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Call for Papers: The Art Residency in Context

This Open Call Comes from the Seismopolite Journal of Art and Politics 

While art residencies are often used as experimental sites for cultural exchange and social engagement, and sometimes also as “laboratories” for ecology or cooperation between art and sciences, their relevance has also been questioned due to the infinitely overlapping, global and seemingly inconsequential political territory they inhabit.

For Seismopolite’s next issue, they invite contributors from diverse disciplines to submit essays and reviews that discuss the global phenomenon of the art residency from a high variety of possible angles, including (not restricted to):

  • The political meaning of cooperation in art residencies as international forms of cultural exchange.
  • Types of residencies; themes, formats and ways of organizing residencies; their public programmes, exhibitions and events.
  •  The idea of “site” and of local political and cultural interaction in art residencies.
  • Art residencies in context: art, geopolitics and neoliberalism.
  • The relationship between residencies and local art “scenes”.

Submissions are accepted accepted continuously, but to make sure you are considered for the upcoming issue, please send your proposal/ draft, a brief bio and samples of earlier work to submissions@seismopolite.com within June 14, 2017. All articles will be translated into Norwegian and published in a bilingual version.

Current issue: http://seismopolite.com/

Back issues: http://seismopolite.com/artandpolitics

Fueled by Fury: Finding the Language to Fix Us

This Post Comes From HowlRound:

This week on HowlRound, we continue our exploration of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change with more urgency than ever. With the looming eradication of climate science data from US government websites and the appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump has indicated in no uncertain terms that the health of the planet and its inhabitants are of no concern to him. As theatre artists, how do we respond? Playwright Tira Palmquist and dramaturg Heather Helinsky offer their respective point-of-view on the writing and production of Two Degrees, a world premiere at the Denver Center, season 2016-2017, and how the elections impacted the development of the play.—Chantal Bilodeau

 Tira Palmquist: The notion that I would write a play in which someone discovers the solution to climate change was never the point of Two Degrees (though I believe that climate change is a fixable, solvable problem). After all, there is no silver bullet, no singular, magical solution for this issue.

More to the point, how to fix climate change wasn’t really the question. To fix climate change, we have to move people from inaction to action, from doubt to conviction. Finding the language and the arguments to do this is clearly important, but in order to do that we have to ask the more important question: How do we fix us?

Climate Lens: Birth of a Post-Nation!

The article Climate Lens: Birth of a Post-Nation! appeared first on HowlRound

At HowlRound, we continue our exploration of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change with more urgency than ever. With the looming eradication of climate science data from US government websites and the appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump has indicated in no uncertain terms that the health of the planet and its inhabitants are of no concern to him. As theatre artists, how do we respond? NYU professor Una Chaudhuri writes about a group of theatre makers and educators who have committed to looking at the world through a climate lens in the hope of acquiring new wisdom.—Chantal Bilodeau

Under ordinary circumstances, we’d probably have resisted the temptation to announce ourselves with such a grandiose sub-title—or at least followed it with a self-deprecating question mark. But these are hardly ordinary times, and we’re “going big”—and exclamatory!—to counter the odious enormity that’s suddenly at the nation’s helm.

Trump Nation, however, only intensifies our post-national impulse; its real source, dating from well before the last election, is the fact that the most pressing political issue of our times crosses all national boundaries. The accelerating symptoms of ecological devastation and climate chaos are global, planetary—post-national.

 

CLIMATE LENS sprouted on January 5, 2017, when a group of theatremakers and educators gathered in New York for a retreat on the topic “Theatre and Climate Change.” The seeds of CLIMATE LENS were the various projects these people had been involved in, over the past several years, that engaged with environmental issues in general and climate in particular. These included Chantal Bilodeau, Una Chaudhuri, Elizabeth DoudLanxing Fu, Derek Goldman, Julia Levine, Roberta Levitow, Jessica Litwak, Erwin Maas, Jame McCray, Erin B. Mee, Emily Mendelsohn, Katie Pearl, Jeremy Pickard, and August Schulenburg.

We began by acknowledging that our previous attempts to get the larger theatre community engaged in this topic had been difficult. People tended to “shut down” when they heard that a theatre piece dealt with climate change. They tended to assume they knew what that would entail, and that it would be depressing, even when it came in the form of a sugarcoated pill, or a deft and elegant presentation of scientific information, or a lyrical ode to the vanishing green world. Climate change, we feared, was turning into a dreary theatrical theme, prejudged and too easily “slotted.”

To loosen this sense of intellectual impaction, we’d framed the following questions to guide our discussion:

How can theatre truly register the most important thing about climate change: the fact that (as Naomi’s Klein’s book puts it) “this changes everything”? How can we evolve a “climate dramaturgy” which goes beyond addressing the symptoms of climate chaos and instead begins to forge the new imaginations we will need in order to confront the long-term, unpredictable effects of those symptoms on our lives?

The ubiquity and scale of the effects of climate change are shifting the terms and tone of the discussion around it. While once there was argument about its existence, followed by argument about its causes, followed by arguments about what might be done in response to it, the discussions now focus squarely on how to get people and governments world-wide to act in time to avert the very worst of the predicted effects. A recent instructive contribution came in the form of a New Republic article by Bill McKibben, a leading voice in the climate movement. McKibben characterized climate change as a series of hostile attacks, amounting to a “world war.” “Carbon and methane are seizing physical territory,” he wrote, “sowing havoc and panic, racking up casualties, and even destabilizing governments.”

Balancing our respect for McKibben against our revulsion towards militaristic rhetoric, we explored this perspective, comparing it with alternative models, like peace-making, diplomacy, education, care-giving, etc. Underlying many of these metaphors we sensed an invitation to move beyond an exclusively defensive posture, to realize that while global climate change is indeed an unfolding catastrophe, climate itself is simply an abiding feature of planetary reality, one that our species has—in recent centuries—tended to ignore (at least in our political and ethical formulations).

What would it mean for art to get interested in the climate—both as it is in itself and as it shapes human lives and societies? What might be gained by the arts in thinking about human lives beyond the familiar analytical frames of biography, psychology, sociology, politics, history—to understand them also as shaped by biology, physics, geology? In other words, what would be the value of drawing into cultural and artistic production the frameworks that have long been sequestered as “science”? Many artists, including theatremakers in our group, have already been working closely with climate scientists, translating their information into expressive imagery and narrative. How might that practice grow more expansive and also more dialectical, moving beyond staging scientific facts to exploring how individual and social lives are related to the planetary forces that modernity has so systematically “backgrounded”?

The founding members of CLIMATE LENS.

The most energizing turn of this conversation came as we located our project in a lineage of progressive discourses that approached issues not only by focusing on their ill effects but by identifying key terms to use as new analytical frameworks. Just as feminism used gender as a lens not only to combat sexism but also to uncover its foundations in patriarchy, we propose to use climate as a lens not only to confront climate change but to uncover its foundations in anthropocentrism.

As often happens, the mention of anthropocentrism quickly plunged us into a familiar and frustrating conversation about the impossibility—for us humans—of escaping a human outlook. One solution—and one we hope CLIMATE LENS will help bring forward—is to distinguish carefully between anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism. Anthropomorphism—the projection of human ideas on non-human subjects—is indeed hard to avoid; nor is it always desirable to avoid it. A great deal of contemporary animal welfare and animal rights thinking, for example, relies on encouraging us to empathize with the suffering of non-human animals. The need to deploy a “strategic anthropomorphism”—that is to say, an anthropomorphism practiced mindfully, with awareness of the pitfalls and limits of cross-species identification—has long been sensed and practiced by eco-philosophers, as has its counterpart (not opposite): zoomorphism, the projection of animal characteristics on humans. These modes of imagination and figuration seem to exist at deep levels of human nature, and can be used in diametrically opposed ways: as ways of erasing or discounting nature, or ways of nurturing deep affiliation with nature. The guiding principle for those who want to avoid the former and achieve the latter is: make sure your practice of anthropomorphism is free from implications of anthropocentrism—the world view that puts humans and their interests at the center of all reality, and participates in the kind of hierarchical-binary thinking that also sustains sexism and racism. In short, practice anthropomorphism (and zoomorphism, and even biomorphism) in the service of an ecological, biocentric world view, one that includes human but vigorously opposes the fantasy of human exceptionalism.

CLIMATE LENS is committed to multiplying the playful, delightful, surprising ways that humans can “play the non-human,” and vice-versa. As an example of the latter: we’re planning a project inspired by that eco-classic “Thinking Like a Mountain,” by Aldo Leopold. In “Tweeting like a Mountain,” we hope to help some non-human partners (including a glacier, a species of mushroom, a speak back to Twitter-Tyrants) while also keep their many human friends informed of life around the planet.

Naming our project CLIMATE LENS, we initiate a conversation and collaboration to use the distinctive elements of the arts of theatre and performance—in particular, their use of actual spaces, times, and bodies as their primary medium—to put human stories in a more-than-human frame. By paying attention to the entanglements, contests, and partnerships that humans habitually (though often unwittingly) undertake with other species, and with natural forces, we want theatre to help counteract the prevailing human exceptionalism that has contributed so much to the current crisis.

A climate lens can work through something as simple as paying attention to the physical life of dramatic characters (in addition to their social and psychological lives), pushing against one of the origins of ecological alienation: rationalism, with its twin derogations of the human body and the non-human world. From this perspective, such recent plays as Bess Wohl’s Small Mouth Sounds and Adam Bock’s A Life, neither of which appear to be “climate change plays,” can be thought of as “climate lens” plays, helping to nudge us towards an awareness of those levels of life we share with other animals and even (in the latter case) with the earth itself. These plays contribute to an “affirmative biopolitics” that may prove vital and inspiring in the age of climate change, a way to resist the “biopower” that French philosopher Michel Foucault identified as a defining feature of the modern state.

 

A climate lens can also uncover ecological perspectives in classic plays, vastly expanding the repertory for climate-concerned performance. Imagine a Tempest that foregrounds the fact that Prospero is, like contemporary humanity, a weather-maker as much as he is (as previous lenses have proposed) a patriarchal and colonizing tyrant, or A Wild Duck anchored in Old Ekdal’s cry—“The woods take revenge!” These dots seem easy enough to connect. More challenging—and perhaps more interesting—would be productions that brought biocentric perspectives to bear on plays that seemed utterly disconnected from ecological matters, classic plays that seem to be exclusively about human institutions like justice (Merchant of Venice), sociological concepts like gender (Shrew), or political history.

CLIMATE LENS, then, is interested in developing a creative and expansive perspective on the unfolding environmental realities that go under the name of “climate change.” While not avoiding the more frightening aspects of these, we are committed to making theatre that asks broadly about the current state of the earth, and the human place in it, and frames that vast subject in ways that are politically empowering, socially regenerative, and artistically joyful.

CCS awarded funding for new environmental performance

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

CCS is one of 14 Edinburgh-based groups to receive support through the City of Edinburgh Council’s new culture fund, running for the first time this year to support of the development of up-and-coming performing work in the Capital City.

The £5000 grant from the fund will support Edinburgh-based actor, clown and theatre-maker Alice Mary Cooper to develop a new performance work Blue Cow in association with Imaginate and Catherine Wheels Theatre Company, as part of CCS’s culture/SHIFT programme.

CCS and Alice have collaborated on a number of projects in the past including our 2015 Arts & Sustainability Residency and ArtCOP Scotland, and more recently exploring community engagement in climate adaptation through the arts in Aberdeen.

Blue Cow will address the question what it means to be ‘contaminated’, evolving from Alice’s passion for environmental issues and desire to make work which helps to shift our wider societal culture towards a more sustainable one.

The new work will contribute to one of CCS’s culture/SHIFT themes – ‘making the invisible visible’ – which seeks to understand how the arts and culture can foster new awareness and understanding of our relationship to the environment and climate change.

Through the Culture Project Fund award, CCS will commission Alice to develop the sonic and video possibilities of Blue Cow, working with award winning Edinburgh based director Caitlin Skinner, Sound and Video Designer Rob Jones and musician and composer Thomas Butler.

CCS will also engage local sustainability practitioners and environmental organisations in the project with the aim of building new understandings of how the arts can contribute to a more sustainable city.

Other award recipients include the Village Pub Theatre, Strange Town and Red Note Ensemble. A full list of 2017/18 Culture Project Fund recipients is available on the City of Edinburgh Council website.

The Culture Project Fund supports the priorities of the city’s new Culture Plan, adopted by the Council last year. The plan was developed through the Desire Lines consultation process with input from creative industries, funding bodies, festivals, performers, artists, producers and venues.

It highlighted a need for greater support of emerging artists and ‘a shared city-wide agenda’ for culture in the Capital, which the Project Fund will help address.

Keep an eye out on CCS news for more information on Blue Cow over the coming months!

 



The post CCS awarded funding for new environmental performance work in Edinburgh appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.



About Creative Carbon Scotland:

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

World Premiere: PLUTO (NO LONGER A PLAY)

The World theatre premier for PLUTO (No Longer a Play) has successfully entered into its second week of performances at The Brick in NYC. You can reserve your tickets for these performances up to June 3.

DESCRIPTION

PLUTO is an allegory about extinction… or it used to be, maybe. Three humans attempt to give a presentation about the remains of a play that no longer exists. The fragments seem to suggest the story of a unicorn, a hunter, and a wizard, all struggling to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Facing similar dilemmas, the three humans reenact their findings, searching for hope among the bones.

IMPOSSIBLE QUESTION

Is a “doomed” species worth fighting for?

ARTISTS & HISTORY

Co-created by Jonathan Camuzeuax, William Cook, Lani Fu, Nikki Holck, Megan McClain, and Jeremy Pickard
Directed and Written by Jeremy Pickard and Lanxing Fu
Performed by William Cook*, Lanxing Fu, Brittany N. Williams*, and Courtney Williams
Lighting Design by Jay Maury
Sound Designer and Music Producer Trevor New
Music composed by Jonathan Camuzeaux
Choreography by Nikki Holck
Dramaturgy by Megan McClain
Project advisors: Sergio Botero and Una Chaudhuri

It was developed over the course of December 2015-December 2016, thanks to Creative Space grants from ART/NY and residencies with Stony Brook University and Lacawac Wildlife Sanctuary & Field Station.


“Over the last half billion years, there have been five major mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us.”— Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction


 

FROM DRAMATURGE MEGAN MCCLAIN

Scientists suggest we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals in Earth’s history. Unlike other mass extinctions, this current crisis is caused almost entirely by people. Human activities impact 99% of currently threatened species. Extinction is natural, but scientists estimate this rapid loss of species is happening at between 1,000 and 10,000 times the normal rate. Ways to prevent further damage would involve decreasing pollution of all kinds (chemical, sound, light), reducing our contribution to climate change, and protecting and restoring wild areas. It would also require a serious recalibration in our thinking to consider the future of the world from outside of our anthropocentric point of view. How do we balance the fact that humans are a part of nature and extinctions are part of the constant adaptation of life, while taking accountability for our role in severely decreasing biodiversity on the planet? While we’re busy lighting fires to thrive and survive, what else might we be permanently extinguishing?

What do we do with what Per Espen Stoknes calls the “Great Grief” that comes with facing the rapid disappearance of species and irrevocable changes to ecosystems on our planet? Stoknes suggests we open ourselves up to mourn collectively, to move through the anger and indifference and sit in a space of loss. And from this place, perhaps we can find the strength together to look for new ways forward.

READ MEGAN’S BLOG “ON STUFF AND STUFFING”, TRACING SOME OF PLUTO’S PRODUCTION ELEMENTS BACK TO THE RAW MATERIALS AND ECOSYSTEMS FROM WHICH THEY CAME

 


Buy Tickets Here

 

ARTIST BIOS:

Jonathan Camuzeaux (Co-Creator/Composer) is a French-American musician, theater artist, photographer and environmentalist. Jonathan is the Co-Artistic Director of Kaimera Productions and a core member of Superhero Clubhouse. He created the multi-disciplinary photography project Stack of Fives and is the resident music director for The Live Lunch Series, as well as the bassist for the Brooklyn-based soul band Lady Moon & The Eclipse. Jonathan holds a Master of Jazz History from Bordeaux III University and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. By day, he works at Environmental Defense Fund in New York.

William Cook (Performer) has worked with Superhero Clubhouse on Mars (A Play about Mining), Saturn (A Play about Food), as well as Sci-Art Labs, Big Green Theater, and other development projects. He appreciates how SHC foregrounds climate issues in creating work for their audiences. He has performed in regional and professional theaters around the country. Training: SITI Company, Shakespeare & Co., HB Studio, and T. Schreiber Studio. Deepest gratitude to David.

Lanxing Fu (Co-Creator/Assistant Director/Writer) is a Chinese-American writer, director, and performer. In addition to being a lead administrator, Lani is the project director for the Living Stage and a co-creator of PLUTO and JUPITER. She holds a B.A. in Humanities, Science, and Environment and a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Virginia Tech. She has collaborated and led interdisciplinary theater projects about contemporary consumerism, globalization, and the environment in Sri Lanka, Morocco, Turkey, and the United States, with work commissioned by Virginia’s New River Valley Planning District and a grant from The Center for 21st Century Studies. In 2015, Lanxing was selected to participate in JACK’s “Creating Dangerously” workshop (led by Virginia Grise and Kyla Searle), and was a member of Orchard Project’s 2015 Core Company.

Nikki Holck (Choreographer) is a dance artist, choreographer, and teacher based in New York. She was trained at North Carolina School of the Arts and Canada’s National Ballet School, after which she began her dance career with the National Ballet of Canada. Upon moving to New York with intentions of focusing on contemporary dance, Ms. Holckjoined Peridance Contemporary Dance Company and began a close collaboration with Artistic Director Igal Perry and the choreographer Korhan Basaran, both that continue on today. Ms. Holck currently splits her time between New York and Istanbul, where she teaches, choreographs, and performs both original and others’ work.

Emma Johnson (Stage Manager) is a Brooklyn-based stage and production manager, specializing in reinterpretations of classical texts and the creation of new works in collaborative, devised settings. Receiving training at SUNY Oswego, the New York Theatre Workshop, and the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, she also works regularly at the Public Theater in various capacities as well as with Target Margin Theater and at the New York Theatre Workshop. She is also a photographer and poet with a seasonal green thumb.

Jay Maury (Lighting Designer) is a sound, lighting, video, and scenery designer working out of Brooklyn. As the designer of the Bushwick Starr infrastructure and equipment, he has been working to raise the standards for control, efficiency, and artistic possibilities. Notably, BWS is now running ultra-efficient LED worklight system with unparalleled control and light coverage. Recent design credits include Yackez (Video Design),  Saratoga Opera (Sound Design, Lighting Design), BAWeaselOAPOYOB (Lighting Design) at Jack, and Superhero Clubhouse’s JUPITER (Solar Lighting Design) & Big Green Theater (Lights) and BWS annual puppet festival (Lights & Media). www.thebushwickstarr.org

Megan McClain (Co-Creator/Dramaturg) is the Resident Dramaturg for Superhero Clubhouse’s series of Planet Plays, Flying Ace, and other projects. She also leads the R&D Writing Group for The Civilians and works at The Lark. Megan has developed new work during artist residencies at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Drama League, NACL Theatre, Catwalk Institute, and LMCC. Dramaturgical support/literary work for Goodman Theatre, Disney Theatrical, Hartford Stage, PoNY, Playwrights Realm, LMDA, Target Margin, New Georges, and PlayPenn. M.F.A Dramaturgy: UMass Amherst.

Trevor New’s (Sound Designer) work as a sound designer, engineer/producer, and performer can be found in a variety of media, including film scores, arranging, electronic music, TV, and in his newly release album “New Flow” music for yoga and meditation. Trevor also performs classical and contemporary music as a soloist, original music playing his viola and singing, and electronic music using Ableton Live for looping and effects. He plays Yoga workshops around Brooklyn and the Northeast, and will be releasing a vocal album later this year. Find more of his music at www.trevornew.com.

Jeremy Pickard (Co-Creator/Director/Writer) founded Superhero Clubhouse in 2007, and has since become a leading voice on theater and environmentalism. In 2015 his essay “On Eco-Theater” was published by TCG in the book Innovations in Five Acts, edited by Caridad Svich. Jeremy is the lead playwright, co-creator, and co-director of the Planet Play series, Flying Ace and the Storm of the Century, and Salty Folk. He remains the Program and Production Director for the annual Big Green Theater Festival, which he co-created with Maria Portman Kelly and The Bushwick Starr in 2009. Originally from a small town outside Syracuse, NY, Jeremy is an alumnus of Ithaca College and the National Theater Institute, and trained extensively with SITI Company for eight years. He wears many hats including director, performer, writer, and producer.

Cassiope Sydoriak (Assistant Stage Manager) is an Events, Theater, and Dance Producer and Creative Director living in Brooklyn. Since receiving her Masters degree in Art History from Oxford University in 2012, she has started a successful business teaching bicycle mechanics, worked in premium whiskey marketing, and choreographed for Darkfest at The Tank NYC. She has been teaching Lindy Hop since 2007, founded the Oxford Swing Festival, performed with the Hotfoot Strutters in London, and once had a 0.5 second appearance as an extra in a Guinness commercial. Most recently, she was the ASM for Superhero Clubhouse’s 2017 Big Green Theater Festival at the Bushwick Starr.

Bailey Williams (Producer) is a producer, writer, performer and sometime associate literary agent of dead German playwrights and others. Productions include SKI END by Piehole at the New Ohio Theatre (through May 19), Your Hair Looked Great by Tiny Little Band at Abrons Arts Center, Alex Rodabaugh’s AmeriSHOWZ at American Realness/Gibney Dance, and On a Clear Day I Can See To Elba by Eliza Bent at ICE Factory 2016.

Brittany Williams (Performer) Unimpressed Shakespearean Blerd, Belter of High Notes, & a New Yorker by way of Baltimore, DC, Hong Kong, and London. Favorite credits: Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds (Nansi – Helen Hayes Award Nom.), Mac Rogers Universal Robots (Helena), Antony and Cleopatra (Soothsayer/Clown), & Lear (Cordelia/Fight Captain). MA: Royal Central School of Speech & Drama; BFA: Howard University. Twitter & Instagram: @BrittanyActs www.brittanynwilliams.com

Courtney Gabrielle Williams (Performer) Courtney loves working on pieces that show complex and diverse stories that encourage conversation with the present times. Theater credits include: Pussy Sludge (HERE Arts Center), Beyond the Horizon (The Brick Theater),The Clockwork Boy (Hudson Guild Theatre),The Voyeurs (Saturdays at Brooklyn Bridge Park), The Tear Drinkers (The Kitchen NYC), Go Forth (PS122 Coil Festival). Educational : The Owl Answers (Daniel Alexander Jones), Agamemnon (Tea Alagic), Ruined (Isis Misdary). Theater BA Fordham University. courtneygwilliams.com.

Participatory Performance, Activism, and the Limits of Change

This Article Comes From HowlRound

At HowlRound, we continue our exploration of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change with more urgency than ever. With the looming eradication of climate science data from US government websites and the appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump has indicated in no uncertain terms that the health of the planet and its inhabitants are of no concern to him. As theatre artists, how do we respond? Kenn Watt discusses how environmental participatory performance can point to a desirable future inclusive of humans, nonhumans, and matter, and incite communities to take steps towards realizing this vision.    Chantal Bilodeau

In a shady grove in the middle of the Civic Action installation at Socrates Sculpture Park in the summer of 2012, an imposing, incongruous structure on massive iron pilings rose through the treetops. What at first appeared to be construction scaffolding was revealed as a solidly engineered tree house with metal stairs climbing twelve feet to a plywood platform, a laminated table, and four office chairs bolted to its deck. It was equipped with Wi-Fi. With a direct view of Manhattan across the East River, Natalie Jeremijenko’s TREExOFFICE was open and remained in use during the park’s long summer hours. Its open-air exposure grandly surrounded the venerable oak tree that formed its central pillar and canopy, shading it with leaves. There was ample space to hold a dozen people without crowding. Occupying the space for more than a few minutes inspired several identifiable effects. We were amid the inquiring eyes of children and their guardians below, and the milieu began to feel like a performance. It was a kind of “invisible theatre.”

Yet, unlike Augusto Boal’s interventions in civic politics that model alternative responses to power and subjectivity, TREExOFFICE was a site of direct enactment of an alternative form of living, a witnessing of immersion into nature. Our presence there represented a proposition for a healthier future, a philosophy of sustainability in embodied form conceived at the fundamental level of where and how we work. We were modeling the behavior of the office worker of some utopian, restorative vision of the artist, meant to remediate the environmental health of Long Island City in summer 2012.


“These performative acts are meant to be generative, to point to possibilities. They are direct enactments of wished-for conditions, propositions that assert an alternative reality… They are invitations to affirm new configurations of networks among humans, nonhumans, and the material world.” 


As part of Jeremijenko’s contribution to the Noguchi Museum’s Civic Action project, the tree was conceived to be its own owner and landlord, modeled after a historical contract from the early twentieth century in which a Georgian landowner created a deed of trust for a favorite tree to sustain the tree’s presence and health in perpetuity. In an act of playful ventriloquism, Jeremijenko made the tree “speak” via wry tweets—able to enter into contracts, to determine its own use of resources, and to be in dialogue with human partners. In the exhibition catalog edited by Julie V. Iovine, Jeremijenko writes:

“Under the new property ownership regime of UP_2_U, trees can of course exploit their property for their own uses.…Further, the current technological opportunity transforms trees’ capacities to self-monitor and report, tweet, and account for their uses by people and other organisms…Using simple, inexpensive sensors, the trees assume their own voices and capacity to exert corporate personhoods within this new structure of ownership.”

Sometimes theatre enacts what it pretends to convey. Historically and traditionally, theatre has often been associated with the creation of a public commons, and the formation of citizenship. Artists working in environmental participatory performance experiments are on the edge of theatrical avant-garde, returning to these kind of concerns, along with activist political imaging and the incorporation of digital networking.

Jeremijenko’s work is one example of performance’s return to community, but with an important difference. The community on offer is triangular, encompassing humans, nonhuman animals, and the material world. This community even grants inanimates—trees, animals, matter—their own forms of agency that conditions, relates, and determines the survivability of the human within the context of the entire triangle. The work is political and the community of networks (animal, human, and material) are a response to environmental damage as a solution, a remediation, and a philosophy of survival. And yet, how is this inventive work performance? Paraphrasing Josette Féral at the Université du Québec à Montréal from “Theatricality: The Specificity of Theatrical Language,” we might say that TREExOFFICE offers several key theatrical aspects: separation from ordinary environments; opposition of the fictional (theatre) to the real (performance); and an alteration within the spectator, who can “perform” a new environmental personhood. We can almost imagine this display of forward-looking, environmentally conscious behavior on display as an exhibit in some kind of new world’s fair—reminiscent of unveiling the “kitchen of the future,” or the automobile with the space-age design. Except the new thing on display here is behavior and community, not a commodity behavior that represents direct performance, activism, and an ongoing commitment to redefining community as a form of environmental citizenship.

Naturally, the conditions for a “lifestyle experiment” like TREExOFFICE are not yet optimal. Enormous practical concerns are unresolved, such as engineering of public space, cost, transportation, seasonal weather, and communications, which prevent a tree office from being realized now.

But as theatre, the tree provokes responses that question the status quo, open new vistas, and point us in the direction of how much utopia can be realized in the near term. The “performance” fails to realize what it represents, but succeeds as a leader of newly imagined communities and landscapes. It is a kind of “performative failure,” failure here not indicating a lack of success, but a conscious strategy on the part of the artist to gesture towards outside the performance space. Personal health, improved air and water quality, soil remediation, and increased use of urban farming and inhabitation with other species were clearly delineated as shared goals. These performative acts are meant to be generative, to point to possibilities. They are direct enactments of wished-for conditions, propositions that assert an alternative reality rather than lobbying for, or requesting such futures. They are invitations to affirm new configurations of networks among humans, nonhumans, and the material world.

An office was created around a tree trunk in London, 2015. Photo by Natalie Jeremijenko.

If not full realizations, Jeremijenko’s designs capture the full potential of imaginative placemaking. They feature a radical democracy of species and a palpable sense of individual becoming. She offers a fluid aesthetic, situating spectator-participants within environmental remediation, in which the role to be played is that of socially aware, right-sized steward.

Jeremijenko’s work can be read through the lens of current trends focusing on sustainability models and greening practices within the theatre. Unlike the Broadway Green Alliance in New York, or Julie’s Bicycle in London, the XClinic does not publish scientific studies or simply advocate for better practices of reusing material waste. Advocacy, journalism, legislation, and data reporting are left to those better positioned to be effective in those areas. The set of practices organized under the umbrella of the XClinic are a powerful expression of a new hybrid medium, environmental arts activism.

Other artists also use performance, spectacle, and participation to situate the viewer as co-creator of environmentally-responsible citizenship. For example, Earth Celebrations is led by Felicia Young, another New York artist. Since 1991, Earth Celebrations has presented pageants, performances, workshops, residencies, the creation of community gardens, and partnerships with NY-based schools and community groups. All events, which have reached over 10,000 individuals, address climate change, river restoration, the preservation of habitats, and a healthier urban environment.

Young’s river-based pageants, featuring dozens of actors, dancers, puppets and musicians, have performed with audiences to draw attention to the state of rivers, from the Hudson, to the Vaigai River in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, South India, which is in a severe crisis due to pollution, waste dumping, and the drying effects of climate change. Anyone can sign up to participate in the events on the organization’s website. The critical attention and publicity the events have generated have helped these community celebrations reach more artists and volunteers every year, and have been the subject of a documentary. Working alone as artistic director and producer, Young has built an impressive consortium of community partners over the years including: PS41, The River Project, Solar One, NYU, The New School, Greenpeace, The Hudson River Park Trust, various high schools, and many others.

Here, the focus is on commemorating threatened waterways, and another form of community arts activism. Unlike Jeremijenko’s alternative spaces, Young encourages a more overt arts focus, promoting a different, more familiar form of environmental connection that follows the counterculture traditions of Happenings, Fluxus works, and Bread and Puppet Theater. Jeremijenko’s work draws from more recent forms of work like the tactical media events of the late Beatriz da Costa and Critical Art Ensemble, which combined citizen science demonstrations and performances, scholarship, installation, and art as social demonstration. Earth Celebrations prefers the adoption of fictive, fantastical costume, and performing of spectacle and pageantry, music, dance, and community discussion, supported by workshops for all ages.


Environmental participation, comprised of actions touching on stewardship, consumerism, and concern for our shared existence is, by its very nature, political in orientation. In recent years, as prospects for a sustainable environmental future become more threatened and mounting scientific evidence that climate change is inevitable and has already progressed beyond our ability to control its effects becomes more evident, a new form of citizenship has been conceptualized, one that responds directly to a shared sense of commitment and responsibility to planetary unity. Andrew Dobson and Derek Bell’s recent text Environmental Citizenship offers numerous versions of actions stemming from concern for both local and global territories drawing on constituent elements of the citizen. Adopting an ethics-based approach to the twin concerns of altering people’s behavior and attitudes, Dobson and Bell introduce the concept of individual practices as an alternative to the state-sponsored, market-based incentives that have been, until recently, the primary tools for encouraging public actions that harm the environment. Holding to the idea that environmental citizenship is an inflection of historical ideas of citizenship, they and the other authors in their essay collection seek a balance of liberal, rights-based, and republican notions of what constitutes a citizen, stressing virtue and responsibility.

Both Jeremijenko and Young’s projects are a form of citizenship, and they strategize through what I call “performative failure.” In other words, not failure per se, but as incomplete realizations of the utopian worlds they present. This sense of incompleteness should not be viewed pejoratively, but rather as a call to further action and as a version of Alice O’Grady’s “risky aesthetics”—performance “designed to produce a sense of critical vulnerability in the participant to achieve affect, transformation or attitudinal shift.” They are offers of complicity, co-authorship, co-responsibility, and a contract of temporary community that serves as a blueprint for collective political activism.

Participatory performance is decidedly difficult to produce. One risks being trapped by the twin poles of performance versus activism. If the production were completely successful, one might ask: would it still be theatre, or would it become something else? As scholar Claire Bishop has written about such performance, one can’t rely entirely on good intentions or politics; there must still be an artistic object, something separate from the participants, to evaluate critically. These productions, and others like them, are raising those questions, asking how performance can be both art and activism, and beckoning us to answer them for ourselves.


Open Call:Climate Change Theatre Action 2017 Edition

Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA) is a worldwide series of readings and performances of short climate change plays presented biennially in support of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP meetings).

CCTA 2017 is a collaboration between the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, NoPassport Theatre Alliance, The Arctic Cycle, Theatre Without Borders, and York University.


Climate scientists estimate we have fifteen years to decarbonize the economy if we want to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. The time for action is now. But action requires a hopeful vision of the future. For CCTA 2017, we are asking: “How can we turn the challenges of climate change into opportunities?”



Become Part of CCTA 2017

Join us in hosting a reading or performance of short climate change plays this fall in support of the United Nations COP23 meeting chaired by Fiji and hosted in Bonn, Germany.

WHEN: Anytime between October 1 and November 18, 2017.

WHERE: Wherever you are.

WE PROVIDE: A collection of 50 short plays that address an aspect of climate change; a list of resources to help make your Action effective and unique; organizational and marketing support; and a lot of enthusiasm!

YOUR CONTRIBUTION: You agree to present an event between October 1 and November 18, 2017 using at least one of the plays in the CCTA collection. Your event can be as simple as a classroom or living room reading or it may be presented to a larger audience in a theatre. It may be designed to reflect your own aesthetic and community. (Please note: We cannot provide funding for events.)

Contact CCTA at ClimateChangeTheatreAction [at] gmail [dot] com to register your event, get the full guidelines, and get access to the plays.

When technically possible, CCTA events will be livestreamed on the online platform HowlRound TV.

Read why CCTA is doing this in the online journal HowlRound.

Click here for the American Theatre Magazine article about what CCTA accomplished in 2015.

Follow on CCTA Facebook.


Listen to CCTA 2017’s Song by Greencard Wedding


 

CCTA event at The Box Collective in Brooklyn, NY, 2015.



List of Participating Playwrights

They come from every continent on the globe, represent over 25 cultures, are from industrialized and developing countries, urban and rural areas, and range in age from early 20s to mid 60s. Some are from low-lying island nations threatened by sea level rise, others are from countries facing severe heatwaves, floods, or droughts. Some are recent migrants, some inhabit the country their ancestors chose or were brought to, and many live on and fiercely protect the land where they were born. Together, they create an incredibly diverse and talented group with widely different perspectives. They are:

Hassan Abdulrazzak (UK/Irak)
Keith Josef Adkins (US)
Reneltta Arluk (Canada/Dene/Inuvialuit)
Elaine Ávila (Canada/US)
Catherine Banks (Canada)
Chantal Bilodeau (US/Canada)
Philip Braithwaite (New Zealand)
Jody Christopherson & Ryan McCurdy (US)
Mindi Dickstein (US)
Clare Duffy (UK/Scotland)
Angella Emurwon (Uganda)
Kendra Fanconi (Canada)
David Geary (Canada/New Zealand/Māori)
Mīria George (New Zealand/Māori)
Jordan Hall (Canada)
Vinicius Jatobá (Brazil)
C.A. Johnson (US)
Marcia Johnson (Canada/Jamaica)
Hiro Kanagawa (Canada/Japan)
MaryAnn Karanja (Kenya)
Amahl Khouri (Germany/Jordan)
Catherine Léger (Canada)
Ian Lesā (New Zealand/Samoa)
E.M. Lewis (US)
Jessica Litwak (US)

Kevin Loring (Canada/Nlaka’pamux)
Matthew MacKenzie (Canada)
Abhishek Majumdar (India)
Kasaya Manulevu (Fiji)
Shahid Nadeem (Pakistan)
Sharleen Ndlovu (Australia/Zimbabwe)
Dave Ojay (Kenya)
Achiro P. Olwoch (Uganda)
Giovanni Ortega (US/Philippines/Spain)
David Paquet (Canada)
Sarena Parmar (Canada)
Katie Pearl (US)
Jeremy Pickard & Lanxing Fu (US)
Elyne Quan (Canada)
Lynn Rosen (US)
Ian Rowlands (UK)
Lisa Schlesinger (US/Greece)
Stephen Sewell (Australia)
Saviana Stanescu (US/Romania)
Caridad Svich (US)
Jordan Tannahill (Canada)
Elspeth Tilley (New Zealand)
Meaza Worku (Ethiopia)
Nathan Yungerberg (US)
Maya Zbib (Lebanon)

Fish Soup, Mourning, and Hope at the End of the World

This Post Comes From HowlRound

This week on HowlRound, we continue our exploration of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change with more urgency than ever. With the looming eradication of climate science data from US government websites and the appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump has indicated in no uncertain terms that the health of the planet and its inhabitants are of no concern to him. As theatre artists, how do we respond? Dramaturg Walter Bilderback reflects on the production of When the Rain Stops Falling at the Wilma Theater in 2016, and on the difficulties in engaging audiences with an issue that manifests itself so slowly and incrementally.—Chantal Bilodeau

What does it mean to make theatre for the Anthropocene? (Leaving aside the question of when the Anthropocene started, or whether there’s a better name for it.) Outside of Republicans in Congress and the current administration, there’s wide consensus that changes in the earth’s climate and many of its chemical processes are now driven primarily by human activity.

There’s a growing body of writing about fiction for the Anthropocene: there’s even a catchphrase, “cli-fi,” although it’s possible that “all fiction is Anthropocene fiction now, some of it just hasn’t realized it yet,” to paraphrase a Facebook quip by McKenzie Wark. I’m not sure if the same thing can be said for playwriting and theatremaking. For playwriting, a challenge may be that our traditional, Aristotelian narrative structure doesn’t allow us to deal with the problem. Climate change reveals itself over long time scales, often longer than an individual’s lifespan. Its impact is sometimes dramatic and catastrophic, but often incremental, and it is ultimately a collective, rather than individual, problem.

 

At the Wilma Theater, we spent several years looking for a play dealing with the Anthropocene that addressed these challenges and still found a way to deeply engage an audience iemotionally. To open our 2016-17 season, Artistic Director Blanka Zizka chose Andrew Bovell’s When the Rain Stops Falling. Rain is a sprawling epic of a play, a sleek, stark, emotionally raw meditation on the Anthropocene and extinction disguised as a family saga stretching from 1959 in London to 2039 in Alice Springs, Australia. The story unfolds in non-chronological order, and begins with a scene of magic realism: a crowd of people on the street in relentless rain. A man stops and screams, a woman falls to her feet, and a fish lands at the man’s feet. We later learn that the man and woman are in different eras, and that fish in 2039 are thought to be extinct. This layering of time characterizes the play: a scene from one era will bleed into another scene; two characters are portrayed by a younger and an older actress, who are sometimes onstage together. The play ends with a father trying to reconcile with a son he abandoned as a child, sharing family relics whose meaning is a mystery to him but not to the audience. Between them is a line of dead ancestors who bequeathed the relics to him.

We had looked at Rain a few times since I first read it in the summer of 2009. The main reason we had passed on the play in the past was that its emotional rawness and fatalism scared us: a readthrough ended with the entire cast in tears. Roy Scranton’s book Learning to Die in the Anthropocene gave us a new insight on the play. Scranton is convinced that it’s too late to avoid breaking the two degree Celsius rise in global temperature. He writes:

The greatest challenge we face is…understanding that this civilization is already dead. The sooner we confront our situation and realize that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves, the sooner we can get down to the difficult task of adapting, with mortal humility, to our new reality.

Scranton’s notion of mourning our losses allowed us to see the sadness in When the Rain Stops Falling in a different light. It was only after this that we became aware that When the Rain Stops Falling had originated in a workshop called “The Extinction Project” and that Andrew Bovell’s attendance at a Paris museum exhibit on Melancholia had given him the key to putting his story together; he believes we are in a melancholic age. Bovell found the motif of Saturn that repeats in the play, including the metaphor of “eating the future,” in the same exhibit. Mourning and melancholy are not the same thing, psychoanalytically, but were close enough to allow us to start working.

Another concept that proved useful for Blanka and the design team in conceptualizing the production was “slow violence,” a term coined by Rob Nixon. Nixon defines “slow violence” as “a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all,” and sees it as a challenge for literature in depicting climate change in emotionally resonant fashion. Bovell doesn’t use the term, but his layering of scene upon scene creates a presence of deep time onstage. The family becomes a collective protagonist, and the impact of slow violence on the family and on the climate is made physically present for the audience.

Understanding the play’s melancholy also allowed us to see a ray of hope. In an email exchange with me, Bovell wrote: “In the final scene of the play there is hope that the damage of the past can be undone or at least understood and there is a suggestion that we have the capacity with this understanding to move on in a different way.” The final moments of Blanka Zizka’s production, with a line of ancestors seated on simple chairs and passing the relics from father to son, radiated a quiet beauty that was simultaneously heart-breaking and hopeful, reminiscent of a Donna Haraway remark on a resilient, post-Anthropocene community, whose members “knew they could not deceive themselves that they could start from scratch. Precisely the opposite insight moved them; they asked and responded to the question of how to live in the ruins that were still inhabited, with ghosts and with the living too.”

Lindsay Smiling as Gabriel York in When the Rain Stops Falling. Photo by Matt Saunders.

The Wilma attempts, as often as possible, to surround our productions with ancillary material. In this case, we had a lobby installation and two panels.

For the lobby display, Austin Arrington, from the local company Plant Group, and I coordinated with several local organizations to create an installation that incorporated both small things individuals can do now to address problems of contemporary Philadelphia (e.g., rain barrels to reduce run-off problems) and a vision for a sustainable Philadelphia in 2039, the year in which Rain begins and ends. Blanka came up with the idea for a local focus that was more optimistic on the future than the play. I found a wealth of reports by local agencies, including the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability in Philadelphia, examining a range of local climate futures for the 21st century and suggesting strategies for meeting them. Incorporating some of these ideas, and extrapolating on existing projects, I sketched a future that is far from paradise but a step toward Scranton’s idea of “adapting, with mortal humility, to our new reality.” George Marshall’s book Don’t Even Think About It proved useful here: I particularly tried to heed his recommendations to “build a narrative of cooperation, relate solutions to climate change to the sources of happiness, and frame climate change as an informed choice.”

We held two panels following Saturday matinees. The first, “Art in the Anthropocene,” featured E. Ann Kaplan, author of Climate Trauma; Philadelphia poet and Pew Fellow Brian Teare; and playwright/translator Chantal Bilodeau. The second, “What’s Next?” focused on “what we can do as individuals and as citizens to meet the challenges of a changing climate.” This panel featured Ashley Dawson, author of the forthcoming Extreme Cities: Climate Change and the Urban Future; Christine Knapp, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability; Ron Whyte, founder of the Deep Green Philly blog; and Judy Wicks, a Philadelphia activist and sustainability entrepreneur.

Did the panels make a difference? I find myself a little pessimistic. The discussions onstage were stimulating and provocative. But they were attended by a handful of audience members, less than our usual turnout, despite publicizing them in print and through social media, which may reflect a continuing head-in-the-sand attitude of many Americans toward global warming.

When the Rain Stops Falling closed on November 6. Two days later, most of us found our sense of what this country was shaken. In the play, Andrew Bovell has the 2039 character Gabriel York refer to the current book he’s reading: The Decline and Fall of the American Empire, 1975-2015. When Bovell wrote the play in 2007, the end date lay in the future. 1975 aligns easily the US defeat in Vietnam; for the actor glossary, I created a description of the book’s thesis (I attributed authorship to my Australian friend Van Badham, a playwright and Guardian columnist). I wrote, “According to Badham, Donald Trump’s candidacy, announced June 20, 2015, provides a useful endpoint for American power and prestige.” We’ll see.

The Post Fish Soup, Mourning, and Hope at the End of the World Appeared First on HowRound. Visit Their Website Here. 

Requiem for a River: Operatic Reflections on the Euphrates

This Post Comes from HowlRound:

This week on HowlRound, we continue our exploration of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change with more urgency than ever. With the looming eradication of climate science data from US government websites and the appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump has indicated in no uncertain terms that the health of the planet and its inhabitants are of no concern to him. As theatre artists, how do we respond? Dutch opera director Miranda Lakerveld reflects on the prominence of water imagery in traditional music dramas from the Middle East and on the connection between conflict and ecology. —Chantal Bilodeau

I am writing this article the day before the Dutch elections. Far-right populist Geert Wilders has been leading the polls, and Turkish-Dutch youngsters are marching the streets waving dramatically large Turkish flags. For the first time in my life, I see military police trucks (and water-tanks) drive past my window. CNN and Al Jazeera discuss the “situation” in the Netherlands. Unimaginable things are happening to my country.

I create operas as a platform for dialogue in a multicultural society. My artistic work stems from research on music dramas from around the globe. I was fortunate to be able to do research on a wide range of music- drama practices, for example Tibetan Opera at the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts; passion play Ta’ziyeh in Iran; and the ancient Maya dance-drama Rabìnal Achi in Guatemala.

Ironically, I found the richest traditions in places where cultural identity is under pressure, especially after a history of violence. For example, one of the first official actions the Dalai Lama took when he arrived in India after fleeing persecution in Tibet, was to establish the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts to preserve Tibetan Opera. We might conclude that these music dramas can be extremely important in times of uncertainty and conflict.

jh Samira Dainan in Why Yemen Matters. Photo by Jan Boeve/De Balie


“Why does cultural identity create such conflict? And, how does the environment influence the dynamics between cultures?”


 

While I was doing my research, tensions between communities kept rising at home. Since 2014, my company World Opera Lab has been working mostly in the diverse neighborhoods of Amsterdam-West, applying the aesthetics of music dramas from Iran, India, Tibet, and Middle America to opera. The aim is to create a form of opera that reaches across cultures and artistic traditions.

In these creative dialogues between cultures, I have often wondered: what “makes” a culture? Even in the diaspora, what makes people attached to it? Why does cultural identity create such conflict? And, how does the environment influence the dynamics between cultures?

A series of debate operas on conflict in the Middle East, presented in collaboration with the Debate Center De Balie, has shone a new light on these questions. Why Yemen Matters, created in 2016, deals with the ongoing conflicts in Yemen and why the violence received so little attention in the West. The opera revolves around the story of the Queen of Sheba, who was originally from Yemen. Music from Händel’s oratorium Solomon, played on the Arabic ud and viola da gamba, was countered with traditional songs from Sana’a. The staging was created in dialogue with the work of Yemeni photographer Amira Al-Sharif, who also helped with finding appropriate traditional music. Interestingly, the traditional songs that “floated up” during the work had extensive references to water and its sources:

The leaf of the grape appeared
To collect water, she comes to source: Wadi Bamaa
Passing by me
Passing by me

I, oh my father, I
Glory, oh people, glory to the source, Wadi Amaan

“Ghuzan Al Qina” (Traditional song from Sana’a, Yemen)

Through these songs, I understood the importance of water sources in the region and how they affect conflicts. The songs also taught me how cultures are very much influenced by the environment. The environment shapes the culture, and consequently it shapes cultural identities.

Samira Dainan and Mireille Bittar in Why Yemen Matters. Photo by Jan Boeve/De Balie.


“The environment shapes the culture, and consequently it shapes cultural identities.”


 

A River Runs Through It
Requiem for a River picks up where Sheba left off. It is a new debate opera that will be presented in the spring of 2018, as part of the on-going collaboration between World Opera Lab and The Middle East Report in the Debate Center De Balie.

The Euphrates River is the main character in this opera, where religious stories about the iconic river are the point of departure. Currently the Tigris and Euphrates, the two main arteries in the Middle East, are rapidly drying up. According to a 2015 article published in Foreign Affairs, the mighty rivers that feed Syria and Iraq may no longer reach the sea by 2040.

The Euphrates, an important “figure” in religious texts, is featured in central stories on conflict in the region as well as in classical operas. After the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, Israelites are brought into exile in Babylonia and sing, mourning their lost homeland at the bank of the river. Psalm 137, in which this scene is depicted, inspired Verdi to write Va pensiero, the famous chorus from Nabucco. According to the Islamic hadith, the Euphrates will dry up and uncover a mountain of gold that will incite bloody conflicts.

In the Ta’ziyeh of Abbas, a Shiite passion play, the Euphrates River is occupied by the Sunni army, while the Shiites are on the losing side. General Abbas goes to the river to get water for the dying children in the camp. After gathering the water, Abbas is attacked and both his arms are amputated. Abbas continues to carry the water bag in his mouth. One arrow hits the bag and water pours out of it. This image of Abbas without arms, and the water sack in his mouth is iconic in the Shiite culture.

According to Iranian scholar Hamid Dabashi, the characters in Ta’ziyeh are metamorphic: “The metamorphic aspect of Ta’ziyeh characters makes them at once extremely potent allegories of cosmic significance, and yet instantaneously accessible to contemporary re-modulations.” In this way, Abbas becomes a potent symbol of the conflicts in the Middle East, drawing our attention to those who are suffering the consequences, and to major underlying themes such as water scarcity and ecological problems. Today in Karbala, Iraq, where this story takes place, farmers are in despair about water shortages.

We learn that water shortages have shaped our civilizations. The very first civilization emerged only when governments where able to provide access to water. Already in ancient times, city-states were cutting off each other’s water supply. And this still goes on today.

In Ta’ziyeh performances, the Euphrates is represented by a large bowl, in which the audience is invited to empty their water bottles. Stagehands then fill up the bottles with water from the bowl, and give them back to the audience. This water is now considered sacred and wholesome. This scene has an important lesson for us: it connects religious conflicts and cultural identity to ecology.

Ta’ziyeh of Abbas in Ziaran, Iran 2012. Photo by Miranda Lakerveld.

The River Reaches the Sea
I am editing this article a few weeks after the elections. For now, The Netherlands seems to have dodged the populist bullet and the eyes of the world are now on France’s elections. Spring has started, and the country is relieved. At the same time, the conflicts in the Middle East are erupting with renewed violence.

I am reading poetry from Iraq, and I am reminded again of how many water sources are shared across cultures. The Euphrates is the river that shaped the first civilizations. She runs through all of us. Or in the words of the Iraqi poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab:

…The echo replies
As if lamenting:
‘O Gulf,
Giver of shells and death.
And across the sands from among its lavish gifts
The Gulf scatters fuming froth and shells
And the skeletons of miserable drowned emigrants
Who drank death forever
From the depths of the Gulf, from the ground of its silence,
And in Iraq a thousand serpents drink the nectar
From a flower the Euphrates has nourished with dew…

—from “Rainsong” (1960)

The Post Requiem for a River: Operatic Reflections on the Euphrates Appeared First on HowlRound. Visit Their Website Here. 

Create a Green Team: Glasgow Workshop

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Tuesday 16 May 2017, 14:00-16:00

Venue: MANY Studios: 3 Ross Street Glasgow , G1 5AR (Google Map)

Being the sole Green Champion in any organisation can be a big job. Are you running out of ideas? Feeling like you are fighting a losing battle? Perhaps you have limited knowledge of how all the other departments work within the company?

Now is the time to form a Green Team. This FREE workshop will give you ideas on how to:

  • Build cooperation from the whole of your organisation
  • Include senior management of the organisation
  • Arrange dates and agendas for your green team meeings
  • Create a tailored environmental policy for your organisation
  • Report back on your work to your board and build support for your work

Bring along your ideas and questions. Refreshments supplied. Feel free to bring a packed lunch

This workshop will also run in Edinburgh on Tuesday 30 May

Register Here



The post Create a Green Team: Glasgow Workshop appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.



 

About Creative Carbon Scotland:

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland