Yearly Archives: 2020

Against Climate as Metaphor: Make Climate Propaganda (The Good Kind)

By Thomas Peterson

“Too much propaganda masquerading as art.” This was the first comment that appeared on Instagram when HowlRound Theatre Commons shared my recent essay on the necessity of creating plays that tell local climate stories. At first I was a little miffed – it’s hard not to be when someone summarily dismisses your work or accuses you of propagandizing. “Was I really promoting propaganda?” I worried, as thoughts of Goebbels, Riefenstahl, D.W. Griffith, and other horrifying propagandists swirled in my head.

The word propaganda comes from the Latin propago, both a verb signifying increase and a noun signifying a new layer or shoot produced by a plant. This latter usage of propago continues in English, meaning a layer or branch laid down to root – propaganda has always been green. 

Moreover, for all its negative connotations, propaganda is often defined as a value-neutral term, referring simply to communication that seeks primarily to influence its audience or further an agenda. The Enclopædia Britannica entry on the subject commences by defining propaganda as “dissemination of information – facts, arguments, rumours, half-truths, or lies – to influence public opinion.” While I would certainly be embarrassed to promote manipulation based on rumors and lies, I realized that deliberately influencing public opinion by disseminating facts and arguments was precisely the goal of the kind of climate storytelling I aimed to encourage. 

I had also recently seen some stunningly beautiful works of propaganda, thanks to the Criterion Channel’s streaming archive. Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove seemed like all the evidence I needed that art and propaganda were not mutually exclusive categories –that great works of art could also be designed to influence public opinion. In a world badly in need of many new carbon dioxide-absorbing shoots, or propago, making climate propaganda seemed particularly apt.

Still from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, 1925.

Nevertheless, I thought about this Instagram comment for days. “Too much propaganda masquerading as art.” The term “masquerading” stung, as it implied a binary between art and propaganda and invoked the deceitful manipulation associated with the worst kinds of the latter, but my main gripe was with the words “too much.” We don’t have too much climate propaganda masquerading as art. In fact, we have far too little climate propaganda, whether framed as art or not.

We are in a climate crisis; fewer and fewer people dispute this consensus. This is the most consequential crisis, the most complex challenge, the highest impact threat ever faced by humans, not just directly but also because of the threat to the ecosystems that sustain us as well as countless other species. Effective responses to global crises have historically required mass mobilization, and the mobilization required to transition to a zero carbon economy will be greater than any yet achieved. Previous crises, such as the Great Depression and World War II, only instigated such mass mobilizations through the organized development and dissemination of propaganda.

In the past several years, it has become commonplace to describe the shift needed to respond to the climate crisis as akin to the American mobilization for the Second World War. Whole organizations and movements, such as The Climate Mobilization, are founded on this premise, and the idea of a World War II-scale response has been echoed by voices ranging from Bill McKibben to the Democratic Party Platform Committee. The American mobilization for World War II was supported by a massive, largely government-funded propaganda campaign, eventually coordinated by the United States Office of War Information, which used every available artistic medium – from Hollywood films to posters – to build support for war production and encourage popular animosity towards the Axis powers.

The Green New Deal and its variants – the most prominent and comprehensive plans to mitigate the climate crisis – also harken back to a mass mobilization. While the propaganda that accompanied the New Deal was not coordinated by a single office like the efforts that would later accompany the Second World War, Franklin Delano Roosevelt rallied the country through “a hodgepodge of media efforts carried out by an alphabet soup of agencies,” as Stephen Duncombe put it in a piece on “FDR’s Democratic Propaganda” in The Nation in 2008. Duncombe acknowledges that “many progressives today have an adverse reaction to propaganda,” but insists that this aversion is naïve: it was only through such mass persuasion that Roosevelt was able to mobilize the country for the greatest expansion of the welfare state and equalization of the economic playing field in American history.

One-Third of a Nation, a Living Newspaper play produced by the Federal Theatre Project, 1938.

The New Deal also provides the best historical precedent for government-supported art-making on a mass scale. Under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration, the Federal Art Project, the Federal Music Project, the Federal Theatre Project, and the Federal Writers’ Project employed over forty thousand artists in the late 1930s. While these projects did not exclusively produce propaganda, many of the more prominent works created by the Federal Theatre Project (FTP) were explicitly anti-capitalist, or advocated for labor rights or racial equality. Notable examples include One-Third of a Nation, a Living Newspaper play about housing inequality; FTP director Hallie Flanagan’s communist play Can You Hear Their Voices?; and Sinclair Lewis’s theatrical adaptation of his anti-fascist novel It Can’t Happen Here. Is it too much to hope that a Green New Deal might include a New Green Federal Theatre Project?

To be sure, the climate crisis is not a war and it is not an economic depression, though it will likely precipitate both. Nevertheless, it will fundamentally alter our societies in ways that resemble changes wrought during wartime and after economic collapse.

Given the magnitude of the crisis we are facing, the necessity of a mass mobilization to mitigate its impacts, and the success of artistic propaganda campaigns in moving public opinion in the past, I argue that artists have an ethical responsibility to create propaganda for climate justice, for a Green New Deal, for an end to the burning of fossil fuels. This work will also challenge the denialist propaganda that the fossil fuel industry has funded and produced for decades.

We must, of course, be wary of the potentially alienating effects of the term, as it can imply an intent to mislead or dupe. Why use the term “propaganda” at all when it carries such alarming baggage, particularly in a twentieth century context, when the propaganda agencies of repressive regimes come immediately to mind?

I embrace the term because it helps me to throw away my learned squeamishness about art that is politically instrumental, about art that wears its politics on its sleeve. The dominant critical framework in Western art tends to condemn didacticism, favoring a politics that is couched in metaphor over a politics that is unambiguous.

Creating overtly political work on climate may in fact be preferable to the alternative: the climate crisis as metaphor. After reading Paul Elie’s recent essay in the New Yorker“(Against) Virus as Metaphor,” I returned to Susan Sontag’s “Illness as Metaphor” and “AIDS and its Metaphors.” Sontag argues, as Elie elegantly paraphrases, that illness metaphors “hinder the rational and scientific apprehension that is needed to contain disease and provide care for people. To treat illness as a metaphor is to avoid or delay or even thwart the treatment of literal illness.” Perhaps to treat climate as metaphor – to insist that to be made legible, climate change must be layered atop a plot or subject at the human scale, as metaphor for interpersonal violence or other suffering – is both to hinder the “rational and scientific apprehension” of the rapidly worsening conditions for human life on this planet, and to “delay or even thwart” our response to this almost unimaginable crisis.

The climate crisis leaves no time for subtlety, and little room for metaphor. We have firm climatological deadlines: ten years, quickly slipping towards nine, an atmospheric carbon dioxide level of 418 parts per million – for the first time in at least three million years – and climbing ever higher.

I use the term propaganda because we artists have an ethical obligation to communicate this urgency, and to say it clearly. Your climate art should be so explicit in its politics that a fossil fuel executive or a banker funding extraction projects or a reactionary politician pushing climate denial would never choose to buy it or attend your performance. And if he did (for they are mostly men) he would understand that he was being called to account.

If using the term propaganda liberates you to create work like this and frees you from the fear of scolding critics or Instagram commenters who tell you that art should not be didactic, that art should not impose its views, then I think propaganda is a useful term, and one I proudly claim. Make climate propaganda (the good kind). Lay down new roots, propago.

(Top image: Still from “A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” illustrated by Molly Crabapple, directed by Kim Boekbinder and Jim Batt.)

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Thomas Peterson is a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis. He is an Artistic Associate with The Arctic Cycle, co-organizing Climate Change Theatre Action. He recently returned from a Harvard Williams-Lodge Scholarship in Paris, where he wrote a thesis on the aesthetic of the sublime in the theatrical representation of the Anthropocene. He created Roy Loves America, a multi-form performance piece about Roy Cohn, and is developing an original adaptation of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, set on a dying planetHis engagement in climate activism stretches back to high school, when he led a successful fossil fuel divestment campaign.

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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.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Successful proposal to SGSAH

A joint proposal for an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Studentship to develop a framework for evaluating environmentally concerned, arts-based community interventions has been successful.

Creative Carbon Scotland, in partnership with the University of Glasgow has successfully applied to the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities for a fully funded PhD to take forward an interdisciplinary project in “Assessing arts-based interventions for sustainable practice”.

Summary of the project

Tackling the climate crisis requires deep-rooted cultural change at all levels of society. Creative practitioners have begun to devise ways of exploring environmental concerns through arts-based interventions that make common ground with the cultural practices of local communities, but there is as yet no common framework by which we can evaluate the longer-term effectiveness of such interventions. This project will observe two distinct creative interventions, critically reflect upon them as both artistic creations and pedagogical tools within an Energy and Environmental Humanities framework, and develop a portable qualitative framework for the design and assessment of arts-based community interventions.

The AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Studentship will commence in Autumn 2020.

More information about the project and how to apply will be advertised shortly.Is this useful? Share it with someone

The post Successful proposal to SGSAH appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

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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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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘I touch nothing; is nothing enough?’

By Anna, Kaatje, Sebastien, Jaya, Paige, and SophieCora PearlsteinJason WallinJudy Fox

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

THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN

The world turned upside down… inside out… falling apart… a worldwide pandemic. Stopped in our tracks. How do any of us respond? How quickly or slowly do we face the facts and become willing to change? This is a unique moment in our lifetime. It is devastating, and, at the same time, it opens up possibilities to be different. We are collectively and individually faced with our mortality, our vulnerability, our uncertain futures.

When things don’t seem to work anymore, what do we turn to? Yes, making art, writing, planting, creating, cooking, imagining… appreciating beauty, nature, sunlight.

— Judy Fox (Lenox, Massachusetts)

Falling apart.

* * *

ART IN CRISIS

I was supposed to be in King Lear this spring. Instead of canceling our show, my incredible director decided to continue, via Zoom. Theatre is the one constant in my life, the art I turn to when the rest of my world is in shambles. I feel so lucky to have something that I love, even in the midst of chaos. I turn to theatre when I can’t do anything else. I get to see friends, be creative, and genuinely love something I’m creating. Now especially, art grounds me, keeps me sane, and reminds me of beauty in the world.

— Cora Pearlstein (Seattle, Washington)

King Lear. See us on Northwest Arts Streaming Hub on May 23!

* * *

CONSPIRACY OF BATS

We are told that this is the era of man, the Anthropocene. As the fog of “civilizational progress” momentarily lifts, however, a forgotten nature emerges through the veil of toxic pollution, birds sing in the absence of noise pollution, and animals territorialize spaces long thought conquered by humans. Perhaps this suggests a new epoch after the Anthropocene, when the world designed by man will be revealed to be but one world – and hardly the best of all possible worlds. Here, we encounter the horror of civilizational design and the myriad worlds it has disappeared in its march toward oblivion.

— Jason Wallin (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

Conspiracy of Bats, original illustration.

* * *

I KNOW BUT I WONDER

I know it’s for the best but I wonder when it’ll end
I fear I like this better but I wonder: is loneliness worse in a crowd
I say I’m okay and I wonder if they’re lying too
I hear politicians but I wonder what’s true
I touch nothing; is nothing enough?
I know I care; am I a counterfeit angel?
I hear people feel alone but isn’t that what they always feel?
I see my opponent; how can I defeat them?
I touch when I’m wanted, but I wonder: can I reach out first
I love and I wonder

— Anna, Kaatje, Sebastien, Jaya, Paige, and Sophie, ages 13 to 16 
(Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)

(Top photo: 100 Watt Productions: The voice of youth on the climate crisis.)

______________________________

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.

 

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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.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Opportunity: 87 Beavers: In Memoriam

We will collect 87 artworks to commemorate 87 protected beavers killed under ScotGov license in 2019.

Eighty-seven beavers on Tayside were killed under license by the Scottish Government in 2019: almost one-fifth of Scotland’s beaver population, estimated at 450 animals.
Wise management, or senseless slaughter?

Beavers bring a range of benefits including flood control and their ability to create habitat for many other species through their dam-building activities. Many landowners in other areas of Scotland would love to have beavers on their own rivers and streams, but while the beavers on Tayside, which were reintroduced around 15 years ago after being extinct in Britain for more than three hundred years, gained legally protected status in May 2019, it is still illegal to transport beavers from one area of the country to another.

The proposed art action seeks to commemorate the 87 beavers legally killed in the name of wise management, while persuading the Scottish Government not to kill any more of these beautiful animals, but instead allow them to be legally transported to other areas of the country where they can perform their useful functions.

We are putting out a call for people from all over Scotland and elsewhere to send us artistic representations of the Eurasian beaver: pictures, stuffed toys, papier maché models, sculptures, you name it. This call-out goes as much to professional artists as it does to ordinary members of the public of any age or walk of life. From all the beavers we receive before the deadline, we’ll select 87 to form part of an exhibition which will be put on show in public spaces across Scotland as well as in any gallery space that wants to host it – pandemic conditions permitting, of course.

Visit the 87 beavers website for more information

Deadline: 31st July 2020

The post Opportunity: 87 Beavers: In Memoriam appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

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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

Powered by WPeMatico

Opportunity: Outdoor arts and mixed media commissions

Paid commissions for pop-up outdoor arts and mixed media installations in Renfrewshire.

Renfrewshire Leisure wish to commission a series of innovative pop-up outdoor arts and mixed media installations to be explored from the cycle paths of Renfrewshire between Paisley and Lochwinnoch under social distancing guidelines during Autumn 2020.

The installation experiences will be digitised for online access and then showcased for a longer period at our Cycle Arts Festival in 2021. Our cycle paths have renewed significance in these times of COVID-19 lockdown and we are aiming to celebrate their unique value as open spaces which can be enjoyed by everyone, promoting wellbeing and giving access to green space and wild land.

Funding between £1000 to £5000 is available for artists or organisations submitting innovative visual / mixed media proposals which meet the commission brief.

The outdoor arts / mixed media commissions are for significant outdoor installations that push boundaries of experimentation and capture distinctive narratives of place for Renfrewshire. The work can explore contemporary themes including how we respond to the COVID19 pandemic, reflect on climate adaptation, celebrate cycling and reflect on wellbeing. We are looking for high-quality arts installations with contemporary vision, uniqueness and positive progressive thinking on social change.

To apply please complete the application form, monitoring form and upload your supporting artwork/film /showcase.

For more information contact Renfrewshire Place Partnership, Muriel Ann Macleod, Creative Producer.

Deadline for applications: 5pm, Friday 17th July 2020

The post Opportunity: Outdoor arts and mixed media commissions 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

Powered by WPeMatico

Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘Zoom panopticon’

By Aarushi BhaskaranAlyssa CokinisBarbara Curzon-SiggersKara Gibson

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

TIME MOCKS MY PAUSED LIFE

My room’s filled with half-unpacked boxes from a year ago and suitcases containing half my wardrobe. We moved here, I went off to college, and then I just didn’t have the time. Didn’t. Have. Time. All I’ve got now is time. Time to make this feel like home, like it’s mine. Fairy lights tucked in a corner to sometime adorn my wall, a poster in a box, my old Casio keyboard. I’ve got the time. Someday this’ll feel like home. I think back to my dorm, roommates, classes, job — the start of a life. My life. Someday.

— Aarushi Bhaskaran (San Jose, California)

(Top photo: The wall of my dorm room the week I left.)

* * *

YOGA MEANS “UNION”

“Change.” And no one moves. “Interlock your fingers and grab your right foot, three inches below your toes.” And nothing. An intake of air as I prepare to repeat the instruction, and suddenly the video jumps forward: the grid of bodies are miraculously mid-posture. I see a gallery of incongruous body parts, depending on camera angles. The individual breaths I monitor so closely are now a mystery to me. Instructing yoga virtually, I rely more now on a dimension of faith. Zoom! Their hands are in prayer and their eyes are shining as we close the practice. Namaste.

— Kara Gibson (Geneva, Switzerland)

What teaching yoga looks like for me, before and after COVID-19.

* * *

BURIAL

Autumn leaves and unseasonably warm evening breeze – the new normal – spread across the path, soon fraying russet remainders will fall onto the turned soil. I buried my little feline, my sanctuary and comfort, dear embodiment of solace, in solitude – the new normal – all I have to give now are the shedding trees and tears. Alone, an old woman squinting in the moonlight, yearning, my soul is curled about that small frame beneath the earth. Resurrection isn’t likely.

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

Turned soil.

* * *

LIFE’S LITTLE STRINGS

Second semester never started in Shanghai. My MA hangs on a virtual thread, my classmates and me as little strings connected to my instructor’s Zoom panopticon, or perhaps it’s not theirs to be in charge of. I wasn’t supposed to move to Salem yet, but here I am, with my loving partner, and still we long for our Iowa homes, his still there and mine long gone. Maybe I just want my mom. My belongings are separated by an ocean. There is no crossing it anymore; the US has made sure of that. Bad news, online school: the only constants.

— Alyssa Cokinis (Salem, Oregon)

The view from the 18th floor of Shanghai Theatre Academy, where I lived as I began studying for my MA.

______________________________

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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Tempting Fate: A Satirical Sideshow Reflecting The House of Mirrors Called Climate Change

By Ross Travis

“Welcome to the cosmic sideshow, where you human cockroaches are the main act.”

Thus begins the sardonic diatribe of the eternal Harpy from the land of mythology in Tempting Fate, my satirical sideshow entertainment reflecting the house of mirrors called climate change. This original one-man bouffon show, in which I play 32 characters, balks at the science, bemoans the social impacts, and screams in horror at the political divide. You find yourself laughing at the grotesque hyperbole and the fantastically fecund characters bedecked in disdain and hubris. You see Mother Earth talk trash to those who bite her tit while suckling her life-giving abundance.

Tempting Fate, which premiered at Little Boxes Theatre in San Francisco in May of 2019, is the third work produced by my company, Antic in a Drain. The company’s mission is to combine circus and bouffon to develop extreme characters and tell stories from the fringes, igniting dialogue and change within communities around ignored or taboo social issues. Over the last six years, my work has satirically skewered humankind’s exploitative relationship with nature. My primary modus operandi is a traditional, grotesque, satirical form of physical theatre called bouffon, which was codified from many traditions (including the medieval Feast of Fools celebration, the satyr plays of the ancient Greeks, and the shamans of Native American tribes) by the French theatre provocateur Jacques Lecoq in the fifties and sixties.

My calling to create work about the interactions between humans and the earth springs from a childhood growing up in the nature of rural Colorado, and from the way I’ve seen humans neglect and burden the earth and its creatures throughout my life. I have lived in San Francisco for the last ten years, and have seen first-hand how coastal communities in the San Francisco Bay Area (and around the world) are threatened by climate change. What I saw and learned while living in the Bay Area sparked the creation of another work of mine, Bucko: Whaleman!, a swashbuckling spectacle that plunges a satirical harpoon into the heart of manifest destiny and white privilege from the bow of maritime history and literature. 

We are currently feeling a surge of the effects of climate change: out-of-control wildfires, island nations displaced due to flooding and superstorms, and a global pandemic of a novel coronavirus. I am terrified and deeply sorrowful about the issue; how are there those who still do not believe in climate change? Political, corporate, and religious leaders use the word of God, misinformation campaigns, and capitalist rhetoric to indoctrinate their citizens and divert their attention. In order to understand the points of view of these influencers and their constituencies, I must empathetically dive into their perspectives and approach what I find through a humorous lens.

The Cerberus Dogs.

But I’m an equal opportunity offender. Great satire is not black and white like agitprop. Great satire leaves us dwelling on the complexities of our complicity. So I also take a plunge into my own bias and the ways in which the political left is also apathetic or hypocritical. Bouffons have no allegiances and no alliances, they are free agents, funhouse mirrors, alien inquisitors. Imagine, if you will, a group of pleasure seeking, fun loving aliens landing in the middle of a war zone in Syria. “Oh! This is how they have fun on this planet!”, they say to each other in their alien tongue. They then begin to act out the atrocities they see before them like children at the playground. The humans stop and see their own behavior being replicated before them in all its grotesque hypocrisy, they laugh at the absurd portrayal of their actions, they empathize with the plight of their foes, they weep in catharsis.

With this in mind, I do my best to adopt a neutral perspective and soak up as much as I can from all sides of an issue. During my research and development period, I take a head-first plunge, conducting interviews with experts, listening to podcasts, reading books and articles, and watching documentaries and films. I try to become as much of an expert as I can. Then I find what games I see being played and identify who all the players are, who is complicit and in what ways. I replay these games and scenarios for the audience through grotesque characters, gratuitous ritual, song, and ecstatic play. 

In Tempting Fate, the characters include a tempestuous harpy straight from the land of mythology, bringing an ominous reminder from the gods; a former oil executive, now a sustainable farmer at a Climate Changers Anonymous meeting (struggling with the difficulty of his new off-the-grid life in a yurt with a backed up compostable toilet); and a liberal cheerleader for team Human, trying to keep her squad positive as they get clobbered by team Climate Change (who are kicking international climate change through team Human’s goal posts and uprooting the lives of millions of their fans).

The Capitalist Golum.

I question whether or not someone can be truly changed by a piece of theatre, but I dream that they might be. Bouffon is the theatre form I’ve found with the greatest potential to make people examine their most firmly held convictions and biases. It’s my belief (scientific proof pending) that the laughter elicited by the comedy in a bouffon performance opens the audience so that when the tragedy of the material is presented, they are more apt to consider new perspectives. The emotional rollercoaster of this form, the extremity and vulnerability that it requires, the fact that no one is safe and every perspective will be challenged (even the creator’s) can be very humbling and disarming. This is perhaps exactly what we need when we have all retreated to our tribes and armed our “bubbles.”

Tempting Fate will be touring nationally and internationally as soon as the quarantine restrictions are lifted and it is safe enough to do so.

(Top image: The Harpy, from Tempting Fate. Costumes by Lydia Foreman, masks and puppets by Ronlin Foreman, written, created, and performed by Ross Travis, directed by Ronlin Foreman. Photos by Eric Gillet of Shoot That Klown.)

____________________________________

Ross Travis is an award-winning actor, creator, bouffon, physical comedian, and circus performer (specializing in Chinese pole), who has studied with world-renowned master pedagogues, including Dodi DiSanto, Giovanni Fusetti, Ronlin Foreman, Stephen Buescher, Dominik Wyss, and Master Lu Yi. Ross has developed three shows: The Greatest Monkey Show On Earth, which won the Artistic Risk Award at the Vancouver Fringe Festival and received two nominations at the 2016 Theatre Bay Area Awards, winning for Outstanding Costume Design; Bucko: Whaleman!, which premiered at San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park in 2017; and Tempting Fate, which was nominated for seven 2019 Theatre Bay Area Awards, winning for Outstanding Creative Specialties for mask design.

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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.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘This misery loves isolation’

By Eileen E. SchmitzFinley BakerKathryn Coleman & Abbey MacDonaldTalisa Flores

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

THEY DON’T NEED ME I NEED THEM

I look out my back door, I gaze at the yard birds. I keep them stocked with food. They don’t need me to survive, but I need them. I need to feel a tiny bit of responsibility for the microhabitat of my backyard, I need to feel like I am helping in some way. It is so quiet, besides the house sparrow and red-winged blackbirds chirping and arguing. I feel helpless and out of touch with the normal flow of time and existence. But when I look out at my birds, I feel the ground beneath my feet again.

— Finley Baker (Lochbuie, Colorado)

(Top photo: The gift of a lazuli bunting.)

* * *

RUN

I used to run to be a part of something. I used to run to be happy. Then one day I stopped. Who’s to say why, but I always felt as though something was missing. Now that my days are endless, within the same four walls, running has found me again. Now I run to stay sane. Now I run to see the world. My world, my neighborhood, becomes much more beautiful with each crack and crevice I pass. Running will always make everything feel alright.

— Talisa Flores (Fullerton, California)

Sunset run.

* * *

BECOMING CO-CONSPIRATORIAL

Isolation gives cause to become curious about our personal, environmental and circumstantial contexts; the subsequent actions we enact from in-between these spaces have tangible impact upon the people we encounter and the places we traverse in life. How does our tending to various terrains shape our ways of being in the COVID-19 world? Something special happens when you find a co-lab-orator, co-con-spirator – more importantly when in isolation. Tending to ideas, imagining across sites and being curious through digital connections offers new spaces to create that were not found before. Being between opens a co-space.

— Kathryn Coleman & Abbey MacDonald (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)

Becoming, thinking, querying, provoking, intersecting.

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FISHTAILING

On the final day courthouses were open I became legally divorced for the first time. Next week marks the one year anniversary of my then-new husband’s shocking departure.

Relying more on bubble wrap than good sense, I packed up boxes of his pans, clothing, his late wife’s ceramics. He says I broke nothing.

I’ve reorganized closets for one, bookshelves by theme, with no sweet mementos of us.

Yesterday I found six kitchen bowls, his, then texted him a photo. No ransom, I’ll deliver.

High road weary from giving, returning, and cheer. He says he loves me; this misery loves isolation.

— Eileen E. Schmitz (Sequim, Washington)

Seen on my walk yesterday, this decaying leaf still looks like a heart.

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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.

 

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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.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

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