Monthly Archives: May 2014

Crossing a Line

This post comes from Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog.

Alanna Mitchell is not an actor. It’s one of the first things she tells you in Sea Sick, The Play, which she recently performed at The Theatre Centre in Toronto. In fact, Alanna Mitchell is a science journalist and author. She has written for the New York Times and The Globe & Mail, has done TV and radio documentaries for CBC, and has published two books about the dire state of our oceans: Invisible Plastic: What Happens When Your Garbage Ends Up in the Ocean and Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis. Then what is Alanna Mitchell doing on a theatre stage, presenting a one-woman show?

A compelling speaker – watch her Ted talk here – Mitchell grew up in the Canadian prairies listening to her father’s stories about Darwin. Then some years ago, after spending much of her career trying to understand what was happening on land, she embarked on a journey to discover what was going on in the ocean. The real story, as she puts it. What she uncovered became her book Sea Sick, a sobering look at the chemical changes taking place in the liquid part of our world. Sea Sick was awarded the Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment in 2010. Now four years later, Mitchell has brought it to the stage.

Documentary theatre is not a new form. Companies like Nature Theatre of OklahomaTectonic Theater Project and The Civilians often create pieces based on interviews that are presented verbatim. Along the same line, artists like Anna Deavere Smith (Fires In the Mirror), Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen (The Exonerated), and Nilaja Sun (No Child) have created iconic plays based on documentary material. But what these plays have in common is that they all sprung from theatre artists’ imagination and were performed by trained actors. They are very much of the theatre. Sea Sick, The Play, however, sprung from a journalist’s passion for the environment and is performed by an untrained actor. At its core, it lives in a different place; it just happened to have made its way to the stage.

Does it matter? Yes. Not because of the quality of the script (it’s great). Not because of the quality of Mitchell’s performance (she’s great). But because a line  was crossed. We are very much a society of “experts” and while there are advantages to that, there are also drawbacks; we tend to live isolated in our knowledge silos and have a fragmented view of the world. The health system is a good example of that phenomenon. You can find a specialist for the most obscure disease, but finding a doctor who can look at the big picture and see you as a complete system is another story. The same is true for universities; they are incredible repositories of knowledge but the people who work in those universities often have no idea of what is happening next door. And although the arts have new hybrid categories such as multidisciplinary arts and interdisciplinary arts that encourage cross-over, for the most part, artists stick to their areas of expertise.

Yet as a cultural norm, knowledge fragmentation is no longer viable. The scope and complexity of climate change, and the interconnectedness of all its different manifestations, call for a coming together of skills, brains and hearts. We have to learn to work together – across disciplines, across geographic boundaries, across ideologies. And in order to do that, we have to be willing to listen and meet people where they are. Even if that means crossing a line we normally wouldn’t cross.

I saw a workshop of Sea Sick this past February as part of York University’s Staging Sustainability conference. For about an hour, I listened to a journalist tell me stories about red tides, spawning corals, blobs, Australian biologists, and submersible dives. I reflected, I laughed, I cried. And in the process I learned about ocean warming and acidification, the consequences of fertilizer runoff, climate change science, and mass extinctions. I learned about the power of forgiveness, about the fact that the pieces of the future are still in motion, and about having the courage, as Mitchell did, to cross a line. Here’s a woman who, even before she wrote the book, uncovered something so big that it totally overwhelmed her: “I feel like I’m just this little kid from the prairies, who dreamed too big, hit a story she couldn’t handle. I feel like I’m never gonna be worthy to tell this story.”

Yet not only did Mitchell write the book but she climbed on a stage to tell us the story. She showed, on a small scale, that it’s possible to transcend one’s own fears and self-imposed limitations. She showed that you can stretch yourself to meet people where they are – in this case, in a theatre – and still be who you are. “Science gives us knowledge, but not necessarily meaning. Art gives us meaning. And it’s meaning that we respond to. It’s meaning that I care about.” Sea Sick is the story of an ocean in crisis, but it’s also the story of a woman who bravely stepped out of her knowledge silo to tell us about it.

Filed under: Theatre



Artists and Climate Change is a blog by playwright Chantal Bilodeau 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 Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Kinetic Sculpture

This post comes from Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

Kinetic sculptor Anthony Howe probably doesn’t consider himself a “climate change artist”. But as of today, I have officially added his name to the growing list of international artists showcased on this blog whose work inspires others to take action on climate change. Or, perhaps more importantly, whose work inspires others to have hope for the future.

Howe’s psychedelic wind sculptures do exactly that, at least for me.

Disclaimer: I am hopelessly passionate about the wind. As the daughter of an architect who collected wind chimes, I make a living photographing wind energy construction projects. Must have been a bird or a kite in my previous life.

It was this video of Howe’s magnificent 7,100 pound (3,200 kg) stainless steel sculpture called Octo 3 – built to sustain winds of 90+ mph – that first caught my eye.

You could say I’ve been seduced, hypnotized: I find myself returning almost daily for my fix, witnessing again and again that fluid, fleeting moment when the tips of the 16 blades almost kiss in the center before the wind gently pulls them apart, only to repeat itself… forever.

Apparently I am not the only one who feels this way. Among the 10,000+ YouTube viewers, someone left this remark: “I swear it is so mesmerizing I could sit and watch it all day.”

To create such delicate, rhythmic, harmonious sculptures, Howe must also be an expert mechanic, welder, sheet metal worker, engineer, and electrician (to repair his many electric tools). Just take a look at his studio on Orkas Island near the Canadian-American border in northwest Washington State: my father would have been so happy there.

I too am surrounded by mechanics, welders, sheet metal workers, engineers and electricians on the many construction sites where I photograph wind turbines. I search for beauty in these mechanical and industrial landscapes, inspired by the photographer Margaret Bourke-White. My goal is to try to create a sense of awe about wind energy, to inspire others with the beauty and majesty of wind energy in order that some may embrace renewables as one of the many solutions to climate change.

I am quite sure that Howe’s artistic goals are different than mine. However, even though his kinetic sculptures do not generate electricity like wind turbines, they all take advantage of the wind’s mechanical energy. So from my perspective, you will allow me the luxury of imagining a day when one of Howe’s kinetic sculptures will inspire a young engineer to design a different kind of wind turbine – like this wind tree – that everyone will want to install right in their own front yards. Should that day ever come, well then, we would be one step closer to reducing our addiction to fossil fuels.

That’s why I’d like to call Anthony Howe a “climate change artist”. Perhaps it’s time to enlarge the definition of “climate change artist”, to focus less on objectives of the artist, and more on the impact of his or her art on global audiences in terms of inspiring creative solutions to climate change.

To finish, I share with you a wonderful quote by the poet-economist Joseph Robertson: “The amount of energy trapped in hydrocarbon molecules deep underground is miniscule in comparison to the amount of solar energy that lands on the surface of the Earth and the resulting kinetic energy that moves around our planet all day, every day.”

Thanks Mr. Howe, for your wonderful kinetic gift.

For renewable energy construction photography, visit Joan’s website

Follow Joan on Twitter @CleanNergyPhoto 



Artists and Climate Change is a blog by playwright Chantal Bilodeau 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 Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Join Julie’s Bicycle for Sustaining Creativity

The Sustaining Creativity Lab LIVESTREAM will launch at 10.20am on Wednesday 28th May – stay tuned and follow the event online!

View agenda for Sustaining Creativity Lab

We want to understand how the creative community is thinking about the coming decade and what it perceives as the critical drivers for change. We will be making the case that environmental sustainability is a big one, and, with your help, mapping a five to ten year plan.

‘Sustaining Creativity’ is a series of conversations and events exploring environmental challenges, drivers of change, and the opportunities that transformative solutions offer to the creative community.

‘Sustainability’ generally refers to an approach that balances social, financial and environmental considerations. Julie’s Bicycle’s focus is environmental sustainability. While we recognise and seek to reinforce the synergies between social, financial and environmental wellbeing, economic and social development are ultimately contingent on a healthy planet.

Sustaining Creativity will take a holistic approach, intent on shoring up strength and wellbeing over the coming decade. It will consider the likely systemic changes already influencing mainstream thinking and put sustainability at the forefront of creative and cultural innovation.

Sustaining Creativity will:

Discover what the business critical issues are perceived to be from a wide range of representatives from the creative community.

 ambition about what is possible using real examples.

Identify some key shifts needed to develop a creative infrastructure commensurate with global challenges.

Outline what might be done over the next five to ten years to create optimal conditions for change.

Foster confident decision-making that looks beyond political and funding cycles

Produce a series of events and publications

We are working with partners including the Technology Strategy Board, Sustain RCA, RSA, Volans, Pervasive Media Studios, John Elkington, John Kieffer, John Holden, and Haworth Tompkins Architects exploring the following themes:

Alternative approaches to how we measure and explore value culturally, socially and financially

Thinking about how digital connectivity and data can influence our approach to environmental change

Developing design methodologies and partnerships to increase circular use of resources and materials within the sector and more widely


How do these key issues affect Boards and Senior Leaders in the arts?

Watch videos from the Sustaining Creativity launch event in November 2013 byclicking here.

We will be holding a conference on Wednesday 28th May 2014 to present some of the early findings from our survey, and to engage the sector in a further debate about what the next steps should be. For more information about the day, click here.

Read the Where Science Meets Art publication here

FOODshed: Art and Agriculture in Action

This post comes to you from EcoArtSpace

An exhibition of upstate/downstate NY artists who work with food and agriculture
Curated by Amy Lipton, ecoartspace
Smack Mellon
92 Plymouth Street at Washington
Brooklyn, NY 11201
June 7 to July 27, 2014
Opening reception: Saturday, June 7, 5pm-8pm

Artists: Joan Bankemper/Black Meadow Barn;  Joy Garnett; Habitat For Artists Collective (Simon Draper, Michael Asbill, Carmen Acuna, Dan McGinley, Brandon Cruz, Jessica Poser, Lisa Breznak and Sean Corcoran); Natalie Jeremijenko; Kristyna and Marek Milde; Peter Nadin/Old Field Farm; Leila Nadir + Cary Peppermint (EcoArtTech); Andrea Reynosa, Brooklyn Grange and Alloy; Bonnie Ora Sherk; Jenna SpevackSusan Leibovitz Steinman/Mona Talbott; Tattfoo Tan; Elaine Tin Nyo; Linda Weintraub

FOODshed: Agriculture and Art in Action focuses on sustainable agriculture, entrepreneurship, and artists’ use of food as subject matter or medium. The exhibition and programming include 14 exhibiting artists in the gallery at Smack Mellon, 3 public projects in the nearby DUMBO community, as well as public workshops in collaboration with the artists in the exhibition. The gallery exhibition features artworks and inventive projects around agriculture and food that address farming as both activism and art form. Many of the artists in this exhibition are known for bringing community-specific issues into their work and are exploring the real-world implications of small-scale farming and raising community awareness about our food systems. Their varied practices include growing food, cooking food, raising animals for food, and engaging communities around local food production as well as instigating new artist-based economies.

The artists working in New York State today in the realm of food and farming coincide with a larger cultural awakening regarding the ills of our present system, such as the distances food travels to supermarket shelves and the effects of shipping and transport on climate change. Brooklyn has become the epicenter for food activism and culinary explorations. Artists have joined food activists in focusing on environmental problems such as lack of biodiversity in mono-cultural farms, the loss of top soil and nutrient-poor soil, the abuse and poor conditions of feedlot and factory raised animals, the conversion of farmland into housing, and the waste of un-harvested crops. Artists are now farming not only to raise their own food in order to become self-reliant and to eat more healthily, but also to offer alternative and sustainable approaches within their local communities.

For the artists in FOODshed, the acts of cultivation, growing, and by implication educating have evolved to a deeper level of activism where the boundaries of real world and art completely disappear. Their projects present new paradigms regarding the growing, production, distribution and consumption of food. The artists in this exhibition advocate for an organic, regional and local approach, which they are manifesting in their own lives.

Patricia Watts, founder and curator of ecoartspace will moderate FOODprint, a panel discussion on food and climate to investigate the current national debate about our food systems and the intersection of farming, culture and climate as it relates to the Upstate/NYC focus of the FOODshed exhibition. Panelists: Jennifer Grossman, Famer/NRDC Food Systems Advocate; Ben Flanner, Farmer, Brooklyn Grange; Josh Morgenthau, Farmer and Entrepreneur Good Eggs; Linda Weintraub, Artist/Writer; Tattfoo Tan, Artist; John Gorzynski, Farmer, Gorzynski Ornery Farm.

FOODshed will offer workshops at Smack Mellon in collaboration with the artists in the exhibition and With Food in Mind, a nomadic organization operating at the intersection of food, visual culture, and social change that develops drop-in workshops, afterschool classes, and other educational programs that dynamically combine art and food. Check the Smack Mellon website for further information on workshops here. 



ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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Climate change photography: a call to arms

This post comes from Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

When someone asked me recently what kind of photography I do, my response “climate change photography” elicited this comment: “Oh, you mean chasing glaciers?” He was referring, of course, to the documentary film Chasing Ice about still photographer James Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey, which provides hauntingly beautiful visual proof of one of the (many) impacts of climate change.

I found myself explaining to this dinner party acquaintance that climate change photography is not limited to melting glaciers or stranded polar bears. Ideally, climate change photography should focus on all aspects of climate change – causes, impacts, mitigation and adaptation. Then he asked me what mitigation was…

That’s when I realized I had some homework to do. I needed a simple definition of climate change photography, one that would resonate with the masses. In short, I needed to develop a 30-second elevator pitch to describe what I do and why I do it.

I spent the next several weeks clicking around the Internet, only to discover that there is no official definition of “climate change photography” (nor, for that matter, “climate change art” – although that is quickly changing). Moreover, my Google search results for “climate change photography” were dominated by the name of one photographer – James Balog. This may give some people (like my dinner party acquaintance) the mistaken impression that if you are not documenting melting glaciers or stranded polar bears, then you are not a climate change photographer.

There are, for example, several photographers focusing on the human face of climate change, such as American photographers Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele, and Swiss photographers Mathias Braschler and Monika Fischer. Both couples explore the loss of livelihood and culture due to climate change.

There are other photographers focusing on the humanitarian consequences of climate change, such as members of the photo cooperative NOOR, whose diverse images collectively point to the same conclusion: that most social disruption – conflict, food riots, drought, forced migration, refugees, sickness and hunger – can be attributed either directly or indirectly to climate change.

If we wanted to stretch the definition of climate change photography even further, we could include those daredevil “storm chaser” photographers such as Mick Hollingshead whose breathtaking images of supercells and tornadoes provide additional evidence of the increased frequency and intensity of violent storms related to warmer temperatures and more humid air.

Or the growing number of photographers drawn to document the environmental and human impact from unconventional drilling – also known as fracking – of so-called “clean” and “ethical” fossil fuels (both of which require vast amounts of fresh water…), such as Garth Lenz, Eugene Richards, and the collaborative Marcellus Shale Documentary Project.

I could go on and on… you get the point:  climate change photography is as broad as the subject of climate change is complex. Difficult to define.

But the longer I thought about it, the more I realized that climate change photographers fall into two loosely defined camps:

1)   Those who primarily focus on the “negative” impacts/consequences of climate change; and

2)   Those who primarily focus on what I would like to call the “silver lining” of the dark climate change cloud. (And there are probably many photographers doing both, e.g., Gary Braasch.)

The vast majority of self-described climate change photographers fall into the “negative impact” camp, i.e., they provide stunning imagery of the most visible and disturbing impacts of climate change: extreme weather, historic droughts, temperature records, ice-free Arctic summers, rising seas, melting glaciers, coastal erosion, storm surges, forest fires, ruined crops, food riots, dried river beds, forced migration and refugees; etc.

In contrast, only a handful of photographers fall into the “silver lining” camp, i.e., using their cameras to shift the global climate change conversation from despair to optimism, from apathy to action. To celebrate the many opportunities – economic, environmental and health – to be gained from transitioning to a clean energy economy.

Why is this distinction important? Because I believe climate change photographers have a critical role to play in constructively influencing the debate about the way forward. As I posted earlier, GEO Magazine’s Peter-Matthias Gaede noted way back in 2007 that “People will turn away from environmental issues if the media reports only on disasters and problems.”  Duke’s Dean Bill Chameides came to the same conclusion earlier this year in his #mustread post “The dark side of environmental art” citing research called:  Fear won’t do it.

The writer Marion Davis says the same thing in a different way: “It’s one of the first lessons you learn in journalism: People care about people. If your readers can’t relate to what you’re telling them, if it’s not tangible, they’re not going to pay attention. So if you want to make a difference, you can’t just provide information – you have to frame it in human terms.”

This is where the future of climate change photography comes in. We can provide real-life portraits of individuals, companiescities and now entire U.S. states already moving forward, ignoring the noise, focusing on solutions and the inevitable transition to a clean energy economy.

For inspiration, take a look at this beautiful video produced by Sir Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room to get a sense of what I mean: it provides excellent examples of the kinds of upbeat, positive photo/video essays we photographers need to produce in order to drown out the gloom-and-doom that dominates both traditional and social media. To change the mood music, as Jonathon Porritt coined.

The Carbon War Room video states clearly that climate change is humanity’s biggest challenge. Ever. But it can also unlock a world of opportunities as we transition to a low carbon economy. There are dozens of cool ideas described on 100% renewable energy-inspired The Solutions Project website, which climate change photographers could spend literally the rest of their lifetimes documenting.

I recognize the important historical value of documenting vanishing coastlines, glaciers, species, ways of life, even whole island nations. This will remain an important role for some climate change photographers for decades to come. However, since the majority of people already connect the dots between the melting glaciers, rising seas, extreme weather and climate change, I think it is important to encourage the next generation of climate change photographers to move beyond the “negative impact” stories of climate change and concentrate more on the “silver lining” stories that will inspire people and politicians to take concrete action. Only a tiny minority of people refuses to “see” the undeniable evidence of climate change – 2% in Canada and 12% in the US – and no amount of stunning visual imagery of melting glaciers will convince them otherwise.

So let’s turn our cameras to the future. Let’s help make renewables mainstream. Let’s produce compelling photo essays of some of the already existing mitigation and adaptation activities at various stages of experimentation or commercialization:  green architecture; smart windows; cryogenics; micro-windmills, EVs, solar orbs, even the humble rhubarb. Let’s focus on the positive, on making the science of climate change empowering rather than disempowering. Because there’s still hope for the future: the end of fossil fuels is no longer just a crazy dream:  the shift to a low-carbon economy has already started, even without the Holy Grail of a “legally binding” post-Kyoto global agreement.

The speed at which renewable energy technologies are changing is breathtaking. If the next generation of climate change photographers would keep their eyes on the prize – a 100% clean energy economy in our lifetimes – they can collectively contribute to what Paul Guilding has described as one of the most transformational economic changes the world has ever seen. I can’t think of a better career choice.  Bonne chance!

For positive images of renewable energy construction, visit Joan’s website.

Follow Joan on Twitter @CleanNergyPhoto.



Artists and Climate Change is a blog by playwright Chantal Bilodeau 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 Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Waiting for Climate Change

This post comes from Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

We, the collective we, seem to be waiting passively for someone else to “do something” about climate change. Someone else to think. Someone else to act. Someone else to lead. Not me. Not now. No way.

“Waiting for climate change” is Cordal’s 2012 masterpiece. Described as a “Lilliputian army which attests to the end of an era” by David Moinard, Cordal’s miniature clay figurines – no larger than 25 cm – stand passively on Flemish beaches, some up to their necks in sand, as if waiting for the inevitable rising seas to swallow them whole.

Isaac Cordal, climate change, Belgium, waitingIn addition, Cordal perched 10 small figurines atop wooden pedestals, wearing scuba goggles or flotation devices, gazing impassively at the horizon. Still others occupy empty rooms in a dilapidated 1930’s-era beachfront villa.

Painted in drab business suits, most of Cordal’s anonymous clay figurines clutch vestiges of their uniform existence: briefcases and cell phones. Many also wear life preservers around their waists and arms, ready for the flood. Tiny, almost invisible, they speak volumes about the absurdity of our collective inertia regarding climate change.

Cordal’s docile figures remind me of Huxley’s soma-induced Brave New World, where everyone (except the emotional Shakespeare-inspired Savage) is submissive, obedient, and acquiescent.

These and other temporary installations – which Cordal prefers to call interventions – are part of a larger, ongoing street art project entitled “Cement Eclipses.” This unique body of work meticulously, precariously positions tiny statuettes in the most unexpected places – on gutters, in puddles, the edges of buildings, telephone lines, fences, bus stops, even cracks in the road – in abandoned corners of urban environments. To date, Cordal has created 60 miniature environmental interventions in cities as diverse as Riga, Chiapas, Zagreb, London, Bogatá, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Málaga, Milan, Nantes, Vienna, Berlin, Brussels, San José, San Francisco, Orebro, Murcia.

Not all of Cordal’s interventions address climate change directly. But every one forces critical reflection upon the ecological impact of our irresponsible consumer behaviour, which is directly responsible for the exploitation of finite natural resources. As an existential artist, Cordal is obsessed with the question: What are we doing to our world?

For example, one of Cordal’s 2013 sculptures as part of a larger installation called “Follow The Leaders” was meant to draw attention to the faceless businessmen who run our capitalist global order. However, after going viral online, a photograph of this sculpture was baptized “Politicians talking about climate change” by social media users.

Isaac Cordal, climate change, Berlin, waiting

I’m willing to bet that Cordal’s photo of a group of his clay businessmen submerged in a Berlin puddle will re-appear and re-appear on Twitter for years if not decades to come. It is a perfect example of the subversive nature of art: how artists must first create friction in order to generate new ways of seeing, understanding. To me, this is climate change art at its finest.

By “celebrating the small” Cordal includes a subliminal message in each tiny figurine, either solo or in groups. An interview in the Global Post quotes Cordal in Phaidon, “Cement Eclipses is a critique of our behaviour as a social mass. It refers to this collective inertia that leads us to think that our small actions cannot change anything. But I believe that every small act can contribute to a big change. Many small changes can bring back social attitudes that manipulate the global inertia and turn it into something more positive.”

All photos posted here were taken by the artist, Isaac Cordal.

Follow Joan Sullivan her photo website and on Twitter @CleanNergyPhoto

Filed under: Sculpture, Visual Arts



Artists and Climate Change is a blog by playwright Chantal Bilodeau 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 Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

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International Women’s Day/Month 2014

This post comes from Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

With March being #IWD month, I’ve spent several days scouring the internet for inspiring stories of creative women using their art to raise awareness about climate change.  Here are two videos — one from the west coast, one from the east coast — which highlight the important contribution that women artists are making to the global climate change conversation.


Australian Margaret Wertheim’s amazing TED talk describes the global hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef (CCR) project which she and her twin sister Christine created and curate through their Institute For Figuring (IFF) in Los Angeles, California. The CCR is an ongoing, experimental,  participative feminine handicraft project that re-creates coral reefs using the technique of “hyperbolic crochet“.  Below are two images from the IFF’s Crochet Coral Reef website, reprinted here with permission:

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According to the IFF website, this unique fiber arts project is “the nexus of maths, handicrafts, environmentalism, community art, feminism and science” and, simultaneously, “a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the marine world” due to climate change, notably ocean warming, acidification and pollution.

On the other side of the country, the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)’ art gallery is currently hosting a  five-month exhibition called Voyage of Discovery, through 31 May 2014.  This collaborative exhibit by three Washington, D.C. artists — Michele Banks, Jessica Beels and Ellyn Weiss – provides an artistic interpretation of climate change that transports gallery visitors to a shifting polar region “where the iconic, seemingly eternal, landscape of ice and snow is in profound and rapid transition due to climate change.”

Voyage of Discovery AAAS art climate change

A lovely review of Voyage of Discovery by the Huffington Post includes several images of the diverse media used by these three artists, including these two very different works:

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According to the AAAS gallery website:  ”The artwork in Voyage of Discovery has its roots in the idea of a journey of scientific exploration, in the tradition of Darwin, Wallace, and the thousands of scientists who constantly travel the globe in search of new findings… The pieces in this show… are not strictly based on scientific data.  They reflect the artists’ responses to the transformation of land and sea – the melting of glaciers and the thawing of permafrost, the movement of previously unknown species and microbes into the region, the dramatic shifts of the color of the land from white to green to black.  The artwork takes a broad view of these changes: the artists are deeply aware of the damage done by climate change, yet intrigued by the possibilities of what lies below the ice and snow.”

Follow Joan on Twitter @CleanNergyPhoto and her renewable energy photo blog



Artists and Climate Change is a blog by playwright Chantal Bilodeau 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 Chantal Bilodeau’s Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Rosnes Benches

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Rosnes Benches, Dalziel + Scullion, 2014, Otter Pool, Dumfries and Galloway (Photo: Chris Fremantle)

Rosnes Benches, Dalziel + Scullion, 2014, Otter Pool, Dumfries and Galloway
(Photo: Chris Fremantle)

Rosnes Benches.  Took Jana Weldon, Senior Public Art Project Manager for Scottsdale in Arizona, to see some of Dalziel + Scullion‘s Rosnes Benches in Dumfries and Galloway yesterday. She also came in a heard presentations from the MFA Art Space and Nature at Edinburgh College of Art earlier in the week.

The team including Dalziel + Scullion, Kenny Hunter, Wide Open and Jim Buchanan have done a fantastic job realising this project – thirty benches are installed in clusters across the Dark Skies/Biosphere area of Dumfries and Gallowa, but they look like it’s been there for a long time.  The benches themselves are really comfortable. They skim beautifully between being surfboards on land, referencing cup and ring marks, a bit hippy but really elegantly done. They speak of a different relationship with the trees.

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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 ResearchGray’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.
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Australia: Art prize and exhibition to promote climate awareness

This post comes to you from Culture|Futures

In Adelaide, Australia’s fifth-largest city with 1.3 million residents, 51 artists submitted 66 different works for the fifth Solar Art Prize which offered a first prize of AUS$ 8,000 worth of solar panels, along with four minor prizes of AUS$ 5,000 each of solar vouchers.

The 66 artworks have been on display at the Royal South Australian Society of Arts gallery in March and April 2014, and are currently at display at Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide.


Amanda Hassett: ‘Carbon Footprint’ 12.25x60x5 wood and char on board

The aim of the exhibition is to raise awareness of climate change and to encourage “ideas for the reduction of atmospheric green house gasses as expressed through art work, or by illustrating warnings and public responsibility.”

Peter Noble’s ‘Danger Zone’ was winner of the 4th Solar Art Prize in 2013

The exhibition depicts artists’ concerns with the environment and climate change, through their imagination, diversity and the beauty of nature.


In addition to viewing the art exhibit, visitors can pick up a booklet, ‘Ways We Can – Meet the challenge of climate change’, which containS a mix of previous art entries and emsissions reduction info – “science to inform and art to inspire.”

The theme for this years’ Solar Arts Prize was ‘Caring for Our Planet’. A People’s Choice Award was handed over 13 April 2014.

Pilgrim Uniting Church hosts the 5th Solar Art Prize exhibition ‘Caring for our Planet’ until 9 May 2014.

» More about the exhibition on


“The exhibition aims to celebrate nature and the environment and promote the reduction of carbon output in the fight against global warming by encouraging ideas for the reduction of green house gasses as expressed through art work, or by illustrating warnings and public responsibility. If the world can change to renewable power, we can achieve a more sustainable future for both the natural world and humanity.” Introduction from exhibition booklet



Culture|Futures is an international collaboration of organizations and individuals who are concerned with shaping and delivering a proactive cultural agenda to support the necessary transition towards an Ecological Age by 2050.

The Cultural sector that we refer to is an interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral, inter-genre collaboration, which encompasses policy-making, intercultural dialogue/cultural relations, creative cities/cultural planning, creative industries and research and development. It is those decision-makers and practitioners who can reach people in a direct way, through diverse messages and mediums.

Affecting the thinking and behaviour of people and communities is about the dissemination of stories which will profoundly impact cultural values, beliefs and thereby actions. The stories can open people’s eyes to a way of thinking that has not been considered before, challenge a preconceived notion of the past, or a vision of the future that had not been envisioned as possible. As a sector which is viewed as imbued with creativity and cultural values, rather than purely financial motivations, the cultural sector’s stories maintain the trust of people and society.

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Open Call: Making_Life

This post comes to you from Cultura21

– a research platform for art and synthetic biology

“I wonder how much of this Making Life project (what’s in a name) will consist of critical reflection on “the making of novel life-forms from ‘scratch’”, and how much – through its association with art – will in fact be providing social and moral legitimacy (and a touch of appealing avant-gardism) to what are, in my view, basically very dubious undertakings…”
Jan van Boeckel –

Synthetic biology

…is a new area of biological research that combines science and engineering. Synthetic biology encompasses a variety of different approaches, methodologies and disciplines, with the aim to design and construct new biological functions and systems not found in nature. Most approaches of synthetic biology are based on genetic engineering but goes much further. In genetic engineering the goal is to manipulate an organism’s genes, usually by transferring one gene from a donor to a host organism. Synthetic biology, on the other hand, aims at creating whole new biological functions, systems and eventually organisms (Schmidt 2012). Other SB approaches are dealing with making novel life-forms from “scratch” (for example protocells). Synthetic Biology is still in its beginnings but if it reaches its potential promises it will become a highly transformative technology in terms of economy, ecology and ethics.


…is a series of three consecutive work periods over the course of 12 months. The first period will take place between 22nd – 27th of May 2014 in Helsinki, the second is planned for November 2014 in Vienna, and the third, in May 2015, will take place again in Helsinki. The goal of Making_Life is, according to the organizers, to enable practitioners to critically and in an informed manner, engage with the socio-cultural, political and ethical ramifications of synthetic biology through art.  The organizers will select a group of international multidisciplinary participants composed of artists, designers, engineers, scientists and students who will cooperate within this bottom-up devised program. The methods will shift from workshops, laboratory sessions and field trips, to forums, seminars and lectures.<

It will comprise theoretical as well as hands on approaches. The first and second work period will cover the introduction to synthetic biology, its sciences and technologies, the work on associated questions in art, ecology, ethics and politics and practical experience in the laboratory and with experiments. The third work period will be an intense session to create prototypes for artworks. The time in between the periods is for developing and deepening the participants’ focus of investigation.

Participants are expected to join work periods I+II after which the participants for the period III are selected.

About the organizers:

The Finnish Society of Bioart 
Biofilia – Base for Biological Arts -Aalto University Helsinki 
Oron Catts 
SYNENERGENE Funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union.



Cultura21 is a transversal, translocal network, constituted of an international level grounded in several Cultura21 organizations around the world.

Cultura21′s international network, launched in April 2007, offers the online and offline platform for exchanges and mutual learning among its members.

The activities of Cultura21 at the international level are coordinated by a team representing the different Cultura21 organizations worldwide, and currently constituted of:

– Sacha Kagan (based in Lüneburg, Germany) and Rana Öztürk (based in Berlin, Germany)
– Oleg Koefoed and Kajsa Paludan (both based in Copenhagen, Denmark)
– Hans Dieleman (based in Mexico-City, Mexico)
– Francesca Cozzolino and David Knaute (both based in Paris, France)

Cultura21 is not only an informal network. Its strength and vitality relies upon the activities of several organizations around the world which are sharing the vision and mission of Cultura21

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