Winter Edition

culture | futures

How a ‘spiral of engagement’ of Culture, Sustainability & Policy intends to create an Ecological Age by 2050

by Juhi Shareef, Martin Farrell, and Olaf Gerlach-Hansen

Published in the Winter edition of the CSPA Quarterly, which was focused on the 2009 United Nations Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen.  To view or order back issues, visit http://magcloud.com/browse/Magazine/38626.  To subscribe to the CSPA QUARTERLY, join us! http://www.sustainablepractice.org/join-the-cspa/

In 1982 UNESCO defined culture as

“… the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or social group. It includes not only arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions and beliefs.”

Background

Culture|Futures is an expanding, positive ‘spiral of engagement’: a 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. Culture|Futures is the brainchild of Olaf Gerlach-Hansen from the Danish Cultural Institute and Peter Head from the engineering firm Arup and was first presented at the UN Climate Change Summit (COP 14) in Poznan, Poland. The positive reception it received has since led to ongoing activities in London, Brussels and recently, a three-day Launch Symposium and Working Seminar in Copenhagen in the run up to COP 15.

This was organised in collaboration with many important international cultural organisations and actors in the cultural field, including the European Union National Institutes of Culture (EUNIC), the International Federation for Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies (IFACCA), the Asia Europe Foundation (ASEF), Arup, Cultura21, the European Cultural Foundation, the Association for Performing Art Presenters and the RSA. UNESCO and the European Commission also attended.

These events brought together well over a hundred artists, musicians, filmmakers, architects, designers, international cultural institutions and many more cultural actors and organisations from 27 countries and 5 continents. The participants discussed the cultural sector’s visions for an ecological age and the relationship between cities, culture and an Ecological Age. These discussions were facilitated by a draft Background Paper, comprising practical actions, sustainability  recommendations and case studies, that is currently being reviewed to include feedback from participants. A strategy is now being developed based on the event outcomes.

A key outcome of the Culture|Futures events was a letter to the then President of COP 15, Connie Hedegaard. The letter stated that “a large number of private sector, public and civil society, cultural organisations in the world have agreed to collaborate on a cultural agenda to achieve a sustainable future by 2050” and called for COP 15 to formulate “a cultural agenda”.

What is an ‘Ecological Age’?

 An Ecological Age is defined as having achieved an 80% reduction of carbon emissions in developed countries compared to 1990 levels (50% reduction at world level), the lowering of the global ecological footprint to 1,44 gha/person based on a projected population, and furthermore an improved Human Development Index.

This definition is a contribution from Peter Head, a Director at Arup – the design-engineering firm better known for the engineering of the Sydney Opera House and the ‘bubble cube’ aquatics centre at the Beijing Olympics that has also  developed detailed designs for the eco-cities of the future.

As part of the Brunel Lecture Series, Peter Head in 2008-9, discussed the definition in the lecture ‘‘Entering the Ecological Age: The Engineer’s Role””

 which has been peer-reviewed by numerous international organizations and NGOs. The    lecture content has been informed by an ongoing dialogue with business leaders and policy-makers who have shared   practical realities, local solutions and best sustainability practices from each location. One of the outcomes of the dialogue has been  a powerful message that an Ecological Age will not be achieved without widespread cultural and behavioural change.

The Role of Culture

The cultural sector has a unique part to play in creating an Ecological Age by 2050. It is trusted, collaborative, interactive and transformative – and it is everywhere in all communities, in rich and diverse shapes and forms.

The cultural sector is understood to be an interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral, inter-genre collaboration, which encompasses policymaking, intercultural dialogue/cultural relations, creative cities/cultural planning, creative industries and research & development.  Cultural actors are people, institutions and enterprises in art, design & architecture, film & media, cultural heritage, sport, education, leisure, communication and many more areas. 

Many cultural actors choose to express their perspectives about sustaining life on earth through their chosen media.  In diverse and creative ways they bring their perspectives alive and as they do so, the thinking and behaviours of people and communities are affected and gradually begin to change. As living sustainably gradually becomes accepted, an Ecological Age evolves.

However, we face a cultural challenge of enormous proportions. An ecological transition can fail if it is not supported by cultural development. Political, economic and technological solutions are crucial, but they are not enough. For example, without cultural development these solutions can be expected to face a backlash from voters that would undermine political will for new ecological policies, and even support the return of previous unhelpful policies. As stated by  UNESCO:

“Achieving sustainability will depend ultimately on changes in behavior and lifestyles, changes which will need to be motivated by a shift in values and rooted in the cultural and moral precepts upon which behavior is     predicated. Without change of this kind, even the most enlightened legislation, the cleanest technology, the most sophisticated research will not succeed in steering society towards the long-term goal of sustainability.”

Diversity is essential to the ecological cultural transformation. The UNESCO 2005 convention on “The Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions” provides a normative cultural policy instrument to constructively deal with the challenge of retaining diversity in the face of globalisation.

New cultural responses and paradigms are still under development and urgently required; the positive incentive of a better future life arguably outweighs the negative. Culture has a fundamental role to inspire as well as the inevitable requirement to make its own practices sustainable. 

Culture, climate and ecology are all cross-sectoral policy issuess. Addressing the cultural dimension of how to deliver an Ecological Age by 2050 is thus relevant not only to cultural sector policies, but to all policies at local, national and  international levels.

Underpinning Principles

Participants of the Copenhagen events and the wider Culture|Futures community have been asked to consider the principles which will inform the further development of Culture|Futures.  Based on the input to the discussions at the  Copenhagen Culture|Futures working seminar, the preliminary formulation of these principles is that Culture|Futures will:

Proceed with a sense of modesty in service to the noble idea of creating an Ecological Age.  Culture|Futures will therefore seek recognition for itself only in so far as it achieves this goal – it will not seek to create a self serving brand identity.


Seek to engage cultural actors across the globe. Culture|Futures is seeking to sustain human and all life by addressing global warming, the planet’s limited biocapacity and human development, which are all interdependent and global issues. 


Create an enabling environment for cultural action by (1) advocacy and bridgebuilding vis a vis governments and other large stakeholders for establishing policies, strategies and actions, which together will enable the ecological age; (2) offer a global platform for diverse culture actors from different sectors, who freely act from their own local, regional or international base, to inspire each other; and (3) encourage research on best practices fostering sustainable living, behavior and structural change.


Hold the vision and imperative of an Ecological Age in 2050 whilst being realistic about what can be done immediately and quickly to move towards it.  This means that planning horizons, particularly now, are short (eg now to summer 2010, and the following few years), but may extend as Culture|Futures unfolds.

Three Strategic Objectives

The strategic direction for for Culture|Futures over the coming years is now being considered, having first been outlined at a meeting of key partners in Brussels in October 2009. The current three, mutually interdependent, strategic objectives for Culture|Futures are:


i)   Advocacy and bridge building with key stakeholders, with a priority on cities

I.e. to create an enabling environment for cultural actions which together will create an ecological age by 2050 by collaborating with key stakeholders. One key focus is likely to be urban development: urban cultures will   increasingly be decisive for shaping the conditions for sustainable living. With cities moving from constituting 50% in 2010 to 75% of world population in 2050 and therefore carrying much of the ecological strain related to this change, they are a natural choice for an initial strategic focus for global cultural action.

ii)  Building a worldwide platform for cultural action for sustainable living

This will mean the establishment of a global cultural platform which will enhance the ability of key actors in the cultural sector to partner with other stakeholders to take cultural actions for sustainable living.

iii) Building a basis for research, learning and inspiration

I.e. to i) establish research on cultural actions for sustainable living ii) communicate research and learn to inspire and improve practices  iii) build an evidence basis for assessing which actions are most efficient in relation to achieving the goal of sustainable living and an Ecological Age by 2050.

Whilst 2050 is four decades away, it is essential to act now to strengthen dialogues, foster synergies, learn and share best practices, and do what culture does best: inspire.

For more information, including the programme of events at Copenhagen, the Background Paper, visit: http://www.culturefutures.org

To join the Culture|Futures community and contribute to the conversation, visit: www.culturefutures.ning.com Also on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

Authors:

Juhi Shareef of JUHi SHAREEF & ASSOCIATES:   www.juhishareef.com

Martin Farrell of get2thepoint:   www.get2thepoint.org

Olaf Gerlach-Hansen of the Danish Cultural Institute and Culture, Development & International Cooperation (CuDIC):   www.dankultur.dk

Question Time

A project by David Berridge, Rachel Lois Clapham, Alex Eisenberg and Mary Paterson as Open Dialogues.

www.questiontime.me

Published in the Winter edition of the CSPA Quarterly, which was focused on the 2009 United Nations Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen.  To view or order back issues, visit http://magcloud.com/browse/Magazine/38626.  To subscribe to the CSPA QUARTERLY, join us! http://www.sustainablepractice.org/join-the-cspa/

 

A set of cards is laid out in front of you. A word is written on each card. You are asked to pick a card. You might pick ‘Home’, ‘Personal Knowledge’ or ‘Wild Card’. You are asked some questions. The interviews are recorded, they are 2-5 minutes long and later appear, as anonymous recordings, online. Go to the website and a random interview is played. Listen to two or more and it becomes a series of moments and voices, young and old, in different ways public and private, and all a snapshot of how people were thinking – or, at least, talking to four English strangers wielding cards and dictaphones – during the two weeks of the COP15 climate change negotiations in Copenhagen.

This was the premise of Question Time, a collaboration between four UK based artists which took place under the auspices of New Life Copenhagen, a social sculpture project that saw 3000 visitors to COP15 hosted by 3000 Copenhagen households, at a time when every hotel in the city was fully booked. Whilst Question Time didn’t choreograph social dynamics in such an explicit way we sought, through our series of questions, to mould an encounter that might reveal something about attitudes, beliefs, and opinions, over two weeks that – the advertising hoardings and inflatable globes all around the city told us – was “a last chance to save the world.”

Listen to all the Question Time interviews on the website archive and there are considerable differences of style and mood. This not only reflects the different places we went to find interviewees – from the alternative ‘Klimaforum: the people’s summit’, to the official UN negotiations at the Bella Centre, to NGO receptions, protest marches, the Christiana commune and various bars and cafes throughout Copenhagen – but also how our own questions changed. To start, we asked people’s views on climate change, on why they were in Copenhagen, on how they thought change might happen. But people’s responses to these questions were often well rehearsed, ready-made or of a rhetorical nature. This left us unsatisfied, and so at the Question Time daily summit meetings we re-wrote the questions. The sheer pervasiveness of the conference and climate related issues during COP15 meant an oblique approach to our subject might be profitable instead: How do you feel about the ground? How are you in the future? How do you think? 

Our role in Question Time was under the same scrutiny as our encounter with the people of Copenhagen and their  responses to our questions. As such we decided early on to not edit the resulting interviews or the website archive. This is not to deny our position (as artists, activists, interviewers, climate documenters) within this deeply participatory artwork – simply that our agency was more located in the before; orchestrating the encounters, setting the questions, laying out the cards, pressing RECORD and asking, in our own particular ways: ‘Would you like to pick a card?’. The rest was left to the live.

Reading these excerpts on the page is very different to hearing the sound files, which differ again from the actual experience of each encounter. The interviews can be read as sources of ideas, opinions, activist tactics, anecdotes, obsessions and platitudes, by a range of world citizens, speaking variously as activists, delegates, shoppers, politicians, shamans, drinkers, and/or mothers. Or, ignore the content, and what emerges as important is the tone of a voice, rhythms of speech and breath, the hesitations and silences, the background muzak. 

Listening to the interviews now COP15 is over, may contain wonderful and insightful moments. Others, at times, bore us with their cliches and lack of imagination. Our own interactions and questions seem a similar mixture of surprising and strange, provocative and awkward, the insightful and the productively inept. Question Time proposes that all these ways of speaking and listening tell us something, not only about COP15 but also about how climate change is figuring right now in our experience, imagination and language. 

What follows are partial responses to ‘Wild Card’, ‘Future’ and ‘Ending’, selected by the Question Time archive’s inbuilt randomizer.

Is everything ok?

Yes, yes everything is fine.

No not at all. But it changes. Yesterday is was 65, which is OK. Today it’s a little bit more. I’m very influenced by the immediate climate.    Yesterday it was very frenzied, today it is evil.

On a very, very, very spiritual level yes, but if you are grounded and you look around then there is a lot of sadness. I would like to help other people be less sad.

Do you mean in the world outside, or in my world?

It’s not OK as we forgot who we are and why we are on mother earth. There is a chance now to recognize who we are. When you know who you are and accept your divinity you see it in others equally, and when we meet at this level God is not somewhere outside, we are all God. We could save so much money, use new technology, and build a beautiful place if people recognized that we are the chosen ones and took the responsibility to live together in peace.

Not quite, but eventually I hope it will be.

Yeah, everything is alright, even better than before, but I think that’s due to some steps that I have taken. 

No, especially not when you talk about the earth, or… ‘Yorskal’.

For me, everything is OK. I’m Buddhist.

It’s very good yes. I’m happy flying around.

Yes.

How do you feel about the ground?

The ground…? I would like to be more grounded

The ground. The mother earth? It’s beautiful to be on this ground. Without being in a body, here on this ground, the mother earth we could not experience this beautiful journey that we are all on. It’s necessary to have a body, to be on mother earth, with mind, spirit and heart energy we can do better.

Good. It’s good to feel that something is solid.

About the ground? Like in what sense- the world, or being grounded? That’s a really hard question.

The ground. Any ground?  …In one way I feel very supported by the ground and I want to be here. At the same time I feel a large concern for the earth, I understand the ground as the earth I want to reach out and help humans that share the earth

The ground? How do I feel about the ground? I guess I’m down to earth. I haven’t thought about it that much. I’m an air person myself.

I really don’t know. Not yet. You mean earth or ground? It’s a big question.

I feel more comfortable with soil and farming land.

Shaky. The ground is not open, it’s closed. We could have used the ground more artistically for the climate conference.

The ground? I don’t have any relation to the ground, I guess I am floating a lot.

I don’t know how to respond to your question.

How does this end?

It ends by you turning off the recorder

There are no enemies, enemies are something that you create when there is a conflict of interest and two interests are not being met in the same way. You create through the label of enemies someone you pit against yourselves because you need to defend your interests, so in essence they become enemies but I don’t think there is such a thing.

By death

What disaster or emergency level are we currently at?

What disaster or what…?

It’s one second to twelve. But I would like to think about that one second in a positive way – that we are actually turning around in that one second. We are becoming aware, stopping financing war, stop eating meat, stop cutting down forests.

What sorry?

We are on an 8, not just for the climate but also for people, how we have been overspending, we need to pull the handbrake and reconsider ways of doing things.

We are the top level, like the end of the world, something like that.

Maybe 7

Too high. You can barely walk the street without the police looking at you. It’s overreaction.

Do you have a question you would like to ask?

No

What are you doing?

Yes, I have a lot of questions, of course.

Me? No. I don’t know. Sorry.

I question how long the earth will continue to be here

To you? I would ask, what is the most important question to ask.

What is good design? It’s not really related to climate change but it is something I have been thinking about a lot.

How do you choose these words?

What is your passion?

How do you hope?

How do you hope? – Is that the question? I guess I…um…how…how I hope…I guess if we are talking about the  phenonology or my methodology of hoping…I guess I go for something that seems plausible but also reasonable and then I hope for that…but the framework of what is plausible and reasonable for me is quite wide…for example with COP15 I think I am far more optimistic than the world leaders.

 That’s a difficult question…we don’t know what it’s going to be like but that it has to change is clear…

By not hoping. I don’t hope for anything…just go along…but don’t get your expectation too high. Actually that’s a lie… you’ve got to have high expectations…I think there is a difference between expectation and hope…

I hope…err….I have hope for the future…I think it’s going to be really good.

I hope with my positive thoughts…I believe in people…I believe in good things…that’s it for me.

Question Time is a project by David Berridge, Rachel Lois Clapham, Alex Eisenberg and Mary Paterson as Open Dialogues. It was programmed as part of New Life Copenhagen in December 2009. Open Dialogues is a UK based collaboration that produces critical writing on and as performance.

www.questiontime.me 

www.opendialogues.com

Performing the Press Conference and Workshop for Trigger Point Theory

by Aviva Rahmani

Published in the Winter edition of the CSPA Quarterly, which was focused on the 2009 United Nations Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen.  To view or order back issues, visit http://magcloud.com/browse/Magazine/38626.  To subscribe to the CSPA QUARTERLY, join us! http://www.sustainablepractice.org/join-the-cspa/

The Horizontal Press Conference

My December 18, 2009 press conference in the Jasger Jorn room at the Bella Center for the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15) was scheduled the same day President Obama was scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen. The same week that press conference was scheduled, outside Bella, at the invitation of Oleg Koefoed of Cultura 21 Nordic, I was scheduled to conduct a three-day workshop on the theoretical basis of my ecological art work. I was attending COP15 as as an official observer and part of the University of Colorado (UC) Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). What I would see as an observer, was an effort on the part of many, to help make sense of and advance progress on a problem shared by the whole world, regardless of what policy makers would say in plenaries. I was moved to notice that easily 50% of participants were under thirty. But I saw an equivalent push-back from those determined to cast a blind eye on history, for their own short-term comfort and advantage. 

What I experienced as an artist was neither light-hearted nor simple. But it was a lesson about what can happen when enough people converge on the same problem. The groups I was working, in touch, exchanging information with and learning about, from December 6-19, are too numerous to count. In addition to the UC group, Cultura 21 and Cultura 21 Nordic, they included Avaaz, the Yes Men, representatives from the World Bank, Island Nations, heads of American agencies, Greenpeace, 350.org, gallerists from Khoj International, New Delhi, India, ARTPORT and Poulsen in Copenhagen, High Tide (for whom I blogged), the Climate Forum, the Climate Pirates, Culture Futures, the eco-art dialog, World Wildlife Fund International, European Union negotiators, the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts and the Danish police. The press conference  was subsequently re-scheduled three times, as I worked with the United Nations press office to negotiate around the growing panic of conference organizers and police in the face of a perceived degeneration of civil control  towards the end of COP15.

The press conference I planned to deliver would have challenged policy makers to include language about art-making in their adaptation policies for climate change. It would have given an example from my collaborative work with scientists. COP documents speak of the need to address the “aspirational goals” and support the  “resilience” of vulnerable nations confronting the stress of adaptation to climate change. But they go on to define those goals strictly economically.  As others pointed out, you can’t address “aspirations” or resilience solely economically.

Early September 2009, Neena Bhandari reported from Sydney, for the IPC (which covers the United Nations) that  “An agreement by 21 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum leaders on Saturday to adopt ‘’aspirational goals’’ to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been criticised by voluntary agencies as grossly inadequate for saving the world from the effects of climate change.”

Art is the glue holding societies and cultures together, particularly when they are under stress. In Copenhagen, the press conference became the art and it was a collaborative, intuitive production.

My experiences in Copenhagen were fraught with paradoxes. It was terrifying for what wasn’t accomplished at the conference. It was inspiring for what I learned about work being done to mitigate climate change all over the world. Horizontal connections were made between disparate groups and individuals spontaneously connecting as equals at events that ranged from the formal reception and      diplomatic plenaries of COP15 to the Climate Pirates who sailed into port from Germany and the vast demonstrations in Christiana. It was frustrating because my COP press conference never happened.

Everything that happened in Copenhagen was staged for layers of media and an international audience. In that sense, the critical days, from December 7 to December 18, were one continuous, anarchistic media event, with no single individual, group or nation consistently taking center stage. Ultimately, the whole world became the venue for a giant teach-in, in the form of the largest Happening ever. It was attended by millions around the world, some of whom were reporters, all of whom had a stake in our outcome.

Copenhagen was the site of multiple realities about global warming. Many of us simultaneously participated in a wide range of activities with the broad assembly of groups in attendance. In addition to blogging, I went to and participated in sessions at the Bella Center; helped work on the press conference for the Collaborative Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change (EDCC ); showed up for various art openings and shows in the city, indoors and outdoors; participated in demonstrations; exhibited my own films; helped set up other people’s installations; attended several other conferences; hosted a workshop; networked at the COP reception; had dinner in restaurants with various groups, where other attendees were also dining and visited a few tourist sites, where ordinary Danes asked me about the conference while others staged elaborate art works to draw attention to global warming. The media were all over the Bella Center during COP15. Island nations, as Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Maldives took center stage the longest, as eloquent spokespeople for what needed to be done and why. The press ran with their passionate stories.

At every turn in Bella, through the halls and before plenaries, colorful demonstrations were attended by masses of flashing cameras of every size and type.  The extent to which sophisticated performance art has saturated activism and how funny many were was striking. The “Fossil Awards,” gave out awards to the country that had most obstructed progress that day, with great pomp and ceremony, every evening at 6: PM to hundreds of cheering, jeering and singing COP participants.

Outside Bella, in the streets of Copenhagen, was an installation about  immigration (of climate refugees) mounted by    Sacha Kagan on the basis of a work by students at the CCC Programme of the Geneva University of Art and Design. It included credible yellow wet-signs with the text “Caution Border”, police tape marking off parts of the street, printed with the slogan, “This is not a natural border” and slick black and yellow hand-out cards printed with provocative questions about borders. At demonstrations, the press caught glimpses of innumerable notable activists from every corner of the earth, from Wengari Maathi to Vandana Shiva. But the media also witnessed events turn violent at the hands of the Danish police.

Back inside Bella, at official Side Events, reporters took notes and shot pictures of government ministers speaking to crowded rooms, sometimes to the extent that many of us were sitting on the floor. In the Jasger Jorn room at Bella, press conferences filled out informational gaps in the Side Events held in other rooms.

After much internal conflict, I had flown to Europe for COP15, despite a previous vow in 2006, after Katrina, to reduce my carbon footprint by eschewing flight. The press conference I planned would have been an opportunity to present my work with Dr. Jim White, of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, UC Boulder as a model for how we need to look at problems arising out of global warming, using virtual communications. The work with Dr. White has been premised on a series of experimental research projects applying Trigger Point Theory Theory as Aesthetic Activism to problems caused by global warming. We conducted our work in desktop sharing conversations, including other scientists and artists. The press conference would have included a presentation of our work, SOS Gulf to Gulf, comparing the impact of global warming on gulf systems internationally. It connects problems with Somali pirates, Katrina, education in Bangladesh, dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and lobster migrations in the Gulf of Maine.

Trigger Point Theory is a way to look at situations and see where to apply the least pressure to effect the most change.  Flying to Copenhagen, working virtually, doing a press conference in Bella, were ways I was applying that principle. My ideas developed, out of my collaborative ecological art practice, from monitoring change at the sites of two environmental restoration projects I initiated and other related experiences. Trigger Point Theory Theory as Aesthetic Activism, evolved as a strategy to analyze causes of ecological degradation and create environmental restoration plans out of that analysis. It is presently my dissertation topic at Z_node, Institute for Cultural Studies, Zurich University of the Arts, (ZHDK) Zürich,  Switzerland and the School of Technology, Communication and Electronics at the University of Plymouth England.

Trigger Point Theory works by diagnosing a very small “patch” (in the language of landscape ecology), in a degraded  system, comparable to identifying an acupuncture trigger point on the body of the earth, in a greater degraded ecosystem, whose restoration could catalyze regional healing for a larger landscape. Acupuncture identifies tiny points in systemic meridians of energy flow. Comparably, many indigenous rituals also seek to harmonize human needs with a whole ecology approach to sustainability. Diagnosing and identifying that process is the heart of my theoretical work.

The Trigger Point Theory Theory as Aesthetic Activism workshop was held in the Global Room at Verdenskulturcentret, in Copenhagen. The workshop brought together a number of people concerned with global warming, involved in events that month. The participants represented a spectrum of interests from those engaged in the most radical demonstrations to simply concerned citizens.

The workshop was organized around applying Trigger Point theory to our various activist concerns with free-hand  mapmaking. I presented approximately twelve premises to observe situations for possible “Trigger Points.” As, how to  identify where many factors come together, creating ecological edges that enhance each other and the importance of   establishing buffer zones to insure resilience. 

The last day of the workshop was scheduled the morning of the second scheduled date for my press conference:     Wednesday December 16. It was rescheduled when word spread that NGOs would be issued secondary passes to enter Bella towards the end of the last week of sessions.

What I had to say in Jasgar Jorn had been transformed by my first ten days in Copenhagen. The press release I wrote Tuesday night opened with,

 “Protestors world wide see COP15 as a conflict between money and legalisms.  This press conference asserts that is why art needs to be at the table.  Art can help build capacity and facilitate the adaptation COP15 needs to address with vulnerable nations. We will present SOS Gulf to Gulf, a virtual model for a role for art in creating resilience. ”

 COP treaty negotiations need input from artists because art conveys the “aspirational goals (COP15 treaty language)” of culture. Culture is what contains civilized behavior despite chaotic transitions. Much of the plenary discussion framework was about the crisis of adaptation to the effects of global warming. Yet there was no mention of art’s role in cultural  sustainability.

That afternoon, violence against the demonstrators on the part of police, closed down Bella to anyone who hadn’t already entered that morning. I went there anyway. After much discussion, the police allowed me to hand 500 press releases for distribution through the fence gaps erected around the building to Marilyn Averill, the UC’s NGO co-ordinator, who was already inside. 

After the Wednesday closure and cancellation, at Bella, we rescheduled the press conference again, back to Friday  morning. No one knew what would happen next, especially about climate change. By Friday, access to Bella was restricted to 93 passes for 45,000 registrants, effectively locking me out of the building and closing my door to Jasger Jorn and the webcams there.  Instead, the Friday before I left, I recorded the press release I’d prepared for COP15, at the Poulsen    Gallery, for the Yes Men and Avaaz.

The Yes Men and Avaaz had set up a fake Bella Center (Good COP15 http://www.good-cop15.org shadow Bella Center). They taped a number of presentations, some of which have been mounted on the website. The tapes illustrate that everyone has aspirations in relation to global warming. Most are light-hearted, often humorous general proclamations and   wishful statements about the world we need.

What was ultimately seen by the world beyond Copenhagen didn’t just come from Jasger Jorn, the Poulsen Gallery or the streets. It also came from hundreds of blogs (including my own http://high-tide-cop15.blogspot.com/) and a thousand candle light vigils around the world, many initiated by 350.org, the group started by Bill McKibben. Arguably, 350.org was the most effective group because their message about carbon particle reduction was so simple.

The experiences of developed countries are particularly mediated through media. Media can be another venue for visibility or a portal for an audience to go to another site, another world. The denouement of COP15, challenged us all, arguably especially artists, to give some hard inspired thought to how we can help the media show people some new doors to open. What I might have had to say or what anyone else had to say, is part of an immense jig saw puzzle. It may adequately address global warming if we can just wrap our brains around how to perform a really effective horizontal press conference.

The Aspirational Press Conference 

“When we take “aspirational goals” seriously for the Least Developed Countries (LDC), we see that the arts in each culture and between cultures are a means to express aspirations, sustain it’s people, bridge communication gaps and be a container for important historical information, including indigenous environmental knowledge. Art is a means to intimately connect people.” –  excerpt from my SOS Gulf to Gulf press release prepared for COP15.

The international experiences we’re having now because of unchecked global warming  terrify any sane person. Global warming can be also be connected to terrorism. The consequences of rising carbon emissions include massive migrations of culturally disrupted climate refugees, for whom terror and rage are appropriate responses. The fact that many of these disrupted cultures have a history of sexism, privileging violent machismo in response to crisis and excluding women from full socio-political participation, contributes to chaotic behavior.  Contemporary art that confronts this complex reality is an intensely intimate expression of connection between people, binding the aspirational goals of all life. In Islamic Jihadist rehabilitation, the creative act of “making” is considered a healing option to violence.

The meaning of doing a press conference as an activist performance in Copenhagen (COP15) for me, hinged on defining an artist’s relationship to policy. My intention for the press conference had been to provide context for and an alternative model from which to negotiate.

The first week at COP15, when I met and briefly worked with EDCC, I paid close attention to how they framed the need for accountability in the treaty policy language and made the decision to follow their example. One of the discussions that stuck most firmly in my mind centered on the relationship to press as partners in public education. I realized from that in addition to presenting a new model I had to explain a new definition of art.

At the end of the second, informational page of my press release, I wrote (with references to treaty documents):

1. Gender issues relate to questions of art and culture. Disproportionately, artisans in indigenous cultures are often women. Their practices often preserve the, “[land use, land-use change and forestry sector]”; (and represent how to) p. 92 “respect the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples [, including their free, prior and informed consent,]  Deforestation is often a consequence of the cultural disruption that displaces gender roles.

2. Art and humanities foster creativity through out all sectors of society. In transition periods, creative problem-solving is as essential to survival as financial or regulatory support.

3. The costs of sustaining cultural communities in relation to other ecological costs is not only minimal but has historically transferred wealth, in a variety of forms back into an economy. This will help cultures in transition maintain identity and independence, a response to the need to, “develop low-emission [high growth sustainable] development strategies.”

Early 2007, Marda Kirn put Dr. Jim White and I together to develop a collaborative project for the “Weather Report” show on global warming, curated by Lucy Lippard for the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. White and I began work with a passionate commitment to explore how to address global warming. Our work together further radicalized us about the urgency of associated problems, particularly migrations. A few months later, the idea to attend COP15 and hold a press conference there began  gestating at a party after the opening.  A number of us were sitting around a kitchen table,  including Subankhar Bannerjee, Mary Miss, Lillian Ball and Marda Kirn, talking about art’s role in public policy. I  suggested we hold a joint press conference in Washington, D.C., to present our ideas. Over the next few months, we tried to organize something. But the logistics daunted us and the plan went on my back burner for a year.

Late 2008, Jim and I began working together again and the same questions about migrations arose. It was then that I said I wanted us to go to Copenhagen (COP15). Dr. White couldn’t go but by August 2009, I had my official status to attend. Simultaneously, Oleg Koefoed, whom had organized the Culture Futures conference the first week of COP15 in Copenhagen, invited me to lead the Trigger Point Theory as Aesthetic Activism workshop.

Many of us who came to Copenhagen are still making sense of what happened there, what was accomplished, how we all connected and where we might go from here, from islands to artists. Post COP15, the larger degraded landscape to restore, has emerged as the “aspirational goals” of this planet. It still needs mapping. But one thing is clear, change will come, if it comes at all, from horizontal coalitions in civil society, taking the messages we all heard in Copenhagen and beyond, from press conferences to policy people to the world. Artists are poised to take a great part in that adventure.

Representing the Natural World

by Ian Garrett

Published in the Winter edition of the CSPA Quarterly, which was focused on the 2009 United Nations Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen.  To view or order back issues, visit http://magcloud.com/browse/Magazine/38626.  To subscribe to the CSPA QUARTERLY, join us! http://www.sustainablepractice.org/join-the-cspa/

While political demonstrations traditionally pit two opposing ideologies against each other–think World Trade Organization meetings and anti-globalization activism–the demonstrations and activities around the 15th annual Conference of the Partners (COP15) were surprisingly complimentary to the talks themselves. The grassroots activists were not opposed to the political maneuverings, but rather wanted to see them go farther. This “will to move forward” allowed for creativity in demonstrations and amplified artistic activism. Curation at local museums and art sites took advantage of the agreed-upon topics of COP15, setting programming well in advance. The more guerilla forces of the art world seized the collective momentum, and artistic presentation during the two-weeks of the climate summit spanned from museum gallery to street happening. While the politicians represented their national agenda, the artists represented the natural world.

HISTORICAL REPRESENTATION

The Nation Gallery of Denmark laid the ground work for understanding the environment through artistic representation with their exhibition “Nature Strikes Back: Man and Nature in Western Art”. The aggressive titling is meant to communicate the show’s theme of man seeking dominance over nature. It focuses on how nature in art is rarely a direct representation, but a symbol for itself and man’s relationship to it. This relationship is articulated through five themes:  Exploitation, Human Nature, Order and Systems, Landscape and Disaster.

Within the exhibition, “Nature Strikes Back” offers a picture of nature that highlights a clear separation between man and the natural world. A significant point is made to articulate the significance of the landscape conceptually. Having not  appeared in European language until the late 16th Century, the word ‘landscape’ has a loaded history of invoking ownership of that which is depicted. This exhibition also clearly addresses the issues of where the border between our inner and outer natures lie, our sense of the idyllic and edenic paradise, as well as our attempts to organize. The story here is one of control and mastery of the physical world and its latter-day break down. The strike which is being made in return is one that equates judgement day to severe climate changes as retaliation against our enclosure and exploitation. This conclusion keeps man at the center of the issue though, which is problematic. It continues to define nature as a logical system to which we stand opposed and from which we will see active retaliation against our harmful activities, missing the mark on man’s inclusion within natural systems.

“Nature Strikes Back”, and its importance, is clearest when its relationship to another exhibition called “Rethink: Contemporary Art and Climate Change” is considered. “Rethink” is an extensive exhibition of installations displayed across four institutions in three spaces and the virtual world. This exhibition was also divided thematically, though perhaps more opaquely by its titles: Rethink Relations at the National Gallery of Denmark, Rethink The Implicit at the Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art, Rethink Kakotopia at the Nikolaj Contemporary Art Center, and Rethink Information, which was on the Internet at a satellite exhibition at the Moesgård Museum (in Århus) and as public performance throughout Copenhagen.

Man at the center of natural representation, as found in a traditional gallery format, provides the historical background of “Rethink” both in the sense of nature in art and traditions in presentation. This exhibition of contemporary pieces focuses primarily on generative and phenomenological work, with many articulating systems through demonstration and/or dramatization instead of classification. Programmed into a heavily ambulatory, semi-public space, without a fee, dynamically connected to its other locations through virtual space, “Rethink” is not just contemporary work, but contemporary presentation. The work not only speaks to being connected to natural systems like in Thomas Saraceno’s “Biospheres” and Olafur Eliasson’s “Your Watercolor Machine”, but is placed in shared open space diminishing barriers to access and the creation of connection to the work.

Together, these exhibitions, including the other locations of “Rethink”, serve as a history and foundation for looking at other artistic endeavors in Copenhagen. Individually they look at representations of our understanding of the natural work. “Nature Strikes Back” represents it as something to be classified and contained, while “Rethink” represents it as something to be experienced and studied. Paired, they reflect what has changed in our perceptions over time. And, while they inform one another, they inform the less mainstream exhibitions outside of curated space even more.

REPRESENTING THE PRESENT

Millennium Art’s “CO2 Cube”, featured in this issue of the quarterly, uses a methodology befitting inclusion in “Rethink”. It is a 27 square foot cube, reflecting the volume of one ton of carbon dioxide, and floated in the lake adjacent to the Tycho Brahe Planetarium. It features current data and video about climate change, pulled from the internet that day, streaming across its two faces which are closest to shore. While its form articulates a natural relationship of man in the contemporary world (this volume of CO2 is what the average american produces in two weeks), the media reflected on its service aims for immediacy even with the lag created by the curatorial impact of the projects relationships with the United Nations, Google and YouTube.

One can also look at the example of “7 Meters”, also featured in this issue. It is a project that’s primary visual impact was in the plentiful flashing red LEDs mounted at seven meters above the ground to reflect the anticipated sea level rise should the ice of Greenland melt. Using projected data, it creates an expansive experience throughout Copenhagen, representing the ghost of climates future by tracing a drastic change in the immediate surroundings. And there is also Mark Coreth’s “Polar Ice Bear”, a polar bear skeleton embedded within an ice sculpture of the same bear, left to melt in public. It     exchanges data for exposure to the elements. While it never completed melting due to sub-zero temperatures later in the conference, it combined a known symbol of climate change (the polar bear) with a phenomena of climate change (melting ice) to produce an effective and connective experience through its thematic representations. Both of these projects connect directly to both their immediate environment and larger environmental issues.

All three of these examples were presented in public, high traffic spaces. They focus on a human relationship by representing our downstream effects, both immediate in the sense of the cube as our CO2 output, and that which is more abstract, as with the Ice Bear’s melt created by ambient temperature (which we have a long term collective effect upon). And so, these factors articulate the next step beyond the exhibitions of “Nature Strikes Back” and “Rethink”. They continue the  narrative of natural interconnection and immediateness and highlight the core difference between those gallery shows. Whereas “Nature Strikes Back” articulates man vs. nature, “Rethink” and these public space exhibits articulate man with nature.

ACTING AS REPRESENTATIVES

The red-suited, fedora wearing Climate Debt Agents (who sing), the similarly attired, but otherwise hued Mr. Green of OxFam, the aliens of Azaaz.org, the awards-night ambiance of the “Fossil of the Day” awards. These costumed, theatrical performances infuse humor and inclusivity into the plain-clothed protesters and demonstrators. In these performative, engaging acts, once can see that the opposite of cataloging nature is taking action on its behalf. These creative, complimentary demonstrations blur protest and performance art, and exist in the realm of happenings.

The Yes Men, artists who practice ‘identity correction’ by appearing as high-powered spokespersons of corporations, were most noted for their series of press releases on Monday, December 14, 2009. Teamed with Thierry Geoffroy, a.k.a The Colonel, and headquartered at Gallery Poulsen, the Yes Men created what was likely the most effective and affective of actions, where this performance/protest integration was most clear. They called into question   Canadian environmental policy through a series of official-seeming statements that were authentic enough to fool news organizations for a number of hours during the day. This temporary hijacking of political identity no longer relies on the representational visual articulations we see in the National Gallery.  Instead this direct, subversive action on the behalf of the natural world–using the authentic voice of the Canadian government–represents nature back to man through advocacy, rather than through symbols.

The New Life Festival, organized by Wooloo.org, did not produce or display art itself, but enabled the hosting and accommodation of visitors in Danish homes. It arranged housing for over 3,000 artists and activists during COP15. This allowed many people who otherwise could not afford to be present to  observe this moment in history. The New Life Festival also addressed perceptions of Denmark’s closed-off society. Primarily documented with guest books meant to help the guests and host families get to know one another, this project has completely forfeited aesthetic representational work, symbolism or synecdoche. Instead it has enabled direct representation, articulating a peopled mass by enabling it to gather.

Along with the ambitious collection of interviews by Open Dialogues, a literary UK collective, the ecological burial contracts from the Danish art group Superflex, and the anti-Coca Cola campaign from the Yes Men, these projects define success through congregation and collective energy in defense of the natural world. Working in the name of art, they give voice to two key entities absent from COP15: planet and people.

REPRESENTING SUCCESS IN REPRESENTATIVE FAILURE

In light of what is widely regarded as the failure of COP15 itself, having been unable to reach a binding agreement politically, there is hope and elements of success to which the arts can speak. Closing the Bella Center to NGOs, and the addition of a second credentialing process (meant to remove non-political dialogue from the meetings), underscores this ‘success’. That decision reflects a perceived threat from those who did not represent a political body’s or a nation’s political interest: the people in support of the natural world itself. This group that threatens the political process is the success of these two weeks in Copenhagen. It is a group from around the globe, from all walks of life, which is made of people that are as varied as the ways a changing climate will affect them, and which is reified by gathering and identifying itself as a mass en masse.

The Art of Sustainability

Visual Arts Organizations and the Modern Environmental Movement

by Jessica Broderick Lewis

Published in the Winter edition of the CSPA Quarterly.  To view or order back issues, visit http://magcloud.com/browse/Magazine/38626.  To subscribe to the CSPA QUARTERLY, join us!  http://www.sustainablepractice.org/join-the-cspa/

‘The Green Museum,’ sited in this essay, is available at our bookstore!

The goal of this study is to assess the visual arts community‘s status in the process of becoming more environmentally friendly. If visual arts organizations use the strategies presented here and choose to walk a greener path they may be able to better engage existing audiences and attract new ones, cut operating costs, generate positive public relations, increase funding opportunities, expand programming and contribute to the world’s environmental wellness.

There are five main arguments for why visual arts organizations should do their part to save the planet: impact on the  environment, role as community leaders and catalysts for change, public funding for art, saving money, and the parallels between art conservation and environmental conservation.

IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT (General)

 There are general operations utilized in most, if not all, organizations that can be assessed as having an environmental impact. The most common source of waste in businesses is the overuse of paper products, not purchasing recyclable  materials, and the improper disposal of recyclables. Moreover, materials such as ink cartridges and batteries are bought new, used and then tossed in the garbage, while the alternatives of recycled ink cartridges and rechargeable batteries are ignored. Toxic materials, which can include cleaners, paints, copy toner, printing materials and more, pose another problem for businesses and can be harmful to employees.

The most obvious impact organizations have on the environment, and often the most difficult to change, is the consumption of energy, water and electricity.  In 2008, the Environmental Information Administration estimated that “buildings represented 38.9% of U.S. primary energy use and account for 38% of all CO2 emissions”.  Additionally, it found that buildings consume 72% of U.S. electricity and 14% of all potable water per year (United States Green Building Council 4). This can be a result of the certain needs of an organization such as heating, cooling and equipment, but is often made worse by wasteful practices such as leaving lights and computers turned on, using outdated equipment, and poor insulation.

Finally, the transportation of employees, customers and audiences is important to examine for any organization. Many businesses encourage people to carpool, ride a bike or use public transportation. Others take it a more proactive approach by explaining the advantages of green transportation on their websites and offering incentives, such as metro passes for taking public transportation or alternative transportation stipends that can be used for the purchase and maintenance of Smart Cars or bikes.

IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT (Arts Specific)

All of the business practices listed above can be viewed as universal to most organizations, but within the visual arts there exists additional and often unique obstacles that need to be overcome in order to reduce the impact on our environment. Museums and galleries must be aware of how they transport their collections for traveling exhibits or moving to and from storage facilities. Authors Elizabeth Wylie and Sarah Brophy of The Green Museum assert that “next to energy use (for lighting and climate control), crating and shipping are generally seen to be the greatest resource link for institutions caring for visual and decorative art and artifacts” (200).

The safe transportation of a traveling exhibition is a top priority for museums and the delicate nature of the art requires that crating and shipping are of the highest standards. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has found that building crates that can accommodate a variety of objects in different shapes and sizes is cost effective, time efficient and better for the environment (Wylie and Brophy, The Green Museum 200).  On solution is to use Greenshipping.com, which offers       individuals and organizations the opportunity to purchase renewable energy in order to offset the carbon footprint created by your package (Green Shipping).  

ROLE AS COMMUNITY LEADERS AND CATALYSTS FOR CHANGE

Artists and arts organizations have been viewed as community leaders for decades and the choices they make often set the tone for how society approaches or reacts to certain issues and can often be a the catalyst for change. At a recent arts symposium Dr. Ford Bell, President/CEO of the American Association of Museums, offered up data that showed the ability of museums to “educate, inform and change attitudes and behavior” (Pain & Central Nervous System Week 525). The American Association of Museums feels so strongly in the power of museums to shape communities that they undertook an initiative in 1998 to explore possibilities for expanding and strengthening their presence in neighborhoods across the country. Among the many positive results was a change to the AAM’s Museum Assessment Program’s Public Dimension Assessment, a modification that holds museums to greater accountability for their image in the community (American Association of Museums).

PUBLIC FUNDING FOR THE ARTS

In an article provided by Americans for the Arts, author Anne L`Ecuyer opened her discussion of public funding for the arts by stating that “communities demonstrate their priorities and values in part by the programs and services they support with public funds” (1).  For many, the argument is that the role of a visual arts organization is to exhibit and/or collect art and to educate the public on its value – not to be leaders in environmental conservation, but how can an organization claim to serve the public, when their very policies and procedures could cause future harm to the community they exist in. If visual arts organizations desire continued funding through public dollars, they would do well to demonstrate an interest in the priorities and values of their community, which includes environmental responsibility.

SAVING MONEY

In these tumultuous economic times, a move towards green business practices can put more green in the pockets of     museums. Websites such as the U.S. Green Building Council and GreenandSave.com provide information on the initial cost of implementing green strategies, the time it will take to see a return on investment, and the dollar amount of that return, to help assess which changes are feasible for an organization. Energy is often the most costly part of operations, but there are many green alternatives that can save money over the long run. Solar energy can save an organization roughly $1,200 per year and initial costs can be recouped in only 10 to 16 years depending on appreciation of property value. Heating and cooling accounts for about 40% of an office’s energy cost – a number that can vary for museums depending on size and collections. Using radiant floors instead of a forced air system can save up to 30% on heating bills. Installing a plant-filled roof can cost about $8 to $10 a square foot, while a traditional roof costs $4 to $6 a square foot, but the green roof can save 20% on summer energy costs. Installing LED lighting requires 16% less energy and lasts 100 times longer. Additionally, there are grants and government tax incentives for making these changes (GreenandSave.com).

ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION AND ART PRESERVATION

There are many within the museum community who make the connection between the preservation practices in the visual arts and the preservation of the environment. In an article entitled “Keeping Art, and Climate, Controlled” from the New York Times, journalist Carol Kino discusses the problems being caused by global warming and how museum officials are responding. She asserts that conservators have observed one rule for over 50 years: “Keep everything in the museum at approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 55 percent relative humidity” and this has been made possible with the use of Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, “which typically cope with unforeseen events by working   overtime”. However museum officials have had to rethink their approach to conservation due to the increase in energy cost, decrease in museum funding and the growing effects of global warming and climate change. Kino poses the  question; “Should museums add to global warming by continuing to rely so heavily on such systems in the first place?” a question that is beginning to be examined in places such as the recent International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works conference where a panel discussion was held to look at the relationship between art conservation and environmental conservation (Kino). By understanding the relationship between art and nature, organizations will be able to better perform their role as community leader, save money, and provide additional justification for public funding for the arts.

Over the course of my research, I have learned that while there are many environmental grassroots efforts taking place in visual arts organizations across the country, there is yet to be a truly unified, systematic effort from the field as a whole.  From the research I have conducted, I have singled out three recommendations for visual arts leaders; to create discipline-wide policy and best practices for the field, to market the field’s green efforts, and to collaborate across disciplines. 

DISCIPLINE-WIDE POLICY/BEST PRACTICES IN THE FIELD

The authors of The Green Museum support the implementation of environmental policies, asserting that it “institutionalizes behavior by providing vision and frameworks, defining process, identifying goals and evaluation methods, and delegating authority” (Wylie and Brophy, The Green Museum 200). This is the vital missing piece in the move towards environmental responsibility in the visual arts community at this time. Although many organizations are making commendable strides in green initiatives, there is no overarching understanding of what the visual arts should be doing. Of the organizations    surveyed, 29% have a difficult time in changing organizational culture, something that could be made easier if there were universal environmental standards in the visual arts. 

In order to better understand what environmental policies should mean to the arts, we can brake down Wylie and Brophy’s definition into four parts; vision and framework, defining processes, identifying goals and evaluation methods, and  delegating authority. “Vision and framework” puts everyone on the same page, letting people both inside and outside our visual arts communities know our stance on environmental issues. It provides a set of best practices that organizations can measure against and it creates a supportive community where ideas and obstacles can be openly discussed. “Defining processes” involves combining the efforts of galleries and museums, consultants and engineers, and other leaders in the industry, to create a collection of industry standards. This list of standards could be incorporated into the American     Association of Museums’ accreditation process and could serve as an outline for organizations to make changes to their operations. By “identifying goals and evaluation methods” for incorporating environmental standards into museum  accreditation there will be a consistent and objective means for evaluation “Delegating authority” empowers people to take responsibility and ownership over a project, plan or program. By designating a point person within the organization to oversee environmental policies it creates greater consistency in our operations and provides employees/guests a point of contact for questions regarding environmental strategies (Wylie and Brophy, The Green Museum 200).

Beyond the organization, authority on environmental issues needs to be delegated for the entire visual arts field. It is    logical that the American Association of Museums (AAM), in conjunction with the U.S. Green Building Council, would be a likely candidate. AAM is a well respected authority in the field and is called upon for leadership in many other areas of museum management. Their accreditation program is sought after by most museums and their recommendations are trusted by the field, perfectly situating them to unite the visual arts community in its pursuit for environmental  sustainability.

MARKETING OF GREEN EFFORTS          

According to “It’s Easy Being Green” organizations are not making enough of a statement about their efforts to be green; “In fact, many recent and planned art museum expansions incorporate high-performance energy-efficient mechanical,   ventilation and lighting systems yet their press materials don’t mention the operational cost savings and environmental advantages, and the average person is hard-pressed to know or find out about them” (Brophy and Wylie, It’s Easy). Brophy and Wylie attribute the silence to an organization’s belief that green strategies are not part of their mission. However,  marketing green practices demonstrates an investment in the future of the community and provides an opportunity to  connect the organization’s mission with the environmental strategies they are using. An organization can achieve this by creating signage that explains their environmental philosophy, developing programs around green initiatives such as building tours, and incorporating the information into their website.

COLLABORATION ACROSS DISCIPLINES 

Some compelling figures from the survey regarding resources and supporting the need for collaboration include; 91% (of organizations) need increased availability of funds, 33% (of organizations) want increased resources for understanding green processes and 22% (of organizations) want green consultants. Foundations such as The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Doris Duke Foundation that support both the arts and the environment would be invaluable resources in stewarding     collaborations between the arts and environmental communities. A database with resources including green consultants, engineers, funding opportunities and more, could be created and utilized by organizations across the country. By  providing organizations with a central location to research information on green initiatives, share experiences and        obstacles and interact with others looking to make a change in the way their organization operates would provide some of the support the visual arts community needs.

As an arts community we continue to make the case of “arts for arts sake” to our local, state and national officials. We  insist, with good reason, that the arts enhance our lives and contribute to the cultural fabric of our communities. I don’t believe we can in good conscious highlight the benefits we provide to the neighborhoods we exist in without addressing areas for improvement as well. Advancing the arts in America does not need to come at the expense of our natural world and by embracing environmental responsibility within our organizations we will ensure that the art we have worked so hard to create, conserve and exhibit will be enjoyed by many generations to come. 

Jessica Broderick Lewis holds a Master of Science in Arts Administration from Drexel University and is on the Board of Trustees for the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association in Alexandria, Virginia. This excerpt was taken from her paper entitled “The Art of Sustainability: Visual Arts Organizations and the Modern Environmental Movement”. For a complete copy of the paper, please visit http://www.library.drexel.edu/ or email jess_broderick@hotmail.com.

Song of The Bird King | Ian Garrett speaks about Art and Eco-Justice

A little bit of a circular reference, but here is an article Executive Director Ian Garrett wrote for Susie Ibarra and Roberto Rodriguez’s Song of The Bird King Blog:

While attending the Arts Presenters APAP Conference in January, Roberto and I sat on a panel, The Tipping Point: Artists and Climate Change led by Graham Devlin. We were delighted to meet at the session Ian Garrett, Executive Director for The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts. He is based in LA and at CalArts University where he also teaches Sustainability in the Theatre Department and with interdisciplinary artists. It’s comforting and inspiring to hear and see the work of Ian Garrett and his active commitment to cultural and environmental sustainability. Garrett’s work challenges and engages in dialogue on these issues. Here he speaks about Art and Eco-Justice.   – Susie Ibarra

Giving Voice: Art and Eco-Justice

Ian Garrett

This past December, I traveled to Copenhagen for the fifteenth Conference of the Partners meeting, better known as COP15. I was there to serve as a witness to the artistic and creative responses to COP15. I was not looking to observe the UN Climate Change Conference itself; I felt this was easily accessible through remote media, and, in some ways, the less interesting event. While COP15 itself had far reaching implications for international governments, I felt my presence could serve to chronicle the other voices that were trying to be heard through less formal means. And, in the winter edition of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts Quarterly, I asserted that this creative sound — from the gallery exhibitions to the street-performance demonstrations — was the only collective, non-political voice. There is no political body that serves as the voice of the holistic sense of Planet Earth quite like those of artists.

Upon my return to California, I participated in the Arts in the One World Conference at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). In this past year, its fifth, the theme was guhahamuka, a Kiri Rwandan word that refers to the breathless attempt to articulate the inexpressible. And again I came to these thoughts of giving voice to that which can not speak for itself, and trying to communicate things which are nearly impossible to communicate. I continually come back to the necessity of art to fill this void. I see creativity as not just that oversoul of our celestial orb and home, but that which gives all people and things a chance to communicate with others without requiring political power or similar agenda-ed platform.

Invisible 5, a project by Amy Balkin, is a prime example of this type of work. Organized as a self-guided audio tour through the California Central Valley along US Interstate Highway 5, this project highlights ecological issues related to the history of this thoroughfare from Los Angeles to San Francisco. This additional layer of spatial encoding transforms the experience of transiting across a typically uneventful stretch of highway into a shocking story of rapid ecological disturbance, injustice, and racism. It reveals a hidden past, lending the inspiration for the project’s title.

My own motor-touring experience comes with a personal history of making this driving numerous times. My father was raised in the San Jose area, and my paternal grandparents were laid to rest there. I grew up traveling back and forth fairly frequently. My brother and sister in-law now live in Oakland, and my wife and I travel when we can to visit and see our little nephew. Were I not to have met Amy and heard her speak about this project, I perhaps never would think about the secrets just beyond the shoulder of the road as I barreled along this route. Without this piece, there would only be silence, and I would have traveled on, ignorant of the veiled violence.

In Balkin’s project, we are told of the duality of this region’s former riches. We hear about building up the area surrounding this new thoroughfare, the impact of oil, the creation of large agribusiness, industrial farming, toxic waste, and deadly fog. The stories are told by activists, residents, officials, and rangers. Without this compilation, though, one might never know the tales this land now holds. There are those who would prefer we weren’t paying attention; things are rarely hidden for the sake of being hidden.

From the largest gatherings of political powers on the future of global ecology to the environmental maladies laid at the feet of small rural communities that aren’t expected to say much, it is important that silence isn’t encouraged. There is no advocacy in silence. There is no remembering in silence. The small island nation of Tuvalu, who became a household name through advocacy at COP15, is about to vanish due to the rising seas, and uses its little might to assert that it doesn’t want to be forgotten while the larger nations jabber. This example is most compelling because it was the closest to a pure voice that exists in these political talks. It is not talking about the threat to its economy, but simply survival.

We could start to talk about any number of instances where advocacy is needed. The Bhopal incident in India was only recently revisited when Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide and had to answer questions about this tragedy. In order to appeal to developers, structurally sound public housing projects were closed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The list goes on in terms of injustice and ecology, and a lack of advocacy predicated on environmental grounds.

This is what makes Song of the Bird King so important. It is an effort to amplify the voices of those affected by the over-fishing, commercialization, and subsequent acidification of Lake Sebu in the Philippines. But it also shows use the problematized arena that art must step into. It is easier to talk about the negative environmental impact of an action. There are more metrics for the destruction of habitat and ecosystems than the cultural consequences; We can talk about sea levels rising. We can talking about the annual fish kill of a body of water. We can talk about the toxicity of particulates in the air. But we cannot empirically state the effects on a population and how this affects its culturally sustainability.

We live in a world where so many are culturally and geographically disconnected from their lands of origin that we rarely consider the importance of place to people. As Susie and Roberto’s documentary notes, only four percent of populations live indigenously. But we find it difficult to even understand the connection of people to their non-indigenous homes, like the farming communities of California’s Central Valley or those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. When a storm is coming, we ask, “Why don’t people just move out of the way?” without valuing a personal or a cultural attachment to place.

This is the root of ecojustice, providing fairness to a person’s or people’s habitat, and, while images of drowning polar bears are heartbreaking, helping us recognize our humanity in environmental issues. Balkin’s work highlights those we don’t see in an area we see as vacant — the “away” where we keep throwing everything. We forget about the tragedies like Bohpal that continue to affect lives discarded by corporations on the other side of the globe. Who knew about the small islands in the Pacific until their inhabitants spoke up? Tuvalu and others are merely tropically anomalies with little to exploit. And, in Song of the Bird King, Susie and Roberto have the vision to look at Lake Sebu, not just as environmental issue, but one of those rare places still connected to a culture and people.

Please check out Ian Garrett’s current projects at:

http://www.atsunset.net
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1539524181/get-at-sundown-to-the-edinburgh-fringe
http://www.sustainablepractice.org
http://connect.sustainablepractice.org
http://wiki.sustainablepractice.org

Song of The Bird King | Ian Garrett speaks about Art and Eco-Justice.