Monthly Archives: November 2019

Library of Creative Sustainability: New USA-based Case Studies

We’ve just launched a new set of Library of Creative Sustainability case studies, looking at four different US-based examples of projects that make use of the arts to achieve sustainability goals. We’re using this as an opportunity to think a bit about what we can learn from arts and environmentalism in the USA and how this relates to the situation for us in Scotland.

The new case studies

The four new case studies look at:

  • City as Living Laboratory: an NGO that aims to promote environmental awareness and sustainable development in cities through collaborative artist-led projects.
  • Natural Resources Defense Council Artist in Residence: An artist residency run by an environmental campaigning organisation that uses art as a means of developing strategies and engaging the public in new ways.
  • Recycled Artist in Residence: a scheme organised by a waste management and recycling company that provides artists with the opportunity to produce work using or in response to the waste materials that arrive on site.
  • Maintenance Art: The fourth article looks at the artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ earlier pioneering work in environmental, socially aware art practices that arguably prepared the ground for the other three projects discussed.
Maintenance Art 5

Mierle Laderman Ukeles in conversation with a New York Sanitation Department employee

What can we learn from them?

Firstly, these projects demonstrate the varying roles that artists can have within organisations and projects. Although two of the schemes are described as residencies, they are really rather different. Recycled Artist in Residence provides resources that allow artists to pursue their own distinct projects while the Natural Resources Defense Council integrates an artist fully into their operation, giving them a role in determining the direction of the organisation. City as Living Laboratory by contrast is artist-led and partners with various organisations to share expertise and develop projects.

Secondly, these projects maximise the potential of artists by providing them with time and resources as well as including them from an early stage of organisation. As a result the creative input from artists is able to shape the direction of projects themselves as well as providing the means of communication.

Thirdly, art invites different forms of interaction and engagement that might not be possible otherwise. The individual artistic projects that form part of City as Living Laboratory’s larger schemes provide opportunities to get thoughts from communities that can feed back into wider goals, while the work that Jenny Kendler undertook with the Natural Resources Defense Council allowed them to access and involve members of the public in new ways, reaching new audiences. Art can be a highly valuable method for crossing the barrier between institutions and members of the public.

Finally, connections and collaborations are essential. Ukeles had plenty of ideas on how to produce art that engaged with ‘maintenance’ but no resources to work with. The New York Sanitation Department was carrying out a lot of work in this area but had no means of communicating about it. The symbiotic artist-institution collaboration thus allowed them to fulfil each others needs. This is true of all four case studies. The flexible skills and working practices of artists make them particularly suited to these kinds of collaborative relationships.

Natural Resources Defense Council Artist in Residence 1

Jenny Kendler with her Milkweed Dispersal Balloons

How does this compare to Scotland?

There are clearly important differences between the US and Scottish contexts. The most obvious one is scale. The size of cities in Scotland would likely invite different responses to those created by City as Living Laboratory in response to American cities for example. Scottish projects would also have to deal with more historic cities with different types of urban planning and potentially older infrastructure to contend with, which would raise new issues and provoke alternative approaches.

To some extent the Scottish environment bares similarity with the US. For example, issues around population being split highly unevenly between dense urban areas (the American east coast, the Central Belt) and sparse rural areas (the Midwest, the Highlands) could be comparable.

On the other hand, the changes in climate that Scotland will see over the coming years (increased rainfall, more extreme temperatures) are different from those that the US will face (water shortages, extreme weather events), and there is no real US equivalent to Scotland’s island communities and the particular environmental issues associated with them. While Jenny Kendler’s project with the Natural Resources Defense Council was concerned with Monarch Butterflies and Milkweed, the flora and fauna that are essential to protect in Scotland are quite different and would require different solutions. Similarly, Scotland’s extensive coastline, peatlands, and moors provide ecosystems that require their own unique solutions.

There is perhaps a longer tradition of embedded artist projects in the US, but this is not to say that Scotland is entirely lacking in older precedents (see our Glenrothes Town Artist article for an example of this). Nevertheless, there is arguably more need for the development of institutions around this kind of practice in Scotland than in the US, with embedded artists in environmental projects, notwithstanding exceptions like Climate Ready Clyde, being relatively rare .

This inevitably raises questions about differences in funding  but these new case studies seem to reiterate the same problems as we find here in Scotland. Namely, the difficulty of funding projects that straddle the divide between arts and sustainability and  issues with the extended timescales that embedded artist projects tend to require.

In essence, these case studies provide good models to work from, but there is no single approach that works in all circumstances. Applying the methods that these organisations have employed in Scotland must involve careful thinking about how they could work when applied to different urban and rural environments, different ecosystems, and different institutional structures.

The post Library of Creative Sustainability: New USA-based Case Studies 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

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Poet Catherine Pierce Describes the Creative Process in Crafting Anthropocene Pastoral

By Peterson Toscano

What does it take to create a poetic masterpiece that is also able to express the complex emotions we feel around climate change? Poet Catherine Pierce describes her process crafting her moving poem, Anthropocene Pastoral.

This Art House segment is heavily influenced by the podcast Song Exploder, where musicians unpack a song and talk about almost every aspect of it, as well as their creative process. In this podcast, Pierce does something similar with Anthropocene Pastoral, which first appeared in the American Poetry Review.

Inspired by the California Super Bloom of 2017, Pierce captures the strangeness of living in a world that is rapidly and dangerously changing, but at the same time can be unseasonably pleasant and beautiful.

She opens the poem with the line, “In the beginning, the ending was beautiful.”

In our conversation, she reveals the many choices she made to create the haunting mood of the poem, and its lush landscape filled with a riot of images, animals, and life. She explains some of the techniques and devices she uses to construct the poem. Then she reads the poem for us.

You can read more of Catherine Pierce’s climate change-themed poems online including High Dangerous and Planet. Pierce’s last book of poetry, The Tornado is the World is about an EF-4 tornado/extreme weather event. The filmmaker Isaac Ravishankara produced a beautiful short film out of one of the poems in the collection The Mother Warns the Tornado.

Catherine Pierce is co-director of the Writing Program at Mississippi State University, and the author of the award winning collection of poetry Famous Last Words. She is working on a new book of poetry, Danger Days, which continues her exploration of climate change.

Coming up next month, a group of circus artists hop on a ship to engage the public in a performance that defies gravity and provides wisdom and guidance in a time of climate change.

If you like what you hear, you can listen to full episodes of Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, Podbean, Northern Spirit Radio, Google Play, PlayerFM, and TuneIn Radio. Also, feel free to connect with other listeners, suggest program ideas, and respond to programs in the Citizens’ Climate Radio Facebook group or on Twitter at @CitizensCRadio.

(Photo by Megan Bean/Mississippi State University.)

This article is part of The Art House series.


As host of Citizens’ Climate Radio, Peterson Toscano regularly features artists who address climate change in their work. The Art House section of his program includes singer/songwriters, visual artists, comics, creative writers, and playwrights. Through a collaboration with Artists and Climate Change and Citizens’ Climate Education, each month Peterson reissues The Art House for this blog. If you have an idea for The Art House, contact Peterson: radio @


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

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2020 Summer Residency OPEN CALL

DEADLINE 12/4/19

The Wassaic Project accepts 1 – 6 month proposals for our Summer Residency program and Family Residency program (May through October). The Wassaic Residency Program cultivates and supports community for emerging and professional contemporary artists, writers and other creatives. Housed in historic, landmark buildings, the residency program offers nine artists each month the opportunity to live and work in the heart of a rural community. The Wassaic Residency seeks artists working in a diverse range of media who want to produce, explore, challenge, and expand on their current art making practices, while participating in a grass-roots, community-based arts organization.

For more info and to apply:


Aphra Shemza: Open studio today and Saturday

Open Studio
1-8pm, Tuesday 26th November 2019
12-5pm, Saturday 30th November 2019

Unit 15, 5 Fountayne Road, London, N15 4QL

I am delighted to invite you to my open studio today and Saturday this week. Join me at my home/studio for a drink and a catch up before this year draws to a close. My work will be available to view and purchase during the event. Please contact me for a list of works. I will also be on hand to discuss future commissions for 2020, so do come along if you would like to reconnect.

Please rsvp to: 
Studio visits at other times are available by appointment please contact me to arrange.

Copyright © 2019 Aphra Shemza, All rights reserved. |

My Hudson River Primer

By Ellen Kozak

It is likely that the Hudson River, which runs the length of the state of New York, will be at the doorstep of my studio within the next couple of decades. This is my twentieth-year painting along the river’s edge in the town of New Baltimore. Direct observation is the core of my painting practice. I work on site with a field easel. My process, and the circumstance of having a subject in constant motion, influenced my return to work in video. In 2008, I received a commission for a single-channel video from the Katonah Museum of Art.

Bodies of water and their physical properties, atmospheric conditions, and natural phenomena are mesmerizing sources of inspiration. I work with these elements in a responsive and experimental way, pairing ephemeral luminosity with tidal motifs, and natural phenomena with man-made disturbance. As I paint, use my camera, swim, kayak, and live with the presence of the Hudson throughout the seasons, the river starts to feel like a close companion.

Painter’s Log

The river is a living organism. While it is resilient, its fragility is once again being challenged. As many know, the Hudson suffered extreme abuse over many decades, notably from the multinational company General Electric’s dumping of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Like any injured organism, it requires care and respect for the systems that support its life and health.

In my own work, I strive to depict the river’s supple and subtle shifts in color, luminosity, and transparency. Its surface may appear smooth or disturbed. Entering the sphere of my interest are aspects of optical phenomena such as after-image, conjured by intensely bright light reflected from the river’s surface.

Certain Slant

As a painter also working with video, my practice brings together concepts and crafts from both media. Dialogue between these forms raises new ideas and possibilities. My approach is empirically responsive and quotidian in exploring conditions, natural or manmade. One imperative in my dual practice is close study through which sensations can be intoxicating and intense. Abstract in appearance, my work conveys the movement and luminosity of rivers without offering views or realistic representation. Yet, while painting, I feel sure that I am reporting a precise account of the landscape.

I am attracted to bodies of water for their perceptual properties as well. Their mirror-like surfaces are an interesting way to indirectly observe the world through reflection. This can create collisions and magnify attributes by imposing distance, both perceptual and psychological. Mediated observation can suggest metaphor and render what is known equivocal.

Field Notes

I use the surface of the river as a giant watery lens that absorbs reflections, colors, and patterns. It collects activity from the sky above – the movements of clouds, fog, foliage, planes in flight – and on the Hudson, tankers transporting crude oil and barges carrying “restricted use soil” from Newtown Creek as fill beside tributaries of the Hudson. This is a violation that reintroduces contaminant into the environment. Last year, one loaded barge containing this restricted use soil sank and no notice of violation was issued by the DEC. The re-industrialization of the river is evident and problematic.

My interest in water and attendant attributes, such as the repetitive motion of waves, is longstanding. In graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I experimented with one of Nam June Paik’s wacky video synthesizers. From oscillators, the contraption generated images based on electronic waveforms. Analog technology, more physical than digital, revealed the inner workings of monitors, tubes, and electron guns spewing streams of electrons. Now, working beside shorelines, the watery surface of the river provides a different kind of synthesizer – organic and embedded in the landscape.

Oil paint shares an aqueous attribute with my subject, but each has different viscosities. In recent years, I have been approaching paint as a mimetic medium; I use its physicality to perform in ways similar to my subject.

Twilight Transcript

Spending so much time along the shoreline lets me experience the Hudson as a commercial waterway and see the consequences of superstorms such as the flooding of whole neighborhoods, the ripping away of staircases, and large appliances including cars being carried downriver. The clear evidence and certainty of sea level rise is inescapable.

Some sightings of note include entrapped ships waiting for a rising tide to lift them from where they have run aground; barges transporting enormous turquoise struts – bridge parts for the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge (now renamed the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge) that crosses the river from Grand View-on-Hudson to Tarrytown; the annual assembly of a pumping station, across from my studio, to carry dredging spoils from a large swath of the riverbed to the top of Houghtaling Island, where they reenter the ecosystem; and the ongoing illegal rezoning of wetlands.

Many people are surprised to learn that most of the Hudson is actually a tidal estuary extending from the mouth of New York Harbor to the Federal Dam in Troy, approximately 153 miles north. The tidal zone in New Baltimore is surprisingly deep, about twelve feet. While painting, if I don’t want to get caught by the tide, I have to constantly back up from the shoreline.

All of these years working directly beside the Hudson inspired me to find a way to become an advocate for it. My awareness and concern, while not expressed directly in my artistic work, offered me a path to seek involvement. In joining the membership of the environmental organization Riverkeeper, I signed on to their mission “to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries and safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.” More recently, as a board member, my practice of working on site has been a useful and practical kind of monitoring and surveillance in and around our river.

Vertical Roll

One look at the environmental issues, the campaigns, and cases that Riverkeeper is tackling daily gives me hope. This short film about the Gowanus Canal reveals just one of Riverkeeper’s ongoing efforts and its hard work.

Recently, I have noticed an inverse relationship between my paintings and video. In the former, I collapse hours of observation onto the still surface of a painting, while in the latter, I use still imagery to refer to time and imply constant motion. Subverting expected characteristics of each medium creates unexpected paradoxical disjunctions.

(Top image: riverthatflowsbothways, 2016, four-channel video installation, Ellen Kozak & Scott D. Miller)


Ellen Kozak is a painter and video artist whose work brings together concepts and crafts from both media. She lives and works in New Baltimore, NY and in New York City. A Professor at Pratt Institute for twenty-three years, she received degrees from MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies and the Massachusetts College of Art. Her work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Fogg Museum among others. Seventeen solo exhibitions of her work have been mounted in the US, Japan and France, and her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions


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

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Wild Authors: Renato Redentor Constantino

By Mary Woodbury

In this feature, I look at, and re-enjoy, Agam, a 2014 book project from the Philippines. Thanks very much to Redentor Constantino, from the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities – publisher of the book Agam: Filipino Narratives on Uncertainty and Climate Change – for permission to excerpt the cover and other information about the book, and for providing assistance in finding out more about this amazing title. Block quotes are text from the Agam website.

Agam reflects the confrontation between climate change and diverse cultures across the Philippines. It combines original new works in prose, verse, and photographs and depicts uncertainty – and tenacity – from the Filipino perspective, minus the crutch of jargon.

The title, Agam – an old Filipino word for uncertainty and memory – captures the essence of this groundbreaking work. Inside are 26 images and creative narratives in eight Filipino languages (translated into English), crafted by 24 writers representing a broad array of disciplines – poets, journalists, anthropologists, scientists, and artists.

All proceeds from the sale of Agam will go to the project Re-Charge Tacloban, an integrated solar and sustainable transport services and learning facility in Tacloban, a city devastated by Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), the strongest storm ever recorded at landfall.

I have recently been in touch with Renato again, who stated:

Agam has been launched in several capitals. In addition to a huge number of events in the Philippines, Agam has been launched in Washington DC, Manhattan, Berkeley, Denver, Berlin, and Bonn. The book has won three national book awards. For two years now we have partnered with Iyas, an annual creative writing workshop run by some of Agam‘s contributors. We have helped organize activities as well as provided lectures and insights into the climate issue and the way it intersects with the creative process. We are working on an international version now, helping put some shape into the overall scope of the book.

He also stated wisely:

Get your bearings, lose your marbles – this might very well be the basic principle by which advocacy and literature will meld in the face of the climate crisis. I can’t think of a period in history when poets and writers are more needed than the present. This is our Thermopylae, our defining moment; we are faced with change that will only become more violent the longer the spectatorship of the public remains ascendant. We face likewise the opportunity to survive and thrive and, most importantly, to sweep aside vestiges of the old order constructed by anthropomorphic conceits thinking we, particularly the few, can live so large and so indifferently without any consequences.

Agam is a song, a poem, a story, a photograph, a calligraphic sweep of the hand. It is all of these and more. One of its descriptions: This is a book that asks you to sit down and take a deep breath, it draws a line in the sand and whispers in your ear, “This is where our stories begin.” It tells of the archipelagic country’s people and natural landscapes and environmental changes. It roars with the wind carving through coconut groves and buildings. It swims with the rising Abra River, it counts fingers from the past while observing the many storms. It eyes the haunted wreckage from typhoons and floods. It follows the uprooting of trees, the remaining dust. Naomi Klein said of the book:

Agam is exquisite: a deeply original concept executed with tremendous artistry. Rather than asking readers to care about the whole world at once, these elegant vignettes distill the climate crisis down to its most intimate and human details. By focusing on the small, the biggest questions of all are cracked open. How do we heal after our most beloved and nourishing places have turned against us? How do we live in a world that has itself become a question mark? And most of all: How can we stop inflicting such violence on one another?

This glance into the dwindling wildness of the Philippines is told beautifully, thoughtfully, and with an eye to how humanity is impacted. According to Ecowatch:

The Global Climate Risk Index 2015 listed the Philippines as the number one most affected country by climate change, using 2013’s data. This is, in part, due to its geography. The Philippines is located in the western Pacific Ocean, surrounded by naturally warm waters that will likely get even warmer as average sea-surface temperatures continue to rise.

The Stories Within

The stories in Agam are accompanied with beautiful artwork and photography. These people are not fictional. The storms are not fictional. Agam fuses storytelling and reality in an artistic medium.

In “Tulo Ka Hinumdoman,” Merlie Alunan writes poetically of the strength of wind and how it slashes through groves of banana and coconut trees and rice fields, how the same wind could be so strong as to turn a person into dust, how the wind ruins buildings and urban objects, how it–with the rising seas–takes what’s in its path. There’s an overwhelming sense of nature being boiled up by climate change, and turning more powerful.

In “Agayayos” (Ever Flowing), Arnold Molina Azurin recalls a former town being entirely moved to higher ground away from the Abra River as wild waters rose and rose. He says this constant environmental and climate shifting: “Sometimes very slow in coming and almost imperceptible, but sometimes severely and instantly catastrophic.” Landmarks end and new ones begin–sometimes so subtly, sometimes strongly–always forever changing.

Merlinda Bobis, in “Sampulong Guramoy” (Ten Fingers), asks us to see the invisible. Ten fingers of the mother…of the father. How many times does one count when rotten rice needs to be scavenged from a storm, when a roof needs fixing, when the village is evacuated. I can see a child using the fingers to count and see the shadows and light dash to and fro in these terrible storms, which become haunting memories. Over and over.

In “Unnatural Disasters,” Sheila Coronel finds power in the bayanihan spirit, as the compassionate people help each other through each crisis. According to The Bayanihan (pronounced as buy-uh-nee-hun) is a Filipino custom derived from a Filipino word “bayan”, which means nation, town or community. The term bayanihan itself literally means “being in a bayan”, which refers to the spirit of communal unity, work, and cooperation to achieve a particular goal.

In “Sa Laylayan ng Bahaghari,” Ni Honorio Bartolome de Dios tells the story of a beach that is now gone, swallowed by the sea. As with the other stories, the tale is haunting and reminiscent of loss and death. But there is still hope. Maybe a rainbow will come.

May Ling Su, in “The Power Couple,” shows the spirit and strength of Filipino people–and hints at the disparate contribution to climate change vs. the uneven results. The power couple recycles. They do not do social media. They have no education, money, or opportunities. They do what they can to survive and live in the culture–fishing, hunting, toiling in extreme weather. They are hit hard by climate change:

We’re called “resilient” by the system that ravages our resources and spits us out, the remains of the carcass they have consumed and now consider waste.


Agam‘s authors are Regina Abuyuan (also the Executive Editor), Merlie Alunan, Dr. Leoncio Amadore, Arnold Azurin, Romulo P. Baquiran Jr., Herminio S. Beltran Jr., Merlinda Bobis, Renato Redentor Constantino, Sheila Coronel, Honorio de Dios, Daryll Delgado, Grace Monte de Ramos, Ricardo M. de Ungria, Marjorie Evasco, Alya B. Honosan, Susan S. Lara, Padmapani L. Perez, Mucha-Shim Lahaman Quiling, Joel Saracho, Jose Enrique Soriano, May Ling Su, Ramon C. Sunico, Mubarak M. Tahir, Dr. Michael L. Tan, and Criselda Yabes.Among these authors are winners of the Carlos Palanca award, a Magsaysay Awardee, a SEAWrite Awardee, the Chancellor of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, public intellectuals, and pop culture experts. All of them in one book.

Click here for bios of Agam‘s authors.

The Photographer

Behind the lens is Jose Enrique Soriano, who took portraits of people he met. He imposed no story or caption behind their faces – no unnecessary drama, just “the people at the forefront of climate change.” In this case, it means those who live with its effects. There is no sweeping background of the devastation. The pictures are about the people, as the stories are too.

The Cover

The cover is a mix of new and old typography by Kristian Kabuay. It’s not very apparent, but the calligraphy is baybayin with modern techniques from the Hanunuo Mangyan tribe in Mindoro. (The black “squiggles” on the front cover reads “A-Ga-M” and on the back, the more traditional “A-Ga” is written.)

Please be sure to read the 10 Reasons Why We Love Agam.

For more information about ordering, please visit Agam’s Facebook page.

The featured image is by Dee Rexter, titled Boat from Bora, taken at Boracay Island Malay, Aklan. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

This article is part of our Wild Authors series. It was originally published on


Mary Woodbury, a graduate of Purdue University, runs, a site that explores ecology in literature, including works about climate change. She writes fiction under pen name Clara Hume. Her novel Back to the Garden has been discussed in Dissent Magazine, Ethnobiology for the Future: Linking Cultural and Ecological Diversity (University of Arizona Press), and Uncertainty and the Philosophy of Climate Change(Routledge). Mary lives in the lower mainland of British Columbia and enjoys hiking, writing, and reading.


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

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Valuing Arts and Arts Research

Research paper published by the Valuing Nature Programme as part of their Demystifying Series.

We live in a period of unprecedented environmental change that demands us to completely re-think the ways we collaborate in doing research and evolve our systems of governance and economics. Informed decisions require the integration of knowledge from different perspectives, and the participation of diverse stakeholders including civic society. Navigating multiple types of value in the study of natural environments can challenge assumptions, change attitudes and ultimately improve our decisions, in often unexpected ways.

This report provides an account of what creative practice has brought and can bring to research. It aims to endorse existing practices and trigger new thinking in doing research related to landscapes and environments, and their associated ecologies and management, by revealing the ways in which artists can operate as researchers, either independently or as part of multi-, inter-, and trans-disciplinary teams. It also addresses issues of the relationships between artist and non-artist researchers and offers positive suggestions about what arts research can bring to inter- and trans-disciplinary research contexts.

Ideas presented in the report have been informed by exchanges between academics and professionals, from the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences, as well representatives from policy and practice interested in the contribution of the arts in landscape, environmental, and valuing nature research agendas. Insights have been instigated by discussions that took place during the AALERT (Arts and Artists in Landscape and Environmental Research Today) workshop held at the National Gallery, London in February 2018 and funded jointly by Valuing Nature and the Landscape Research Group.

Read the full report here.

The post Valuing Arts and Arts Research 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

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An Interview with Artist Anne Percoco

By Amy Brady

I have for you this month a fascinating interview with New Jersey-based artist Anne Percoco. Anne is a co-collaborator on an art project called The Next Epoch Seed Library – it comprises a custom set of drawers and shelves filled with plant seeds native to the region. The project also consists of walks, workshops, discussions, an open-access curriculum, deep-time seed storage experiments, and other activities. I spoke with Anne about what inspired The Next Epoch Seed Library, another work of art called Indra’s Cloud, and what she hopes people take away from viewing her work.

Anne Percoco. Photo by Colleen Gutwein.

Tell me about The Next Epoch Seed Library.

The Next Epoch Seed Library is a collaboration between myself and Ellie Irons. In 2015, we were both working with weeds and seeds in our own practices. During a studio visit soon after we first met, the idea of a seed library for weeds came up, and we ran with it.

We began by designing seed packets, going on some seed collecting walks together, and creating a small collection. Then, we had the chance to participate in a group show: Intersecting Imaginaries with No Longer Empty in the Bronx. We decided to build a custom set of drawers and shelves into an I-beam in the raw gallery space. The drawers held seed packets, including a special collection from the surrounding neighborhood, and the shelves held seeds in jars and some informational brochures.

Since then, we’ve broadened our activities to include more than just maintaining our collection, which is made available to the public in the form of a pop-up library that travels between exhibitions and venues, and is accessible by mail at all times. Our offerings now include walks, workshops, discussions, an open-access curriculum, deep-time seed storage experiments, and special projects. We also have a semi-permanent base at the Sanctuary for Independent Media’s Nature Lab in Troy, NY, where Ellie lives.

Where did the idea for the Library come from?

I was first attracted to this idea because of the seeming absurdity of carefully collecting, sorting, displaying, and distributing seeds of plants that easily propagate themselves on their own, even in the most challenging of environmental conditions. However, I quickly learned from Ellie, who has a background in environmental studies, that these intrepid plants provide tremendous benefits to urban and damaged landscapes. Many cities are lacking in green space, especially in underserved neighborhoods (an environmental justice issue). It turns out an overgrown vacant lot provides benefits similar to a natural landscape – it provides food and habitat for pollinators and other critters, absorbs excess stormwater, filters particulate matter from air, draws toxins from the soil, stores carbon and produces oxygen. Patches of weeds even provide mental health benefits to us humans: our heart rate and stress levels get lower as we walk past weedy greenery. Furthermore, weeds do not require intensive watering and fertilizing like cultivated plants and lawns. They are incredibly self-sufficient. For damaged and polluted landscapes, hardy weeds often act as healers. Their presence makes the land more habitable, allowing other species to move in.

We learned after starting NESL that there are a few organizations which are actively collecting seeds of wild cousins of our food crops, in anticipation of future pests or environmental challenges which they might face as climate change takes hold. These relatives may contain valuable mutations and adaptations in their DNA which can potentially lend their resiliency to our food crops. A few examples of wild crop cousins in our collection include: prickly lettuce (lactuca serriola), a relative of lettuce; Queen Anne’s lace (daucus carrota), a relative of carrot; and curly dock (rumex crispus), a relative of buckwheat.

What do you hope viewers of your art take away from the experience?

We hope that NESL prompts viewers to become more observant and appreciative of these humble but vibrant plants who live alongside us and are supporting us as we move through the sixth mass extinction. We’ve also experienced that handling plants, learning about them, and collecting their seeds is a tactile, pleasurable activity, which we enjoy sharing with participants.

Additionally, we hope that the binary concept of native vs. invasive species is broken down in some way by our project, particularly in the context of human-impacted landscapes. We cannot afford to label all non-native plants as harmful, as many provide important ecological services to urban and disturbed landscapes while other species struggle to adapt. Often the measures taken to remove these plants (such as herbicide) are quite destructive in themselves!

Indra’s Cloud is another fascinating piece of yours that speaks to environmental concerns. Please tell me about this work.

In late 2008, I was in residency in Vrindavan, India with a local environmental NGO, Friends of Vrindavan. For this project, I collected about 1,000 plastic bottles and sewed them together to create large half- and quarter-sphere domes. Friends of Vrindavan helped me transport the project in pieces to the bank of the Yamuna River, where I hired a boat for the day. I tied the overlapping domes of bottles onto the boat, which created a bulbous shape. From shore, the sculpture appeared to be a floating, plastic cloud. The boatman poled the sculpture around the town of Vrindavan on the Yamuna River, enacting a parikrama, a traditional circumambulatory walk meant to honor a town, temple, or deity.

The Yamuna River is widely known to be a physical manifestation of the goddess Yamuna, and it’s considered a blessing to bathe in her waters. However, the river itself is terribly polluted with raw sewage from Delhi and industrial effluent from surrounding factories.

Indra’s Cloud. Photo by Anne Percoco.

The image of a cloud made of water bottles on the Yamuna River references a well-known local myth about water resources. In the story, Krishna persuaded the cowherds of Vrindavan that the rain their cows drink does not come from the sky, but from the land itself. Therefore, he encouraged the people to gift their yearly offering to Mount Govardhan instead of to Indra, the rain god. In revenge, Indra sent a dark storm cloud which released a torrential downpour onto the town, but Krishna lifted the mountain like an umbrella, with his pinky finger, to protect his friends. The story is a reminder of the interconnectedness of nature, that the water we drink does not come magically from the sky or a plastic bottle – it is affected by the land and everything that is done to it by humans.

As a result of this project, one frequent tourist group to Vrindavan transitioned from single serving plastic bottles to reusable dispensers, saving an estimated 3,000 bottles per year. This project was made possible with the support of Friends of Vrindavan as well as the Asian Cultural Council.

What do you think that art can tell us about climate change that other forms of communication (like news reports and other types of nonfiction) can’t?

Whenever I wonder what individual artists like me can possibly contribute to this crisis, I think of these two quotes in tandem: Rebecca Solnit wrote that “environmental problems are really cultural problems,” and Matthew Coolidge wrote that “art is the R&D of culture.” If these quotes are true (I think the first is true and the second can be true), then it makes sense to use artistic forms to investigate what is broken in our culture, what would allow us (Americans & members of other industrialized societies) to so casually and regularly undermine our basis for survival – and to pose alternative value models. For example, in my work both with NESL and in my individual practice, I try to find value in materials, places, and species that are widely considered worthless. I also try to elicit from viewers their attention to small details as well as empathy, both of which I think would be important for the kind of cultural shift we need right now.

Coolidge goes on to say that art is an incredibly flexible discipline. Because there are really no hard and fast rules, artists can connect disparate ideas and hold space for nuance and contradiction in a way that might be difficult in other fields.

What’s next for you?

NESL has three group shows opening soon: In the Weeds: Art and the Natural World at Wheaton College in Norton, MA; an installation at Swale House on Governor’s Island NY in connection to The CURB Banquet event, and New World Water at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ. We have outdoor test plots currently installed on the campuses of both Seton Hall and Wheaton for our project, Lawn (Re)Disturbance Laboratory, and we’ll be leading two workshops at Wheaton next weekend.

For NESL, there are several things we’d love to do in the future, from creating a seed vault within a permanent public sculpture, to expanding our open access curriculum, to studying a particular plant that grows in Chinese copper mines, to just generally growing our collection and network of collaborators and participants.

In my personal practice, I’d like to remake a piece using pens that are running out of ink. Pens are such interesting everyday objects: disposable vehicles for expression, a connection between the body and mind. If anyone has empty or near-empty pens to donate, let me know!

(Top image: The Next Epoch Seed Library at William Paterson University. Photo by Anne Percoco.)

This article is part of the Climate Art Interviews series. It was originally published in Amy Brady’s “Burning Worlds” newsletter. Subscribe to get Amy’s newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.


Amy Brady is the Deputy Publisher of Guernica magazine and Senior Editor of the Chicago Review of Books. Her writing about art, culture, and climate has appeared in the Village Voice, the Los Angeles Times, Pacific Standard, the New Republic, and other places. She is also the editor of the monthly newsletter “Burning Worlds,” which explores how artists and writers are thinking about climate change. She holds a PHD in English and is the recipient of a CLIR/Mellon Library of Congress Fellowship. Read more of her work at and follow her on Twitter at @ingredient_x.


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.

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The Factory of the Future: A Collaborative Project for Imagining Otherwise

By Zoë Svendsen

“Those who tell the stories rule the world.” With that claim, George Monbiot opens his book Out of the Wreckage, a call to arms for a world beyond neoliberalism. When it comes to stories, it matters who tells them, as well as what the stories are and where space can be found in culture for imagining otherwise.

The fight over who gets to tell what story is ongoing, but there is also another role for the arts – to flesh out what those other stories might be. When this happens, a generative role for the arts in relation to politics starts to emerge. It is not necessarily a traditional message-based role of overt acts of persuasion, but one that undertakes the speculative and provisional work of imagining, depicting how we might live within very different social and economic conditions. It is a challenging requirement: I, for one, have had all my theatre muscles tested by the demand to imagine how possibilities for a world beyond climate crisis might work. For so many of us living in cultures built on fossil fuel use, it is much easier to see losses and sacrifices than it is to see what might be gained by a transition to a world that faced up to the crisis.

I work with a network of theatremakers and, having made a show called World Factory that immersed audiences in the ethical conflicts embedded in consumer capitalism, we asked ourselves: What next? Supported by an artistic residency whose aim was to explore future scenarios in relation to climate change, I looked at how the economic system could be changed, through a process I call “research in public,” where research that ordinarily goes on behind closed doors becomes a conversation held in public – at relaxed events publicized on social media and in cafés or theatre foyers or anywhere informal.

In response to these conversations, my collaborators and I devised forty-nine economic and legislative changes to enable human and planetary flourishing. We then put these to audiences in the performance installation WE KNOW NOT WHAT WE MAY BE at the Barbican Centre in London over five days in September 2018. Actors improvised stories of a transformed City of London based on the scenarios that were discussed, argued over, and voted on by audiences.

The task for audience and actors alike was to imagine what it might be like to live in a “new normal” of social and environmental flourishing. The creation of the imagined stories was structured in a way that was built on collaboration – not consensus. It was networked, multi-perspectival, and took place over time. No single person (maker, expert, or audience) was present at every moment. Each generation of audience watched stories created from discussions held earlier by other audience members and worked on scenarios themselves, which would be watched by others. This principle of generational, generative thinking is embedded in the heart of the future direction of the project.

In response to the Barbican installation, my performing arts company, METIS, was commissioned to create a bespoke version for the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2019, which we developed in collaboration with the Cambridge Conservation Initiative. Entitled The Factory of the Future, the artistic “output” is now a video installation, but also encompasses workshops and consultative conversations in Oslo. Added to our stories of a post-capitalist London are stories of a transformed Oslo in a post-fossil fuel culture. To source the stories, we have been working with architects, urban planners, and local citizens to imagine what Oslo might be like under economic conditions designed to enable the flourishing of both humans and the environment. The actors will then create stories of what it is like to live in the city under these transformed conditions; these stories of Oslo will then be added to the video installation that presents an alternative London.

Anna-Maria Nabirye and Tom Ross-Williams imagine the future during WE KNOW NOT WHAT WE MAY BE at the Barbican Centre, September 2018. Photo by David Sandison.

Oslo is often already seen as a beacon of environmentally friendly, socially engaged practices. The project takes this as inspiration whilst challenging the city to imagine it is no longer able to derive its wealth from oil or the exploitation of its copious natural resources. Every scenario we imagine is based on conversations had with specialists, which means our imagined alternatives are not utopias, they have roots in reality. They are tried and tested, but never at a systemic level. This is what sets the artistic work apart from reality – the socioeconomic ideas are not necessarily new, or even wildly radical, but they currently swim against the tide of neoliberal systems and so remain outliers.

What we are attempting is not the fashioning of another utopia – the scenarios we generate are multiple, overlapping, partial, and also at times contradictory. They aim at the very act of imagining rather than achieving consensus about what is to be done. It is nevertheless a challenge.

The demand for “realism” (the term hovering somewhere between its social use and its use in drama) masks our embeddedness in neoliberal myths, which take, as a given, that the only possible economic structure is that of the “free” market and that self-interest is the main driving force behind all human behavior. Much has been written about this theoretically, but this project has forced us to recognize how we are living it, to notice our own internal barriers to believing a more collaborative, less self-interested social structure is possible. Still, despite now understanding the economic myths we are caught up in and their impact on our everyday decisions, we as a group of artists have had to train ourselves not to find it so implausible that global structural change could ever actually occur. The project, however, invites us to imagine otherwise, to immerse ourselves in the potentialities of such change.

We have even come up with a term for our current situation, “high-carbon culture,” which explains the contradictions we currently live in – that we, in high-carbon culture, are fossil-fuelled and environmentally damaging regardless of our motivation or capacity for change.

It is also, however, a myth that change cannot occur quickly or decisively, as the Rapid Transition Alliance demonstrates: humans are adept at large-scale, rapid, lasting, transformational change. By imagining our way beyond such “implausibility,” we’ve started to take a deep pleasure in willfully and doggedly ignoring those despairing whispers, enjoying instead our forays into a culture of repair, recuperation, and mutual value.

The act of storytelling embedded in alternative scenarios takes on a political dimension. Unlike traditional conceptions of political art, it does not directly argue for revolution – there is already so much brilliant and necessary directly activist work being done on this front globally. Rather, it creates a space for imagining what might be gained once transformative change does become possible. In this sense it doesn’t matter too much what particular detail of this alternative culture we exercise our storytelling muscles on. It just matters that we keep doing it, that we keep on fleshing out other realities in defiance of the current obvious systemic barriers.

Factory of the Future in workshop, Oslo 2019.

I am excited by the discovery that the more I stay in this space, the more I start to see this other reality emerging all over the place. The very act of imagining transforms my perception of possibility, suggesting that, as Monbiot implies, reality really might be shaped by the stories that hold the most sway in our imaginations.

Having experimented throughout this project with a variety of interactive performance forms, we have, ultimately, come to focus on to the simplicity of storytelling: drawing on terrain mapped by politicians, policymakers, economists, and future visionaries to imagine what it might actually be like to live in another world. This involves drilling down into everyday life, acting on writer Amitav Ghosh’s invitation set out in his seminal set of essays on culture, the climate, capitalism, and colonialism, The Great Derangement: “What we need […] is to find a way out of the individualizing imaginary in which we are trapped.” And, brilliantly, we are far from alone – there are proliferating examples of this kind of work, from Jonathan Porrit’s The World We Made, to the Paris-based Plurality University’s Future Fragments project, to Naomi Klein’s collaboratively created manifesto at the end of No is Not Enough. We hope to continue our work, to collaborate with cities and imagine them as otherwise in the face of climate crisis.

At the very least, then, this practice of imagining otherwise is a kind of bearing witness, offering a reminder in the historical record for those in a climate-crisis-ridden future of self-interested survivalism, who might look back and ask, How the hell did they let it happen? It is a testament to the fact that, right now, we have the ingenuity, the techniques, and the desire for our future to be collaborative and epic rather than isolationist and tragic.

(Top image: Introduction to the scenarios for WE KNOW NOT WHAT WE MAY BE at the Barbican Centre, September 2018. Photo by David Sandison.)

This article was originally published on HowlRound, a knowledge commons by and for the theatre community, on September 30, 2019.


Zoë Svendsen directs the performing arts company METIS, making participatory theatre performances and installation works exploring contemporary political subjects, including: Factory of the Future (Oslo Architecture Triennale 2019); WE KNOW NOT WHAT WE MAY BE (Artsadmin Green Commission 2018/Barbican Centre London); World Factory (Young Vic, London, and UK tour); 3rd Ring Out (TippingPoint Commission Award; UK tour). Zoë has worked as dramaturg at theYoung Vic, the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, and lectures on drama and performance at the University of Cambridge.


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

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Green Tease for COP26 Glasgow

ecoartscotland and Creative Carbon Scotland are collaborating to provide an opportunity to discuss the arrival of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change COP bandwagon in Glasgow in November 2020. The Green Tease will happen at Many Studios in Glasgow on Tues 10 December 6.30-8.30pm. See below for booking, schedule and address.

30,000 scientists, policy-makers and politicians (seriously, thirty thousand) will be in Glasgow for two weeks.


It will be in the news. It will jam traffic. There will be many news reports. There will be drama. Trump probably go to Turnberry instead. The organisers are apparently hiring cruise ships to provide additional accommodation because there is not enough hotel capacity in Glasgow.

How can we frame this event in the lead up to it?

Do we understand the specific issues that will be on the agenda?

How will the global South and those already living with the Climate crisis be heard?

What is the role of the arts and heritage?

How can we make it meaningful for people living in Scotland?

Can we engage the attendees usefully?

Once the spotlight moves on to the next place in the unfolding crisis (it’s beams are on Doncaster flooding and on New South Wales fires at this moment), how can we deepen our understanding of the living reality, so often not represented in the Policy?

COP and Cocktails is an opportunity to discuss what we might do, think about when it is useful to commission, to programme, to make as well as ‘what’.

Book your free place


The event will be held in the event space at MANY Studios, 3 Ross Street, Glasgow, G1 5AR. The venue is situated 15 minutes’ walk from Glasgow Central Station and St Enoch Subway station and a number of buses stop less than 1 minute’s walk away. The venue is situated on the ground floor and is wheelchair accessible.

Tuesday 10 December Schedule

6:30-7pm Drinks and mingling

7-7:30pm Presentations from various organisations about their plans for the COP, including:

  • ecoartscotland
  • Creative Carbon Scotland
  • Glasgow City Council
  • ClimateXChange
  • others to be announced…

7:30-8pm Discussion of what we would like to get out of the COP and how we can achieve it

8-8:30pm Drinks and mingling

For further information please contact Lewis Coenen-Rowe:

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.

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