Yearly Archives: 2009

The Rape of Africa: LaChapelle digs at Hirst

In the 1990s I worked on a NY magazine where a visionaryphoto editor started employing a rising young photographer called David LaChapelle. LaChapelle was clearly a cut above the average fashion snapper and soon became the most famous thing about the magazine. When I did an interview with Tupac Shakur nobody read a word of the text because the accompanying photograph was a shocking LaChapelle shot of the young rapper dressed as a slave in the cottonfields. LaChapelle has now put magazine photography on hold and this year has been showing his work The Rape of Africa, a photograph that references Botticelli’s Venus and Mars. The fact that Naomi Campbell takes the part of Venus suggests he hasn’t moved on that far, but anyway…

When I interviewed Damien Hirst for the NYT a couple of years ago about For The Love Of God, he was disappointingly evasive about discussing the obvious link between diamonds and the current lethal exploitation of Africa that was contained in his work. He did stress that they had deliberately sourced the £14m worth diamonds from ethical sources. I remember suggesting that with a work of this scale – which bought up a significant part of the world’s diamond supply – he must have also inflated the price of blood diamonds but he wasn’t interested in going down that route. In that Hirsty kind of way he affected a kind of Wow… I never really thought of that response, I should have pushed it harder and didn’t, and the discussion never made it into the short piece that was finally published.

At times it benefits art to remain evasive. To dictate what the audience should find in a piece short-changes us. And of course, at the time Jay Jopling was looking for a multi-million dollar price for the work, and any whiff of activism might have jeopardised the sale of a piece in which Hirst and Jopling had invested massive amounts of their own money.

But in this case, by leaving it vague, Hirst let the impression hang that he didn’t care a fig about the issue of diamonds being directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Angola, Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia and the DRC within the couple of decades.

Ironically, this leaves the field open to LaChapelle to reduce the meaning of the work to a symbol of how the west has raped Africa. In his photograph, Hirst’s skull lies at the feet a child soldier.  It’s an example of how, at times, art’s professional reticence about talking too much about the issues that surround the work leave it looking timorous, self-interested and carelessly aloof.

Detail from The Rape of Africa by David LaChapelle, 2009.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

ECOVENUE: London’s Green Theatre Plan, One Year Later

Reprinted from PRNewswire: “Theatres Trust Announces ECOVENUE Green Theatre Project for London” September 9, 2009

On 14 September 2009 at Plasa 09 The Theatres Trust will announce a new three year programme to provide specialist theatre environmental advice and undertake free DEC assessments with 48 small scale theatres in London.

One year on from the launch of the Mayor of London’s ‘Green Theatre: Taking Action on Climate Change‘ initiative at Plasa 08, The Theatres Trust will announce it is to receive GBP450,000 over the next three years from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in London to deliver the ECOVENUE advisory programme.

Mhora Samuel, Director of The Theatres Trust said “When the Mayor of London’s Green Theatre Plan was launched last year to help theatres in London achieve reductions in carbon emissions by 60% by 2025, commercial and subsidised theatres in London were quick to sign up. We recognised that smaller theatres with less resources would find it harder to participate, and so made an application for funding to the LDA at the beginning of 2009 to help address the gap. I’m delighted that we can announce the ERDF award at Plasa 09 and help more London theatres to address environmental issues associated with climate change and reduce their energy use.”

The ECOVENUE project provides each participating theatre with a free theatre-specific Environmental Audit, and free Display Energy Certificates in 2010 and 2011. A DEC is a publicly displayed certificate that informs the public about the energy use of a building. This free environmental improvement advice will be delivered by a new Theatre Building Services Adviser to be employed by the Trust.

The Trust will be inviting 48 theatres to apply to participate in the project, which will run until spring 2012. Application details will be advertised over the following months.

Pictures accompanying this release are available through the PA Photowire. They can be downloaded from or viewed at or


Go to the Green Theater Initiative

White Light Green Guide: Available Now

Leading entertainment lighting supplier White Light is pleased to announce the release of the White Light Green Guide, available now from the company’s website.

Intended as a starter guide for those wanting to make their work in lighting shows have as little impact on the environment as possible, the Green Guide offers suggestions for each phase of the process of show lighting, from initial meetings and planning through rig design, set-up and focus, show running, touring and final load-out.

via White Light Green Guide: Available Now – [news-readnews].

LDI is Going Green

LDI 2009
November 19-22
Orlando, Florida

Full day conference consisting of multiple panels that focus on Green Topics for the Entertainment Industry will be presented on Thursday, November 19.

A booth on the exhibit floor that exclusively displays Green products. This showcase will be a first of its kind opportunity to bring together Green products specific to the entertainment industry.

This years LDI will be the inaugural year for two Green awards at the LDI awards ceremony.

  • The Green Product of the Year will be chosen from exhibitors in the Green Technology Today Showcase.
  • The Green Event/Show of the Year award is open for submissions from anyone in the entertainment/ live event industry. This award specifically spotlights and celebrates a show or event which was able to integrate sustainability into its production.

For more information and to register for the conference please visit or contact Bob Usdin at Showman Fabricators (

Sponsored by


CSPA September 09 Newsletter

We invite you to view our second newsletter. As you read this, we’re hard at work on compiling our first issue of the CSPA Quarterly, which we will be releasing at the end of the month. We’re also working on bulstering our Wiki, which hasa lot of great information, but there is so much more to get in there. If you’re interested in helping, we welcome volunteers to contribute as well. It is free to join and post. If that wasn’t enough exciting news, the cat is out of the bag that we’ve been working with LA Stage Alliance on developing a plan for physical materials reuse infrastructure in Los Angeles AND we’re gearing up to start our certification initiative in the new year! There is just so much going on, and we thank you all for your continued support of the CSPA!

Ian Garrett & Miranda Wright

CSPA Directors

Check it out here: CSPA September 09 Newsletter.

Green LDI & Aquila’s “Enemy”


Got a nice email from Annie Jacobs over at Showman Fabricators yesterday about their effort to add some green to this year’s LDI. “Showman Fabricators has teamed up with LDI to try to bring the issues of sustainability in our industry to the forefront,” Jacob wrote.

You can check out info on this year’s greener LDI here.

Aquila Theatre presents a Green Tour

I’ve been working on a piece for Jacob Coakley over at Stage Directions about Aquila Theatre’s upcoming touring production of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. I’ve spoken with both Peter Meineck, the company’s AD, as well as their Production Manager Nate Terracio. I’ve been very impressed with both of them and their honest, holistic approach to the idea of greening a touring production to the best of their ability. Look for the piece in SD soon, and keep an eye on Aquila’s tour — they might be bringing Enemy to your town. If they do, I’d check it out. 

Go to EcoTheater

10:10 campaign launch: the video

Another hastily filmed Flipcam video. I am clearly no Franny Armstrong:

10:10 campaign launch, Tate Modern, London from RSA Arts & Ecology on Vimeo.

The strategy is to create enough of a mass movement to make people feel it’s OK to make changes in their life, and to give Ed M. the kick in the pants he requires to move forward. I’m not sure how successful the event was in achieving that. It was great to get the front page ofThe Guardian and a page in The Sun but because news of the event was sprung on most people yesterday, the event seemed a little thinly attended. It didn’t feel like the mass movement we need – not yet anway. It felt mostly like people a bit like me.

It’ll be interesting to see how many people have signed the pledge online…

[Takes a look]

6,472 so far. Less than one in ten thousand.

It may be early days, but given how well it was publicised, and the readership of media partners, The Sun and The Guardian, I would say that’s a little disappointing but I’ll leave the last word to the hardcore transitionist at the end who said, “When you see lots of other people getting involved it gives you confidence that you’re not a freak, you’re not out on your own.”

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Art rationing: the culture of less

There is talk of rationing in the air. Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural affairs has done the maths and warns that population growth and climate change will affect our future food security. Amongst the green left, there’s a nostalgic enthusiasm for this kind of wartime frugality. A rush of books is digging up techniques of how the wartime generation coped with shortage.

After decades of plenty, we are coming to believe we are overburdened by consumption. I’m sure a lot of the world would find this more than a little ironic, but let’s not knock it. A culture of less would be a good thing.

But I started wondering whether it’s not just food and goods we should be thinking about having less of. What if the culture of less were to mean less culture as well? I remember listening to a talk by director Mike Figgis a couple of years ago in which he likened cultural over-production to global warming. The inventions of photography, then magnetic tape and now digitisation means that all culture is now permanent. Nothing is thrown away. New culture constantly pours into the lake at an ever increasing rate, but the lake is now dammed. “Is there too much culture?” asked Figgis. It was an idea that created a few ripples at the time.

If artists are suggesting we could live with less, should we also be living with less art? What if we had cultural rationing books. You might only be allowed five CDs a year, five books, two exhibitions, four films, one orchestral concert and two gigs. Would that make you choose what you consumed more carefully? What would you cut out? And (though the numbers of artists thrown on the dole queue would be huge) would the experience you took away from each encounter stamp itself a little deeper on your mind?

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Whiteread, Lambie, Blake et al rethink the WWF collecting box

Pandamonium: the simple panda-shaped collecting unit rewrought.

Charity Bears for WWF by Rachel Whiteread 2009

Sweet Bamboo
by Jim Lambie 2009

You can’t hate nature
by Mark Titchner 2009

World Wrestling Federation
by Peter Blake 2009

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology