Monthly Archives: May 2019

An Interview with Artists Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta

by Amy Brady

This month I have for you a two-person interview with Finnish artists Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta, who recently collaborated on an installation in Scotland entitled Lines (57° 59′ N, 7° 16’W); it brings greater awareness to the risks of sea-level rise. Both artists have created previous works that speak to large, systemic issues, such as humanity’s relation to technology and the markets. With Lines, installed at the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre in Lochmaddy on the island of North Uist, they explore our relation to nature and the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Per Pekka’s website: “By use of sensors, the installation interacts with the rising tidal changes; activating on high tide. The work provides a visual reference of future sea level rise.” The effect is quite chilling.

Please tell me about your light installation at the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre in Lochmaddy, Scotland. What inspired this project? And what do you hope viewers take away from it?

The inspiration for the artwork derived from a connection and co-existence between contemporary society, urban development, and oceans. We started the project within the context of physical positions of seaside communities and their futures. The process quickly turned towards the causality of climate change.

After looking at the theme from various angles, we concluded we’d make an artwork discussing this very relevant issue in seaside communities around the world. Highlighting the future predictions of sea-level rise with LED visually resonates with contemporary consumer society, and at an individual level.

We were hoping to pinpoint an important issue by the means of art: Art carries the potential to convey complex ideas, concepts and scientific data in a powerful way that other mediums, like texts or graphs may fall short of.

Have you collaborated before on art projects?

We both have collaborated before with other artists and appreciate the synergy, both at the practical and conceptual levels. Working collaboratively often leads to new and surprising solutions.

Working as a team allows us to undertake larger entities. Collaboration also allows for larger capacity both in concept development and production stages.We discussed working together on some other concepts and ideas, but this was the first project to be actualized. We have known each other since childhood through skate- and snowboarding. During the project we were working from different locations, Timo from Scotland and Pekka from Finland. Distance meant long conversations on Skype, contemplating the process from various angles.

Both of you have created works that speak to large, systemic issues, including humanity’s relationship to technology, economics, and various social structures. Why focus now on sea-level rise, a consequence of climate change?

We both share an interest in the workings of contemporary society and its related phenomena. In the last decade or so, climate change has been a part of wider discussions about consumerism and economic growth.

As individuals, members of communities, and participants in history, we feel it is only natural that these themes filtrate our artistic practice.

Do you think about issues of climate change beyond what you create in your art?

Pekka: I tend to look at these issues nowadays from the perspective of a father. What kind of environment (nature or political) are we leaving for the generations to come? Can we sustain peaceful development and democracies? Climate change will probably be the biggest globally destabilizing factor in the future. Even today most of our global crises derive from a scarcity of resources and livable land.

Timo: I spent a big part of my past life as a professional snowboarder and have also spent a lot of time in coastal areas. The physical changes in the seasons and extreme weather are already present, as well as coral bleaching, glacial retreat, and the start of the sixth mass extinction. What will be the future of this planet within the next few hundred years? It seems that even with the facts provided by leading scientists, we have been incapable to react on this important topic that will affect us all.

You both are located in Helsinki. How would you characterize the ways in which your city – or Finland more generally – is talking about climate change?

The conversation is divided. Now especially, when parliamentary election is at hand in April, these topics are used and exploited for political agenda. Amid all the talk and promises, Finland is making strange decisions concerning carbon sinks by increasing clear-cuttings and its usage of minerals.

What’s next for you?

As the original title of the work, Lines (57° 59 ́N, 7° 16 ́W),suggests, this is an artwork that can be executed in alternative coordinates. Hence, we have conceptualized possible variations of the Lines at different locations.

We are currently working together on a concepts for a site specific installation dealing with geopolitics, mining/minerals and borders in the arctic region bordering Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Besides collaboration, we are both working on our own projects. Timo is working on a solo exhibition coming up this summer, which explores urban semiotics and visual pollution. He’s also working on a piece for an environmental/land art exhibition thematically dealing with geodiversity, environment, and sustainability.

Pekka is working on the last iteration of his exhibition trilogy, a multi-year project consisting of thematically linked exhibitions. The trilogy discusses growth of the global market economy as well as geopolitical and economic tensions by means of omnipresent control, judicial manipulation, and the landscape.

To learn more about these artists and their work, check out their respective websites: Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta.

(Top image: Lines (57° 59′ N, 7° 16’W), courtesy of the artists.)

This article is part of the Climate Art Interviews series. It was originally published in Amy Brady’s “Burning Worlds” newsletter. Subscribe to get Amy’s newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.

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Amy Brady is the Deputy Publisher of Guernica magazine and Senior Editor of the Chicago Review of Books. Her writing about art, culture, and climate has appeared in the Village Voice, the Los Angeles TimesPacific Standard, the New Republic, and other places. She is also the editor of the monthly newsletter “Burning Worlds,” which explores how artists and writers are thinking about climate change. She holds a PHD in English and is the recipient of a CLIR/Mellon Library of Congress Fellowship. Read more of her work at AmyBradyWrites.com and follow her on Twitter at @ingredient_x.

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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

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Painter Michelle Irizarry Allows Her Art to Evolve with Her Growing Understanding of Climate Change

by Peterson Toscano  

Originally from Puerto Rico, Michelle Irizarry is a visual artist and civil engineer living in Orlando, Florida. As a result of climate change, she has seen a big transformation in her work as an artist.

A mother of two girls still in elementary school, she not only uses her art to process her own relationship with climate change, but to reach people with a message that will get them to think, feel, and act. Hear about her powerful new paintings and the role of art in her life as she deepens her understanding of climate change.

Coming up next month, writer Aaron Thier and his wacky and moving novel, Mr. Eternity

If you like what you hear, you can listen to full episodes of Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, Podbean, Northern Spirit Radio, Google Play, PlayerFM, and TuneIn Radio. Also, feel free to connect with other listeners, suggest program ideas, and respond to programs in the Citizens’ Climate Radio Facebook group or on Twitter at @CitizensCRadio.

This article is
part of
The Art House series.

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As host of Citizens’ Climate Radio, Peterson Toscano regularly features artists who address climate change in their work. The Art House section of his program includes singer/songwriters, visual artists, comics, creative writers, and playwrights. Through a collaboration with Artists and Climate Change and Citizens’ Climate Education, each month Peterson reissues The Art House for this blog. If you have an idea for The Art House, contact Peterson: radio @ citizensclimatelobby.org

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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

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Wild Authors: Paolo Bacigalupi

by Mary Woodbury

Paolo Bacigalupi’s novels tell stories about human impacts on the environment – and, in turn, the results of these impacts back on humans. An award-winning author, Bacigalupi often explores bioengineering and loss of fossil fuels or fresh water in his stories. His novels in this field include The Windup Girl, Shipbreaker, The Drowned Cities, Tool of War, and The Water Knife. A new novel – co-authored by Tobias Buckell – The Tangled Lands, came out in 2018 from Saga Press. His Pump Six and Other Stories is an earlier short story collection that takes into consideration a future Earth, post-environmental neglect and abuse.

Most of Bacigalupi’s fiction and nonfiction deal with root causes of not just climate change but the kind of morality that causes destruction to our physical place on the planet and also to our social and economic structures. Of course, all these systems are related to each other. The definitions given for eco-fiction overall take into account stories that do not disconnect from natural history, natural present, or natural future – that a connection to the environment is noted richly in the story. Bacigalupi accomplishes this in his fiction.

I consider Bacigalupi one of the more prolific storytellers dealing with climate change. As pointed out often in this series, climate change can be explained as a hyperobject, a vast and looming object that is so large it’s hard to grasp. Climate change isn’t really just one subject either. It is connected to a series of other issues that build up to it or trickle down from it. It takes a crafty artist to place moral observations and questions into a story without preaching. I’ll cover a few of his stories here, but urge readers to investigate the rest.

The Windup Girl is a novel in which fossil fuel sources have been depleted. The story takes place in Thailand, where it’s evident the seas are rising. “Windup” refers to a type of spring, called a kink-spring, used to store energy and which post-dates fuel used in the old combustion engine. “Girl” refers to a beautiful genetically engineered windup girl, Emiko, who works in a strip club. In this future age, non-human people, like Emiko, are genetically engineered to be obedient in order to do slave work for the rich, and natural biodiversity has all but disappeared in food growing. Bio-engineering everything has brought on disease and terrorism.

Thailand, however, tries to protect against modified and mutant seeds and beings, and a few brave scientists are trying to hunt out any remaining non-modified foods. As you can imagine, in a world where mega-corporations and rich elite cater to their own whims, there’s also corruption, hit men, and bad guys. Then we have the good guy scientists. So in that sense, this novel, like Bacigalupi’s others, is a suspenseful mystery that is fast-paced and keeps the reader on edge.

As previously pointed out in this series, it’s best that authors aren’t didactic in storytelling. Bacigalupi accomplishes this well by just telling a very good story whose world-building is palpable and appeals to all our senses, and whose characters draw us in. Io9 states:

The Windup Girl is obviously about the geopolitics of the present… and yet Bacigalupi never slides into moralism or judgment. All his characters have their flaws and heroic moments… Ultimately that’s what makes this debut novel so exciting. It’s rare to find a writer who can create such well-shaded characters while also building a weird new future world.

Telling stories about our future Earth seems to be Bacigalupi’s specialty, and Ship Breaker is another story I’ll look at. Geared toward a young adult audience, the novel takes place on the Gulf Coast in the United States in a post-ecologically collapsed world in which New Orleans has been nearly swallowed up by the sea and people literally break old oil tankers apart in order to scavenge for any valuables left. The main character is a teenager named Nailer, whose life is tough – his father is a drug-user and abuses him. Finding a ship full of treasures that he can sell to rich and greedy corporations seems like one way to earn a living, but he is also faced with a moral dilemma when he and his friend Pima find out that the ship is owned by a beautiful girl named Nita, who needs their help.

I am very fond of stories where ragtag people beat the odds by trying to do the right thing. This future Earth has man/dog hybrids, intense storms, and dismal living – more like surviving – conditions. Another thriller, this book packs in very memorable characters and suspenseful moments, making it a favorite among book reviewers.

Many reviewers think in terms of dystopian fiction when exploring books by Bacigalupi. The Guardian points out, however, why dystopia is popular among teens:

Teenagers don’t see dystopias as dystopias; they see them as barely fictional representations of their day-to-day lives.

I think this statement is interesting as it circumvents the idea of present reality represented in the fictional future, which is a common theme in this series. Fiction about global warming and the corruption within finds itself both in the present and in the speculative future. We have no further to glance than at our doorsteps to find rising seas, melting polar caps, fossil fuel greed and industry corruption, and a vast divide between the wealthy and poor – which are always players on the stage of Earth’s demise.

Bruno Latour describes climato-quietism as as “quietism in theology being a laid-back attitude that somehow, without doing anything much, God will take care of our salvation.” But I think a form of it exists among science-believing people as well, in that we hope that climate disruption is something that technology or someone in the future might address so we can continue our current lifestyles without too much of a worry. We’re already experiencing dystopia but cannot see it in front of us. Fiction makes it realer through intense reflection or displacement, but sometimes it still seems too far away. It takes stark fiction, like Bacigalupi’s, to hold the mirror steady.

Bacigalupi’s The Drowned Cities takes place in the Ship Breaker universe. Another young adult novel, it features characters Mahlia and Mouse in a climate-changed world with half men/half monsters, a sure sign of biotech gone wrong. (But what happens to biotech creatures without their masters? They begin to think for themselves.) The world is bleak, with drowned cities and war-torn landscapes in which survival is a desperate act. What reviewers have pointed out about this novel is its memorable grit and darkness. Even romance can be fleeting and dangerous. The Verge has a similar take on The Drowned Cities as The Guardian did on Ship BreakerThe Verge states: “nearly everything he describes could be taking place right now.”

Tool of War is the third part in the Ship Breaker trilogy – Tool being the half man/half monster we met earlier, a biotech creature left in the woods to its own survival. But the reader can also understand that Tool is a consequence of war in general. Tool has the capability for mass destruction, but left to its own conscience, it finds peace and an affinity to lead its teenage armies into doing the right thing – the only thing that will afford humanity a future at all – and that is rebuilding the drowned cities. It’s heartening to see the trilogy’s previous teenagers unite together in this finale, but in the meantime, the bad corporations are trying to neutralize Tool, so it’s not easy sailing. With characters struggling to find identity and purpose in a climate-changed world, we think that we could be them. That we could also be tools. Ultimately, we know that it’s probably best not to be someone else’s puppet but to join in the good fight.

The Water Knife (a fleshed-out novel from the short story “The Tamarisk Hunters”) is a more contemporary story set in a nearer future, in which the dwindling Colorado River pits three states – California, Arizona, and Nevada – against each other in a water war. Summoning the natural history, present, and future of place, the Los Angeles Times describes the novel:

Bacigalupi’s use of water as sacred currency evokes Frank Herbert’s Dune. The casual violence and slang may bring to mind A Clockwork Orange. The book’s nervous energy recalls William Gibson at his cyberpunk best. Its visual imagery evokes Dust Bowl Okies in the Great Depression and the catastrophic 1928 failure of the St. Francis Dam that killed 600 people and haunted its builder, Mulholland, into the grave.

The American Southwest is a region historically plagued by droughts, but climate scientists tell us:

[The] 21st century drought in the Southwest will primarily be driven by increased evaporation due to warmer global surface temperatures. Relative humidity will decrease as temperatures rise, which will lead to increased evaporative demand from soils. Enhanced evaporation due to global warming will reduce soil moisture in the Southwest by an average of 3 cm/year. By 2099, soils in the region will be 10-20% drier than they are today, which will increase the risk of drought by at least 20%.

What has been a very dry region, with droughts, is meant to get worse in the future with water wars becoming likely eventually. This makes drought (similar to deluge, in other regions) a common theme for writing fiction that relates to future Earth. But, as stated before, the way Bacigalupi world-builds and writes driven, memorable characters sticks with readers very well.

Bacigalupi’s newest novel The Tangled Lands – co-authored by Tobias Buckell – is a fantasy novel in which the use of magic in the city of Khaim causes environmental destruction in the form of brambles that begin to take over. Previously, it seems that magic has been good and useful, until, that is, it becomes toxic after a tyrant named The Jolly Mayor begins to collect the magic so that he can control everyone else with it.

The bramble begins as a sprout but grows wildly, with thorns and creeping vines, and produces a sleeping poison. The bramble kind of reminds me of the invasive Himalayan blackberry – which has been called “invasive, noxious, and beautiful” – that spreads wildly throughout the lower mainland of British Columbia. It’s hard to stop it. The story is told in a sequence of four connected tales: an alchemist trying to fight the bramble, a mother trying to find her children, a blacksmith’s family trying to build protective armor, and a family searching for their daughter. An uprising takes place as citizens realize that magic is now destroying the environment.

We might take these stories as ways to combat things that destroy our environment, and ultimately us. The Washington Post points out:

Like we do, the citizens of Khaim grapple with their complicity in the destruction of the world, even as they fight for the right reasons.

The Tangled Lands was released on February 27, 2018.

Paolo Bacigalupi is a writer who has global warming on his mind, for sure. On Facebook, he states, and I quote:

I wrote The Water Knife because I was concerned about America’s willingness to pretend that climate change wasn’t real, and wasn’t a pressing problem for us. I wrote it as a thought experiment: What happens when we try to pretend that facts don’t exist and science data isn’t real? Where does it lead? In that story, the result is that those who have been clear-eyed and planned for the future are struggling, but still hanging on, and those who pretended it wasn’t coming have lost everything. There are drought refugees, border controls between states, and an increasingly dysfunctional and fragmented United States. I added in Merry Perrys, a group of religious fundamentalists who pray for rain, because Rick Perry did just that during the Texas drought of 2011. Now he’s the Energy Secretary. And now, a climate denier is our President, and our government agencies are being asked to remove data about climate change, to not to speak about climate change, and to not acknowledge climate change. The House of Representatives is looking to cut funding to the IPCC, and Trump is looking to pull out of the Paris climate agreement – all while the planet hits record heat levels.

It’s refreshing to see authors admit their concerns and not be afraid to talk about issues. Climate disruption is a valid subject in fiction; fiction has the capacity to hold a mirror to us, enabling us to see what is there that we otherwise do not see, like a dark shadow. Great fiction acts as a conduit for channeling issues to us in story form, and thanks to authors like Paolo Bacigalupi, we are not short of this literature.

This article is part of our Wild Authors series. It was originally published on Dragonfly.eco.

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Mary Woodbury, a graduate of Purdue University, runs Dragonfly.eco, a site that explores ecology in literature, including works about climate change. She writes fiction under pen name Clara Hume. Her novel Back to the Garden has been discussed in Dissent Magazine, Ethnobiology for the Future: Linking Cultural and Ecological Diversity (University of Arizona Press), and Uncertainty and the Philosophy of Climate Change (Routledge). Mary lives in the lower mainland of British Columbia and enjoys hiking, writing, and reading.

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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

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Opportunity: The Sunny Art Prize 2019 – International Art Competition

The Sunny Art Prize is an international art prize hosted by Sunny Art Centre, London. This fine art competition in the UK is a global platform offering art opportunities to emerging and established artists to showcase their artworks internationally. The exhibiting galleries are located in cities across the world, including London, Beijing and Shanghai. The art contest will also give the art prize winners the opportunity to be part of a one-month artist residency. The Artist Residency Programme is organised in collaboration with established Chinese art institutions and it provides the chance to engage with historically and culturally rich places in China.

The art competition welcomes submissions from all over the world. The diversity of the prize is also reflected by the variety of art practices it represents, from two-dimensional work such as paintings, drawings and photography to three-dimensional sculptures and ceramics, as well as contemporary installations, mixed media artworks, video and digital work.
Sunny Art Prize 2019 Submissions Deadline: 30th June 2019

What Is Awarded?

First Prize

  • £3,000
  • A public solo exhibition in London
  • A group exhibition in London
  • A one-month residency in China (either in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou)
  • A group show in China (either in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou)

Second Prize

  • £2,000
  • A group exhibition in London
  • A one-month residency in China, (either in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou)
  • A group show in China (either in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou)

Third Prize

  • £1,000
  • A group exhibition in London
  • A one-month residency in China, (either in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou)
  • A group show in China (either in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou)

The prize winners will be joined by 27 shortlisted artists in a group exhibition at the Sunny Art Centre, London. From these 27, 7 artists will be selected to exhibit their works at one of our partners’ galleries in China along with the three Prize winners.

Advantages

  • Exhibit your work globally in prestigious galleries from London to Shanghai
  • Win from a cash fund of £6,000 to expand your practice
  • Win the first prize and get an exclusive 1-month solo exhibition in the heart of London at the Sunny Art Gallery
  • Participate in a residency in Asia, and engage with historically and culturally rich places in China
  • Reach audiences worldwide by showcasing your work online to over 100,000 visitors.
  • Be included in the finely printed catalogues released internationally for each edition of the Prize

Who Can Submit?

Submissions are accepted from every country in the world and are all equally judged. Please note that you must be at least 18 years old to enter the competition.
Entries may include:

Accepted Media

  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Photography
  • Ceramic
  • Original Prints
  • Installation Art
  • Mixed Media (both wall-hung and three-dimensional)
  • Video Art (Including moving image, projected work, and digital installations)
  • Drawing

Size Restrictions

All 2D work such as painting, drawing, projected videos (including moving images and installation) must be 120x120cm in size max.
All three-dimensional work, including sculptures, ceramics, and mixed media artworks, must be 80x80x80cm max in size. Installation art (whether made of mixed media or digital) must be assembled on site at the exhibiting location and can reach 100x100x100cm max.

What Do We Look For?

We wish for artists to engage with real contemporary issues. Winners of previous editions did so by raising awareness of global issues and themes ranging from climate change, the current international debate regarding immigration and refugees to our perception of identity, gender, and much more.

For further details visit the website: https://www.sunnyartcentre.co.uk/artprize/

The post Opportunity: The Sunny Art Prize 2019 – International Art Competition appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

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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

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Q24: ISSUE TAKEOVER: Lab for Aesthetics and Ecology

SUBSCRIBE ON PATREON

Our first-ever issue takeover! The Laboratory for Aesthetics and Ecology takeover of the CSPA Quarterly proposes generative spaces of experiment and failure for a speculative, sustainable aesthetics. The issue grapples with the metaphors of compost and glutinous narratives. It paints with the eerily luminous colours of climate breakdown, and offers instructions for post-(r)evolutionary survival. It stays with the troubles of enlisting nonhumans as labourers of detraumatization, and presents cyborg witches as unholy guides towards reparative tactics for modest hope. Edited by Ida Bencke and Dea Antonson. Designed by Zille Bostinius.

Sector donates to support Creative Carbon Scotland’s work

Members of Scotland’s arts & cultural (and food) sector have been showing some creative ways of raising funds to support Creative Carbon Scotland’s work.

We’re delighted to have been the recipient of a number of donations – from artists to food vendors – to help support our work putting culture at the heart of making a better, environmentally sustainable Scotland. We’re thrilled to see the sector’s support for our work being expressed in a range of different ways, adding to the Regular Funding we receive from Creative Scotland and the in-kind support of the City of Edinburgh Council.

The Album (EP)

WracklinesWe are thrilled to be the beneficiary of the profits from sales of ‘Wrack Lines’, an EP created by Jo Mango in collaboration with Rachel SermanniRM HubbertLouis Abbott (Admiral Fallow) and The Pictish Trail. The name of the EP, released on Olive Grove Records, refers to the name given to the waving line of detritus that is left on the beach when the tide goes out. The EP grew out of the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded ‘Fields of Green’ research project, which explored what audiences, organisers and musicians can do to encourage environmentally sustainable behaviour around music festivals. The research was a collaboration between the University of the West of Scotland, Edinburgh University, Lancaster University and Creative Carbon Scotland.

Since its release with a special performance by Jo Mango and Pictish Trail at Celtic Connections in 2016, several songs from the EP have been played on BBC Radio 6 by Stuart Maconie, Gideon Coe and Guy Garvey. The EP is available to buy as a digital album or CD through Bandcamp, and lots of streaming services!

The Merch

The sale of canvas bags as part of the #SustainableFringe campaign led by Poltergeist Theatre at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018, has been another welcome source of donations towards our work. The group from Poltergeist Theatre took on the #SustainableFringe idea and used it to encourage production companies, audiences and theatre makers to get involved in environmentally sustainable action focusing on three areas of visible waste at the Fringe: plastic, paper and material.

A new approach for the #SustainableFringe campaign will be brought to the Fringe this year by the newly launched Staging Change initiative which is creating a network of performers and theatre makers who believe in a greener future for theatre at the Fringe and beyond.

The Mag

We’ve gratefully received the royalties from Ade Adesina‘s contribution to the inaugural edition of ‘Mycelia’ a new print magazine published in Glasgow by Hedera Felix. Ade is a full-time printmaker who lives in Aberdeen whose work  is a visual commentary on the ideas of ecology and our ever-changing world. Mycelia is a new magazine dedicated to weird fiction, experimental literature and visual art that explore the weird and the eerie from Hedera Felix an independent publisher which begun launched in 2018. Mycelia 001 can be purchased through Hedera Felix’s website.

The Food

The – vegan with veggie-friendly offerings – street-food vendor Freddy & Hicks each month collects donations towards charitable causes from their customers and we were fortunate enough to be chosen in September. Freddy & Hicks started life at Borough Market in London before migrating to Glasgow. You can now find their exciting veggie and vegan burgers and more at the street food market at PLATFORM from Friday to Sunday every weekend as well as a whole lot of other pop-ups around Glasgow and beyond.

What’s next?

We are really thrilled to be the recipient of these pieces of support, it shows us that the work we’re doing is important for others and a diverse range of funding helps us to focus on helping the cultural transition to create a fairer, more equitable and zero-carbon society.

If there are ways you or your organisation would like help make this happen at any scale, we’d absolutely love to hear from you. Please drop Ben a line or call our office on 0131 529 7909.

The post Sector donates to support Creative Carbon Scotland’s work appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

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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

Powered by WPeMatico

Inuit Artists on their Changing Relationship with the Land and Sea

by Susan Hoffman Fishman

Inuit are an Indigenous people who live mostly in the circumpolar regions of Canada, Alaska and Greenland. Although the various ethnic groups use different dialects, Inuit share the common language root of Inuktituk and call their homeland Inuit Nunangat. When Natan Obed, the President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national organization representing the interests of Canada’s Inuit population, recently addressed the Meeting of First Ministers and First Nations, Inuit and Metis Leaders, he explained how his people have been impacted by climate change:

Inuit Nunangat was one of the first areas in the world to experience the direct and local level impacts of a warming planet. Our relationship with our environment has already been profoundly altered…Unprecedented rates of summer sea ice loss, reduced sea ice in the winter, ocean acidification, temperature and sea level rise, melting permafrost, extreme weather events and severe coastal erosion undermine our ability to thrive in our environment…Rapid climate change is affecting our ability to access our traditional foods in a time when too many families are already struggling to put food on the table. Inuit hunters die each year from falling through thinning winter sea ice in our newly, rapidly warming environment. The consequences are overwhelming.

The Cerny Inuit Collection

Seeing what is happening to their homeland, a number of contemporary Inuit artists are reflecting these profound changes in their work. Some of the most striking examples of Inuit art on climate change can be found in a traveling exhibition, entitled LINKED: When Contemporary Art Creates Awareness About Climate Change, most recently installed at the Fram Centre in Tromsø, Norway from January – February, 2019. Previous installations were held at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland (2018) and the Musée Océanographique de Monaco in Monaco, France (2015-2016), among other places.Linkedwas curated by Martha Cerny, the co-founder of the Cerny Inuit Collection in Bern, Switzerland. It contains pieces from the museum’s 1000+ collection of contemporary Inuit sculptures, lithographs, drawings and textiles.

Map of the circumpolar regions, which include the land and sea inside the dotted blue line.

I recently interviewed Martha Cerny via Skype. She explained that she and her Swiss husband, Peter, met working in a hospital on reserve land north of Vancouver as a nurse and radiologist. In the early 1990s, they became aware of a collection of 127 works by Inuit artists for sale in Switzerland. Having come to know and appreciate the culture, daily life and stories of the local Inuit population, they were fascinated with the artwork and ultimately purchased the collection. Now living in Switzerland, they have traveled extensively throughout the Arctic to expand their collection with artworks from the High North in Canada and Siberia, and other regions of the circumpolar Arctic. Today, the Cerny Inuit Collection is located in a renovated, former mechanic’s garage in Bern and is considered to be one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of contemporary art and culture from the High North and Arctic. The materials used by Inuit artists in the collection are mostly taken from what is at hand in their world, such as stone, antler, whalebone, musk ox horn, sealskin, and mammoth and walrus tusks.

Inuit Artists on Melting Ice and Rising Tides

Floyd Kuptana, Sedna Lamenting the Loss of Sea Ice, 2007. Brazilian serpentine, antler, wood horse hair and metal, 55 x 89 x 44 cm.

Passionate about the work in the traveling exhibition and her collection, Cerny explained some of the traditional Inuit cultural references found in the pieces. She noted that the figure of Sedna, the respected and feared mother of all the sea animals, is a dominant presence in Inuit art. But instead of appearing as powerful and formidable as she traditionally has, she is transformed by artists addressing climate change. In Sedna Lamenting the Loss of Sea Ice by artist Floyd Kuptana, the Sedna figure has become a boat rescuing those affected by rising seas. With her propeller located in the bow of the boat, her normally beautiful hair reduced to a few strands and her arms rowing backwards, she is the expression of a “world in trouble.” Similarly, in Shared Migration by Abraham Anghik Ruben, Sedna is represented as a boat but in this case, she is supporting people, animals and spirits as the sea ice melts. Cerny pointed out that the sculpture signifies how “we are all in the same boat, in the same situation.” It also refers to the forced migration of people displaced by rising seas.

Abraham Anghik Ruben, Shared Migration, 2013. Serpentine, 26 x 83 x 24 cm.

In addition to adapting the representation of Sedna, contemporary Inuit artists have transformed traditional figures of Inuit hunters, animals and sea life to call attention to climate change. Jesse Tungilik’s Manhole Hunterportrays a figure with the clothing and stance of an Inuit hunter in the process of hunting, but instead of standing on sea ice, which has supported the Inuit way of life for centuries, he is standing on concrete and staring at a manhole cover. Creature on the Floe Edge by David Ruben Piqtoukun is an animal figure guarding the floe edge where the open sea meets the frozen sea. Rather than having the normal two eyes and one mouth used to warn the hunters when it is safe to travel on the sea, this creature has three eyes and two mouths. The artist is indicating that the floe edge now needs much more vigilance in monitoring thin ice.

David Ruben Piqtoukun, Creature on the Floe Edge, 2006. Serpentine and alabaster
25 x 48 x 22 cm.

Inuit are the bellwether of climate change in the Arctic. As Natan Obed put it, Inuit “culture is inextricably linked to the environment with (traditional) knowledge of seasonal rhythms, weather predictions, animal migration routes, in addition to the quantity and quality of sea ice.” In response to what they have seen happen to this life-sustaining relationship, Inuit leaders have been working diligently to inform government officials about their existential challenges so that the government can develop policies and projects that will help them adapt to an environment transformed. Contemporary Inuit artists like Floyd Kuptana, Abraham Anghik Ruben, Jesse Tungilik and David Ruben Piqtoukun are using their powerful works of art to provide an important visual representation of these tragic changes.

(Top image: Jesse Tungilik, Manhole Hunter, 2012. Caribou antler, metal and asphalt, 7.5 x 25 x 19 cm. All images courtesy of the Cerny Inuit Collection. Photographs by Severin Nowacki.)

This article is part of Imagining Water, a 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, projects and publications that are appearing in museums, galleries and public spaces around the world with water as a theme.

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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, our new plastic seas 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 towns.

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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

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The Creative Climate Movement

I joined London-based charity Julie’s Bicycle in September 2013 to work with artists, organizations, policymakers, and funders on embedding environmental thinking and action across cultural activity. For over 10 years, Julie’s Bicycle has been supporting the creative community to reduce their impacts and advocate for action on climate change, delivering a rich program of events, training, tools, and freely available resources.

I believe culture is a tool for transformative change – and what better time to transform. Human’s impact on the natural environment – our life support system – has reached a critical stage, threatening to destabilize society and economy. The result: mass involuntary migration, biodiversity collapse, conflict, and famine. The challenge is not confined to climate. In a new report published by UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research, scientists are warning of a potentially deadly combination of factors including climate change, mass loss of species, topsoil erosion, forest felling, and acidifying oceans. And there’s a pretty pressing deadline: according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we have just twelve years to limit climate catastrophe.

How do we stay resilient in such challenging times? Where do we draw our strength from and find hope? For me, the answer has been in the myriad exceptional creative communities I have worked with. It comes from the DJ who splices recordings of melting ice, the immersive protest performances of artist-activists, the cultural centers that open their doors to flood victims, and the festivals that allow you to experience a microcosm of sustainable society.

Julie’s Bicycle is building a movement at the intersection of arts and culture and environmental sustainability. We believe climate change is a manifestation of human values that are incommensurate with the finite resources of planet Earth. These values uphold the individual over the collective, the extractor over the regenerator, the consumer over the steward, and the present over the future. However, the opportunity is this: if climate change is driven by cultural values, logic suggests it can be tackled by shifting them. The climate change movement is, in fact, a cultural change movement. The good news is that this movement of cultural change is well underway across the world. It’s happening on theatre, concert hall, and festival stages; in museums, parks, and public libraries; at music labels and recording studios; and in the products and ideas of countless creatives, designers, artisans, experimentalists, and visionaries.

Sholeh Johnston leading a workshop in the first Creative Climate Leadership course, Wales, March 2016. Creative Climate Leadership is led by Julie’s Bicycle and co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. Photo by Studio Cano. Reproduced with permission of Julie’s Bicycle.

The first project Julie’s Bicycle undertook, back in 2007, was to calculate the carbon footprint of the music industry. The aim was to gain an evidenced-based understanding of climate impacts and to generate carbon targets based on data (which launched an enduring partnership with the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute). The project fronted a way of working – collaborations between the arts and science communities, with an ongoing commitment to scale what works – that has stood the test of time. This approach has informed our theory of change: to build, act, share, and lead. More specifically: to build environmental literacy and understanding; act on impacts to drive efficiencies and carbon reductions; share and catalyze change through networks and partnerships; and lead and advocate for and within the sector.

This theory of change is encapsulated in our first major support program – a partnership with Arts Council England, the first cultural funder anywhere to require all its national portfolio organizations and major museums partners to submit environmental impact data, policies, and action plans. This powerful partnership demonstrates how a light-touch policy intervention can galvanize a sector into sustained action. The momentum from this consistent policy priority enables cultural organizations to connect climate change and the environment to their work across all activities, including governance and finance, building management, programming and curation, audience engagement, and learning and outreach.

However, there was still an undercapitalized aspect: the deep internal shifts that, when nurtured, reinforced, and channeled, could shake the foundations of what we describe as “good governance.” In short, we needed a new leadership agenda centered on ethics and the environment. Our response to this was Creative Climate Leadership (CCL), an international, interdisciplinary program for cultural leaders.

Launched in 2016, CCL connects and enables a community of global cultural leaders to take an active leadership role in shaping a sustainable future for the sector. If there is a place to feel connected and uplifted it’s there; in my own experience, I have never felt more professionally and personally inspired as when I am collaborating with this community. CCL enables organizations and practitioners to share stories of creativity, optimism, and action, focusing on fostering a critical mass on the ground through capacity and community building. Our course – hosted in Wales, Greece, and Slovenia – has brought together leading cultural voices from across Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia, covering topics such as authentic leadership, change management, climate science and policy, and environmental justice. The program includes ongoing support for course participants to use their learnings to develop new projects, helping them share and distribute their expertise across creative communities.

Participants of the second Creative Climate Leadership course, Slovenia, October 2017. Creative Climate Leadership is led by Julie’s Bicycle and co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. Photo by Karim Shalaby.

Amazing creative expressions have emerged. Creative Climate Leader Budi Agung Kuswara, from Bali, launched Kekasih Hati Sang Bumi (the Sweethearts of the Earth), a creative intervention that takes place at “tumpek uduh” – a ceremony devoted to Sanghyang Sangkara, Lord of all food. On this day, offerings and engagements are made for and with the trees, reminding people to express gratitude and establish a positive relationship with nature. The project uses art as a catalyst to convey traditional values and bridge the gap between ancient philosophy and the current generation; it aims to preserve traditional knowledge and respect its roots.

In Istanbul, Jessica Sim received a CCL in Action grant (support allocated to eleven CCL alumni to develop their local dissemination projects), which eventually led to her co-founding NADAS, a new creative co-working house dedicated to urban biodiversity. NADAS aims to support projects that value the diversity of urban life and the interconnection of people and environments. It hosts creative workshops, gatherings, gardening and planting, private art studios, and co-working spaces to build a community around living slowly, mindfully, and empathetically. As Jessica explains: “CCL is still a big part of my everyday life and work – it gave confidence to me and credibility to my work, and has given me the endurance to continue in a difficult context.”

By bringing together an international, supportive, and entrepreneurial community, we can create better conditions for innovation and develop appropriate solutions faster. Building this movement doesn’t just benefit the climate, but culture too. With it, we are seeing new jobs, goods, and services arise. And the Arts Council England program alone has provided momentous value to the sector. For the organizations involved, there have been savings of £16.5 million since 2012 due to reductions in energy use. On top of that, 65 percent of the organizations have produced creative work with an environmental theme, and 70 percent of them have reported annual improvements to staff well-being. Imagine if all the cultural funding bodies across the world followed suit.

All of these new partnerships, designs, systems, and investments are supporting the sustainability of our sector and prompting a new way to articulate cultural value. The creative climate movement is unveiling itself everywhere, though it can manifest in different ways. From the very beginning, Julie’s Bicycle’s methodology has been about focusing on actions relevant to local contexts – whether it’s improving energy efficiency, protecting local wildlife or heritage, fighting pollution, or supporting climate justice.

Culture is the answer to the climate challenge. It provokes and encourages us to think bigger and beyond ourselves, it strengthens community and empathy, and, most critically, it connects us to our common humanity. In all its diverse expressions, culture belongs to everyone, and it is a tool for social change. As Bertolt Brecht wrote: “Art is not a mirror to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”

(Top image: Participants of the second Creative Climate Leadership course, Slovenia, October 2017. Creative Climate Leadership is led by Julie’s Bicycle and co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. Photo by Karim Shalaby.)

This article was originally published on HowlRound, a knowledge commons by and for the theatre community, on March 25, 2019.

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Lucy joined Julie’s Bicycle in September 2013 to work with the Environmental Sustainability Team on embedding operational sustainability and environmental management within artistic and cultural venues and activities in the UK and Europe. She works on a variety of programs, facilitating and delivering workshops and training, as well as offering consultancy. She holds a BSc in Environmental Science from Newcastle University. She has worked in a variety of paid and voluntary roles including two years as a Sustainability Officer, a Scientific Field Officer in the forests of Honduras and an Environmental Education Officer in Botswana.

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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

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Aerosolar Sculptures

by Joan Sullivan

You’ve heard of the Anthropocene: the proposed name for the current geological epoch during which the collective activities of Homo sapiens have irrevocably and unwisely (man!) altered the Earth’s surface, atmosphere, oceans and systems of nutrient recycling.

But have you heard of the Aerocene?

Tomás Saraceno, Aerocene Gemeni, Free Flight, 2016. Courtesy of the artist. Pinksummer contemporary art, Genoa; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Andersen’s Contemporary, Copenhagen; Esther Schipper, Berlin. Photo by Tomás Saraceno, 2016.

Brainchild of the prolific Argentinian interdisciplinary artist Tomás Saraceno, Aerocene is the proposed name for a future planetary epoch – post-Anthropocene, post-fossil fuels – during which Wise man turns increasingly to the Air, to the unlimited potential of the Sun, to the borderless highways of the Wind. In this enlightened future era of ecological awareness, Saraceno imagines our species evolving beyond the Anthropocene to achieve sustainable co-habitation of our shared planet, no longer governed by extractive geopolitics.

To date, the Aerocene is perhaps best known for its open-source aerosolar sculptures (some made of reused plastic bags). These emissions-free floating airborne sculptures are filled only with air, lifted only by the sun, and carried only by the wind. Aerosolar sculptures are kept afloat in Earth’s stratosphere by the heat of the sun (during the day) and infrared radiation from the surface of the Earth (at night). No solar panels, no helium, no batteries, no fossil fuels. Just the sun and wind doing their magic.

Screenshot of Museo Aero Solar website

You can download free open-source do-it-together (DIT) instructions for making your own aerosolar sculptures here.

The Aerocene is also the name of an open-source participatory platform for global artistic and scientific collaboration to mobilize an urgent international and cross-disciplinary response to the Anthropocene. It has quickly evolved into a vibrant planetary movement of artists, meteorologists, engineers, architects, anthropologists, geographers, philosophers, historians, scientists, musicians, explorers, balloonists and several institutes (e.g. CNES, MIT, London’s Royal College of Art). An unsigned online manifesto calls for, among other things, “building a less anthropocentric relationship with our environment” and to “re/entangle ourselves with the surrounding milieu.”

While Studio Tomás Saraceno is located in Berlin, Saraceno “lives and works in and beyond the planet Earth”. He has been widely exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions including, among others, the Venice Art Biennale (2009), Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof-Museum für Gegenwart (2011), New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (2012), Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (2015), COP21 (2015), London’s Royal College of Art (2016), Zurich’s Haus Konstruktiv (2017), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2017), and Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2018-2019).

In 2017, Saraceno was invited to speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos, as well as the TED2017 in Vancouver where he inspired audiences to “consider the impossible.”

By creating positive new narratives, Saraceno and his collaborators around the world challenge conventional thinking about climate change, architecture, the energy transition, mobility. The result is often a palpable sense of awe – a cosmic jam session – that inspires new ways of thinking about our relation to our only home, Earth.

In an interview posted on an MIT website, Saraceno explained his fascination with the Air: “We like to think of ourselves as living on the Earth’s surface, but we are living at the bottom of an ocean of air.” In a second interview, he added “There are highways in the sky; the jet stream moves at a speed of 300km per hour.” Saraceno’s aerosolar sculptures that glide on wind currents prompt us to “speculate on how mobility shapes the way we live on the earth.”

The Aerocene’s focus on nature as an endless source of inspiration is in stark contrast to many contemporary artistic interpretations of the Anthropocene’s planetary destruction as a fait accompli. For example, a recent major multimedia exhibition in Canada entitled Anthropocene at two simultaneous art museums featured hauntingly beautiful but emotionally numbing images of human-altered landscapes by the award-winning Canadian collaborators Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicolas de Pencier.

While reaction to this ambitious concurrent exhibition was generally positive, several reviewers astutely questioned “Do we need (more) images of the Anthropocene, and why?” and “It feels frankly preposterous, not to mention criminally self-indulgent, that we are still observing, documenting, recording – still bearing witness, though what we are mostly bearing witness to is our own profound denial. Is another artistic project, no matter how spectacular, really what we need at this stage?”

Jayne Wilkinson, independent curator and Managing Editor at Canadian Art, concluded her review of Canada’s recent Anthropocene exhibit with strong words: “It is dangerous to continue to uphold the aesthetics of destruction.”

An increasing number of scientific and arts/cultural organizations are calling on artists to help “change the narrative” about climate change and planetary destruction by creating positive stories that offer a compelling vision of a post-carbon world we want to live in. I am personally interested in forward-looking stories that focus on solutions. Stories that invite audiences to ask themselves “How do we get there from here?”

Tomás Saraceno shows us how to get there: by daring to imagine, by embracing the impossible.

No more looking backward. No more dystopic discourse. It is time to focus all our creative energy on collectively imagining a post-carbon, post-Anthropocene future of clean abundance and endless opportunity. We can not build that which we cannot imagine.

(Top image: Screenshot from ArtNet website)

This article is part of the Renewable Energy series.

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Joan Sullivan is a Canadian renewable energy photographer. Since 2009, Joan has found her artistic voice on the construction sites of utility-scale wind and solar projects. Her goal is to keep our eyes on the prize – a 100% clean energy economy in our lifetimes. Joan is currently working on a documentary film and book project about Canada’s energy transition. Her renewable energy photographs have been exhibited in group and solo shows in Canada, the UK and Italy. You can find Joan on ElloTwitter and Visura.

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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

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Wild Authors: Clara Hume

by Mary Woodbury 

After 15 months of writing this series about other authors tackling climate change in fiction, I’m going off the path this month by talking about my own novels, under pen name Clara Hume. Next month we’ll return to covering other authors, and I have two in the works that I’m excited about sharing with you. But, for now, I thought it might be interesting to give at least one personal perspective in this series of what it’s like to write a novel that covers this hyperobject – climate change.

Back to the Garden is my second completed book and first published novel. A few years ago I awoke from a dream in which I was on a very dry beach, so dry that my throat was parched. The wind was blowing my hair wildly around my face, stinging. I had a sense that I was a survivor far into the future after climate change and disease had ruined much of the population. Across the beach was a man who looked like a younger version of Leonardo DiCaprio, but only a little. He was way more rugged and not gentle or kindly as I would imagine. He was gruff toward me and very much inside himself. He had made a camp across the beach, though, so I had to put up with him. I can’t remember much happening in the dream other than a few rude words he said to me. At the same time, he still seemed to respect that I was there, that I was alive too.

The day after the dream I began to write the novel, which at first had no name, but had the filename “Fan and Leo.docx” for the longest time. The novel went through a few title iterations, including a name change of one of the main characters, “Fan” to “Fran.” I put this beach from my dream at a lake in Idaho and began to build up the characters’ home, pasts, family, and friends. About a quarter of the way through, I spent so much time going back to clean up the first chapter or two that I didn’t foresee ever really finishing the novel. My father-in-law Al said to me, “Don’t worry about editing everything. Just keep writing until you’re done. Revise it after you’re done.” His advice was helpful. Al was never a writer. He had raised his kids, including my husband, on a ranch when they were young. Ranch life back then was rough, and in the mountains of the interior of British Columbia, life was rewarding but cold in the winter and hot in the summer. He knew how to get things done. Just do it. So I did.

The story turned out to be one of character redemption, adaption to climate change, finding meaning beyond our current world’s – where massive resource consumption has caused environmental crises – and a look at simpler rewards, such as the bonds we have as humans, the goodness of people in crisis, and the richness of a simpler life.

The one thing I can say about writing is that it takes guts. You put a lot of words out in the world that make sense to you, a story that you want to tell, and if anyone notices at all, you open your story up to critique. Fortunately, for me, I didn’t receive any really negative reviews except for a couple who were climate change denialists, who didn’t say much. The novel was mentioned in Dissent Magazine, where Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow said:

Most of the authors seek, at least in part, to warn, translating graphs and scientific jargon into experience and emotion. In Back to the Garden, a small group of close friends – Fran, a short-haired beauty; Elena and her partner, Daniel; and the couple’s two children – live on a mountainside in Idaho. As in Far North, the characters have reverted to a primitive way of life; they hunt with bows and arrows and weave their own clothes. Soon Leo, a former movie star, drifts onto the mountain. The friends set out on a road trip to find family, in a journey that’s part standard post-apocalyptic narrative and part Wizard of Oz. Along the way, in the lawless country, they encounter armed thugs, but also kind strangers who join their growing entourage. Finally, they return to the mountain from which they’d departed. A sliver of hope is represented by Fran’s pregnancy.

The novel was also discussed in the following books:

  • Gary Paul Nabhan (2016). Ethnobiology for the Future: Linking Cultural and Ecological Diversity. University of Arizona Press, p. 278.
  • Martin Bunzi (2014). Uncertainty and the Philosophy of Climate Change.Routledge, p. 175.

Back to the Garden was re-released in the fall of 2018 as the first volume in the new Wild Mountain series rather than a stand-alone novel, as it first was. This promises to help usher in the wilder world of modern eco-fiction just the same.

Why am I so excited about this? For one, as the New York Times recently posted, when reviewing Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne, eco-fiction (which has been around since the 1970s) has come of age as well: wilder, more reckless, and more breathtaking than previously thought. While I am no VanderMeer, Back to the Garden was originally conceived of in this light. It is a novel portraying a world whose characters narrate a journey with the nostalgia of the world as we know it today, but who also have survived a tipping point and have been ushered into a new wilder world. Not that we could have foreseen the NYT’s take on this literature, but in a way, many authors are perceiving similar ideas because we aren’t just writing. We are imagining, we are researching, we are warning, we are hoping, we are kind of going a little crazy and wild. Fiction is a great place to do this in.

Part IIThe Stolen Child, ends the duology. With flashes back to the mountain on Idaho and updates on the family since Part I, Fran and Leo’s youngest daughter Fae finds herself blindfolded, in pain, and on a boat. Her kidnappers take her to Ireland, where she has to piece together what happened. In the meantime, her family and friends follow the mystery trail. Editor’s note: This section has been updated due to changes in the new series.

Some influences

  • Fragments of Nomad Days, by Allan Graubard: The author wrote the prose after being visually inspired by a triptych of a woman named Caroline. The writing represented the narrator in exile in the same sort of dry land I had dreamed of. The writing was haunting and full of transience and shadows. Graubard’s visual poem (illustrated by Ira Cohen) typified the type of thought process and imagery that I would summon for Back to the Garden.
  • The song Back to the Garden, live version by Joni Mitchell. This is the only version that should be thought of as being inspirational to the book, due to her slow, pure voice. I didn’t really care about the reference to Woodstock, but did like her lyrics: We are stardust. Billion year old carbon. These two lines, like Graubard’s prose, drove me to write the characters as important but also ephemeral. There’s a little religious allusion there too, as the garden is introduced in the opening scenes – among these gardens are also apple groves, which show up in the end of the book.
  • Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, which gave the book its interim name The Leavers. Between the first and subsequent drafts of the novel, I termed it The Leavers,changing the name to Back to the Garden only a few months before publication. In Quinn’s novel, the leavers and takers are two types of humans (beginning with Australopithecus) having lived on planet Earth, with the leavers having lived for three million years, within the limits of their environment, and the takers having wiped out the leavers during the agricultural revolution, which set in motion the beginning to the end of ecological destruction on earth. Going back to the idea of the garden of Eden, Quinn also explains what he feels are perhaps the intended narratives behind the Tree of the Knowledge or Good and Evil as well as the Cain vs. Abel story. My novel also gives a nod to Quinn’s discussion of immutable laws. I left the original title and cover photo in the book’s front matter.
  • The show Lost. I’m not a big TV fan, but that changed with the epic show “Lost.” I was pretty impressed with the way the creators of the show presented a multi-faceted narrative involving different characters. I haven’t seen too much of that in writing, and it is much harder to do when you don’t have a visual platform. When I wrote, I envisioned the landscape and the characters as if they were on screen, and wrote them from others’ perspectives. The book’s main characters are built upon, and soon there are ten characters who present perspectives about situations throughout the novel. While these narratives don’t contradict each other, they do add on to what others have perceived – which is really how we get as close to truth as possible: to lend credibility through peer review. But the book isn’t so much about seeking truth as it is redemption. Each character has something from their past that they are struggling with. These things are directly brought on by the changing world, and as one of the characters Elena points out while quoting Melville, it is only when humans redeem themselves that they can begin to redeem their natural environment.

This article is part of our Wild Authors series. It was originally published on Dragonfly.eco.

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Mary Woodbury, a graduate of Purdue University, runs Dragonfly.eco, a site that explores ecology in literature, including works about climate change. She writes fiction under pen name Clara Hume. Her novel Back to the Garden has been discussed in Dissent Magazine, Ethnobiology for the Future: Linking Cultural and Ecological Diversity (University of Arizona Press), and Uncertainty and the Philosophy of Climate Change (Routledge). Mary lives in the lower mainland of British Columbia and enjoys hiking, writing, and reading.

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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

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