We wanted to highlight this feature you might have missed about the integration of public art and renewables from LAGI!
What happens when renewable energy meets public art? The Land Art Generator Initiative, or Lagi, founded by Pittsburgh-based artists Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry, is trying to find the answer with several proposed public art structures designed to generate power while inspiring and educating their viewers.
The initiative has collected hundreds of designs from competitions held in Abu Dhabi, New York City and Copenhagen. At the 2016 competition, which will be held in Santa Monica, California, entrants will design structures that harvest clean energy or generate clean drinking water.
IMAGE: This rendering shows an aquatic bird concept, designed by a group of London-based designers, which would be outfitted with enough hydraulic turbines and solar cells to power an entire neighborhood. Designed to educate, it would sink lower when energy demand increases, and would have an open interior area where visitors can see how it works.
Photograph: Hareth Pochee, Adam Khan, Louis Leger, Patrick Fryer
The Southern California Women’s Caucus for Art (SCWCA) in partnership with Avenue 50 Studio presents Water: A Necessary Conversation, an engaging exhibition that opens on Saturday, November 14, 2015. The decision by curator Susan King to hang contemporary artworks alongside activist posters strikes a lively visual dialogue between past and present artistic treatments of this important subject. In King’s words: “it emphasizes the enduring human need to manage water resources and the usefulness of art in conveying that message.” The abstract and representational works by twenty artists from across the country range from painting, prints and video to iPhone photography. The activist posters including two Robbie Canal posters are courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. A stakeholders conversation will take place on Sunday, December 6, 2015 to further expand the public dialogue.
Participating artists include: Elaine Alibrandi, Melissa Richardson Banks, Mariona Barkus, Andrea Broyles, Danielle Eubank, Karen Hansen, Shelley Hefler, Brenda Hurst, Ann Isolde, J. J. L’Heureux, Yana Marshall, Andrea Monroe, Eva Montealegre, Therese Moriarty, Sandra Mueller, Seda Saar, Karen Schifman, Susie Stockholm, Stephanie Sydney, Teresa Young and the “Artists Formerly Known as Women” collective. The historical posters including two works by Robbie Conal are courtesy of The Center for The Study of Political Graphics.More at scwca.org.
Venue: Avenue 50 Studio, 131 N Avenue 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042
ABOUT SCWCA: The Women’s Caucus for Art is the leading national membership organization for women in the visual arts professions. Founded in 1976, the Southern California chapter provides programs, workshops and exhibitions opportunities. Visit scwca.org.
ABOUT AVENUE 50 STUDIO: Avenue 50 Studio is an arts presentation organization grounded in Latina/o culture, visual arts, and the Northeast Los Angeles Community, that seeks to bridge cultures through artistic expression, using content-driven art to educate and to stimulate intercultural understanding. Visit avenue50stuio.org
ABOUT THE CURATOR: Curator Susan King is an art historian and artist who currently teaches at Loyola Marymount College and Laguna College of Art and Design. Her areas of expertise include modern and contemporary art and design. She will become national president of WCA in February 2016
ArtsBuild Ontario is excited to be partnering with Natural Resources Canada and Toronto Hydro to offer our organizations this valuable energy conservation training experience. Designed specifically for arts facilities, participants get to know energy basics and discover cost-saving opportunities from the experts. Whether you’re involved in a new build, renovation or ongoing maintenance in your facility, Energy Conservation can help you realize potential saving –and this workshop will help you understand how!
When: Tuesday, December 1 at 8am – 4pm
Where: Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St W, Toronto, M6J 1J6)
Cost: $40+ HST per person, which includes a catered lunch and breaks
The Univeristy of New Mexico is looking for a Full Professor of Art and Ecology. This is a tenured appointment with five-year renewable contract as Land Arts of the American West (LAAW) Endowed Chair. Full time. Works with LAAW Field Program Director and area faculty to further develop the LAAW program and increase the national and international profile of Art and Ecology at UNM. Directs the Land Arts Mobile Research Center and administers the existing Andrew W. Mellon grant. Must have the desire and ability to work with and further attract a diverse student population.
The University of New Mexico is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city of 600,000 on the Rio Grande at an altitude of 5,200 feet. Albuquerque’s historical pluralism gives the city a fascinating mix in terms of its arts, cuisine, languages, and values. The University of New Mexico is a large, diverse state university with a faculty of over 3,000 serving approximately 32,700 students. The Department of Art and Art History offers the B.A., B.F.A., M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. degrees.
The University of New Mexico is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer and Educator.
MFA or PhD in Studio Art or Master’s with 7 or more years of experience in the field of Art and Ecology
7 or more years as an exhibiting artist/published scholar with an extensive international record
7 or more years of expertise in Environmental Art, Eco Art and/or Social Practice
Experience in administration of academic programs and/or private enterprises
Extensive creative research demonstrated by local, regional, or national record of public engagement
Conversant in contemporary issues of theory and aesthetics, especially as they relate to environmental and ecological art, and an ability to teach related courses
Demonstrated excellence in teaching with experience at the undergraduate and graduate level
A demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and student success, as well as working with broadly diverse communities
Art of Change 21 is happy to officially announce the launch of maskbook.org: a gallery of masked portraits in three languages (French, English and Chinese) that already includes more than 200 participants from all over the world!
Maskbook is the first international and creative action on the link between health and climate, launched by Art of Change 21 for COP21(The UN Conference on Climate Change, Paris, December2015), supported by the artist Olafur Eliasson and the social entrepreneur Tristan Lecomte.
Whether masks are made with depolluting plants, plastic, electronic waste, with a 3D printer or original objects, the masks come together but are all unique! Diversity of materials but also themes are celebrated: concerns such as ice melt, waste management or biodiversity. Citizens, artists, designers, makers, ecologists, children, senior citizens, celebrities and are all part of the adventure. Everyone is invited to take action.
Be part of this amazing masked journey. You can send your portrait by clicking here. You can also share it on social networks by changing your profile picture on Facebook and using the hashtag #Maskbook on Twitter and Instagram.
We are many, join the movement!
From left to right: “Das Auto”, by Leni Clause, (10 years old, France), “Green Mouth” by Alma Molsted Andersen (Denmark), “Breathe” by Cheng Peien (3 years old, China)
During COP21 Maskbook will hold an exhibition within the Grand Palais withSolutions COP21 and the Bourget with Générations Climat.
Maskbook will also be at the World March for Climate the 29th of November (come join the masked march with us in Paris!)
MASKBOOK WITH THE CHINESE PEOPLE
In China, Maskbook’s adventure is currently underway. The Maskbook workshops have been launched during Beijing Design Week, as well as a dedicated WeChat page and a launching event will take place the 20th of October in Beijing with the support of the French Embassy in China.
Maskbook on Art of Change 21 social networks //
Maskbook project led by Art of Change 21 is labelled “COP21” by the French government and “Paris for the climate” by the City of Paris, under the patronage of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.
ABOUT ART OF CHANGE 21
First initiative in the world to combine Art, Social Entrepreneurship and Young people, the NGO Art of Change 21 brings together 21 artists, social entrepreneurs and young leaders in climate and environment from 12 countries. Art of Change 21 aims at influencing positively COP21 and the next COPs, and to act in favour of climate and ecological transition thanks to culture, digital and co-creation. The association was founded in 2014 by Alice Audouin, recognized expert in sustainable development and pioneer in France of the link between art and sustainable development.
You want to organize a Maskbook workshop? To welcome a photobooth? To receive an exhibition of portraits or masks? To do a video mapping projection of portraits? You want to support Maskbook? Join our sponsors, ADEME, Orange, Rexel, Generali, Hédonie and Blue Solutions to give the project its international ambition. Contact us by email: email@example.com
Anyone can volunteer to be a College Green Captain just as anyone from a Broadway production can. We have nearly 50 Green Captains on Broadway; at every production and at many theatrical unions. Folks volunteer to be a Green Captain because they care about the environment and about helping us spread the word that its easy being green-er. Many of the greener changes are also money-saving and increase efficiency. If you are wondering how to make a greener change at your theater department reach out to us as we would be happy to let you know how we do things greener on Broadway. Write firstname.lastname@example.org.
We currently have a BGA Green Captain at every Broadway show!
College Green Captain Prize will again be offered for 2016
The Broadway Green Alliance (BGA) is happy to announce that we will once again be offering a College Green Captain prize for an outstanding College Green Captain. The award will be presented at USITT in March in Utah and the deadline to apply will be March 1st, 2016. The winner will receive tickets to a Broadway (or touring) show and a meeting with a Broadway Green Captain. For details on how to apply please go here.
Greening College Campuses
One man’s trash is…well, you know how it goes!
And, for a group of students at the University of New Hampshire, this maxim is the cornerstone of their campus program, Trash 2 Treasure, and the national non-profit organization that grew out of it, thePost-Landfill Action Network(PLAN). These are projects that strive to decrease college campus waste and work towards zero-waste campuses. By collecting student goods during spring move-out and selling of them come fall semester, for instance, students are able to reduce waste and offer students dorm appliances and décor at cheap prices. Other colleges even have student-run thrift stores that sell recycled products! Such zero-waste college campus initiatives are great ways to get involved in campus and make a positive impact. Does your school have any end-of-the-year waste reduction programs? If not, now is the perfect time to connect with other students and plan a green event for spring.
Spreading the Word of Sustainable Theatre
by Maddie Price
Gettysburg College ‘15
Green Design Intern, Summer ‘15
Never underestimate the power of publicity! College Green Captains, what’s the good of all the great plans you have for greening your school’s theatre if no one knows about them? Spreading the word about your theatre department’s sustainability initiatives, both internally and externally, will help you promote a culture of sustainability with greater participation in eco-friendly practices within the college theatre and across campus!
First, to ensure success of your college theatre going green, you need to get your colleagues on board! Talk to your peers–ask for their input for how to best green your theatre program during your day-to-day activities, whether in the green room or behind the scenes of a show. Talk to faculty about promoting eco-friendly habits, both in the context of theatre classes and rehearsing shows; be sure to talk to staff in all areas of production, from the costume shop to the light booth. Ask the administrative office about creating signage and email blasts with reminders about sustainability policies.
Furthermore, consider sharing the news about your green college theatre to the greater campus community, especially if there are initiatives that audience members should be aware of (such as recycling or bringing reusable water bottles) when they come to see your shows! Are there any cool set pieces/costumes/props made from salvaged materials? Snap a photo and share it on social media! (see below for our tags). Does your campus have a student-run newspaper or radio station? Can you make announcements through student government? Even when making Facebook events for upcoming productions, post reminders about how to go green in your theatre building. Furthermore, if your school has made environmental sustainability a greater priority among higher administration, such as through an Office of Campus Sustainability or a faculty Sustainability Board, see how you can contribute your input. They would probably love to hear about students bringing sustainability to the performing arts–think how it can be pitched as a unique, inspiring story to stakeholders that may even make it into college publications! While many schools today have signed onto the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, many have yet to discover that making strides in environmental sustainability can be found in theatre arts!
Follow the BGA on social media to keep up with news, tips and the latest green happenings on Broadway. Click on the icons at the bottom of this e-mail to do so.
Top Five Tips for Greener Dorm-Living by Barnard College CGC Samantha Jakuboski
You don’t have to give up a life of luxury or be a tree-hugger to go green in your dorm (although there is nothing wrong with embracing the occasional tree now and then.) Here are some of my favorite ways to “greenify” my dorm living:
Bring a lot of underwear to college. This way, you won’t have to do as many loads of laundry and you can save both water and energy– not to mention time, because, really, who has time to do laundry in college?! And if you are doing laundry wash in cold water with a small amount of earth friendly detergent.
Plastic water bottles are so last century. Embrace the reusable water bottle. As a college student, proudly sport your bottle around campus. CAUTION: People will envy you and your super cool bottle.
Who says that saving the environment means living without a mini-fridge and giving up those midnight ice cream cravings? Energy Star appliances are your friends. Buy them. See a full list here.
Natural is the new black. So ladies, put down those energy-consuming curling irons, flat irons, and blow dryers and embrace those luscious waves and curls. (OK, so maybe this tip is a bit tree-huggerish, but I still think natural is sexy!) If you’re not up to natural hair then at least write BGA for a t-shirt (made of recycled plastic!) and wear that to show you care about green instead.
Make use of power strips. I like to plug my strings of lights into one powerstrip and all my chargers in another. This way, when I want to shut all the lights off and when I want to decrease my use of vampire power when I am not using my chargers, all I have to do it turn off one switch.
SPECIAL OFFER: GET A 20% DISCOUNT on “A Practical Guide to Greener Theater” by BGA Education Committee members Ellen Jones with Jessica Pribble and Paul Brunner. Use code FLR40. Go to http://ellenejones.com/ for more info.
Assistant/Associate Professor of Wood and Sustainability Arts, School of Art Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University The School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University seeks an exceptional artist in the area of Wood and Sustainability Arts for a full-time tenure-track appointment at the assistant or associate professor level beginning fall 2016.
Arizona State University is a new model for American higher education, an unprecedented combination of academic excellence, entrepreneurial energy and broad access. This New American University is a single, unified institution comprising four differentiated campuses positively impacting the economic, social, cultural and environmental health of the communities it serves. Its research is inspired by real world application blurring the boundaries that traditionally separate academic disciplines, serves more than 80,000 students in metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, the nation’s fifth
largest city. champions intellectual and cultural diversity, and welcomes students from all fifty states and more than one hundred nations across the globe.
The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the largest comprehensive design and arts school in the nation, is a vibrant example of the of the New American University philosophy. With 4,700 students, more than 400 faculty and faculty associates, 135 degrees and a tradition of top-ranked programs, the Herberger Institute is built on a combination of disciplines unlike any other program in the nation. The institute includes the School of Art, The School of Arts, Media + Engineering, The Design School, The School of Film, Dance and Theatre, The School of Music, and the Art Museum. Through recognizing that design and the arts are critical resources for transforming society and solving complex problems, the Herberger Institute is committed to positioning artists, scholars, designers, and educators at the center of public life.
Located in one of the most expansive metropolitan centers in the United States, and situated in the Sonoran desert, the school supports a broad range of art practice and inquiry. Programs within the School of Art lead to the degrees of Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Art with concentrations in art history, art studies, museum studies; an online BA in art history; Bachelor of Fine Arts () in Art with concentrations in art education and a broad number of mediums; Master of Arts (MA) in Art with concentrations in art history or art education; and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Art. In addition, the school participates in the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs in Design, Environment and the Arts housed within the Herberger Institute. With several nationally ranked programs and one of the largest comprehensive art programs in a public research university in the United States, the School of Art plays a prominent role within the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and is located on both the Tempe and downtown Phoenix campuses.
This position will strengthen the broader vision of the School of Art in connecting the well-established materials based practices in a contemporary and vibrant manner. A hallmark of ’s wood arts program respects craft and design traditions while embracing alternative materials/methods that cross boundaries with other art and research disciplines. The successful candidate will have an expertise in a broad range of sculptural and design processes specific to working with wood, and will demonstrate the potential to develop research and programmatic offerings related to “sustainability.” Artists may define their relationship to sustainability practices in many ways including but not limited to “ecological art” or “environmental art”. The School of Art seeks candidates capable of joining with others to expand the vision of sustainability research; building bridges with other disciplines in the school, the Herberger Institute, the university and/or the community.
The successful candidate is expected to pursue a research agenda related to their expertise in wood and sustainability arts and actively participate in the and degree programs in the School of Art and degree programs in the School of Sustainability. The successful applicant will demonstrate excellence in teaching with the ability to formulate and instruct a variety of course offerings on both undergraduate and graduate levels, including studio and seminar courses, and mentoring graduate student thesis projects. Additional responsibilities include studio maintenance, budgeting,
oversight of safe studio practices, and service to the sculpture and sustainability programs in the form of committee participation, curriculum development, and student advising is expected. An interest in contributing to ’s highly regarding online degree programs is a plus.
Required Qualifications: Master of Fine Arts degree or equivalent terminal degree; strong evidence of professional activity in the field. University/college teaching experience beyond the TA level. Evidence of research or demonstrated potential to achieve national/international recognition in creative research and/or scholarship related to wood and sustainability arts.
Desired Qualifications: Demonstrated ability to teach all levels of wood arts, including but not limited to fabrication, joinery, carving, and lathe turning. Knowledge of and proficiency with digital production techniques related to wood such as laser cutting/engraving and milling.
Instructions to Apply: Please submit a letter of interest addressing creative research, teaching and work experience. Include curriculum vitae, the names and contact information of three references, two course syllabi and evidence of creative work in the form of twenty images (.jpg format, 1200 max. pixel width), with a separate image list. Ten separate images of student work are encouraged. Applicants advancing to the second round of review will be asked to provide additional materials.
Applications by e-mail are preferred; submit all materials to: Theresa.McDowell-Blanken@asu.edu
Applications sent via mail must be addressed to:
Chair, School of Art Search Committee, Wood/Sustainability
c/o Theresa McDowell-Blanken, Specialist to the Director, School of Art
PO Box 871505
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-1505
Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you would like your materials returned.
Application Deadline: Screening of candidates will begin immediately; however, for best consideration, application materials should arrive by the deadline, December 1, 2015. If not filled, reviews will occur weekly thereafter until the search is closed. For information on the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, please visit our website: herbergerinstitute.asu.edu.
BA Kira O’Reilly has been appointed to the post of Lecturer in Ecology and Contemporary Performance at the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki for the period 1 January 2016-31 July 2018. As part of the post, O’Reilly will also be leading the new MA pilot in Ecology and Contemporary Performance. The pilot degree programme is taught entirely in English.
Kira O’Reilly hails from Ireland and is currently residing in London. Starting in 1997, she has had a long international career in performing arts. O’Reilly’s artistic work has a strong focus on the current discourse in ecology and performing arts. Her works during the last few years include, among others,inthewrongplaceness (2005 – 2009) at Casino Luxembourg, Refolding (Laboratory Architectures) (2011) at The Arnolfini, and the position of Thinker in Residence at the SPILL 09 festival. In Finland she has previously taken part in the ANTI Contemporary Art Festival and Field Notes events during the 2000s.
O’Reilly has an extensive international network based on her artistic work as well as her teaching. She has previously held the position of Lecturer in the Time Based Arts degree programme at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff in 2008-2009, as well as that of Lecturer in Performing Arts at Cheltenham and Gloucester College 1999-2000. Additionally, she has been Visiting Lecturer at a number of universities since 2001, e.g. in Great Britain, Sweden, the US, Ireland, Canada and Australia. She has also published numerous articles within the field of performing arts.
The MA in Ecology and Contemporary Performance (MAECP) is the Theatre Academy’s new master’s degree pilot starting in 2016. It focuses on performing arts in the current era of ecological crisis. MAECP investigates different forms of performance and performing arts, their methodology and theoretical bases in the borderland of science and the arts. Its aim is to develop co-operation, interaction and methods of performance, as well as develop the foundation and practices of work that transcend the borders between art and science. In this manner it strives to respond to the challenges posed by the ecological crisis that will affect all species.
MAECP is part of the University of the Arts Helsinki’s internationalization as well as the goal of developing multiform interaction with society at large.
In Environmental Humanities: Remaking Nature, you’ll get a broad overview of an emerging area of interdisciplinary research that reframes contemporary environmental challenges using approaches from philosophy, literature, language, history, anthropology, cultural studies and the arts.You’ll see examples of active research in this field, and discover why humanities research is vital to understanding and confronting contemporary environmental challenges, such as climate change and global biodiversity loss.
“Remake” your ideas about nature
The Environmental Humanities places scientific knowledge in dialogue with the key concerns of the humanities: how people think, feel, protest, vote and create. Our main aim in this course is to consider and create new narratives about how humans and the environment relate to one another.
We’ll begin this course by identifying historical ways of thinking about the environment. Through a range of examples, we’ll illustrate how “nature” is a human invention. We’ll then look at how the role of humans has been conceptualised in opposition to notions of nature, and assert that we were never at the centre, nor in control of the environment.
Having questioned these common “modernist” conceptions about nature, we’ll examine some of the ways in which the natural world is being “remade,” both discursively (in the way we write, speak and think about it) and materially (for instance, in the alteration of DNA and the wholesale transformation of ecosystems).
Finally, we’ll ask you to join us in creating new narratives about nature that demonstrate greater care and concern.
Explore research methods and real-world environmental concerns
Leading experts from the Environmental Humanities programme at UNSW Australia’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will introduce you to their research in this innovative and interdisciplinary field.
By the end of this course you will:
understand why the Environmental Humanities is critical to environmental problem-solving in this age of global environmental crisis;
have a clear idea of a range of research methods in the Environmental Humanities;
be aware of opportunities and challenges in this area, and how these relate to global environmental concerns;
and develop experience in using storytelling to envision new environmental paradigms and ways forward.
This week on HowlRound, we continue our exploration of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change begun last April with this special series for Climate Change Week NYC. How does our work reflect on, and responds to, the challenges brought on by a warming climate? How can we participate in the global conversation about what the future should look like, and do so in a way that is both inspiring and artistically rewarding?Kendra Fanconi is a fellow Canadian and theatremaker who, in the last few months, has been watching the forests of British Columbia go up in flames. Addressing climate change in her work in not an abstract concept, but a real and immediate concern that is deeply rooted in a sense of place. —Chantal Bilodeau
Beckett said it.
“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
A statement from the Anthropocenic age. The epoch where human activities started to have a global impact on Earth’s ecosystems. The age of climate change.
“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
We get it, don’t we? I hope you don’t mind that I included you in that. I operate under the assumption that what I feel and what my audience feels are the same, and that I can refer to us as a “we.” “We like this.” “We want this.” “We need this.” But strangely, you, as you read this, you are actually my audience right now and I don’t know you well enough to know if I am like you. I accept that I may be the canary in the coal mine, and that you are not feeling this yet but I would propose that you will be, we all will be, that this quote sums up our lives, as real as the death of the newspaper, the wristwatch, and the oceans.
Okay, hang on, did someone really just say “death of the oceans?” I think I need to lie down for a minute. I’m not ready for that today. I need another coffee. Or a peek at my newsfeed. Maybe someone got married, went to Italy, or had a nice squishy baby. Or maybe my cousin in Washington State who just had a nice squishy baby is going to lose her house to a wildfire.
“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
I look at that quote. I note two things. “I can’t go on” speaks to the truth of everyday grappling with climate change. “I’ll go on” implies action.
“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
And, friends, theatremakers in the age of climate change, I propose to you that somewhere within these seven words is our stage.
I’m part of The Only Animal. We make original theatre out of a deep engagement with place. We’ve made shows in theatres of snow and ice, of sand, in swimming pools, and on working waterways an acre wide, with birds, boats. and a bicycle ballet. Because we work with place, we work with climate change. We made NiX, theatre of snow and ice as a part of the Cultural Olympiad in Whistler in 2010. It was the warmest winter in 126 years. I remember coming out of our snow theatre during tech and kicking at something funny on the ground. Where there should have been four-foot snowpack, there was grass. Our theatre was melting.
“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
The Only Animal have always had environmental awareness. Sickened by the familiar sight at strike of the five-ton loaded to the dump, we set the intention to be a zero-impact company, looking to minimize and offset our carbon footprint. We paid attention to where we sourced materials, hoping to divert them from the waste stream, and looked carefully at where they ended up. We haven’t always been successful at “zeroing,” but our mandate highlights sustainability. And, you know, that felt like enough.
Then we started making a piece in an old-growth forest near our home in the tiny town of Roberts Creek, on the slopes of Mount Elphinstone, outside of Vancouver, BC, where our company is based. It’s an adaptation of Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Tinkers. Tinkers is an ecstatic love song to the natural world. It is transcendental, proposing that Human = Nature = the Divine. The piece is off-grid, a roving show with twelve locations. A new addition to our creative team is German environmental artist Cornelia Konrads, who is making large, gravity-defying installations in some of these sites: a moss carpet that wants to fly, a cedar shake doorway that floats away, liminal green windows that are woven into the forest. The work seeks on many levels to integrate the site into the story—and into ourselves. It is a production that combines professional actors with cameos/choir made of locals, weaving the place into the heart of the production.
Environmental artist and designer Cornelia Konrads with maquette for Tinkers, The Only Animal, based on the novel by Paul Harding.
And we are siting the work within an old-growth forest—a large carbon sinkhole that is part of the climate change solution—that is being logged. Like, right now. I am writing this at 4:54 a.m. and the trucks are on their way to cut block A87126 and its 600-year-old yellow cedars. And a roadblock started 54 minutes ago. A few local activists are there. Later I will make muffins for them. But right now I am making theatre.
I believe that the fastest way of traveling to the human heart is through stories. These natural places have stories to tell, but we are losing the ability to listen. I include myself in that. I’m caught in my to-do list, I’m plugged into a podcast and the trail is just a treadmill, or I’m yakking on the phone the whole time. The forest is just a big green wall, and I don’t really know how to get in.
Theatre is a way for us to get in. Maybe it is even the best way.
The forest knows height in a way you and I never will. It is thinking backwards in time down to the ground. This mountain slope has a memory that is geographic. It remembers when the Earth folded rock and the sea drowned valleys. A beach remembers high tide. A snowflake remembers the sky. Like these sites, I, too am made of minerals and tidal waters, I know these upheavals. I’m begging these places to remind me who I am. To fill in the part of my story which is elemental, eternal, absolute. Right now, I need a mountain inside me, I need this story.
Theatre. In and of itself. Inherently. Is it the answer? Or is it just a thing you buy, like a pair of shoes that is pretty and distracting? Is that two-hour show ready to meet the challenge of the anthropocenic age and affect meaningful change?
The deeper background to my own practice is that I was raised by a political activist. My mom had me on the picket lines before my eighth birthday. I stood with her when she testified. I wrote letters with crayons that spilled out of the mailbag onto the county commissioner’s desk. She won some and she lost some. Oh, then came the Bush administration and she lost them all.
Naturally, I rebelled. I rejected the notion that protest was the way to create change. I looked at studies and stats and facts and chose fiction. More than that, I chose magical realism, that form that purports that the inner world is truer than the outer. I justified that creating site-based work was in itself a political act. I wrote this in grant applications. My work makes the real world the stage and changes it, creatively, impossibly, with a vision for something more. And I feel that this does, on some level, challenge our audience to transform the world.
But that was yesterday, that was last year, that was two shows ago. The present is not a time for “on some level” subtlety. Thematic resonance is not enough. I got to a point this spring where I just decided I needed to put climate change on my to-do list. ‘Cause I am practical like that. It’s the only way to get things done.
So I made categories and I said, “Every day I want to take action on climate change in a personal way, within my community, and a national/international arena.” And so, every day, I would do a brainstorm. (I get up early, right?) The personal was easy—I have daily work of homesteading for my family to get us off the grid, and reducing our carbon footprint. So I plant the beets, forage the mushrooms, plan the micro-hydro. I break it to my kid that we are not driving ten kilometres to Starbucks for a muffin. The community level took effort—I ask the principal of my older son’s school what are they doing on the climate change issue, I come “out” on the issue locally, and when I am buying beer at the general store and the talk turns to how hot it is this year, I call it climate change and talk about the local initiative for a solar co-op. On the national level, I try to get educated. (This is hard, I have a brain wired for fiction, and now I am trying to retain facts.) I sign up for 350.org and climatereality.com’s newsletters. I sign every online petition I can. I write letters. Still, it is a tall order. How can I begin to make a difference? It’s so, so daunting…
“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
I go on making lists for daily actions on climate change, but mostly I work. I run an independent theatre company, right? So, sixty hours a week, I work… And I am in the middle of Tinkers, and I start looking at that.
Kevin MacDonald and the family at dinner, in Tinkers.
Tinkers is sited on private property, this old growth forest I mentioned. It’s ten acres. But of course, ten acres isn’t a forest, it’s a stand of trees. The property is part of a much larger forest—much of it old growth—that is slowly being logged. Not by a multi-national corporation, but by local and provincial government. I know about it because there is a local forest watch group. Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) is putting forward a plan to preserve 2000 hectares as a provincial park. (That’s sort of like a national park, for all of you Americans out there.)
I get involved with ELF in small ways. I come out with ten others for “groundtruthing” on a proposed cutblock to count and measure the girth of old growth Douglas firs that aren’t listed in the government assessment docs. After we count, the ten of us sit on the logging road and the talk turns to recipes for road kill. This is a very select audience, I think, those who are activated to save this forest: those with coyotes in deep freeze. I can rally a bigger audience, I think.
But the two-week theatre run of Tinkers is maybe not going to do it. It is a part, but not the whole. I need more engagement, more events, a buildup that can build the movement, that can maybe culminate in Tinkers next summer. What if we could open the show and the provincial park at the same time? That’s a vision! And so I approach Ross Muirhead who leads ELF. They regularly lead hikes into this endangered forest to stir up public support. I talk to him about partnering.
Tinkers director Kendra Fanconi with Ross Muirhead of Elphinstone Logging Focus at Tinkers development workshop.
Which pretty much brings me to the present. Where I doubt what my one body can do to combat climate change, I have faith in what this forest can do. The Only Animal is committed to the preservation of this rare, coastal, old growth forest, this beautiful and valuable carbon sink. A Simon Fraser University study from 2010 says, “The researchers conclude that when a conventional, narrowly focused valuation of forests is broadened to assess the value of forests as carbon storehouses, recreation sites, and sources of products other than timber—wild mushrooms, for example—increased conservation wins out over logging in most cases.” We agree. The Only Animal’s work is to push it to the tipping point. To engage an audience and connect them to this place. To activate that audience towards conservation. Our community is 10,000 people. I think we can reach 3000+ of them through our live events. More on social media. It feels hopeful, doesn’t it?
So now, we aren’t just mounting a production of Tinkers in the forest for a few weeks next summer. We have created ten months of programming leading up to it, with monthly theatrical activations in this endangered forest, including, Trail Mix: a mixtape musical adventure, an illuminated hike on the longest night of the year, an event with puppets made of only forest floor materials, an interspecies song collaboration called Dawn Chorus. If our local community has become disconnected from the forest then we are matchmakers. We are setting them up. We want them to fall hard. Doesn’t it make sense? That you could connect people with place and then that they would act to save it?
Still, I have so many questions.
How do we make activism palatable? The old paradigm was outrage to action. My generation is more likely to go from outrage to overwhelm to Candy Crush. How can we be reached? Urban Dictionary defines solutionary as “A type of revolutionary who makes change by providing a better way to do things.” The Only Animal love this word: it appeals to us as innovators. Can we be solutionary thinkers here? Can we innovate activism?
In our year of theatrical events, we plan to creatively document each piece in short form and feed our social media networks the bites. We know our work is sticky. Folks will share it. That is part of the public awareness piece. Maybe it can translate to public pressure. And we hope those documentation pieces themselves will market our movement to the decision makers. Our forest watch partners will help on that front. If people are too jaded/busy/whatever to go to their representatives themselves, then we will document them, their voices, their presence, their stand and take it forward ourselves.
Still, the questions. Can we save a forest? What is the to-do list? That’s what drives me crazy about trying to affect change in the political system. It’s so nebulous what one actually has to do. But, like any project prep I have ever done, I know I have to prepare my best plan, and then trust that better ideas will come in the room. Or the forest, in this case.
As the logging trucks are driving up the road.
I can’t even…
I’ll go on. It feels better to be in action than to be in despair. I’ll go on. I’m “out” on the climate change issue. It’s my work. I’ll go on. Creatively, with hope, with beauty. With a love of the impossible. I’ll go on.