This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog, First Published 25 April 2017
We are almost four full months into 2017, and already there have been multiple large-scale international public demonstrations, starting most notably with the Womenâ€™s March in January. And weâ€™re between two major international marches this weekÂ â€“ the March for Science, and the Peopleâ€™s Climate March. In my installment this month, I highlight a particular creative effort for the March for Science,Â as well as a powerful new documentary from Standing Rock, amidst the unprecedented political situation in the United States.
There is power in the rallies and marches of these past months, in the convening of individuals around shared values. I relish in the humanness â€“Â the connections, creativity, compassion. I am also thrilled by the offers of alternatives: public forums to practice alternatives to the oppressive status quo that leaves out and strips the power of people that do not fit the â€œdominantâ€ type. In these imagined alternatives, there is room for nonhuman beings and forces. This past weekendâ€™s March for Science was such a space, where those who work with data and study forces on all scales could come together in solidarity with one another, and with public supporters. My group of fellow artistsÂ and IÂ marched to stand with the discipline of science, withÂ the people who put the scientific method into practice,Â collate data to relearn our histories, and uncover our future potential as human life on Earth.
My colleagues at Artists Rise Up New YorkÂ hosted pre-march workshops to construct puppets of animals with endangered status. We wanted to bring these puppets to the March for Science â€“Â which landed on Earth Day â€“Â in solidarity with the humans who study these animals and their (our) ecosystems. These puppets, fashioned out of repurposed materials, were a way to show up for our friends in science and across species. We gathered under overcast skies with our puppets in hand, amongst thousands of fellow science allies, many of whom touted posters summarizing their reasons for showing up.
The puppets, with their playful, cartoon-like appearance, caught the attention of other marchers, particularly those under the age of 10, and their families. Young children, strapped to their parentsâ€™ bodies, had a front row seat to a non-fiction puppet show. Many were eager to engage tactically with the characters: a sea turtle and a golden eagle. The three-dimensional animal puppets inserted a level of joy and playfulness into the march, complementing the posters of scientific and Earth-based puns. Despite the rain that greeted us NYC marchers, our energy flourished down Broadway, past Trump Hotel, until dispersing near Times Square. There is a performative aspectÂ to these marches; they offer a forum for forces, elements and species â€“Â otherwise marginalized, silenced, voicelessÂ groups â€“ toÂ beÂ seen on a large public scale,Â a way to more closely speak to power.
In this week between two major marches, in the spirit of Earth Day, anti-fracking activist and documentarian Josh Foxâ€™s latest documentary, Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock, has beenÂ released. I would be remiss if I did not wave the flag for this film (itâ€™s streamable online and less than ninety minutes!). A collaboration with filmmakers Myron Dewey and James Spione, Awake compiles a series of stories from the peaceful resistance at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, on the edge of Dakota Access Pipeline construction. The film is an education, for those whoÂ were not at the Standing Rock camp, in the way that the Indigenous perspective comes to the fore. This film and its makers deserve a dedicated post, and that will come. In the meantime, I wanted to call attention to the wayÂ AwakeÂ writes the history of this moment in time, as well as offers tangible actions to take toward climate justice â€“Â to resist fracking and Big Oil, educate, and support those presently at Standing Rock and at reservations around the country. I will be taking the peaceful, passionate, urgent energy of Awake with me to the Peopleâ€™s Climate March in DC.
As I reflect on the inaugural March for Science, look forward to the Climate March, and consider the themes from Awake that propel me to action, I see the role of arts in this current historical moment: the creativity of constructions at international marches, the framing of stories from Standing Rock in film, the performance of coming together in a public space, as documented for the world to see. My art-activism connections are only examples, and by offering them, I seek to keep the momentum going. We can all keep the momentum going byÂ taking action that suits us: find a Climate March near you; support Indigenous communities; defund DAPL.
AboutÂ Artists and Climate Change:
Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.