Artists and Climate Change

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10 Pioneering Initiatives in Taiwan

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Taiwan, the mountainous island off the southeastern coast of China, is officially known as the Republic of China (ROC). It was given the name Formosa by the Portuguese in the 16th century based on the expression Ilha Formosa, meaning  “beautiful island.” And it still lives up to its name. With its subtropical North and a hot, tropical South, it is home to a great diversity of flora and fauna, and colorful temples around almost every corner.

Taiwan has been one of the “Four Asian Dragons” since the 1980s: it has undergone rapid industrialization and become advanced in service and capital-intensive manufacturing. Electronic and computer parts are the production cornerstones in Taiwan, while labor-intensive manufacturing, such as garment manufacturing, have moved to cheaper locations like China. Many people still mainly know of Taiwan because of the “Made in Taiwan” label on their t-shirt. Unfortunately, Taiwan’s rapid economic transformation took place without much concern for the environment.

A big environmental challenge in Taiwan is the contamination of soil, water, and air by heavy industries, mostly from the petrochemical sector. Taiwan didn’t start building an environmental protection system until the late 1980s. By that time, artists had started taking initiatives in addressing environmental issues and today, many of them are engaged as activists. Central to their practice is the use of natural materials such as bamboo.

Here are my ten favorite art initiatives in Taiwan that engage with nature in different ways. If you visit, make sure not to miss these gems!

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1.  Bamboo Curtain Studio

Website: bambooculture.com
Founded: 1995
Type: Residency, independent art space
Who for: Artists, writers, curators, policymakers, environmentalists, communities and scientists from across the globe who are keen to engage in social and environmental projects and want to network in Taiwan

Art has the unique power to foster conversation and be a catalyst for change. We believe art can create social change and provide an alternative perspective to understanding the world. With our previous collaborative artists, we could really feel and witness behavior change through the engagement process. Our practice aims to promote cross-cultural exchanges by providing art and cultural workers with a creative environment and assisting them in carrying out their productions.
—Iris Hung, Director

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2.  Name: Bio-Art.tw

Website: bioart.tw
Founded: 2012
Type: Experimental art space
Who for: Biologists, scientists, artists, (bio) hackers

We are part of biodiversity and we can’t even be responsible for our own survival. We can’t “save” other things, species, as we don’t know what they have in mind, what is good for them. Can we say we have a better life? We only have the ability to judge ourselves. A lot of environmentalists are trying to save the earth or some animal. I recently read that less cute looking animals get less research funding. Everyone should be engaged in this conversation, but I think artists can show us how to observe and think, teach us how to have our own opinion.
—Pei-Ying Lin

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3.  Cheng Long Wetlands Environmental Art Program

Website: artproject4wetland.wordpress.com
Founded: 2010
Type: Annual art program, residency
Who for: Artists, environmentalists, locals, craftsmen, children

In the past, villagers were cutting the trees but now they are protecting the forest. The project did work; villagers now think their land is beautiful. Maybe they cannot solve the problem of the land sinking, but they have learned to live with it and still appreciate it. There is so much participation from the villagers now.
—Zhao Mei Wang

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4.  TAIWAN East Coast land Arts Festival

Website: teclandart.tw/en/author/tecart_people/
Founded: 2015
Type: Festival
Who for: Anyone interested in the East Coast of Taiwan and aboriginal culture, artists, locals, environmentalists

On the East Coast, there are a lot of protests as the government is taking all the nuclear waste to Taitung and Orchid Island. There is a huge gap between communities and the government, and the government is often just making secret (illegal) deals when it comes to nuclear waste or development projects. It’s mostly local people and artists who fight against this. They need lawyers as the government currently has 33 development projects planned on the East Coast, mostly in public areas such as beaches. Now there are people fishing there, in the future they might not even be allowed to go there anymore because of the hotels being built. But it’s their resource. With the East Coast Land Arts Festival, I raise awareness about these issues.
—Shu Lun Wu

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5.  Guandu International Outdoor Sculpture festival

Website: gd-park.org.tw/en/festival
Founded: 2005
Type: Festival, nature park
Who for: Everyone young and old who enjoys nature and/or sculpture

It’s our mission to change peoples’ attitude towards nature (…) The park was initially set up because birdwatchers from the Bird Society were noticing the bird population was declining and they suggested to create a conservation area. When the festival opened at the nature park in 2015, it had more than 20.000 visitors. Even though we don’t have art backgrounds, we are keen to learn more, about land art for instance. However, our starting point is nature and an artists’ starting point will be the arts. But the artwork here will always be eco-friendly.
—Nelson Chen and Yi-Fen Jan

Rethink

6.  RE-THINK (重新思考)

Website: rethinktw.blogspot.tw/
Founded: 2013
Type: RE-THINK is a non-profit campaign which operates with other foundations and organizations to cultivate an environment that inspires people to take action to achieve healthy ecosystems; to teach children the importance of environment friendly practices through education programs; to advocate a single-use, non-biodegradable plastic bag ban; and to raise awareness in communities about coastal preservation, ecosystem protection and water quality.
Who for: Children and adults who want to do something creative and care about the natural environment, or just want to learn about it

Our mission is to educate people through real action. “Environmental protection” can hardly be taught through words, so our job is to guide people to the nature and see the pollution and reality through their own eyes. We’ve all been educated on what “environmental friendly” is, from reuse/reduce/recycle, to the aspects of environmental science. It also has become a cliché and only few people pay attention to it in the real life. So, what we’re doing at RE-THINK is to reverse the image of environmental by recreating its design. We design eye-catching or even humorous posts and let people know environmental issues can be fun, stylish, or interesting.
—Daniel Gruber

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7.  Outsiders Factory

Website: outsidersfactory.web.fc2.com/workers_101.html
Founded: 2012
Type: Platform
Who for: Artists, curators, writers, anthropologists, historians, activists and anyone interested in both contemporary art and South-East Asia

I’m tired with “exchanges” and I am advocating for deeper engagement in Asian art, including looking at art history and art theory. There is no real knowledge of the history. This is a big problem in the region.
—Nobuo Takamori, Curator KMFA, Outsiders Factory

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8.  Taitung Dawn Artist Village

Website: dawnartistvillage.com
Founded: 2012
Type: Dawn Artist Village is a non-profit organization that promotes the arts both locally and internationally through art residencies, exhibitions, workshops, and participating in festivals.
Who for: Artists and anyone interested in aboriginal cultures and the East Coast of Taiwan

Taipei business style sits uncomfortably with the Taitung style. Think of a mall versus a grocery store – you need to have passion of the local, otherwise your initiative will not survive in the long term. In the beginning some people might come, but it will not survive if you can’t feel the area.
—Shu Lun Wu, Founder

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9.  Taipei Artist Village & Treasure Hill

Website: artistvillage.org
Founded: 2010
Type: Artist residency
Who for: Artists, locals

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10.  TheCube

Website: thecubespace.com/en/
Founded: 2010
Type: Gallery, exhibition space, curatorial program
Who for: Artists, curators, students

Currently, the Cube is very much focusing on the Asian region and particularly South-East Asia, for instance with a one-year lecture program on multitudes, social movements in Asia. We are interested in social and political changes and how they influence culture change. In addition, we look at the local and work with local artists who are looking at modern history.
—Amy Cheng

AND ONE EXTRA! You don’t want to miss out on this great arts magazine…

White Fungus

11.  White Fungus

Website: whitefungus.com/
Founded: 2004
Type: Bilingual arts magazine
Who for: Anyone interested in contemporary art, new music, history and politics

The surface of politics doesn’t explain why we can’t deal with our problems. But artists aren’t doing a better job. Being an artist comes with a very narrow range of career opportunities decided by a very small group of people. The oil and tobacco companies are also involved. We all deserve to work hard and be rewarded and we all want a future. When you don’t buy into the illusion, it’s not looking good for you. Also, it depends on luck. If we were working class or peasants, we wouldn’t have the luxury to make a magazine.
—Ron Hanson

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


 

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

Wearable Solar

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

We begin the second year of our monthly series Renewable Energy Artworks by introducing a new topic on this blog: textile artists and fashion designers experimenting with so-called “smart textiles” that can harvest and store renewable energy.  Throughout 2018, we will occasionally post profiles of textile artists at the forefront of this revolution: the convergence of textiles and distributed energy technology. We start today with a brief introduction to the Dutch fashion designer Pauline van Dongen, founder of Wearable Solar.

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In case you missed it – solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is evolving so fast that scientists in South Korea recently created ultra-thin flexible solar cells, as thin as a human hair.

Could this be the Holy Grail for textile artists? Imagine being able to weave energy-harvesting solar nanothreads into the textiles we use on a daily basis: clothing, bed linen, furniture upholstery, window shades and curtains, sports and camping gear. Not to mention refugee shelters and protective garments for first responders, astronauts, and the military.

The challenge, however, is to move this promising technology beyond the laboratory to the commercial market. As Aimee Rose, chief technology officer at the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America, explained in a 2016 Business of Fashion interview: “We’ve demonstrated we can create a fibre that stores energy and can act as a battery – but how do we get that into clothing?”

Smart textiles (sometimes called e-textiles) are much more than just the integration of electronics into garments. They include any textile with the ability to interact with its surrounding environment and react to changes in that environment.

According to Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman in her 2016 book, Smart Textiles for Designers, smart textiles “will challenge your idea of what fabrics and textiles are, and inspire you to rethink what your clothing and other products made with textiles can do.”

textile, smart textiles, Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman

For those not familiar with this topic, the following panel discussion about Fashion’s Fourth Industrial Revolution provides an excellent introduction. Bookmark it for the weekend (it’s 53 minutes).


In general, we can say that, to date, there are three generations of smart textiles:

  1. garments that hold the sensor in place
  2. garments in which the sensor is embedded/integrated into the fabric
  3. garments that act as the sensor itself

For this series, I am mainly interested in second generation garments that can harvest solar energy. These include smart textiles that contain electrically conductive yarns, fibres and/or metals that are woven, embroidered, knitted, 3D-printed or embedded into the fabric in order to capture solar or mechanical energy and convert it into clean electricity to charge our mobile devices (or to store that electricity for later use).

The Dutch fashion innovator Pauline van Dongen is at the forefront of this textile revolution, collaborating across multiple technical disciplines to create clothes of the future. She was recently named a laureate in the 35 Innovators Under 35 Europe in 2017.

To date, van Dongen’s Wearable Solar collection includes four items: solar windbreaker, solar parka, solar dress and solar shirt. Although none of these items is ready for the commercial market, van Dongen is committed to advancing the technology to improve production, affordability and long-term use, including repeated washing.

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I will write more about Pauline van Dongen in a future post.

In October 2017, Levi Strauss released its long awaited Commuter Trucker Jacket in collaboration with Google. This “connected” jacket has Google’s Project Jacquard technology woven into the denim which essentially turns the jacket into an extension of the user’s mobile phone. While this jacket does not convert solar energy into electricity, I could not resist including mention of it in this space, since it is an example of the first commercially available connected clothing (despite lukewarm reviews).

The video below is visually stunning, and gives a sense of how tantalizingly close we are to this brave new world of textile connectedness.

A headline in a 2016 article in digitaltrends.com says it all: Today we carry technology. Tomorrow we’ll wear it.

(Top photo: Video grab shot from YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qObSFfdfe7I&feature=youtu.be)

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Joan Sullivan is a renewable energy photographer based in Québec, Canada. Since 2009, Joan has focused her cameras (and more recently her drones) exclusively on solutions to climate change. She is convinced that the inevitable transition to a 100% clean energy economy will happen faster – and within our lifetimes – by creating positive images and stories that help us visualize and embrace what a post-carbon future will look like.  Joan collaborates frequently with filmmakers on documentary films that explore the human side of the energy transition. She is currently working on a photo book about the energy transition. Her renewable energy photos have been exhibited in group shows in Canada and the UK. You can find Joan onTwitter and Instagram


Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

The Evolution of an Eco-Musician

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

When I tell people I’m an eco-musician, they give one of two responses: knowing appreciation or a puzzled furrow proceeding something like, “What do you mean by eco?”

I explain that this unique diction was not my doing. L.A. Talk Radio’s Diana Dehm realized the importance of music in carrying the torch of progress and claimed the term long before I’d heard it. When I met her over the Internet waves, she was looking for musicians that were writing about the state of our environment for her sustainability news show. Once she began to routinely broadcast the title track from my 2016 album Let’s Talk About the Weather, I knew that I had earned my entrance to the eco-musician’s club.

But how, do you ask, does one become an eco or ecological musician? In my case, the musician I’ve always been was wooed and captured by ecology – its majesty and its tragedy.

I was first moved by what humanity was doing to itself while working on a recording project on the glorious island of Maui in 2012. I carpooled to work with a local lawyer who suffered greatly from lung problems, whose children regularly stayed home from school due to respiratory illness. She was lobbying in the capital against irresponsible sugar cane waste burning practices, which coupled with volcanic emissions to produce a thick haze many simply could not endure. Citizens regularly called in sick, missed school, and suffered without protection. Her and other citizens’ efforts were being disregarded by both industry and the state.

The day I – an athletic, healthy 26 year-old – developed a lung infection from the industry smoke, I was moved to sit at the piano. Despair rolled over me as I contemplated for the first time whether human beings deserved this exquisite planet, or if she would ultimately facilitate our self-destruction. I determined that if there were enough people willing to earn our keep here on Earth – to devote their lives to change – I was willing to dedicate my life to fixing the broken systems enabling these kinds of injustices. I knew my quest would fail if a critical mass of others didn’t join in. So while I chose to pursue a purposeful, challenging passion, I simultaneously promised myself that I would do everything in my power to inspire others to do the same. Then I wrote a song about it.

Four years later I released my first album, a work that spoke directly to drought, immigration, economic struggle, climate change, protest, PTSD and reaching for distant dreams. Less directly, it expressed the pain of my history with a drug addict and genocide I had experienced in the depths of sleep. It drew from my frustrations with the status quo, nationalism, corporate life, and sexism, and ultimately served to push me into the world with a sense of worth as an artist that I had never imagined.

I worried about being wrong in the eyes of certain audiences, but was welcomed into circles that understood my pain and drive – universities, environmental organizations, and eventually Climate Science Alliance reached out to partner. To be sure I was doing everything I could to examine our most challenging problems and promising solutions, I accepted a year-long scholarship to grad school in International Environmental Policy at UCSD. I am currently examining the central theme of my newest performance work, The Let’s Talk About the Weather Experience (LTAWE).

The musical performance takes a burning question I had when I was 17 – “How is capitalism’s growth imperative sustainable?” – and rolls it into the personal experiences that have shaped my activism in the field. From planning rallies, to living in a tiny house on a farm, to declaring bankruptcy against one of the banks funding DAPL, my experience is a testament to my vigorous defense of the commitment I made to myself that smoky day in Hawaii.

The LTAWE makes an extra effort to paint a promising future for humanity. Paul Hawken’s book Drawdown is an inspiration for infusing the highest priority tools and solutions to climate change into the work. In order for people to interact with these and other ideas presented, the performance is followed by an opportunity to live up to its name: an interactive discussion on policy solutions to climate change, pollution, poverty, and corporate responsibility concludes the show.

What people often don’t realize about ecology is that it encompasses both relationships between humans and humanity’s relationship to our environment. Not only are our sociopolitical systems failing to act quickly and protect the world’s people, but they are failing to protect the very ecosystems that make life possible. It is my personal intention to intervene as artfully as possible. I hope that you are inspired to join us.

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Ashley Mazanec is an eco musician and founding director of EcoArts Foundation. A partner and affiliated artist at the Climate Science Alliance, her creative work in eco-entertainment has brought her to speak and perform for festivals, universities, grassroots organizations, nonprofits, and corporations. The podcast named after her 2016 album Let’s Talk About the Weather showcases the shining stars of the ecological art movement. Ashley’s work can be heard on LA Talk Radio and in corporate stores such as T.J. Maxx, Hershey’s and Abercrombie Kids. You can catch her live solo and with her progressive rock band Ashley and The Altruists, hosting eco art events, and supporting causes with groups such as such as Surfrider, The San Diego Green Building Council, and International Rescue Committee.


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

Imagining Water, #5: Is Water Sexy?

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

FEATURED: Still Water (The River Thames, for Example) – Image C, 1999. Offset lithograph (photograph and text combined) on uncoated paper; 30 1/2 × 41 1/2 inches. Edition of 7. Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

The fifth in a year-long series on artists who are making the topic of water a focus of their work and on the growing number of exhibitions, performances and publications that are popping up in museums, galleries and public spaces around the world with water as a theme.

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Unlike many contemporary artists who have come only lately to incorporating the theme of water in their work, American artist Roni Horn has been exploring the nature of water for over 30 years. In her drawings, photographs, installations, writing and books, she has posed questions that challenge us to examine our own personal relationship with water as well as its universal qualities. In a 2005 interview by Art 21 on her works Doubts by Water, Same Thames and Still Water, Horn admits: “I never intended to have water in everything I do, but I almost feel like I rediscover it again and again. It just finds its way back into new work.”

Since Horn is such a prolific artist and doing justice to all of her work (which in addition to water, explores human identity, ecology, landscape, weather and language) would require no less than a book (several do exist), I’ll focus here on two of her pieces that represent her attempt to define water’s elusive nature: (1) Saying Water, a 40-minute monologue that she created about the Thames River in London; and (2) Vatnasafn / Library of Water, a project in Stykkisholmur, Iceland in which she restored a town library building as a public space housing her own installations and a place for community gatherings and programs.

Saying Water

Horn wrote Saying Water in 2012 while she was staying in A Room for London, a riverboat installation sitting on the roof of Queen Elizabeth Hall overlooking the South Bank of the river Thames. Her residency was part of a larger project entitled Hearts of Darkness, in which artists and “stowaways” from other professions were invited to create something new related to the river and the project’s theme.

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Roni Horn reading Saying Water at the Louisiana Museum of Art, Denmark in May 2012. Courtesy of Louisiana Channel.

As she reflects on the meaning of the dark, opaque and dirty Thames river, Horn incorporates song lyrics (“Blah, Blah, Blah” by George Gershwin; “Down by the River” by Neil Young; “Take Me to the River” by Al Green; etc.) and stories of suicide, sex and murder that occurred in or by the river. She poses numerous questions: “When you talk of the water, are you talking of yourself or the weather?” “Is water sexy?” “What does water look like?” “Do rivers really ever end?” But primarily, she is developing a comprehensive and powerful vocabulary about water itself and its physical, sensual, spiritual and fundamentally unknown qualities. Here is just a small sampling of her powerful visual language:

Water is… everywhere differently, a spiritual presence, an intimate experience, half the sky, an act of perpetual motion, familiar but elusive, troubled or calm, rough and disturbed, quiet, clear, still, cold or hot, brash or brisk, soft or hard, foul or fresh, limpid or languid, sweet, agitated, unsettled, deep, clean or filthy, a utopian substance, powerful, vulnerable, fragile, energetic, the future, a plural form, a master verb.  

Water… reassures you, affirms you, shows you who you are, extends you out into the world, camouflages light, sighs, sucks, laughs, splishes, splashes, slashes, washes, murmurs, gushes, bubbles, babbles, shimmers, shines, gleams, twinkles, sparkles, blinks, winks, waves.

Black water… is always violent; it dominates; it’s alluring; it’s black milk; it’s life threatening; it’s mesmerizing.

Horn acknowledges the level of pollution in the Thames by imagining what the water contains: “not just the rats and sewage but the viruses and bacteria like hepatitis, dysentery, E. coli, biles and even a remnant of the plague… the polyphenols… the trichloral ethanes…” And at the end of the monologue, she proclaims that “when you look at water, you see what you think is your reflection but it’s not yours; YOU are a reflection of water.” Immerse yourself in Horn’s Saying Water here. Although listening once is great, twice or three times is better in order to absorb the full impact of her cadence and imagery.

Vatnasafn / Library of Water

Horn has a strong emotional tie to Iceland. Her first journey there was right after graduate school, when she traveled throughout the country by motorcycle. Since then she has returned again and again, ultimately establishing a residence in Iceland where she resides for part of the year, and incorporating its pristine landscape, changing weather, intense light and distinct geography as a major component of her work. In 2003, she began a long-term project to create a new identity and purpose for an existing library in the small town of Stykkisholmur, Iceland. Horn called it “the most beautifully situated library in the world,” overlooking the harbor and offering astounding views of the ocean and an overwhelming sense of sky, sea and weather.

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View of the water from Vatnasafn / Dictionary of Water, Stykkisholmur, Iceland.

Completed in 2007, the Library of Water contains three works by Horn: The first is a “bilingual sculpture installation,” a rubberized floor containing 100 inscribed words in Icelandic and English that refer to the weather, an integral part of life in Iceland. The second is a series of 24 floor-to-ceiling transparent columns filled with water from 24 of the major glaciers in Iceland that were formed millions of years ago and are receding at a rapid pace. The columns refract and reflect the light from the vast landscape outdoors, and create a sense of tranquility and peace within the interior space. The third work is a collection of stories on weather, a project that Horn undertook to record the memories of, and reflections on, weather from residents of the area in an attempt to capture its significance in their lives.

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Documentation of the location of the sources of water and placement of columns for Installation of columns containing water from 24 glaciers in Iceland, Vatnasafn Dictionary of Water, Stykkisholmur, Iceland.

Horn has written, spoken and created hundreds of works of art about water of all kinds. In contemplating the dirty Thames, she marveled that

…even in its darkness, it has this picturesque element. It’s something about the human condition – not the water itself – humanity’s relationship to water. So, in the end, it doesn’t make a difference what the water looks like. It will always have this kind of picturesque quality to it because that’s almost a human need – that water be a positive force.

(Top image: Installation of columns containing water from 24 glaciers in Iceland, Vatnasafn Dictionary of Water, Stykkisholmur, Iceland.)

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Susan Hoffman Fishman is a painter, public artist, writer, and educator whose work has been exhibited in numerous museums and galleries throughout the U.S. Susan’s latest bodies of work focus on the threat of rising tides caused by climate change, the trillions of pieces of plastic in our oceans and the wars that are predicted to occur in the future over access to clean water. Susan is also the co-creator of two interactive public art projects: The Wave, which addresses our mutual need for and interdependence on water and Home, which calls attention to homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in our cities and towns.

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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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IN KINSHIP: A River and Recovery

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Oh silky salt flat of muck
you hide the mercury methylating
within
The crickets don’t care
—Cheri Domina, Participant
IN KINSHIP “Penobscot Estuary Great Migrations Writing Tour”

In the winter of 2015 I began spending time with the Penobscot River, the heart of the largest watershed in Maine, while meeting and conversing with folks who are connected to it. Working closely with several artists and community advisors, we initiated a series of collaborations now collectively called IN KINSHIP. A multi-year performance project, this river-driven community dialogue is made up of many discrete nodes in a variety of experimental formats. They function as individual performative events with their own dramaturgies and smaller audiences but also come together to make up a larger, cohesive dialogue. The IN KINSHIP Visioning Group is Eric Green, Jennie Hahn, Gudrun Keszoecze, Bonnie Newsom, Ian Petroni, Kris Sader, Rory Saunders, and Cory Tamler; many of these central collaborators appear in the text below.

Maine rivers once supported hundreds of millions of migratory fish returning from the ocean each spring. Now several critical species hover near extinction. The Penobscot River is in recovery, like many rivers in North America, from two centuries of industrial abuse. Penobscot Indian Nation, indigenous to this watershed for at least 10,000 years, is at the forefront of these recovery efforts. The Tribe has consistently implemented the highest environmental standards to protect their ancestral homeland. The State of Maine is currently challenging Tribal sovereignty, and attendant rights to determine stewardship practices, in multiple federal court cases. Residual pollution from historic paper mills, corporate efforts to secure groundwater extraction rights, landfill expansion, and metallic mining round out a series of threats that are echoed in river systems around the globe.

Challenges are plentiful. Nevertheless, water quality has improved greatly in the past generation and swimming in the river is once again possible. Three years ago, two hydroelectric dams were completely removed, returning a portion of ancestral habitat to the twelve diadromous fish species native to this system.

IN KINSHIP is not designed to address a single facet of environmental harm or manifestation of climate change for this river. Rather, it is an arts-based effort to help increase the resiliency of the system and everyone who is a part of it, to tell its many stories, to invest in recovery, and to shift the consciousness of its communities toward justness. The project employs three guiding principles that apply to theatre in a time of climate change: reducing remoteness, dispersed leadership, and partnership with nonhumans.

Reducing Remoteness

Remoteness allows a high level of dissociation between costs and benefits, between elite consumption benefits and ecological damage.
Val Plumwood, Environmental Culture

Val Plumwood, an Australian eco-feminist philosopher, offers many useful distillations regarding how activists can focus their efforts to move societal consciousness away from anthropocentric plunder. Among them is the idea of “reducing remoteness.” Manifestation of remoteness from environmental harm can be spatial, temporal, consequential, and communicative. What we can do is reduce this remoteness through any means necessary: by telling the stories, building the bridges, and revealing connections.

Our earliest conversations in the watershed led us to the fisheries. In our first IN KINSHIP collaboration, writer Cory Tamler and I shadowed Maine DMR biologists for four days and co-wrote a collection of scores for performance in response. We launched a deeper partnership in 2016 that paired three artists each with a biologist and a community organization to co-create a small group public event. These six- to eight-hour dialogues included fisheries science education, a group creative process in the discipline of the artist, and site-specific outdoor experiences on the river. Some of the excerpts included here provide glimpses into the experiences that were created.

Working closely with biologists over the last two years we learned that efforts to support migratory fish populations historically focused on the species of greatest value to human communities. But research conducted a decade ago argued that to restore Atlantic Salmon, the best hope lay in improving conditions for all of the other fish that call the river home. The interactions among participants in the system enable a thriving life for all.

Each of the biologists we worked with last year chose to thematically focus their material on connectivity. The term has physical implications: lakes and streams in the headwaters must be physically connected to the Atlantic Ocean and free of human-made barriers for salmon to successfully spawn. But the less tangible interpretations of connectivity, and their applications among human communities and between and among all life, are just as critical to successful recovery of balance within our ecosystems. How do we increase our awareness? How do we see the connections we are blinded to?

I encourage people to think of self as a kind of spiritual, ecological life force. And every one of us shares that same thing with the fish, with the trees, with each other and when we acknowledge that connection, that same life force, that same energy that connects us, we treat each other better…it gives us a common relationship. If you walk through life and think of what your spiritual ecological life force (self) can do in this world, instead of what life can bring to you…if you can practice the value systems of our ancestors and walk a little more humbly through life, you will help heal the world.
—Bonnie Newsom, Archaeologist
IN KINSHIP “Songwriting, Archaeology, and Fisheries Restoration Site Visit”

Eric Green, artist, Dan McCaw, fisheries biologist, and Alexis Ireland, dialogue participant, view construction of a new lake outlet designed to improve passage for migratory fish in Penobscot Nation territory. Photo by Jennie Hahn.

Dispersed Leadership
When I began working on IN KINSHIP, I knew that choosing the Penobscot River as an anchor and a guide would require me to seek creative relationships in Maine’s indigenous communities. My family has lived in Maine for twelve generations; the first of my ancestors to settle here arrived in 1632. The violence of early settlement and the ongoing cultural genocide it unleashed unquestionably live in my blood, along with a fierce love for my homeland and an unshakable commitment to the communities she nurtures.

Correcting course in a time of environmental crisis is going to require us to nestle in the most uncomfortable sticky places we can find and wait for guidance. The inequity inherent in my relationship with indigenous people, the necessity of placing myself to actualize its repair, and the intersection of racial justice with the environmental protection I hope to address require a form of leadership that disrupts and replaces the largely colonial and patriarchal models I have inherited.

As the instigator of IN KINSHIP, I have spent a fair amount of time sitting with the paradoxes of how to lead by following, how to initiate with listening, and how to make concrete choices while maintaining an expansive openness to redirection. The goal for IN KINSHIP and the culture it creates is genuinely dispersed leadership. This does not mean that there is no leadership, or that all decisions must be collectively made. Rather, it means that no decision is made in isolation, and that everyone is invited to assume a leadership role when they feel called to take it. In the hope of creating these conditions, we have recently implemented two new structural mechanisms: the first is a Visioning Group, managed with rotating leadership, that includes many of our cross-sector partners from previous initiatives. The second mechanism diversifies the initiation process. Individual members of the IN KINSHIP community (artists and non-arts partners) identify new collaborations according to their personal interests and expertise, and are supported in development efforts by the broader group.

It is also possible for IN KINSHIP to bolster other like-minded initiatives outside of itself, not by drawing them in to IN KINSHIP activities but by standing alongside them. Several months ago, in a personal effort to prioritize indigenous cultural narrative by learning from and directly supporting the vision(s) of indigenous leaders, I volunteered to help coordinate an event called Healing Turtle Island. Four days of healing and prayer organized by Sherri Mitchell and led by spiritual elders from around the globe, this event was open to all. We sat together, accepted deeply relevant offerings of story and song, and worked to heal the wounds of violence between and among people and the earth. While this event was in no way affiliated with IN KINSHIP, its objective is similar, and my participation in this parallel work is likely to inform IN KINSHIP creative processes and partnership approaches.

Did you lose your way?
Propel yourself around the globe
I’ve had a heck of a ride
From the sea we came
I’ve been here and there
Farther than you think my son
Like we always were
Now you show
—Collectively written lyrics
IN KINSHIP “Songwriting, Archaeology, and Fisheries Restoration Site Visit”

Artist Cory Tamler holds a river herring she has pulled from Blackman Stream with her bare hands. This unexpected moment of cross-species interaction took place during a three-day job shadow of Maine DMR biologists in migration season. Photo by Jennie Hahn.

Partnership with Nonhumans
Olfactory: A Score for One Performer

Recall the dominant smell of your childhood home. Find it.
—From IN KINSHIP Performance Scores, co-written by Cory Tamler and Jennie Hahn

Melded with efforts to reduce remoteness and establish naturally dispersed leadership models is a need to more accurately see our human place in the natural world, particularly in relation to the nonhuman inhabitants we share it with. We must actively labor to adjust our consciousness, personally and collectively. Both individual practices and community performance can help unravel our assumptions, revealing the information necessary for culturewide behavioral change.

IN KINSHIP aims to consider this in practical terms: how might we expand our partnership development strategies to incorporate nonhuman partners? If we view the river and its nonhuman populations as both characters and participants in our dialogue, how might it help us strategically care for the needs of an entire ecosystem?

This impulse has found awkward and fledgling expression. Sometimes it manifests in a startling moment of increased collective awareness, arrived at by curating a rich and layered community experience. Sometimes it emerges as a formal collaborative writing process. Sometimes, it is simply a message of love.

‘I’m going to give everybody a piece of this lightweight paper, which is made of the inner bark of the mulberry bush. It’s biodegradable and nontoxic. You’re going to write your wish (for the river) on one of these.’
‘I don’t know how to spell.’
‘That’s why your other person is going to help you. And you know what? The river doesn’t care. Right? As long as the thought is there?’
‘And you’re going to put it inside of the mussel?’
‘You bet. We’re going to roll it up like a little secret scroll message, after you write it…I want you to take these home and you throw it in the river sometime… The first thing that will happen is the wheat will dissolve, and this will come off, right? And it will fall to the bottom of the river and it’s bark, really. Right? What happens? It will decompose. The clam will be able to open up, and your message will come out, and flow down the river for as long as the paper lasts. Okay? Does that sound like a cool thing?’
—Kris Sader, Artist, with participating children
IN KINSHIP ‘Pushaw Paddle: Art & Fisheries for Families’

To understand the scope of our planet’s health crisis and to visualize its healing requires hefty imaginative capacity. Individually and collectively, that capacity can be strenuous to summon. I find some gritty kind of comfort in the particular magic of the theatre to make worlds manifest. I wonder, in a time of climate change, can our theatre succeed in sculpting the reality that we want to enter? In what it reveals and in how it functions, can theatre enact the balance, the equity, and the environmental vitality we fervently hope for in our world?

(Top image: Building a web of connections: after a two-hour canoe paddle and discussion led by biologists, these children and their families link painted beaver sticks according to the ecological connections they have observed. Photo by Jennie Hahn.)

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Jennie Hahn is an interdisciplinary theater producer, director, and performer with a focus on community engagement and civic dialogue. Deeply committed to the vitality of community life in her home state of Maine, Jennie’s work explores the impact of economic, demographic, and land use changes on rural identity and culture.


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

Persistent Acts: Belarus Free Theatre

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

This season, I will be taking a closer look at the intersection of performance, climate, and politics with the Persistent Acts series. In this divisive political moment, I will share examples of performances that persevere in pursuit of intersectional justice and sustainability. How does hope come to fruition, even in the most dire circumstances? What are tangible alternatives to the oppressive status quo? I will consider questions of this nature to motivate conversations and actions on climate issues that reverberate through politics and theatre. To kick off 2018 and the series, I explore my experience at Belarus Free Theatre’s latest touring work, Burning Doors.

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One of my favorite theatre companies of all time, Belarus Free Theatre, brought their new work, Burning Doors, to New York City’s La MaMa last October. I first encountered this Belarusian company in London, when I saw their piece on capital punishment, Trash Cuisine. I got to see BFT again with their production Red Forest, about climate change. Those two productions from this now London-based company rocked my world, and my ideas of what theatre can be and do: Not only can performance be immersive, it can also plant seeds of change and cultivate actions. As a political theatre company, BFT raises consciousness about pressing socio-political concerns. Like the previous two shows I saw, Burning Doors is extremely urgent, as the dialogue, physical moments, and music track contemporary human rights violations.

Burning Doors investigates and meditates on questions of freedom, expression, oppression, and art, through the lives of Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian artists who have been persecuted for their creative expressions, resulting in violent imprisonments. In the pre-show, profiles and images of the persecuted artists are projected on the wall, as an introduction to the performance and to the stories being investigated. At the top of the show, the stark space fills with ominous sounds, and the voices of the performers draw us into an Eastern European setting.

Burning
The performance toggled between soliloquies from or about these three artists and scenes of Russian government officials conspiring on their persecution. In addition to these textual moments in Russian and Belarusian, instances of intense physical action enveloped the stage, as actors ran in circles or ran directly towards the audiences for extended durations. This rigorous physical element evoked the corporal condition: we humans only have these breathing, blood-pumping bodies. In the scenes with government officials, the corporal is also evoked as these officials are in dialogue while sitting on toilets. These compromising positions were welcome moments of humor and deepened the satire on such bureaucrats. Though I am a theatremaker concerned with climate, with what’s beyond the human, I do start with myself, with the body that I have. Once I recognize my own form and hold awareness for my capabilities and limitations, I am better prepared to get to work on climate action.

In another scene, three women sit in a triangle, while a fourth gets into their faces, berating each woman for saving a moth. After the sequence of questions and answers, the women would trade places and rotate, so that everyone filled each of the roles. This scene was fascinating to me in that the questions being asked were so elementary, yet the delivery was filled with vigor: Why did you save the moth? Did you know the moth would die by the end of the day? The juxtaposition of fury and innocence, and the way that the players rotated, evoked questions of authority. The subject of the questioning, an unseen moth, introduces a hierarchy of species: How are moths impacted by humans? Who, among humans, is able to save a moth? Do moths want to be saved? From my climate perspective, this scene referenced the era of the Anthropocene, with human activity as the dominant influence on other species and on our planet. I was left with even more questions about who has the power in our ecological system.

I was also struck by the participatory elements of the production. One of my favorite moments (spoiler alert!) comes after a woman delivers a monologue about her imprisonment. Suddenly, the stage action holds, the house lights dim on, and we are met with the woman, Maria Alyokhina, of Pussy Riot, and a male moderator. The play opens up to include a “talk-back” for the audience with Alyokhina herself. At first, the downtown New York audience was timid, too accustomed to the “typical” role of audience as passive spectator. With some coaxing from the moderator, a few hands raised to ask Alyokhina about her life post-imprisonment, about her perspective on the United States and Russia and democracy. This moment was a practice in democratization itself; the audience suddenly had a chance to participate directly in the performance. I was surprised by this dialogue with the audience, and thrilled at the opportunities that such a theatrical device can offer, as I seek more and more to make space for conversations with and amongst audiences in my own work.

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The final segment of the performance highlights Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is currently imprisoned for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks. After curtain call, the artistic director of BFT, Natalia Kaliada, brought postcards designed by Ai Weiwei for the audience to write notes for Oleg. This tangible step resonated – skilled artists of multi-media coming together around human issues to support our shared humanity. BFT is effective in that they highlight human rights that are easily taken for granted by Western (American) culture, and provide direct roads to action. In this time of political and ethical divisiveness, I seek the issues and injustices that bridge various identities, that transcend political affiliations, and reach the core of what makes us human.

fingers

Image designed by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei for BFT’s I’m with the Banned campaign.

In BFT’s Burning Doors, I experienced how political acts of resistance can have a role on the stage. Through rigorous physical moments, BFT cuts to what it viscerally means to be human, and in their playing around with hierarchies and authorities, I reckon with my political implications. I know that those with political power are not doing their jobs for vulnerable populations, for our planet, or for our future. These instances of interrogating authority are vital toward altering this status quo, and reconfiguring how decisions, from tax brackets to healthcare to energy regulations, can be made.

(All photos of Belarus Free Theatre’s Burning Doors unless indicated otherwise.)

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Julia Levine is a creative collaborator and vegetarian. Originally from St. Louis, Julia is now planted in the New York City downtown theatre realm. As a director, Julia has worked on various projects with companies that consider political and cultural topics, including Theater In AsylumHonest Accomplice Theatre, and Superhero Clubhouse. She is on the Marketing team at HERE Arts Center and is a co-organizer with Climate Change Theatre Action. Julia writes and devises with her performance-based initiative, The Food Plays, to bring questions of food, climate, and justice into everyday life.


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

Sea of Troubles

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

As human systems affect the Earth’s oceans, the oceans in turn affect life on land. The oceans function as the Earth’s climate system, pumping heat and moisture around the globe. Ocean currents regulate the temperature and precipitation on the continents, shaping the climate. Climate change has drastically affected the health and function of our oceans.

The ocean’s role in climate change is explored by many contemporary artists who take on the topics of melting glacial ice, warming seas, storm surge, flooded coastal cities and ocean water pollution. These artists communicate the science of these environmental issues in an accessible visual manner, and consider science, exploration and activism as a key part of their art.

As those familiar with the fundamentals of global warming know, the root cause is the warming of the earth due to the increased emission of greenhouse gases. The burning of fossil fuels releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it traps heat. The earth’s oceans absorb most of this excess heat.

The effect of this extensive heat absorption on the oceans is drastic. As the temperature of the oceans rise, the seawater expands, resulting in rising seas. This sea level rise is one of the most dramatic consequences of global warming, flooding land and infrastructure, particularly along coastal areas.

Warmer temperatures also precipitate the melting of the glaciers and the enormous ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica. As the ice melts a huge volume of water is added to the oceans, causing the sea levels to rise drastically.

Diane Burko, Landsat Jakobshavn B, 2015. Oil and Flashe Paint on Canvas, 42″x72″.

Melting glaciers have been the focus of artist Diane Burko for several decades. She has investigated geological phenomena throughout the world in collaboration with research scientists, and has undertaken expeditions to some of the largest remaining ice fields.

Large-scale series of paintings and photographs document the disappearance of glaciers. Her painting of Greenland’s largest outlet glacier (Landsat Jakobshavn B) depicts a glacier that has receded over 40km in the past 100 years.

Diane is an environmental activist and has been a keynote speaker at scientific conferences such as the American Geophysical Union, and she is written about in scientific journals such as Scientific American. She considers her environmental work as an integral part of her artistic practice.

Global warming also affects oceans by increasing water vapor in the atmosphere, resulting in more precipitation and stronger storms. These storms developing at sea, such as Katrina, Harvey and Sandy Super storms, are becoming more cataclysmic every year.

The deluge that comes with warming waters is forcefully depicted in Marina Zurkow’s video installation Dreams of the Deluge.

Marina Zurkow Elixir I,ii,ii,iv. Series of four works(4) 5:00 minute loops. Dimensions variable; custom framed 24″ monitor with MPlayer for 1920×1080 projection or monitor.

Zurkow is a founding member of the “Dear Climate” project. She and her collaborators are trying to encourage personal engagement with the climate to change the way both the science and the thinking around climate change is communicated. The project is deeply rooted in research, scientific fact, and data collection.

In this essay, “Crossing the Waters,” author Michael Connor writes:

“Marina Zurkow’s recent works in video problematize our relationship with images of apocalypse…. But Zurkow’s floods, unlike most apocalyptic imagery, are not purely dreams, allegories, or devices; they are based on natural science research, on the calculations of supercomputers that project present ocean temperatures into an uncertain future. They refer not only to the future, but to the recent past of extreme weather events.”

Resa Blatman, Drenched and Overgrown (detail), 2016. Oil and Latex paint on hand- and laser-cut Mylar, PETG, and Lexan, 108h x 234w x 10d inches.

Global warming also increases ocean acidification and affects the environment. Much of the increased carbon dioxide is being absorbed by the ocean. This disruption causes severe problems for marine species and vegetation.

Artist Resa Blatman says her current paintings and installations speak to issues surrounding climate change within the natural environment and in particular the oceans.  Her dazzling painted laser cut and cut mylar installations are about oceans, living and dying vegetation in the oceans, and the fragile environment.

More intense storms amplify ocean storm surges, resulting in inundation and destruction. Storm surges are the increased rise in seawater due to the storms. The destruction is predominantly along coastal areas as super storms charge up the coast.

The clash between rising seas and built infrastructure is the focus of my work. Much of the devastation is due to water activity, including intense precipitation and floods. My aerial view paintings explore the consequence of building along fragile coastal ecosystems.

Lisa Reindorf, 6 panels Storm Surge, 2017. Oil and gel on Metal Panels, 96” x 64”.

Much of the work addresses the obliteration of the natural world to make way for cities — and the obliteration of cities by the natural world. There is an inherent conflict between nature and building. Nature has created its owns systems, and anytime we build or put in infrastructure, we’re interfering with that. The environment strikes back- with storms and rising seas. In the multi panel Storm Surge, waves and rising seas inundate a coastal city. Some of the structural grid is unmoored and floats out to sea.

I am is an active member of the Citizens Climate Lobby and speak at environmental conferences and symposiums on the conflict of infrastructure and rising seas.

As we become more aware of the precarious nature of our habitat, this work highlights the extreme vulnerability of the oceans. The world’s biggest metropolises are located along coastal areas. The calamities wrought by climate change compel us toward a greater sense of ecological justice.

The topic of climate change and the oceans is extremely complex. Artists can convey visual information in their work, connecting scientific information with human insight in a manner that engages the viewer. Additionally, many artists, including the ones described above, are involved in environmental organizations that are concerned with educating the public and protecting our oceans. A few of these organizations are listed below.  I encourage you all to join one, become more informed, and contribute to the excellent work being done.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
The Ocean Foundation
350
Oceana
Ocean Conservancy
And many others!

(Top image: Lisa Reindorf, Ocean Invaders, 2017. Oil and gel on 6 Metal Panels, 96” x 64”.)

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Lisa Reindorf is an artist, architect and environmental activist. Her work concerns the collision of architectural systems and natural systems, as it relates to Climate Change. She has a BA in Design of the Environment from the University of Pennsylvania and received her MA from Columbia University. She was also an instructor at RISD. She is represented by Galatea Gallery in Boston, and has exhibited extensively in NY, California, Mexico and Europe.


 

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

The Children’s Zero Waste Climate Quilt Project

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Empowerment: The Children’s Zero Waste Climate Quilt Project made its debut at the Cheshire Children’s Museum in Keene, New Hampshire in March of 2017. It was inspired by another art piece that I started working on in New York City in 2012. I had been engaging the public at art openings and ecologically minded events to think about our plastic waste footprint through my art piece The Plastic Bag Project – a giant ball made from single-use plastic bags that have been cut into strips and then braided and crocheted together to form a kind of plastic rope. Imagine a huge ball of yarn, but made entirely out of plastic bags. The ball weighs over 80 lbs and when unrolled stretches out to the length of four football fields.

I invited people to touch the ball, pull on it, try to lift it, unroll it, sit on it and sometimes even stand on it. It was a big hit and really helped people understand that one plastic bag might seem inconsequential, but more than six thousand bags can have a serious impact. I had many conversations about the problem of plastic pollution and its effects on the environment. Children, in particular, easily interacted with the ball and had much to say about the issues facing the planet. This inspired me so much that I began to think of another art project that would directly engage children to create their own art, and give them the opportunity to chime in on the issue.

At about the same time that the idea of a children’s art project began to take shape, I was educating myself on the science of climate change and its relationship to human waste and, in particular, to non-biodegradable and/or non-recyclable garbage. Through the course of my research, I came across the Zero Waste Movement, which aims to show that we can make a difference in the future health of the planet if we are mindful of the non-biodegradable or non-recyclable garbage that we put into landfills on a daily basis, and try to reduce it. Additionally, rather than contributing to unbridled consumerism and purchasing new items, we can strive to put to good use worn or used items that still have life in them.

I wanted to find a way to bring this information to children in a visceral and intuitive manner. Because of the The Plastic Bag Project, I knew that it was possible, but I wanted to go deeper by challenging the children to create their own art out of materials such as packaging and plastic that so often go directly into a trash can without any thought for how many dozens or even hundreds of years that waste will remain buried under the ground or drifting in an ocean. If The Plastic Bag Project was a public, interactive art piece created to raise awareness, now the goal was to have the public not just interact with an already-formed art piece but to raise the stakes and create mindful art as a community.

Empowerment: The Children’s Zero Waste Climate Quilt Project takes place in a workshop setting. Typically, the first half of the workshop is a presentation by a guest speaker or myself on the human contribution to climate change and its harmful effects on all life forms. Then the children are given the opportunity to respond to what they’ve just heard. Each child is given a cardboard square and makes a statement on that square in the form of a drawing or through words. Painted cardboard boxes with waste statistics imprinted on the outside are set up around the classroom filled with discarded things that are found or collected in the community. Children are encouraged to browse and look for waste to use in their quilt square. The squares come from pre-cut cereal or snack boxes and other packaging that I collect from the trash or through donation from the community.

In keeping with the ideology of Zero Waste, none of the tools and materials used to assemble a quilt are purchased. All the pens, pencils, crayons, glues, scissors, etc. are used art supplies donated by citizens. After the children have created their artistic statements on the squares, the squares are “quilted” or tied together with strips of plastic from single-use plastic bags or packaging such as bread bags that have been collected from the trash or donated by the community. The cardboard squares have holes in them around their edges that allow them to be tied together with the plastic strips. Since nothing has been purchased to make a quilt, there is no financial cost. The entire project is made from recycled or reused materials.

While the workshops typically last two hours, the time needed to assemble a quilt, including the preparation of gathering packaging and garbage from the local waste management facility or donation boxes, and then sorting it, cleaning it, drying it, cutting it into useful portions or strips, and boxing it can take weeks. I do most of the prep work, but other artists, educators and members of the community are instrumental in helping to organize, present, gather materials, promote, and support the project. We work together to ensure that children feel empowered, not just when they see their artwork displayed, but also when they realize that their opinions and outlooks on the future health of the planet are valued and needed. They become part of the solution by becoming involved, growing more mindful, expressing their opinions and helping to educate others.

Currently, five quilts have been made and are traveling to different venue in the Northeast to help raise awareness about climate change and waste.

(All photos by Carolyn Monastra.)

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Danielle Baudrand is an emerging self-taught artist, working primarily in mixed media. She often uses discarded objects, and explores the feelings associated with discarded objects. Her most recent work The Plastic Bag Project uses the repeated process of braiding and crocheting bags together to make one long chain that reaches over four football fields long. In this process she turns the thoughtlessness of discarded objects into mindfulness. Her work has been featured at the New York Hall of Science, The Iran International Green Festival, the Green Festival along other galleries, conferences and public spaces.


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

Life, Death, Doppelgangster and the Anthropocene

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

It’s 1957, and eminent herpetologist Dr. Karl Patterson Schmidt is examining a juvenile rear-fanged boomslang snake at the Chicago Field Museum, when he grasps the serpent behind the neck and is pierced by a single fang on the fleshy area between thumb and forefinger on his left hand. Presuming the snake’s venom to be non-toxic, Schmidt spends the next 24 hours documenting the increasingly horrifying effects of the venom until, in the middle of the following day, he suffers respiratory paralysis and shortly afterwards dies; hemorrhaging blood from his eyes, nose and mouth.

Fifty-eight years later, December 2015, I am perched amongst the early morning coffee drinkers in a busy Parisian street cafe close to Place de la République. I’m here with Doppelgangster as part of a Wales Arts International funded initiative for Cape Farewell’s ArtCOP21: a global festival of cultural activity on climate change running parallel to the 21st United Nations Climate Talks (COP21). My multi-award winning Australian colleague, playwright and cultural commentator Tobias Manderson-Galvin’s voice cuts through the French chatter, as he assertively slides a copy of American writer Roy Scranton’s recently published essay Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene (2015) under my nose and suggests that one of us ought to read it.

Scranton reflects philosophically upon his nightmarish experience as a United States soldier in Iraq during the second major Gulf conflict. By drawing upon Samurai teachings and accepting that he was, in effect, already dead, Scranton explains that he was able to reconfigure his relationship to the horrors of war and operate effectively in hazardous circumstances. Upon returning to America, Scranton’s attention turned to global warming and the advent of what scholars proposed as a new epoch, the Anthropocene; a new age in which the effects of human activity are so profound that we are considered a significant geological force, nudging ourselves towards our own extinction with every purchase of multipack avocados. Drawing upon his earlier experiences, Scranton proposes that in the face of this ecological crisis, there is more dignity to be found in accepting our death and greater hope in the possibilities that that acceptance affords.

The Paris Climate Accord (December 2015) offered hope that collective action might prevent global temperature increases from rising above the agreed safe limit of two degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. Whilst many were skeptical –  including environmentalist Naomi Klein who rebuked the deal as “woefully inadequate” due to its failure to directly reference fossil fuels – there was great enthusiasm in response to global support for it and, more specifically, the public commitment of wanton carbon emitters the United States. The mood was celebratory. However, in the two years that followed, while death quietly clipped the wings of great cultural icons (and a number of animal species), the United Kingdom shamelessly turned away from climate politics, towards the slightly less looming concern of whether to remain part of the European Union. Then came the tawdry US presidential campaign, which farcically put Trump and his band of climate denying cronies in power and actively threatened the Paris deal. By the end of 2016 that target of staying below two degrees was looking less achievable.

Dr. Tom Payne in Everybody Loses: The Death Diary of Karl Petterson Schmidt. Photo by Keith Morris.

Two years on from Paris, and on the eve of the 23rd COP in Bonn, Germany, Tobias and I wanted to create a performance that responded defiantly to these catastrophic events. We were also intrigued by Scranton’s ideas and wanted to put them to work in a theatrical context. Everybody Loses: The Death Diary of Karl Patterson Schmidt seeks to respond to current ecological and geopolitical events whilst at the same time exploring and problematizing Scranton’s notion that somewhere in the acceptance of our inevitable death lies hope. Everybody Loses is staged as an aesthetic contemplation of Schmidt’s “death diary.” At the same time, it is an oblique investigation into the greatest concern of our age, the onset of the sixth great extinction.

Everybody Loses is a one-man show in which the audience encounters Schmidt (played by myself) in his final hour. The scholarly detail with which he documents his own passing mirrors the detail with which we are currently documenting the calamitous changes in our planet, and similarly failing to act; whether through denial, cognitive dissonance, or impotence in the face of the bloody symptoms. Doppelgangster’s overtly antagonistic aesthetic seeks to stage the moment before death as a space of provocation and an opening of a political dialogue with the spectator.

Tobias and I had been toying with questions of life, death, creation and destruction, in Doppelgangster and MKA: Theatre of New Writing’s recent work Eternity of the World: Part Missing (Melbourne/Sydney July 2017). Tobias co-wrote and performed it as a two-hander with the Australian performance artist and writer Kerith Manderson-Galvin. Everybody Loses was conceived as a companion piece and we’ve labelled them Doppelgangster’s Ouroboros plays – a reference to ancient Egyptian mythology and the serpent that ate its tail; a symbol first seen in an ancient funerary text found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Dr. Tom Payne in Everybody Loses: The Death Diary of Karl Petterson Schmidt. Photo by Keith Morris.

In the development of both performances we worked closely with improvisational guitar and drums duo Maria Moles and Adam Halliwell (Melbourne). Their percussive and flute driven compositions have given Everybody Loses a hypnotic, sensual and at times disturbing quality, reinforced and interrupted by the sharp, dark, brooding and often brutal film footage, shot in the post-industrial wastelands outside Sheffield (UK) by British documentary filmmaker and The Guardian contributor Dr. Sam Christie (Forecast 2015). The provocative text, which is infused with Tobias’ trademark humour and lyricism, and my own emphatically British and pseudo-colonial delivery to microphone, combine with these digital elements in a relentless seventy-minute monologue-cum-autobiographical obituary. Our aim is to create an edgy and at times startling performance about the moment before death, one that draws the audience in with a heady mix of charm and humour whilst simultaneously placing real demands upon them to contemplate our individual and collective mortality.

Everybody Loses was developed with support from Sheffield Hallam University, MKA Theatre of New Writing and Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales, where it underwent development in the summer before premiering at the venue on 23 November 2017.

(Top image: Dr. Tom Payne in Everybody Loses: The Death Diary of Karl Petterson Schmidt. Photo by Keith Morris.)

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Dr. Tom Payne is a theatre-maker and ecological raconteur. He is Co-Director of the UK/Australian performance company Doppelgangster, which he runs with award-winning Melbourne-based playwright Tobias Manderson-Galvin. He is a Lecturer in Performance Studies in the Department of Stage and Screen at Sheffield Hallam University, and Chairperson of the highly acclaimed MKA: Theatre of New Writing. His research specialisms include site-specific performance, performance and online environments, relational aesthetics, and participatory arts approaches to climate change and the eco-social.


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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WIND, A New Font.

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Amsterdam-based book and graphic designer Hansje van Halem just designed her first published typeface, and she named it WIND.

Those who follow this monthly column on renewable energy art know that I am a sucker for anything and everything WIND. To celebrate the end of my first year writing this monthly series for Artists and Climate Change about a wide range of renewable energy artists – including musicians, poets, architects, engineers – here is a brief introduction to Hansje van Halem and her playful capital-only multi-layered variable font, WIND. (More technical information on van Halem’s WIND font can be found here.)

wind-variable-demo-edited-cropped

According to Typotheque, which published van Halem’s new font, her work is “highly experimental” and “uses vivid colours and intricately detailed patterns to create unexpected optical illusions… its various layers can be combined and overlaid to create vibrant, hypnotic patterns.”

WIND is available in four styles, defined by the cardinal wind directions: NE, SE, SW, NW

In an email exchange, van Halem explained to me that “WIND was created while playing with shapes.”  Although she did not set out to create a new typeface inspired by one of the Netherland’s most plentiful natural resources, the name WIND became obvious when “we saw what was happening visually.”

Here is a close up of the letter “D” using NE winds:

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 7.45.26 PM

As an example, I have pasted below four versions of the same word, starting with NE winds, then progressively overlaying a new cardinal direction to each version:

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 7.45.02 PMScreen Shot 2017-12-08 at 7.44.46 PMScreen Shot 2017-12-08 at 7.44.26 PMScreen Shot 2017-12-08 at 7.43.27 PM

The combinations of style and color are endless! I encourage you to play around on the Typotheque website experimenting with this delightful font. But be forewarned: it is addictive!

“I am very curious to find out what other designers will discover with the playful functions of this layered type,” explained van Halem. “I would love to see WIND being used as animated lettering…. I can imagine that the font could be connected to real time wind-data like wind strength and wind direction and displayed as such on use for screens.”

Trieste’s Wind Museum has already tried its hand with the WIND font, posting recently on Twitter :

MuseoBora, Wind, Museum Wind Museum, Trieste, Italy, Museo, Della, Bora

The WIND font is van Halem’s second wind-related artwork. In 2014, she designed 16 perforated sliding sun screens with wind-flow patterns for a new school building in Amsterdam North in collaboration with Berger Barnett Architects. 

At the end of our email conversation, when asked what gives her hope for the future in the context of climate change, van Halem replied “As a kid I grew up with the idea mankind is ruining and eventually killing the world. After seeing the elasticity of nature in areas like Chernobyl, I believe in the power of nature and its everlasting search for regaining balance. I choose to believe that earth will survive mankind, which to me is a very soothing thought.”

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Joan Sullivan is a renewable energy photographer based in Québec, Canada. Since 2009, Joan has focused her cameras (and more recently her drones) exclusively on solutions to climate change. She is convinced that the inevitable transition to a 100% clean energy economy will happen faster – and within our lifetimes – by creating positive images and stories that help us visualize and embrace what a post-carbon future will look like.  Joan collaborates frequently with filmmakers on documentary films that explore the human side of the energy transition. She is currently working on a photo book about the energy transition. Her renewable energy photos have been exhibited in group shows in Canada and the UK. You can find Joan onTwitter and Instagram.



Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog