Our first-ever issue takeover! The Laboratory for Aesthetics and Ecology takeover of the CSPA Quarterly proposes generative spaces of experiment and failure for a speculative, sustainable aesthetics. The issue grapples with the metaphors of compost and glutinous narratives. It paints with the eerily luminous colours of climate breakdown, and offers instructions for post-(r)evolutionary survival. It stays with the troubles of enlisting nonhumans as labourers of detraumatization, and presents cyborg witches as unholy guides towards reparative tactics for modest hope. Edited by Ida Bencke and Dea Antonson. Designed by Zille Bostinius.
Expanded scenography is everywhere. On the streets, in hospitals, at airports, parks and shopping malls and most recently, in the form of knitted pink beanies and protest banners at political rallies. Space ‘performs’ in the everyday, quotidian, and the mundane, providing much inspiration for scenographers both in and beyond conventional theatre. While it could be argued that ‘expanded scenography’ has existed since the beginning of human culture, performance design’s focus on the ‘expanded’ over the last decade has opened up new approaches and artistic insights. Gone are the days when being a stage designer was restricted to ‘working on other people’s shows’ in traditional theatre spaces. Instead, scenography now represents an exciting pathway for imagining and inspiring new realities beyond the confines of the theatrebuilding and its (often elite) audiences (Beer, 2017).
I recently had the pleasure of editing the newest edition of the CSPA Quarterly on ‘Expanded Scenography’ with fellow ecological artists Ian Garrett and Meghan Moe Beticks. Expanded Scenography is an emerging area in the field of stage design that is being increasingly embraced. But what is it? ‘Scenography’ is already a contested term, with multiple definitions, but essentially one that describes the art of creating performance environments. Since the last half of the 20th Century, the term ‘scenography’ has rapidly replaced ‘stage design’, ‘theatre design’ or ‘set design’ in contemporary performance scholarship, and now represents a progressive field that is moving far beyond traditional scenic illustration and naturalistic representation.
I use the term ‘expanded scenography’ to acknowledge an increasing number of performance designers working outside of traditional theatre, and whose passion for socio-ecological issues is at the core of their practice. Expanded scenography uses scenographic strategies (i.e. spatial, narrative, dramaturgical, performative and multi-sensory) as a way of engaging with the world beyond the theatre. I like to think of expanded scenography as stage design that ‘has left the building’ to intersect with daily life. The idea of scenography ‘leaving the building’ can be both literal and metaphoical, but the central premise is one of questioning normative practices and re-imagining what scenography is and what it can become. It is not bound to the schackles of theatre buildings, disciplinary rhetoric and formal expectations. Here, the scenographer is seen as both a designer and artist in their own right (as well as a producer, facilitator and instigator of creative work).
Ecoscenography works across both in expanded scenography and ecoscenography, but it is in the ‘expanded’ realm that I am finding myself the most these days. Perhaps, it is because the ‘expanded’ allows me to be free to explore the possibilities of ecoscenography — to create new ways of working that integrate ecological thinking without the constraints of unsustainable conventions of the mainstream. For example, projects like The Living Stage and This is not Rubbish could be described as ecoscenography within the realm of expanded scenography.
I hope that one day I can also create ecoscenographic designs in more traditional settings. I want to demonstrate that ecological projects can also take place in the beautiful theatres that first inspired me as a young artist. Regardless of whether designers want to work across conventional or more expanded contexts, one thing is clear: opportunities for performance designers have never been more diverse and inspiring. I look forward to seeing more scenographers using their theatre training to explore the potential to expand their practice outside of traditional contexts in the coming years.
Our special issue on ‘Expanded Scenography’ features artists who have ventured outside of the more traditional boundaries of theatre-making and performance design to find their own way of responding to the complex problems that haunt us in today. While incredibly diverse, it is our collaborative desire for contributing to the wider world and being part of the political debate as artists in our own right that unites us in this issue. We hope that this publication opens up discussions that reframe traditional perceptions of scenography and introduces new audiences to its potential. The full journal edition can be accessed here.
More information about Expanded Scenography can be found here.
Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.
Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).
Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)
Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com
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We can’t wait to see how this project evolves. It is a bold, thoughtful response to an issue we will all undoubtably face- and perhaps currently fear. You can help support this incredible work by visiting the HOLOSCENES Kickstarter.
This issue contains content from contributors who were part of Issue #1, along with a few new perspectives. We have lovingly called this issue 1.0. As an experiment in looking back, we’ve re-published Sam Goldblatt’s comprehensive report on greening events from 2009, which cites the London 2012 Sustainability Plan. We’ll check in on this plan in a later issue this year. We are also re-running a call to action from Thomas Rhodes in this issue- on renewable energies in organizations. Have we progressed as a movement since these two writings were initially published?
We’ve invited updated articles from frequent contributor Meghan Moe Beitiks, now part of a new “performance research collective” based in Chicago, as well as Olivia Campbell, writing on site-specific dance and it’s relationship to sustainability. Linda Weintraub has contributed a fantastic essay on the curator’s role within our complex arts ecosystem.
And, of course, we feature Dianna Cohen’s latest works in our issue 1.0. Since our first issue, Dianna’s work has been exhibited in several galleries and museums internationally. She has delivered one of the most memorable TED talks on plastic pollution in our oceans, and continues her work with the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
We thank our collaborators in this issue, and our membership for their ongoing support. The issue is available from MagCloud, both in print (on-demand) and as a digital reader.
Includes: Alyce Santoro, Amanda Gartman, Fusebox Festival, Linda Weintraub, Meghan Moe Beitiks,Moscow Science Art Conference, Sarah Moon
CSPA Quarterly #8 is now available for purchase through MagCloud. Members, your print and digital editions will find their ways to you shortly!.
Our third international issue focuses on projects that call attention to topics that extend well beyond national borders. With a focus on interdependence, and an abundance of contributions about water, ice, and sea rise, this issue addresses the space between national borders- our oceans. Featuring work from Moe Beitiks, Chantal Bilodeau, Eve Mosher, Michael Pinksy, Christopher Robbins, and Liz Ward.
Q9 Intersection: Science and Culture
We’ve been noticing a flurry of work that exists at the intersection between art and science. This includes installation and performance pieces that challenge scientific claims, and work that utilizes science to prove a point, or to reach a new audience. It’s about fact-imbedded art, or emotions and reasoning co-existing.
CSPA Quarterly 1.0
Our tenth issue anniversary! For this issue, we will breathe new life into our pilot issue, and will check in with those participating artists.
Featured artists include Susannah Mira, Thomas Buttery, Jeremy Pickard, Hui Ling Lee, Eric Leshinsky and Zach Moser.
Please share with us any work that creatively addresses global issues in sustainability. We are particularly interested in projects happening outside of the United States that pay attention to global dilemmas including global warming, rising sea levels, disappearing cultures, and economic divides. A special section will be dedicated to work at the UN’s Conference of the Parties, summit on climate change in Cancun in December.
International Action Deadline for Submission: January 10, 2011
For this issue, we are interested in art projects, installations, and performances that visualize invisible threats to our environmental, economic, or cultural sustainability. How can our creative industries call public attention to major issues that are easy to ignore because they are ‘out of sight, out of mind?’
Invisible Visibility Deadline for Submission: February 1, 2011.
The CSPA Quarterly explores sustainable arts practices in all genres, and views sustainability in the arts through environmentalism, economic stability, and cultural infrastructure. The periodical provides a formal terrain for discussion, and seeks to elevate diverse points of view.
Please send your opinion articles, project case studies, researched essays, and photos to: Miranda@SustainablePractice.org.
To view past issues, along with our current issue on digital work, please visit: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/Magazine/38626
by Ian Garrett
Published in the Winter edition of the CSPA Quarterly, which was focused on the 2009 United Nations Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen. To view or order back issues, visit http://magcloud.com/browse/Magazine/38626. To subscribe to the CSPA QUARTERLY, join us! http://www.sustainablepractice.org/join-the-cspa/
While political demonstrations traditionally pit two opposing ideologies against each other–think World Trade Organization meetings and anti-globalization activism–the demonstrations and activities around the 15th annual Conference of the Partners (COP15) were surprisingly complimentary to the talks themselves. The grassroots activists were not opposed to the political maneuverings, but rather wanted to see them go farther. This “will to move forward” allowed for creativity in demonstrations and amplified artistic activism. Curation at local museums and art sites took advantage of the agreed-upon topics of COP15, setting programming well in advance. The more guerilla forces of the art world seized the collective momentum, and artistic presentation during the two-weeks of the climate summit spanned from museum gallery to street happening. While the politicians represented their national agenda, the artists represented the natural world.
The Nation Gallery of Denmark laid the ground work for understanding the environment through artistic representation with their exhibition “Nature Strikes Back: Man and Nature in Western Art”. The aggressive titling is meant to communicate the show’s theme of man seeking dominance over nature. It focuses on how nature in art is rarely a direct representation, but a symbol for itself and man’s relationship to it. This relationship is articulated through five themes: Exploitation, Human Nature, Order and Systems, Landscape and Disaster.
Within the exhibition, “Nature Strikes Back” offers a picture of nature that highlights a clear separation between man and the natural world. A significant point is made to articulate the significance of the landscape conceptually. Having not appeared in European language until the late 16th Century, the word ‘landscape’ has a loaded history of invoking ownership of that which is depicted. This exhibition also clearly addresses the issues of where the border between our inner and outer natures lie, our sense of the idyllic and edenic paradise, as well as our attempts to organize. The story here is one of control and mastery of the physical world and its latter-day break down. The strike which is being made in return is one that equates judgement day to severe climate changes as retaliation against our enclosure and exploitation. This conclusion keeps man at the center of the issue though, which is problematic. It continues to define nature as a logical system to which we stand opposed and from which we will see active retaliation against our harmful activities, missing the mark on man’s inclusion within natural systems.
“Nature Strikes Back”, and its importance, is clearest when its relationship to another exhibition called “Rethink: Contemporary Art and Climate Change” is considered. “Rethink” is an extensive exhibition of installations displayed across four institutions in three spaces and the virtual world. This exhibition was also divided thematically, though perhaps more opaquely by its titles: Rethink Relations at the National Gallery of Denmark, Rethink The Implicit at the Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art, Rethink Kakotopia at the Nikolaj Contemporary Art Center, and Rethink Information, which was on the Internet at a satellite exhibition at the Moesgård Museum (in Århus) and as public performance throughout Copenhagen.
Man at the center of natural representation, as found in a traditional gallery format, provides the historical background of “Rethink” both in the sense of nature in art and traditions in presentation. This exhibition of contemporary pieces focuses primarily on generative and phenomenological work, with many articulating systems through demonstration and/or dramatization instead of classification. Programmed into a heavily ambulatory, semi-public space, without a fee, dynamically connected to its other locations through virtual space, “Rethink” is not just contemporary work, but contemporary presentation. The work not only speaks to being connected to natural systems like in Thomas Saraceno’s “Biospheres” and Olafur Eliasson’s “Your Watercolor Machine”, but is placed in shared open space diminishing barriers to access and the creation of connection to the work.
Together, these exhibitions, including the other locations of “Rethink”, serve as a history and foundation for looking at other artistic endeavors in Copenhagen. Individually they look at representations of our understanding of the natural work. “Nature Strikes Back” represents it as something to be classified and contained, while “Rethink” represents it as something to be experienced and studied. Paired, they reflect what has changed in our perceptions over time. And, while they inform one another, they inform the less mainstream exhibitions outside of curated space even more.
REPRESENTING THE PRESENT
Millennium Art’s “CO2 Cube”, featured in this issue of the quarterly, uses a methodology befitting inclusion in “Rethink”. It is a 27 square foot cube, reflecting the volume of one ton of carbon dioxide, and floated in the lake adjacent to the Tycho Brahe Planetarium. It features current data and video about climate change, pulled from the internet that day, streaming across its two faces which are closest to shore. While its form articulates a natural relationship of man in the contemporary world (this volume of CO2 is what the average american produces in two weeks), the media reflected on its service aims for immediacy even with the lag created by the curatorial impact of the projects relationships with the United Nations, Google and YouTube.
One can also look at the example of “7 Meters”, also featured in this issue. It is a project that’s primary visual impact was in the plentiful flashing red LEDs mounted at seven meters above the ground to reflect the anticipated sea level rise should the ice of Greenland melt. Using projected data, it creates an expansive experience throughout Copenhagen, representing the ghost of climates future by tracing a drastic change in the immediate surroundings. And there is also Mark Coreth’s “Polar Ice Bear”, a polar bear skeleton embedded within an ice sculpture of the same bear, left to melt in public. It exchanges data for exposure to the elements. While it never completed melting due to sub-zero temperatures later in the conference, it combined a known symbol of climate change (the polar bear) with a phenomena of climate change (melting ice) to produce an effective and connective experience through its thematic representations. Both of these projects connect directly to both their immediate environment and larger environmental issues.
All three of these examples were presented in public, high traffic spaces. They focus on a human relationship by representing our downstream effects, both immediate in the sense of the cube as our CO2 output, and that which is more abstract, as with the Ice Bear’s melt created by ambient temperature (which we have a long term collective effect upon). And so, these factors articulate the next step beyond the exhibitions of “Nature Strikes Back” and “Rethink”. They continue the narrative of natural interconnection and immediateness and highlight the core difference between those gallery shows. Whereas “Nature Strikes Back” articulates man vs. nature, “Rethink” and these public space exhibits articulate man with nature.
ACTING AS REPRESENTATIVES
The red-suited, fedora wearing Climate Debt Agents (who sing), the similarly attired, but otherwise hued Mr. Green of OxFam, the aliens of Azaaz.org, the awards-night ambiance of the “Fossil of the Day” awards. These costumed, theatrical performances infuse humor and inclusivity into the plain-clothed protesters and demonstrators. In these performative, engaging acts, once can see that the opposite of cataloging nature is taking action on its behalf. These creative, complimentary demonstrations blur protest and performance art, and exist in the realm of happenings.
The Yes Men, artists who practice ‘identity correction’ by appearing as high-powered spokespersons of corporations, were most noted for their series of press releases on Monday, December 14, 2009. Teamed with Thierry Geoffroy, a.k.a The Colonel, and headquartered at Gallery Poulsen, the Yes Men created what was likely the most effective and affective of actions, where this performance/protest integration was most clear. They called into question Canadian environmental policy through a series of official-seeming statements that were authentic enough to fool news organizations for a number of hours during the day. This temporary hijacking of political identity no longer relies on the representational visual articulations we see in the National Gallery. Instead this direct, subversive action on the behalf of the natural world–using the authentic voice of the Canadian government–represents nature back to man through advocacy, rather than through symbols.
The New Life Festival, organized by Wooloo.org, did not produce or display art itself, but enabled the hosting and accommodation of visitors in Danish homes. It arranged housing for over 3,000 artists and activists during COP15. This allowed many people who otherwise could not afford to be present to observe this moment in history. The New Life Festival also addressed perceptions of Denmark’s closed-off society. Primarily documented with guest books meant to help the guests and host families get to know one another, this project has completely forfeited aesthetic representational work, symbolism or synecdoche. Instead it has enabled direct representation, articulating a peopled mass by enabling it to gather.
Along with the ambitious collection of interviews by Open Dialogues, a literary UK collective, the ecological burial contracts from the Danish art group Superflex, and the anti-Coca Cola campaign from the Yes Men, these projects define success through congregation and collective energy in defense of the natural world. Working in the name of art, they give voice to two key entities absent from COP15: planet and people.
REPRESENTING SUCCESS IN REPRESENTATIVE FAILURE
In light of what is widely regarded as the failure of COP15 itself, having been unable to reach a binding agreement politically, there is hope and elements of success to which the arts can speak. Closing the Bella Center to NGOs, and the addition of a second credentialing process (meant to remove non-political dialogue from the meetings), underscores this ‘success’. That decision reflects a perceived threat from those who did not represent a political body’s or a nation’s political interest: the people in support of the natural world itself. This group that threatens the political process is the success of these two weeks in Copenhagen. It is a group from around the globe, from all walks of life, which is made of people that are as varied as the ways a changing climate will affect them, and which is reified by gathering and identifying itself as a mass en masse.