As an organisation that combines arts, activism and research with a pretty hefty focus on the damage caused by UK oil companies, we were super-excited to have a flick through the third issue of an online arts magazineMAKE8ELIEVE, that aims to “build international connections by publishing creative interpretations of one topic per issue.”
It’s a 254 page, full colour labour of love, with submissions from many different artists with a dizzying variety of practices. Campaigners on oil issues would do well to have a browse and draw inspiration from the creativity of the contributions rather than falling back on what can become quite a tired pallet of images and associations that evoke the impacts of the global oil industry.
It’s particularly great to see Liberate Tate‘s dramatic participatory and unsolicited The Gift that took place in Tate Modern last July, and involved the installation of a 16 metre wind turbine blade as a reaction to Tate’s ongoing and increasingly controversial sponsorship relationship with BP. You can browse this stunning publication below (Liberate Tate can be seen on pages 151-161), or visit the MAKE8ELIEVE site for more info on the artists.
We’re looking to hire not one, but two positions. Please share this info with anyone who you think might be interested and help us find some really great people!
The deadline for both sets of applicants is 6.00pm Friday the 14th September.
Coordinator for ‘Shake! Young Voices in Arts, Media, Race & Power’ Driving our three-year cultural activism programme with young people (16-25 years old) tackling social and environmental injustice from a race perspective. Shake! will develop a new generation of cultural activists. The new post will co-ordinate with a team of artist-facilitators, campaigners, young people and partner organisations, and oversee dissemination of Shake’s work to a wider public. More info here.
Oil & Human Rights Campaigner Investigating and challenging the environmental and human rights abuses carried out by oil companies in the Niger Delta. Supporting social movements and activists in Nigeria in exposing and holding those responsible to account. Challenging British military and diplomatic support for oil-driven militarisation. More info here.
ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.
Beneath the Pavement: A Garden is a project that considers biological forms in relation to political and social systems. It looks at the potential of a small plot of land on the Loughborough University campus to tell social and political stories, deconstructing systems, propagating them and watching them grow.
We often inform our economics, architecture, political structures and artwork with systems of nature. What happens if we re-impose these interpretations back onto nature or have them assume roles based on interpretations of these systems?
Launching the project, a three day workshop offered participants the opportunity to collectively debate, design and create edible landscapes based on political systems. With contributions from a diverse range of artists, academics and environmentalists, these discussions informed how the plot is re-invented; creating a site for exchange and production around issues relating to the local and global food economy.
Over subsequent months the garden will act as a meeting place, as participants help tend the land and see this newly created garden grow and thrive.
Across the 3 day workshop participants collectively debated, designed and created edible landscapes based on political systems. These conversations included contributions from political scientists and theorists, local policy makers, sociologists, ecologists and urban planners.
On the first day there was a tour of local food producers and distribution networks, and meetings with key politicians and environmentalists. On the second day there was a number of workshops and presentations by academics and campaigners whose work is centred around creating or advocating for a more sustainable future. The final day was taken up with deciding how the piece of land would be cultivated, and included elements of garden design, mapping the layout and content of the space.
Amy Franceschini (USA) and Myriel Milicevic (Germany) have been working together since 2004. They are drawn together under a common interest in how humans interact with the environment around them. They often use highly interactive workshop environments to play out scenarios of social and political significance. www.futurefarmers.com
Just as we’ve been publishing our ever expanding lists of campaigns in the run up to COP15, and as we’re on the verge of launching our own one, Arts for COP15, Green.tv asks the question “Are there too many climate campaigns?” [Their blog is currently down today… so you’ll have to take my word for it]. Have we become “bored” with the issue of climate change because of campaign overload?
For climate campaigners the real frustration is the slowness of change. The public still seem reluctant to clamour at politicians in the way we’d like them to. Could this be because they are just getting too many messages? That list of sixteen actions for COP15 is by no means exhaustive. Is this a case of too much information?
I don’t think so. Three reasons:
1) For a start, the nature of social media means that this fragmentation is going to happen, whether we like it or not. For better or worse, there will no longer be a single source of authority on any political discussion like this. On the plus side, climate campaigners like Franny Armstrong have shown how incredibly effective social media are for spreading a message.
2) Secondly, though the campaigns are diverse, climate NGOs are showing a great deal of resourcefulness. Most of the campaigns listed below are actually partnerships between several campaigns – Greenpeace, WWF, Oxfam, Age of Stupid et al. Charities usually have a parochial tendency to defend their own turf with one eye on their own future fundraising – but in this case there is a lot of sharing going on.
3) So what’s the problem? With all this heat being created why aren’t more poeple taking action? Perhaps in this case we’re blaming the medium, not the message. Most campaigns on energy and climate do not interest the mass of the people worldwide. The avaaz.org map of actions for Monday 21 September is worth looking at. Why is there a huge disparity between the numbers of actions being taken in different countries? We have to think hard about what messages appeal to the mass of people who are more aspirational than ourselves. (That’s not to say they need to be directly aspirational messages; the most effective political campaigns in recent times have usually been based on fear.)
We are in a research period, still looking for the right message. We have not found it yet. Now is not the time to start cutting down on the multiplicity of voices. Eventually one of us is going to get the right campaign, the killer one, the one that convinces more than just our friends.
As American writer Barbara Ehrenreich suggests in her book Bright-Sided, it’s now OK to say that optimism may be over-rated. If a relentless economic positivism led to the economic crash, I’d also say that an instituational inability to say how dire things really are environmentally must now be seen as one of the contributing factors to why the public are reluctant to back the kind of radical measures we need from COP15.
In private, climate experts often admit they’re scared silly about what the future’s going to be like; in public they maintain a more positive face. There are, of course, very good reasons for this. Conventionally, we assume that people don’t change unless there’s something in it for them. But what if the climate crisis doesn’t fit this paradigm for cultural change? What if we actually need to start to panic to achieve change?
A slightly comic tussle took place on Monday in the Guardian between two people – both climate campaigners – who hold opposing views on this. The new British bugle blower for looking apocalypse in the face has been the writer and activist Paul Kingsnorth, who, along with his friend Dougald Hine, established the anti-modernist Dark Mountain Project to urge us to embrace the end of civilisation, (see this blog from a few weeks ago). Kingsnorth’s radical view is that civilisation is the disease, not the cure. Any efforts civilisation makes to combat climate change are doomed to failure, and will only prolong the descent.
Kingsnorth and the Guardian’s climate rottweiler George Monbiot went to head on this, Kingsnorth belittling Monbiot’s efforts to browbeat us to reform ourselves:
We still believe that we will be able to continue living more or less the same comfortable lives (albeit with more windfarms and better lightbulbs) if we can only embrace “sustainable development” rapidly enough; and that we can then extend it to the extra 3 billion people who will shortly join us on this already gasping planet.
It’s an odd situation for Monbiot to find himself in. Monbiot is more accustomed to coming under attack from the denial-bots of the conspiracist fringe. Now activist Kingsnorth himself is attacking his friend Monbiot forbeing a denialist. You have to feel sorry for the man. Interestingly poet and author Kingsnorth comes at the issue as much as an artist as a camaigner – and as noted earlier – art often scratches at the apocalyptic door.
Monbiot’s obvious defence is to point out that Kingsnorth’s millenarianism has a lurid seam of misanthropy to it:
I note that you have failed to answer my question about how many people the world could support without modern forms of energy and the systems they sustain, but 2 billion is surely the optimistic extreme. You describe this mass cull as “a long descent” or a “retreat to a saner world”. Have you ever considered a job in the Ministry of Defence press office?
Monbiot is right of course. Kingsnorth’s world is a dark one. It’s just whenever I hear Monbiot arguing like this, there’s something about the primness of his tone, the convolutions of his clauses and the use of words like “surely” that always makes me think of Miss Jean Brodie.
But despite the misanthropy of Kingsnorth’s position, he has hit on a real achilles heel of the climate change movement. It’s never healthy to believe one thing and say another.
By the by, Kingsnorth himself refers to Monbiot’s love of McCarthy’s The Road as evidence of Monbiot’s own millenarianism. Kingsnorth and I have been disagreeing about that book (see comments); he doesn’t think it’s about climate change at all. It’s one of those arguments where the only solution will be to pull McCarthy off the sidewalk and ask him himself:
EDIT. Coincidentally, Bill McKibben and Steven Colbert also danced around the same maypole on the Colbert Report, with Cobert adopting a slightly lighter form of millenarianism: “It’s game over. We should all have end of the world sex, right now. We’re all going to die!”