Survival Kit

Help us choose the best art of 2009

Still from Flooded MacDonalds, Superflex, 2009

It has been an extraordinary year for art that responds to issues surrounding the environment. In the (almost) five years since we have been operating, there has never been so much great work being produced. Art never speaks with a single voice, but there has been an increasing cluster of activity around climate change, politics and the enviroment.

It’s time to compile our annual list of the best of the year. We have an embarrassment of riches to chose from. Radical Nature at the Barbican; 100 Days at the Arnolfini; Denmark’sRETHINK; Steve Water’s The Contingency Plan at the Bush Theatre; Artsadmin’s 2 Degrees; Heather and Ivan Morison’s The Black Cloud; Franny Armstrong’s The Age of Stupid, Manchester’s Environment 2.0 at Futuresonic 2009, Superflex’s Flooded McDonalds Petko Dourmana’s Post Global Warming Survival Kit or one of the Yes Men’s interventions – like their one yesterday at COP15 which proved so embarrassing to the Canadians … that’s just dipping our toes in the water.

What were your highlights of the year – and why? What have I criminally overlooked in that above list? What were the best books and stories – the best films? We want to include your comments in the piece which we’ll put up on the main RSA Arts & Ecology Centre website.

Tell us in the comment field below – or email me at william.shaw@rsa.org.uk.

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RETHINK-ing perspectives: art and climate

burns
Safety Gear for Small Animals, 1994 by Bill Burns, featured in RETHINK

If you haven’t found them yet, the people behind RETHINK, Contemporary Art and Climate Change have set up a number of debate pages on their website athttp://www.rethinkclimate.org/.

There is also plenty of extraordinarily rich material on the site to debate. Take this essay fromSøren Pold which starts by namechecking Petko Dourmana’s Post Global Warming Survival Kit (mentioned round these parts earlier this year):


Digital media art like Petko Dourmana’s installation offers the opportunity to experience another, new nature, or at least it gives us a new and up-to-date perspective on nature. In addition to being a crisis for the globe and for humanity, the climate crisis is also an epistemological crisis, and we need to change our perception of our environment in order to better understand and deal with it. In other words it is also a cultural, epistemological challenge.

The nature, the weather, that previously we have regarded as something out there simply beyond our reach, as something that was in opposition to culture when we analysed poetry in high school, this has now turned into yet another structure of signs to be read and interpreted. We cannot see the greenhouse gasses or their effects directly with our senses so our understanding of the climate challenges are very much based on climate models, and we must act on this background in our daily lives as well as, obviously, politically and culturally. The climate crisis introduces us to the fact that our immediate surroundings are being mediated by complex visualisations, interfaces, statistics and carbon quotas – thus an imaginary computer interface lurks in the blue sky, even deep in the country with no computers in sight!

This isn’t the point that Pold is trying to make but there is also an inescapbable sense in which our vision has become polluted by the science we now need to understand it.

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