Monthly Archives: November 2020

Opportunity: Artist outreach – Christmas exhibition

Looking for eco-conscious artists for our Christmas exhibition launching 5th December!

Painted Turtle Galleries is a brand new, eco-conscious online art gallery that will launch on 5th December 2020. Our mission is to harness the influential power of art as a tool for creating positive change, whilst encouraging more sustainable practices through the recycling and repurposing of materials within the art world and beyond.

Our mission:

With its ethos symbolic of the legend of the Cosmic Turtle, which supported the world upon its back, Painted Turtle Galleries is currently in the process of building a network of artists who explore sustainable alternatives in their artistic practice. These include upcycling, recycling or using less toxic materials in the creation of their work, thus demonstrating the potential of such innovations for the future of our world. We are proud to be a recent winner of the Creative Business Ideas Competition 2020, sponsored by Creative Informatics at The University of Edinburgh, and we are now through to the final stage of Scottish Institute for Enterprise’s Fresh Ideas Competition.

Our Christmas exhibition:

We will launch our brand new online art gallery by hosting a Christmas exhibition in support of Plastic Oceans UK, where we will be donating 10% of all our profits through the ‘Small Business Star‘ campaign of Work for Good, which doubles all donations throughout December. This will be promoted through Scottish Institute for Enterprise, Edinburgh University, R Sustainable Social Enterprise, and social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.

If you are interested in selling your artwork through the gallery this December, or if you would like some more information, please email Emily Chalmers.

Deadline: 2nd December 2020

We look forward to hearing from you!

The post Opportunity: Artist outreach – Christmas exhibition 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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Creative Carbon Scotland supports new data-driven project

A new project exploring the motivations and needs of the creative community in addressing the climate emergency was one of nine projects awarded funding recently. 

Creative Carbon Scotland’s Carbon Management Planning Officer Caro Overy is receiving the funding through Creative Informatics and Creative Edinburgh’s Connected Innovator programme for her project, Climate Friendly Culture.

The Connected Innovator programme allows emerging leaders in the creative industries to explore new approaches to their work or develop their practice by undertaking research and development or professional development around data and data-driven innovation.

Drawing on her expertise and networks from her work with Creative Carbon Scotland combined with those from her work as a freelance musician, Caro’s Climate Friendly Culture is a development project to learn about the creative community’s response to the climate emergency with a view to developing a tool (or tools) to support environmental creative practice.

Throughout the project, Caro will be interviewing artists and cultural professionals to understand how climate change and environmental impact fits into their work and has launched a survey open to everyone working in the arts in Scotland. As well as partnering with Creative Carbon Scotland, she’ll be working with developer inGenerator to research existing tools and resources and laying the groundwork to develop a new tool or tools to support the cultural contribution to a resilient and low carbon future.

Caro said of the award: “This is a tremendous opportunity for me to bring my creative practice as a musician into direct contact with my work in sustainability and carbon management planning to create a user-friendly tool that will help people working in the cultural sector understand and minimise their carbon emissions.”

Ben Twist, director of Creative Carbon Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to support Caro on this project through our networks and the use of the emissions data we have gathered over the past few years, and we look forward to seeing the outcomes and its benefits to the sector.”

If you work in the arts in Scotland, please do fill in the survey, and if you’re an artist who might be interested in being interviewed or having a more in depth conversation, please contact Caro directly. You can find out more on the Climate Friendly Culture websitewhere you can also read Caro’s reflective blog that she’s writing as the project develops.

Caro Overy headshot – image credit: Sean Jones

The post Creative Carbon Scotland supports new data-driven project 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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Popular Movies and Climate Change

By Tulsi Pate

These days I find myself taking frequent nature walks where I breathe a little slower and think a little deeper. In a way, I romanticize these walks, imagining which angle will best capture the sunset or which filter will come closest to showing how green the trees truly are. This habit of inserting myself into a film as if I am a character comes from my love for the feelings that movies evoke. Suddenly I remember watching Avatar on the big screen, mesmerized by the natural blues and aquas, the chirping of crickets reverberating in the vibration of speakers. 

From towering tsunamis and cracking glaciers to animate green landscapes and vivacious animals, popular fiction films have given us both subtle and poignant images of our changing environment. It is debatable how far “awareness” of this issue can get us, but for the climate change skeptic, who may be reluctant to watch a documentary about the dying Earth, climate change-related fiction films can instill a sense of respect for our land and help visualize disasters that may otherwise seem abstract. James Cameron, director of Avatar, believes that he can be most effective at a grassroots level (as opposed to the political process) by using his cinematic skills to inspire viewers to connect with nature. “You can’t feel that you are ready to make a sacrifice in your lifestyle to protect something unless you respect and love it.”

We have all been there, sitting in a movie theater, speakers booming through our hearts, witnessing magical blue rivers and getting chills, yearning for an escape to nature. For a moment, we project past the screen and into the realm of computer-generated forests; everything is serene. But how long do these effects last? How long until I forget about my human footprint again and fall back into hopelessly accepting doomsday? A film’s impact depends on how directly it addresses our changing climate and how creatively it helps us visualize our impact on the planet. Movies can range from having environmental themes to being environmentally focused. They can also take many forms from apocalyptic (Snowpiercer2012) to lighthearted animation (Wall-E, The Lorax) to visually inspiring (AvatarMoana). 

In addition to helping us visualize an otherwise abstract future, films reflect how society is thinking about these catastrophes and stretch our imagination of possible solutions. For example, the recurring theme of an “escape to space,” present in movies such as Interstellar and Wall-E, becomes a more realistic prospect as tech billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos invest in space exploration. Other movies, such as 2012, feature a strong male character who saves his family from falling buildings and is left to survive with the remaining one thousand humans. These scenarios suggest a sort of hopelessness and inevitability about the destruction of Earth. I have yet to watch a movie in which governments manage to control carbon emissions to minimize the effects of climate change. That is the biggest issue in climate change film today. People are aware of climate change, and exacerbating the burden of change and desperation on them through film is more likely to drive them away than inspire them.

Let’s look at Wall-E, an adorable Pixar film about a robot that is compressing garbage on a demolished Earth abandoned by humans, who now inhabit a spaceship. The ship is run by the Buy’N’Large corporation, and epitomizes consumerism; humans sit on moving chairs, drink oversized sodas, and rarely look up from their holographic screens. One of the ship’s human-serving robots, named Eve (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), comes to Earth and takes an olive tree sprout back to the ship while Wall-E follows her in. The movie then plays out as a love story between Wall-E and Eve. Director Andrew Stanton claims that he didn’t “have a political bent or ecological message to push” and that “everything [he] wanted to do was based on the film’s love story.” Climate destruction is almost normalized in the background. The movie not only presents a post-apocalyptic trashed Earth, but it highlights how our increasing consumerism – however unintentional it might be – is inconsiderate of the Earth. 

Of course, many children may not see this movie for its environmental complexities, but even from a young age we internalize subliminal messages about our (typically Western) relationship to the Earth. Effectiveness? Well, the movie itself is not going to create a little army of child activists, but it will communicate the idea that our current extractive relationship to the Earth is unsustainable. Other animated movies have subtler themes: Moana features an indigenous relationship to the land as well as a beautiful Mother Nature-like depiction of Tafiti, and The Lorax even more subtly expresses deforestation.

It is possible for these movies to unintentionally normalize the destruction of the planet. Learning about deforestation and waste pollution at a young age may convey the idea that this is just how humans are. It may take the urgency of the problem away. In the case of Wall-E, it may suggest that escape from Earth is the only option, that the end of Earth is inevitable. Similarly, Interstellar is about a NASA mission to find another habitable planet after Earth has been consumed by dust storms. The movie opens with a rural farm family whose crops are failing due to the endless dust. Some say this was a sort of “wake-up call” to one of the demographics that most often deny climate change. 

For those who believe climate change is simply part of the Earth’s natural cycle, it is important to emphasize the role that humans play in exacerbating it. In some of the movies mentioned above, the focal point is the destruction of our planet, set in a post-apocalyptic time, and doesn’t show the human behavior that led up to it. Avatar is well-known for its stunning visuals of the moon Pandora, where the extremely intelligent Na’vi beings live in harmony with the land. That is until a military mission sends humans to Pandora with goals of colonization. Not only does this shed light on the military industrial complex and climate change, but it also emphasizes Indigenous relationships to the land as intelligent rather than “primitive.”

In Western culture, we are commonly taught to look down on “lesser developed” countries. For example, we often believe that advanced technology correlates with increased quality of life, and when we see images depicting lack of air conditioning or cellular devices in other countries, we assume those people need help. In the movieBlack Panther, we are shown what could have been if Native land hadn’t been colonized. Wakanda, Black Panther’s fictionalized country, is rich with resources and one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, but it is surrounded by mountains where people herd their sheep and ride on horses. This suggests that it is possible to develop technology that enhances the quality of life in a way that is compatible with the environment – two ideas that are often seen as mutually exclusive. Both Avatar and Black Panther also remind audiences that it is impossible to remove colonization from the story of our changing climate. 

In fact, it is impossible to remove many socio-economic issues from climate change and merely reduce it down to industrialization. Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho is famous for his movies Parasite and Snowpiercer, both of which offer a striking commentary on not just climate change but also the wealth gap. Snowpiecer features a never-stopping train that carries the last humans left on an Earth that has frozen over. At the back of the train are the poorest of the poor, who are fed “protein bars” and live in sickness and gloom. As we move up the train, we reach the elite, where children attend school and people eat real food. The rear of the train orchestrates a revolution with the goal of reaching the front, but many are killed along the way. We later find out this was orchestrated by an insider for population control.  A commentary on how the world’s poorest will be the first affected by climate change, the film also shows how the elite can and do lead common people to their own demise.

In Parasite, a poor family lies and cheats in order to get employment with an upper class family and take advantage of its resources. At the end of the movie, it starts to rain, and the camera pans from the rich house all the way down to where the poor characters live – a small flat nearly underground – showing the progression down societal class levels. The flat is flooded, again showing how the poor are essentially disposable in this situation. It is difficult to watch these films simply for entertainment, and much of the audience will seek out themes of economic privilege in an increasingly deteriorating world.

This said, it is possible that only a few like me unpack these themes while many others enjoy the movie for what it is. Should climate change artists ditch their creative endeavors and focus on more “actionable” items or can art simply exist to exist? It is undeniable that these films evoke strong emotions and perhaps they are powerful enough to inspire some people into action. But the issue I see repeatedly in these films is the signaling of doom. The climate crisis has gained people’s attention; now it is time to revise the script to include legitimate solutions rather than destruction or escape. If writers and directors reframe the way they think about climate, they will be able to show audiences the change that is already underway and inspire alternative climate futures. Whether the movies end in tears or in joy, they will all embody the same human experience needed to propel us past our changing climate: hope.

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Tulsi Patel is a student at Yale University studying Cognitive Science. Her interests range from linguistics to astrophysics, but the area that she would like to be most impactful in is climate – particularly food waste and education. A polyglot who loves learning languages, she would ultimately like to work in a global context. At Yale, she is part of an Asian spoken word group for which she writes and performs poetry about her experience of the Asian American diaspora and reflections on growth. Ideally, her future career will allow her to channel her passion for creativity into making an impact in sustainability.

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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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Ecological design futures: Ecoscenography in the age of climate change

By tanjabeer

In 2014, I published an article in the Blue Pages entitled, “Green Is the New Black”[1], highlighting the opportunities that sustainability can bring to the performing arts. I wrote about the possibilities of ecological design that were already emerging, including bicycle-powered shows, edible stages and body suits that captured kinetic energy. At the time, sustainability and theatre was a fringe phenomenon. While stage designers all over the world were beginning to heed the call of environmentally-conscious practices, the performing arts as a whole was proving slow to embrace the challenge.

With the global climate crisis taking hold and the global pandemic enforcing a pause in our practices, times have certainly changed in 2020. The topic of theatre and sustainability has rapidly moved to the fore. We are seeing more and more artists and organisations using the stage as a platform to talk about climate change and being pro-active in considering how theatre is made for the benefit of humans and nature. Sustainability has emerged as a significant part of many high-profile platforms both in programming and practice.

Climate change theatre is emerging as a genre in its own right. In 2019, in my home city of Melbourne alone, every theatre organization appeared to have at least one ecological work on show or in development. It was an exciting and welcome change.

The Living Stage Lorne, 2018

Yet I can’t help thinking back to the time, not so long ago, when the word ‘sustainable’ was met with glazed eyes or even disdain in theatre circles. A time when many of us were forced to do sustainability ‘undercover’, subverting the status quo with what little means we had. A time when our only choice was to frame sustainable decisions around budgets and aesthetics in order to get them across the line.

Ultimately, I moved outside of the theatre building to pursue change. There were too many barriers and pitstops for many of us who were attempting to go down the sustainable path. It was lonely being out there on the curb. Our sustainable practices (even when done ‘on the downlow’) were an inconvenience for most theatre companies, directors and stage managers. We wanted the ‘s’ word to be celebrated, not a ‘conversation stopper’ or a hidden practice that was kept behind closed doors.

In stepping outside of traditional theatre, I was free to imagine new modes of practice and aesthetics – those that demonstrated how sustainability could be inspiring, provocative and celebratory. I wanted to show that stage designers could be contributors and change agents. To push against those long held assumptions of sustainability: that ecological design is expensive, boring, time consuming and limiting of high-quality aesthetics. I wanted to demonstrate that the mixing of theatre and sustainability could contribute to what I believe will be the next great wave of artistic activism – shining a light on environmental injustice, provocating for change and re-awakening environmental stewardship as a core human ethos.

The Living Stage Lorne 2018

It was the last of these aspirations, in particular, that prompted me to start The Living Stage project in 2013. The Living Stage is a global ecoscenography project that combines stage design, horticulture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable, edible and biodiverse performance spaces. Part theatre, part garden and part food growing demonstration, The Living Stage is a celebration of what is possible when we embrace the potential of ecological practice holistically. At the end of the performances, living stages are returned to the communities that helped grow them. Physical structures become garden beds and community spaces; plants become healthy food; and waste becomes compost.

Since making its debut at the Castlemaine State Festival (Australia) in 2013, the concept has travelled to Cardiff, Glasgow, Armidale, New York, Lorne and Melbourne. As each living stage evolves out of a direct response to the localities of site, ecology and community, no project is ever the same. Yet they share clear commonalities: the celebration of multisensory elements, effective and multi-level engagement with audiences, and a legacy that stretches on long after the final performance.

Render of The frst Living Stage in Castlemaine, 2013

The Living Stages are only a small example of what is possible when we embrace ecological potential. I am a strong believer that sustainability makes us better designers. Performance designers all around the world are showing us how aesthetically compelling environmentally-focused work can be, both in and beyond mainstream theatre. And importantly, audiences are taking notice. Sustainability with a capital ‘S’ is here. Emerging designers and directors are speaking out against unsustainable practices and their voices are being heard. The power is shifting. The age of theatre as place of eco-provocation, innovation and leadership is here.


The Living Stage Castlemaine 2013

For more information about Ecoscenography, see my recent talk with Aberystwyth University here

[1] Beer, Tanja (2014). “Green Is the New Black”. Blue Pages: Journal for the Society of British Theatre Designers, no. 1: 14-16.

Photos: Tanja Beer & Gisela Beer

(Top photo: The Living Stage Lorne, 2018)

 

The post, Ecological design futures: Ecoscenography in the age of climate change, appeared first on Ecoscenography.
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Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.

Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).

Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)

Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com

Go to EcoScenography

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Cultural Adaptations conference goes digital!

We are excited to announce that the Cultural Adaptations conference, taking place 2-5 March 2021 will be delivered completely online, widening the opportunities for participation from around the world.

Due to the ongoing uncertainty and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals, organisations and nations, we are adapting our plans to reflect these circumstances. We want to ensure that as many people can attend as possible, and aim to avoid the barriers of travel restrictions or localised ‘lockdowns’.

Although we might not be able to physically host conference delegates in Glasgow, we will be bringing you some Glaswegian style and Scottish hospitality from the host city of the United Nations’ COP26 climate change negotiations.

An extended programme for a digital event

We’ve got so many exciting sessions that we’ve decided to add an extra day to the programme! Now across four days, the conference will include keynote presentations from contributors in Europe and further afield, as well as participatory workshops to prepare delegates to explore how culture can play a central role in climate change adaptation.

The programme will explore:

  • How cultural organisations can adapt to the projected impacts of climate change, and what it means for their artistic work and operations
  • How adaptation by cultural SMEs can lead and support other city-region organisations to adapt
  • How creative methods and arts practice can shape how regions adapt to climate change
  • How cross-sector collaboration on climate issues can be a future role for the arts
Who is the conference for?

The Cultural Adaptation conference will provide a unique opportunity for practitioners, policy makers and researchers working in climate change adaptation or arts and culture.

This event is therefore particularly relevant to:

  • Adaptation professionals working at the national, regional or city scale
  • Policy makers from local and national government with a remit in: culture, sustainability, adaptation, regeneration or development
  • Cultural managers of creative organisations, civic creative spaces or cultural initiatives
  • Artists and creative practitioners with an interest in working in different sectors to achieve social/political change
  • Academics with a research concentration in transformation, cultural value, environmental art and adaptation complexity

Register your interest now to be the first to secure your ticket!

Free materials and resources

At the conference we will officially launch the Cultural Adaptations toolkits, which will subsequently be made available for free use and replication. These toolkits will be easy to use, inspiring and practical, with guidance created from our experiences and learning from hosting innovative projects in four city-regions across Europe.

In the meantime, take a look at our developing digital resources, where we share project blogs, research insights and video and podcast materials on the topics of climate change, adaptation and creativity.


Cultural Adaptations is an action research project funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, and co-funded by the Scottish Government.

More about the project and partnerships can be found on our About page.

(Top photo: © Copyright – Samantha Borges via Unsplash)

Wild Authors: Pitchaya Sudbanthad

By Mary Woodbury

For this post, we are fortunate to travel to Bangkok, Thailand, to explore Pitchaya Sudbanthad’s Bangkok Wakes to Rain, published by Riverhead Books (US, 2020) and Sceptre (UK, 2019). In 2019, Bangkok Wakes to Rain was selected as a notable book of the year by The New York Times and The Washington Post as well as a finalist for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. I read the book in April, while adjusting to our new life in Nova Scotia, and would read at night in the absolute silence of the new place. The novel is a beautifully written elegy to Bangkok’s collective memory.  It’s a forever moving piece of not just place writing but period/cultural writings. In that sense, it reminded me a little of James Michener’s The Drifters (a novel I read and enjoyed as a teenager) but it is much more significant, bound by wild prose and history – including the present and climate change – not holding the characters and their experiences together by mere threads but, seemingly, much more fluidly. Can I say that it haunted me drop by drop?

ABOUT THE BOOK

A missionary doctor pines for his native New England even as he succumbs to the vibrant chaos of 19th century Siam. A post-World War II society woman marries, mothers, and holds court, little suspecting her solitary fate. A jazz pianist in the age of rock, haunted by his own ghosts, is summoned to appease the house’s resident spirits. In the present, a young woman tries to outpace the long shadow of her political past. And in a New Krungthep yet to come, savvy teenagers row tourists past the landmarks of the drowned old city they themselves do not remember. Time collapses as these lives collide and converge, linked by the forces voraciously making and remaking the amphibious, ever-morphing capital itself. Bangkok Wakes to Rain is an elegy for what time erases and a love song to all that persists, yearning, into the unknowable future.

CHAT WITH THE AUTHOR

I found Bangkok Wakes to Rain to be a profoundly moving story, mostly due to the expanse of time in which it unfolds, the deep dive into character-building, and the place writing. What motivated you to write this stunning novel?

I’ve spent my life witnessing the many ways Bangkok has changed over decades, at distances near and far, and as both an insider and outsider. It’s an inherently novelistic point of view that helps me try to make some sense of a city that is in a perpetual process of conflicted reinvention. In writing my novel, I was propelled by curiosity about a place that is intimately familiar to me and yet unknowable. I put my imagination down on paper and just kept trying to see what came next.

The novel seems to be one that hopes to preserve history by making us remember certain times, whether or not we’ve lived through themBut it also seems to be fluid and moving, like the life force of rain and water flowing constantly in Bangkok. When you wrote the novel, did you also plan to write about our present climate crisis and how that is changing Bangkok? There is that wish to preserve life before climate change too?

In the early days, I had no idea that I would touch on the climate crisis in my novel, even as someone with a degree in environmental studies. It eventually became self-evident that if I were to extend my imagination into the future, a Bangkok literally in deep trouble because of rising waters was more likely than not. I needed to project the novel forward with the climate crisis as part of the city’s arc.

Yet, in thinking of the catastrophic effects of a flooded city, I also saw the future reversion of Bangkok to what it had once been: a low-lying amphibious capital city with extensive networks of waterways. This was before much of it was contorted from its nature to match humankind’s trivial ambition of capital growth. What do we hope to preserve then? What will we mourn of a landscape’s forced deviation? Bangkok, like many cities, feels like a flickering dream of an unsustainable civilization. We will try to hold on to it for as long as we can.

Another reason I gravitated to the novel is because it’s nonlinear, and I think most of us really make sense of life that way. The past is constantly creeping up in memories – especially as we get older – and the present and future are highly uncertain, which sometimes makes us miss something more solid from the past, even though it too was surrounded by uncertainty. In Bangkok, one of the constants is the house in which various people flow, like ghosts. Care to comment more about these themes in your novel?

I have a propensity to try to bring a place in my mind, where it’s not just background but an entity in itself. I find that a place is never a thing with a clear, definite shape. It fluctuates, obscuring and revealing. Telling the story in some kind of straightforward narrative made less sense to me for this novel.

I find that place is usually many things to different people at various points in their lives, and so it is deeply rooted in character and time, which are always restless. Someone can be somewhere and experience a place in time far differently from others, and so memory can also be place or a sense of it. This is especially true for a city like Bangkok, where so much has been built and replaced and rebuilt again and where there are layers upon layers of social stratification everywhere. I always see the city with a kind of double or triple vision, where the present, past, and imaginative are spectrally imposed over one another.

Recreates the experience of living in Thailand’s aqueous climate so viscerally that you can feel the water rising around your ankles.

Ron Charles, Washington Post

What is the background of your creation of the main characters, such as Nee, Nok, Clyde, Phineas, Sammy, and Pehn?

It’s hard to pinpoint any one inspiration for each of my characters. Whenever I’m in Bangkok, I collect stories from relatives, Thai history books, folk lore, and mass culture into the same general chest of narrative construction blocks. I do some minimal amount of research to get a more accurate feel, and then I mostly see what happens. There’s a little bit of this and that in every character, and most of what ultimately made it into the book is the characters becoming what the novel needed of them, by my imagination.

And then the novel switches into the future, where the character Woon is introduced. This takes us back to my earlier climate change question but also my earlier remarks about preservation. The themes of submergence and rescue come into place as Woon rescues artifacts, such as art and old letters, that have been lost by rising waters. I kept thinking the whole time how important fiction is because it also preserves our memories, albeit creatively. Can you comment more?

With a climate crisis likely, I tried to think of all that would be lost in Bangkok, not just in terms of the physical aspects, but the sensuous and spiritual. I think fiction can help perpetuate a few complex visions of the city, just as an old painting can let us emotionally glimpse the impressions of city or landscape from centuries ago. I say perpetuate rather than preserve, because a future reader’s vision will also be colored by the experiential palettes of their own time. With all the documentation and data collection happening now, they may be able to reconstruct and relive our current experiences in ways we can hardly imagine, but reanimation is different from any singular remembrance. Who will remember Bangkok in a few hundred years? What will they see and feel? I don’t know. It will probably be a far different reconstitution of Bangkok from what I believe my writing depicts today. 

Important, ambitious, and accomplished.

Mohsin Hamid, 
New York Times bestselling author of Exit West

After the novel was published, COVID-19 came along, making us even more on edge. How have things been for you?

I know I’m fortunate in being able to maintain a very science-based hermetic existence during this pandemic, largely keeping to myself while staying awake at odd hours and communally doom-scrolling with the internet-captive masses. I’m also in pretty close contact with relatives in Bangkok and get a lot of visibility into the widespread, strict adherence to safety practices, like face mask-wearing and social-distancing, that’s far different from the easy disregard I’ve seen in America, even in a virus hot zone like New York City. The linkages of organized misinformation between the denial of epidemiological science and climate science denialism are made clearer to me and probably others paying attention.

Are you working on anything else now?

I’m exploring and working through a few ideas. That’s all I usually say.

Thank you so much for your time in talking with Dragonfly.eco and for your brilliant novel!

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 Nova Scotia 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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A Meditation on Place to Cure “Nature Deficit Disorder”

State of Nature: Picturing Indiana Biodiversity
Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein

It’s quite a treat to see an art exhibition (online), which encourages an immersive experience at the interstice of the sciences and the arts. State of Nature, on view at The Grunwald Gallery at Indiana University in Bloomington through November 18, 2020, presents artworks juxtaposed with artifacts including fossils and extinct taxidermy animals, along with video works and artist interviews. Many of the artist’s processes are embedded in years of observation and interaction with their Indiana environs. For example, Bonnie Sklarski’s painting titled Shoots (above), is a study of a creek embankment, and Maria Whiteman’s installation titled Living with Mycelia(below), presents photography as scientific observations of fungi, alongside live specimens, and to educate the importance of the role of mycelia within the forest ecosystem.

Maria Whiteman, Living with Mycelia, 2020 

The artists included in the exhibition successfully express how to present artistic observations to a public, including ecoartspace members Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris. Also included are Suzanne Anker, Joianne Bittle, Lucinda Devlin, Dornith Doherty, Margaret Dolinsky, Roger P. Hangarter, Kate Houlne, Dakotah Konicek, John McNaughton, Martha MacLeish, David Morrison, Joyce Ogden, Ahmed Ozsever, Casey Roberts, Bonnie Sklarski, Gene Stratton-Porter, Mark Tribe, Caleb Weintraub and Maria Whiteman. 

Geological cores above and below Ahmed Osever’s  Shallow Cores, 2020
Joyce Ogden, Heaven and Earth, 2016 and Mound Calendar, 2017

The whole exhibition is wrought with fantastic samples and reflections on the natural world in Indiana: its disappearances, like the Jefferson Ground Sloth full skeleton, and the ecological histories that are present in the environment. The process of observation is presented through scientific geologic cores that are used to draw conclusions about the history of a land, presented in close proximity to artistic interpretations. Ahmed Osever recreates stylized core samples from an industrialized environment in Shallow Cores (above). These juxtapositions tell the stories of environmental and human impacts, as well as the overlapping processes between the sciences and many art practices. An incredible example of this was Joyce Ogden’s work titled Heaven and Earth and Mound Calendar (above). These works are the result of a major lifestyle change and deep interactions with the soils in southern Indiana where Ogden lives and where she has built her studio. Though Joyce’s garden soil is not the best for planting, she uses its material properties to describe a cyclical calendar, one that revolves around the moon and changes each month to reflect Native spiritual practices derived from the lands she currently lives on. 

Matterport 360 snapshot of sloth and Weintraub paintings

The works located in the far right gallery (above) embody an exchange between observable environment and expressive output. Viewers are presented with geological cores that recount the thousands of years of history even before humankind set foot in Indiana. Next, dried plants and wasps nests that are, arguably, nature’s artworks. Two expressive and surreal scenes painted as hypothetical realities by Caleb Weintraub, are stand out with their cool tones and thick paint representing a human-built environment overrun with plants. These images embody the essence of the exhibition: a vision or meditation on how the arts and scientific observation can merge to compliment each other, combining expression and observation of the environment around us, therefore creating both proof and idealism. 

Saylor/Morris, Eclipse, 2014 (far wall and below)

This combination is especially relatable in the work of Saylor/Morris, located in the center space (above), whose mesmerizing video projection Eclipse presents a flock of birds which become the growing leaves on a tree that then ascend into the atmosphere. One could read this work as both the moment of the Holocene era, where there was maximum biodiversity on the planet prior to climate change, but also as the growing human population and its effects as overcrowding forces an ascension to heaven for many species. 

A fantastic example of both the collaboration of the arts and the sciences as a meditation on the place, known as Indiana—the State of Nature: Picturing Indiana Biodiversity provides a platform for reflection for the future of environmental art. It is a warning and a celebration as stated in the exhibition introduction, “With the rapidly growing urbanization and pervasive reliance on technology, humanity is becoming more and more alienated from the biological system we are part of. Our connection to our ecosystem has become far more tenuous and many Hoosiers have become content to view nature virtually. Many also think that to see nature it is necessary to travel to the type of “exotic” locations often featured in “nature” shows on television. The growing detachment of humans from the natural world has become known as ‘nature deficit disorder’.”

Nature stands just beyond our doorsteps, and now Indiana’s examples on our computer monitors. State of Nature has presented an engaging perspective on how to provoke a cure.

The exhibition can be viewed online in Matterport 360 format HERE.

(Top photo: Bonnie Sklarski, Shoots, 2003)

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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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Jason Davis Merges Climate Stories with Original Compositions

By Peterson Toscano

Joining us in the Art House is musician and composer Jason Davis. Jason curates ClimateStoriesProject.org. The site hosts videos from people all over the world. They reveal the impacts of climate change in their lives, and how they are responding. Jason takes some of these stories and composes music to accompany them.

You will hear a moving and powerful testimony from John Sinnok, Inuit Elder in Alaska. Woven around the story is Jason’s haunting and beautiful composition for the double bass. He calls the piece Footsteps in Snow. You will also learn how you can share your own story on the website.

Jason wants to hear your climate story. He invites you to explore his site to read other climate stories and consider contributing your own. That website is climatestoriesproject.org

Next month: As director of Artichoke Dance Company, Lynn Neuman recognizes the vital role art plays in addressing issues like climate change. But entertaining and educating are not enough for Lynn and her company. They always want to do more to get people to act. Through community engagement and direct outreach to lawmakers, they are training community members on how to change legislation. 

If you like what you hear, you can listen to full episodes of Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunesStitcher Radio, Spotify, SoundCloudPodbeanNorthern Spirit RadioGoogle PlayPlayerFM, 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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ecoartspace: member exhibitions

The Day After Tomorrow: Art in Response to Turmoil and Hope is a group exhibition including Constance Mallinson. Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah. Through December 19, 2020. Online 360 Matterport viewing and audio tour. 

State of Nature: Picturing Indiana Biodiversity is a group exhibition including Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris. Ezkenazi School of Architecture and Design, Indiana University Bloomington. Through November 18, 2020. Online 360 Matterport viewing.

Trouble Under the Big Trees: Linda MacDonald at the Creative Arts Gallery, College of the Redwoods, Eureka, CA. Through November 13, 2020. Virtual online viewing.

Bankok Biennial 2020 Cloud 9 Pavillion including Seren Morrey through November 21, 2020. Virtual studios online.

5 Facets of Humanity: Intra-human, Meta-human, Post-human, Supra-human, Trans-human, a group exhibition including Gary Brewer and Virginia Katz. Fellows of Contemporary Art (FOCA), Los Angeles, CA. Through December 12, 2020. 

Seedscapes: Future-Proofing Nature. A group exhibition including Sant Khalsa. Impressions Gallery, Bradford, United Kingdom. Through December 12, 2020. 

Rising Tides: Contemporary Art and The Ecology of Water, including Emily BrownDiane BurkoStacy Levy. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, PA. Through January 10, 2021.

She is Here, Studio Artist Program, Retrospective Group Show includes a video installation titled Onar (repair the dream) by Pam Longobardi. Atlanta Contemporary, GA.Through January 31, 2021.

Broken Poems of Butterflies, solo exhibition by Etsuko Ichikawa using radioactive materials to shape artworks and video footage of haunting beauty. Jordan Schntizer Museum of Art, Pullman, WA. Through March 20, 2021.

Do you have an exhibition coming up? Please email the information to info@ecoartspace.org to be included in upcoming newsletters.

Above: Constance MallinsonFor All and for None, 1983, acrylic on canvas, 77 x 112 inches. Installation view at Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah. (painting on far left wall)

Water Worlds

By Susan Hoffman Fishman

Catherine Nelson is an Australian photographer who creates complex, imaginary natural worlds using digital technology and animation. After earning her Art Education degree in painting at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney, she worked for a number of years as a visual effects artist in the film and television industry until she began her current practice ten years ago. Connecting her background as a painter with her inherent love of nature, Nelson calls her photographs landscape “paintings.” 

For each final composition, Nelson shoots hundreds of individual photographs of a specific site. Using Photoshop software, she then separates individual elements within the photographs, creating an entire library of elements that she can manipulate and place anywhere in the final image. Most of her compositions are circular, a device she uses to tell multiple stories within the same landscape. 

“FUTURE MEMORIES”

Completed in 2010, Nelson’s first series of work is called “Future Memories.” Unlike other contemporary artists who choose to portray aspects of the climate crisis with graphic images of present and future catastrophes, she prefers to deliver her environmental message of alarm by creating images that reveal the astounding beauty and richness of nature as an idyllic memory of a world we are losing or as an imagined Eden that never was. She photographed her first piece in the series called First Freeze: Bourgoyen Winter, in Ghent, Belgium, where she now resides. Inspired by the work of Flemish painter Pieter Breugel the Elder, the winter scene documents the last time the city was covered with that many inches of snow. 

First Freeze: Bourgoyen Winter, digital photography, 2010
“UNSTILL LIFE” AND “SUBMERGED”

In 2015, Nelson completed two series of photographic landscapes of underwater worlds called “Unstill Life” and “Submerged,” in which she imagines “what it would be like to look out from under the water as if the body of water above is observing us.” Instead of our usual anthropomorphic view of the natural world, our position in these photographs is as just one of a multiple variety of species intertwined below the water. For these compositions, Nelson photographed vegetation in ponds located in Ghent and in mangroves in Thailand. Wading into the water carefully so as not to disturb the muddy ground beneath her, she lowered her camera below the surface of the water to take her shots. The vegetation in the final images is pristine, lush, interconnected and idealized; the water is clear without any presence of pollutants or menace. 

Unstill Life #1, digital photograph, 2015
EVERYNOTHING AND DROP

Using the skills she first developed as a special effects artist, Nelson has also created two videos that are a direct response to the climate crisis. For EveryNothing (2017), she took thousands of photographs of the tiny succulents, euphorbias, and cactus plants being propagated in small pots at the Meise Botantical Garden in Brussels and identified as endangered. She then digitally extracted the individual shapes of the succulents from the photographs and morphed them into a continuous moving parade of plants that emerge into the picture frame and then disappear, emerge again with different shapes and colors and then disappear again. As Nelson explains, “everything comes from nothing.” She describes the finished video, which took a full year to complete, as “a kind of meditation,” a haunting record of what we are rapidly losing on planet Earth. The music accompanying the video, which was composed, performed, and recorded by Alexander Berne and The Abandoned Orchestra, adds significantly to the hypnotic effect of the 60-minute piece.

Nelson’s second video, Drop (2019), was inspired by the recent ten-year drought in New South Wales, Australia, said to be “the worst drought ever recorded since European settlement.” It was so bad that local towns were just months away from being abandoned entirely. Acknowledging that access to water is one of the defining issues of our time, Nelson calls Drop “a poem about the journey of a water drop,” the liquid that descends from clouds as rain and creates our lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans. 

Drop was shot in New South Wales using a drone. The actual drop of water was computer generated and follows a path from formation to its destination onto a cracked, desert-dry patch of earth. Although the soundtrack includes the muffled sound of thunder and birdcalls, the overall effect of the 2 minute video is one of quiet contemplation.

All of Nelson’s work is about the specific places where her photographs are taken, which include locations in China, the Danube Delta, Romania, California, Costa Rica, Greenland, Belgium, and Australia. As she readily admits, her decision to closely observe local environments through the lens of her camera is her attempt to understand how these ecosystems are out of sync so that she (and we) can better understand our common fate.

(Top image: Submerged, No. 1, digital photography, 2015)   

This article is part of Imagining Water, a series on artists of all genres who are making the topic of water and climate disruption 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 and writer whose work has been exhibited in widely in museums and galleries throughout the U.S. Since 2011, all of her paintings, installations and photographs have addressed water and climate change. She co-created a national, participatory public art project, The Wave, which addresses our mutual need for and interdependence on water and which has inspired thousands of adults and children of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to protect this vital resource. Her most recent body of work calls attention to the growing number of rampikes along our shores – trees that have been exposed to salt water and died as a result of rising tides.

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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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