Glasgow University

CO2 Edenburgh: Can art change the climate? – Spirited discussions Pt. 1

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

922087632f7564901a6892281f6cadc2In amongst the people handing out leaflets for shows and holding up placards for restaurants, there are a couple of people wearing white coats walking around bearing standards reminiscent of Roman Legions, though these are not surmounted by eagles, but rather by LED displays reporting CO2 levels.  These are ‘Carbon Catchers’.

They are part of the Collins and Goto Studio‘s project called CO2 Edenburgh: Can art change the climate? and are working out of the Art, Space and Nature MFA‘s Tent Space at Edinburgh College of Art.  The data that the Carbon Catchers are collecting plus the data from a number of Festival venues (theatres, galleries and public spaces) is all feeding into a wall of information.  Creative Carbon Scotland, commissioners of the project, have relocated their office to the space so they are living with the blinking red LED’s as well as a background pattern of noise generated from the data and emitted into the space.

Yesterday, at the first of a series of discussions (see below for details of the next ones), Tim Barker, a media theorist from Glasgow University, talked about the history of interference – the point at which we became aware of the invisible. So in 1886 there was unexpected interference on the new Austrian telephone system. This was electromagnetic radiation from the sun was picked up by the copper wires. (Also Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant used to just sit and listen to the noise on the wires.) So there’s something about noise overpowering signals that’s pretty important in the history of science. Or maybe its the converse – as someone said yesterday afternoon, what’s important is, “…the desire to uncover the new by a disruption and treatment of the real.”

Why does this matter? Because our relationship to CO2 is pretty much at a similar stage – scientists are monitoring it (and it was a research station in Hawaii which first recorded passing 400ppm earlier this year). But we only think we understand what all this means. Actually the sensors that form part of this project are taking readings ranging from 320ppm to over 1000ppm. Walking around the City Centre yesterday with one of the team of ‘Carbon Catchers’ taking readings, we were getting different levels along the Cowgate. Someone commented during the discussion in the afternoon that they were surprised that the CO2 level in the room was going down because there were 10 people talking and no obvious carbon sink.

Harry Giles, the other invited speaker, challenged us to set aside the two cultures argument and pay more attention to the militaristic nature of the territory we are in (and he wasn’t talking about the Edinburgh Tattoo). The maps and sensors being used enable the surveillance of the environment in ways that has both tactical and strategic purposes. Art has often been allied with power

We might argue that the arts are engaged in both tactical and strategic purposes. There is an avowed intention on the part of Collins and Goto to challenge assumptions about aesthetics. There is not a lot of ‘sublime’ or ‘picturesque’ in this environmental art work. We might well ask where is the aesthetic? Surely this is just public engagement in science – how is it different from something that the Science Festival might put on? And if it’s public engagement with science, is it effective? Is this a Kaprowesque blurring of art and life? Is this like Burrough’s cut-ups, something as normal as a book cut up to offer new meaning, and at once so strange that it appears as just noise without meaning? If we are dealing with things that we can’t perceive with our senses, and which have timescales that we find difficult to comprehend, then should the aesthetic be that of, as someone suggested, a horror movie?  Don’t we need a new aesthetics for a new experience and a new scale?

On the strategic level Creative Carbon Scotland aims to green the cultural sector supporting organisations and institutions to reduce their carbon footprints. This is of course part of a pattern of attention on environmental issues which means that climate change comes up in pretty much every conversation, every organisation has a climate change policy (and it would be fun to make a collection of these), and the sustainability question in grant applications may in the future include environmental alongside economic criteria. But usually these programmes are ‘business to business’ rather than ‘business to consumer’ (if we accept that an exhibition in the Edinburgh Art Festival is by and large a ‘consumer’ facing affair).

So the events programme, a series of four conversations which ecoartscotland has helped to put together, is perhaps the point where we break out of these sorts of dichotomies.

  • On Saturday (10th August) the conversation will track across art, technology, activism and knowledge with the help of Dr Wallace Heim (of the Ashden Directory) and Joel Chaney (from the Energy Research Group at Heriott Watt).
  • The following Wednesday (14th August) focusing on “Environmental Monitoring” we be joined by Prof Andrew Patrizio (art historian and head of research at Edinburgh College of Art) and Jan Hogarth, (Director of Wide Open and one of the key people behind the imminent Environmental Art Festival Scotland).
  • An for the last event “Going beyond the material” (21st August) we’ll be joined by Samantha Clark, artist, and Lucy Mui, student, activist and Theatre Manager for Bedlam.

Full details on the CO2Edenburgh website.

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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AHM’s State of Play, Dundee

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AHM‘s final State of Play event takes place in Dundee on Saturday 1 October.

As with previous events it will include a number of ‘One Minute Manifestos’.  One of these has emerged through a collective process of writing initiated by Tim Collins and contributed to by a number of participants in the Values of Environmental Writing programme at Glasgow University.

Tim has asked me to post the manifesto and authorship, and to encourage anyone who broadly supports the manifesto, and is at the State of Play symposium, to come forward and share in the speaking of the manifesto.

“Who are we? Though the origins of this manifesto are the Values of Environmental Research Network conversations, this document is inclusive of all those who feel that the arts and humanities have a vital role in the effort to mitigate and prevent environmental damage.”

The Anthropo-scene Evolution

2011 saw the culmination of avarice that necessitates naming the human impact on all earthly things. In response we wish to reject humanity’s supposed dominion over nature and to take responsibility for wilful and excessive impact. Our intention is to constitute greater empathy between the world’s free-living things. As creative pragmatists committed to producing practical wisdom, we recognise a loss of humility and seek to reengage the aesthetic and the sublime, which provide interface and witness to spirit on earth. Cultural responses to the anthropo-scene realize that there are opportunities embedded in new constraints; but more importantly there is generative force amongst living things that must be engaged anew. We experiment with a new materialism and aim for new metaphysical purpose for the arts and humanities within the public domain.

Background

Draft1 scribed by Tim Collins (TC) with Reiko Goto, 18 June 2011, subsequently edited by Tom Bristow and Chris Maughan, with comments and encouragement from Aaron Franks and Chris Fremantle (CF). The AHM ‘State of Play in Scotland’ submission was initiated by CF. TC offered the first rough draft with proper word editing by Aaron Franks and Rachel Harkness, followed by strategic refinement by Rhian Williams, Kate Foster, Alistair McIntosh and Owain Jones. The full manifesto is a result of discussion that occurred on 17 June, 2011 with Aaron Franks, Owain Jones, Chris Maughan, Mike Robinson and Karen Syse. Tom Bristow and the ‘frog team’ were present in spirit if not in material form. The work was inspired and energized by presentations and dialogue with Alistair McIntosh and Gareth Evans all set within the wider context of the AHRC supported Values of Environmental Writing Network, organized by Hayden Lorimer, Alex Benchimol and Rhian Williams (2011).

 

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