Climate Change

Can art help us viscerally understand climate change?

Lars Jan’s HOLOSCENES is an epic public art and performance installation that is a visual, visceral response to climate change. Presented in public space, the centerpiece of HOLOSCENES is a large aquarium that floods, drains, and floods again by way of a hydraulic system that moves 12 tons of water in a minute. The aquarium is inhabited by a performer conducting one of many everyday behaviors sourced from collaborators across the planet.

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.

 

 

Crossing a Line

This post comes from Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog.

Alanna Mitchell is not an actor. It’s one of the first things she tells you in Sea Sick, The Play, which she recently performed at The Theatre Centre in Toronto. In fact, Alanna Mitchell is a science journalist and author. She has written for the New York Times and The Globe & Mail, has done TV and radio documentaries for CBC, and has published two books about the dire state of our oceans: Invisible Plastic: What Happens When Your Garbage Ends Up in the Ocean and Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis. Then what is Alanna Mitchell doing on a theatre stage, presenting a one-woman show?

A compelling speaker – watch her Ted talk here – Mitchell grew up in the Canadian prairies listening to her father’s stories about Darwin. Then some years ago, after spending much of her career trying to understand what was happening on land, she embarked on a journey to discover what was going on in the ocean. The real story, as she puts it. What she uncovered became her book Sea Sick, a sobering look at the chemical changes taking place in the liquid part of our world. Sea Sick was awarded the Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment in 2010. Now four years later, Mitchell has brought it to the stage.

Documentary theatre is not a new form. Companies like Nature Theatre of OklahomaTectonic Theater Project and The Civilians often create pieces based on interviews that are presented verbatim. Along the same line, artists like Anna Deavere Smith (Fires In the Mirror), Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen (The Exonerated), and Nilaja Sun (No Child) have created iconic plays based on documentary material. But what these plays have in common is that they all sprung from theatre artists’ imagination and were performed by trained actors. They are very much of the theatre. Sea Sick, The Play, however, sprung from a journalist’s passion for the environment and is performed by an untrained actor. At its core, it lives in a different place; it just happened to have made its way to the stage.

Does it matter? Yes. Not because of the quality of the script (it’s great). Not because of the quality of Mitchell’s performance (she’s great). But because a line  was crossed. We are very much a society of “experts” and while there are advantages to that, there are also drawbacks; we tend to live isolated in our knowledge silos and have a fragmented view of the world. The health system is a good example of that phenomenon. You can find a specialist for the most obscure disease, but finding a doctor who can look at the big picture and see you as a complete system is another story. The same is true for universities; they are incredible repositories of knowledge but the people who work in those universities often have no idea of what is happening next door. And although the arts have new hybrid categories such as multidisciplinary arts and interdisciplinary arts that encourage cross-over, for the most part, artists stick to their areas of expertise.

Yet as a cultural norm, knowledge fragmentation is no longer viable. The scope and complexity of climate change, and the interconnectedness of all its different manifestations, call for a coming together of skills, brains and hearts. We have to learn to work together – across disciplines, across geographic boundaries, across ideologies. And in order to do that, we have to be willing to listen and meet people where they are. Even if that means crossing a line we normally wouldn’t cross.

I saw a workshop of Sea Sick this past February as part of York University’s Staging Sustainability conference. For about an hour, I listened to a journalist tell me stories about red tides, spawning corals, blobs, Australian biologists, and submersible dives. I reflected, I laughed, I cried. And in the process I learned about ocean warming and acidification, the consequences of fertilizer runoff, climate change science, and mass extinctions. I learned about the power of forgiveness, about the fact that the pieces of the future are still in motion, and about having the courage, as Mitchell did, to cross a line. Here’s a woman who, even before she wrote the book, uncovered something so big that it totally overwhelmed her: “I feel like I’m just this little kid from the prairies, who dreamed too big, hit a story she couldn’t handle. I feel like I’m never gonna be worthy to tell this story.”

Yet not only did Mitchell write the book but she climbed on a stage to tell us the story. She showed, on a small scale, that it’s possible to transcend one’s own fears and self-imposed limitations. She showed that you can stretch yourself to meet people where they are – in this case, in a theatre – and still be who you are. “Science gives us knowledge, but not necessarily meaning. Art gives us meaning. And it’s meaning that we respond to. It’s meaning that I care about.” Sea Sick is the story of an ocean in crisis, but it’s also the story of a woman who bravely stepped out of her knowledge silo to tell us about it.

Filed under: Theatre

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Artists and Climate Change is a blog by playwright Chantal Bilodeau that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Kinetic Sculpture

This post comes from Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

Kinetic sculptor Anthony Howe probably doesn’t consider himself a “climate change artist”. But as of today, I have officially added his name to the growing list of international artists showcased on this blog whose work inspires others to take action on climate change. Or, perhaps more importantly, whose work inspires others to have hope for the future.

Howe’s psychedelic wind sculptures do exactly that, at least for me.

Disclaimer: I am hopelessly passionate about the wind. As the daughter of an architect who collected wind chimes, I make a living photographing wind energy construction projects. Must have been a bird or a kite in my previous life.

It was this video of Howe’s magnificent 7,100 pound (3,200 kg) stainless steel sculpture called Octo 3 – built to sustain winds of 90+ mph – that first caught my eye.

You could say I’ve been seduced, hypnotized: I find myself returning almost daily for my fix, witnessing again and again that fluid, fleeting moment when the tips of the 16 blades almost kiss in the center before the wind gently pulls them apart, only to repeat itself… forever.

Apparently I am not the only one who feels this way. Among the 10,000+ YouTube viewers, someone left this remark: “I swear it is so mesmerizing I could sit and watch it all day.”

To create such delicate, rhythmic, harmonious sculptures, Howe must also be an expert mechanic, welder, sheet metal worker, engineer, and electrician (to repair his many electric tools). Just take a look at his studio on Orkas Island near the Canadian-American border in northwest Washington State: my father would have been so happy there.

I too am surrounded by mechanics, welders, sheet metal workers, engineers and electricians on the many construction sites where I photograph wind turbines. I search for beauty in these mechanical and industrial landscapes, inspired by the photographer Margaret Bourke-White. My goal is to try to create a sense of awe about wind energy, to inspire others with the beauty and majesty of wind energy in order that some may embrace renewables as one of the many solutions to climate change.

I am quite sure that Howe’s artistic goals are different than mine. However, even though his kinetic sculptures do not generate electricity like wind turbines, they all take advantage of the wind’s mechanical energy. So from my perspective, you will allow me the luxury of imagining a day when one of Howe’s kinetic sculptures will inspire a young engineer to design a different kind of wind turbine – like this wind tree – that everyone will want to install right in their own front yards. Should that day ever come, well then, we would be one step closer to reducing our addiction to fossil fuels.

That’s why I’d like to call Anthony Howe a “climate change artist”. Perhaps it’s time to enlarge the definition of “climate change artist”, to focus less on objectives of the artist, and more on the impact of his or her art on global audiences in terms of inspiring creative solutions to climate change.

To finish, I share with you a wonderful quote by the poet-economist Joseph Robertson: “The amount of energy trapped in hydrocarbon molecules deep underground is miniscule in comparison to the amount of solar energy that lands on the surface of the Earth and the resulting kinetic energy that moves around our planet all day, every day.”

Thanks Mr. Howe, for your wonderful kinetic gift.

For renewable energy construction photography, visit Joan’s website

Follow Joan on Twitter @CleanNergyPhoto 

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Artists and Climate Change is a blog by playwright Chantal Bilodeau that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Climate change photography: a call to arms

This post comes from Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

 

When someone asked me recently what kind of photography I do, my response “climate change photography” elicited this comment: “Oh, you mean chasing glaciers?” He was referring, of course, to the documentary film Chasing Ice about still photographer James Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey, which provides hauntingly beautiful visual proof of one of the (many) impacts of climate change.

I found myself explaining to this dinner party acquaintance that climate change photography is not limited to melting glaciers or stranded polar bears. Ideally, climate change photography should focus on all aspects of climate change – causes, impacts, mitigation and adaptation. Then he asked me what mitigation was…

That’s when I realized I had some homework to do. I needed a simple definition of climate change photography, one that would resonate with the masses. In short, I needed to develop a 30-second elevator pitch to describe what I do and why I do it.

I spent the next several weeks clicking around the Internet, only to discover that there is no official definition of “climate change photography” (nor, for that matter, “climate change art” – although that is quickly changing). Moreover, my Google search results for “climate change photography” were dominated by the name of one photographer – James Balog. This may give some people (like my dinner party acquaintance) the mistaken impression that if you are not documenting melting glaciers or stranded polar bears, then you are not a climate change photographer.

There are, for example, several photographers focusing on the human face of climate change, such as American photographers Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele, and Swiss photographers Mathias Braschler and Monika Fischer. Both couples explore the loss of livelihood and culture due to climate change.

There are other photographers focusing on the humanitarian consequences of climate change, such as members of the photo cooperative NOOR, whose diverse images collectively point to the same conclusion: that most social disruption – conflict, food riots, drought, forced migration, refugees, sickness and hunger – can be attributed either directly or indirectly to climate change.

If we wanted to stretch the definition of climate change photography even further, we could include those daredevil “storm chaser” photographers such as Mick Hollingshead whose breathtaking images of supercells and tornadoes provide additional evidence of the increased frequency and intensity of violent storms related to warmer temperatures and more humid air.

Or the growing number of photographers drawn to document the environmental and human impact from unconventional drilling – also known as fracking – of so-called “clean” and “ethical” fossil fuels (both of which require vast amounts of fresh water…), such as Garth Lenz, Eugene Richards, and the collaborative Marcellus Shale Documentary Project.

I could go on and on… you get the point:  climate change photography is as broad as the subject of climate change is complex. Difficult to define.

But the longer I thought about it, the more I realized that climate change photographers fall into two loosely defined camps:

1)   Those who primarily focus on the “negative” impacts/consequences of climate change; and

2)   Those who primarily focus on what I would like to call the “silver lining” of the dark climate change cloud. (And there are probably many photographers doing both, e.g., Gary Braasch.)

The vast majority of self-described climate change photographers fall into the “negative impact” camp, i.e., they provide stunning imagery of the most visible and disturbing impacts of climate change: extreme weather, historic droughts, temperature records, ice-free Arctic summers, rising seas, melting glaciers, coastal erosion, storm surges, forest fires, ruined crops, food riots, dried river beds, forced migration and refugees; etc.

In contrast, only a handful of photographers fall into the “silver lining” camp, i.e., using their cameras to shift the global climate change conversation from despair to optimism, from apathy to action. To celebrate the many opportunities – economic, environmental and health – to be gained from transitioning to a clean energy economy.

Why is this distinction important? Because I believe climate change photographers have a critical role to play in constructively influencing the debate about the way forward. As I posted earlier, GEO Magazine’s Peter-Matthias Gaede noted way back in 2007 that “People will turn away from environmental issues if the media reports only on disasters and problems.”  Duke’s Dean Bill Chameides came to the same conclusion earlier this year in his #mustread post “The dark side of environmental art” citing research called:  Fear won’t do it.

The writer Marion Davis says the same thing in a different way: “It’s one of the first lessons you learn in journalism: People care about people. If your readers can’t relate to what you’re telling them, if it’s not tangible, they’re not going to pay attention. So if you want to make a difference, you can’t just provide information – you have to frame it in human terms.”

This is where the future of climate change photography comes in. We can provide real-life portraits of individuals, companiescities and now entire U.S. states already moving forward, ignoring the noise, focusing on solutions and the inevitable transition to a clean energy economy.

For inspiration, take a look at this beautiful video produced by Sir Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room to get a sense of what I mean: it provides excellent examples of the kinds of upbeat, positive photo/video essays we photographers need to produce in order to drown out the gloom-and-doom that dominates both traditional and social media. To change the mood music, as Jonathon Porritt coined.

The Carbon War Room video states clearly that climate change is humanity’s biggest challenge. Ever. But it can also unlock a world of opportunities as we transition to a low carbon economy. There are dozens of cool ideas described on 100% renewable energy-inspired The Solutions Project website, which climate change photographers could spend literally the rest of their lifetimes documenting.

I recognize the important historical value of documenting vanishing coastlines, glaciers, species, ways of life, even whole island nations. This will remain an important role for some climate change photographers for decades to come. However, since the majority of people already connect the dots between the melting glaciers, rising seas, extreme weather and climate change, I think it is important to encourage the next generation of climate change photographers to move beyond the “negative impact” stories of climate change and concentrate more on the “silver lining” stories that will inspire people and politicians to take concrete action. Only a tiny minority of people refuses to “see” the undeniable evidence of climate change – 2% in Canada and 12% in the US – and no amount of stunning visual imagery of melting glaciers will convince them otherwise.

So let’s turn our cameras to the future. Let’s help make renewables mainstream. Let’s produce compelling photo essays of some of the already existing mitigation and adaptation activities at various stages of experimentation or commercialization:  green architecture; smart windows; cryogenics; micro-windmills, EVs, solar orbs, even the humble rhubarb. Let’s focus on the positive, on making the science of climate change empowering rather than disempowering. Because there’s still hope for the future: the end of fossil fuels is no longer just a crazy dream:  the shift to a low-carbon economy has already started, even without the Holy Grail of a “legally binding” post-Kyoto global agreement.

The speed at which renewable energy technologies are changing is breathtaking. If the next generation of climate change photographers would keep their eyes on the prize – a 100% clean energy economy in our lifetimes – they can collectively contribute to what Paul Guilding has described as one of the most transformational economic changes the world has ever seen. I can’t think of a better career choice.  Bonne chance!

For positive images of renewable energy construction, visit Joan’s website.

Follow Joan on Twitter @CleanNergyPhoto.

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Artists and Climate Change is a blog by playwright Chantal Bilodeau that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Waiting for Climate Change

This post comes from Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

We, the collective we, seem to be waiting passively for someone else to “do something” about climate change. Someone else to think. Someone else to act. Someone else to lead. Not me. Not now. No way.

“Waiting for climate change” is Cordal’s 2012 masterpiece. Described as a “Lilliputian army which attests to the end of an era” by David Moinard, Cordal’s miniature clay figurines – no larger than 25 cm – stand passively on Flemish beaches, some up to their necks in sand, as if waiting for the inevitable rising seas to swallow them whole.

Isaac Cordal, climate change, Belgium, waitingIn addition, Cordal perched 10 small figurines atop wooden pedestals, wearing scuba goggles or flotation devices, gazing impassively at the horizon. Still others occupy empty rooms in a dilapidated 1930’s-era beachfront villa.

Painted in drab business suits, most of Cordal’s anonymous clay figurines clutch vestiges of their uniform existence: briefcases and cell phones. Many also wear life preservers around their waists and arms, ready for the flood. Tiny, almost invisible, they speak volumes about the absurdity of our collective inertia regarding climate change.

Cordal’s docile figures remind me of Huxley’s soma-induced Brave New World, where everyone (except the emotional Shakespeare-inspired Savage) is submissive, obedient, and acquiescent.

These and other temporary installations – which Cordal prefers to call interventions – are part of a larger, ongoing street art project entitled “Cement Eclipses.” This unique body of work meticulously, precariously positions tiny statuettes in the most unexpected places – on gutters, in puddles, the edges of buildings, telephone lines, fences, bus stops, even cracks in the road – in abandoned corners of urban environments. To date, Cordal has created 60 miniature environmental interventions in cities as diverse as Riga, Chiapas, Zagreb, London, Bogatá, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Málaga, Milan, Nantes, Vienna, Berlin, Brussels, San José, San Francisco, Orebro, Murcia.

Not all of Cordal’s interventions address climate change directly. But every one forces critical reflection upon the ecological impact of our irresponsible consumer behaviour, which is directly responsible for the exploitation of finite natural resources. As an existential artist, Cordal is obsessed with the question: What are we doing to our world?

For example, one of Cordal’s 2013 sculptures as part of a larger installation called “Follow The Leaders” was meant to draw attention to the faceless businessmen who run our capitalist global order. However, after going viral online, a photograph of this sculpture was baptized “Politicians talking about climate change” by social media users.

Isaac Cordal, climate change, Berlin, waiting

I’m willing to bet that Cordal’s photo of a group of his clay businessmen submerged in a Berlin puddle will re-appear and re-appear on Twitter for years if not decades to come. It is a perfect example of the subversive nature of art: how artists must first create friction in order to generate new ways of seeing, understanding. To me, this is climate change art at its finest.

By “celebrating the small” Cordal includes a subliminal message in each tiny figurine, either solo or in groups. An interview in the Global Post quotes Cordal in Phaidon, “Cement Eclipses is a critique of our behaviour as a social mass. It refers to this collective inertia that leads us to think that our small actions cannot change anything. But I believe that every small act can contribute to a big change. Many small changes can bring back social attitudes that manipulate the global inertia and turn it into something more positive.”

All photos posted here were taken by the artist, Isaac Cordal.

Follow Joan Sullivan her photo website and on Twitter @CleanNergyPhoto

Filed under: Sculpture, Visual Arts

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Artists and Climate Change is a blog by playwright Chantal Bilodeau that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

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International Women’s Day/Month 2014

This post comes from Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

With March being #IWD month, I’ve spent several days scouring the internet for inspiring stories of creative women using their art to raise awareness about climate change.  Here are two videos — one from the west coast, one from the east coast — which highlight the important contribution that women artists are making to the global climate change conversation.

 

Australian Margaret Wertheim’s amazing TED talk describes the global hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef (CCR) project which she and her twin sister Christine created and curate through their Institute For Figuring (IFF) in Los Angeles, California. The CCR is an ongoing, experimental,  participative feminine handicraft project that re-creates coral reefs using the technique of “hyperbolic crochet“.  Below are two images from the IFF’s Crochet Coral Reef website, reprinted here with permission:

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According to the IFF website, this unique fiber arts project is “the nexus of maths, handicrafts, environmentalism, community art, feminism and science” and, simultaneously, “a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the marine world” due to climate change, notably ocean warming, acidification and pollution.

On the other side of the country, the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)’ art gallery is currently hosting a  five-month exhibition called Voyage of Discovery, through 31 May 2014.  This collaborative exhibit by three Washington, D.C. artists — Michele Banks, Jessica Beels and Ellyn Weiss – provides an artistic interpretation of climate change that transports gallery visitors to a shifting polar region “where the iconic, seemingly eternal, landscape of ice and snow is in profound and rapid transition due to climate change.”

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A lovely review of Voyage of Discovery by the Huffington Post includes several images of the diverse media used by these three artists, including these two very different works:

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According to the AAAS gallery website:  ”The artwork in Voyage of Discovery has its roots in the idea of a journey of scientific exploration, in the tradition of Darwin, Wallace, and the thousands of scientists who constantly travel the globe in search of new findings… The pieces in this show… are not strictly based on scientific data.  They reflect the artists’ responses to the transformation of land and sea – the melting of glaciers and the thawing of permafrost, the movement of previously unknown species and microbes into the region, the dramatic shifts of the color of the land from white to green to black.  The artwork takes a broad view of these changes: the artists are deeply aware of the damage done by climate change, yet intrigued by the possibilities of what lies below the ice and snow.”

Follow Joan on Twitter @CleanNergyPhoto and her renewable energy photo blog

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Artists and Climate Change is a blog by playwright Chantal Bilodeau that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Australia: Art prize and exhibition to promote climate awareness

This post comes to you from Culture|Futures

In Adelaide, Australia’s fifth-largest city with 1.3 million residents, 51 artists submitted 66 different works for the fifth Solar Art Prize which offered a first prize of AUS$ 8,000 worth of solar panels, along with four minor prizes of AUS$ 5,000 each of solar vouchers.

The 66 artworks have been on display at the Royal South Australian Society of Arts gallery in March and April 2014, and are currently at display at Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide.

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Amanda Hassett: ‘Carbon Footprint’ 12.25x60x5 wood and char on board

The aim of the exhibition is to raise awareness of climate change and to encourage “ideas for the reduction of atmospheric green house gasses as expressed through art work, or by illustrating warnings and public responsibility.”

Peter Noble’s ‘Danger Zone’ was winner of the 4th Solar Art Prize in 2013

The exhibition depicts artists’ concerns with the environment and climate change, through their imagination, diversity and the beauty of nature.

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In addition to viewing the art exhibit, visitors can pick up a booklet, ‘Ways We Can – Meet the challenge of climate change’, which containS a mix of previous art entries and emsissions reduction info – “science to inform and art to inspire.”

The theme for this years’ Solar Arts Prize was ‘Caring for Our Planet’. A People’s Choice Award was handed over 13 April 2014.

Pilgrim Uniting Church hosts the 5th Solar Art Prize exhibition ‘Caring for our Planet’ until 9 May 2014.

» More about the exhibition on  www.facebook.com


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“The exhibition aims to celebrate nature and the environment and promote the reduction of carbon output in the fight against global warming by encouraging ideas for the reduction of green house gasses as expressed through art work, or by illustrating warnings and public responsibility. If the world can change to renewable power, we can achieve a more sustainable future for both the natural world and humanity.” Introduction from exhibition booklet

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Culture|Futures is an international collaboration of organizations and individuals who are concerned with shaping and delivering a proactive cultural agenda to support the necessary transition towards an Ecological Age by 2050.

The Cultural sector that we refer to is an interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral, inter-genre collaboration, which encompasses policy-making, intercultural dialogue/cultural relations, creative cities/cultural planning, creative industries and research and development. It is those decision-makers and practitioners who can reach people in a direct way, through diverse messages and mediums.

Affecting the thinking and behaviour of people and communities is about the dissemination of stories which will profoundly impact cultural values, beliefs and thereby actions. The stories can open people’s eyes to a way of thinking that has not been considered before, challenge a preconceived notion of the past, or a vision of the future that had not been envisioned as possible. As a sector which is viewed as imbued with creativity and cultural values, rather than purely financial motivations, the cultural sector’s stories maintain the trust of people and society.

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Climate Change Couture

This post comes from Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

The Aquatutu. An inflatable suit to be worn in places that often flood.

Catherine Young is a Filipina artist-scientist-designer-writer-explorer working on human perception and the environment. How did she earn the right to claim such a beautiful, multidisciplinary, hyphenated title, you might ask? By receiving a degree in molecular biology and biotechnology from Manila, fine art education from Barcelona, and an MFA in Interaction Design from the School of Visual Arts in New York. Smart enough for you?

Catherine is currently working on something intriguing – The Apocalypse Project – that is just as multidisciplinary as her hyphenated self, and includes the wonderful series Climate Change Couture: Haute Fashion for a Hotter Planet. It is not fashion’s only foray in the world of climate change. Recently, Francesco Fiondella and Rebecca Fowler created Climate Models, a 2014 calendar featuring climate scientists in high fashion gear against backdrops illustrating their research interests. But Climate Change Couture is concerned with another kind of fashion: What we will wear when some of the scenarios of the current climate models (the computer kinds, not the flesh kinds) become reality.

What are the different components of The Apocalypse Project?

I used to work as a journalist, so interviewing people is a big part of my practice. The first thing I did was to hold a series of Apocalypse Workshops, where I asked participants to draw their answers to the questions, “What is your apocalypse?” “What superpower would you like to have to navigate through your apocalypse?” and “What would you wear to your apocalypse?” It made me understand how people (at least those in Singapore) viewed climate change, which is an issue with a large number of opinions.

I created the series Climate Change Couture: Haute Fashion for a Hotter Planet when I realized that the question on clothing resonated with participants the most — they found it an engaging question, whether they liked to draw or not. Climate Change Couture asks the question, “What will you wear to the future we create?” I designed the clothes based on the research of the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory, who collaborated with me during my residency. I think this series really resonated with people, and there is a diversity of environmental conditions all over the world which gives me ideas for a lot more designs.

I also held a project with students from Tembusu College, National University of Singapore called Earth vs Humans: The Court Trial. There I asked the question, “What happens if Planet Earth sues us for environmental misdemeanors?” The students, who took a class in climate change and whose professors helped me refine the project, wrote the script and assembled their cast, and we filmed it in their reading room.

I think there are many other ways to look at climate change apart from workshops, fashion, photography, and theater. I look forward to creating more projects under The Apocalypse Project platform. I am currently expanding the project in the Philippines, my home country and one that was severely impacted by Typhoon Haiyan last year.

Can you describe your collaboration with Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory? How did you “translate” scientific research into design? What was your process?

My work is usually interactive and my earlier work had a lot to do with human perception. When I did a residency at the National Art Studio of Korea, I did a project that involved hiking all the mountains of Seoul. There, I saw firsthand the effects of human activity on the environment. At that time, I kept running into climate change in my investigations, and this led me to being a part of the 2013 Art Science Residency Programme, in partnership with ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, Tembusu College National University of Singapore, and Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory.

I was essentially an artist in the lab. I looked at their research and saw opportunities to turn them into narratives that laymen can understand and care about using the medium of fashion. I think what makes the public shy away from science is its perceived inaccessibility and dryness. But I saw ways to turn science into stories that can engage people. Once I designed the clothes, I asked the researchers to critique them so that the final clothes would be solidly grounded in science. I see the project as one of speculative fiction, as opposed to science fiction — there are no zombies in this apocalypse, for example.

I really like this process of working with scientists, as I do have a science background. One of the most fun parts of the project was getting the researchers to model the clothes, which I don’t think people expect scientists to do. They got really into it and their artistic sides came out. I believe all of us are born artists and scientists — we are all curious and have the capacity to translate this into creative and innovative things.

What are people’s reactions to your Climate Change Couture series?

They found it to have a mix of seriousness and humor. The stories that go with the clothes are also a bit tongue-in-cheek. I think they saw climate change in a different light — it certainly deviated from the usual photos of polar bears. As an interaction designer, I believe in a focus on people, and that this will make an audience find the work relatable and relevant. When I present the work, I also invite the audience to wear the clothes, and this allows them to put themselves in the stories I created. The fun and interactivity of the project was a strategy to make them interested and engaged, and hopefully, make the issue of climate change important in their own lives beyond seeing the project in the gallery or online.

What do you think is the single most important thing artists can do to address the problem of climate change?

Artists can be the emotional hook in the problem about climate change. I think people in general are weary of being told that we are a liability to the planet, that there is no hope. I like to take a more empowering stance in the climate change conversation so that people will be spurred to action.

What gives you hope?

I have hope in the creative powers of humanity. We got ourselves into this, we can get ourselves out. We don’t have much of a choice, do we?

Filed under: Design, Featured Artist

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Artists and Climate Change is a blog by playwright Chantal Bilodeau that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

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A cool look at climate | Red Pepper

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

“It is easy to focus on writing technical scientific papers, or argue that the situation is complex and therefore not so alarming. It is easy to think only about the details and not the big picture.”

Four leading UK scientists and five questions – it’s important to read this and share it.

Corinne Le Quéré is Professor of Climate Change Science and Policy at the University of East Anglia and Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research,

Sir Robert Watson is the former Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (1997-2002) who has worked on atmospheric science issues including ozone depletion and global warming since the 1980s,

Dr Simon Lewis is a Reader in Global Change Science at the University College London and the University of Leeds

Kevin Anderson is Professor of Energy and Climate Change in the School of Mechanical, Aeronautical and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester and Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

and the questions (and these are the critical questions),

What do you consider to be a safe temperature increase after which dangerous climate change occurs?

What chance do you think the world has of staying below 2°C of warming?

If adequate action is not taken on climate change, what will the world look like in 50 or 100 years in terms of global temperatures, environmental, social and economic impacts?

Can you give an idea of the level and speed of changes our governments need to make to avert catastrophic climate change?

As someone whose job gives them a deep understanding of the bleak future facing the planet and humanity, how do you personally deal with this on an emotional and psychological level?

A cool look at climate | Red Pepper.

A cool look at climate | Red Pepper

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.
It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
Go to EcoArtScotland

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Performers make video statements about climate change

This post comes to you from Culture|Futures

The Climate Message Video Festival is an online initiative that brings together musicians from all over the world to increase awareness of climate change. They don’t meet in real life, they all meet on Youtube. Festival organiser and jazz musician Warren Senders from USA aims to have uploaded an even 1,000 videos by Earth Day on 22 April 2014.

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“Whether we reach that number or not, the video festival will keep on keepin’ on. The goal is to have sounds and voices from all over the world saying in as many different languages and styles as possible that the time to get serious about climate change is now.”

“As a musician, as a human being, and as a citizen of Planet Earth, I can say that we all need to be committed to the fight against global climate change, so that our songs can go on to generations in the future.”Warren Senders

If you’re a performer in any idiom, you can join the Climate Message Video Festival – an online initiative bringing together musicians from all over the world to increase awareness of climate change: www.theclimatemessage.com

To make a Climate Message video, here’s how: 
Use a smartphone or webcam (or a friend’s) and record about a minute’s worth of your music and talking. Then email it to theclimatemessage@gmail.com, along with your name, contact information, and any details you want included.

Warren Senders will then upload it to the YouTube channel, and feature it on The Climate Message website. Eventually all the videos will be linked to an interactive world map.


Climate Message from Warren Senders, teacher and performer of Indian classical music, Medford, Massachusetts, USA


Climate Message from Banning Eyre, radio broadcaster, writer, musician, Connecticut, USA


Climate Message from Jarrett Cherner – piano – Brooklyn, New York, USA

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Culture|Futures is an international collaboration of organizations and individuals who are concerned with shaping and delivering a proactive cultural agenda to support the necessary transition towards an Ecological Age by 2050.

The Cultural sector that we refer to is an interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral, inter-genre collaboration, which encompasses policy-making, intercultural dialogue/cultural relations, creative cities/cultural planning, creative industries and research and development. It is those decision-makers and practitioners who can reach people in a direct way, through diverse messages and mediums.

Affecting the thinking and behaviour of people and communities is about the dissemination of stories which will profoundly impact cultural values, beliefs and thereby actions. The stories can open people’s eyes to a way of thinking that has not been considered before, challenge a preconceived notion of the past, or a vision of the future that had not been envisioned as possible. As a sector which is viewed as imbued with creativity and cultural values, rather than purely financial motivations, the cultural sector’s stories maintain the trust of people and society.

Go toThis post comes to you from Culture|Futures

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