Monthly Archives: March 2018

Opportunity: Going Green Survey 2018

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Sustainable Exhibitions for Museums (SEFM) and Stephen Mellor would like to invite you to complete the on-line Exhibitions – Going Green Survey 2018 – Ten Years On, through the following link:

SEFM is a UK-based informal network of museum and gallery professionals who want to promote and encourage sustainability in all we do in this field, with a particular focus on the production and staging of exhibitions.

We are looking for survey responses from museums or galleries of any kind – multiple sites may want to submit by each major site. We wish to once again review our industry to assess how environmentally sustainable or ‘green’ our work practices and institutions are, and how our approaches to exhibitions have changed in the last ten years.

To see the results summary of the first survey issued in 2008 follow the following link to the report pdf:

All of you willing to take this survey are encouraged to review the 2008 report as this will also give you a good overview of and preparation for this follow-up survey before you start.

This 2018 Survey is based on the original 2008 Survey so we can analyse ‘like for like’. We recognise though we may have advanced quite some way since then and that the questions/topics may have been overtaken by progress.

Most questions are ‘green’ and a few new ones ‘financial’ as we are taking this opportunity to see how universally tight budgets have affected exhibition programming and museum operations – perhaps with green benefits.

The actual survey will take roughly 30 minutes but you may need extra time to gather information. You can stop and start until finally selecting the ‘Submit’ button.

The survey will close on Sunday 30 September 2018 at midnight GMT.

The results from this 2018 survey will be added to and compared with the previous 2008 data we have collected and will be shared in November 2018. All respondents will be sent the survey analysis report by email in due course.

We understand how pressured your work-time is, so thank you in advance for your input. If you have any enquiries or questions about the survey, please

Please forward this invitation and links to any contacts you have and who you think might be interested in taking the survey – we want to share/connect as widely as possible across the world and join up the many green initiatives, supporters and enthusiasts that are already ‘green exhibitions’ advocates.

Stephen Mellor, formerly Exhibitions Co-ordinator at Tate Modern, London and a committee member of the International Exhibition Organisers group, is managing this 2018 survey in association with Sustainable Exhibitions for Museums (SEFM).

This survey is a volunteer initiative and any views or information are offered in good faith.

The post Opportunity: Complete the Exhibitions – Going Green Survey 2018 appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

The ‘Climate Atlas’ and the cost of belief

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

“Climate change is often described as a ‘wicked problem.’ One of its wickedest aspects is that it may require us to abandon some of our most treasured ideas about political virtue: for example, ‘be the change you want to see.’ What we need is instead is to find a way out of the individualising imaginary in which we are trapped.” Ghosh, The Great Derangement, 2016, p135.

Amitav Ghosh is struggling with the role of literature and why he and other authors find it difficult to in any way speak to the climate crisis even as it unfolds around us. His contention in The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016) is that the novel, the primary form of literature, developed in precise alignment during the 19th Century with “the regularity of bourgeois life” (p25). He argues that it is this concern with regularity as well as a focus on the individual which makes the novel a form ill-suited to dealing with the magnitude and strangeness of the planet speaking back to us.

But this might be only one way in which the arts are implicated in the climate crisis as it is manifest around the globe. Ghosh asuggests that the visual arts (along with film and television) have found it much easier to address climate change (p83).

But what Ghosh perhaps doesn’t account for is that some people are ‘being the change’ specifically experimenting with ways out of the trap of the individualising imaginary. The political virtue of ‘being the change’ can take the form of collectivism and acknowledging the agency of all things. Climate Atlas, the current issue (#10) of the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, is concerned with exactly the same challenge, not of what literature can do, but of what we can do. And it is also concerned with the dangers that in the arts we might think we stand aside from the climate crisis, drawing attention to it, but not responsible for it. It offers both small flickers of hope and also warnings.

The first thing we need to attend to is that the arts do not have a monopoly on imagining the world differently and showing ‘on the ground’ what that might look like. David Haley reminds us that the root of the word ‘art’ is in the Indo-Aryan noun/adjective rt which meaning ‘the dynamic process by which the whole cosmos continues to be created, virtuously.’ Thus art is not the property of people who identify themselves as professional artists, or even of people who would describe themselves as making art.

That being said when editors of the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest sent out an open call in December 2015 they explained that this was,

“…a project charting concrete and abstract ecological relations that people operate within to address, bolster and alter (through creative work) their relationships to a changing world. The project will use the metaphors of geology to add to a conversation about what it is to live, create, and challenge our changing world. We aim to locate these tectonics and humors, and identify the characters of forces working to sustain and reshape our ecological world.” (from an email received 3 December 2015)

Ghosh says speaking about the world we are living in,

“For these changes are not merely strange in the sense of being unknown or alien; their uncanniness lies precisely in the fact that in these encounters we recognize something we had turned away from: that is to say, the presence and proximity of nonhuman interlocutors.” p30.

Both are seeking a different configuration, not wholly bound up in the human. The fifty eight projects hand-transcribed presumably from emails and then risographed onto A3 landscape paper that make up the body of Climate Atlas submitted in response to the call are all experiments at various stages and scales in imagining and making new relations between people, other living things, and contexts.* They are only the tip of the iceberg – for every project included, there are certainly 10, probably 100 and maybe 1000 like them. They range from small projects – activities that last a few months and are driven by an individual – to things like the ZAD and La Via Campesina, organisations and resistances which are multi-dimensional ongoing examples of being the change.

In addition to examples there are 5 essays which provide a measure of the challenges, for being the change at this point requires careful attention to several dimensions of imbrication: of the business of art; of “Escaping the apparatuses of capture such as the nuclear family, class condition, gender, identity, etc”; of the intervention by the state using militarised police against activism; of seeking ‘the other’ as a way to become alert to petro-subjectivity; and finally to understand that our ‘being the change’ is not appropriate to impose on other cultures and ways of living on this planet.

It is vital to recognise that the arts are the culture which needs to change. The arts are the problem as much as corporate capitalism is the problem. Art changes culture. But if art doesn’t change then culture doesn’t change either.

Ghosh is clearly deeply concerned that the primary literary form, the novel, may actually be part of the problem as a form, not merely in its instantiation in any particular novel. But the Climate Atlas opens up some other dimensions, each of which is an issue worthy of detailed attention. Each is worth exploring. One is the sponsorship of the arts by business, specifically in this case the sponsorship of the Sydney Biennale by Transfield, a corporation holding contracts for the mandatory detention of asylum seekers and refugees. But the trajectory of the critique following on from the action which forced Transfield to withdraw is into the formation of neo-liberal capitalism and the ways in which artists in particular behave has homo economicus,

“The point is not just that all artists must now also perform their artisthood but that the economization of culture and the culturization of economy involves distinctive forms of value creation.”

The Sydney Biennale Working Group is one of a number of activist groups including also the Gulf Labor Coalition and Liberate Tate deeply questioning the economics of the cultural industries. By any measure these political action has been successful – not only did Transfield cease sponsoring the Biennale, but it also had to rebrand. The Tate no longer accepts sponsorship from BP. Ways in which the arts have become bound up with migration and migrant labour are brought into the visible realm. The social license to operate provided by the cultural sector to business has been challenged. The bigger question of whether the culture of growth – bigger museums and bigger exhibitions – is being effectively brought into question remains unanswered as yet. Can we imagine a degrowth agenda for the cultural industries?

Another is focused by the conflicting assumptions between western liberal cultures and indigenous ways of life including seal hunting. This brings us up against so many assumptions, of ethical supremacy over savagery, of the ‘White-Saviour Industrial Complex‘, assumptions about sustainability and the need for predators within an ecosystem. Many indigenous peoples’ languages have no word for ‘art’. The things that have more recently come to be called ‘art’ are for indigenous peoples ways of understanding the world and communicating that understanding to each other. Those ways of knowing and being in the world are in complex relationships with other living things, complex relationships which urban metropolitan colonial settler culture doesn’t understand. But we still make judgements. We accept the privatisation of detention centres but we condemn killing seals. Our hypocrisy is boundless. Our effort to live differently minimal.

Just as this essay calls for setting aside assumptions and asks questions about our understanding, so the whole of Climate Atlas asks us to invest in doing something differently, and to be attentive to our imbrications. The introduction to the Issue says,

“…this issue recognizes thought and action that exceeds its own logics by insisting upon the central need for space of variation and for the other. So, while it is possible and useful to concisely order thought, in this curatorial space we have chosen to instead focus on how pieces sit rather than how they are organised. In the face of climate change, we prioritize lifes’ capacity to organize its own variation. To what end is one meaningful question.”

Art is powerful – we shape the world through the stories we tell ourselves and the arts comprise the best stories. We may try and take the canon to pieces, redraw its boundaries, question its white male privilege, its heteronormativity, but art still comprises the best stories. Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, eminent post-conceptual ecological artists and great storytellers say,

“Our work begins when we perceive an anomaly in the environment that is the result of opposing beliefs or contradictory metaphors. Moments when reality no longer appears seamless and the cost of belief has become outrageous offer the opportunity to create new spaces – first in the mind and thereafter in everyday life.” Quoted on accessed 10 November 2008

Climate Atlas draws attention to examples of people creating new spaces in the mind and in everyday life. It addresses the cost of belief and brings together examples of ways of facing the multifaceted crisis of climate change, the sixth extinction and rapid sea level rise. It draws attention to several of the large cracks in our reality.

* And remember David Haley also reminds us that ‘ecology is he study of organisms in relation to one another and to their surroundings, derived from the Greek word, oikos, meaning house, or dwelling.’


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 Research, Gray’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

Persistent Acts: What is Enough?

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Through Persistent Acts, I look at the intersection of performance, climate, and politics. How does hope come to fruition, even in the most dire circumstances? What are tangible alternatives to the oppressive status quo? My Persistent Acts series considers questions of this nature to motivate conversations and actions on climate issues that reverberate through politics and theatre. The Persistent Acts series continues, juxtaposing questions from Naomi Klein’s recent book No Is Not Enough with Blake Sugarman’s solo performance, Prelude to the Apocalypse (For What It’s Worth).


Climate change. Refugee crisis. Gun control. Globalization. Reproductive rights. Hunger. Poverty. Obviously, this isn’t the first time in history that systems have gone awry. As I consider our current political climate and the facts of climate science, I wonder what the tipping point will be: when the higher education bubble will burst, when Social Security will run out, when racial and economic divides will become full-on civil wars, when the Earth will no longer sustain life as we know it. When will the systems that have gotten us to where we are collapse, or, ideally, when will power and resources become equitably and sustainably redistributed? I wonder when my society will utter a collective “enough” with the destructive status quo, and the work of activists and progressive organizers will become the norm.

I also think about “enough” in terms of what I do to thwart the daunting “when” questions. Am I doing enough? In the midst of the current political shitshow, I’ve turned to Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. In addition to outlining the atrocities of the current US administration, and therefore justifying my anger, Klein highlights successful resistances to oppressive and pollutive systems, including instances of unionizing laborers, countering exploitative globalization, and more. She combines her experiences in journalism and activism to unpack the power dynamics that led us to our current socio-political system. Klein especially criticizes neoliberalism, an ideological project which, as she describes, “holds that the market is always right, regulation is always wrong, private is good and public is bad, and taxes that support public services are the worst of all.” As a major influencer on global policy, neoliberalism has structured cultural and political values around capital, which is to say not ecosystems and especially not sustainable energy. The thesis of No Is Not Enough posits that in undoing the damage of hierarchical ideologies like neoliberalism, we must not only say “No,” we must forge realistic alternative value systems – a series of “Yeses” to rally behind.

Illustration © Oliver Stafford

Illustration © Oliver Stafford from “Naomi Klein’s Guide to Resisting Power” on Huck Magazine.

Klein offers an option, composed by activists and union organizers, called The Leap Manifesto: A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another. A project spearheaded by sixty movement leaders in Canada, The Leap Manifesto is focused on “building a world based on caring for the earth and one another.” It looks to restructure cultural values, prioritizing Indigenous sovereignty, clean energy, and public infrastructure. Jobs that are already low-carbon, such as teachers, nurses, social workers are valuable in our culture and should be treated as such. This looks like, in one of my favorite examples, the expanding purpose and value of a postal worker, who is not only responsible for delivering mail in a green vehicle, but can also deliver fresh meals to the sick and elderly. Taking a step further, The Leap, an ongoing project that has grown out of The Leap Manifesto, seeks to build places like post offices as community hubs, “where residents can recharge electric vehicles; individuals and businesses can do an end run around the big banks and get a loan to start an energy co-op.” The Leap Manifesto, by placing value on jobs outside of the carbon economy, lays out realistic ways to leap Western culture into sustainable systems, because we don’t have the time for incremental change. This is where my theatre practice comes in, because I utilize and participate in theatre to instigate difficult conversations and practice alternative, sustainable realities, which The Leap exemplifies and offers. My introduction to The Leap is juxtaposed by my recent theatregoing experience at Prelude to the Apocalypse (For What It’s Worth) by Blake Sugarman.

I met Blake working on Theater In Asylum’s The Debates. Blake is an artist and activist who uses his solo performances to interrogate dominant ideologies, similar to the ones dissected in No Is Not Enough. I am continually motivated by the ways in which he brings his activism to his art, and vice versa. For Prelude to the Apocalypse, Blake’s activism is heavily featured, as his program note shouts out to Sunrise, a burgeoning movement of young people fighting for climate action. Knowing that Sunrise was in the context of the show, I was curious to see what stories, questions, and feelings would arise.

Part of the show dropped me into despair, as Blake juxtaposes stories of climate deniers with the hard facts of climate science. Tackling climate issues raises all kinds of questions, which Blake posits throughout the show – from how we relate to one another, to what effect time has on us, to whether we’re paying attention. By the end of the performance, Blake fully breaks the fourth wall, coming into the audience, offering a “penny for our thoughts” in response to the question “What is enough?” This was at once a vulnerable and powerful position to be in: the opportunity to voice my politicized view with a room of strangers.

I shared that my go-to thought of “enough” is life off the grid. That “doing enough” looks like “unplugging” myself from our current energy grid, living without a cell phone, or any other mode of digital communication. In other words, to do “enough” on climate change is to forgo my life as I know it. But would taking my own life off the grid have an impact on our national or global energy policy? To me, the disaster of capitalism is the underlying factor in human-caused climate change, and so my individual choices won’t undo such a deeply ingrained system that puts economic profits over people’s lives. So, is it enough to take an ideological stance against a capitalist structure? If such an ideology is backed up by realistic alternatives, then yes, in my mind that is enough to get us started on the work of publicizing and modeling a more equitable way of life.

Yes, it does feel like we’re presently in a prelude to the apocalypse. But as Blake illuminates, that’s only for what it’s worth, not an end-all-be-all outlook. Something is happening here, and it’s up to the people – not greedy governments – to build the world we need, one that is equitable for all beings, one that is sustainable for future generations. This work is happening, especially in grass-roots organizing, so that whether or not that tipping point or the apocalypse arrives, people are working to take the future into their own hands.

Take Action
Learn more about and support The Sunrise Movement
Get involved in The Leap

(Top image: Blake Sugarman.)


Julia Levine is a creative collaborator and vegetarian. Originally from St. Louis, Julia is now planted in the New York City downtown theatre realm. As a director, Julia has worked on various projects with companies that consider political and cultural topics, including Theater In Asylum, Honest Accomplice Theatre, and Superhero Clubhouse. She is on the Marketing team at HERE Arts Center and is Artistic Producer of The Arctic Cycle. Julia writes and devises with her performance-based initiative to bring questions of food, climate, and justice into everyday life.

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.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

The Living Stage

This post comes from Ecoscenography

After an exciting season on the Lower East Side in New York, The Living Stage is returning home to Victoria (Australia) — this time to the coastal town of Lorne. A centre piece of the Lorne Sculpture Biennale, the project will provide a platform for celebrating the town’s vibrant and eclectic mix of flora and fauna, as well as hosting performances by local artists and musicians.

27072903_10156305866841833_7280562264386017950_nFor those of you that are new to The Living Stage, my original idea (conceived during my PhD in 2012) centred on creating a recyclable, biodegradable, biodiverse and edible performance space that combined stage design, horticulture and comunity engagement. Part theatre, part garden and part growing demonstration, the Lorne project will feature a portable plant-lined stage amongst a corridor of suspended botanical sculptures.

Since its inception in 2013, I’ve been incredibly lucky to see the project grow and take shape over multiple interations. The Living Stage (Lorne) is our sixth project and it is a concept that continues to travel the world. However, as each living stage evolves out of a direct response to the localities of site, ecology and community, no project is ever the same.

26903831_10156305866576833_5365080898599036411_nThe Lorne project has been created in collaboration with Ashlee Hughes, assistant designer Pia Guilliatt and the local community. Lorne residents, Helen Smith and Colin Leitch have been particularly instrumental in procuring soil, plants and objects for the stage, with more than 45 boxes of plants actively growing in preparation for the Lorne Sculpture Biennale Opening on the 17th of March.

The Living Stage will include a series of performances by local artists over the three weekends from 17. March to the 2nd April. I’m super excited to announce our  current line-up for The Living Stage performances: including local musicians and dancers that will respond to the unique space that surrounds them. Information about our artists are listed below:


Saturday 17th March: Mountain Grey (live music) 3-5pm

13391404_1177698585584102_678071114202492654_oImmerse yourself in the heart of the Blues on The Living Stage. Join us in celebrating an appreciation for all things nature through the lyrical poetry of front man Mike Robinson Koss (vocals/harmonicas/lyrics) and his dynamic ensemble. Complete with vintage guitar tones and bluegrass/ragtime style, this local band combines environmental themes with character and pizazz that will have you tapping your feet and asking for more.


Sunday 18th March: Randall Forsyth ‘In search of an acoustic shoreline’ (live music) 1-3pm

RandallRandall has a long history of playing guitar on the south west coast in various incarnations, most notably with the Beachniks since the early nineties. The Living stage provides a perfect opportunity for him to explore a more ambient side of his palette. Drawing on the natural sound elements of wind, ocean and forest, he hopes to compliment the natural soundscape rather than dominate with a series of acoustic guitar loops composed and created in real time. Links to contemporary songs may intercede in the overall context of exploring the tidal qualities and interwoven duality of landfall.


Helen Duncan in The Texture of It by Elanor Webber. Photography by Gregory LorenzuttiEASTER Weekend: 31st March & 1st April: Helen Duncan & Sofie Burgoyne (Dance performance) 9:30-2:30pm (final performance: 2pm)

Two highly skilled dancers will inhabit The Living Stage to grow an original performance piece over a two-day creative development period. Sculpted live during the Easter Weekend, these performers will develop a site-specific, experimental work in response to lush design of living plants. Bring your picnic, kids and your coffee, relax in front of the stage as these performers work hard to create your show. Stop by and have a chat to them and maybe offer some creative ideas. See what has evolved when they perform a final showing for you on Saturday 31st March and Sunday the 1st of April at 2pm.

Sponsored by: the Thrive Research Hub (Melbourne School of Design, The University of Melbourne), the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee and Graham Blashki & Evelyn Firstenberg. This project has been made possible by the community of Lorne, including: Helen Smith, Anne Nadenbousch, Colin Leitch, Sue Grant and Grace Nicholls. Assistant designer: Pia Guilliatt. Set builder: Tim Denshire-key. Plants donated by Batesford Nursery, Bushland Flora, Flinders Nursery, Tavistock Nursery, Tree Growers Advanced (TGA), Warners Nurseries, Rhodo Glen Nurseries. 

Photo credits:

Community workshops in Lorne. Photos by Tanja Beer and Grace Nicholls. 

Helen Duncan in The Texture of It by Elanor Webber. Photography by Gregory Lorenzutti’

The post, The Living Stage (Lorne), appeared first on Ecoscenography. has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.

Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).

Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)

Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at

Go to EcoScenography

Embedded Artists Project – Green Tease Reflection

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Creative Carbon Scotland co-hosted a sharing event on Tuesday 6 March with North Edinburgh Arts and Chris Fremantle. This Green Tease explored Embedded Artists Projects and discussed work placements undertaken by Edinburgh University Students at Creative Carbon Scotland and North Edinburgh Arts. Our work placement, Elly White, now shares some final reflections at the end of her time with Creative Carbon Scotland.

From January – March 2018 Elly White, Abbie McGunnigle and Gabi Gillott, students from the Edinburgh College of Art, explored different approaches to socially engaged arts practices and embedded artist models, where artists are engaged for extended periods in community or organisational settings to contribute to wider environmental and social aims.

Research Presentation  

Embedded Artists Project - Green Tease Reflection

Elly White presenting at North Edinburgh Arts

My work placement has been at Creative Carbon Scotland (CCS) where I have been researching for the culture/SHIFT project, which explores how cultural and creative perspectives can contribute towards greater environmental sustainability. I have investigated local and international embedded artist projects including historical and current examples. This research will contribute to the longer-term development of an online Library of Practice for building and sharing knowledge. Keep an eye on the CCS website for more info soon!

After introductions from Gemma Lawrence, Producer at CCS and Kate Wimpress, Director at North Edinburgh Arts (NEA), I began my presentation by sharing historical case studies, these included:

I then situated these with current examples:

A short discussion took place after my presentation with questions around the feasibility aspects of embedded artists projects such as the eighteen months seen with Artist Placement Groups placement of Roger Coward within the Department of Environment. Whether this was too long or it is an integral aspect for a success project. Another contributor mentioned how it was interesting to see examples of art engaging people who may not normally be interested, such as Jenny Kendler’s work involving the local community in the dispersal of Milkweed seeds.

Zine Workshop

After this short discussion, it was now time to hear from the placement students at North Edinburgh Arts, a member of the Green Arts Initiative. Abbie McGunnigle and Gabi Gillott began sharing how they had mainly  been participating in workshops and engaging socially with local communities. Zines became their chosen output for the placement, after Edinburgh College students Epoch 8. held a zine-making workshop. Abbie and Gabi felt that the making and reading of zines was a less invasive way of inviting people into a conversation, only requiring low cost, recycled materials and a starting idea to get going Their placement resulted in the proposition for a Zine library shelf in the café at North Edinburgh Arts, for everyone for access and contribute towards.

We broke into small groups for the workshop where we were given instructions how to create a six page zine from one piece of A4 paper. We then worked in groups to create ‘exquisite corpse’ style zines where we each posed a question on the front cover of our zines, then passed it onto the person next to us to respond. These were passed around until the zine was finished. We had two minutes to fill in a page so this was a great opportunity for the Green Tease participants to reflect and respond in a quick manner to the information that had been discussed so far.

Group Discussion

Following the presentation and workshop we got back together as a group. Chris Fremantle encouraged us to get into pairs to contemplate and generate questions as we reflected upon the information shared during the Green Tease.

Here is a short summary of those reflections:

  • How do we move beyond artists as engagement tools for councils and other contexts, rather than having an artist fix engagement problem, how do we embed creative approaches within wider strategy?
  • The potential difference between working with communities and organisations, in terms of working at a grassroots level and spanning to more top-down models and how to navigate this through an arts approach –
  • Does this mean outcomes are already set within an organisation?
  • Does it become social work or remain within artistic terms?
  • Is the line between social work and art practice dependant on who funds and generates embedded artists projects such as charities or non-government organisations?
  • Building legitimacy, does there need to be a gatekeeper within the organisation to stand up for the embedded artist?
  • The need to be have a sense of fluidity– different style of placements- some may be more collaboration-based indicating adaption needed for different types of projects
  • Reflexivity– for the sustainability and longevity of project as it may reach a terminal point. Environments of the community may change creating a need to be sensitive and open to this change
  • Length of Embedded Artists Projects, with long term and permanent seen as favourable rather than temporary in order for the opportunity to make a real difference
  • What do artists do differently compared to other sectors and disciplines such as community developers or architects, is it because of the aesthetic process and result art brings and would this change the outcome if it was not a visual artist embedded?

The sharing event was incredibly useful for future considerations into the Library of Practice. Future case study research should cover more art practice types rather than just those with visual outcomes. The length of embedded artist projects was another aspect discussed throughout the Green Tease.  As the library is being developed it would be interesting to follow the progress of current placement case studies.

Thanks to all who participated and contributed to the event, especially to North Edinburgh Arts for hosting this Green Tease.

Green Tease is an ongoing informal events programme connecting cultural practices and environmental sustainability across Scotland. Find out more about our Green Tease Open Call and previous events.


The post Embedded Artists Project – Green Tease Reflection appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

10 Pioneering UK Initiatives

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Back in the days when I was still working for Cape Farewell in London, the appetite for artistic engagement with climate change seemed to be everywhere, including in the big cultural venues: from Ten Billion, the shocking science-lecture-performance at the Royal Court, to programs at the Science Museum and the Tate. The prevailing attitude focused on raising awareness about global climate change, and asking questions about what was happening in our own backyards. How much insight did we have into the carbon footprint of these grand buildings? Ambitious productions, touring and attending conferences and Biennale all over the world – greening our own practice was just as (or even more) important as raising awareness about melting glaciers. And here the amazing ladies (mostly ladies) of Julie’s Bicycle jumped to help.

Since 2012, all cultural organizations that receive regular funding from Arts Council England are required to report on their environmental impact, using Julie’s Bicycle Creative IG tools – advanced carbon calculators designed specifically for the cultural sector. This has made Arts Council England the first arts funding body to recognize the environmental role that the cultural field can play. Museums, theatres, festivals, tours, galleries and productions started to reduce their carbon emissions (as well as water use and waste) as it was made fun and clear how to do so. See below a Top 10 list of my favorite art organizations talking the talk and walking the walk – with several gems from Scotland!

Open jar

1.  Open Jar Collective

The collective of socially engaged artists and designers that form Open Jar Collective operates mostly out of Scotland and actively share food, ideas and possibilities for change. Always involving the local community in their workshops, dinners and debates, they are re-thinking and re-shaping Scotland’s food future. Make sure to check out their project Soilcity, where the collective offered explorations of soil culture through the alchemy of composting, growing, foraging, fermenting, brewing and cooking.

We use food as a vehicle for bringing people together, as a common language to understand the global economic system, and as a tool for exploring people’s fundamental relationship to the land.
—Open Jar Collective

Human Sensor, Kasia Molga, 2016. Photo by Nick Harrison, courtesy of Invisible Dust.

2.  Invisible Dust

Reporting every day on the level of air pollution in London, Invisible Dust aims to making the invisible visible – particularly environmental challenges that don’t necessarily register to the naked eye. This awareness is brought through artists’ commissions, events, education and community activities. One of their exciting new projects, Under her Eye, features the amazing Margaret Atwood (amongst other ubercool ladies) in a summit on Women and Climate Change at the British Library this summer.

I love working with Invisible Dust – it’s a fantastic platform for collaborations between artists and scientists who are natural collaborators; both are explorers and storytellers, seeking out new ways of understanding, communicating (and indeed, changing) the world around them. So when it comes to the dry (and let’s face it, often frankly terrifying) language of climate change, the marriage of the two can be particularly effective. Artists can respond to environmental data in work that provokes real engagement – and scientists in turn can consider more creative and impactful ways of sharing (or indeed conducting!) their research. By communicating these urgent issues in lateral, innovative ways, by using humor and humanity, these sorts of works can reach us on a more animal, cellular, level – and therefore, hopefully, demand our response.
—Lucy Wood


3.  Creative Carbon Scotland

Inspired by the ladies at Julie’s Bicycle, Creative Carbon Scotland supports Scottish arts organizations with training in carbon measurement, reporting and reduction. Though their work involves a lot of strategy and policymaking, the direct involvement of artists remains key. Projects such as The Green Tease, but also various themed residencies, allow for a good relationship with the local community and places artists in both arts- and non-arts organizations.

We believe that the things artists know and the way they think and do things has a contribution to make to changing the way we organize our society, which will help move it towards a more sustainable future.
—Creative Carbon Scotland


4.  Grizedale Arts

Tucked away in the beautiful English Lake District, Grizedale Arts is a self-proclaimed “curatorial project in a continuous state of development.” The site, called Lawson Park, is a productive farm (which includes livestock), where artists can’t be afraid to get their hands dirty. The program, consisting of events, projects, residencies and community activities, engages with the complexities of the rural environment. Grizedale is the type of place where process is valued over product, and the boundaries of what an art institution can be (or ought to be) go wildly beyond the established structures and the idea of the white cube. Bring your wellies.

I want to broaden the idea of what art is and how it works; it is fundamentally the connective tissue that energizes all of our activities. It is an action, not a product, and everyone uses it. I help artists and communities make better use of one another, opening creative processes for both parties, helping both parties escape the confines of what can be a horribly narrow mindset. I aim for a way of living that is connected, a level body of resources built around fundamental elements, a real world of growth, cycles and change.
—Adam Sutherland


Professor Jaeweon Cho in the Science Walden pavilion during the first phase of the project, 2016.

5.  Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World

Now part of a family of art and ecology organizations, which includes at Dartington Hall in Devon, CCANW is an educational charity which brings together curators, artists and researchers (myself included!) to give people a deeper understanding of their responsibilities within nature. Its Soil Culture project (2013-16), organized collaboratively with Falmouth University and RANE, was comprised of a research phase, an artist residency and a touring exhibition, and aimed at deepening public understanding of the importance of soil. It became the UK’s most substantial contribution to the United Nations International Year of Soils.

In the coming years, we hope to encourage a new generation of artists and curators to engage more people with the urgent ecological challenges we face globally. We believe that the arts can effect change in ways that complement the work of conventional education and science.
—Clive Adams


6.  ONCA

ONCA, a gallery and performance space in Brighton, has an interesting founding story. It has to do with ONCA founder Laura Coleman meeting a puma in Bolivia. She connected with the puma, who had been a pet until it came to the refuge where Coleman met it when it was ten months-old. The puma, called Wayra, was terrified of the jungle. Over the years, Laura developed a friendship with Wayra, learning more from this cat about trust, patience and love. In 2011, Laura came back to the UK wanting to find a way to tell Wayra’s story, intertwined with the stories of all the other animals (human and non-human) she met in the jungle. ONCA is therefore an art space dedicated to performance and storytelling about issues that affect animals.

We work really hard at ONCA to provide a space, and a support network, for artists, young people and the general public to explore, question and creatively reimagine the world. We ask ourselves, how do we “stay with” social and environmental justice, in all their entanglements? How can art, and art spaces, contribute towards better nows, and better futures, for all?
—Laura Coleman

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 22.46.43

7.  Deveron Projects

“The town is the venue” describes the framework of Deveron Projects’ work, as they  inhabit, explore, map and activate the place through artist-driven projects. These projects may cover a variety of topics from employment to health, from ecology to architecture, from history to spirituality, and from migration to being local. They bring together people from all walks of life through public gatherings, symposium, forums, workshops, farmers markets, seasonal cafés, music events, street festivals, slow marathons, gardening sessions, traditional ceilidhs, internet conferences and Friday lunches. The 50/50 principle is their guideline for a socially engaged work practice: balancing artistic endeavor with everyday life.

Our town, like many rural places is facing the signs of globalization with shops, banks, services closing. We need to join forces and think of responses for creative regeneration.
—Claudia Zeiske


First Draft Ale was the catalyst for the first homemade malt organic ale in the last 500 years. Initiated by Futurefarmers, in collaboration with the Liberation Brewery. Photo: The Morning Boat.

8.  The morning boat

The Morning Boat (Jersey, Channel Islands, UK) is a program of public art projects, exploring and reflecting on agricultural and fishing practices in Jersey and the impact these have on people’s lives. At the centre of the program is an international artist residency, inviting artists from around the world to collaborate with local farmers, fishermen, politicians, chefs, retailers and consumers, to encourage public discourse on complex critical issues that are central to the island’s economy, social fabric and way of life. Projects aim to be catalysts for positive change and cultural shifts, promoting best practice and creating new infrastructures. They negotiate social, political and environmental challenges, to encourage a more responsible and sustainable way of living and consuming.

All aboard!

On a small compact island, in which the urban, suburban and rural, merge, overlap and rub together, the production processes behind our consumption (and comparative wealth) are strikingly evident and immediate. Within this revealing landscape, the local and global are entwined together, as local industries facilitate, influence and respond to international developments. Despite this microcosm, or perhaps because of it, there seems to be a lack of sustained public debate regarding the practices and accountability of island industries and a defensive attitude towards critical voices that interrogate the status quo. The local phrase, “if you don’t like it, there’s a boat in the morning,” encapsulates this attitude, a mindset that holds back progress and the ability to creatively reimagine the way we do things.
—Kaspar Wimberley


Image Credit: Performance A Play for the Parallels by Lina Lapelytė during 7th Inter-format Symposium at Nida Colony, 2017. Photo by Andrej Vasilenko

9.  Scottish Sculpture Workshop

Located in the foothills of the Grampian Mountains, in the rural village of Lumsden, Scottish Sculpture Workshop promotes a dialogue that considers the place of this rural locale within a globalized society. They are an active bunch, organizing residencies, Reading Groups, talks and lots of courses, including woodworking and ceramics. Make sure to check out their latest open call with DIY, an opportunity for artists working in Live Art to conceive and run unusual training and professional development projects for other artists.

Environment is deeply rooted across all our thinking, work and partnerships. We approach this not as a single issue but as part of the complex web of ecological, social, historical, economic, and political phenomena. Through networks such as Frontiers In Retreat we aim to be part of the global cultural shift that moves away from exploitative and extractive relationships with nature and instead work with artists to imagine, inspire and ignite new ways of being in the world.
—Sam Trotman

HeHe Fracking Futures

HeHe, Fracking Futures, 2013. Commissioned by Arts Catalyst and FACT.

10.  Arts Catalyst

Through its continuous work with artists, scientists, communities and interest groups, Arts Catalyst commissions and produces large-scale projects, artworks, and exhibitions that connect with other fields of knowledge, expanding artistic practice into domains commonly associated with science and specialist research. They also commission research and are great advocates for cross-disciplinary thinking and working. They have worked with some of the biggest names out there (think Tomas Saraceno or Jan Fabre) and their list of collaborators is as extensive as it is impressive.

Arts Catalyst promotes new artistic practices, ideas, and ways of inquiring into the world. We work with artists, scientists, and people from myriad backgrounds and perspectives to create imaginative, inspiring, engaging projects addressing important issues of our time, from extractive capitalism and climate change, to histories and representations of race and migration’.
—Nicola Triscott, CEO/Artistic Director

(Top image: Duke of York Column. Photo by Kristian Buus. The string of LED’s wrapped around London’s main columns marked a future in which sea level rise has changed the landscape beyond recognition. This project was part of the series of interventions coordinated by Artsadmin.)


Curator Yasmine Ostendorf (MA) has worked extensively on international cultural mobility programs and on the topic of art and environment for expert organizations such as Julie’s Bicycle (UK), Bamboo Curtain Studio (TW) Cape Farewell (UK) and Trans Artists (NL). She founded the Green Art Lab Alliance, a network of 35 cultural organizations in Europe and Asia that addresses our social and environmental responsibility, and is the author of the series of guides “Creative Responses to Sustainability.” She is the Head of Nature Research at the Van Eyck Academy (NL), a lab that enables artists to consider nature in relation to ecological and landscape development issues and the initiator of the Van Eyck Food Lab.


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.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Call for Artists: Soundcamp 2018

Join the 5th edition of Soundcamp over International Dawn Chorus Day weekend
5 to 6 May 2018. 

What Is Soundcamp?

Soundcamps are networked by the Reveil radio broadcast: a crowd-sourced 24 hour transmission of real-time sounds that follows sunrise around the planet from 5AM London time UTC 0 on Saturday May 5th to Sunday morning on the 6th.

Soundcamps vary from small forays to events with a full program of walks, workshops, talks and performances. Check here for information about visiting and camping, including booking details as they are confirmed.

Who Can Join?

The call is open for streamers to contribute live sounds from their locations using a phone, laptop or Raspberry Pi. Streams will be featured on the Locus Sonus soundmap, archived at and broadcast live on Wave Farm and Resonance Extra and netradio and FM stations around the world. See a selection of streams from 2017.

Broadcasters are invited to join in relaying the program in whole or in part. (Details on listening and broadcasting).


Soundcamps are run as self organising events. To help, please see the contacts at each location.

No soundcamp near your area? Set up on here.


SoundCamp are an art collective based at Stave Hill Ecological Park in Rotherhithe. Since 2013 our practice has developed in response to this place, through residencies, collaborations and commissions. We use real-time technologies to reveal the site’s hidden ecologies and make them audible to a diverse audience locally and remotely. This has been replicated in other locations and led to a growing network of listeners and DIY broadcasters sharing live sound from specific listening points – at home, outdoors, under water – in what has been called an emerging Acoustic Commons.

The Breathing Hole and Inuit Cultural Dramaturgy

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

In 2013, composer Aaron Gervais and I finished a full-length opera, Oksana G, about sex trafficking in Ukraine. The opera is sung in Ukrainian and Russian with some English and Italian, and had its world premiere this past May in Toronto, Canada.

The year we finished Oksana G, we began work on an opera about climate change called The Breathing Hole, about the life and death of a 500-year-old polar bear. It unfolds from 1534 to 2034 and is set by a breathing hole in Nunavut, a massive territory in Northern Canada that makes up most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Nunavut is a territory governed and primarily populated by the Inuit people who live there.

All the characters in the first act of The Breathing Hole are Inuit. The second act involves characters from the Franklin Expedition and two Inuit hunters, while the third act is a mix of characters. The writing combines imagination, fact, and fiction.

When the outline was complete, I realized the cost of making it an opera was prohibitive, so I began to write it as a play. In the fall of 2014, Bob White, Director of New Plays at the Stratford Festival, commissioned a first draft to celebrate Canada150, the 150th anniversary of the British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick being united into one Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. Canada150 is a political celebration, but many Indigenous colleagues have impressed on me that for their people it is not a celebration. The Canadian government made the past 150 years extraordinarily difficult for them. Refusal to honor treaties and the terrible legacy of children being taken from their families and abused in residential schools are just two of the indignities that have traumatized Indigenous people. Stories about the past, present, and future of Canada can no longer be told without contemplating the inclusion of Indigenous characters. They have been here for over 15,000 years and will be here for thousands more…if climate change does not kill us all first.

The Breathing Hole, Stratford Festival, August 2017. Photo by Itai Erdal.

In January 2016, I met Reneltta Arluk who was performing in my play Pig Girl in Montreal. Two months later I was thrilled to learn she was interested in directing The Breathing Hole. Reneltta is of Inuvialuit, Dene, and Cree descent—a fine actress and a woman who has been deeply involved in theatre about the north and about the environment. She was in the Underground Railway Theater production of Chantal Bilodeau’s award-winning play Sila. Once Stratford committed to producing the play, I began consulting with Reneltta on the script.

Bob also agreed to facilitate research consultations with Inuit artists, so in November 2016, Reneltta, Bob, and I flew up to Iqaluit to meet the people who would become our cultural consultants. Reneltta had reached out to Ellen Hamilton, the Executive Director of Qaggiavuut, a non-profit society dedicated to strengthening the Nunavut performing arts, with a focus on Inuit, to organize a reading of the play.

At the start of our first day the artists initiated an intense discussion about cultural authenticity—who can create drama from the Inuit perspective, and how they should do it. They tore into me at the top of Act I. The names I had chosen for my characters were not Netsilik names that originated from the area where the play is set. (Kevin Eelootook would eventually give the characters their new names.) I had made many mistakes in my draft, like having the characters eating raw polar bear meat, something that in reality would have killed everyone by the end of Scene One. It was a stupid mistake because instead of checking on that point I just assumed all meat was eaten raw. I also love writing overt conflict between characters, but in Inuit culture, conflict is not expressed overtly, so they helped me find a subtler way of expressing it.

The Inuit artists were upset that I had not come to them earlier in the writing process. I explained that my process is to first create the characters and the drama and then to research—either on paper or with people. Yes, I made many mistakes, but I also knew I would eventually be meeting with Inuit consultants. For months after our meeting in Iqaluit, I worked with them via email, asking questions to get the cultural behavior correct. The consultants shared their traditional knowledge and helped me gain an understanding of beliefs and taboos, but they also wanted me to be very clear in my discussions about this play that The Breathing Hole it is not an Inuit story, but rather a play by Colleen Murphy with Inuit characters.

During the process the consultants coined a new term: Inuit Cultural Dramaturgy. Together we agreed that their names and contributions would forever be acknowledged in house programs and in the published text of The Breathing Hole.

Consulting with Inuit artists from Qaggiavuut enriched the Inuit characters and in turn enriched The Breathing Hole. The only way I can truly thank these artists is by offering audiences an engaging story as well as an emotional experience whereby laughter leads to tears and tears lead to thinking about our future…together.

(Top image: The Breathing Hole, Stratford Festival, August 2017. Photo by Itai Erdal.)


Colleen Murphy won the 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama and the 2014 Carol Bolt Award for her play Pig Girl. Her play The December Man (L’homme de décembre) won the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama. Other plays include Bright Burning (I Hope My Heart Burns First), Armstrong’s War, The Goodnight Bird, The Piper and Beating Heart Cadaver (nominated for a Governor General’s Award). Colleen has been Writer in Residence at the University of Regina, McMaster University, University of Guelph, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Alberta. 

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.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Opportunity: Reduce business energy costs and receive up to £10k

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Take out an unsecured Scottish Government SME Loan to pay for upgrades and receive 30% cashback

By making energy efficiency improvements most businesses can save on average around £8,000 each year. Over five years that’s a whopping £40,000. Or, if you prefer to think in percentages, you could cut your energy consumption by a quarter – 25%.

Upgrading your lighting and heating systems can dramatically reduce your business’s energy bills. Take out a 0% unsecured loan from the Scottish Government to pay for upgrades and you’ll receive 30% cashback!

For a limited time only, eligible small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) applying for an interest-free, unsecured Scottish Government SME Loan can receive 30% cashback up to a maximum value of £10,000.

Top reasons to take out the SME Loan, today
• Don’t miss out on the 30% cashback – funds are limited.
• Tackle rising energy costs by reducing your energy consumption, and running your business more cost-effectively.
• Run a more sustainable business by reducing your carbon footprint.
• Protect your profits by investing in energy efficiency equipment today, reducing your outgoings and reaping the rewards for years to come.
• Savings on overheads can be reinvested in the business for future growth and improved market resilience.

What your business can do with the SME Loan
Here are just a few examples of energy efficiency projects that are eligible for SME Loan funding;
• investing in LED lighting
• installing more efficient heating systems
• improving the insulation of a building
• Investing in more energy efficient equipment, such as a state of the art oven or a more efficient refrigeration unit
As lighting can be 20% of an energy bill and heating nearer 50%, then it’s no wonder that these are the most popular projects. And logically, before investing in heating a building, it’s better to make sure it’s not ‘leaky’ but improving insulation.

Contact Resource Efficient Scotland to help you with your loan application
Don’t miss out. The Resource Efficient Scotland advisors have already supported organisations in Scotland to identify over £42 million worth of savings and have supported over 300 loan applications to date. Contact the team today for your report (needed for your application) and help with your loan process by calling 0808 808 2268, emailing or going online for more information.

The post Opportunity: Reduce your business energy costs and receive up to £10k cashback with a Government SME Loan appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

Biennale Architettura 2018

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

For this month’s renewable energy series, I revisit one of my favorite subjects: the critical role of architects in the global fight against climate change, using the upcoming Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 as an entry point.


In 2018, I will attend my first Biennale di Venezia, the world’s oldest and most prestigious contemporary art exhibition, founded in 1895. Music, cinema and theatre festivals were added in the 1930s; architecture in 1980; dance in 1999. For the past two decades, the Venice biennale has alternated between art and architecture, respectively, during odd- and even-numbered years.

The Biennale Architettura 2018 will run for six months, from May 26 to November 25, 2018, and occupy the Giardini di Castello and Arsenale venues in the eastern part of Venice. Several concurrent cultural events and art/architecture exhibits will be organized in parallel with the official biennale, including the European Cultural Centre’s TIME-SPACE-EXISTENCE international architecture exhibit that will display six of my photos of wind turbines, considered a form of industrial architecture.

Venice, biennale, architecture, Venezia

Curators Shelley McNamara (left) and Yvonne Farrell (center), with Paolo Baratta (right), President of La Biennale di Venezia. Photo downloaded from

The 2018 biennale, formerly called the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, is curated by Irish architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. They have chosen Freespace as the title and organizing theme. According to the curators, Freespace describes “a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda.”

Architects participating in the 2018 biennale are free to interpret the concept of “freespace” in any way they choose. The curators explain their choice of Freespace as follows:Screen Shot 2018-03-09 at 9.45.15 PMAs a photographer focused on the energy transition, I would have liked to see here the inclusion of “nature’s free gifts of energy” – solar, wind, geothermal, water – as an essential element of Freespace. After all, architects and architectural firms around the globe are already rethinking how they use “nature’s free gifts” – both renewable and non-renewable.

A great example is Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s forthcoming skyscraper in Jakarta, Indonesia: the Pertamina Energy Tower is the world’s first supertall tower for which energy is the primary design driver. This 500-meter tower gently tapers towards a rounded open top, creating a wind funnel that sucks air inside the building to turn a series of vertical wind turbines; electricity produced from these turbines will help the skyscraper achieve net-zero energy status. Solar, passive solar and geothermal energy are also generated on-site. This is truly an inspiring design and a stunning achievement. Architecture for the Anthropocene. I can’t wait to visit when construction is completed in 2020.

Pertamina Energy Tower Fly-Through from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP on Vimeo.

I think the American Institute of Architects (AIA) says it best: “Designing and building resilient buildings is not a choice, it’s an imperative.”

Globally, buildings consume 35 percent of all energy and 60 percent of all generated electricity, much of which is, unfortunately, still produced by fossil fuels. According to the AIA, three-quarters of global carbon emissions come from just two percent of the Earth’s land surface – urban areas.

With two-thirds of global population expected to live in urban areas by 2050, the AIA nails it: “We believe that the climate change battle will be won or lost in cities.”

Lorenzo Quinn, sculptor, Venice, biennale, Support, hands

Lorenzo Quinn’s “Support,” installed at the 2017 Venice Biennale. Downloaded from

I am therefore optimistic that climate change and renewable energy will emerge as sub-themes at the 2018 biennale – with or without specific direction from Biennale di Venezia. This has already happened in previous biennales: 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014. For example, the most talked-about piece at the 2017 biennale was sculptor Lorenzo Quinn‘s “Support” (see photo above), a nine-meter tall installation that cleverly symbolizes humanity’s capacity to destroy the world and, simultaneously, to save it.

Perhaps this is the point of the biennale’s organizers: providing only a few broad thematic brushstrokes, effectively giving artists and architects free reign to express themselves. But this seems to me a lost opportunity, especially in the context of  climate change and urban sprawl.

Imagine the positive impact that large cultural events like the prestigious Biennale di Venezia could have if they encouraged all future pavilions and exhibits to address the critically important role that artists and architects, in collaboration with engineers, scientists and city planners, can and must play to reduce carbon emissions and increase resiliency of the built environment. The Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI), which organizes a biennial international competition for renewable energy art and architecture, has already been doing this for 10 years.

I will end here with a must-read quote by Ned Cramer, Associate AIA and editor-in-chief of ARCHITECT:

“Climate change is the fundamental design problem of our time. Not style, not fees, not education, not community, not health, not justice. All other concerns, many of them profoundly important, are nonetheless ancillary. The threat climate change poses is existential, and buildings are hugely complicit—even more so than that stock culprit, the automobile. As every architect should know, buildings consume some 40 percent of the energy in the U.S. annually, and they emit nearly half of the carbon dioxide (CO2), through greenfield development, cement production, and the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal. Because CO2 traps solar energy in the atmosphere, thereby heating the planet, it is the chief agent of climate change [PDF], making buildings—and by association, the architecture profession—profoundly responsible.”

After visiting the Biennale Architettura 2018, I will write a follow-up post here, which I hope is filled with bold examples of architectural insight and genius to address the most daunting problems facing humanity today. It is time for architects to take their rightful place at the center of global climate change movement.

addendum: Deadline for the LAGI 2018 Melbourne competition is 6th May 2018 at midnight GMT.

(Top image: A carved cast concrete block from the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale by Austrian firm Marte.Marte Architects. Photo: marte.marte.)


Joan Sullivan is a renewable energy photographer based in Québec, Canada. Since 2009, Joan has focused her cameras (and more recently her drones) exclusively on solutions to climate change. She is convinced that the inevitable transition to a 100% clean energy economy will happen faster – and within our lifetimes – by creating positive images and stories that help us visualize and embrace what a post-carbon future will look like.  Joan collaborates frequently with filmmakers on documentary films that explore the human side of the energy transition. She is currently working on a photo book about the energy transition. Her renewable energy photos have been exhibited in group shows in Canada and the UK. You can find Joan on Twitter and Instagram. 

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.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog