Co2 Levels

Reflections on CO2 Edenburgh from Creative Carbon Scotland

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Project Summary

CO2 Edenburgh arose out of the opportunity to collaborate with ecoartscotland, Art Space Nature, artists Tim Collins and Reiko Goto and programming professional Chris Malcolm on an exhibition in the ECA Tent Gallery during the Edinburgh Art Festival 2013. Broadly the project sought to uncover the invisible effects of Edinburgh’s festivals on the city’s CO2 levels, engaging audiences in local CO2 levels affected by various factors; topography of the city, traffic, audiences breathing out, green spaces etc. The project used cutting edge technology to capture CO2 levels provided by two Scotland-based companies, Gas Sensing Solutions and Envirologger.

What did we do?

For the duration of the exhibition Creative Carbon Scotland moved their office to the Tent Gallery to invigilate the exhibition and make the most of the public presence of CCS during the festival.

The project consisted of four main elements:

  • The Tent Gallery exhibition with real-time data displays for stationary CO2 monitors placed in various outdoor locations including Princes St Gardens and Arthur’s Seat and indoor venues such as Fruitmarket Gallery and National Gallery of Scotland
  • Guided tours of the city with portable CO2 sensors and LED displays led by Carbon Catchers Catriona Patterson and Dave Young
  • Four discussions curated by ecoartscotland asking the question – Can art change the climate?
  • An online blog and summary of discussions.

What did we achieve?

Having reflected upon the project, we feel that one of the key achievements has been to establish CCS as a more public-facing organisation as well as rooting the organisation more firmly in the space of arts and sustainability. We feel the discussions were a big success, serving as an important platform for bringing together individuals and organisations in our area of work and binding the different elements of the project through the exploration of some key themes.

Here are some key points from the discussions

Discussion 1: Bringing the emotion of the arts to bear on the rigour of the sciences

  • Harry Giles made the point that much of what artists and scientists do is the same and they are comparable in their ‘making sense of the insensible’. CO2 Edenburgh was considered in terms of finding a new aesthetic for new experiences such as invisible rising CO2 levels.
  • It was discussed that there is currently a lack of feedback loop particularly in cities which serves to make us aware of the environmental consequences of our actions. Artists can therefore play a role in making these consequences more visible.

Discussion 2: Art, technology, activism and knowledge in the age of climate change

  • Wallace Heim referenced Alan Badiou for whom there are four critical kinds of event which change people – love, politics, art and science. Amongst these art can create the conditions which change our perception of reality and cause us to change our behaviour.
  • Architect Simon Beeson raised the point that CO2 isn’t in itself ‘bad’. In fact it’s only the release of currently fossilised carbon into the atmosphere as CO2 that is a problem. Carbon and CO2 is what we and allof the living world is made out of. CO2 Edenburgh allows us to perceive the complexity of the pattern of CO2 in central Edinburgh.
  • We also discussed the need to be clear about the distinctive contribution artists can make to social and environmental issues without falling into categories such as communicators of science or public engagement.

Discussion 3: Environmental monitoring: Tracking nature in pursuit of aesthetic inter-relationship?

  • Prof Andrew Patrizio took Renaissance Florence as an example of a time at which artists and audiences were attuned to a similar mercantile approach to understanding the form and content of a work of art. Parallels were drawn between Renaissance Italy and now – both times at which paradigm shifts were taking place in terms of how humans understood themselves in relation to the environment.
  • Jan Hogarth provided the example of Dumfries and Galloway as an exciting new region for the links between arts and policy making. Its rural setting allows for a particular proximity between artists, local authorities and organisations such as the Forestry Commission and therefore a stronger influencing role on the part of artists and arts organisations.

Discussion 4: Going beyond the material: Environment and Invisible Forces in the literary, performing and visual arts

  • Lucy Miu opened a discussion about how information + insight or emotion can help engage people more than information alone and may be able to help transmit the essence of something to those who weren’t able to experience it directly. She touched upon the fact that performing arts events are invariably group events, whilst visual art can be experienced more solitarily.
  • We also discussed the idea that in the performing arts and literature the ‘work of art’ is less concrete, existing in the ether between performer and audience or in the mind of the reader and not wholly contained in the reproduction of the words – as demonstrated by the breadth of ways in which literary works are transmitted, from the e-reader to the audio book.
  • Sam Clark noted that scientists working on matter connect the visible and the invisible, just like artists connecting the knowable and the ineffable. But whilst scientists aim to make the strange familiar, perhaps artists’ desire is to do the opposite and make the familiar strange…

The post Blog: Reflections on CO2 Edenburgh 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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CO2 Edenburgh: Can art change the climate? – Spirited discussions Pt. 1

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

922087632f7564901a6892281f6cadc2In amongst the people handing out leaflets for shows and holding up placards for restaurants, there are a couple of people wearing white coats walking around bearing standards reminiscent of Roman Legions, though these are not surmounted by eagles, but rather by LED displays reporting CO2 levels.  These are ‘Carbon Catchers’.

They are part of the Collins and Goto Studio‘s project called CO2 Edenburgh: Can art change the climate? and are working out of the Art, Space and Nature MFA‘s Tent Space at Edinburgh College of Art.  The data that the Carbon Catchers are collecting plus the data from a number of Festival venues (theatres, galleries and public spaces) is all feeding into a wall of information.  Creative Carbon Scotland, commissioners of the project, have relocated their office to the space so they are living with the blinking red LED’s as well as a background pattern of noise generated from the data and emitted into the space.

Yesterday, at the first of a series of discussions (see below for details of the next ones), Tim Barker, a media theorist from Glasgow University, talked about the history of interference – the point at which we became aware of the invisible. So in 1886 there was unexpected interference on the new Austrian telephone system. This was electromagnetic radiation from the sun was picked up by the copper wires. (Also Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant used to just sit and listen to the noise on the wires.) So there’s something about noise overpowering signals that’s pretty important in the history of science. Or maybe its the converse – as someone said yesterday afternoon, what’s important is, “…the desire to uncover the new by a disruption and treatment of the real.”

Why does this matter? Because our relationship to CO2 is pretty much at a similar stage – scientists are monitoring it (and it was a research station in Hawaii which first recorded passing 400ppm earlier this year). But we only think we understand what all this means. Actually the sensors that form part of this project are taking readings ranging from 320ppm to over 1000ppm. Walking around the City Centre yesterday with one of the team of ‘Carbon Catchers’ taking readings, we were getting different levels along the Cowgate. Someone commented during the discussion in the afternoon that they were surprised that the CO2 level in the room was going down because there were 10 people talking and no obvious carbon sink.

Harry Giles, the other invited speaker, challenged us to set aside the two cultures argument and pay more attention to the militaristic nature of the territory we are in (and he wasn’t talking about the Edinburgh Tattoo). The maps and sensors being used enable the surveillance of the environment in ways that has both tactical and strategic purposes. Art has often been allied with power

We might argue that the arts are engaged in both tactical and strategic purposes. There is an avowed intention on the part of Collins and Goto to challenge assumptions about aesthetics. There is not a lot of ‘sublime’ or ‘picturesque’ in this environmental art work. We might well ask where is the aesthetic? Surely this is just public engagement in science – how is it different from something that the Science Festival might put on? And if it’s public engagement with science, is it effective? Is this a Kaprowesque blurring of art and life? Is this like Burrough’s cut-ups, something as normal as a book cut up to offer new meaning, and at once so strange that it appears as just noise without meaning? If we are dealing with things that we can’t perceive with our senses, and which have timescales that we find difficult to comprehend, then should the aesthetic be that of, as someone suggested, a horror movie?  Don’t we need a new aesthetics for a new experience and a new scale?

On the strategic level Creative Carbon Scotland aims to green the cultural sector supporting organisations and institutions to reduce their carbon footprints. This is of course part of a pattern of attention on environmental issues which means that climate change comes up in pretty much every conversation, every organisation has a climate change policy (and it would be fun to make a collection of these), and the sustainability question in grant applications may in the future include environmental alongside economic criteria. But usually these programmes are ‘business to business’ rather than ‘business to consumer’ (if we accept that an exhibition in the Edinburgh Art Festival is by and large a ‘consumer’ facing affair).

So the events programme, a series of four conversations which ecoartscotland has helped to put together, is perhaps the point where we break out of these sorts of dichotomies.

  • On Saturday (10th August) the conversation will track across art, technology, activism and knowledge with the help of Dr Wallace Heim (of the Ashden Directory) and Joel Chaney (from the Energy Research Group at Heriott Watt).
  • The following Wednesday (14th August) focusing on “Environmental Monitoring” we be joined by Prof Andrew Patrizio (art historian and head of research at Edinburgh College of Art) and Jan Hogarth, (Director of Wide Open and one of the key people behind the imminent Environmental Art Festival Scotland).
  • An for the last event “Going beyond the material” (21st August) we’ll be joined by Samantha Clark, artist, and Lucy Mui, student, activist and Theatre Manager for Bedlam.

Full details on the CO2Edenburgh website.

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.
It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge Research, Gray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
Go to EcoArtScotland

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ashdenizen: when science meets art … successfully

Kellie Payne has attended numerous ‘art and science’ events, but in this guest blog she argues that last weekend’s day-long symposiumRising To The Climate Challenge: Artists and Scientists Imagine Tomorrow’s World was particularly successful.

The Tate had paired with the Royal Society to present an impressive line-up of speakers, including artists Lucy Orta, Tomás Saraceno and the eminent land artist Agnes Denes. But its success could be attributed to another reason.

Kellie Payne writes:

Rather than framing the question as: ‘how can artists help scientists communicate climate change?’, last Saturday’s symposium Rising To The Climate Challenge took the view that art and science had two very different perspectives to offer and much could come from their collaborations. Art’s role isn’t simply to reformulate and appealingly package the scientific messages; instead it has a more fundamental exploratory and imaginative role. 

The climate science programme largely reflected the Royal Society’s priorities and included, along with the expected division of adaptation and mitigation a third one, geo-engineering. However, oceanographer and earth scientist Corinne Le Quéré , who introduced the topic, revealed that she was stuck with presenting it because none of the other speakers wanted it. Professor Le Quéré gave a well-balanced presentation comparing the various options’ effectiveness (predicted ˚C temperature change) versus the level of risk.

With more controversial options such as the frightening volcanic method, where artificial volcanoes are created in the atmosphere to reflect and reduce solar radiation, she demonstrated that even this was only a temporary fix. The volcanoes would need to continually be created because as soon as they ceased, CO2 levels in the atmosphere would rapidly return to pre-volcanic levels. A less risky option, managing earth radiation through afforestation was shown to be less effective, with a possible decrease in warming projected at only 1ËšC.

Agnes Denes’ land art was incorporated into the topic of geo-engineering because her large-scale works often drastically alter the landscape. In Finland she created Tree Mountain- A Living Time Capsule, building a conical mountain and planting it with 11,000 trees, and planting and harvesting a wheat field in central Manhattan (Wheatfield: A Confrontation). During her slide show, Denes explained that she likes to investigate the paradoxes of human existence: logic, evolution, time, sound, etc. and believes that by shaping and structuring the future we can control our own evolution.

Tomás Saraceno presented with an infectious energy, bursting with novel, if impractical ideas that included his floating ecosystems.  Saraceno makes bold and imaginative attempts to stretch the boundaries of our conceptions of space and gravity with his experimental floating pods. His presentation was paired nicely with Oxford social scientist Steve Rayner’s on adaptation. He focused on cities of the future and the importance of instituting greater flexibility within existing infrastructures in order to cope with future climate events such as extreme flooding. He admires Saraceno’s work, in particular his innovation with new materials, shapes, and possibilities of new patterns of organisation.

Rayner highlighted three typical art/science interactions. The first was demonstrated by a photograph of a diseased liver cell and represented the mode of seeing beauty in the scientific. The second was art’s influence on science (mainly through science fiction such as HG Wells and Jules Verne), the model of artists stimulating scientists with their work leading to new ideas and discourses. The third – which Rayner thought the most compelling – were the interactions between scientists and artists that occur when artists ‘do science through art’. Essentially, where the borders between the two are eliminated and artists employ scientific methodology in their creations, as demonstrated in Saraceno’s work.

The collaboration between scientific institutions and artists was illustrated in a discussion between the Natural History Museum’sRobert Bloomfield and artist Lucy Orta , whose upcoming exhibition at the Jerwood Gallery Perpetual Amazonia is extensively researched using the NHM’s entomology, botany and palaeontology collections. The exhibition will also be informed by Lucy and her partner Jorge’s expedition to the Peru with Cape Farewell in 2009.  Bloomfield specialises in biodiversity and stressed the importance of the interrelations between climate change and biodiversity loss and ecosystem services.

The event was recorded. Podcasts will be available soon on the Tate website.

via ashdenizen: when science meets art … successfully.