University College Falmouth inc. Dartington College of Arts invites you to


 1st-2nd September 2012 

Deadline for applications: 31st March 2012

Across disciplines academics and artists are researching and creating practices that are highly contextual (determined by the environment in which they are located), exploring ways of articulating specific environments, spaces or places.  This conference examines a specific problematic that attends the dissemination of this work: how to engage with ‘being there’ when ‘there’ is not here?

We understand environment (social, built, natural, technological) as that which surrounds and informs us. Through our practice we influence our environment.  What we create is shaped by our surroundings. We exist in a relation of mutual exchange; making ourselves other and incorporating that which is other in turn.  This conference offers a forum for academics and creative practitioners to come together and engage with articulations of mutual formation: to discuss work as environment.

Such work often relies on direct, personal experience of a particular environment.  Transfer and abstraction, necessary for the communication of this work beyond the specifics of this original environment, challenge the work.  Negotiating publication or conference environment, for example, necessitates reformulation of the work, engendering changes in texture and experience, in adapting to alternative structures.  What do such alterations, translations or transformations, mean for this work?

This conference aims to examine these questions on a very practical level. When it comes to considering environment, what is the relationship between the structures of dissemination and the environment our work seeks to convey?  What is the relationship between our academic environment and the work we (aim to) produce?  How do we utter our environment?

We invite poets and writers, artists, academics, social and environmental scientists, performers and musicians, among others, to discuss ways of uttering environment. We seek work that explores the phenomenological sense of speaking with environment. We encourage the use of a diverse range of media as part of this dialogue. Participants are invited to find new ways of expressing their research and/or artistic practice in a conference setting that reflects upon this process of adaptation as a process of practical enquiry.

Instead of presenting what they already know, participants are invited to experiment with their ‘potential’ environment, using the space of the conference as an opportunity to learn from and with each other. The structure of the conference is specifically designed to support such an exchange.  Over the course of two days we seek to create a plastic community of practice. There will be both indoor (seminar rooms, lecture theatres, studios) and outdoor (gardens, orchard, parkland) spaces available to present your work. Your proposal will have to comply with the health and safety norms of Tremough Campus. Please refer to the health and safety guidance before you start planning your presentation/performance.

The (types of) environments we invite participants to explore in their presentations include (but are not limited to):

  • natural
  • social
  • technological
  • digital
  • ideological
  • logical
  • intuitive
  • empathetic
  • linguistic
  • imagined
  • the body
  • the archive
  • the laboratory
  • the book
  • the recording studio
  • the gallery
  • the library
  • the seminar room
  • the lecture theatre
  • the conference
  • professional
  • domestic
  • specialist
  • private
  • public
  • visual
  • auditory
  • oral
  • tactile
  • olfactory

Those interested in participating are invited to send a paper/performance summary (250 words max) along with an indication of how they wish to present this work (250 words), to Camilla Nelson, Natalia Eernstman and Jeanie Sinclair at environmental.utterance@gmail.com , describing:

  1. How or what will you present
  2. The main questions & ideas you aim to explore through your presentation
  3. The media you will use
  4. What space and/or additional equipment you require

Special Call to Develop Live Exchange

This is a call for proposals to design a method of documentation to function as an integral part of this ‘conference-as-community-of-practice’: a method of exchange whereby ideas, insights, lessons learned, questions and connections are cross-referenced between the different times and spaces of the conference. We invite applicants to submit proposals to environmental.utterance@gmail.com detailing a process that will (effectively & inspiringly) collect, record and disseminate participants’ experiences. Media and methods might include (but are not limited to) technology, social media, interactive installations, mobile performance, poetic or artistic representations, etc. Selected participants will run their activity for one morning or afternoon of the conference. The material costs required to realize the activity will be reimbursed in consultation with the conference organizers.

Deadline for applications: 31st March

The Life of Pipe

This post comes to you from Shrimp Boat Projects

The iconography of a Texas oil field (postcard from Tyler, TX); Scrap yard in Houston where we bought our used oil field pipe; Fitting the pipe to the starboard bulwark of our boat; Testing the pipe for Alpha radiation with a rented geiger counter; Safe readings on the geiger counter!

It seems that everything we fix on our shrimp boat has a unique story built into it, and the gunwales we replaced a few weeks ago are no different. When we bought the boat, we inherited a particularly sad set of gunwales wrapping all sides of the boat… rotting lumber, corroding steel, burned-out pvc, a ton of poorly-applied bondo (a cement-like substance typically used on automotive body repair), these were perhaps the most visible imperfections in the boat. And so it was no surprise that upon buying the boat, we immediately set out to replace the gunwales. What we didn’t anticipate was that reclaimed oil field pipe would make a great gunwale on a shrimp boat. We need to credit John Collins for pointing us in this direction. Just a casual glance around his boat yard reveals the variety of his projects that have all used oil field pipe in some way.

Using oil field pipe as anything on a shrimp boat might sound odd,  but using the reclaimed pipe was another way for us to work within the specifics of our region. Although the largest deposits of oil may no longer be in Texas, the economy of oil and gas still permeates the state and especially the Houston region (see the previous posting). So oil field pipe is easy to find around here. You can find it in an array of gauges, widths and lengths, new and used. We found a steel scrap yard on Highway 59 in north Houston that had the right pipe for us at the right price. We borrowed John Collins’ trailer and bought four 30ft lengths with an inside diameter of 2″ and a gauge of 0.154″ (schedule 40). This doesn’t look like pipe that would bend around the curve of our boat, but sure enough, with enough cable come-alongs, levers, ropes and the help of friends,  it did.

Soon enough, oil field pipe actually seemed like the obvious choice for our gunwales. Until we got the following email from our friend John Reed who had helped us out on the boat one day: “I was talking with a friend of mine last night and we wandered onto the effect of Japan’s nukes on the scrap metal industry.  He (is in the scrap metal industry) told me that they are ALWAYS worried about radiation in scrap metal; the metal is often rejected by steel buyers if levels are too high.  ‘What kind of steel would be radio-active?’ I asked naively.  ‘Oil drilling pipe, medical equipment, stuff like that.’ he said.” Our next thought: we have a radioactive shrimp boat! So we investigated the matter and found some good background on the issue and learned that any radiation in oil field pipe is related to the NORMS and TENORMS. And we realized the only way to sleep well at night would be to test our pipe with geiger counter. Fortunately, geiger counters are rentable…but there was another catch. The tsunami had just hit Japan, nuclear fallout was spreading from damaged nuclear reactors, and every company in Houston area that would normally rent a geiger counter was shipping them to Japan. We got lucky and found a single remaining geiger counter at Suntrac in League City, TX, about 20 minutes from our boat. One hour and $50 later, we determined that none of our pipe, or anything else in John’s Boatyard was above standard background levels of radiation. Relief. We’ve had more exciting stories unfold on our boat since this episode, but thankfully no more involving radiation.


Shrimp Boat Projects is a creative research project that explores the regional culture of the Houston area. The primary site of the investigation is a working shrimp boat on Galveston Bay which serves as a catalyst for labor, discussion and artistic production. Shrimp Boat Projects is co-created by Eric Leshinsky and Zach Moser, artists-in-residence at the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.

Go to Shrimp Boat Projects

LDI and Sustainability: Part I

Reprinted from Live Design: “Creating Sustainable Theatres: Part 1″ by Curtis Kasefang, October 20, 2009

Following up on Bob Usdin’s excellent piece on the greening of the entertainment industry in the “Green Issue” (“How Green Is Green?” August 2008), I want to explore the broader picture, including the facility itself and the surrounding community.

So that we are all starting at the same place, I will use the generally accepted definition of sustainability. The most popular definition of sustainability can be traced to a 1987 UN conference that defined sustainable developments as those that “meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs,” (United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987 p.24, §27). While this provides a general framework of the ideal, more specifics may be garnered from the following corollary: “Sustainability integrates natural systems with human patterns and celebrates continuity, uniqueness, and placemaking,” (Early, 1993).

In general, many speak of sustainability as having three overlapping components: economic, social, and environmental. Theatres, by definition, score high on the social sustainability scale as places where cultures can mix, and they exist to communicate ideas, broaden our points of view, educate, and entertain. When looked at with a wider lens, theatres also play a role in the economic sustainability of the urban environment. The impact that performance facilities have on communities by fueling jobs in the hospitality, food service, and retail industries, as well as their supply chains, is well documented. Theatre Communications Group, among others, has published studies on theatres’ economic impact on the larger community. Environmental sustainability can further economic sustainability in the operation of a theatre. If we use resources more efficiently, we save money. Environmental sustainability is usually what we are speaking of when we talk about “being green.”

Working as a theatre consultant and chairing my city’s historic districts commission, I think about how buildings—new and existing—can support the goal of being sustainable. Although our measure of greenness for new construction or renovation is the US Green Building Council’s LEED New Construction certification, it doesn’t sufficiently acknowledge the value of reuse of a building. Preservationists and sustainability cheerleaders like to remind us that “the greenest building is the one you already have.” What they are so eloquently pointing out is that, to properly consider the sustainability of a project, one must look at the impact of materials used from raw material to the dump. By thinking of things in this fashion, one can assign a carbon footprint to materials and components. If you can avoid using materials by adapting something that exists, you have avoided a significant carbon impact, waste stream, and release of pollutants.

The Sustainable Sites Initiative has pointed out that, when one disturbs soil, one releases carbon. So in terms of minimizing carbon impact, the greenest choice is to renovate an existing facility. Demolishing an existing structure and building new also can be a triple impact in that one sends an existing building and cleared vegetation to our overburdened landfills. Shockingly, 25% of our waste stream is construction waste (Carl Elefante, director of Sustainable Design, Quinn Evans | Architects).

Another lesson from the preservation crowd is that renovation has a much larger economic impact on the local and regional community than new construction because costs from new construction generally divide to 50% materials and 50% labor. In rehabilitation projects, that figure is closer to 70% labor and 30% materials, and the skill level of that labor is higher. In renovation projects, the figures are somewhere in the middle (Don Rypkema, Place Economics).

These lessons hit on all three components of sustainability because reuse of an existing building can be a huge contributor to the local economy, and a green initiative makes this kind of project attractive to local governments and donors.

Existing facilities are not without challenges. Many, especially those built in the arts building boom of the 1970s, feature inefficient, poor quality systems that make them energy hogs. The challenge with these facilities is how to make them function better without racking up an unrecoverable payback period. Many also lack daylighting in support areas, create huge storm water runoff issues, and are monumental heat islands. Nationally, 50% of our building stock was constructed in the period from 1950 to 1979, when the cost of energy was not a significant consideration. Another 30% was built after 1979 (Elefante).

Performance facilities have the economic challenge of being expensive to build. In my 19 years experience as a theatre consultant, I can tell you that, whether your budget is $800 million or $500,000, there isn’t enough money to achieve the desired goals. Reuse of a facility, and/or a sustainability goal provides access to additional financing through tax credits and an additional field of potential donors.

Historically, operating and construction costs have been separate pools of money that were never discussed in the same meeting. As a consequence, we have deleted storage areas, picked less efficient equipment, and designed less efficient systems to save construction costs, when, in reality, we have actually just shifted costs to operations. We need to break that wall between operating costs and construction costs during design. Further, even the construction costs tend to get divided with performance equipment and viewed as an independent budget from the disciplines that install it, support it, and cool it.

The design criteria of the facility needs to incorporate sustainability as a goal from the outset of the project, and the project team needs to be given the requirement that its choices be reviewed in light of operating costs. In many cases, looking at a one-to-three year operating budget in conjunction with construction costs will be enough to allow the team to make environmentally responsible choices that can have fiscal benefits that last decades. Furthermore, part of the requirement for the design needs to be that it supports operational sustainability, not just sustainable construction.

Going green is a major theme at LDI2009, with a Green Day conference and Green Technology Today Pavilion (www.ldishow.com).

Curtis Kasefang is trained as a lighting designer and embarking on his 20th year as a theatre consultant. He is a principal with Theatre Consultants Collaborative, LLC. Prior to his consulting work, he was a production manager for a four-theatre complex. He also chairs his local Historic Districts Commission.


Go to the Green Theater Initiative