Yearly Archives: 2009

A Picture Can Show a Million? | Unique Scoop

Artist and activist, Chris Jordan creates amazing images that portray America’s consumption. Chris’ hope is that his images will have a different effect than raw numbers alone. Since simple numbers no matter how large can be rather abstract it can be difficult to connect with ones impact. Whereas a visual representation of vast quantities can help make meaning of 106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the US every thirty seconds or two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. The underlying desire is to emphasize the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.

via A Picture Can Show a Million? | Unique Scoop.

Is something missing from Maya Lin’s What Is Missing?

Maya Lin, the artist most famous for creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, a piece of public work that cut deep in the American psyche, unveiled another memorial last week in San Francisco. What is missing? is a homage to extinct species.

In her artists’ statement she says:

What is missing? is a wake up call and a call to action, showing what is being done throughout the field of conservation and also what individuals can do in their everyday lives to make a difference in habitat and species protection.

What is missing? will make the critical link between global warming concerns and habitat protection: if 20% of global warming emissions are caused by deforestation then What is missing? will integrally connect these issues, asking the question:

Can we save two birds with one tree?

I’m sorry. It may be that last coy bon mot that pushed me over the line but…  if any piece of work epitomises something Michaela Crimmin was talking about recently when she wrote,“Art is not going to combat climate change by didacticism of preaching”, it’s Lin’s giant speaking tube.

Perhaps the piece doesn’t have the right impact when viewed via YouTube, but to my eyes, Lin’s work does the opposite of  creating connections between environment and global warming, as she claims.  Instead, Lin’s megaphone appears to reduce the natural world to something exotic and far-away at the pointy end of a tube.

I’m right, aren’t I?

EDIT. I’ve just noticed in a review of the work in the SF Chronicle that children can enter the tube – if they take their shoes off. That makes it even worse, somehow.

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2009 Green Day

GREEN Day: Greening in the Entertainment Industry

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Join LDI in going GREEN! A full day dedicated to what the industry is doing—and can do—to reduce its carbon footprint and be environmentally smart!  A special full-day conference organized in conjunction with Showman Fabricators, as LDI “goes green.”

Sessions open to all LDI full-conference badge holders, and four-pack or eight-pack tickets.

PLUS: The Green Technology Today Showcase on the LDI Show Floor: November 20-22

Welcome and Kick-Off
Bob Usdin of Showman Fabricators and the Broadway Green Alliance kick off Green Day with an overview of what’s happening in various aspects of the industry. Featured speakers include David Taylor, Arup;

GD01 Why Bother? A Session for Skeptics!!!!!

Is there a Crisis?  The facts are indisputable when you see this evidence. Why is Greening in the entertainment industry important?  Beyond just the immediate carbon footprint of an event, talk about the ultimate payoff: Getting your audience to be green in their lives.
Learn about the 4-D’s, and how to deal with skeptics.

GD02 Green Standards: Alphabet Soup

LEED, CRI, Greenguard, FSC, Greenlabel, VOC, MERV, 3 R’s, CFC’s, Carbon Offsets: A whole new language has evolved around greening. What does it all mean? More importantly, what standards are useful for the entertainment industry? We’ll look at how to weigh claims and benefits in materials, products, and practices.

View Green Products from the LDI Show Floor
What are manufacturers and suppliers offering that are green?  LDI exhibitors are invited to showcase their products that can contribute to making productions greener and more sustainable.

GD03 Breakout Brainstorming Session:

This roundtable discussion will seek out Best/Better Practices being used around the country, in a completely ‘hands-on’ traditional brainstorming session with post-its and white boards. At the end of the session all ideas will be compiled and posted on a website. Bring every idea to the table no matter how crazy.

To focus attention, there will be three separate groups:
* Lighting / Sound / Projections
* Scenery / Staging / Props / Costumes
Buildings / Facilities / General Operations

GD04 Closing Session: The Proof is in the Pudding:

A look at projects from the past year that incorporated some green projects (productions, events, buildings, theatre companies, etc.) followed by a general discussion of where the entertainment industry can and should go to be green.

Green Pavillion

What are manufacturers and suppliers offering that are green?  LDI exhibitors are invited to showcase their products that can contribute to making productions greener and more sustainable; in conjunction with The Green Technology Today Showcase on the exhibit floor, presented by LDI and Showman Fabricators. For information on how to participate in this session and The Green Technology Today Click here to download the Green Pavilion form

via 2009 Green Day . Join the network

Our network Arts for COP15 is now up and functioning. Please come and join us there, especially if you are involved in an arts-based event in the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December. The site acts as a single portal for all the arts stuff that’s going on globally.

It’s a place where we can not only publicise what we’re doing around COP15, but where we can share experiences and resources and discuss whether we’re reaching audiences effectively. It also gives us a chance to measure how much is going on and work out how well it’s working.

There are already several events listed, and more to go up. You’re free to go and add your own. There’s also an open blog and a forum. Please go and get stuck in.

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Utah Theatre Disaster Creates Geothermal Potential

Reprinted from The Salt Lake Tribune: “Turning a Crisis into Opportunity” by John Keahay, September 20, 2009

Late last year, a distraught Michael Ballam walked into a board meeting, plopped into his chair and announced, “I have some bad news.”

The founder and general director of the Utah Festival Opera had just come from the historic Utah Theatre — a shuttered movie house that was being converted into a production venue for the northern Utah-based company. Crews, attempting to dig 15 feet down from the orchestra pit tucked beneath the newly expanded stage, had just hit groundwater at 12 feet.

A geyser was bubbling up, filling the pit at about 20 gallons per minute and seemingly dooming the $3.5 million-$4 million renovation.

In the long run, the watery problem didn’t kill the project, But the solution added $500,000 to the price tag, which along with a plummeting economy that was stifling fundraising efforts, forced the cancellation of the 2009 summer schedule of shows planned for the venue.

“In some ways it was a blessing,” said Ballam. The half-million-dollar fix helped designers create a larger, deeper space for the mechanical innards of a complex organ system. This is seen as a distinctive feature of the restored theater that eventually will feature opera, plays, recitals and movies, including silent films.

And the unwelcome water started arts officials thinking about an environmentally pleasing, cost-saving solution for heating and cooling the theater — geothermal energy instead of natural gas.

But first, workers had to solve the immediate problem of the orchestra pit flood. They installed a rubber membrane — below water level — at 15 feet down and then poured 4 feet of concrete to make a “boat” that essentially floats. This keeps the space dry, and it allowed the organ’s inner workings to be installed. The organ console will sit several feet away on an automatic lift in the orchestra pit. During productions, it can be raised and lowered as needed. In addition, a grand piano can be moved onto the lift for the same purpose.

“It’s like the Radio City Music Hall [in New York City], except there the organ comes in and out of the wall,” said Ballam.

As it turned out, the water was the least of the Utah Theatre’s problems. The nation’s economic crisis and its effect on stock portfolios has dulled contributors’ enthusiasm and cut the Utah Festival Opera market-based endowment in half. This has put the renovation on hold, and it could take a few more years before the theater once again comes alive.

“The spirt’s willing, but the bank account’s weak,” said Richard Anderson, Festival Opera’s board vice chairman.

Stalled plans for the theater are ambitious. It is much smaller, at 350 seats, than the main Utah Festival Opera venue, the 1,140-seat Ellen Eccles Theatre on Logan’s Main Street. Ballam said the theater is a perfect facility for launching smaller-scale operas — think intimate Mozart works versus mammoth productions, such as Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida.”

If additional cash is found, “we could open it on a limited basis next season by showing films,” Ballam said. “That would take $1 million. Another million, and we can finish the lobby.” Still another million would buy the inner workings of a backstage “fly” system that raises and lowers scenery. Ultimately, the balcony could be expanded, raising the number of seats to 500.

“We’ll do it in phases,” the general director said. Meanwhile, the Utah Opera Festival, despite hard financial times, plans a full 2010 summer season of five operas and musicals around the corner in the Eccles Theatre, plus all of the associated educational activities. The festival staged 130 events during the 2009 summer season — a tradition that goes back to its inception in 1993.

During the past summer, the festival sold 21,000 tickets to five shows over four-and-a-half weeks, generating $870,000 of its $2.3 million operating budget. The balance is raised through philanthropy.

The Utah Theatre’s season-ending groundwater issue, while a minor disaster, has led the opera company to what could eventually become a long-term, cash-saving alternative. If the water pressure was powerful enough to create a bubbling geyser in the orchestra pit, then something must be driving it.

In this case, an aquifer, fed by subterranean runoff from the mountains to the east, sits another 200 feet below, exerting its pressure upward.

After Ballam walked into the board meeting to deliver his bad news, vice chairman Anderson was struck by a thought. Could the deep aquifer be tapped and, using geothermal technology, could the resulting green energy be used to heat and cool the Utah Theatre?

The aquifer’s water probably is a consistent 50 to 55 degrees, summer or winter.

Anderson uses that technology to heat and cool his home 10 miles south of Logan. His small system takes water from a free-flowing spring, runs its through a heat exchanger and, can manage his indoor climate at a comfortable level whether the temperature outside is 20 below zero or 100 degrees above.

To do the same for the Utah Theatre would require the drilling of two wells adjacent to the building in downtown Logan — one for extracting naturally heated water from the aquifer, another to return it into the subterranean cavity. A commercial heat exchanger would transfer heat from the aquifer water to a liquid within the exchanger, and that would be used to provide heat or cool the theater.

“Of course, you need electricity to run a compressor and the pumps to move the water around,” said Anderson, “but you don’t need electricity or natural gas to heat or cool the theater. There would be no flame [from a pilot light] in the building; no carbon-monoxide detector is necessary.”

The cost would be $10,000 for each of the two wells, $50,000-$75,000 for the compressor and heat-exchange system — no more than for a conventional system, said festival Managing Director Gary Griffin.

Ballam, a world-class opera singer who performs in many Utah Festival productions, loves the geothermal idea beyond its long-term cost- and energy-saving benefits.

“It’s not noisy,” he said. “As an opera singer on stage, you notice when the [traditional furnace] system turns on. It can be distracting.”

Go to the Green Theater Initiative

Did #pm2un Tweet make Gordon to go to Copenhagen?

I was blogging last week in response to’s suggestion that there were too many climate campaigns. My view was that it wasn’t that there were too many, but that maybe they weren’t reaching the right people.

Last week the website were pushing hard on a campaign on Twitter,#pm2un, trying to persuade Gordon Brown to commit to go to the COP15 Climate Conference in Copenhagen. At the time this seemed like a great example of a well-targeted campaign.

Though it’s not that unusual for leaders not to commit to attending this sort of conference until the last moment, BeThatChange had cleverly spotted an opportunity there. It looks rubbish for Brown to be claiming to be leading the agenda at Copenhagen when he’s not even committed to going himself. A couple of days after BeThatChange cranked up the heat with their #pm2un campaign, @EdMilibandMP tweeted a survey on his Ed’s Pledge site, asking visitors what their priorities for Copenhagen were. Miliband offered the following options to chose from:

1) the Prime Minister attending Copenhagen to help deliver a deal

2) doing more to provide home insulation in the UK

3) more government support to create green jobs

Whatever you think about the yeas and nays of deliberative democracy, when I looked on Friday, “the Prime Minster attending Copenhagen to help deliver a deal” had received 93% of the vote. How much of that was due to the campaign is hard to calculate, but I suspect that the question was even on Miliband’s poll suggests that the original #pm2un campaign was bang on.

If anything, I suppose it’s possible the Labour Party saw how potentially embarrassing such a campaign could be if it gained much more momentum, and instead turned it to their advantage. Either way the news came through late last night, less than 48 hours before BeThatChange’s next #pm2un twitterstorm:

Gordon Brown urges world leaders to attend climate change talk

Whatever did happen behind closed doors, it was nice work all round, really.

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(Park)ing Day


Back in the spring I met John Bela of Rebar, one of the design team who thought up (Park)ing Day five years ago. The idea of turning parking spaces into parks for a day continues to spread. In my home town of Brighton, some artists have been creating the city’s first (Park)ing Daythere.  This [picture above] is one being set up just a couple of hours ago by design consultants IDEO in Chicago.

It’s interesting this idea came from San Francisco, a city whose culture has been deeply influenced by the ideals that underpin the web. Create something good. Give it away. Measure its success by how far it spread, not by the money you make from it.

Photo by SimonK

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Upcoming Lectures/Panels

ecoartspace NYC – amy lipton

September 24, 2009
Community Roundtable on Habitat for Artists Project
Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art

State University of New York – New Paltz

October 3, 2009
Q and A with Habitat for Artists Collective
Solar One (East River at 23rd St)
New York, NY

October 10, 2009
Strategies for Success in Challenging Times
International Sculpture Center Annual Conference
Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ

ecoartspace WEST – patricia watts

September 29, 2009
Art & Ecology: An International Perspective
School of Art and Design
San Jose State University, California
Tuesday Night Lecture Series

November 2, 2009
Art & Ecology: An International Perspective
Land Art: Art Nature Community
University of New Mexico

November 17, 2009
Art & Ecology in the Santa Monica Mountains
Culture in the Canyon: Chautauqua Series
Temescal Gateway Park, Pacific Palisades, California
Mountains Conservancy of the Santa Monica Mountains

November 24th, 2009
Hybrid Fields: Food and Art
Southern California Institute of Architecture
Community Design Program
Watts Cooking: Imagining an Accessible Food Infrastructure

January 28, 2010
Environmental Aesthetics: Artists Addressing Environmental Issues
Epiphany West 2010 Visualizing Sustainability Conference
Co-sponsored by Church Divinity School of the Pacific and
Center for the Arts, Religion and Education
Berkeley, California

Go to EcoArtSpace

EcoArtTech – Ecology, Art, and Technology

WILD: The Conditions of Possibility for the Experience of Nature in the Everyday, 2009

Free Downloadable PDF at the link below.

This work is made possible in part by generous contributions from K2 Family Foundation, SolarOne Green Energy, Arts & Education Center, Colgate University and the Paul A. Garrison Faculty Research Fellowship, the Pine Lake Environmental Campus of Hartwick College, and a Turbulence Net Art Comission.

EcoArtTech | Ecology, Art, and Technology | PDFs.

Are there too many climate campaigns?

Just as we’ve been publishing our ever expanding lists of campaigns in the run up to COP15, and as we’re on the verge of launching our own one, Arts for COP15, asks the question “Are there too many climate campaigns?” [Their blog is currently down today… so you’ll have to take my word for it]. Have we become “bored” with the issue of climate change because of campaign overload?

For climate campaigners the real frustration is the slowness of change. The public still seem reluctant to clamour at politicians in the way we’d like them to. Could this be because they are just getting too many messages? That list of sixteen actions for COP15 is by no means exhaustive. Is this a case of too much information?

I don’t think so. Three reasons:

1) For a start, the nature of social media means that this fragmentation is going to happen, whether we like it or not. For better or worse, there will no longer be a single source of authority on any political discussion like this. On the plus side, climate campaigners like Franny Armstrong have shown how incredibly effective social media are for spreading a message.

2) Secondly, though the campaigns are diverse,  climate NGOs are showing a great deal of resourcefulness. Most of the campaigns listed below are actually partnerships between several campaigns – Greenpeace, WWF, Oxfam, Age of Stupid et al. Charities usually have a parochial tendency to defend their own turf with one eye on their own future fundraising – but in this case there is a lot of sharing going on.

3) So what’s the problem? With all this heat being created why aren’t more poeple taking action? Perhaps in this case we’re blaming the medium, not the message.  Most campaigns on energy and climate do not interest the mass of the people worldwide. The map of actions for Monday 21 September is worth looking at. Why is there a huge disparity between the numbers of actions being taken in different countries? We have to think hard about what messages appeal to the mass of people who are more aspirational than ourselves. (That’s not to say they need to be directly aspirational messages; the most effective political campaigns in recent times have usually been based on fear.)

We are in a research period, still looking for the right message. We have not found it yet. Now is not the time to start cutting down on the multiplicity of voices. Eventually one of us is going to get the right campaign, the killer one, the one that convinces more than just our friends.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology