Monthly Archives: June 2018

Persistent Acts: Gun Violence, Climate, and the Status Quo

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Through Persistent Acts, I look at the intersection of performance, climate, and politics. How does hope come to fruition, even in the most dire circumstances? What are tangible alternatives to the oppressive status quo? My Persistent Acts series considers questions of this nature to motivate conversations and actions on climate issues that reverberate through politics and theatre. This month, I consider the similarities between movements on gun reform and climate justice.

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In recent 24-hour news cycles, gun violence in the United States has gotten a lot of airtime. Since the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February, I’ve been curious to unpack the intersection of gun politics and climate politics in the context of performance in the U.S. The rapid increase in mass shootings this year (and prior) has shocked me, and I am not alone. I found shared space at a recent Resistance Soup on the topic of gun violence organized in support of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Resistance Soup is an activist party and sporadic performance-based event around a particular justice issue, organized by Jake Beckhard and Serena Berman at New York space Chinatown Soup. I attended last year’s Resistance Soup on immigration reform, featuring music, conversations with Michael Velarde of the Immigrant Defense Project, and actions (like postcard-writing to our local representatives). I’ve written specifically about the intersection of immigration, climate, and performance here. This year’s Resistance Soup was an opportunity to piece together the phenomena of gun violence and climate chaos in a performance setting.

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From the recent Resistance Soup for Moms Demand at Chinatown Soup.

Helmed by MC Larry Owens, the performances at Resistance Soup kicked off with lots of laughs. Despite the grave topic of gun violence, there was plenty of humor to go around, including a sketch about a theatre company attempting to make a play about NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch. This little bit of satire went a long way towards building a more familiar space amongst strangers and motivating people to participate. I see a similar effectiveness in performances about climate – laughter is a common entry point for challenging topics. In addition to the comedy, the performances at Resistance Soup, which included praise-worthy music by Daisy the Great and Larry Owens himself, had tremendous soul. The beauty and self-expressive quality was deeply felt by the audience. As Larry ushered us through the evening, there was an overarching reminder to take care of one’s needs in these challenging times. Through this communal experience, with laughter and music, the audience got more comfortable with one another. The reminders about beauty, self-expression, and care resonated with me and how I think about work on climate – it starts with deep self-awareness and actualization.

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Larry Owens and Diane Rinaldo at Resistance Soup.

It was interesting to hear from Moms Demand Action representative Diane Rinaldo about the organization’s use of language. Diane explained that Moms Demand uses the term “gun sense” as opposed to “gun control” or “gun reform.” Given polarized attitudes on the issue of guns, I appreciate this attempt to neutralize the language in order to reach a wider audience. In conversations with artists about climate, there are many buzzwords tossed around – Anthropocene, climate change, climate chaos, climate justice, and so on. Colleagues and I often make choices about titles or use of these terms depending on our audience. Most of the time, we’re past the point of trying to convince people that the climate is changing because of human activity; climate issues are so immense and urgent. I’m taking a page from the Moms Demand book with regards to the word “sense” as a strategy to lessen the politicization of issues where humans are on the line.

One other component of this year’s Resistance Soup was a voter guide table, where audiences could submit their addresses to glean information on the candidates in their districts. Given the elections coming up this year, it is important to make it as easy as possible for our peers to vote. This election cycle is a chance to shift the power balance on gun issues, and to elect candidates with a climate justice focus. For me, empowering voters with the information they need to make sensible choices is one of the first steps in electing candidates for justice, on all levels of government.

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The bulk of the energy going towards holding politicians accountable is coming from youth, as they speak out via the media and organize public demonstrations, including March for Our Lives and Youth Over Guns. The number of people that turn up in support of gun sense and youth leadership is inspiring. The Youth Over Guns rally crystalized the intricacies of gun violence, as young people of color took the stage to denounce governmental silence on gun crimes. These young people called for a power shift, highlighting issues of safety and protection – who is in charge of defining “safety,” and for whom? And what is being protected? As a symbol of the immediacy of gun violence issues, there was a white coffin at the foot of the rally stage. This emblem of death and grief stirred up questions about how we got to this point, via our current political and economic systems. What is and can be sustained by systems? What do the systems uphold? To me, the answer to both questions lies in a status quo of oppression and divisiveness.

I most certainly don’t have the silver-bullet solutions to gun and climate issues. But bringing these movements in conversation with one another has helped me highlight what’s working – the strength of youth leadership, the space for grief, and the necessity of tangible action steps. The status quo subsists by perpetuating apathy, detaching individuals from their collective agency. The power of the people, however, is persisting to magnify voices from the margins, towards a safer, more positive reality for all.

Next Steps
Learn more and take action with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
Follow Everytown for Gun Safety
Check your voter registration and upcoming election dates

(Top Image: Youth Over Guns in NYC. Photo: CNN.)

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Julia Levine is a creative collaborator and vegetarian. Originally from St. Louis, Julia is now planted in the New York City downtown theatre realm. As a director, Julia has worked on various projects with companies that consider political and cultural topics, including Theater In Asylum, Honest Accomplice Theatre, and Superhero Clubhouse. She is on the Marketing team at HERE Arts Center and is Artistic Producer of The Arctic Cycle. Julia writes and devises with her performance-based initiative to bring questions of food, climate, and justice into everyday life.

 


 

Artists and Climate Change is a blog 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 the Artists and Climate Change Blog

#art4wetlands

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Welcome to a new series of posts here and on Twitter @ecoartscotlandfocused on art, artists and wetlands using the hashtag #art4wetlands. Feel free to join in by posting using this hashtag or contacting us with suggestions for blogs. We’ll be publishing weekly between now and the Ramsar Convention Conference of the Parties #RamsarCOP13 which takes place in October 2018 in Dubai, UAE.

Wetlands are amongst the most widely threatened habitats world-wide. Threats include unsustainable urban development e.g. being drained for housing development; pollution from urban settlements, industry and agriculture; invasive species, as well as overharvesting. According to analyses by Ramsar,

The global extent of wetlands is now estimated to have declined between 64-71% in the 20th century, and wetland losses and degradation continue worldwide.

But the biggest threat is a perception that to quote the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, wetlands are,

…misunderstood and undervalued by people, leading to a desire to replace them with more ‘useful’ and ‘productive’ options such as housing developments and agricultural land.

Wetlands are a fundamental part of the water cycle, with a key role in cleaning water as it moves from smaller bodies into larger ones (rivers, seas, oceans). Wetlands are critical to many migratory animals and hence their careful management is an internationally shared responsibility. Wetlands are also home to a multitude of amphibious species. Wetlands such as saltmarshes and mangroves stabilise littoral zones, reducing coastal erosion and storm damage to properties.

Artists have represented waterbirds since neolithic times, and the Ramsar Convention published Ramsar Cultural Heritage Information Pack 10 Wetlands – an inspiration in art, literature, music and folklore

Betsy Damon, The Living Water Garden, Chengdu, 1998

More recently Peter Howard’s piece Wetland Landscapes in English Arthighlighted how during the 18th and 19th Centuries artists in this country’s tradition marked changes in perceptions of wetlands. Pieces by contemporary artists Simon Read (Communities and Coastal Change) and Betsy Damon (The Sounds of Water) open up contemporary activist practices where artists are not just representing wetlands but also getting directly involved in conservation and wise use.

Limmo Ecology Park visited during the HydroCitizenship Research, Photo: Simon Read

We have assembled a programme highlighting artists working in different ways on issues such as habitat restoration, pollution and biodiversity loss. We have examples from all six of the Ramsar Convention’s regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean, North America, and Oceania).

The Ramsar Convention’s Culture Network underpins this initiative which draws on the expertise of members of the Network’s Art Focus Group. The Ramsar Convention has a longstanding commitment to culture and the arts from its adoption in 1971 through a series of Resolutions to its partnership with the MAVA Foundation and others in the Ramsar Culture Network (2011-18). As part of World Wetlands Day every year the Ramsar Convention holds the Global Wetlands Youth Photo Competition.

Please share examples of artists (whether now or in the ancient past) contributing to wetlands conservation and wise use with the hashtag #art4wetlands. We are particularly interested in art that makes a difference and we look forward to learning about new examples over the next four months.


 

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.</ br></ br>

Go to EcoArtScotland

Velocommunities 1000th Climate Challenge Fund project

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

As part of #CleanAirDay this Thursday, we’re excited to announce the details of a new collaboration between Creative Carbon Scotland, Glasgow charity Bike for Good and theatre-maker, Lewis Hetherington, as part of the Velocommunities project funded by the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund.

Velocommunities will run between Spring 2018 and March 2020, supporting communities in Glasgow’s Southside and West End to cycle in their local area and tackle climate change by reducing travel-related carbon emissions. The project was announced as the 1000thproject to be funded by the Climate Challenge Fund earlier this year.

City data shows that car driving is the ‘go-to’ transport mode in Glasgow, contributing to climate change, air pollution and poor health through inactivity. There are already significant infrastructure changes underway in the city to enable more active travel choices including the South City Way. Alongside these developments, programmes such as Velocommunities support individuals and communities to overcome barriers and widen access to cycling, whilst increasing environmental awareness and carbon literacy.

Creative Carbon Scotland and Lewis Hetherington’s role in Velocommunities will be to use theatre and video to document and explore Glasgow’s transition to a more sustainable city. We’ll work with young people taking part in the project, who will be inheriting and shaping the city, to explore their visions of a Glasgow in which more sustainable modes of travel such as cycling are the mainstream.

This ability of the arts to imagine different potential futures and explore them through ‘thought experiments’ with audiences and communities is one of the roles of the arts and cultural practices which we’re interested in promoting and exploring through Creative Carbon Scotland’s culture/SHIFT programme.

Over the course of the project Lewis will embed himself in activities being run by Bike for Good’s Southside Community Hub and produce a film which captures the stories of individuals and groups engaging with the Hub, working with film-maker Geraldine Heaney. The works produced will be shared at a range of events and we’ll be posting updates on the project on our news page and social media channels, so keep your eyes peeled!

If you’re interested in finding out more about the project or Creative Carbon Scotland’s culture/SHIFT work then please get in touch at gemma.lawrence@creativecarbonscotland.com.

 


The post New project announcement: Velocommunities 1000th Climate Challenge Fund project appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

(Im)possibility of Plants in Exhibitions

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

I get a phone call asking if I’m interested in purchasing some greenery for “a very good price.” A contemporary art space is selling legions of tropical plants that were part of an exhibition attempting to re-create an Amazonian rainforest – an endeavor where the moist, damp, sticky and deafening wilderness of the Amazon is supposed to take our breath away in the middle of the European winter. My curiosity is triggered because it sounds rather presumptuous. The description of the exhibition includes: “Once you’re inside, there is no escape. The pressure of the environment is so powerful and hypnotic that it propels people into a dreamstate.”

It sounds very enticing and dreamlike but when I enter the space a few months later, it is more akin to a nightmare: the local Amazonian rainforest is a battlefield of dead plants. I wonder how it was ever a good idea to put plants with different temperature and humidity needs next to each other, let alone import tropical plants to a gallery space in February. I am told that when the plants arrived it was minus five degrees Celsius outside and the plants’ soil was frozen – a problem that was solved by pumping up the heat (and carbon emissions). These tantalizing forces of the jungle were clearly dreamed up with little understanding of the plants’ needs, presenting us a with a naive and romanticized notion of nature. Do we really want to raise awareness of the Brazilian rainforest’s declining ecosystems by creating a slowly dying ecosystem in a gallery space? It would be ironic if it weren’t so sad.

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I am excited about this new desire from artists and art spaces to address environmental challenges, but using plants in cultural spaces often proves problematic. We’re all familiar with the iconic image of the half-dead palm tree in a corner of the theatre, there to fill and freshen up the stage during the Q&A. Cultural spaces are designed to make the art and artists look good, and air-conditioning and lights are always going to favor the art over the plants.

In search of better practices, I consulted artist Ju Hyun Lee working with Ludovic Burel as the duo KVM. Though their practice is very much rooted in (art)theory – Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects: Philosopy and Ecology after the End of the World being a central reference – their most recent work currently exhibited in Tubology – Our Lives in Tubes in Dunkirk, France, includes edible plants. They have grown 75 varieties of hot peppers and 21 varieties of edible tubers, marrying them with the art and design collection as well as the architecture of the FRAC Grand Large. The duration of the show (April-December) reflects the bio-rhythm of the plants. Just like farmers, the artists started early in the season, meeting and engaging with local gardeners, using the heated surfaces in their greenhouses to germinate chili peppers. Growing chili pepper in early spring in the north of France proved a challenge. The artists brought in many experts including Bernard Dupont, who succeeds in growing hundreds of varieties of peppers near Besançon, and ethnobotanist Jean-Claude Bruneel, who is studying wild plants in the era of climate change.

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Ju Hyun Lee and Jean-Claude, a specialist on wild edible plants.

Even with all this gardening expertise at hand, there were more barriers to overcome. The exhibition space, like most exhibition spaces, is designed for “non-living artwork,” meaning there are plenty of protocols about temperature and humidity levels. This created a conflict of interest between the living and non-living artworks. The protocols were designed to conserve the art collection, not to maximize the plants’ wellbeing. What conditions were needed to have both living and non-living artworks successfully co-habit?

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Living and non-living artworks temporarily covered for treatment in the exhibition space at FRAC.

Art institutions are not prepared to deal with art that is alive and needs permanent care. While the bulk of the work usually takes place before the opening, living artworks require ongoing care. Plants need to be watered, aired, and given proper treatment. The first week of the Tubology show, midges appeared because the enriched organic soil had not fully decomposed. The second week, the chillies suffered from an attack of aphids due to accidental overwatering. The show had to close in order to clean and treat the hot pepper plants, but the artists were adamant about re-opening again. After covering the chillies with protective sheets, they engaged the local community – including chefs, gardeners, and botanists – and the staff to help solve this problem. Ju Hyun states: “Animals, including snails and insects, are a common problem familiar to gardeners. In the industrial agriculture world, these vegetable-eating creatures are considered the enemy, fought with chemical weapons. But there is no need to panic; there is a wide range of natural remedies out there, including black soap and nettle manure.

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The gallery staff had to step out of their comfort zone and the process of looking after the plants became a binding force between different parties. Ju Hyun adds: “We will certainly have more issues to face together. Growing plants indoor is not ideal. The attention and care they require is the most important part of our work. Artists and art institutions have to invent a successful model for the ecological transition of the art world. We believe living artworks can help. Our society largely relies on division of labor and delegating, but today’s ecological urgency asks us to take responsibility towards living things – humans, plants, animals and the planet.”

It is interesting to bring the notion of collective care and responsibility into the exhibition space. We need to recognize the layered complexity of the discourse around ‘Nature’. With ecosystem collapse, species extinction, climate change and other environmental issues becoming more pressing, artists all over the world are responding and creating exhibitions that include plants and other living things. However, good intentions or spectacle do not contribute to this discourse nor make interesting exhibitions. We have to remain aware of the complexity of ecosystems as well as the associated dialogues, realizing that if the artwork is alive, it can also die.

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Curator Yasmine Ostendorf (MA) has worked extensively on international cultural mobility programs and on the topic of art and environment for expert organizations such as Julie’s Bicycle (UK), Bamboo Curtain Studio (TW) Cape Farewell (UK) and Trans Artists (NL). She founded the Green Art Lab Alliance, a network of 35 cultural organizations in Europe and Asia that addresses our social and environmental responsibility, and is the author of the series of guides “Creative Responses to Sustainability.” She is the Head of Nature Research at the Van Eyck Academy (NL), a lab that enables artists to consider nature in relation to ecological and landscape development issues and the initiator of the Van Eyck Food Lab.


 

Artists and Climate Change is a blog 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 the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Guest Blog: Theatre and Ecology – A Different View

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Carl Lavery, Professor of Theatre Studies at Glasgow University, uses the example of Samuel Beckett to talk through a different view of the connection between theatre and ecology.

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To think of theatre and ecology, or even theatre and environment, is generally to think of three forms of representation, all of which would seek to represent ecological issues (climate change, species extinction, energy usage, etc.) in a direct or conventional way:

  • Activist or committed performance that intends to tackle recognisable problems by representing them in ways that we immediately grasp;
  • Site-specific interventions that, in some way or another, aim to place the work within the environment as opposed to merely depicting it. These include performances in cities, fields, rivers, mountains, seas, etc.;
  • Work that refuses the large energy expenditure of the theatre and instead aims to generate green power by obtaining its energy from the sun or by pedal power.

But what if none of these performance modes actually worked? Not simply because the issues they purport to deal with are already well understood by the majority of the audience who generally go to see them – a case of preaching to the converted, so to speak – but also because they tend to assume that they can represent such abstract, massive things as climate change or, alternatively, bring to light the often invisible ravages and inequalities caused by petroleum extraction. Bertolt Brecht, for instance, once said that the social, monetary and environmental consequences of oil frustrate the five-act play!

Theatre’s ecological role?

If these limitations are accepted, what then should theatre’s ecological role be? And how, as critics and spectators, are we meant to engage with it? One possible way forward might be to rethink the significance of plays and performances that, on the surface at least, appear to have nothing to do with environmental catastrophe in any obvious sense. These are works that offer no message or solution to the problems that face us. Rather, they simply present the mess, and leave it up to us to draw our own conclusions, to find ways of making sense of them.

One thinks, here, for instance, of the work of Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), a playwright who, for too long, has been associated with a bleak, absurdist outlook on life, dealing with personal forms of existential crisis. However, the closer one looks at Beckett’s plays, the more it becomes obvious that they are infused with an acutely sensitive ecological consciousness. Waiting for Godot (1953), for instance, shows us a world in which only one tree remains; Endgame (1957) is located within an anonymous, post-apocalyptic landscape where food is running out and nature has ended; and Happy Days (1961) presents us with a startling image of a middle-aged woman, Winnie, buried up to her waist in a mound of earth and suffering the consequences of extreme heat.  At one point, her parasol spontaneously combust and, at one another, she complains about the loss of the ozone layer. Happy Days, like so much of Beckett’s early work, is haunted by the future ghost of global warming, as the most recent production of the play with Maxine Peake at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester (2018) makes so abundantly  clear, with its plastic ridden set and blazing light bulbs – what Beckett referred to ‘as hellish half light’.

It has been de rigeur amongst theatre specialists to see Beckett’s dead and depopulated landscapes as making visible the anxieties of a nuclear generation. But it should not be forgotten that Beckett’s plays were also contemporaneous with the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), the ‘great acceleration’ in fossil fuel consumption after 1945, and the coming into being of an age of oil spills, acid rain, plastics, industrial farming and ocean acidification. Beckett, of course, was not immune from his time, and it is worthy of note that he conceived of the character of Winnie as a bird with oil on its feather, tragically stranded, defeated by pollution.

Feel the madness of our society

As opposed to the more explicit modes of representation mentioned above, Beckett’s plays retain their ecological shock value, their capacity to make us think, precisely because they refuse to tell us what they are about. By leaving his spectators in kind of no-man’s land, Becket manages not only to explain the sadness and dereliction in which we live today. More crucially, I would suggest, he allows us to feel the madness of our society, to experience in our bodies the disorientation and disbelief we experience as we witness a social and economic order that is, quite literally, unable to stop consuming itself.

Beckett’s indirect or oblique approach to ecology, to what we might call living in the Anthropocene, is not only efficacious because it confronts us with what we normally repress, but also because it offers a kind of answer, albeit silently and implictly. To watch a Beckett play is to renounce our habitual ways of responding to the world. Instead of continually striving to act, Beckett invites us to slow down a little, to show some patience and to acknowledge the presence of something – an artwork – that we can neither dominate nor exploit. Beckett’s work exists as a living thing. In the same way that we don’t ask for explanation for why a tree should exist, so Beckett’s work refuses to explain itself. It is simply there for us to make sense of as we can, as we will, but always in the knowledge that our understanding is partial. The work retains its mystery and strangeness, even as it gestures towards a devastated world, an earth in ruins.

Radical strangeness and unfamiliarity

Perhaps, it is this, the radical strangeness and unfamiliarity of such works that we need to pay more attention to as ecocritics and activists. Instead then of thinking about theatre and art that deals with ecological crisis in expected ways by, more often that not, telling us what we already know, Beckett shocks us out of our complacency and taps the unconscious fears and anxieties that prevent us from living differently. By inviting us to confront our fears, Beckett, I suggest, holds out the possibility of experimenting alternative modes of existence.

Along with a whole host of ecological thinkers from Arne Naess to Donna Haraway, I do not believe that creating greener energy supplies or producing more sustainable economies is enough to prevent the ecological nightmare to come. If we are to live on a better planet, it is not nature that needs to be saved, it is, rather, that bizarre, irrational animal called the human. One way of doing this might be to pay greater attention to the ecological potential of artworks that show human subjects lost in a world that they have destroyed without knowing why they have done so. To resurrect a complex word that has been almost forgotten today, Beckett’s plays work dialectically. It is through the negative that the positive might be best attained. As such, our task is to become attuned to that negative, responding to the ‘undoing’ that Beckett discloses in a manner that is generative of a new people to come.

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For more on these issues connect with the Performance, Ecology and Heritage Hub at the University of Glasgow or contact Carl Lavery directly.

 


The post Guest Blog: Theatre and Ecology – A Different View appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

Imagining Water, #10: Walking the Howsatunnuck River with Uncí Carole

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

The tenth in a year-long series on artists of all genres who are making the topic of water a focus of their work and on the growing number of exhibitions, performances and publications that are popping up in museums, galleries and public spaces around the world with water as a theme.

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Although Uncí (Grandmother) Carole Bubar-Blodgett is not trained nor does she self-identify as an artist, her Water is Life Walk, now in its 8th iteration, has all the characteristics of a site-specific, interactive public art project paying homage to the water that sustains us all. From May 15 through June 13, 2018, Uncí Carole walked 220 miles, the full length of the Howsatunnuck (Housatonic) River beginning at its source in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and ending where it spills into Long Island Sound in Milford, Connecticut. Each day as she walked, Uncí Carole conducted indigenous ceremonies, leaving colorful sacred bundles that offered respect, gratitude and healing to the threatened waterway and invited the public to participate with her. On June 3, I did just that.

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Uncí Carole with a vessel carrying the Sacred Water from the five major headwaters of the Housatonic River.

I met Uncí Carole beside the allotted trail for the day in Kent, Connecticut. She had just completed a sacred ceremony at one of the five confluences of the Housatonic River. There were six of us walking with her that stunningly beautiful day: Pam – a resident of Kent – and her 8-year-old daughter Lena; my friend, Felicity who had joined me; Uncí’s granddaughter Gwen; Gwen’s other grandmother, Lou-Ann; and me.

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The river walkers (from left to right): Pam, Lena, Lou-Ann, Uncí Carole (carrying the water vessel), Gwen (holding a Macaw feather acknowledging the Eagle and Condor prophecy) and Felicity.

UncÍ Carole told me the outlines of her life during the course of the morning: Uncí (then simply Carole) had been raised without the knowledge that her mother’s family were members of the Wabanaki Confederacy. At 35, when she discovered this information by accident, she began a personal quest to “decolonize her ways of thinking and being” and learn as much as she could about her Native heritage. Carole studied with many teachers and danced the Sun Dance at Chief Leonard Crow Dog’s Paradise Grounds on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. In 2011, the spirit guided her to Walk the Sacred Water in order to “heal what had been contaminated” and to rebuild a vital connection that has been lost between human beings and the water that nourishes them. Uncí Carole is now a traditional Pipe Carrier and Bundle Keeper. As such, she feels a grave responsibility to The Seven Generations who will come after her. According to the philosophy of many Native American nations, tribes and other indigenous people around the world “in every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” Protecting and healing the water that they need to survive is part of that sacred duty. As Uncí spoke about her Seven Generations responsibility, I thought sadly about how different our global environment would be today if we all practiced that gracious philosophy.

The Howsatunnuck (Housatonic) River

To the naked eye, the Housatonic River flowing through Kent seems idyllic. Waiting for Uncí, Felicity and I sat on a stone outcrop overlooking a lovely waterfall that spilled rushing water over a series of granite rocks. Behind us, to complete the picturesque scene, the river flowed under Bull’s Bridge, one of the last surviving covered wooden bridges in New England.

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The Howsatunnuck (Housatonic) River flowing under Bull’s Bridge in Kent, Connecticut.

The Walk

Before we began the day’s walk, Uncí Carole and her granddaughter, Gwen, conducted a smudge ceremony. Using dried sage and sweet grass, which was set on fire in an abalone shell and which represented earth, air, water and fire, Gwen “bathed” each of the walkers with the smoke in order to turn any negative energy that we carried in our bodies into the positive energy we required for our journey. Our tasks ahead included “Feeding the Water,” and placing bundles in specific locations along the river: in areas that were known to be polluted; above and below obstacles that impeded the natural flow of the river (like dams and buildings); at graveyards; at sacred spaces where confluences occurred; and on bridges, which afforded the best access to the water. All along the way, Uncí Carole carried the Sacred Water in a vessel, which she had collected from the river’s source, and which she would add to with water from the confluences where it entered the Housatonic.

Uncí’s explanation for “Feeding the Water” was as follows: We feed the water with rice, berries, dried meat and corn because it feeds us every day. We use wild rice because it symbolizes the medicines and foods that grow in the wetlands. When we use wild cranberries, we are remembering the tart foods, without which, we would not understand the meaning of sweetness just as we would not understand the sweetness of life without its hardships. When we use dried meat, we are acknowledging the four-legged, winged and finned ones that give their lives to sustain ours. And when we use the corn, we are remembering the three sisters (corn, beans and squash) that are traditionally planted together and like a community, lean on each other in order to grow.

Each of us was handed one of the foods to toss into the river at one of the bridges crossing the Housatonic in homage to the sacredness of the water. At this same bridge, we also hung a healing bundle that consisted of seven bunches of tobacco knotted by seven individual colored cotton ribbons. The bundle was tied loosely to the structure of the bridge so that it would eventually fall into the river where its healing blessing would enter the river’s flow and then biodegrade.

Takeaways

Uncí’s project was a moving experience that left me with a number of powerful feelings and observations. The slow, intentional pace of the walk created a sense of slow-motion – just as Uncí Carole was hyper-focused on the significance of each of her actions, I too was pulled to pay closer attention to the individual features of the natural world as I passed through them. I was also reminded of how little attention I normally pay to procuring water (and appreciating it) when it flows easily from a faucet and I am not required to fetch and carry it for my daily use (as Uncí was doing over 220 miles). And I was newly conscious of how hard it was to actually access the river when the built environment prevented us from walking close to its shore in many areas along the way. Although Uncí Carole may not have known this, her clear intention to create an interactive experience at a specific site for participants that (1) reconnected them with the Earth using colorful and meaningful artifacts that served as an ephemeral installation; (2) called attention to the pollution that was destroying our sacred water sources; and (3) built a sense of community among those that came to the Water Walk, are all characteristics of a interactive public art project that is highly effective.

(Top image: The Water is Life Walk ended on June 13 when Harbormaster Ross Hatfield took Uncí Carole Bubar-Blodgett out on a boat so that she could mingle clean source water from the headwaters of the Howsatunnnuck into the salt water of Long Island Sound. Photo courtesy of Water is Life Walks.)

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Susan Hoffman Fishman is a painter, public artist, writer, and educator whose work has been exhibited in numerous museums and galleries throughout the U.S. Her latest bodies of work focus on the threat of rising tides caused by climate change, the trillions of pieces of plastic in our oceans and the wars that are predicted to occur in the future over access to clean water. She is also the co-creator of two interactive public art projects: The Wave, which addresses our mutual need for and interdependence on water and Home, which calls attention to homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in our cities and


 

Artists and Climate Change is a blog 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 the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Museo della Bora

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

A quick Internet search for the world’s windiest cities suggests that Wellington, New Zealand, is the most tempestuous:  its average annual wind speed is 26.7 km/h (16.6 mph). Close runners-up include the cities of:

  • Rio Gallegos (Argentina) – 25.7 km/h (16 mph)
  • Saint Johns, Newfoundland (Canada) – 24.3 km/h (15.1 mph)
  • Punta Arenas (Chile) – 23.3 km/h (14.5 mph)

But despite their blustery reputations, none of these famously windy cities has honored the wind gods with a museum dedicated to the wind. For that, you have to travel to the magical city of Trieste, the architecturally stunning seaport in northeast Italy at the head of the Adriatic, tucked inside the Slovenian border. The city James Joyce called home for 11 years.

Not only have Triestinos embraced the cold north winds that define their city, they discovered, way back in 1999, how to capture the wind: Bora in scatola. Once captured, the wind began to work its magic, and soon afterwards, Rino Lombardi’s dream of creating the world’s first wind museum – Museo della Bora – was born. A humble home for the most mischievous, volatile and invisible of elements, in which we spend our entire lives.

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Rino Lombardi, founder and director of the Museo della Bora, carefully releasing the bora from a can of “bora in scatola” (wind in a box).

A professional copywriter with a dry sense of humor, Mr. Lombardi opened, in 2004, a temporary home – magazzino dei venti – for the restless and impetuous bora. “She is free and easy; she is not willing to remain trapped,” he explains. “She wants to steal hats, snap umbrellas, overturn trash bins and cars, sink boats, and roar at the trees. The only way to calm her is to give her a stage all her own.” And so, the search for a larger and permanent home for the Museo della Bora continues.

Nota bene: bora (μπόρα) derives from Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind, whose windswept hair and beard were tinged with ice and snow. Meteorologically, the bora describes the cold east-northeasterly (ENE) katabatic winds that sweep down from the foreboding limestone Karst plateau, and descend rapidly – sometimes violently – towards the Adriatic coastline. Trieste is right in its path.

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Currently located on Via Belpoggio, the Museo della Bora’s magazzino is literally bursting at the seams with sculptures, kites, weather vanes, anemometers, miniature windmills, wind socks, crampons, pinwheels, whirligigs, flags, hats, maps, poems, postcards, posters, paintings, photographs, cartoons, newspaper clippings, books, documentary films, audio and video recordings. Collectively, these found / donated / purchased objects illustrate the infinite ways our lives are touched and shaped by the wind: mythical, historical, cultural, political, architectural, meteorological, literary, journalistic, artistic, technological or just plain whimsical.

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“Like any self-respecting museum,” said Mr. Lombardi, tongue in cheek, “the Museo della Bora has several collections.” He walked me through each collection, crowded impossibly into a 60 square-metre space that is at once fantastical and fascinating. At times, I felt like a child again, filled with awe at the craziness of it all. Crazy and alive like the wind.

The most popular collection seems to be the ever-expanding wind archive: bookshelves and display cases overflowing with jars, bottles, pots and cans; each one contains a unique sample of wind collected by wind lovers from the four cardinal directions. The majority of these bottles arrive by the post, with hand-written notes attached documenting the date and place of collection: Halifax, Oslo, Mount Fuji, Chicago, Padua, Rio. My bottle of Québec’s westerly winds – carefully sealed inside a Christmas tree-shaped bottle no less! – has just been mailed. When it arrives in Trieste, I will join the prestigious ranks of other “wind ambassadors” whose bottled donations make up the Museo della Bora’s eclectic wind archive.

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For history buffs, the archive of Silvio Polli, considered one of the world’s leading experts on the bora, is a treasure trove of old black and white photographs, newspaper articles, scientific publications and meteorologic instruments. This archive was donated by the Polli family to the Museo della Bora.

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One of the many antique anemometers in the Museo della Bora’s collection.

I particularly love the museum’s collection of Roberto Pastrovicchio‘s black-and-white photographs of broken umbrellas abandoned in the streets of Trieste, umbrellas that obviously had displeased Boreas for one reason or another. With his project Analisi Catabatica (Katabatic Analysis), Pastrovicchio attempts to create an “aesthetic catalogue” of the bora through its impact on everyday objects.

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Roberto Pastrovicchio. Analisi Catabatica #03 / data 20.11.2011 / ora/hour 15.30 / velocità raffica / guts speed 91,08 Km/h. Reprinted with permission.

But I am saving the best for last. The Museo della Bora’s most impressive collection, in my humble opinion, is the library that Mr. Lombardi has lovingly curated over the past 20 years. So many books about my muse in one place! Art, architecture, history, fiction, poetry, mythology, meteorology, renewable energy… Don Quixote tilting at windmills; the poems of Umberto Saba; architectural techniques to funnel wind into buildings in order to provide natural air conditioning; the history of French weather vanes; several university theses.

This library would be an invaluable resource for artists in residence, especially those researching the question: how have artists represented the invisible through the ages? As one example, see Zephyr and Aura gently blowing Boticelli’s Venus to shore on the cover of Il Libro del Vento, an incredibly beautiful book by Italian art historian Alessandro Nova. This is but one of the more than 400 titles in the Museo della Bora’s documentation center.

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The cover of Alessandro Nova’s Il Libro del Vento, one of the more than 400 titles in the Museo della Bora’s collection.

In addition to founding and directing the Museo della Bora, Mr. Lombardi is the regional coordinator of the National Association of Small Museums (Associazione Nazionale dei Piccoli Musei), for Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Over a glass of hugo, the popular Triestien cocktail of elderflower, prosecco, mint, and lime, he shared his vision for this small museum:  to encourage the free circulation and exchange of scientific, artistic, cultural and social ideas. In this way, Mr. Lombardi hopes that the bora can be used as a metaphor for opening borders.

Given the European Union’s current refugee crisis, this is an extremely pertinent point. And it will no doubt become even more salient as climate migrants begin to abandon their homelands due to crop failure, sea level rise or extreme weather.

Museo della Bora is still a work-in-progress. But don’t let that stop you from visiting. Schedule your visit in early June, to participate in the annual Boramata, Trieste’s city-wide celebration of its most famous citizen. Or, schedule your visit between November and February in order to experience the bora, like James Joyce, in all its fury. “For my part I love the bora,” wrote Joyce. “It acts on me as a spirit of health that brings air from the sky.”

Visits to the Museo della Bora’s magazzino are by appointment only. Be prepared to be carried away by Mr. Lombardi’s enthusiasm, by the bora, by the magic of it all. The Museo della Bora is a rare gem.

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Joan Sullivan is a renewable energy photographer based in Québec, Canada. Since 2009, Joan has focused her cameras (and more recently her drones) exclusively on the energy transition. Her goal is to create positive images and stories that help us embrace the tantalizing concept that the Holy Grail is finally within reach: a 100% post-carbon economy within our lifetimes. Joan collaborates frequently with filmmakers on documentary films that explore the human side of the energy transition. She is currently working on a photo book about the energy transition. Her renewable energy photos have been exhibited in group shows in Canada, Italy and the UK. You can find Joan on Twitter and Instagram


 

Artists and Climate Change is a blog 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 the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Opportunity: Programme and Communications Manager

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Scottish Sculpture Workshop (SSW) are looking for a Programme and Communications Manager.

Scottish Sculpture Workshop (SSW) are looking for a Programme and Communications Manager. This is a great job opportunity for someone who is enthusiastic, driven and has a strong contemporary art knowledge. It is a rare chance to manage the delivery of the SSW programme and have space to be ambitious with it. We are also looking for someone who is interested in communications and sharing the wide range of work we do at SSW with our diverse audiences based locally, nationally and internationally. The successful candidate will possess good communications, organisational skills and have some experience working within the arts.

This role is an integral position within the SSW team. It involves working closely with the Director, Office and Finance Manager and SSW technicians to develop and deliver the SSW programme and overarching communications strategy. Developing and maintaining our international networks and an ecological approach to working are fundamental to SSW’s programme. There will be opportunities for research and travel to support development in these areas as well as access to training towards developing SSW’s communications strategy if required.

Job title: Programme and Communications Manager

Salary: £25,000 plus 3% pension

In addition to this SSW is committed to staff development and a training programme will be identified through regular appraisals with the director. The role includes an allowance for research travel.

Hours: 37.5 hrs per week over 5 days including some evenings and weekends

Contract: Full time permanent post

Deadline for Applications: 10am, Friday 13th July 2018

For more information and full job specification please click the link below.
http://www.ssw.org.uk/we-are-hiring-programme-and-communications-manager/

 


The post Opportunity: Programme and Communications Manager at Scottish Sculpture Workshop appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

Top 10 Most Pioneering Art/Sustainability Initiatives in Thailand

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Though metropolitan Bangkok is rapidly pumping out new malls and hotels across its territory, nature conservation organizations and artists have a history of standing together in safeguarding green spaces. They also play a pivotal role in putting other urgent environmental issues on the agenda such as the rising levels of air pollution and animal poaching. Recently, when a black panther was killed in a wildlife sanctuary by one of Thailand’s richest men, artists and activists across the country rose to paint murals, perform music, and demonstrate to make sure this injustice wouldn’t go unnoticed.

Organizations such as the Green World Foundation, the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, Friends of the River, Society for the Conservation of National Treasures and Environment (SCONTE), and Greenpeace Thailand have been very active and, interestingly enough, have figured out that engaging artists in their work can be extremely effective. In 2017, Greenpeace Thailand organized the exhibition “Heart for the Ocean: Break Free from Plastic” at the Bangkok Art Cultural Center (BACC), which included the installation Blue Ocean, A Message From The Sea by Prasopsuk Lerdviriyapiti, also known as Ajarn Pom. The installation was 3.5 x 5 meters and consisted of seaborne rubbish from several local beaches on the island of Phuket, which Pom picked up along with a crew of seventy volunteers. Phuket, Thailand’s largest island in the South, is known for its beautiful beaches, though in recent years it has been severely impacted by a huge influx of tourists – and their trash.

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“Blue Ocean, A Message From The Sea” by Prasopsuk Lerdviriyapiti.

Earlier this year (Jan-Feb 2018), Greenpeace Thailand put on another exhibition at BACC, showcasing the work of Thai artist Ruangsak Anuwatwimon. The exhibition featured a series of sculptures covered in dust that the artist collected from various polluted areas in and around Bangkok, raising awareness about the drastically increased levels of air-pollution in the city. For his project The Ash Heart Project, Anuwatwimon created artworks from the ashes of 270 different species. He collected specimens in his environment that had  died due to human involvement, then got the remains ritually cremated and moulded into the shape of the human heart. Cremated species included the Cavendish banana, European olive, fly agaric, a Belgian horse, carp fish, and a house mouse. With this work, Anuwatwimon wants to bring attention to the way humans influence the natural environment, and vice versa. He wants to raise questions about the complex relationship between people, their beliefs, death, and the nature surrounding us.

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“The Ash Heart Project” by Ruangsak Anuwatwimon.

In the spirit of compiling my top 10 favorite art/sustainability initiatives in various cities and countries, I attempted to make a selection of 10 art initiatives in Thailand that are doing pioneering work engaging with our natural environment. As I’m more familiar with what’s happening in Bangkok, you will find a lot of city initiatives. But this is only a starting point and I invite you to share more exciting initiatives that you know of in the comments section below!

1.  Big Trees

Big Trees is a group of professionals comprised mostly of artists, designers, architects and lawyers. On the weekend, they get together and bike through the city. They visit landmark old trees in parks, Buddhist temples, universities, and diplomatic compounds in order to investigate where development is happening and where they can contribute to preserving nature. They are an active bunch and regularly get out of the city to re-connect with nature, climb mountains and hike together, discussing strategies and campaigns to protect the land in creative ways. This network of art and nature lovers is the go-to place for Bangkokians concerned about trees being cut (which happens a lot), and those who want to get involved with the environmental aspect of art, food, education, crafts, and collaboration.

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Big Trees re-connecting with nature and discussing strategies on top of Chiang Dao in the North of Thailand.

2.  Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC)

It’s incredible but it’s true: This large venue in the heart of Bangkok is the result of a long and persistent campaign of Thai artists advocating for an art center when there was none. Though BACC is now an established art venue, the rebellious spirit of its advocates still shines through its cutting-edge program of exhibitions and events. BACC often hosts shows in collaboration with Greenpeace and never shies away from environmental, political, and social topics.

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Green Art Lab Alliance conference at BACC in collaboration with Big Trees.

3.  Scrap Lab and RISC

These initiatives by Dr. Singh Intrachooto seem to be only two of the many eco/design/sustainability projects that the well-known architect and designer is involved with. Dr. Intrachooto turned around the Faculty of Architecture at Kasetsart University in Bangkok when he founded Scrap Lab, a design and research center focusing on sustainable materials and material innovation. He uses waste from the food industry and from hospitals (amongst others) that his design students then develop into new products that have new purposes. Expanding on this concept, he also founded the Research, Innovation and Sustainability Center (RISC) earlier this year, where many of these new, sustainable materials are archived and promoted to be used in the industry. From egg-scales to seaweeds, for Dr. Intrachooto creativity is key in making sure nothing is wasted.

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The brand new Research, Innovation and Sustainability Center (RISC).

4.  Baan Noorg Collaborative Arts and Culture

Based in Thailand’s scenic Ratchaburi province, artists Jiradej and Pornpilai Meemalai collaborate under the name jiandyin. They are also the founders of Baan Noorg Collaborative Art and Culture, a non-profit artist initiative housed in a beautiful old building with a massive garden. They initiate projects with the local Nongpo community and invite artists and researchers from abroad to spend time together in this idyllic place, far away from the city. They operate in a true collaborative spirit, with respect and care for nature as well as for each other.

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The Baan Noorg Collaborative Arts and Culture.

5.  Rebel Art Space

Rebel Art Space was founded by artists Vasan Sitthiket, Sai Wannaphon Chimbangchong, and Jiratti Kuttunam. The two-floor gallery, tucked away behind the busy Sukhumvit Soi in Bangkok, focuses on art related to acts of rebellion, social activism, and projects that bring attention to societal issues. The topics are especially aligned with Sitthiket’s own work, where demonstration and political engagement are key. Sitthiket even ran for parliament with his Artist Party in 2005. He currently has a solo show on at BACC, another important art institution in Bangkok that he helped establish back in the days.

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Vassan Sitthiket at Rebel Art Space.

6.  Fabcafe

The Fabcafe is a Makerspace in Bangkok that functions as a central hub for the city’s creative environmental movement. Fabcafe hosts farmers markets and workshops, and offers a variety of digital fabrication tools, including laser cutters and 3D printers. The founders have a background in architecture and are very “networked” with the creative crowd in Bangkok, always ensuring interesting encounters in the cool little cafe that’s part of it.

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Bangkok’s Fabcafe.

7.  THAILAND CREATIVE & DESIGN CENTER (TCDC)

Now with an additional office in Chiang Mai, the Thailand Creative & Design Center encourages creativity in Thai society with an active program of exhibitions, talks, and workshops. Though it is a large, governmental institution, they have not forgotten about sustainability. Part of the services they offer is a material library for designers, including a beautiful resource library and printing and multimedia tools. They are the initiators of the annual Bangkok Design Week and Chiang Mai Design Week where, particularly in the latter, sustainable materials and crafts such as weaving, natural dying, wood carving and ceramics are well represented.

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Chiang Mai Design Week 14 (CMDW14).

8.  Land Foundation

Though not recently as active as the Land Foundation, the two famous artists Rirkrit Tiranvanija and Kamin Lertchaiprasert were true pioneers when they established this initiative in 1998, the result of a merging of ideas by different artists to cultivate a place of and for social engagement, located near the village of Sanpatong. Rice farmers in this district of the Chiang Mai province in the north of Thailand were having a hard time due to floods and high water levels. A group of artists suggested to buy the land and revive it in collaboration with the community, and to invite international artists to contribute. They built sustainable artists’ houses and gardens on the site, hosting projects for the local community.

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Sample House/Elvis House at the Land Foundation.

9.  Creative District Bangkok

Creative District Bangkok is a self-proclaimed “diverse, inclusive, interdependent, and resilient ecosystem” of people (including a lot of artists, designers, and architects) who have as their mission to make the neighborhoods of Bangrak and Klongsan more creative and more green. From organizing river clean-ups and registering trees, to cycling tours to community projects, they are always open to collaboration and creating together. Food (sustainability as well as cuisine innovation), art, community, design, property preservation (a big topic in Bangkok!), and urban planning and environmental improvement are their main points of focus.

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Community projects with Creative District Bangkok.

10.  Jim Thompson Farm Tour

Jim Thompson was an American who moved to Thailand in the 1950’s and revived the Thai silk industry using new design techniques. He mysteriously disappeared in 1967 and was never found. What remains, however, is the Jim Thompson House, a popular tourist destination in Bangkok. Thompson was a fervent collector of beautiful things, all neatly displayed in his also beautiful house. In the last few years, the Jim Thompson House has expanded its activities, allowing visitors to join on Farm Tour, a cultural “eco and agro” experience. The visit allows people to experience the unique Isan culture (from the North of Thailand) and learn about silk production processes, Thai traditions, and the significance of water. It includes hydroponic vegetable gardens, water gardens, and a huge pumpkin sculpture made of yes, pumpkins.

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The Jim Thompson Farm.

With special thanks to Promadhattavedi Chatvichai, Anunta Intra-Aksorn, Singh Intrachooto and Ruangsak Anuwatwimon.

(Top image: The Last Kill painted by 10 Thai muralists, March 2018. Photo: Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews.)

______________________________

Curator Yasmine Ostendorf (MA) has worked extensively on international cultural mobility programs and on the topic of art and environment for expert organizations such as Julie’s Bicycle (UK), Bamboo Curtain Studio (TW) Cape Farewell (UK) and Trans Artists (NL). She founded the Green Art Lab Alliance, a network of 35 cultural organizations in Europe and Asia that addresses our social and environmental responsibility, and is the author of the series of guides “Creative Responses to Sustainability.” She is the Head of Nature Research at the Van Eyck Academy (NL), a lab that enables artists to consider nature in relation to ecological and landscape development issues and the initiator of the Van Eyck Food Lab.


 

Artists and Climate Change is a blog 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 the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Guest Blog: Changing Climate, Changing Culture

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

 Exploring the Role of the Arts and Cultural Sector in Supporting the Low Carbon Transition in Edinburgh

In March 2018, 29 postgraduate students from the University of Edinburgh enrolled on the Participation in Policy and Planning course presented the findings of a semester-long research project to a group of stakeholders at the Scottish Parliament. Sophie McCallum and Laura Berry summarise the findings of the project.

Supported by our four clients, Creative Scotland, Carbon Creative Scotland, Transition Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, our project aimed to identify the opportunities and challenges for the arts and cultural sector to support and accelerate the low carbon transition in Edinburgh.

Climate change is a cultural issue. In order to reduce the impact we are having on the climate a change needs to be facilitated in wider society. As the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh is a city with both rich cultural heritage, and a commitment to the low carbon transition. Edinburgh is internationally recognised for its UNESCO World Heritage sites, museums, galleries, theatres and – of course – festivals. Alongside this, the City of Edinburgh has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 42% by 2020.

Given that arts and cultural sector have a large potential for shaping perceptions of society and can play a central role in developing culture for future generations, our challenge was to investigate whether and how arts and culture in Edinburgh could play a positive role in helping the city meet its climate targets and transition to a low-carbon future.

Our Research

The first step in identifying such opportunities and challenges was to identify and categorise key stakeholders related to the city’s arts and cultural sector as well as current work towards a low-carbon transition. We identified three key groups:

  • Individuals and organisations in the arts and cultural sector
  • Organisations supporting sustainability and advocacy and education
  • Government and decision making organisations

We contacted representatives from each of these areas and conducted 60 stakeholder interviews which included semi-structured questions, and also questions for a Social Network Analysis that allowed us to establish connectivity between stakeholders across Edinburgh.

Results

Four main themes regarding opportunities and challenges emerged from stakeholder interviews:

  • Perceptions of role of the arts in the low carbon transition
  • Public outreach
  • Networking and collaboration
  • Funding and resources

Perceptions

Most interviewees felt that there was value in engaging the arts and cultural sector in addressing the low carbon transition. Arts and cultural interviewees nearly unanimously believed they had a responsibility to help address climate change and they believed in their power to facilitate societal change. Within this, however, there was some disagreement on what the role of arts organisations should be – for example, if their responsibility was to reduce their own carbon footprint, or if such efforts should be focused on raising awareness and educating the public on climate change issues through art. From the perspective of interviewees from environmental organisations, while belief in the importance of arts and cultural sector was high (77%) it was not as strong as within the arts and cultural sector itself, suggesting it is perhaps undervalued. Nearly a quarter of the environmental interviewees viewed the role of arts and culture mainly as a communication tool, in contrast to the varied responses for potential contributions by arts and cultural representatives. This suggests that while there exists interest and potential for collaboration, there is also some room to expand understandings of the potential for arts and cultural sector to shift culture around climate issues.

Public Outreach

In this project we have defined public outreach as activities undertaken by organisations that support the communication of their work. This was raised by many interviewees as a forum for the arts and cultural and environmental sectors to collaborate as it is something that nearly all organisations participated in. Both the frequency and variety of events suggest a potential to support the distribution of knowledge of the low carbon transition. One of the key problems, particularly highlighted by those working in sustainability, is that most public outreach happens with groups who are already interested, therefore it does not necessarily increase wider engagement with the issue.

Networks and Collaboration

If the arts and cultural sector is to play a role in the low carbon transition there needs to be sufficient engagement with environmental groups and stakeholders. The interviews showed such engagement is limited for several general reasons, including:

  • Lack of awareness of sector-based issues and priorities across sectors
  • Lack of connection and communication within sectors and organisations
  • Varying levels of interest for collaboration across key stakeholders
  • Existing cross-sector connections between stakeholders are informally formed

This is exemplified through the social network analysis (SNA) below. Comprised of roughly 470 connections between 260 stakeholders the map you see here highlights broad trends in existing collaborations between arts and cultural and environmental organisations located in Edinburgh. Creative Carbon Scotland (CCS) appears to be the most influential of our clients in terms of facilitating collaboration. It is located in the centre of the graph and has the biggest node with the most lines flowing from and to it.

Funding and Resources

Across all organisations a limitation on funding and resources was highlighted as a major barrier to cross-sector collaboration. In terms of financial resources, a lack of long term funding was negatively impacting an organisation’s ability to plan long term, and funding application processes were described as sometimes complicated and difficult. Furthermore a lack of perceived profitability in cross-sector collaborations was identified as it is more challenging to tangibly measure.

Limited time is another major reason for not taking part in or initiating collaborative projects. Organisations have no time to take on projects and shortages in paid staff aggravate this. Especially, environmental organizations who often rely on volunteers for this kind of work.

Finally, interviewees noted a lack of appropriate skills within organisations to reach out beyond their existing networks. There is a lack of marketing skills and there are few to no pre-existing relationships between many arts and environmental organisations, which make it challenging to contact or initiate projects with different sectors despite a desire to do so!

Recommendations

Networking and Collaboration

  • Provide additional platforms and opportunities for environmental organisations and arts and cultural organisations to work together
  • Formalise current cross-sector organisational partnerships beyond personal relationships
  • Work with educational organisations such as schools and universities

Education and Outreach

  • Expand current climate education programmes for the arts and cultural sector beyond reducing operating carbon emissions to provide more broad information on sustainability and climate change.
  • Increase education and awareness of the possibilities of the arts to help facilitate a low carbon transition, and disseminate evidence on the role of the arts through case studies, showing that arts can help accelerate the low carbon transition.
  • Develop comprehensive educational materials for arts and cultural organisations to incorporate sustainability

Funding and Resources

  • Expand project funding requirements beyond “greening” the arts and cultural sector to include those which focus on the role of art in changing public perceptions of climate change
  • Explore opportunities of creative arts funding sources and partnerships for projects such as the creation of a specific fund for arts and climate change, public and private commissions for art and sustainability projects, etc.
  • Streamline, simplify, and expand existing centralised arts funding sources

Conclusions

Given its international recognition and UNESCO World Heritage Site status, our research found that the city of Edinburgh is uniquely placed to facilitate collaborations that could allow the arts and cultural sector to support and accelerate the city’s low carbon transition not only through the reduction of carbon emissions, but through a greater cultural shift, making the global, personal. With this in mind, it’s important that we recognise such potential synergies as an opportunity to empower artists to work on environmental issues, rather than to utilise arts simply as a communications tool for desired outcomes and interests.

To quote one of our interviewees, “momentum in communities will usually sustain ideas,” so, let’s take these ideas and build momentum from here!


Join the Green Tease network, an ongoing informal events programme connecting cultural practices and environmental sustainability across Scotland.

 


The post Guest Blog: Changing Climate, Changing Culture – Exploring the Role of the Arts and Cultural Sector in Supporting the Low Carbon Transition in Edinburgh appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland