Artists and Climate Change

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Persistent Acts: What is Enough?

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Through Persistent Acts, I look at the intersection of performance, climate, and politics. How does hope come to fruition, even in the most dire circumstances? What are tangible alternatives to the oppressive status quo? My Persistent Acts series considers questions of this nature to motivate conversations and actions on climate issues that reverberate through politics and theatre. The Persistent Acts series continues, juxtaposing questions from Naomi Klein’s recent book No Is Not Enough with Blake Sugarman’s solo performance, Prelude to the Apocalypse (For What It’s Worth).

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Climate change. Refugee crisis. Gun control. Globalization. Reproductive rights. Hunger. Poverty. Obviously, this isn’t the first time in history that systems have gone awry. As I consider our current political climate and the facts of climate science, I wonder what the tipping point will be: when the higher education bubble will burst, when Social Security will run out, when racial and economic divides will become full-on civil wars, when the Earth will no longer sustain life as we know it. When will the systems that have gotten us to where we are collapse, or, ideally, when will power and resources become equitably and sustainably redistributed? I wonder when my society will utter a collective “enough” with the destructive status quo, and the work of activists and progressive organizers will become the norm.

I also think about “enough” in terms of what I do to thwart the daunting “when” questions. Am I doing enough? In the midst of the current political shitshow, I’ve turned to Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. In addition to outlining the atrocities of the current US administration, and therefore justifying my anger, Klein highlights successful resistances to oppressive and pollutive systems, including instances of unionizing laborers, countering exploitative globalization, and more. She combines her experiences in journalism and activism to unpack the power dynamics that led us to our current socio-political system. Klein especially criticizes neoliberalism, an ideological project which, as she describes, “holds that the market is always right, regulation is always wrong, private is good and public is bad, and taxes that support public services are the worst of all.” As a major influencer on global policy, neoliberalism has structured cultural and political values around capital, which is to say not ecosystems and especially not sustainable energy. The thesis of No Is Not Enough posits that in undoing the damage of hierarchical ideologies like neoliberalism, we must not only say “No,” we must forge realistic alternative value systems – a series of “Yeses” to rally behind.

Illustration © Oliver Stafford

Illustration © Oliver Stafford from “Naomi Klein’s Guide to Resisting Power” on Huck Magazine.

Klein offers an option, composed by activists and union organizers, called The Leap Manifesto: A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another. A project spearheaded by sixty movement leaders in Canada, The Leap Manifesto is focused on “building a world based on caring for the earth and one another.” It looks to restructure cultural values, prioritizing Indigenous sovereignty, clean energy, and public infrastructure. Jobs that are already low-carbon, such as teachers, nurses, social workers are valuable in our culture and should be treated as such. This looks like, in one of my favorite examples, the expanding purpose and value of a postal worker, who is not only responsible for delivering mail in a green vehicle, but can also deliver fresh meals to the sick and elderly. Taking a step further, The Leap, an ongoing project that has grown out of The Leap Manifesto, seeks to build places like post offices as community hubs, “where residents can recharge electric vehicles; individuals and businesses can do an end run around the big banks and get a loan to start an energy co-op.” The Leap Manifesto, by placing value on jobs outside of the carbon economy, lays out realistic ways to leap Western culture into sustainable systems, because we don’t have the time for incremental change. This is where my theatre practice comes in, because I utilize and participate in theatre to instigate difficult conversations and practice alternative, sustainable realities, which The Leap exemplifies and offers. My introduction to The Leap is juxtaposed by my recent theatregoing experience at Prelude to the Apocalypse (For What It’s Worth) by Blake Sugarman.

I met Blake working on Theater In Asylum’s The Debates. Blake is an artist and activist who uses his solo performances to interrogate dominant ideologies, similar to the ones dissected in No Is Not Enough. I am continually motivated by the ways in which he brings his activism to his art, and vice versa. For Prelude to the Apocalypse, Blake’s activism is heavily featured, as his program note shouts out to Sunrise, a burgeoning movement of young people fighting for climate action. Knowing that Sunrise was in the context of the show, I was curious to see what stories, questions, and feelings would arise.

Part of the show dropped me into despair, as Blake juxtaposes stories of climate deniers with the hard facts of climate science. Tackling climate issues raises all kinds of questions, which Blake posits throughout the show – from how we relate to one another, to what effect time has on us, to whether we’re paying attention. By the end of the performance, Blake fully breaks the fourth wall, coming into the audience, offering a “penny for our thoughts” in response to the question “What is enough?” This was at once a vulnerable and powerful position to be in: the opportunity to voice my politicized view with a room of strangers.

I shared that my go-to thought of “enough” is life off the grid. That “doing enough” looks like “unplugging” myself from our current energy grid, living without a cell phone, or any other mode of digital communication. In other words, to do “enough” on climate change is to forgo my life as I know it. But would taking my own life off the grid have an impact on our national or global energy policy? To me, the disaster of capitalism is the underlying factor in human-caused climate change, and so my individual choices won’t undo such a deeply ingrained system that puts economic profits over people’s lives. So, is it enough to take an ideological stance against a capitalist structure? If such an ideology is backed up by realistic alternatives, then yes, in my mind that is enough to get us started on the work of publicizing and modeling a more equitable way of life.

Yes, it does feel like we’re presently in a prelude to the apocalypse. But as Blake illuminates, that’s only for what it’s worth, not an end-all-be-all outlook. Something is happening here, and it’s up to the people – not greedy governments – to build the world we need, one that is equitable for all beings, one that is sustainable for future generations. This work is happening, especially in grass-roots organizing, so that whether or not that tipping point or the apocalypse arrives, people are working to take the future into their own hands.

Take Action
Learn more about and support The Sunrise Movement
Get involved in The Leap

(Top image: Blake Sugarman.)

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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 Asylum, Honest Accomplice Theatre, and Superhero Clubhouse. She is on the Marketing team at HERE Arts Center and is Artistic Producer of The Arctic Cycle. Julia writes and devises with her performance-based initiative 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

10 Pioneering UK Initiatives

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Back in the days when I was still working for Cape Farewell in London, the appetite for artistic engagement with climate change seemed to be everywhere, including in the big cultural venues: from Ten Billion, the shocking science-lecture-performance at the Royal Court, to programs at the Science Museum and the Tate. The prevailing attitude focused on raising awareness about global climate change, and asking questions about what was happening in our own backyards. How much insight did we have into the carbon footprint of these grand buildings? Ambitious productions, touring and attending conferences and Biennale all over the world – greening our own practice was just as (or even more) important as raising awareness about melting glaciers. And here the amazing ladies (mostly ladies) of Julie’s Bicycle jumped to help.

Since 2012, all cultural organizations that receive regular funding from Arts Council England are required to report on their environmental impact, using Julie’s Bicycle Creative IG tools – advanced carbon calculators designed specifically for the cultural sector. This has made Arts Council England the first arts funding body to recognize the environmental role that the cultural field can play. Museums, theatres, festivals, tours, galleries and productions started to reduce their carbon emissions (as well as water use and waste) as it was made fun and clear how to do so. See below a Top 10 list of my favorite art organizations talking the talk and walking the walk – with several gems from Scotland!

Open jar

1.  Open Jar Collective

The collective of socially engaged artists and designers that form Open Jar Collective operates mostly out of Scotland and actively share food, ideas and possibilities for change. Always involving the local community in their workshops, dinners and debates, they are re-thinking and re-shaping Scotland’s food future. Make sure to check out their project Soilcity, where the collective offered explorations of soil culture through the alchemy of composting, growing, foraging, fermenting, brewing and cooking.

We use food as a vehicle for bringing people together, as a common language to understand the global economic system, and as a tool for exploring people’s fundamental relationship to the land.
—Open Jar Collective

Human Sensor, Kasia Molga, 2016. Photo by Nick Harrison, courtesy of Invisible Dust.

2.  Invisible Dust

Reporting every day on the level of air pollution in London, Invisible Dust aims to making the invisible visible – particularly environmental challenges that don’t necessarily register to the naked eye. This awareness is brought through artists’ commissions, events, education and community activities. One of their exciting new projects, Under her Eye, features the amazing Margaret Atwood (amongst other ubercool ladies) in a summit on Women and Climate Change at the British Library this summer.

I love working with Invisible Dust – it’s a fantastic platform for collaborations between artists and scientists who are natural collaborators; both are explorers and storytellers, seeking out new ways of understanding, communicating (and indeed, changing) the world around them. So when it comes to the dry (and let’s face it, often frankly terrifying) language of climate change, the marriage of the two can be particularly effective. Artists can respond to environmental data in work that provokes real engagement – and scientists in turn can consider more creative and impactful ways of sharing (or indeed conducting!) their research. By communicating these urgent issues in lateral, innovative ways, by using humor and humanity, these sorts of works can reach us on a more animal, cellular, level – and therefore, hopefully, demand our response.
—Lucy Wood

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3.  Creative Carbon Scotland

Inspired by the ladies at Julie’s Bicycle, Creative Carbon Scotland supports Scottish arts organizations with training in carbon measurement, reporting and reduction. Though their work involves a lot of strategy and policymaking, the direct involvement of artists remains key. Projects such as The Green Tease, but also various themed residencies, allow for a good relationship with the local community and places artists in both arts- and non-arts organizations.

We believe that the things artists know and the way they think and do things has a contribution to make to changing the way we organize our society, which will help move it towards a more sustainable future.
—Creative Carbon Scotland

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4.  Grizedale Arts

Tucked away in the beautiful English Lake District, Grizedale Arts is a self-proclaimed “curatorial project in a continuous state of development.” The site, called Lawson Park, is a productive farm (which includes livestock), where artists can’t be afraid to get their hands dirty. The program, consisting of events, projects, residencies and community activities, engages with the complexities of the rural environment. Grizedale is the type of place where process is valued over product, and the boundaries of what an art institution can be (or ought to be) go wildly beyond the established structures and the idea of the white cube. Bring your wellies.

I want to broaden the idea of what art is and how it works; it is fundamentally the connective tissue that energizes all of our activities. It is an action, not a product, and everyone uses it. I help artists and communities make better use of one another, opening creative processes for both parties, helping both parties escape the confines of what can be a horribly narrow mindset. I aim for a way of living that is connected, a level body of resources built around fundamental elements, a real world of growth, cycles and change.
—Adam Sutherland

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Professor Jaeweon Cho in the Science Walden pavilion during the first phase of the project, 2016.

5.  Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World

Now part of a family of art and ecology organizations, which includes art.earth at Dartington Hall in Devon, CCANW is an educational charity which brings together curators, artists and researchers (myself included!) to give people a deeper understanding of their responsibilities within nature. Its Soil Culture project (2013-16), organized collaboratively with Falmouth University and RANE, was comprised of a research phase, an artist residency and a touring exhibition, and aimed at deepening public understanding of the importance of soil. It became the UK’s most substantial contribution to the United Nations International Year of Soils.

In the coming years, we hope to encourage a new generation of artists and curators to engage more people with the urgent ecological challenges we face globally. We believe that the arts can effect change in ways that complement the work of conventional education and science.
—Clive Adams

onca

6.  ONCA

ONCA, a gallery and performance space in Brighton, has an interesting founding story. It has to do with ONCA founder Laura Coleman meeting a puma in Bolivia. She connected with the puma, who had been a pet until it came to the refuge where Coleman met it when it was ten months-old. The puma, called Wayra, was terrified of the jungle. Over the years, Laura developed a friendship with Wayra, learning more from this cat about trust, patience and love. In 2011, Laura came back to the UK wanting to find a way to tell Wayra’s story, intertwined with the stories of all the other animals (human and non-human) she met in the jungle. ONCA is therefore an art space dedicated to performance and storytelling about issues that affect animals.

We work really hard at ONCA to provide a space, and a support network, for artists, young people and the general public to explore, question and creatively reimagine the world. We ask ourselves, how do we “stay with” social and environmental justice, in all their entanglements? How can art, and art spaces, contribute towards better nows, and better futures, for all?
—Laura Coleman

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7.  Deveron Projects

“The town is the venue” describes the framework of Deveron Projects’ work, as they  inhabit, explore, map and activate the place through artist-driven projects. These projects may cover a variety of topics from employment to health, from ecology to architecture, from history to spirituality, and from migration to being local. They bring together people from all walks of life through public gatherings, symposium, forums, workshops, farmers markets, seasonal cafés, music events, street festivals, slow marathons, gardening sessions, traditional ceilidhs, internet conferences and Friday lunches. The 50/50 principle is their guideline for a socially engaged work practice: balancing artistic endeavor with everyday life.

Our town, like many rural places is facing the signs of globalization with shops, banks, services closing. We need to join forces and think of responses for creative regeneration.
—Claudia Zeiske

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First Draft Ale was the catalyst for the first homemade malt organic ale in the last 500 years. Initiated by Futurefarmers, in collaboration with the Liberation Brewery. Photo: The Morning Boat.

8.  The morning boat

The Morning Boat (Jersey, Channel Islands, UK) is a program of public art projects, exploring and reflecting on agricultural and fishing practices in Jersey and the impact these have on people’s lives. At the centre of the program is an international artist residency, inviting artists from around the world to collaborate with local farmers, fishermen, politicians, chefs, retailers and consumers, to encourage public discourse on complex critical issues that are central to the island’s economy, social fabric and way of life. Projects aim to be catalysts for positive change and cultural shifts, promoting best practice and creating new infrastructures. They negotiate social, political and environmental challenges, to encourage a more responsible and sustainable way of living and consuming.

All aboard!

On a small compact island, in which the urban, suburban and rural, merge, overlap and rub together, the production processes behind our consumption (and comparative wealth) are strikingly evident and immediate. Within this revealing landscape, the local and global are entwined together, as local industries facilitate, influence and respond to international developments. Despite this microcosm, or perhaps because of it, there seems to be a lack of sustained public debate regarding the practices and accountability of island industries and a defensive attitude towards critical voices that interrogate the status quo. The local phrase, “if you don’t like it, there’s a boat in the morning,” encapsulates this attitude, a mindset that holds back progress and the ability to creatively reimagine the way we do things.
—Kaspar Wimberley

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Image Credit: Performance A Play for the Parallels by Lina Lapelytė during 7th Inter-format Symposium at Nida Colony, 2017. Photo by Andrej Vasilenko

9.  Scottish Sculpture Workshop

Located in the foothills of the Grampian Mountains, in the rural village of Lumsden, Scottish Sculpture Workshop promotes a dialogue that considers the place of this rural locale within a globalized society. They are an active bunch, organizing residencies, Reading Groups, talks and lots of courses, including woodworking and ceramics. Make sure to check out their latest open call with DIY, an opportunity for artists working in Live Art to conceive and run unusual training and professional development projects for other artists.

Environment is deeply rooted across all our thinking, work and partnerships. We approach this not as a single issue but as part of the complex web of ecological, social, historical, economic, and political phenomena. Through networks such as Frontiers In Retreat we aim to be part of the global cultural shift that moves away from exploitative and extractive relationships with nature and instead work with artists to imagine, inspire and ignite new ways of being in the world.
—Sam Trotman

HeHe Fracking Futures

HeHe, Fracking Futures, 2013. Commissioned by Arts Catalyst and FACT.

10.  Arts Catalyst

Through its continuous work with artists, scientists, communities and interest groups, Arts Catalyst commissions and produces large-scale projects, artworks, and exhibitions that connect with other fields of knowledge, expanding artistic practice into domains commonly associated with science and specialist research. They also commission research and are great advocates for cross-disciplinary thinking and working. They have worked with some of the biggest names out there (think Tomas Saraceno or Jan Fabre) and their list of collaborators is as extensive as it is impressive.

Arts Catalyst promotes new artistic practices, ideas, and ways of inquiring into the world. We work with artists, scientists, and people from myriad backgrounds and perspectives to create imaginative, inspiring, engaging projects addressing important issues of our time, from extractive capitalism and climate change, to histories and representations of race and migration’.
—Nicola Triscott, CEO/Artistic Director

(Top image: Duke of York Column. Photo by Kristian Buus. The string of LED’s wrapped around London’s main columns marked a future in which sea level rise has changed the landscape beyond recognition. This project was part of the series of interventions coordinated by Artsadmin.)

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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 and the initiator of the Van Eyck Food Lab.


 

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 Breathing Hole and Inuit Cultural Dramaturgy

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

In 2013, composer Aaron Gervais and I finished a full-length opera, Oksana G, about sex trafficking in Ukraine. The opera is sung in Ukrainian and Russian with some English and Italian, and had its world premiere this past May in Toronto, Canada.

The year we finished Oksana G, we began work on an opera about climate change called The Breathing Hole, about the life and death of a 500-year-old polar bear. It unfolds from 1534 to 2034 and is set by a breathing hole in Nunavut, a massive territory in Northern Canada that makes up most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Nunavut is a territory governed and primarily populated by the Inuit people who live there.

All the characters in the first act of The Breathing Hole are Inuit. The second act involves characters from the Franklin Expedition and two Inuit hunters, while the third act is a mix of characters. The writing combines imagination, fact, and fiction.

When the outline was complete, I realized the cost of making it an opera was prohibitive, so I began to write it as a play. In the fall of 2014, Bob White, Director of New Plays at the Stratford Festival, commissioned a first draft to celebrate Canada150, the 150th anniversary of the British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick being united into one Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. Canada150 is a political celebration, but many Indigenous colleagues have impressed on me that for their people it is not a celebration. The Canadian government made the past 150 years extraordinarily difficult for them. Refusal to honor treaties and the terrible legacy of children being taken from their families and abused in residential schools are just two of the indignities that have traumatized Indigenous people. Stories about the past, present, and future of Canada can no longer be told without contemplating the inclusion of Indigenous characters. They have been here for over 15,000 years and will be here for thousands more…if climate change does not kill us all first.

The Breathing Hole, Stratford Festival, August 2017. Photo by Itai Erdal.

In January 2016, I met Reneltta Arluk who was performing in my play Pig Girl in Montreal. Two months later I was thrilled to learn she was interested in directing The Breathing Hole. Reneltta is of Inuvialuit, Dene, and Cree descent—a fine actress and a woman who has been deeply involved in theatre about the north and about the environment. She was in the Underground Railway Theater production of Chantal Bilodeau’s award-winning play Sila. Once Stratford committed to producing the play, I began consulting with Reneltta on the script.

Bob also agreed to facilitate research consultations with Inuit artists, so in November 2016, Reneltta, Bob, and I flew up to Iqaluit to meet the people who would become our cultural consultants. Reneltta had reached out to Ellen Hamilton, the Executive Director of Qaggiavuut, a non-profit society dedicated to strengthening the Nunavut performing arts, with a focus on Inuit, to organize a reading of the play.

At the start of our first day the artists initiated an intense discussion about cultural authenticity—who can create drama from the Inuit perspective, and how they should do it. They tore into me at the top of Act I. The names I had chosen for my characters were not Netsilik names that originated from the area where the play is set. (Kevin Eelootook would eventually give the characters their new names.) I had made many mistakes in my draft, like having the characters eating raw polar bear meat, something that in reality would have killed everyone by the end of Scene One. It was a stupid mistake because instead of checking on that point I just assumed all meat was eaten raw. I also love writing overt conflict between characters, but in Inuit culture, conflict is not expressed overtly, so they helped me find a subtler way of expressing it.

The Inuit artists were upset that I had not come to them earlier in the writing process. I explained that my process is to first create the characters and the drama and then to research—either on paper or with people. Yes, I made many mistakes, but I also knew I would eventually be meeting with Inuit consultants. For months after our meeting in Iqaluit, I worked with them via email, asking questions to get the cultural behavior correct. The consultants shared their traditional knowledge and helped me gain an understanding of beliefs and taboos, but they also wanted me to be very clear in my discussions about this play that The Breathing Hole it is not an Inuit story, but rather a play by Colleen Murphy with Inuit characters.

During the process the consultants coined a new term: Inuit Cultural Dramaturgy. Together we agreed that their names and contributions would forever be acknowledged in house programs and in the published text of The Breathing Hole.

Consulting with Inuit artists from Qaggiavuut enriched the Inuit characters and in turn enriched The Breathing Hole. The only way I can truly thank these artists is by offering audiences an engaging story as well as an emotional experience whereby laughter leads to tears and tears lead to thinking about our future…together.

(Top image: The Breathing Hole, Stratford Festival, August 2017. Photo by Itai Erdal.)

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Colleen Murphy won the 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama and the 2014 Carol Bolt Award for her play Pig Girl. Her play The December Man (L’homme de décembre) won the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama. Other plays include Bright Burning (I Hope My Heart Burns First)Armstrong’s WarThe Goodnight Bird, The Piper and Beating Heart Cadaver (nominated for a Governor General’s Award). Colleen has been Writer in Residence at the University of Regina, McMaster University, University of Guelph, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Alberta. 


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

Biennale Architettura 2018

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

For this month’s renewable energy series, I revisit one of my favorite subjects: the critical role of architects in the global fight against climate change, using the upcoming Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 as an entry point.

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In 2018, I will attend my first Biennale di Venezia, the world’s oldest and most prestigious contemporary art exhibition, founded in 1895. Music, cinema and theatre festivals were added in the 1930s; architecture in 1980; dance in 1999. For the past two decades, the Venice biennale has alternated between art and architecture, respectively, during odd- and even-numbered years.

The Biennale Architettura 2018 will run for six months, from May 26 to November 25, 2018, and occupy the Giardini di Castello and Arsenale venues in the eastern part of Venice. Several concurrent cultural events and art/architecture exhibits will be organized in parallel with the official biennale, including the European Cultural Centre’s TIME-SPACE-EXISTENCE international architecture exhibit that will display six of my photos of wind turbines, considered a form of industrial architecture.

Venice, biennale, architecture, Venezia

Curators Shelley McNamara (left) and Yvonne Farrell (center), with Paolo Baratta (right), President of La Biennale di Venezia. Photo downloaded from http://www.labiennale.org.

The 2018 biennale, formerly called the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, is curated by Irish architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. They have chosen Freespace as the title and organizing theme. According to the curators, Freespace describes “a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda.”

Architects participating in the 2018 biennale are free to interpret the concept of “freespace” in any way they choose. The curators explain their choice of Freespace as follows:Screen Shot 2018-03-09 at 9.45.15 PMAs a photographer focused on the energy transition, I would have liked to see here the inclusion of “nature’s free gifts of energy” – solar, wind, geothermal, water – as an essential element of Freespace. After all, architects and architectural firms around the globe are already rethinking how they use “nature’s free gifts” – both renewable and non-renewable.

A great example is Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s forthcoming skyscraper in Jakarta, Indonesia: the Pertamina Energy Tower is the world’s first supertall tower for which energy is the primary design driver. This 500-meter tower gently tapers towards a rounded open top, creating a wind funnel that sucks air inside the building to turn a series of vertical wind turbines; electricity produced from these turbines will help the skyscraper achieve net-zero energy status. Solar, passive solar and geothermal energy are also generated on-site. This is truly an inspiring design and a stunning achievement. Architecture for the Anthropocene. I can’t wait to visit when construction is completed in 2020.

Pertamina Energy Tower Fly-Through from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP on Vimeo.

I think the American Institute of Architects (AIA) says it best: “Designing and building resilient buildings is not a choice, it’s an imperative.”

Globally, buildings consume 35 percent of all energy and 60 percent of all generated electricity, much of which is, unfortunately, still produced by fossil fuels. According to the AIA, three-quarters of global carbon emissions come from just two percent of the Earth’s land surface – urban areas.

With two-thirds of global population expected to live in urban areas by 2050, the AIA nails it: “We believe that the climate change battle will be won or lost in cities.”

Lorenzo Quinn, sculptor, Venice, biennale, Support, hands

Lorenzo Quinn’s “Support,” installed at the 2017 Venice Biennale. Downloaded from http://www.supportatvenice.com.

I am therefore optimistic that climate change and renewable energy will emerge as sub-themes at the 2018 biennale – with or without specific direction from Biennale di Venezia. This has already happened in previous biennales: 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014. For example, the most talked-about piece at the 2017 biennale was sculptor Lorenzo Quinn‘s “Support” (see photo above), a nine-meter tall installation that cleverly symbolizes humanity’s capacity to destroy the world and, simultaneously, to save it.

Perhaps this is the point of the biennale’s organizers: providing only a few broad thematic brushstrokes, effectively giving artists and architects free reign to express themselves. But this seems to me a lost opportunity, especially in the context of  climate change and urban sprawl.

Imagine the positive impact that large cultural events like the prestigious Biennale di Venezia could have if they encouraged all future pavilions and exhibits to address the critically important role that artists and architects, in collaboration with engineers, scientists and city planners, can and must play to reduce carbon emissions and increase resiliency of the built environment. The Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI), which organizes a biennial international competition for renewable energy art and architecture, has already been doing this for 10 years.

I will end here with a must-read quote by Ned Cramer, Associate AIA and editor-in-chief of ARCHITECT:

“Climate change is the fundamental design problem of our time. Not style, not fees, not education, not community, not health, not justice. All other concerns, many of them profoundly important, are nonetheless ancillary. The threat climate change poses is existential, and buildings are hugely complicit—even more so than that stock culprit, the automobile. As every architect should know, buildings consume some 40 percent of the energy in the U.S. annually, and they emit nearly half of the carbon dioxide (CO2), through greenfield development, cement production, and the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal. Because CO2 traps solar energy in the atmosphere, thereby heating the planet, it is the chief agent of climate change [PDF], making buildings—and by association, the architecture profession—profoundly responsible.”

After visiting the Biennale Architettura 2018, I will write a follow-up post here, which I hope is filled with bold examples of architectural insight and genius to address the most daunting problems facing humanity today. It is time for architects to take their rightful place at the center of global climate change movement.

addendum: Deadline for the LAGI 2018 Melbourne competition is 6th May 2018 at midnight GMT.

(Top image: A carved cast concrete block from the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale by Austrian firm Marte.Marte Architects. Photo: marte.marte.)

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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 on Twitter 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

Life Imitates Art Imitates Life

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

October 8, 2016. As soon as I exited the garage across the street from the theatre, the rain pelted the windshield much more quickly than the wipers could whisk it away. The neighborhood was as black as my rented Nissan Altima. The power had gone out and my headlights barely pierced the darkness. The tail end of Hurricane Matthew, originally slated to bypass Norfolk, Virginia, was bearing down. My friend Martha had given me explicit directions to avoid flooding. I tried to get to 26th Street, but at 38th a huge puddle loomed in front of me. I took a chance and made it to the other side. 26th was relatively smooth sailing. Thank you, Martha. I turned right onto Granby. Huge mistake. At the intersection of 21st a small white car was up to its windows in water. Trying to remain calm, I backed up and eventually got back on Granby further south. At Princess Anne, a swirling pond was blocking the intersection. I couldn’t tell how deep it was. Should I go for it? “Well,” I thought. “The car’s a rental and it’s insured.” I held my breath as I put my foot on the accelerator.

July 4, 1933. Bathing beauty Rosa LaDarieux climbed to the top of a flagpole, some fifty-five feet in the air above the Ocean View Amusement Park in Norfolk. From a thirty-inch-square platform, she greeted a crowd of well-wishers gathered below and, aiming to set a flagpole-sitting record, announced her plan to remain on her perch above the Chesapeake Bay beachfront until Labor Day. About two weeks shy of her goal, it started to rain and the wind began to pick up. Little did she know these were the portents of a deadly hurricane that would soon bear down on her—and force her to decide whether or not to abandon her Depression-era stunt.

I first visited Ocean View in the summer of 2013, not to go to the beach or the amusement park (which was long gone), but to do research at the Pretlow branch of the Norfolk Public Library. The city’s historical archives happened to be located pretty much directly across the road from where Rosa LaDarieux “sat” exactly eighty summers earlier. I had been commissioned by Virginia Stage Company to write an original musical, which I eventually titled The Rising Sea, about sea level rise and wanted to learn a bit about Norfolk history.

Norfolk’s a city whose charm is, safe to say, largely derived from its proximity to the water. Rivers and streams flow throughout and the Chesapeake Bay forms its northern border. But an inevitable rise in sea level, caused by climate change, has already started to transform the charm into an ever more constant threat. The area is subject to frequent and severe flooding. Chris Hanna, the Stage Company’s artistic director at the time, suspected that Norfolk residents, inundated by a flood of facts, were becoming inured to this all-important issue. Perhaps turning facts into art would stimulate discussion across large swaths of the community. My assignment was to create a musical that would address the topic but not necessarily in a literal way.

I read a lot of journal articles and met with climate scientists, many of whom were forecasting not only disastrous flooding but also the destruction of the fragile coastline and ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay. My interest in history led me to wonder when, if at all, Norfolk might have previously been under water. A Google search quickly summoned images of the “Storm of ’33,” a deadly hurricane that flooded downtown.

Granby Street after the Storm of ’33.

Searching a bit further revealed the story of Rosa LaDarieux. I’d never heard of flagpole-sitting, which seemed inherently theatrical.

My research revealed that in the 1920s and ’30s, Ocean View was a successful resort on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay, eight miles from downtown. Its gigantic roller coaster and other “amusements” made it a popular destination for locals as well as tourists from up and down the East Coast. It was also segregated. Blacks couldn’t swim there; but they could work as cooks and “domestics” in the whites-only hotels, and as boatmen who rowed whites out on the bay for an afternoon of fishing for spot and croaker.

Many rolls of microfiche later, I returned to New York. I couldn’t get Rosa, the flagpole sitter, out of my mind. And I couldn’t get segregation out of my mind, either. But how could I relate these to climate change? Then I read a New Yorker article in which a scientist described climate change as “the kind of issue where something looked extremely difficult, and not worth it, and then people changed their minds.” He went on to say, “Slavery had some of those characteristics a hundred and fifty years ago. Some people thought it was wrong, and they made their arguments, and they didn’t carry the day. And then something happened and all of sudden it was wrong and we didn’t do it anymore.”

In my mind, ending slavery—and its legacy of segregation and discrimination—and combatting climate change became inextricably linked. If, as a nation, we could commit to one, we could, and would have to, commit to the other. Within a few hours of reading the article, I invented my central character, a black boy named Granby whose aunt works as a cook at one of the Ocean View hotels during the summer of 1933. She finds him a job running errands for the flagpole sitter (who is white). These include bringing her all her meals, as well as an occasional snack from Doumar’s (where the ice cream cone was invented). Over the summer, Granby and Rosa forge a rather unlikely friendship. Granby is fascinated by the fish and other aquatic life that inhabit the Lafayette River, near his house in Huntersville. Rosa encourages him to study hard in school so that he can eventually turn his love of these creatures into a scholarly vocation. He becomes a marine biologist and ultimately a climate-change activist who sees his precious Chesapeake Bay marine life being threatened by the rising sea. In the musical, we see him as he ages from eleven to ninety. (The role is actually split between two actors.) In a full-circle moment, in the 1970s, he ends up purchasing land and building a house at Ocean View. He can swim in the Bay whenever he wants—something he was forbidden to do as a young man. Progress.

Rising seas are problematic for not only Norfolk but many other East Coast communities (and numerous other locations around the globe). Having lived through a week-long power outage in New York City caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, I was well attuned to how much damage flooding can cause—and it’s only going to get worse. Norfolk is just the tip of the iceberg. And speaking of icebergs, Antarctica is really the origin of sea level rise. What happens in Antarctica does not stay in Antarctica. If increasing global temperatures cause ice to melt there, much of that extra water is going to head up toward the eastern seaboard of the USA. I decided to set half the story in Antarctica in the year 2047.

Two climate scientists—Granby Jr., an African American (named for his great-grandfather), and Misaki, a Japanese American—happen to meet in an especially remote area of this strikingly beautiful continent. Both are researching the quickly melting ice. Many parts of the East Coast are becoming uninhabitable, and Granby Jr. learns his great-grandfather’s house at Ocean View has just been swallowed up by the rising seas. He attempts to process that loss, and as Misaki helps him do so, they discover their pasts are linked in surprising ways. After a contentious courtship, they fall in love. Their interracial relationship would have been a felony in the Virginia of Granby Jr.’s great-grandfather. Progress.

Charles Browning as Granby Jr. and Rona Figueroa as Misaki. Photo by Samuel Flint.

The musical’s two interconnected stories, one set in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern, one set in the past and one in the future, appear in alternating scenes. The past and the future are intimately connected, just as all of us are connected by the currents of the oceans and the changing climates they convey. The characters’ links across continents and time reinforce the idea that the solution to climate change must be a global one.

***

Tavon Olds-Sample, a sixteen-year-old native of Norfolk, played the role of the younger Granby. When he read the script, he was excited about the opportunity to inhabit the body and get inside the head of a boy around his age from the Norfolk of the 1930s.

Tavon Olds-Sample as Granby. Photo by Samuel Flint.

History became present for Tavon, the rest of the actors and me when, at one of the audience talkbacks, a black woman in her seventies who grew up in the Titustown section of Norfolk shared her memories of segregation. “I went to Grant’s and Woolworth’s, to the lunch counters and sit-ins,” she told us. And she made a point of saying that even though she could now buy an ice cream cone at Doumar’s, she would never do so—on principle. When she was a child, they wouldn’t serve blacks.

The musical also made Tavon aware that to counter the rising seas, we are going to have to build “resilient” cities, with houses and infrastructure that float. “Sea level rise wasn’t something I’d thought about. Playing the character changed how I look at the world.” I think it’s safe to say it did the same for audience members, one of whom acknowledged that “if the human race is going to survive, we have to fight against climate change just as fiercely as we fought for civil rights.” As one environmental advocate has summed it up, “We are at our lunch counter moment for the twenty-first century.”

***

Hurricane Matthew decided to visit Norfolk for our last weekend of performances. The weather that Saturday deteriorated quickly. As I drove to the theatre for the matinee, the rain was already falling steadily. At a red light, I checked the Doppler. Several ominous-looking yellow and orange bands were headed our way. After the show, audience members didn’t linger in the lobby to debate the musical’s merits. Their priority was getting back home.

Those of us involved with the production remained at the theatre and had a bite to eat. It was still pouring when a handful of diehard audience members arrived for the evening performance. Ten minutes into the show, Granby (Tavon) was delivering ice cream to Rosa, who was up on her flagpole. He was about to warn her about a coming storm when the spot lights flickered. Except this wasn’t a lighting cue. The power in the theatre was failing. The emergency lighting came on. The stage manager’s forcefully announced “Hold!” reverberated through the auditorium. The actors were instructed to leave the stage and the audience sat quietly for a few minutes. The producers hastily concluded the weather had deteriorated to such a degree that the priority was making sure everyone could make it home as quickly as possible. The stage manager announced the performance’s cancellation. Cast and crew dispersed.

I left for the garage and was not remotely anticipating that difficult journey back to my apartment. At the intersection of Granby and Princess Anne, I drove slowly though the whirlpool without trashing the rental car. The rest of the trip, which took a total of an hour instead of the usual fifteen minutes, was relatively smooth sailing. Pun intended.

I lay awake most of the night, holding on to the slim hope the show would go on the next afternoon. It was to be our closing performance. I woke up early Sunday morning to the news that the state of emergency declared by the City of Norfolk the night before was still in effect. The matinee would be cancelled.

Betsy DiLellio as Rosa. Photo by Samuel Flint.

I counted my blessings and tried to be resilient. I had made it back safely. Down in North Carolina, the storm had caused a lot of damage. The images were distressing and my heart went out to those who lost their homes. I thought about Ocean View in 1933. The winds had forced Rosa LaDarieux to abandon her perch. Lucky for her she did, because the flagpole eventually snapped. But how reluctant she must have been to descend, just two weeks shy of her record; how angry and disappointed she must have felt. How angry and disappointed I felt. There would be no chance to say a proper, teary farewell to the cast with whom I’d worked so hard. No chance to watch the crew dismantle the set that had been home for the past couple of months. Hurricane Matthew had deprived us of our final performance, just like the Storm of ’33, decades before, had deprived Rosa of hers. Life imitating art imitating life.


Eric Schorr’s musical The Rising Sea (originally titled, I Sing the Rising Sea) had its world premiere at Virginia Stage Company in 2016. Funding for the production was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project.


 

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 Artist Deep in The Heart of Environmental Awareness

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Environmental advocate Edward Abbey stated that “It is no longer sufficient to describe the world of nature. The point is to defend it.” In recent years, we have witnessed increased devastation brought on by natural disasters whose causes can be traced back to man-made damage to the environment. Most of us cannot fathom the extent of the irreversible damages that pollutants have had on our ecosystem thus far, but these gaps in our knowledge and awareness can hurt us the most. Each link in the ecosystem is indispensable. All of us with a platform and an audience must make sure that we compel those around us to not only pay attention, but also, to act.

As an artist, I like to think of my paintbrush, my camera, as well as every other medium I use, as my personal weapon in the fight to preserve the environment. I’m most interested and heavily invested in marine life. Call it a crusade, if you will, but I believe that my art, and in particular my most recent works, reflect my deep-rooted love and respect for nature in all of its manifestations. Likewise, the fear that I have for our fragile ecosystem and how much harm we’re doing to it is apparent in every brush stroke, and in every ray of light and shade in my work.

Conus, Mixed media on canvas, 32x 59″

Case in point are my abstract oceanographic paintings. I strive to transform the visual elements of the molluscan shell into pure-energy; a mixed media panorama rife with struggles and drama which is the very essence of oceanic life. The hard, yet frail structures of the shell with its alluring colors and complex patterns turn into larger-than-life abstract explorations of my darkest and most intimate environmental anxieties. In my art, my love for sea life meets with an almost maternal instinct to protect it against all our human transgressions – environmental pollutants, overfishing, and climate change. This is expressed in subtle color choices and dramatic undercurrents of rising and falling swashes of bright hues with conflicting and almost aggressive and threatening darker tones lurking at the edge – always ready to disrupt the harmony and fluid sea and instill chaos where a balanced ecosystem reigns.

Because art is more than a message – it’s a mission – my paintings, photographs and mixed media pieces navigate the full wheel of the color spectrum to regenerate the path of floating forms as well as to rejuvenate the schema of the abstract seascapes. Woven together, naturalism and imagination, propelled by a rich color palette, help me illuminate the subtle wonders of marine life. What really attracts me to mollusks is the fact that they’re often overlooked. For the most part, they’re stationary and don’t offer the dramatic flippancy of, say, an octopus. Yet their static configurations hide vibrant ripples of a rich and active life that seem to portray the seascape with utmost truthfulness. All the shapes in my work, no matter how abstract, mask the explosive dynamism of a complex life lived by my molluscan models – a dynamism that can only unfold itself to the patient observer and marine lover.

Conus III, Mixed media on canvas, 42x 59″

As far back as I remember, I’ve been obsessed with both creativity and environmental activism. From offshore oil drilling to the alarming signs of environmental changes, I’ve always considered it my life’s mission to combine my art with my passion for conservation to raise awareness of the dangers our oceans are facing. Marine life is disappearing right in front of our eyes; the need to step up our efforts to stop the devastation has never been greater. Hence my emphasis on the architectural detail of the shells. At its core, my work provides a different lens to look at our world and energize our perspective. If viewers can appreciate the turbulent and diverse life that is only a few feet below the surface of the water, then my childhood dreams are finally a reality.

Those dreams have always led me into the water where molluscan life rolls with ocean undercurrents. The hours I spent observing those exquisite life forms were later transformed, with the help of an extra dose of imagination, into large-scale manifestations not unlike amphibian patterns. The vivid colors only reflect the captivating exhilaration I get as I immerse myself in this lavish beauty while struggling with my fear for its safety.

Conus V, Mixed media on canvas, 58 x 40″

You can call me a conservationist, an activist, or a preservationist; my main concern is to revitalize people’s memory of aquatic riches that might not be there for our children. Perhaps my art depicts my personal journey as I come to terms with the dangers that threaten the very existence of the marine universe. But whether it conforms to predefined categories or stands out unique in style and message is not as important to me as preserving an ecosystem that for too long has been on the receiving end of reckless human policies and actions.

(Top image: Argus II, Mixed media on canvas, 44x 58″)

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Judith Gale lives and works in New York City. She is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts and is one of the founding members of The Molluscan Science Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of our coral reefs. She works with many media, including painting, mixed media, and photography. In addition, Judith works in the New York City public school program as an art specialist. She aspires to frame the natural wonders of the environment in a way that allows viewers of her art to connect with the environment as authentically as possible; she aims to magnify nature’s beauties through the lens of various media.


 

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 Top 10 Initiatives in the Netherlands!

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

The Netherlands, that small country with big ambitions that lies below sea level, has been battling water and trying to outsmart it for decades. Traditionally, our strategies have included using dikes and reclaiming land, as well as developing the iconic Dutch windmill to generate energy. In recent years, we have seen new innovations in both water-management and renewable energy. The Dutch are familiar with using design to counter climate change on many levels: from floating architecture, to glow-in the dark bike-paths, to self-powering (solar) furniture. The creative sector – nurtured by progressive educational institutes such as the Design Academy in Eindhoven – seems to be aching to transition towards a more sustainable society. You’ll find below an overview of my ten favorite art initiatives dedicated to building a more aware, balanced, artistic, fossil-free and sustainable future.

Note: This list is non-exhaustive, in random order, and does not include individual artists, design studios, projects or educational institutes – only art initiatives. And it’s also not entirely objective as I work for (at least) one of them!

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Performance by Amy Toner, picture by Willem Velthoven

1.  Mediamatic

Though Mediamatic describes itself as an “Art and New Technology” space, their more recent projects are rather low-tech and involve a lot of food-related stuff (which I like!). Think fermentation feasts and reading Russian literature to cabbages (no joke). Mediamatic is very active: They organize over 40 presentations, 25 workshops and three exhibitions each year. It’s a cool space to attend an artist-led workshop or to enjoy a locally crafted beer overlooking the (rising?) waters of Amsterdam.

We realize that humankind is facing a lot of ecological challenges, like climate change, overpopulation, pollution and epidemic health problems. Therefore, we reflect on the value and meaning of nature and on processes which are more in harmony with our own organic identity. The old idea of nature as the opposite of culture is replaced by the insight that we as humans are part of nature and also responsible for its development. So, everyone should be part of this conversation. Artists especially can show us to observe, think and see in a different way. That is why the focus of Mediamatic is now on art, biology and technology.
—Manon van Daal

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“Studies on the Essence of Time” by Bosko Gastanger at Cultureland AIR.

2.  Cultureland AIR and De Buitenwerkplaats

De Buitenwerkplaats is beautifully located in the Dutch polder, with views stretching for miles over the flat, rural landscape. Both skilled architects with sustainability at the heart of their practice, owners Maud and Dagobert re-built this former farm themselves. In addition to providing great spaces for work meetings, (organic) cooking workshops, and a wood workshop, they offer a separate residency program for artists called Cultureland AIR. The residency starts with two weeks in Amsterdam, where the artist can explore the cultural and scientific life that the city has to offer. After two weeks, the artist retreats to the polder for time, reflection and inspiration surrounded by this classic Dutch landscape.

We are convinced that the creative and philosophical approach to sustainability is indispensable, for we as humans need to fundamentally rethink our relationship to nature. By offering our residency to artists for this purpose, we hope to provide some beauty and consolidation for all. That is why we started Cultureland AIR.
—Maud Aarts and Dagobert Bergmans

sherry

Da-Ning Hong working with the Onkruidenier sourcing black walnuts to make natural pigments in the greenhouse of the Thijsse Lab.

3.  Jac. P. Thijsse Lab/ Van Eyck Food Lab

Ok, so this is not totally objective because I run this lab! But it’s exciting stuff; it consists of a garden, a greenhouse, Food Lab and residencies with the Thijsse Lab for Nature Research. Currently, architect Rain Wu and chef/designer Marente van der Valk are in residence at the Food Lab, and duo de Onkruidenier are in residence at the Thijsse Lab. De Onkruidenier (a Dutch play on words) has been conducting their research on what humans can learn from plants when it comes to adapting to changing conditions – especially in relation to halotolerance (salt tolerance) of plants growing near the sea. Plants are remarkably smart and adaptive, and keeping in mind that we live in a world where 97.5% of all water is salt water, shouldn’t humans become a more halotolerant species? As part of this research, de Onkruidenier is growing sugar beets and beach beets, watering half of them with seawater and half with freshwater, while tracking how they change, among many other things.

The newly established Food Lab, which includes an artist/chef residency program, is a place for artists to research in depth their relation to food, and explore what food means in our day and age in the light of ecological and social issues. The kitchen and café-restaurant of the Van Eyck function as the physical basis of the Food Lab where experiment, encounter, cooking and (a lot of!) tasting come together.

Just come and visit and taste!
—Yasmine Ostendorf

satellietgroep

4.  Satellietgroep

I got to know Satellietgroep back in 2009 when they organized a residency program in containers on the beach. The program was called Badgasten and explored the social and ecological impact of the sea and coastal transition zones on cities, people, communities and environments. Today, almost ten years later, water remains a recurring theme in their many projects, which involve artistic fieldwork and connecting with locals and experts.

We see more and more examples of contemporary artistic projects that place our environment (or Umwelt, as the Germans put it more accurately) at the core of their work. There seems to be a global wave of artists and designers that address the ways in which humans interact with and affect the climate and climate change. And that’s great! We need to critically investigate perceptions of our human footprint as a cultural phenomenon.
—Jacqueline Heerema

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Edible park project by Nils Norman. Courtesy Stroom Den Haag.

5.  Stroom

Taking the visual arts, design, architecture and urban planning as a starting point, Stroom focuses on public space and the urban environment. It aims at being a hospitable and stimulating platform. Stroom organizes exhibitions, projects, lectures, workshops, research, debates and excursions to stimulate the transfer of knowledge and the development of ideas concerning art, architecture and related disciplines. They also publish books such as Facing Value, a recent publication that aims to rethink the scope and language of our value system. Check out their projects Food Print and Upcycling as best practice projects nicely demonstrating the positive and tangible impact art projects can have on society.

Stroom has initiated countless meaningful initiatives that blur traditional borders between public space, social themes and art over its nearly 30 years of existence. As the youngest member on the program team today, it’s my mission to scan, challenge, wonder and continue to tease out: what is the societal potential of art and imagination?
—Ilga Minjon

farm of the world

6.  Farm of the World

Tucked away in one of the northernmost parts of the Netherlands, in an old farm called The Kreake, the nonprofit organization Farm of the World aims to increase our awareness and help us develop sustainable relationships with art, nature and culture. It was initiated by artist Claudy Jongstra for Leeuwarden European Cultural Capital 2018 to explore new and sustainable futures for the countryside. Jongstra creates art pieces and architectural installations from hand felted material. Committed to the value chain of creation, she raises her own sheep, keeps bees, cultivates a botanical garden and grows her own plants for dyes. A central question therefore is: How can the countryside contribute to a social, sustainable and dynamic local environment? The starting point of the project is an abandoned farm in Húns, twelve kilometers from Leeuwarden. By bringing in people from all over the world to work together with local resources, The Kreake becomes productive again – but this time, as an example of how creativity and cooperation can bring life to a formerly abandoned rural farm.

dewaag

7.  Waag Society

From workshops on conducting citizen science in order to make our living environment a healthier space, to exploring the potential of dying fabric with bacteria (!) as an alternative to the highly polluting textile industries, it’s all happening at the Waag Society, an institute for art, science and technology which, over the last 22 years, has built itself into an international pioneer in the field of digital media. They concern themselves not only with technologies related to the Internet, but also with biotechnology and the cognitive sciences – areas that have a huge impact on our culture and identity.

Intuitive and curiosity-driven research by artists and designers is paramount. Artists and designers know better than anyone that they must question technology in order to get to the bottom of things, overthrow sacred cows, stimulate imagination and fantasy, create unexpected connections, and –above all – search for meaning.

ceuvel

Photo by Muzi Ndiweni & Robin Laird.

8.  De Ceuvel

When a group of architects won a bid to create a “regenerative urban oasis” in the old shipyard in the North of Amsterdam, they decided to “upcycle” old Dutch houseboats that were about to be demolished, and give them a new life on land. Thus, De Ceuvel was born. The boats now function as workspaces and aim to catalyze even more ideas around sustainability; they host organizations such as Metabolic, The Tipping Point and The Dutch Weedburger. Soil-cleansing plants have been sowed around the boats to clean the heavily polluted industrial grounds. Nothing is wasted in trying to fix these polluted grounds: Nutrients are recovered from the urine of the waterless urinal in the Metabolic Lab and Café de Ceuvel to fertilize the aquaponics plants in the Green House on the roof of the lab. The produce from this Green House goes straight into the kitchen of Café de Ceuvel. Furthermore, Café De Ceuvel and Metabolic are building a bio-waste digester to turn the restaurant’s kitchen waste into biogas. Workshops, guided tours, readings, concerts, lectures and other cultural events are regularly organized.

We want to lead by example, showcasing what the transition to a contemporary circular lifestyle looks like. Through art and cultural programming we inspire and involve kindred spirits, becoming part of a growing movement of people who embrace the idea of a sustainable city, country and world. The transition to a circular economy and society is not just a technical transition, it is also a cultural transition: people have to learn how to deal with new techniques and world-views.
—Tycho Hellinga

9.  Bewaerschole

The island of Schouwen-Duiveland is a rare gem. Protected from the sea by dunes, dams and dikes, and dependent on a thin layer of fresh water just below the surface, it is  threatened by rising sea level and other forces of nature. Humans have regulated the dynamic balance between fresh and salt water as much as possible. As a result, a delicate system has been created in which people live and work, and continuously balance threats to safety, economy and the natural heritage of the island. How do you make minuscule water life visible? How does a bird connect its nest with the rest of the world? Where exactly does the subterranean border between fresh and salt water lie? These are questions that the Bewaerschole in Burgh-Haamstede asks its artists to engage with.

Both national and international artists are doing artistic research on the island and sharing their results through exhibitions, publications and social media. The common theme for all artists is the balance between fresh and salt water.

zone2source

Wind Violen (wind violins) by Ronald van der Meijs.

10.  Zone2Source

Based in Amstelpark in Amsterdam, Zone2Source is an international exhibition platform that offers artists a space to create projects at the intersection of art, nature and technology. Artists are invited to rethink the relationship between humans, technology and the environment. They explore alternative practices through exhibitions, workshops, debates and performances which take place both in the glass pavilions and the outdoors. Zone2Source is concerned with a return to the source in order to observe and experience anew the complex natural world of which we are a part.

The urgent ecological crisis mankind is facing does not only require a change of practices in the way we deal with nature but a change in mentality in order to rethink the position of man itself. Rather then seeing ourselves as separate from nature, we need to learn to understand the complex entanglements which make us part of ecological systems so that notions of care can become part again of designing our technologies and systems. Art can play an important role in developing new imaginations to rethink the relation between human, nature and technology.
—Alice Smits

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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 and the initiator of the Van Eyck Food Lab.


 

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, #6: Techno Floods

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

The sixth 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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Waterlicht Westervoort

Located on an alluvial plain, much of the Netherlands lies below sea level. The first century Roman writer Pliny the Elder described the region in Natural History, a compendium of everything known in the world at the time, as follows:

There, twice in every twenty-four hours, the ocean’s vast tide sweeps in a flood over a large stretch of land and hides Nature’s everlasting controversy about whether this region belongs to the land or to the sea.”

For twelve centuries, the Dutch have developed and sustained an innovative system of dikes, under the management of local water boards, to protect the country from catastrophic floods. Ironically, so successful has the dike technology been in preventing flooding that much of the Dutch citizenry has become complacent to the on-going threat, or as the Dutch Water Board Rhine and IJssel admitted, they have a “weak spot” when it comes to water awareness. So, in 2015, they commissioned artist/designer Daan Roosegaarde to create an installation that would simulate what it would look like if the Netherlands’s dikes did not exist and the country was completely flooded in order to “raise awareness about the power and poetry of water.”

“Waterlicht,” Netherlands, 2015, courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde.

Using blue LED lights projected through lenses, Roosegaarde and his team of designers and engineers at Studio Roosgaarde in Rotterdam, the social design lab he created to merge technology and art in urban environments, developed “Waterlicht” (Water Light). Installed originally across 4 acres of flood channel of the River Ijssel near Westervoort, Netherlands, “Waterlicht” allowed visitors to experience an eerie, virtual flood. As Roosegaarde explained: “walking on the dike, the light lines are perceived as high water; once in the flood channel you find yourself in an underwater world.” In addition to its clear reference to the specific, inherent water challenges of the Netherlands, “Waterlicht” also called attention to the manmade impact on the environment that is causing tides to rise due to climate change.

The first visitors to “Waterlicht” in Westervoort nicknamed the installation “the Northern Lights of the Netherlands” for the way the beams flashed through the sky like the aurora borealis. In order to create “Waterlicht’s” dramatic wavy lines and dreamy underwater effect, Roosegaarde installed the LED lights, powered by motors, around the periphery of the site so that the light beams intersected in the sky as they moved up and down like ocean waves. As an extra effect, the prevailing wind affected the beams to create unexpected light alterations. Because the light beams were never exactly the same, those who came to the installation on consecutive nights reported a very different sequence of lights and a different sensual experience.

“Waterlicht.” Lumiere Festival, London, 2018, courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde.

Waterlicht Redux

 Following the enormous success of the 2015 “Waterlicht” in Westervoort, Roosegaarde developed additional site-specific installations in a number of European locations including: Amsterdam (2015); Paris (2015); UNESCO Schokland, Netherlands (2016); Madrid (2017); Middleburg, Netherlands (2017); and most recently in London (January, 2018) and Leeuwarden, Netherlands (February, 2018). The number of visitors to “Waterlicht” sites has been enormous – 60,000 individuals in one night alone at Museumplein in Amsterdam and 1.5 million in London over 4 days.

The London installation was enhanced by a sound track of music and Roosegaarde’s narration of the installation. Although it is impossible to duplicate the physical, visual and emotional experience without actually being there, Studio Roosegaarde has produced a short video of “Waterlicht” that provides a sense of what visitors have described as “magnificent,” “epic,” and “powerful.”

WATERLICHT by Daan Roosegaarde [OFFICIAL VIDEO] from Studio Roosegaarde on Vimeo.

Studio Roosegaarde

 “Waterlicht” is by no means the only socially innovative project that has been produced by Studio Roosegaarde. They are dedicated to what Roosegaarde calls “Schoonheid, a Dutch word meaning both ‘beauty’ and ‘clean’ as in clean air, clean energy and clean water.” They created the world’s largest smog vacuum cleaner, a 23-foot-tall tower that produces smog free air in public spaces, which was tested and applied in China; smog free jewelry; a smog free bicycle; smart highways or roads that charge throughout the day and glow at night and numerous other inventive prototypes for “the landscape of tomorrow.” In 2017, Roosegaarde was awarded the LIT Lighting Designer of the Year, USA and the Best Lighting Environment Design, Canada, for his work on “Waterlicht.”

(Top image: Waterlicht, Museumplein, Amsterdam, 2015, Courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde.)

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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. Her 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. She 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.


 

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

Indoor Solar

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

When thinking about solar energy, most of us conjure up images of rectangular arrays of blue photovoltaic (PV) panels covering rooftops or stretched across fields, abandoned mines, former landfills and even water. Not to mention planes, boats and cars. Or even, as described in my last post, the clothes we wear outdoors.

We would be forgiven therefore, for concluding that solar technology only works outside, directly under the sun, where internal silicon cells can most efficiently capture the sun’s energy and convert it into clean electricity.

But what about indoors?

London-based Dutch designer Marjan van Aubel has created the world’s first piece of furniture to harvest energy indoors from diffused light. Current Table 2.0 is a brilliant piece of functional minimalist design: an orange-tinted glass surface encased in a sleek aluminum frame supported by four wooden legs.

solar, renewable, energy, table, Caventou, Dutch, Marjan, van Aubel

This is how it works: According to Wired, the specific orange color of the glass surface helps nanoparticles of titanium oxide embedded within the glass to absorb ambient light; these nanoparticles then release electrons, creating an electrical current similar to the process of photosynthesis in plants. The electricity generated by this current can be used directly, or can be stored in a battery hidden in the perimeter of the table for later use.

A USB port located on one of the legs of the table can charge mobile devices at a rate of 500mA, the same rate as plugging into a laptop’s USB port. A network of cables is cleverly hidden within the table’s aluminum perimeter.

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Photos by Mitch Payne, downloaded from Twitter.

The concept behind the Current Table 2.0 is nothing short of revolutionary. This table, designed for home or office, is independent of any electric power source apart from itself. No need to move the table closer to an electrical wall socket, or to dangle electric cables over the edge to connect your electronics to an electrical wall socket.

van Aubel developed the self-sufficient Current Table 2.0 in collaboration with engineer Peter Krige. Together, they created Caventou, a company whose goal is to integrate solar technology subtly into our everyday lives, without us even being aware of it. Much more subtle than installing an array of solar panels on our roofs.

“I am a designer, and I would like to change things through design. My aim is to make people think differently about solar technology. Give them a choice. Literally, give power to the consumer.”
Marjan van Aubel

In a 2016 interview in The Guardian, van Aubel explained: “You’ll collect the most power [indoors] on bright, clear days. That being said, dye-sensitized solar panels are less affected by diffuse light levels and shadow from clouds. Although the efficiency of the solar panel will decrease in cloudy conditions, you’ll still be collecting valuable power from the sun. On an average day in London indoors, it can power three phones and an iPad or one computer and a phone.”

Caventou also developed Current Window, a modern take on stained glass with USB ports in the window ledge. Designed on the same principle as Current Table 2.0, Current Window uses glass panels that are made from dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC) which use the properties of color to create an electrical current.

Check out this beautiful video from Caventou:

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

Persistent Acts: Dreamers

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Through Persistent Acts, I look at the intersection of performance, climate, and politics. In this divisive political moment, I share examples of performances that persevere in pursuit of intersectional justice and sustainability. How does hope come to fruition, even in the direst circumstances? What are tangible alternatives to the oppressive status quo? My Persistent Acts series considers questions of this nature to motivate conversations and actions on climate issues that reverberate through politics and theatre. The Persistent Acts series continues, with a look at performative responses to divisive United States politics, focusing on immigration and the DREAM Act.

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Last year, Artists Rise Up New York hosted our inaugural event, The Rising, in response to the Inauguration. We set up installations for audiences to engage (including postcard-writing to Congress), shared a reading of The FEAR Project (based on dozens of interviews about fear), and participated in a collective movement sequence. The Rising was an evening of rage, concern for our country and our personal relationships, and solidarity.

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ARUNY’s The Rising, January 2017. Photo: Stacey Linnartz.

Fast-forward to 2018, one year into 45’s administration. From travel bans based on religion, to undoing Obama-era climate deals (which did not go far enough to begin with), to collusion with Russia, America is having a moment. And not in a progressive way. This divisive and toxic political moment requires a movement – one comprised of intersectional communities, and otherwise-marginalized voices. Artists Rise Up is one segment of said movement, among the countless other collectives that have coalesced in the wake of November 2016. Since the Inauguration, Artists Rise Up has addressed a variety of topics through monthly events, including feminism, climate change, and endangered species. Our latest event, The Divide, addressed this particular divergent moment; we wanted to bring people together to explore specific politically-charged topics: the failing two-party system in the US, the conflict in Israel and Palestine, and the plight of undocumented youth.

As part of our The Divide evening, I directed a reading of Dream Acts. Written collectively by Chiori Miyagawa, Mia Chang, Jessica Litwak, Saviana Stanescu, and Andrea Thome, this 2012 play dramatizes the stories of five undocumented youth from five different countries: Jordan, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, and Ukraine. Each character was brought – or found their way – to the US in one way or another, and each is implicated by their undocumented status. These Dreamers are categorized as such based on the proposed DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). This play felt particularly urgent because like the characters, millions of Dreamers’ lives are on the line, pending the next round of federal budget negotiations.

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Reading of Dream Acts, as part of The Divide, January 2018. Photo: Stacey Linnartz.

For Dreamers and documented citizens alike, the play offers questions such as: What makes a place a home? Can people belong to a country? How does it feel to not belong? While Dream Acts showcases the specific plight of undocumented youth, these overarching questions hold space for intersectional conversations about human rights. The discussion about the DREAM Act is not just about making room in the federal budget, it is not just about the social implications of immigration. As a human rights concern, the DREAM Act discussion is about why some groups of people (in this case, undocumented youth) are being denied the right to exist in the only country that many of them know as “home.” To me, the DREAM Act as a human rights issue intersects with other instances of oppression in our society: racism, xenophobia, sexism, and more. These oppressions epitomize the disproportionate wielding of power by one group over another. Such oppression is also evident in terms of climate, with every country on Earth implicated in the era of climate change, but only a handful of countries actually responsible for raising the thermostat. It is us humans who have to face societal and cultural fall-outs of a changing climate, with the most vulnerable populations – those people who bear no responsibility for altering the climate – in the most threatened circumstances.

In my own lifetime, I have never seen such blatant oppression as what I am witnessing now. This is why it was vital to bring Dream Acts to life. While the play was written under Obama, and put to rest once his administration passed DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Dream Acts is immediate again, with Trump and the Republicans laying out deals to allow Dreamers to stay, in exchange for money for the wall along the US-Mexico border. Dream Acts highlights the experiences of fictionalized characters as they feel isolated, rejected, joyful, and uncertain, but does not include mention of this wall. The context of our reading with Artists Rise Up was implicated by these federal budget discussions. As the characters in the play talk about marching on Washington, D.C., the actors march around the audience – we used this dramatic moment to demonstrate a tangible political action, exemplifying the agency that many citizens do have to stand in support of the marginalized.

Another element of the play is an Internet chatroom for Dreamers (such a chatroom really exists!). The Internet has blown open the possibilities for cross-cultural communication. And as we see in Dream Acts, individuals can anonymously share their stories, glean advice, and find community. Whatever happens to the DREAM Act, I am holding hope that the Internet will be put to positive use, and allow people to support one another when their governments will not.

Climate change forces us to take a hard look at our political borders, because in an increasingly de-stabilizing climate, more and more people will be migrants. As human rights issues, climate change and immigration intersect beyond political borders. To build the society that values newcomers and holds space for different ethnicities is also to build a society that values alternative, sustainable energy and equitably-distributed political power. These issues are not indivisible, and the change that I wish to see cannot happen on an incremental basis. As a country and as a species, we do not have time for arrogance and fear.

Learn More, Take Action
Read testimonials from American Dreamers.
Hold members of Congress accountable for voting to deport Dreamers with the Dreamer Pledge.

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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