Sums

A + E Conference at the Nevada Museum of Art: Day One

Can a thing be both cuddly and epic? So far, the A + E Conference is. For while the lecture hall at the Nevada Museum of Art is intimate, folks are friendly, and there’s that slight taste of eco-art kumbaya in the air, there’s some giant figures in the room. Chris Jordan is one of them: you’ve seen his photos everywhere. The Harrisons are two more. Greenhouse Britain sums up their combination of systemic thinking and storytelling.  Fritz Haeg and his Edible Estates. Geoff Manaugh of BldgBlog. And while you might be so familiar with the work of the presenters you could have practically done their powerpoints for them, it’s still a bit dizzying. In fact, the lights went out towards the end of the day and a backup generator kicked on. They say it was lightning but I’m betting on a joyous collective mental short-circuiting.

However epic the conference, the issued raised today were not unique. They were issues that might be discussed at a conference about Climate Change and Journalism, for instance. Or a conference about Healthy Parks and Healthy People. Or about Theater and Sustainability. I kinda know because I’ve attended conferences on all those themes in the past year. The issues being raised include: how do we comprehend the vast level of ecological disaster we are now experiencing? How do we organize information in a manner that is digestible, accessible, valid and thought-provoking? How do we culturally deconstruct the paradigms that got us here– especially when we live ‘here’? How do we move forward to create a healthier population and planet?

This speaks more to the level of disciplinary blending and silo-destroying that’s happening all over. In the meantime, there’s no shortage of voices exploring answers, not here, not this weekend. There are three floors of installations and exhibits. There are new books and archives of those exhibits. And there is a whole second day of talks still. More to come, stay tuned. Should be cuddly. And epic.

New metaphors for sustainability: the timeless meal

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

Carolyn Steel calls herself a ‘food urbanist’, and she brings a notion of the ‘good life’ to our series of New metaphors for sustainability

What is it we’re trying to sustain? For me, the meal is the emblematic, wonderful situation that sums up the whole point of sustainability.
I think in metaphor all the time and food has become this way of seeing the world not just in terms of ‘how are we going to feed ourselves in future?’ – this kind of doom and gloom thing – but also in terms of asking ‘what kind of society is it that we are trying to create as well as sustain?’.
When you talk about food, there’s a tendency to talk about ‘how much grain can you produce on that much land with that much water’. That’s very important, but you have to relate every conversation you have about food with the kind of life that you are talking about. It’s about a vision of society, an idea of the good life.
The table is a place where you don’t just share food, but you share ideas, you share love, you share conversation.
It’s a beautiful metaphor of the kinds of things that we’re trying to sustain. It’s society. It’s ‘good life’ in every possible sense – not just good in terms of wonderful food – but also good in terms of the ethics of what you eat. If I am hungry I have a practical problem. If you are hungry, I have an ethical problem.
This business of sitting around a table with other people, the decorum of the table, and the sharing food – it brings the social relevance of sustainability into the conversation.
A timeless meal, a meal that is enjoyed through time that has a past that we all intuitively understand, but a future as well, sums up for me the idea that food is life on earth.
Carolyn is included in our film.
Photo: Feast on the Bridge, 2009, curated by Clare Patey. Photo by Tim Mitchell.

 

 

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The editors are Robert Butler and Wallace Heim. The associate editor is Kellie Gutman. The editorial adviser is Patricia Morison.

Robert Butler’s most recent publication is The Alchemist Exposed (Oberon 2006). From 1995-2000 he was drama critic of the Independent on Sunday. See www.robertbutler.info

Wallace Heim has written on social practice art and the work of PLATFORM, Basia Irland and Shelley Sacks. Her doctorate in philosophy investigated nature and performance. Her previous career was as a set designer for theatre and television/film.

Kellie Gutman worked with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture for twenty years, producing video programmes and slide presentations for both the Aga Khan Foundation and the Award for Architecture.

Patricia Morison is an executive officer of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, a group of grant-making trusts of which the Ashden Trust is one.

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