yesterday. Being amongst the trees and seeing the beginnings of spring green pop up on the forest floor made me cry with gratitude and relief. I’ve been so worried about the natural world for so long and for a moment I could just relax and let it take care of me. And I wasn’t the only one. So many others, of all ages and backgrounds, were out there, at a six foot distance. Walking in the woods, sitting by the creek, taking the time to let nature heal them and give them comfort too.

— Rebecca Schultz (Melrose Park, Pennsylvania)

New life in the woods.

______________________________

This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.

———-

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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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘Fears and tears eclipsed by good deeds’

By Jivani RodriguezKristina WattMary WoodburyStephanie Stott.

Reader-submitted stories of the COVID-19 pandemic, in no more than 100 words. Read past stories hereSubmit your own here.

GHOST TOWN WAKING

My parents tell me they smuggled me in.

Like it’s a joke.

Like thousands haven’t died.

But there’s no border patrol waiting for us. No inspection team. No need to hide in the trunk.

Fleeing from ghost town to ghost town.

It wasn’t until my walk last night after the storm, listening to Mitski – deep bass and foggy sorrow-voice – that I remembered the point of being alive. Heard frogs sing from the creek. Watched a girl dance under a streetlamp, not a care in the world. Saw a shooting star.

So shocked I forgot to make a wish.

— Jivani Rodriguez (Fairfield, Iowa)

(Top Photo: Ghost town.)

* * *

THE LEEK OF THE APOCALYPSE

Same store as before. 
The gloves don’t use cash best not smile
Plastic shield.
Where, now what – 
Her fridge is so full (a first – who’s it for?)
Walks on with false purpose. The Frozens. New Land.
Butternut squash Paper Bag
Cubed!
Waits. Hears the “do it.”
Grabs the bag on the bottom
Now GO.
But can’t seem to leave yet.

“Come closer” it calls.

(Really?)
(Haven’t tried you for a while.)
(Gassy, that’s true.)
I’ll do it.
It eases inside (a smile of sorts?)
Pays through plastic with plastic and she and her leek walk it home.

— Kristina Watt (Ottawa, Ontario)

My leek.

* * *

PARTIES AMID PANDEMONIUM

My cap and gown sit in vacuum-sealed plastic bags, purchased two weeks before quarantine. Funny, the day I muster the courage to break my shut-in streak, we’re told to stay indoors. Playing Sims 4 until 2 AM and listlessly thumbing through library books isn’t new to me. The only difference is that my anxiety has infected this house. The street. The city. Tourists are immune to it, popping bottles and drowning in their youth on Clearwater Beach, while crematoriums across the pond fire up. If my grandmother were alive, I’d pray for her.

— Stephanie Stott (Largo, Florida)

The cap, unused.

* * *

THE WIND

Nova Scotia winds wildly shake the new house where I’m self-isolating. I wonder when or if my husband can get here from 4,000 kilometers away. Six days seeing no one. Alone here in the unfamiliar. The wind, the dead roses, the blue jays, the crows, the seagulls, and the old gardens in the vast yard call me out. Old stone birdbath statues watch me as I walk by. It is not the old world. The landscape is new, the fears and tears eclipsed by good deeds. We can do this if we live, I think.

— Mary Woodbury (Beaver Bank, Nova Scotia)

The gardens.

______________________________

This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.

———-

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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Q18 DESCRIBED: Being Animal

Lead Editor’s note: We will be publishing excerpts from Q18: dis/sustain/ability, guest edited by Bronwyn Preece, in order to make the content accessible to blind readers with audio screen readers. We’ll also be including audio descriptions of the Quarterly’s original layout designed by Stephanie Plenner. Please stay tuned for future posts and share widely. In this chapter, Susanna Uchatius discusses an “othered” performance by Theatre Terrific.

Audio Description of “Being Animal,” by Katie Murphy, designed by Stephanie Plenner, Photos by Chantele Fry

BEING ANIMAL:
Produced and performed by Theatre Terrific September 2015
By Susanna Uchatius

During the longest West Coast drought in recorded history, Theatre Terrific gathered an inclusive cast and crew to explore our place in the natural world. Inspired by philosopher and cultural ecologist David Abram, we journeyed into a conversation with nature. Abram observes, “Humans are tuned for relationship. The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ears and nostril – all are gates where our body receives the nourishment of otherness.” (1)

We asked ourselves the question:

What would happen if we fully embraced otherness in ourselves, in our communities, and in nature?

The result was Theatre Terrific’s production of BEING ANIMAL (2) , performed in Sculpture Park on Granville Island as part of the 2015 Vancouver Fringe Festival.

A cast of 12 actors, often labeled as “other” due to cognitive, physical, mental health, gender and/or cultural differences from the normative, took up the challenge and collaborated in a bold exploration that tested the truth of our relationship with our natural surroundings.

Do we speak the language of water, of wind, of tree, of bird?

The collaborative ensemble consisted of the physicality, language and perceptions of artists, some of whose life experience includes autism, cerebral palsy, brain damage, schizophrenia, Down syndrome, gender uniqueness, and the cultural experience of the Indigenous, Chinese, Filipino, Irish to name a few.

BEING ANIMAL became a musical moving conversation. The work incorporated the park environment such as the trees, grass, confined water, large stone, sky, air — as partners in performance. Using song, dance, music, mask and puppetry, BEING ANIMAL, explored how to truthfully “live” in our world, share thoughts with the environment around us and ultimately find commonality and companionship with the natural world.

How did we do this?

By embracing the gifts of diversity offered up by cast and place.

How to speak with a tree. An actor chooses an audience member to pick a tree and then guides them through a speed date…. The awareness of the tiniest detail as one attempted to impress a tree made for astute and profound conversation.

The life cycle of nature. An actor crawls out of his wheelchair and furiously claws at the earth to get closer to the beloved family members he has lost. Behind him three actors gesture the dance of love, death and ultimate rebirth…an enactment of the continuum that is the natural life cycle.


Value all things. The simple gesture of a cast member gently picking up a stone or a leaf, examining it and then with great respect, giving it as a valuable gift to an audience member endowed the simple object with reverence ….

again and again and again….

BEING ANIMAL closes with a large Mother Earth puppet who slowly appears, and with outspread arms, embraces the cast: guiding them to walk to the water’s edge to raise their arms in praise to the open sky, ocean, trees and wonder of it all.

Theatre Terrific:

MISSION: Theatre Terrific pioneers inclusive opportunities for artists of all abilities to develop performance skills and collaborate in the production of theatrical works.


MANDATE: Through its work, Theatre Terrific challenges audiences to be open to the impact of thought-provoking art.


Susanna Uchatius has been the Artistic Director of Theatre Terrific, Western Canada’s longest running inclusive theatre company for artists of all abilities in Vancouver, since 2005. She has written, directed and collaboratively developed over 30 professional, community and site-specific productions. She has pioneered a rigorous and respected accessible ensemble process, that includes Equity and emerging actors of all abilities in the creation of high quality productions tackling universal issues relevant to the human condition.

Photos by Chantele Fry

FOOTNOTES

1. Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous : Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World. New York : Pantheon Books, 1996. Page ix.
2. A direct reference to Abram’s 2010 book of the same name.

Art in the Time of Corona

By Joan Sullivan

Self-isolating at home, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts and radio documentaries. What a wonderful medium! They inspire – no, they deserve – active, contemplative listening. Not the multi-tasking variety of listening during which we also wash the dishes, go for a run, or walk the dog. 

If we are wise, we will recognize that the coronavirus pandemic, like every dark cloud, has a silver lining: an opportunity to slow down, observe, be curious. An opportunity to create space to listen: to ourselves, to the wind rattling the window, to the snow geese returning north to their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra. 

copyright, Joan Sullivan, winter, snow, grief, climate, crisis, Quebec

“We [artists] understand rhythm, flow and negative space,” writes Andrew Simonet, founder and director of Artists U. “Not everything we do right now needs to be doing. Silence is a way of telling. Stillness is movement.” 

And this, from Jerry Saltz, Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic for New York Magazine: “Now is the time of the slower-artist and makers, working alone or [in] more intimate conditions. You will reach the further shores.”

I recently re-listened to Sara Fishko’s award-winning WNYC radio documentary Culture Shock 1913. It describes how European artists reacted to and interpreted the chaos at the beginning of the last century leading up to World War I. This “unsettling, shocking era of sweeping change” gave birth to the Modernist movement. The artists – Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Nijinsky, Picasso, Duchamp, Brancusi, Kandinsky, Mondrian – burst violently onto the scene, challenging all cultural senses and sensitivities of that conservative époque.

According to the music critic Tim Page, interviewed by Fishko, “I think in a lot of ways, it was just the beginning of a century… of absolute chaos and nightmare, and as so often, the artists heard it and reflected it first.” (Emphasis added.)  Fishko ends her hour-long special by reminding us that, 100 years later, history is repeating itself: “We are about to experience the next great cultural explosion, when artists help us sort it out, with sometimes shocking results.” 

If the first two decades of the 21st century are any indication, all of our anthropocenic ducks are perfectly aligned for Fishko’s prediction to come true. Artists have more than enough “chaos and nightmares” to chose from: climate crisis, coronavirus pandemic, children in cages, sixth mass extinction, and the biblical swarm of locusts currently devastating East Africa and South Asia. Bill McKibben’s 2005 wish for some goddamn climate operas is finally coming true, along with climate theatreclimate music and climate poetry. We have a growing chorus of powerful women’s voices shifting the climate narrative, an impressive list to which I would add Mary Annaïse HeglarRobin Wall Kimmerer, and Emily Johnston. We have Julie’s BicycleOlafur Eliasson and Isaac Cordal. We even have a Climate Museum

But we’re not “there” yet. 

I would argue that we’re not even close to the ground-shifting-beneath-our-feet protest music movement of the 60s and 70s that energized an entire generation to question authority. Perhaps this crowned virus will change the status quo? Possibly. A recent article in Big Think reminds us that “protest music is a natural feature of humanity” – just think back to those medieval court jesters and minstrels, whose poetry and music were cleverly disguised as barbs to force their privileged overlords to look themselves in the mirror. 

So I throw this question out to the universe: Who will write the next The Times They Are A-Changin’? Who will write the next Big Yellow Taxi? NPR compiled a list here, but I still feel that the urgency of the current situation – the overwhelming angst, eco-anxiety, grief, fear – has not yet been embraced by enough artists to change the mood music.

It is worth noting that in the very short time (just three months!) that coronavirus has become a household name, artists’ responses to the pandemic have been immediate, bold, and truly global. If only the same could be said for the climate crisis. Simonet’s important call to arms to artists (see excerpt below) in the context of the corona crisis, could easily have been written for the climate crisis, years ago:

This moment is a health crisis, a brutal one. It is also a crisis of meaning. It is a crisis of connection, of story. It is a crisis of who we are to each other and the agreements that hold us together. And those are things we artists know how to work on. The script for how we will be together in this time has not been written. Artists will have a huge impact on that story.

I am reminded of a similar quote by Amy Brady, Editor-In-Chief of the Chicago Review of Books, in her 2019 paean for climate fiction: “The drama, then, lies in the emotional arcs of the characters as they face their lives with alternating hope and despair, knowing that while the future looks bleak, it has yet to be written.”

This then, is Corona’s gift: a recognition that collectively, with the right combination of political, social and individual commitment, we can flatten the curve, shift the needle, rewrite the script. The future is ours to imagine, to design, to build. According to Simonet, artists are the first responders: “You don’t need to save the world. You need only carry your gifts and skills into this present challenge.”

Lest we forget, laughter in the time of corona is an essential ingredient moving forward. Here is a selection of some my favorite coronavirus memes currently circulating on Twitter. 

And finally, some classical music. Here’s a link to The Philadelphia Orchestra’s free streaming of Beethoven’s 5th and 6th Symphonies, directed by Québec’s beloved Yannick Nézet-Séguin in an empty concert hall last week. Please listen to Nézet-Séguin’s opening remarks from 01:50 to 02:57 for inspiration on how these two symphonies, first premiered in 1808, can “help us, guide us and channel all our emotions, and help us feel that we are together on this beautiful planet Earth.”.

(All photos by Joan Sullivan, from her new body of work, Grief, 2020)

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Joan Sullivan is a Canadian photographer focused on the energy transition. Her renewable energy photographs have been exhibited in group and solo shows in Canada, the UK and Italy. She is currently working on a long-term, self-assigned photo project about Canada’s energy transition. In her monthly column for Artists and Climate Change, Joan explores the intersection of art and the energy transition. You can find Joan on TwitterVisura and Ello.

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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.

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