Monthly Archives: May 2020

Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘I never wanted to be here again’

By Caridad SvichCecil CastellucciGary GarrisonSally Moss

Reader-submitted stories of the COVID-19 pandemic, in no more than 100 words. Read past stories hereSubmit your own here.

WINDOW

this is how it started the rush of feeling the quick disdain the aching bleeding thingness of being seeping through all, all this now is different, deferred, but here, and in this here we wonder what here is this, blanketed in anxiety, stirred in its own fear, stoked by unease, yet also here, still, the ever present solace of you, still here, and you on the other side light on wondering how you manage these days to get up. perhaps we will gather here like this for a long time. window to window. a look passes through us. still. here.

— Caridad Svich (New York, New York)

A look out the window to other windows.

* * *

ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS

All possible worlds have come a-courting…

Hell is visiting the dying or bereaved, tapping shoulders in medical wards and theatres of war. Despair is bedding in where abusers sleep, and in quarters missing houseroom or headspace.

Meanwhile, heaven swears blind we still have options – a chance of world-neighborliness, and a shot at jamming ecocide back in the box Pandora cracked open.

For now, I live a scaled-down life and give thanks, bonding and blending with the girl who read alone in her bedroom decades ago, trying to tell what she makes of it all.

— Sally Moss (Liverpool, United Kingdom)

Distanced.

* * *

THERE’S LIFE IN MY KITCHEN

I’ve been a lifelong plant killer. But riding this shelter in place solo as I am, I have turned to cooking and not wanting to waste anything. Somewhere deep inside me, an ancient almost witchiness arose. Looking at my kitchen scraps I see potential. So, making use of abandoned pots from plants I’d previously killed, I clear a space in the garden and start nurturing seeds and regrowth. With all this time to really care for them, and plenty of sun, life springs forth. There is growth, as much for them as for me. We are saving each other.

— Cecil Castellucci (Los Angeles, California)

(Top photo: The seedlings on my window sill.)

* * *

HERE AGAIN.

I never wanted to be here ever again. I never wanted to give terrifying power to the words negative and positive again. I never wanted to feel that fear again when you heard a friend was positive, was isolating away, was not being seen, was frightened for their future. I never wanted to see doctors or nurses at a loss again. I never wanted to see a President turn his face away from all that was fact again. I never wanted to experience so much loss. I never wanted to be here again, but… here we are.

— Gary Garrison (Provincetown, Massachusetts)

To begin.

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This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.

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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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New films from VeloCommunities embedded artist project released!

During this year’s Earth Day Week, we’re excited to share five short films created during the VeloCommunities embedded artist project – celebrating inspiring stories of community-led action on climate change in Glasgow.

Last year we supported theatre-maker Lewis Hetherington and filmmaker Geraldine Heaney to work with Glasgow cycling charity Bike for Good and produce a film about VeloCommunities. VeloCommunities was the 1000th project to receive funding support from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund.

During Climate Week 2019, we launched ‘Let’s Go! A film about cycling and climate change’, sharing the stories of the amazing staff, volunteers and participants (as well as the artists themselves), involved in breaking down barriers to cycling in Glasgow’s Southside and inspiring community-led action on climate change.

‘Spokes People’ films

The artists have now produced a series of short films, telling the stories of five individuals’ cycling journeys, from what inspired them to get started to the different benefits they derive from choosing to go by bike.

Domestic transport makes up nearly 30% of Scotland’s total carbon emissions, with road transport accounting for 73% of total transport emissions.* Therefore, it is vital that our cities and rural environments support more sustainable options such as walking and cycling as well as public transport.

These films show that climate action is not only good for the planet, it brings multiple positive benefits to society, including tackling social inequalities, improving physical and mental health, and building more sustainable communities. We hope you enjoy them!

‘Spokes People’ from Geraldine Heaney on Vimeo.

The full length version of ‘Let’s Go!’ can be enjoyed on the Keep Scotland Beautiful YouTube channel.

Find out more about the VeloCommunities embedded artists project.


*Scottish Government Climate Change Plan Third Report Proposals Policies 2018

This embedded artist project is part of Bike for Good’s VeloCommunities Project, which is funded by the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund.

Please get in touch with Creative Carbon Scotland’s culture/SHIFT Producer Gemma.lawrence@creativecarbonscotland.com if you wish to find out more about this project or more about other projects that support collaborations between artists and environmental initiatives.

The post New films from VeloCommunities embedded artist project released! appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

New project announcement: Velocommunities 1000th Climate Challenge Fund project        New project announcement: Velocommunities 1000th Climate Challenge Fund project 1

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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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Opportunity: micro-residencies for visual artists

TONIC ARTS, part of Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, seeks seven visual artists for a unique series of micro-residency opportunities in response to COVID-19.

TONIC ARTS is a vibrant, award-winning programme that creatively enhances the healthcare environment of NHS Lothian, UK.

They are currently seeking visual artists to create new work documenting observations, experiences, reflections and insights of living through the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

This opportunity is open to Scottish visual artists, across all ages and stages of careers.

Deadline: 10am, Monday 1st June

Residencies will run from June through to August.

Visit the TONIC ARTS website for the full brief and application form.

The post Opportunity: micro-residencies for visual artists 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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DEADLINE MAY 31 for ecoconsciousness CALL FOR ARTISTS

eco consciousness is the thematic of the inaugural ecoartspace online juried show for our artist and art professional membership levels. The show will be blind juried by Eleanor Heartney, distinguished New York art critic and author.

Approximately 100 works will be selected for exhibition. Three billboard awards will be given to artists whose work will be presented in the Midwest for three months leading up to the General Election on November 3. The exhibition will be presented as a digital catalogue (PDF), designed to accompany the online show, with an introduction by ecoartspace curators Patricia Watts and Amy Lipton.

eco consciousness, which is defined as showing concern for the environment, is a broad thematic to offer inclusivity. We, however, are encouraging work that is sensitive to the spiritual and the feminist aspects of our human relationship with nature.

Artworks selected will be featured online beginning September 1 and will be promoted in our monthly e-Newsletter and our social media channels.

Entry fee is $35

APPLY HERE NOW

READ BARBARA ROSE INTERVIEW WITH HEARTNEY l BROOKLYN RAIL

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

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘The gaps feel smaller’

By Grace GelderKristina HakansonMadeline Snow TypadisMark Rigney

Reader-submitted stories of the COVID-19 pandemic, in no more than 100 words. Read past stories hereSubmit your own here.

A CENTURY LATER, WE UNDERSTAND

Her grandchildren complained when their YiaYia nagged them to wear a sweater and socks, even in the summer. “You’ll get cold,” “be careful,” and “stay home,” she would say worriedly.

She was four when her mother and a quarter of her village in northern Greece died of the “Spanish Flu.” She was with her mother when she died, begging her to wake up.

For her, there was a direct link between catching a cold and potentially dying.

A hundred years later, when a cough or sneeze fills us all with dread and fear, we finally understand.

— Madeline Snow Typadis (Newton, Massachusetts)

YiaYia Nia’s handiwork.

* * *

DRIVE TIME

I begin a three-day road trip from Evansville to Rochester (and back) in order to retrieve my older son (and all his collegiate stuff). Along the way, I stop to visit my parents. I refuse to go inside their house. I insist that we not hug. We visit via a long walk, instead. The Hampton Inn I stay at that night, three stories high, has all of five cars in the parking lot. Overhead interstate signs read “Stop the Spread: Save Lives” and “Stop the Virus: Stay Home.”

— Mark Rigney (Evansville, Indiana)

Even highway signs have their transitional moments.

* * *

REMOTE TEACHING

Week four of the quarter and I’m teaching remotely because of the virus. But today I’m driving to school to retrieve my office chair. I could drive this in my sleep and that’s the problem – we’ve all been sleeping, all been profoundly disillusioned. Empty parking lot. Keycard, hum, greenlight, in. Mild disinfectant. Floors! Shiny blue, like the sky in the wrong place. Here’s 204, my eerie empty classroom, and my black office chair. I should go but I don’t. I linger, staring at my posters of Shakespeare and Jack London, literary terms in a row above my whiteboard: metaphor, irony, paradox.

— Kristina Hakanson (Scottsdale, Arizona)

Home office with cat.

* * *

FARAWAY FRIENDS ARE CLOSER

I call my new Indian friends on WhatsApp. We aren’t all busy like we said we would be, and we didn’t expect to still feel so close to each other. We anticipated distance after I finished my residency, but now we know where each other are; all sharing an experience – a common fear. I tell them about my walks, how I swapped peacocks for pheasants and vampire bats for buzzards, how I have to wear jumpers to go outside now. They laugh. We have different concerns, but we can all agree that it’s a good time for making art.

— Grace Gelder (Ironbridge, Shropshire, United Kingdom)

(Top photo: The gap feels smaller.)

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This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.

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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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Happy Ecosystems by sparklebliss

Collect and complete ecosystem sets while learning about connections in nature. Happy Ecosystems is appropriate for players ages 7 and up and is intended for groups of 2-6 players.

The game includes facts about 10 endangered or threatened animals and the plants, animals, and environmental factors they depend on for survival. It introduces concepts of interdependence, adaptation, conservation, and protection.

More Information and to Download (Name your own price)

Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘What will the next generation say?’

By Carol DevineJack MapstoneJulia LevineMelissa Kaplan 

Reader-submitted stories of the COVID-19 pandemic, in no more than 100 words. Read past stories hereSubmit your own here.

GROWTH

This morning I was working for a long-time client, an elderly widowed woman. A breezy, uneasy day. Usually embraced by a hug and a “glad to have you back,” today I stood at the edge of the driveway and yelled a quick “how are you,” but no sign of embrace, physical or emotional. A sadness rushed over me as I pulled last year’s rotted stems from the recently thawed tundra, the same rush we’ve all felt in many parts of our lives, a disconnect. Underneath, as layers of leaves were removed, budding stems. Underneath, hope.

— Jack Mapstone (Stillwater, Minnesota)

Gloomy lilac skeletons come once more.

* * *

WHAT MATTERS?

My family’s tradition, second-night Seders. No family this year but the Seder plate is prepared: lamb bone, egg, charoset, bitter herbs, karpas, lettuce. Salt water. Three matzoh. Wine. And…the Haggadah? Not the simplistic Maxwell House. Not the Manischewitz version with more God mentions than this agnostic can handle. The one my dad and I carefully edited, maintaining the essential meaning, allowing all gathered to thoughtfully, joyfully participate. Two years since he died. Three since a family Seder. What matters? I hear him questioning, challenging us. Freedom. Freedom from slavery matters, for all creatures and for our planet.

— Melissa Kaplan (Lansing, Michigan)

The family Seder plate

* * *

WE ARE WE AND THE DRC

My colleague asked if anyone had an empty home for a medical couple and their baby returning from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, so they could do two weeks quarantine. We circulated a callout. I didn’t know who was coming or where they’d stay. But on a virtual work call they appeared and told a harrowing story – shortage of personal protective equipment, causing moral distress for humanitarians wanting to respond, tensions rising, planning for palliative care versus survival for a number of coronavirus patients. They also told of gratitude for colleagues, home, and hope – local mask-making, grit, the human drive to help heal, anywhere, everywhere.

— Carol Devine (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Brazzaville, Kinshasa, Congo River. Courtesy: NASA, International Space Station, June 6, 2003.

* * *

ON ALL OTHER NIGHTS

We greet each other at the virtual Seder table – in turn, as the video chat allows.

“How are you? Who’s in New York?”

Four generations gather with food and wine, in celebration of our freedom as Jewish people.

An imperative that we continue imagining and building a world where all are free.

Unique meaning in this current crisis, a rehearsal for the climate crisis.

We say, “Next year in Jerusalem,” nodding to the Israelities who wandered the desert for forty years after Moses led the liberation.

Now we say, “Next year in person.”

What will the next generation say?

— Julia Levine (New York, New York)

Top photo: A Cohen/Levine Virtual Seder, photo by Rich Cohen (Lanesborough, MA).

______________________________

This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.

———-

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: Call for environmentalists, artists, campaigners, and creatives

We’re looking for proposals for creative online events connecting the arts and environmentalism to be run during social distancing as part of our Green Tease programme. These events would be micro-funded by and organised in collaboration with us, Creative Carbon Scotland.  

Green Tease is a community and events programme organised by Creative Carbon Scotland exploring interactions between environmentalism and the arts. Since the outbreak of coronavirus Green Tease has moved online with monthly meetups, a Facebook group, and a database of practitioners. We’ve also held online meetings about COP26 and climate justice.  

Now we’re looking to hold further online events between June and September that: 

1) engage with the current situation and its implications for the climate movement and the arts. Examples of this might include: 

  • Imagining what a just and green recovery from coronavirus might look like  
  • Creative digital engagement techniques for continuing environmental activism under social distancing 
  • The role of the arts in care and wellbeing 
  • What the environmental movement can learn from the response to coronavirus 

2) make artistic or creative use of online events formats. Examples of this might include: 

  • Collective art making 
  • Interactive workshops 
  • Thinking or visioning exercises  
  • Creative or non-standard ways of using online platforms or resources  

These events should be free, open to people from both arts and environment backgrounds, and as accessible and environmentally sustainable as possible in design. Based on experience and feedback we normally run Green Tease events on weekday evenings for around 2 hours, but there is a lot of flexibility here depending on what you want to achieve.  

If you have an idea for an online event that you would like to run, please get in touch with lewis.coenen-rowe@creativecarbonscotland.com. There is no formal application procedure, rather we’re keen to hear your initial thoughts and develop ideas together collaboratively. The nature of the collaboration is flexible. You may have a fully-fledged plan and need help with publicity or a small amount of funding, or you may have a great idea for an event have no time or resources to organise it. Either of these or anything in between are welcome.  

If you have any further questions, feel free to get in touch.  

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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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The virus speaks pt 2

By Chrisfremantle

The virus is driving adaptation and the priorities are quickly becoming apparent. Three pieces published in the past 24 hours provide an insight into the issues.

On the one hand Nesta’s blog There will be no ‘back to normal’ which highlights aspects of normal which may be ‘gone’. One of the recurring themes is the tension between the emergence of positive community-led responses and the imposition of structural responses. It doesn’t tell us the answers, but it certainly highlights some of the big alternatives.

And on the other a letter to cultural leaders signed by over 200 professionals and academics expressing ‘grave concern’ and ‘imploring’ them to not lay off education teams, asking,

At a moment when museums and galleries claim an interest in their diversification, why do they de-fund the very people and communities made most vulnerable by the current crisis?

What we are learning is that adaptation clearly has phases, including:

  • the ‘immediate reaction’ (throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks)
  • the working out what the ‘new normal’ looks like – the shifted Overton Window of testing and surveillance, social distancing, new austerity, etc.
  • the massive uncertainty of potentially going in and out of ‘lockdown’ periodically.

Finally the Dark Mountain project, who have been arguing for 10 years that the form of our civilisation is the shape of the problem, announce their latest publication, developed before the pandemic, and arriving in the middle of it.

Their opening line is,

What is there left to say?

(Top photo: ‘Violet Storm’ by Kate Williamson)

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.

Go to EcoArtScotland

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Wild Authors: Loranne Vella

By Mary Woodbury

Today, we travel to Malta with Loranne Vella to discuss her award-winning novel Rokit (Merlin Publishers, 2017).

It’s 2064, and the European continent is disintegrating: walls are up, and communication structures are down. A car crash in Croatia leaves Rika Dimech, world famous fractal photographer, dead. Her 21-year old nephew, Petrel Dimech, the war photographer, decides to travel by sea to Rika’s country of origin, Malta, now occupied by the Italian regime for the purposes of space exploration. He intends to spend two weeks in Malta to find the remnants of Rika’s past. 

Twenty-three years later, he is still there looking for clues about his own roots. Employed as a photographer at the space center for most of this time, Petrel discovers not only Rika’s past, but also his own future. In his inability to move around spatially (the island is divided into sectors, each heavily guarded), Petrel discovers a way of moving in time. His son, Benjamin, is one of the main revolutionary figures fighting for Malta’s freedom. Petrel, who prefers to look at the world through his camera lens, is caught up in a different kind of revolution – a time-loop which links his future to his past to his future. Rokit is a story about time, space, photography, roots, geometry, revolution and ultimately hope. The rocket, itself a symbol of hope, is forever present in the background.

Following is my chat with Loranne. I was honored to talk with her about this magnificent novel.

Rokit takes place in a climate-changed, dystopian future. This is a genre-bending novel that is speculative but also realistic and literary, and uses the elusive perspective of photography to explore how a rocket can propel someone to a distance from which a fuller picture is more clearly seen. I’ll get into some of the perspective talk later but for now, I wonder if you took the route of fiction to partially expose our world now, the hyperobject of climate change, and how we cannot take a still photo of it and find focus?

Yes, definitely, because stories have a way of driving the message home more than any headline news – at least that’s always been the case for me. Rokit is my way of commenting on what is happening in the world today. It’s a cautionary tale, if you will: if we persist in what we’re doing now, this might be the result in half a century’s time. One possible result, of course – there could be many others. But this is the image of the future that I wanted to present, to explore. The comments are there, between the lines, whispered or hinted at by the characters, at times spelled out. Climate change is both the backdrop of this story as well as the driving force of the plot – things would have happened very differently had there been no tsunamis and heavy rains ravaging this little island in the middle of the Mediterranean in 2064.

However, there are other ways of looking at this story, depending on which angle we take, or which detail we decide to focus upon. It’s about photography but also about space and time. It’s about geometry (circularity versus linearity) as much as it is about physics (light, shadows, darkness). It’s about a revolution in all the possible senses of the word. It’s been described as a coming-of-age novel where the teenage Benjamin discovers he has an important role to play in liberating his country. It’s about the search for one’s roots, one’s identity and purpose in life.

You might recognize the Azure Window before collapse, from the Game of Thrones’ Dothraki wedding. Photo by Felix König, CC BY 3.0.

What is the reality of the island of Malta and the rest of Europe in 50 years according to Albert?

I created this image of the future of Europe and Malta by asking a basic question: what if we’re actually moving toward a future where we lose, or even give up voluntarily, the very things we hold so dear today? Democracy, a unified continent, independence, telecommunications, freedom of movement, freedom in general. What if we actually dismantle all we’ve been building this past century to reinstate that which we spent decades striving to liberate ourselves from; what if we once again opt for borders to open territories? What if we were to find comfort, once again, in isolation? Albert Cauchi, the fictitious historian in the novel, comments in detail about this phenomenon is his work titled “Min jibni u min iħott” (“Those that are busy building, and those that are busy dismantling”). History, according to Cauchi, proves that time moves in circles, spirals even, and that man is bound to repeat past mistakes, making them even grander next time round.

And Malta, in 50 years’ time, will once again lose its independence (2064 would commemorate 100 years since the island gained its independence from the British Empire). In a time when the island is slowly succumbing to the wild sea and crumbling at the edges, the Italian regime lends a seemingly helping hand and lures the islanders into accepting its harsh terms. Malta falls once again under foreign rule (history repeating itself), and slowly starts being evacuated. 

This results in an underpopulated Malta (the other extreme of the reality today), where the islanders have to escape their country and seek refuge some place else; here is where I have created another inversion in order to make a comment about the intolerant approach some Maltese people have towards refugees and migrants who regularly arrive on our island seeking refuge. Under the Italian regime, the few thousands of Maltese who remain on the island are segregated into sectors, thereby making the size of the island even smaller. Eventually a group of these are transferred to shelters underground, where everything becomes unbearably small and dark.

I am mesmerized by the concept of illusion, or maybe more succinctly the photographs that lack shadows or that were taken shortly before someone died. Or photos that are slightly out of focus, or where a person was always trying to be in the center. Can you talk some about this and how the science fiction film La Jetée played into it?

It was important for me to introduce the world of Rokit to the reader as a fictitious one, as a world where the rules of physics do not fully apply. It is for this reason that right from the start we encounter little details that seem to belong to a world other than our own. But I was not interested in high fantasy or science fiction. Just a slight distortion of the world we know. Because this will help us to imagine another world, very similar to ours, but not quite. It’s like tilting one’s head to get a better view of what’s in front of us. I’ve always had this idea of fiction, which is why I am particularly fond of literary works that flirt with the fantastical or science fiction but are not outrightly so. It is all an illusion that distorts and yet reveals what would otherwise remain hidden. Much like the way photography works. 

Rokit makes heavy use of the principles of photography, in form as well as in content. The main character is a photographer. His son, having lived his entire life in captivity in one single village on this small island, has a limited sense of perspective. To bring about the revolution that could lead to the liberation from the tyrannical Italian regime, the son has to learn about the history of photography – about light, detail, perspective, focus – from his father.

Chris Marker’s La Jetée has been a major influence in my work, not only when I was writing Rokit, but also with my previous novel MagnaTM Mater, mainly because of my fascination with the idea that the future can hold a solution to the crises of the present. And only by traveling in time can we hope to find the answer to our problems. 

In MagnaTM Mater, the 15-year old Elizabeth writes a short story about a woman, V (who is no other than her own mother Veronica), who travels to the future to bring back home an answer to all our problems that are a direct result of climate change. In Rokit this idea is taken up again – also because both Elizabeth and Veronica reappear in Rokit – this time round not to tackle the problem of climate change but to bring about the revolution that will set the islanders free from their oppressors. Some characters do travel in time in Rokit. However, the novel is not about traveling in time. Rather, it’s an exploration of what would happen if that kind of temporal jump were a possibility, as well as an enquiry into whether time is linear, circular, spiral or other.

I find all this fascinating. You introduce many central metaphors and other concepts in this novel: the maze, the minotaur, the cathedral. Care to elaborate on any of these ideas?

Petrel perceives the world around him in conceptual terms. Geometry: he tends to see everything, both objects and ideas, in terms of lines, circles or spirals. Greek mythology: when he ends up in an underground shelter he cannot but make the connection with the minotaur’s maze; he compares himself to Perseus, holding the head of the Medusa to represent the role of the war photographer as he captures images of atrocity to present to those who are not aware that it exists; he compares Veronica to Calypso (she seduces Petrel to keep him from leaving the island) and to the shape-shifting Proteus; and he sees Italy’s coming to Malta’s aid as a Trojan horse to conquer the island. Petrel’s associations are always grandiose. The underground shelter reminds him too of the bizarre masterpieces of the great visionaries such as Piranesi, Gaudì or Escher.

On the other hand, Benjamin is also being exposed to grand concepts in order to help him make sense of the limited reality he is trapped in. His “teacher,” Mirelle, uses quotations from philosophical and literary works to help the young generation born in captivity imagine a world much greater and more significant than the one they know. She compares the coming revolution to a cathedral. The foundation of the cathedral lies in the past, in the revolutions that have taken place decades and centuries before; the building itself represents the present, the daily actions that each one of them take in order to bring about the eventual downfall of the oppressor; the bell, then, will chime victory in the future. The image of the chiming bell haunts Benjamin because his greatest fear is that, no matter how much he fights for the island’s liberation, he will no longer be there to hear the bell chime. The only way he can be present to hear it is by making a leap in time.

What are your overall thoughts on the way the destruction of the natural world is handled in fiction, and do you have any favorite authors that made you think more about it?

It seems to me that stories – written these past 30 years, at least – which are set in the future, tend to tackle, directly or indirectly, the consequences of climate change. One of my favorite authors, David Mitchell, sets the last section of The Bone Clocks in 2043, where natural disasters have resulted in a depletion of resources. This last chapter is perhaps one of the most touching endings I have ever read. Yoko Tawada, in The Last Children of Tokyo, presents a devastated Japan one hundred years from now. We are confronted with an unlivable Tokyo where water, air and soil are so heavily polluted as to be poisonous. What we take so much for granted in our everyday life – the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land we cultivate – is that which usually becomes scarce in dystopian literature.

Thanks so much, Loranne. I can’t wait to share your thoughts and the novel Rokit with readers!

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Loranne also shared an article from the Times of Malta, which describes what effects global warming has already had, and will continue to have, on the small island in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Italy’s southern tip. The article says that in the next thirty years, the island could become an “arid, thirsty, overheated rock.”

Moreover, “the predicted sea level rise could transform the landscape and affect buildings that are close to the sea in low-lying areas”, an impact which “would be further compounded by strong winds and storm surges battering the coast.”

Similarly, Loranne said that in Rokit, there are crazy weather conditions and the Sirocco wind.

(Top image: Loranne Vella at the broken Azure Window in Malta, which collapsed due to storms in March 2017. Photo by Jonathan Page.)

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.

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