Monthly Archives: March 2022

Opportunity: Artist callout – The Leap

The Leap is seeking applications for artist/s to co-create a living wall in the Bradford District.

The Leap is seeking applications for one artist or team of artists working together to participate in a new experimental, open submission arts campaign. The Leap aims to use this pilot project as an example to engage other partners to help create many more Change Space installations across the city.

With funding support from The Emerald Foundation and Bradford 2025, the project aims to bring together local communities with an artist to co-create an example of how living walls can create community cohesion and inspire community pride using a relatively low-cost solution to greening, and improving the liveability of Bradford’s built-up areas.

The selected artist(s) will support the creation of an outdoor living wall, led by members of the community. The location, style, and form of the wall will be decided by community members, the successful artist will advise and co-create the project. Community members will lead on creating the installation and will be selected through an open callout for proposals once the successful artist is in place. The proposals will be independently assessed by The Leap Community Assessment Panel and involve the artist throughout the process.

Open to artists with experience creating horticultural or architectural artwork. The total cost of the artist fee is £3,000, with an additional £200 for travel. A budget of £10,000 will be awarded to the successful community-led project.

Closing date for applications: 29th April 2022.

More info can be found on The Leap’s website.

The post Opportunity: Artist callout – The Leap 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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Earth Celebrations’ Ecological City – Art & Climate Solutions Workshops

Learn about local urban climate solutions, from green infrastructure to mitigate climate impacts to natural carbon reduction solutions. Research, explore and creatively interpret these sustainability initiatives through visual art, performance, music, dance and poetry. Learn #sustainable processes – #mycelium sculpture, #kombuchaleather, #bioremediation art, #ecoprinting, #naturaldyes, #papermache, #clay, #bamboo, #livingsculpture #recycledmaterials.

Participate with Earth Celebrations’ Ecological City: Art & Climate Solutions Action Workshops and collaborate with our artists-in-residence creating visual art, giant puppets, costumes and performances to be presented in the culminating Ecological City: Art & Climate Solutions Pageant celebrating climate solution initiatives throughout the community gardens neighborhood and waterfront on the Lower East Side of New York City.

March 5 – May 11
Wednesdays 6:30pm – 9:30pm | costume with artist Soule Golden l bio-arts with Kathy Creutzberg
Saturdays 12pm – 4pm | puppet with artist Lucrecia Novoa
LOCATION: Earth Celebrations @ Sixth Street Community Center
638 E. 6th Street (btw. Aves. C & D) Lower East Side, NYC

Ecological City: Cultural & Climate Solutions Action Project applies the arts to build community, collaboration and action on climate solution and ecological sustainability initiatives throughout the community gardens, neighborhood and waterfront on the Lower East Side of New York City, and the importance of these local efforts to city and global climate challenges.



On Salt, Seaweed, and Disappearing Places

By Susan Hoffman Fishman

California-based artist, writer, and researcher Christina Conklin grew up spending summers along the coast of Oregon where she first developed a relationship with and understanding of the ocean as “an infinite vessel” of ever-changing and interconnected living systems. For the last 12 years, her artwork has explored the intersection of art, science, and spirituality as it relates to the sea. 

Conklin’s career path prior to her current focus as an artist and writer on the ocean in the context of the climate crisis, included work in the publishing and non-profit sectors, after which she became a full-time textile artist and freelance writer. Acknowledging her background in textiles, she admits that all of her artwork has what she calls “textility,” an inherent textural quality. It also incorporates her long-time interest in spirituality and philosophy, which she attributes to her background as an undergraduate religious studies major at Middlebury College in Vermont. 

Apophacy, glass vessel, hanging wire, 12 gallons of water, 8 pounds of salt, 13 ft. diameter, 2014

From 2012-2014, during her MFA program at California College of the Arts, Conklin created process-based, ephemeral works that combined scientific experimentation with artmaking and contemplative practice. For these pieces, she used salt and water as her primary media, which she applied directly onto the floor. In Apophacy (see photo above), for example, the salt and water mixture created a rough, almost bubbly surface, like a primordial mix, thick in some areas and thin in others. From above, the floor-based installation had a globe-like appearance, suggesting bodies of water and land formations. Its title references a theological term for â€œthe ineffable nature of that which could be called sacred and the unsaying of all the words that so often fail to approach its description.”

Included as part of Conklin’s work is a social practice component, consisting of guided walks for students and adults titled Tideline as Timeline, and other public engagement projects. The walks speak to the tideline as a fluctuating border, documenting the geological, social, and historical changes that have occurred over thousands of years. In one of these projects, Conklin collaborated with sustainability expert and writer Marina Psaros, who has worked on sea level rise planning for decades. When Psaros was approached by The New Press to write a book on the oceans and climate change, she suggested that Conklin partner with her, a process which ultimately occupied the next four years of their lives and resulted in the publication in 2021 of The Atlas of Disappearing Places: Our Coasts and Oceans in the Climate Crisis.” In addition to researching and writing 12 of its 20 chapters, Conklin created all of the book’s numerous maps and illustrations.

From the beginning, Conklin imagined that The Atlas of Disappearing Places would include both science and art, and would take a systemic look at the impact of the climate crisis on our coasts and oceans all over the world. Prior to writing, Conklin conducted extensive research on such topics as deep-sea mining, the micro-chemistry of the ocean, marine biology, ocean currents and flow patterns, and numerous other factors causing changes in ocean life and behavior. 

Using an atlas format, which traditionally contains a collection of maps as well as relevant cultural, geographical, and historical facts about specific areas, countries, or continents, the co-authors organized their information into four parts representing the four major categories of ocean changes: stronger storms, warmer waters, chemical changes, and higher sea levels. Under each category, they selected five places around the globe where these changes are impacting ocean species, human life, and local geography. Although some of the twenty case studies address cities that are very familiar to readers, such as New York and Shanghai, others are less well-known and less urban places like Kutupalong Refugee Camp, Bangladesh; Hampton Roads, Virginia; and Ben Tre, Vietnam. 

Spilhaus Projection, ink on algae, 43” x 32,” 2021

Conklin used sea lettuce (as seaweed from the genus Ulva is commonly called) and a unique process to create the stunning maps appearing throughout the book, which illustrate how specific changes in the climate are affecting particular areas. Living close to the sea as she does and with a history of making ephemeral works, she had already started using local sea lettuce in her own work and thought that utilizing a product of the sea as a way of illustrating sea change would be especially powerful. She ultimately developed a time-consuming and delicate process that enabled her to paint maps onto dried seaweed. 

To begin with, Conklin harvested forty pounds of wet, slimy seaweed and dragged it back to her studio, where she washed it and lay out each individual sheet to dry. When bleached by the sun, the green seaweed was transformed into thin, translucent, highly brittle parchment. Using water soluble ink, she painted land formations and/or data sets onto the dried seaweed, letting the pooling and puddling effect of the ink occur naturally. Conklin called the process “a conversation with the material.” Once the painting was complete, most of the maps were digitally layered onto a Google Earth image to provide geographical reference points. By using the dried seaweed as the original surface of the artwork, the resulting maps take on Conklin’s own preference for “textility.” 

Sample map from The Atlas of Disappearing Places: Our Coasts and Oceans in the Climate Crisis, “Toxins in San Francisco Bay,” digital image, 8” x 10,” 2021

One of the most intriguing maps in the Atlas is modeled after the famous Spilhaus Projection (see image below), originally published in 1979 by South African geophysicist and oceanographer Athelstan Spilhaus. Spilhaus’ map of the world places the Earth’s axis through China and Argentina, enabling the oceans to be entirely contiguous with just a small “cut” across the shallow Bering Straits. The Spilhaus Projection provides a view of the sea that emphasizes its omnipresence and global importance. 

The Spilhaus Projection map showing the blue oceans as contiguous. 

The Atlas of Disappearing Places has been well received as a creative and accessible reference book on climate change that is particularly appropriate for schools and libraries. Now that her four-year “calling to get the word out” is complete, Conklin has turned to another natural material for art-making – she is creating algae mono-prints in a way that “allows the material to have the loudest voice,” in much the same way that her seaweed paintings did. Most importantly to her, however, is her continued spiritual search with like-minded individuals and groups for a systemic transformation of our collective thinking, a new paradigm that will put us back in sync with the natural environment and all of its living beings. 

(Top image: Skin #9, algae, insect pins, 60” x 62,” 2021)

This article is part of Imagining Water, a series on artists of all genres who are making the topic of water and climate disruption a focus of their work and on the growing number of exhibitions, performances, projects and publications that are appearing in museums, galleries and public spaces around the world with water as a theme.


Susan Hoffman Fishman is a painter, public artist and writer whose work has been exhibited widely in museums and galleries throughout the U.S. Since 2011, all of her paintings, installations and photographs have addressed water and the climate crisis. Her most recent work, called In the Beginning There Was Only Water is a visual reframing of the biblical creation myth. In 39 panels, it speaks to the importance and beauty of all living beings and what we stand to lose as a result of climate change. She recently participated in an artist’s residency at Planet, an international company providing global satellite images, where she focused on the proliferation of sinkholes caused by climate change. 


Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Caroline S. Roberts Artfully Fills a Space with Data

By Peterson Toscano

How can we help people embrace the science that reveals our climate has been changing dramatically and very quickly? And more than that, how do we invite them to feel and experience the data so profoundly that it causes them to respond?

These are the questions UK-born artist Caroline S. Roberts brought to her piece the present of my life looks different under trees, an immersive installation of cyanotypes that has been exhibited at BOX13 ArtSpace and HCC Southwest in Houston, TX.

Caroline moved to Houston 18 years ago. A story about a drowned forest from thousands of years ago along with recent flooding in her city, inspired and informed her work.

The installation consists of sixty 11-foot high panels, each one representing a year of Houston weather data and encircling the Back BOX like a grove of trees. Each varies in width based on the rainfall intensity, as measured by the number of days on which the total rainfall was greater than 3 inches: the point at which street flooding occurs. The panel color, from ice-blue to blue-black, represents the average nighttime temperature for that year.

At first glance the immersive nature of this cyanotype installation provides a cool environment as Houston temperatures fall into Fall. However, a closer look gives the bigger picture: more shocking than any graph, this forest-like environment shows the story of rising temperatures and intensifying rain events.

For more information on the data behind this installation please continue to the story and data page.

Next month: Krista Hiser is back with another installment of the Ultimate Cli-Fi Book Club. This time, she looks at a book that hits very close to home. She dives into the pandemic and climate change in Emily St. John Mandel’s novel, Stations Eleven.

If you like what you hear, you can listen to full episodes of Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunesStitcher Radio, Spotify, SoundCloudPodbeanNorthern Spirit RadioGoogle PlayPlayerFM, 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.

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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Conscient Podcast: special edition : winter diary revisited (music only)

special edition : winter diary revisited (music only) is a 16 minute version of e99 and é100 without any narrative. See e99 for more information on winter diary revisited in English. 

The post special edition : winter diary revisited (music only)  appeared first on conscient podcast / balado conscient. conscient is a bilingual blog and podcast (French or English) by audio artist Claude Schryer that explores how arts and culture contribute to environmental awareness and action.


About the Concient Podcast from Claude Schryer

The conscient podcast / balado conscient is a series of conversations about art, conscience and the ecological crisis. This podcast is bilingual (in either English or French). The language of the guest determines the language of the podcast. Episode notes are translated but not individual interviews.

I started the conscient project in 2020 as a personal learning journey and knowledge sharing exercise. It has been rewarding, and sometimes surprising.

The term “conscient” is defined as “being aware of one’s surroundings, thoughts and motivations”. My touchstone for the podcast is episode 1, e01 terrified, based on an essay I wrote in May 2019, where I share my anxiety about the climate crisis and my belief that arts and culture can play a critical role in raising public awareness about environmental issues. The conscient podcast / balado conscient follows up on my (2016-2019) project: 175, 3-minute audio and video field recordings that explore mindful listening.

Season 1 (May to October 2020) explored how the arts contribute to environmental awareness and action. I produced 3 episodes in French and 15 in English. The episodes cover a wide range of content, including activism, impact measurement, gaming, arts funding, cross-sectoral collaborations, social justice, artistic practices, etc. Episodes 8 to 17 were recorded while I was at the Creative Climate Leadership USA course in Arizona in March 2020 (led by Julie”s Bicycle). Episode 18 is a compilation of highlights from these conversations.

Season 2 (March 2021 ) explores the concept of reality and is about accepting reality, working through ecological grief and charting a path forward. The first episode of season 2 (e19 reality) mixes quotations from 28 authors with field recordings from simplesoundscapes and from my 1998 soundscape composition, Au dernier vivant les biens. One of my findings from this episode is that “I now see, and more importantly, I now feel in my bones, “the state of things as they actually exist”, without social filters or unsustainable stories blocking the way”. e19 reality touches upon 7 topics: our perception of reality, the possibility of human extinction, ecological anxiety and ecological grief, hope, arts, storytelling and the wisdom of indigenous cultures. The rest of season 2 features interviews with thought leaders about their responses and reactions to e19 reality.

my professional services

I’ve been retired from the Canada Council for the Arts since September 15, 2020 where I served as a senior strategic advisor in arts granting (2016-2020) and manager of the Inter-Arts Office (1999-2015). My focus in (quasi) retirement is environmental issues within my area of expertise in arts and culture, in particular in acoustic ecology. I”m open to become involved in projects that align with my values and that move forward environmental concerns. Feel free to email me for a conversation :

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Wild Author: Erica Ferencik

By Mary Woodbury

This month we travel to the Arctic – Greenland, specifically – with author Erica Ferencik, via her novel Girl in Ice (March 2022, Scout Press/S&S). I’m absolutely floored after chatting with Erica about her firsthand experiences when writing.

Erica throws herself wholeheartedly into the dangerous environments where her novels are set. She ventured deep into the remote forests of the Allagash Territory in northern Maine for The River at Night, rafted the Amazon River in the jungles of Peru for Into the Jungle, and for her new book, Girl in Ice, out by Scout Press/S&S in March 2022, she spent several weeks exploring the desolate iceberg-packed fjords of Greenland.  

She recalls,

The thin metal skin of the helicopter was the only thing between me and a thousand-foot plummet into the mile-deep fjord. Around our encampment on the ice, a flimsy-looking electric fence was the sole discouragement to hungry, roving polar bears. I received casual instructions to ‘turn toward the noise’ while kayaking among stories-high bergs in case they were to split and roll, creating tsunami-sized waves.


Valerie “Val” Chesterfield is a linguist trained in the most esoteric of disciplines: dead Nordic languages. Despite her successful career, she leads a sheltered life and languishes in the shadow of her twin brother, Andy, an accomplished climate scientist stationed on a remote island off Greenland’s barren coast. But Andy is gone: a victim of suicide, who willfully ventured unprotected into 50-degree-below-zero weather. Val is inconsolable – and disbelieving. She suspects foul play.

When Wyatt, Andy’s fellow researcher in the Arctic, discovers a scientific impossibility­ – a young girl frozen in the ice who thaws out alive, speaking a language no one understands – Val is his first call. Will she travel to the frozen North to meet this girl, and try to comprehend what she is so passionately trying to communicate? Under the auspices of helping Wyatt interpret the girl’s speech, Val musters every ounce of her courage and journeys to the Arctic to solve the mystery of her brother’s death.

The moment she steps off the plane, her fear threatens to overwhelm her. The landscape is fierce, and Wyatt, brilliant but difficult, is an enigma. But the girl is special, and Val’s connection with her is profound. Only, something is terribly wrong; the child is sick, maybe dying, and the key to saving her lies in discovering the truth about Wyatt’s research. Can his data be trusted? And does it have anything to do with how and why Val’s brother died? With time running out, Val embarks on an incredible frozen odyssey – led by the unlikeliest of guides – to rescue the new family she has found in the most unexpected of places.


I am amazed by the types of novels you’re writing. They take place in interesting places (a jungle, a remote forest, and now an icecap). Your research is hands-on, and you travel places ahead of time. What’s that like? What’s your favorite experience in the beautiful but isolated landscapes you have visited?

No matter how much I read or google, I can’t possibly bring these worlds alive for myself – never mind the reader – without going there first. I absolutely love every minute of these trips, no matter how cold, hot, scared, freaked out, and lost I may be. This is our world and, as troubled as it is, it is still full of wonders!

That said, I have a tendency to get mired – okay, lost â€“ in research. The way I see it, once you open one of these fascinating doors, in the case of Girl in Ice, animals that can thaw out alive, the Little Ice Age, ancient Arctic civilizations, Greenlandic wildlife, Nordic languages, glaciology, climate science, where do you stop? The answer for me is: know my story first. Otherwise, I will fall into the black hole of research and never emerge.

Before leaving for my trip to Greenland in August of 2019, I made sure to wrap up a comprehensive outline for Girl in Ice. As much as I intended to keep myself open to any and all experiences on the trip, I needed to keep a special eye out for any aspect of the place – people, culture, landscape, animals – that would figure heavily in the story. In addition to the trip, I read dozens of books on Arctic exploration, Greenlandic history, and linguistics.

This sort of preparation was true for all my books. I knew my story intimately before embarking on my research trip to the Allagash Territory in Northern Maine for The River at Night, and certainly for my one-month immersive trip to the Peruvian jungle for Into the Jungle.

One of my favorite experiences was camping near the ice sheet in Greenland near a bay packed with giant (think five-story building) icebergs. For whatever reason, we hadn’t seen much of the northern lights, but on our last night there, something amazing happened. An explosion woke us at three in the morning. We all stumbled out of our tents in our long johns, hoping that the world hadn’t come to end.

Not this time. A cruise-ship-sized iceberg had broken in two in the bay. Waves pounded the shore; seafoam glowed in the moonlight.

Seconds later, as if the two events were related, the northern lights flickered across the sky: mad swaths of purple, green, orange and yellow. We gathered sleeping bags and pillows to lie out on slabs of rock near the bay. Colors flashed and danced; speech failed us. My hands and feet were numb with cold, but escaping into my warm tent was out of the question. Never had I felt more like stardust, never more like part of this gorgeous world. I kept asking myself, how can this be more beautiful, and in the space of a breath, it was.

That’s amazing (and my dream to see). What got you on the road to thinking about and writing Girl in Ice, and what do you want readers to know about the background experience?

One bitterly cold morning in the winter of 2018, I was walking in the woods near my home, and came upon what looked like juvenile painted turtles frozen mid-stroke in the ice along the shallow edge of a pond. They didn’t look alive, but they didn’t look dead either.

It turns out there are some animals (and plants too!) that have this freezing-and-coming-back-to-life thing down. Painted turtle hatchlings, some species of beetle, wood frogs, certain alligators, even an adorable one-millimeter length creature called a Tardigrade or “water bear” that can be frozen to minus 359C and thaw out just fine. Most of these creatures possess a certain cryo-protein that protects their cells from bursting when they freeze.

A protein that… we don’t possess. Still, the image of a young girl frozen in a glacier in the Arctic popped into my head. From there, I asked myself: How did she get there? What was her story? 

That’s a cool start! You stated in an interview, “I’d say never stop learning your craft, whether that’s through reading what you admire or writing.” What have you learned from prior novels that shaped some of Girl in Ice?

Every time I write a book it’s as if I’ve never written one before. I have to learn all over again how in the world to construct something so daunting and overwhelming. It’s like climbing Everest with barely enough oxygen, without a sherpa, in business casual.

But this time I learned, or re-learned to love the research, but be careful! Don’t get mired in it. The story comes first. Concoct a small, knowable world. Create fewer characters, better fleshed out. Don’t shy away from painful situations or emotions. Love or at least have empathy for all of your characters. Embrace your weird. Keep the dread going. Vet every sentence, paragraph, scene. Make every word count. And it’s fine to make your reader laugh, cry, or cower in fear, but most of all, you’ve got to make them wait.

Your website states “My passion is to create unputdownable novels set in some of the most inhospitable regions on earth, places most of us don’t get a chance to experience in person in our lifetimes.” How did that passion originate?

I love any great story no matter where it’s set; however, I’ve got a real soft spot for any novel or film set in a forbidding place. I could speculate all kinds of deep psychological reasons for my love of survival stories. Let me put it this way: like so many others, I survived an extremely challenging childhood, and so I have ready access to dread, to feeling trapped, to planning creative ways to survive. In short, my fight or flight hormones are quite close to the surface.

How did you approach creating the language the girl in the ice uses?

I immersed myself in the sounds and cadences of the living Nordic languages, among them Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Icelandic, and of course Greenlandic, in order to get a feel for inflection and tone. I also dove into recordings of Old Norse, the main language of the Vikings, in order to create morphemes, or units of meaning that sounded Nordic, but that were just slightly distinct from known languages, so I could create Sigrid’s unique tongue.

What I had to grapple with next was: How would Val be able to interpret Sigrid’s speech if there was no correlation to any living or even dead language? I consulted some linguist friends who said that without any remnants of written language or cultural clues from a society that spoke the language – with nothing to go on, basically – you’d have to start with simple nouns, verbs, and concepts, almost like a baby pieces together her language.

The plot touches upon deadly ice storms; are these a real current threat stemming from global warming?

There are such things as katabatic winds. In Greenland, they’re called piteraqs: brutally strong winds generated by radically different air temperatures, often barreling down the slopes of mountains or glaciers. I’m not a climate scientist or meteorologist. But climate change strengthens hurricanes, tornadoes, wind events in general, as well as prompting dramatic swings in temperature, so I thought it wasn’t too far of a reach – for story purposes – to say that deadly ice storms are in our future and might have been in our past.

What was the most challenging part of the field research you did for this book?

Leaving Greenland, just when I was getting a feel for the place, was the worst part of a mostly smooth trip. A profoundly melancholic feeling of when will I ever be here again? I could have stayed weeks longer kayaking the fjords, interviewing townspeople, trying to pick up at least some of the language, scouting for wildlife. I couldn’t get enough of city-block long icebergs, carved into incredibly bizarre shapes by sun and sea, the blow of fin whales in the bay, the northern lights, and our Greenlandic guide’s hair-raising tales of hunting and survival.

The most surprising thing you learned from that research?

This is going to sound silly, but the fact that Greenland is so big, just so vast, and yet so few people live there was hard to wrap my mind around. Only 57,000 people – one tenth the residents in all of Wyoming – call this island, the largest in the world at about a third the size of Canada, home. Most live in Nuuk, the capital; the rest live in towns often with fewer than 500 inhabitants along a three-thousand-mile coastline, mostly on the west side. The ice sheet measures fifteen hundred miles north to south, is two miles deep at its thickest, covers nearly 80% of Greenland, and has been frozen for three million years.

The second thing that shocked me was how close Greenland is to pre-history. As recently as 1950, people lived in sod huts: low, square dwellings built by digging a hole in the ground during the short summer season – plus or minus fifty days – then creating a supporting structure for a roof out of whale ribs or driftwood, finally sealing it with skins, peat and rocks.

And it’s one thing to read that the economy is mostly subsistence hunting and fishing; it’s another to witness it, read about quotas for narwhal and minke whale, learn what happens when a polar bear is spotted (it’s not gentle), understand that sled dogs are seen as possessions, not pets, that need to be fed. And, sad as it is to witness for someone unaccustomed to this life, it’s cheaper to hunt seal than cough up five dollars for a can of imported dog food.

Most shocking of all? There are no penguins.

How did it differ, apart from the climate, from your field research in Northern Maine, and Peru?

For a month in the winter of 2014, I was on my own in the Allagash Territory in Northern Maine conducting research for The River at Night. No guide, no touring company. By making dozens of someone-who-knows-someone phone calls, I cobbled together interviews with people who had disappeared themselves from society. It got dicey at times. One guy would only agree to an interview if I met him at a certain mile marker along a logging road where he arrived on horseback. I vetted everyone and always had my mace.

In the Peruvian jungle doing research for Into the Jungle, I had my own guide, a native and lifelong hunter armed with a machete and a masterful knowledge of the rainforest. I was frankly terrified to get on the plane. I’d prepared myself by reading everything I could about the jungle and didn’t think I would survive it; there is such a thing as knowing too much! But by the time I left Peru, four weeks later, I felt confident and calm, even with piranha I’d caught for dinner snapping at my toes and flipping around in the bottom of my dugout canoe.

In Greenland, my fellow explorers and myself had access to a native guide and hunter who also served as translator. We were able to interview a mayor of a Greenlandic town, as well as several residents, including other hunters. We explored by small plane, helicopter, kayak, small boat, and on foot, camping just a stone’s throw from the ice cap.

This series features authors who tackle environmental issues or include natural beauty as a strong element in their story. How does your novel fit into this thread?

Settings including natural beauty are wonderful, but the human story, and all the emotions we experience, are what we all crave and ultimately respond to. In constructing a novel, for me, story comes first, but for each novel I’ve written over the last decade (closing in on number four), the climate emergency looms larger and larger in my thoughts, emotions, and ultimately in my stories.

Climate- or eco-fiction, or any story involving the environment can be set anywhere, since climate change impacts us worldwide, in small and large ways. It could be a thriller set in the near future about water wars or mass emigration, or it could be a more intimate story set on a smaller canvas, perhaps something about someone who has to abandon a beloved family home along a coast due to the encroaching tide.

Readers want to think, but more than anything else they want to feel, they want a deeper understanding of life. This is best done through story. I believe that Girl in Ice is a solid story that deals with the impending ravages of climate change in both a speculative and realistic way, in broad strokes but also revealing the deep trauma that – unfortunately – we are all just beginning to understand and experience.

I believe so too. Are there ways in which your decade doing standup and sketch comedy has influenced your writing of fiction?

They say that comedy is the angry art. And it’s true. As long as you’re funny, you get to go up there and rail against what you perceive as unfair, wrong, absurd, and so on. There is a lot of darkness in comedy. In fact, I defy you to tell me an actually funny grownup joke without a dark, or tragic, or sad kernel. Jokes about happy things aren’t funny. This is why people love comedy: someone, up there onstage, is calling out things that have bothered them or pissed them off for decades, but they didn’t know how to put it into words.

When I was doing stand-up or sketch comedy, I was a frustrated writer with several terrible novels in my drawer, but with a hunger to be seen and heard. Getting up on stage and letting it rip was instant publication: immediate feedback. It taught me to think on my feet. It taught me discipline: you had to come up with new jokes all the time.

Comedy demands keen powers of observation. It you’re not paying attention, taking notes about what you see, hear, feel, then take the second step and ask yourself, why is this funny, how can you come up with material? Never mind asking yourself how can I process this through the lens of who am I as a comic? But the first step is always: observe.

Which is also a crucial skill for a novelist.

Bravery is a muscle we all exercise every day, especially these days, but doing stand-up was where I practiced bravery, night after night, for years. It took me a while to really grok that comedy isn’t one-way – you’re not just dumping jokes on people – it’s a conversation with the audience. After every joke, you must give your audience a chance to react. If you don’t, they will sense your fear and eat you alive.

So many people ask me these days: Weren’t you frightened, kayaking between massive icebergs, knowing if they calved or split, waves could hurl you into thirty-degree water? What about the giant anacondas coiled in the trees over your canoe as you threaded through the floating forest by moonlight? I would say that for all those scenarios you can lower your risk: you can find a great guide, wear the right gear, pack a machete of your own. But try standing in front of five hundred people waiting for them to laugh at a joke that seemed hilarious in the shower that morning. That has to be the scariest journey of all.

What won’t we find on any PR or publicity material?

I think this book has been lurking somewhere deep in my subconscious since the day I saw a film version of Frankenstein. In one of the final scenes, Frankenstein’s monster, hunted, beaten and bloodied, has given up on mankind and is heading north into the great Arctic wilderness. I will never forget that devastatingly sad and eerie image. Girl in Ice is not Frankenstein, but I think that’s where my fascination with Nordic stories began.

Are you working on anything else?

In the next novel, a thriller called The Intelligence, nature finally takes a stand and attempts to destroy us as we have been annihilating it, posing for us the impossible paradox, How do you defeat an enemy you desperately need for your own survival?

Well, I’m intrigued by your life, your research, your experience in beautiful but also dangerous areas. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, and I’m looking forward to The Intelligence!

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 Nova Scotia 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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Solar Sisters

By Joan Sullivan

In the future, we may well look back on 2022 as a watershed year in the global energy transition. The year when we finally realized that “technological infrastructure alone does not an energy transition make.” The year when we finally understood that all previous energy transitions (yes, there have been several) overlapped with and were influenced by concurrent shifts in cultural and aesthetic values.

The 21st century’s version of an energy transition is no different. As we transition from extracting fossil fuels out of the ground to harvesting multiple sources of clean energy from the sun, wind, and water, our values are shifting from a “culture of consumption” to a “culture of stewardship.” As Barry Lord explains in his book Art & Energy: How Culture Changes:

When an energy source is incipient, the cultural values that it engenders are seen as innovative and open to dispute, just like cutting-edge art. Once the new energy source becomes dominant, the values that it brought with it become mainstream. With the renewable energy culture of stewardship, that process is happening in our own time. 

As in the past, it will be the artists, poets, architects, and designers who shine a light on the way forward.

Two revolutionary solar designers from The Netherlands are already doing so. Marjan van Aubel and Pauline van Dongen have spent the past decade – independently of each other – experimenting with harvesting solar energy from objects in our everyday lives: furniture, textiles, windows, clothing, and accessories.

As just one example from dozens of their innovative projects, van Aubel’s design for a table that generates electricity from diffused indoor lighting (see video below) provides a beautiful and concrete example of the important role that solar designers will play in the second Copernican revolution.

In a strange twist of fate, the two Dutch solar designers did not meet until quite recently. The infamous meeting took place in a Saint Petersburg bar, while drinking White Russians (true story). They immediately bonded and, ever since, have considered themselves Solar Sisters.

This is the power of collaboration. Within a year of their first meeting, van Aubel and van Dongen had laid the groundwork for the world’s first design biennale inspired by solar energy. As co-founders of this global event, they share a vision to create space for an alternative “solar movement” that shifts the conversation from the glorification of technology to a new perspective about the cultural, social, and aesthetic values of a post-fossil future powered by the infinite energy of our star.

The Solar Biënnale will be held in The Netherlands from September 9 to October 30, 2022. The host city of the inaugural biennale is Rotterdam, with tandem activities programmed for Eindhoven, Maastricht, and Amsterdam throughout the seven-week event. The main venue for The Solar Biënnale is Rotterdam’s Het Nieuwe Institute, which will host a central retrospective exhibition “about designing with, for and under the sun” curated by Matylda Krzykowski. Closing week of the biennale will take place in Eindhoven during Dutch Design Week.

The organizers hope that future solar biennales will rotate between other countries and other continents. A detailed calendar of events will be released soon. You can sign up for email alerts here.

In the months leading up to the official launch of The Solar Biënnale 2022, I will update readers of this Renewable Energy series with occasional posts about the cultural importance of this global event as well as information about some of its warm-up activities such as a lecture series and side-programming at festivals. COVID-permitting, I hope to participate in person and to finally meet the two Solar Sisters.

Here comes the sun…

(Top image by Joan Sullivan)

This article is part of the Renewable Energy series.


Joan Sullivan is a Canadian photographer and writer focused on the energy transition. She is a new member of Women Photograph. In her monthly column for Artists and Climate Change, Joan explores the intersection of art and the energy transition. She is currently experimenting with abstract photography as a new language to express her eco-anxiety about climate breakdown and our collective silence. You can find Joan on Twitter and Visura.


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 Reflections: Artist/Scientist Networking

2nd February 2022: This event provided an opportunity for artists and scientists working on climate change and related environmental issues to meet each other and make connections. The event started with a panel of speakers before moving into space for one-on-one conversations between attendees. This event was organised in collaboration with Metta Theatre.


The three speakers for this event were:

Our three speakers provided an introduction to arts/sciences collaborations from their own perspectives. You can watch a video of their three presentations here with a summary provided below.

Will Reynolds discussed his experiences of bringing in scientists to advise on their work and a project pairing up creatives and researchers. He found that these situations tended to work as a two-way exchange where artists benefited from research input and researchers appreciated the opportunity to consider their research in new ways.

One project involved creating a contemporary dance piece about arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh, which required scientific expert input to get a fuller understanding of the issues. The scientist was ultimately recorded speaking and the recording was integrated into the final piece. Another project, Mouthful, involved commissioning six playwrights paired up with six scientists to produce a new short creative work about global food crisis. The collaboration process tended to begin with open discussion with the following collaboration process going in different directions depending on the needs of the people involved. They also worked with a seventh scientist to produce the final production and design of the six pieces so that it would draw out shared themes the most effectively.

Will emphasised how inspiring the project was and how speaking to scientists directly was utterly different from simply reading research. The development of personal connections allowed totally different ways of thinking to develop.

Dr Emily Taylor discussed the projects Peat Cultures and Peatland Connections, which involve close collaboration with artists. Crichton Carbon Centre work with landowners, managers and policymakers to restore peatlands and have good communication with people involved in the process of restoration but have found it harder to reach the general public despite the fact that the work is publicly funded.

Artist Kate Foster made contact with the Crichton Carbon Centre and they co-developed the project Peat Cultures, which sought to build public understanding of peat bogs through activities like taking people out onto the peat bogs for drawing sessions. One of Emily’s key learnings from this was that she can’t prescribe the way that they engage with people and needed to bring in someone with different expertise who would understand how to do this effectively. She emphasised that they could not plan in advance the way things would go and had to respond to changing circumstances, which was dependent on having funding that was sensitive to this need.

Their current project Peatland Connections is being managed by artist Kerry Morrison, crucially someone with cultural rather than scientific expertise. A key aim for the project is to establish good communication between people coming from many different fields and perspectives and bring more people into decision making about landscapes.

Eve Mosher introduced a number of her projects that involved working with scientists. She began by emphasising that there is no right way to do arts-sciences collaboration and that a degree of messiness is often part of the process. The projects she instigates are sparked by curiosity but rooted in science with advice sought from scientists to determine whether they are comfortable with the way research is being represented. The projects are also participant-led with the opportunity for people to provide new information back to researchers in turn.

HighWaterLine is a project that drew flood-zones across cities including New York, Miami and Bristol that would result from sea level rise. She worked with scientists to map where the lines should be drawn but also brought the scientists with them for the process of drawing. Scientists commented on how the process of physically drawing the line and seeing the neighbourhoods affected refocused the issues for them. Another project, Holding the Ocean, aimed to create a more intimate experience of the science on warming in the Arctic for people in Scotland, connecting it to their linked experience.

Heat Response was a project in Philadelphia working with the Trust for Public Land that connected people’s lived experience to scientific data mapping on heatwaves in the city on health. An ongoing project in the village in Aberdeenshire where she now lives involves talking to the community to understand how a historic fishing village can respond to climate change, instigating a dialogue with scientists for the village to operate as a testing ground and produce mutual learning for all involved.


This was followed by some questions for our speakers and open discussion time. Points raised included the importance of embodied, physical experience for gaining a fuller understanding of research, the difficulties in instigating contact between different fields and networks as well as how to fund this kind of collaborative work. Some useful resources were shared at this point including:

This was followed by time for one-to-one conversations between artists and scientists using the platform Glimpse. After the event, a shared Slack group was created to allow attendees from the event to keep in touch and share useful resources. To be added to this group, please contact

About Green Tease

grey oblique lines growing darker, then a green line with an arrow pointing right and overlaid text reading 'culture SHIFT'

The Green Tease events series and network is a project organised by Creative Carbon Scotland, bringing together people from arts and environmental backgrounds to discuss, share expertise, and collaborate. Green Tease forms part of our culture/SHIFT programme. 

The post Green Tease Reflections: Artist/Scientist Networking 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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Todd Bartel: An Omni-Coupler

By Etty Yaniv

Todd Bartel came to serious collage because of an assignment he received on the first day of his first class as a freshman at Rhode Island School of Design: “Create five collages that work with the following sentence: Surrealism is the chance happening of finding an umbrella and a sewing machine on a dissecting table.” That was his introduction to surrealism and chance coupling. He fell in love with collage immediately, coming up with forty-five collages by the first week. One of the key elements that draws him to collage is that it can involve a vast array of analog and digital technologies. “I consider myself an omni-coupler,” he says.

It is quite evident in your work and in your texts that you are passionate about collage. You focus on the relationship between landscape, or as you coined – landview – and collage. How do you see that relationship?

I love working with paper, and I love working with wood. After two decades of exploring these materials, I awakened to their interrelation, which continues to raise questions that drive my studio practice. While not all collage is paper-based, paper as a collage material is the predominant idiom, which got me thinking: paper comes from woody plant fibers; wood comes from trees; both come from the landscape – cut and hacked from the land. I love history and have read extensively about both genres, and in 2004 I realized they were two separate histories that intersected, in the 1960s and 1970s, with environmental art. As a result, I now consider myself a collage-based eco-artist.

I coined the term “landview” in 1995 as a dissenting concept to the artist’s term “landscape” – a Dutch and Germanic technical word for “created and shaped” images of land. “Landscape,” to quote John Brinckerhoff Jackson, “first meant a picture of a view; then the view itself.” I found that particular word evolution problematic because landscape’s etymology has connotations of “cutting, hacking and shaping,” which led me to wonder about “viewing” a tract of earth that is “untouched” by humans or otherwise protected from human activity. We also tend to separate ourselves from the definition of nature, and we often divide our actions from natural processes. Considering our place in nature and the dubious ways we sometimes use the term “landscape” inspired my Terra Reverentia series and all the work since.

In disagreement with the idea of humans removing themselves from the definition of nature, the Terra Reverentia is a series of oil paintings of appropriated medieval land backgrounds. I removed all the people and buildings and then boxed and framed them with various materials and imagery juxtapositions. While finishing up that series, I developed a want for a new word, which inspired a search for an alternate suffix. I should note, of course, now, during the third decade of the twenty-first century, we recognize that Earth has been shaped by human intervention during our short tenure on the planet. Everything has been touched by human activity, but when I coined “landview,” I had not heard of the term “Anthropocene” yet.

In contrast to land-shaping, the etymology of “landview” uses the Proto-Indo-European root, “weid” – to see, wise, wisdom, way of proceeding, manner, view – a view designed to encourage human mending strategies, especially when it comes to cutting timber. For me, collage, assemblage, and installation practices provide inexhaustible possibilities for creating work that raises questions about the seemingly unrelated histories of collage and landscape. I have been working to pull both histories into the same timeline for close to three decades now, and that idea has kept me busy with serial work.

Terra Reverentia: Recrudesce, 15.5 x 15.5 x 3.5 inches, constructed wood box, tempera, velvet, vines, oil on wood, gold leaf, branches, glass, mustard seeds, 1995

In the Landscape Vernacular series, you address the history of land depiction, specifically the changing attitudes about land use and ecology. This involves research, accumulating data, and editing. Tell me about your research process and how it is expressed throughout this series.

I collect books, dictionaries, engravings, antiques, and all things paper-related, which fuel all my series work. I also collect discarded books, specifically to harvest the end-pages. My resource materials are made up of analog and digital materials, which are filtered into dossiers, and which eventually get used in the collages, assemblages, Synterials, or whatever project is at hand. I often re-publish my resource materials; I make high-resolution scans and print them onto period paper end-pages to achieve contemporary facsimiles of the originals. Sometimes I use actual engravings or book pages in my Landscape Vernacular (LV) collages, and at other times I use re-published copies. Whenever I am able, I obtain multiple copies of my materials to keep an original out of circulation while others get used up in the work itself. As a result, I now have an extensive library of ephemera, books on collage and landscape, and a vast digital library that informs my work and research.

Terrain, Scream and Cede – Industrial Locomotion 1844, 27.5 x 16.5 inches, burnished interlocking collage, xerographic-transfers on 19th-century endpapers and rain-washed, weather-beaten bulletin board paper with staple rust, map graticules, dictionary definitions of “pastoral,” pencil, wax paper transfer, Yes glue, document repair tape, 2021
Terrain, Scream and Cede – Industrial Locomotion 1844, verso, 2021

In the past ten years, I have made a concerted effort to collect original texts and objects expressly acquired to establish a Wunderkammer or museum that examines these fields. I hope to show such materials one day in connection with a more in-depth examination of my work.

The LV collages always center upon definitions of selected words. I’m interested in the combination of text and image. For example, the word illustration originally meant “verbal description.” “Illustration” expanded to mean “a picture” due to Grangerization and the proliferation of the scrapbook. The LV series juxtaposes vintage ephemera from the 18th through the 21st centuries set within the limitations of a puzzle-piece-fit collage to extra-illustrate problems about land use throughout Western history.

In Witness, you create rule-based series of puzzle-piece-fit collages, aiming to achieve zero waste during the process of making these diptych collages. What is the idea behind this project and what drove you there?

In the early 2000s, I began to audit my studio practice. I realized that collage always produces waste, and I wondered how to forge a more mindful approach to waste management within my creative process. Pushing beyond my regularly using negative shape remnants, I started thinking about reducing, reusing, and recycling as a conceptual strategy. My entry point was a mental comparison between Herman Melville’s The Whiteness of the Whale (1851), Raymond Roussel’s Impressions d’Afrique (1910), John Cage’s 4’33 (1952)Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953), and Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa (1977). Each of these works offered insight into minimalism and reflection, and informed particular ways of working. I thought about these works for about two years before doing anything, and ultimately, I think I pulled from each in some way. I devised ways to incorporate all production parts in an end-product, ruminated on all aspects of an idea upfront – including materials and all processes involved – and became mindful of the beginning and the end before ever setting out to work.

Witness 15a, Frederick Judd Waugh’s Circa 1900 ‘Curling Waves,’ with A Circa 1770 Chippendale Tabletop, and Treetop Negative Space, 2.875 x 6.5 inches, burnished interlocking collage, auction house catalog cuttings, watercolor, document repair tape, 2021

Eventually, the idea of cutting on top of two pieces of different colored paper simultaneously came to me because I realized multiple-page, simultaneous-cutting yields identically shaped pieces that can be exchanged. Puzzle-piece-fit collage, or “interlocking collage” – to credit artist/curator Cathleen Daily with that distinction – was born out of that thought exercise. There is zero paper waste when the only cuts you make are identical for all pieces of paper used, and the resultant pieces are exchanged evenly. Interlocking collage technologies and using my waste materials have led me to many projects. Witness was the first series that came out of that inquiry. I call the series Witness because the onlooker can only see the unequivocal exchange between location and object when seeing these positive and negative spaces in tandem. I also can’t help but think about trees witnessing furniture made of their own wood and furniture witnessing the deforestation from whence it came.

The titles of the Witness series are obnoxiously long, but they too are rule-based, and they make a point about paying attention to where things come from. I use the actual titles of the objects, which come from auction house catalogs, and I couple them into a single title, however long they may be.

Witness 15b, A Circa 1770 Chippendale Carved and Figured Mahogany Serpentine-Front Five-leg Card Table with Shaped Fragment from Frederick Judd Waugh’s Circa 1900 ‘Curling Waves,’ 10 x 8.75 inches, burnished interlocking collage, auction house catalog cuttings, watercolor, document repair tape, 2021

What are you working on in your studio these days?

Currently, I’m working on several Landscape Vernacular collages in preparation for a solo show at Anna Maria College in 2024. I’m thinking about juxtaposing the definition of “no man’s land” with imagery of the moon or the planet Mars. I am also considering including the definition of my newest neologism: “unland” – the de-classification of land as a thing that can be owned; a change in the status of territory that was once thought to be owned but cannot be owned in actuality.

(All photos courtesy of Todd Bartel)

This interview is part of a content collaboration between Art Spiel and Artists & Climate Change. It was originally published on Art Spiel on December 2, 2019 as part of an ongoing interview series with contemporary artists.


Marley Massey Parsons (b.1998, Berlin, MD) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work advocates for acknowledging and unearthing the relationship between human and nonhuman worlds. Marley received a BFA in Painting and Printmaking from Salisbury University in 2019 and will earn an MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2022. Her body of work ranges from landscape responses, recordings, and observations of humans interconnectivity with the environment using photography, painting, drawing, foraged materials from the earth, writing, and video. Marley’s work has been exhibited across Maryland and in Pennsylvania. In the Summer 2021, she was an artist-in-residence at Mass MoCA. She is currently a Visiting Artist Coordinator and Student Life Assistant at PAFA.


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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Ecoscenography Q&A

Milo Juráni is a theatre critic from Slovakia who writes about the intersection of theatre and contemporary issues. Recently, Milo interviewed me for his Theatre in the Anthropocene series on his theatre webzine The interview was first published in Slovak language. Much of my responses to his questions can be found in my recently published book: Ecoscenography: an introduction to ecological design for performance (2021). These are questions that I am often asked, so I hope that the answers might also be helpful to a wider audience.

Can you explain what Ecoscenography is?

My premise in bringing an ecological approach to scenography — what I propose as ‘Ecoscenography’ — is to shift performance design to an increased awareness of broader ecologies and global issues: to conceptualise ways in which an ecological ethic can be incorporated into theatre practices. Ecoscenography builds on contemporary re-considerations of performance design, where creative and environmentally conscious processes align to become a fundamental part of the scenographer’s ideas, practices and aesthetics. Being ‘ecological’ means integrating an awareness that no decision stands on its own: every design choice is intertwined with social, environmental, economic and political consequences that are far reaching and capable of having long-term effects, and, ultimately, benefits. This includes starting to adopt an expanded view of aesthetics that acknowledges the ‘unseen’ effects of making spaces — that which may not be immediately evident in the making of the work but has causational potential to form a trans-corporeal by-product of the ‘visible’ and ‘experienced’ (adding to landfill waste, air pollution and supporting child labour). This multifaceted and complex approach to aesthetics is already shifting how many scenographers engage mentally, as well as practically, with the issue.

Ecoscenography builds on contemporary notions of theatre and performance design to consider what an ecological approach to scenography does — how it affects our ways of thinking and doing within and beyond the performing arts. A central aim of my work has been to demonstrate that embracing sustainability in performance design opens up new modes of relating and collaborating: to work co-creatively with communities, environments, materials and places; to appreciate and advocate for ‘more-than-human doing’; to engage in ‘acts of care’ that foster a respectful and reciprocal communion with the world. This ‘permeability of relating’ in Ecoscenography seeks to dissolve perceived boundaries between artists, materials, audiences and the broader ecosystem, opening up greater eco-creative responsibilities and considerations for how we conduct our practice and communicate through it.

How did you start exploring a more ecological approach to stage design? Why should other stage designers join you?

I have been passionate about environmental and social issues for as long as I can remember. I grew up with a strong desire to incorporate ecological considerations into my day-to-day life; buying food from local markets, taking public transport, avoiding single use plastics, turning off lights, recycling and composting. However, when I walked into the theatre, all these considerations seemed to fall away. Somehow theatre gave me a licence to do the things I would never do at home. Looking back, it is difficult to pinpoint a single moment that ignited my passion for rethinking traditional performance design practices.  It was a combination of many things: seeing my set thrown in a skip one too many times; feeling physically ill from the toxic fumes inhaled while expending several cans of spray paint on a single prop; being confronted by Al Gore’s The Inconvenient Truth and its uncompromising depiction of the threat climate change represents to current and future generations. No doubt each of these events has played a role.

My motivation with Ecoscenography is to encourage a sustainability ethos to both established theatre-makers wanting to engage with the topic, and the next generation who — my own experience tells me — are yearning to contribute to their rapidly changing world. I believe that the current ecological crisis presents us with an opportunity to not only collectively face the reality that our practices have consequences, but also with the potential to remake our profession. This ‘ecological turning’ will certainly be a pivotal point in the history of the performing arts, to be defined by the theatre-makers of today, but particularly by those of tomorrow. The urgency for this re-imagining has never been greater. Climate change, mass species loss, drought, forest felling and acidifying oceans pose immense threats to our environment, our society and to our culture. The aim of Ecoscenography is to catalyse ecological practices in performance design, providing a foundation from which new practices, new aesthetics and novel thinking can emerge.

Why you think theatre has been so slow to embrace sustainability?

It is difficult to say why the performing arts has been less progressive on the environmental agenda. Perhaps there have been too many negative preconceptions of what a sustainable approach means for our field. The assumption that ecological design is ‘expensive’, ‘boring’, ‘time-consuming’ and ‘incompatible with high quality aesthetics’ has definitely played a role. Other contributing factors may include: the fact that the theatre industry has been far too preoccupied with its own economic struggles; or the belief that theatre should have a ‘free-pass’ when it comes to ecological concerns because the impact of the performing arts is negligible compared with many other industries. Fortunately, these assumptions are slowly changing and the sustainability movement in the performing arts is finally taking off. I firmly believe that the 21st century will be one in which environmental concerns are at the forefront of our performance stories and designs.

What are your ideas on sustainable materials and making better material choices? 

The aim of my book Ecoscenography: an introduction to ecological design for performance (2021) is to provide a philosophy or framework for working in a sustainable way that is less focused on a ‘how-to-guide’ for materials and techniques (of which there are already many resources). A key strategy of Ecoscenography is relational thinking. For example, taking a place-based approach to designing and that ultimately begins with how we respond to where we are, here, now, as a primary approach. One material choice in one place is not necessarily the best choice in another. Everything is relational. The challenge for the theatre maker is to seek out the possibilities of place rather than holding onto a preconceived idea that does not acknowledge the potential of its unique surroundings – the local skip, the charity shop or market next to the theatre, and the technicalities and materials of the theatre itself. In my book I outline the ‘three stages of Ecoscenography’ — co-creation (pre-production), celebration (production) and circulation (post-production) — which provides a fundamental framework for how this relational approach can be integrated into all areas of theatre production.

Does working with waste go hand in hand with Ecoscenographic practice?

Waste materials are a wonderful resource for the Ecoscenographer primarily because they are so abundant, easily accessible and cost-effective. The ‘scenographer as gleaner’ is a key strategy for pursuing place-based sustainability responses. Ecoscenographers forage across streetscapes and abandoned festival sites, and scavenge tip shops, recycle centres and charity shops. Here, extending the use of materials is not necessarily approached out of austerity but fuelled by a desire for invention and ingenuity — a way of rethinking design in response to ecological values.

In my long career as a stage designer, I have constructed numerous scenographic creations out of the societal remains, including transforming fragments of old tennis netting into animal costumes for children and reconfiguring industrial pallets into a make-shift home for characters trapped in a war-torn world. In my book, I also showcase a number of designers who have used reclaimed materials in wonderful imaginative ways to create sets and costumes for stage productions, from single use plastic waste and Styrofoam to old festival tents and fishing ropes. It is clear that the economic poverty or stigma of material debris has in no way hindered the rich and varied performance spaces that have been created by these designers. With ample imagination and openness, every found object provides an opportunity for reinvention. Instead, designers are challenged to look at things anew – to seek out the potential in these discarded remnants and transform them into something remarkable.

As good as it sounds, stage designers may still be sceptical of pursuing a sustainable approach. Some may see it as an obstacle that limits creativity, imagination, and artistic possibilities. What do you think about these concerns?

While Ecoscenography may seem like a daunting concept to some, I believe that this is also where innovation and possibility lies. Adopting an ecological approach allows theatre makers to imagine ideas well beyond the performance – to consider their responsibilities and contributions to the broader world. Essentially, Ecoscenography works from the premise that there is nothing more fulfilling than connecting to the living world in a way that is fundamental, positive and inspiring. My book showcases examples of how Ecoscenography might look like if we approach sustainability from a place of abundance, rather than one of scarcity and limitations. It demonstrates opportunities for integrating creativity, aesthetics and innovation with sustainable practice in a diversity of contexts. Using examples of my own work and others, I explore how Ecoscenography can be a mode of more-than-human engagement that can create ripples into wider systems, where performance design can act as a force for regeneration.

Taking a brief look at the programming of well-known theatre houses reveals that problems of Climate Change are increasingly emerging on stages – dystopian or utopian stories, performances that focus on non-human elements, political theatre, or activism on the stage. On the other hand, most of these productions are executed in traditional ways and do not often consider sustainability as part of the realisation. How do you feel about this approach?

I think it is especially important for productions that have an ecological theme or highlight the effects of climate change to also consider their impact behind the stage. Even better, if the productions highlight sustainable innovation. A great example of this is Atmen(2013), a German version of Duncan Macmillan’s climate change play Lungs at Berlin’s Schaubühne, directed by Katie Mitchell and designed Chloe Lamford. The team worked with Electric Pedals to stage the entire performance using human-generated power which was visibly controlled by the actors on stage. The show was focused on two protagonists who pedalled their way through topics such as overpopulation, climate change and species extinction while four supporting cyclists helped power lights, sound and projection from the sidelines. Part of the novelty of Atmen was the way in which sustainability was made uncompromisingly transparent as part of the experience, one where Ecoscenography becomes a highly visible dramaturgical approach to production.

The stage designers who participate in smaller production or independent projects can often choose how to work. On the other hand, many large theatre institutions have stringent rules, schedules and procedures. Stage designers working with hierarchical institutional parameters often don’t have a chance to do extensive experiments. Is it possible to embed Ecoscenographic principles into the larger theatre houses? If so, how?

Yes, absolutely. A notable example of a designer working in high profile traditional theatre settings is Tony award-winning Broadway set designer and sustainability advocate Donyale Werle, who works almost exclusively with salvaged materials, and describes her process as literally rummaging through local garbage sites to find treasures and ideas for her designs that fuel her creative process. Werle’s large scale set design for Peter and the Starcatcher (2012) was almost entirely made from recycled, borrowed, donated, or salvaged materials, including costume fabrics from past productions and discarded household materials sourced from local junkyards, charity shops and recycled art-material suppliers.  

Another great example of sustainable production in larger theatres is EDEOS, an eco-design tool developed by the Lyon Opera that implements a circular framework in its design and construction processes. As a holistic sustainability calculator, the tool aims to assess the production of stage sets through its impact on climate, human health, ecosystems and non-renewable resources. What makes EDEOS unique is its focus on decision-making throughout the entire lifecycle of a set design, including the concept and post-production phase. While the project is currently designed for the Lyon Opera with its own specific conditions and supplies, it is hoped that EDEOS could become a shared industry tool that might also extend beyond the theatre to other related industries in the future.

Naomi Klein, and other authors dealing with the Climate crisis, emphasizes the importance of community engagement. Besides traditional stage design, you are also working in the field of expanded scenography. To rebuild public spaces into productive places for meeting and time-sharing is key to your Living Stage series. How does scenography, sustainability, community engagement and performance come together in your works?

The Living Stage is an ongoing global initiative that combines stage design, horticulture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable, edible and biodiverse performance spaces. Part theatre, part garden and part food growing demonstration, The Living Stage uses the cycles of Ecoscenography to engage people in developing a greater understanding and appreciation of the living world. The co-created community grown spaces become the setting for performing and celebrating ecological stories, before being circulated back into the communities that helped grow them: physical structures become garden beds and community spaces; plants become food; and waste becomes compost. A central focus of The Living Stage is to bring a regenerative focus to Ecoscenography that creates opportunities for thrive-ability across more-than-human systems.

Since making its debut in Castlemaine, Australia, the concept has travelled to Cardiff (Wales), Glasgow (Scotland), New York (USA), as well as Armidale, Lorne and Melbourne in Australia. Each Living Stage evolves out of a direct response to the localities of site, ecology and community. No project is ever the same, yet they share clear commonalities: the celebration of multisensory elements, effective and multi-level engagement with audiences, and a legacy that stretches on long after the final performance. At the crux of the project is the notion of community-engaged and place-based design processes to foster equity and togetherness on global-to-local issues. With each iteration, The Living Stage concept has progressively become more engaged in the desire to enhance the connectivity and integration of more-than-human places in response to climate change, social inequity, food scarcity and biodiversity loss. It is a direct response to ‘what can theatre and performance design do?’ in the face of increasing environmental concerns. Integrating cyclic thinking into the design process has been essential to the success of The Living Stage. Ecoscenography’s cycles of co-creation—celebration—circulation mimic permaculture principles of working with or replicating patterns of the natural world to build ecologically-sensitive practices. As well as aligning with ecological systems, The Living Stage creates spaces for more-than-human collaboration and communion.

The transformation of dying public spaces into public meeting points is a hot topic of urban planning in Slovakia, where I live. How different is the development of Living Stage(s) compared to creating a typical park? And what can it bring to the community?

The Living Stage calls for a shared approach to the democratisation and activation of spaces and places, one that forefronts intersectional community participation and belonging, with the goal of creating social-ecological sites for celebration. This celebratory aspect is perhaps what primarily separates it from the design of a typical park – one where theatre design and landscape architecture are combined. The Living Stage is an opportunity to perform stories of place that intersect with ecological regeneration.

What is the role of the local participants or community members in The Living Stage?

The Living Stage would not exist without community input. For example, the first living stage was created for the 2013 Castlemaine State Festival in Australia and grew out of imagining a new kind of theatrical space — one that was literally aligned with communities and ecological systems. Created by the rural community of Castlemaine under the guidance of local permaculturalists (Hamish MacCallum and Sas Allardice), the original project featured an amphitheatre of climbable apple crate garden walls and portable garden beds, each culturing edible plants. It acted as both a venue and source of inspiration for a number of local performance groups whose brief was to create experimental works that drew on the concept of regeneration and interacted with the unique design that surrounded them. After the festival, the stage of apple crates and plants were donated to several community gardens for educational projects. As highlighted above, the community was literally integrated into Ecoscenography’s cycles of co-creation—celebration—circulation.

Can you tell me more about your approach of regenerative development and ecological placemaking? How are participatory processes a vital part of this process?

Regenerative development has been a core part of my conceptualisation of Ecoscenography. What I love about this movement is its holistic focus on socio-ecological thinking, placemaking and community integration to create positive and contributive outcomes. Regenerative development reconsiders limited notions of sustainability from one of moderation and restraint, to one of possibility and abundance, where local contexts, communities and place-specific aspirations take centre stage. It really is a celebration of ‘eco-creativity’ and ‘thrive-ability’ which is central to my Living Stage project. Participation is key because it allows community members to become involved in sustainability processes, and directly experience what it means to become part of this movement.

You are working as a Senior Lecturer at Griffith University in Brisbane. Besides your research, you have provided courses and supervision for students. How do they think about the future? Do you believe that the next generation of stage designers will apply the tools of Ecoscenography as the fundamental element of their artistic practice?  

I am situated in the Queensland College of Art which is not a theatre school. Instead, I work across the Master and Bachelor of Design programs, where I primarily teach into the Interior and Spatial design discipline. Sustainable Environments is one of our core subjects which provides spatial design students with an introduction to leading concepts of sustainability (ecological worldview, circular design, bio-inspired design, biophilia) and their application to Interior/Spatial Design. Students are trained to become ecological design thinkers who can integrate sustainability into their conceptual and practical processes. The course has been running for many years and is very creative and popular with our students. I have never had a student say to me ‘I don’t want to do sustainable design’, if anything I have had the opposite experience! I don’t think theatre students are really any different from interior/spatial design students. It is exciting to think that Ecoscenography will one day be integrated into theatre education and curriculum. I think we are getting closer to this reality and hopefully, my forthcoming book will help provide the foundation and framework to make this happen.

The post, Ecoscenography Q&A, 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

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