Monthly Archives: January 2021

Community Engaged Eco-theatre Action: Interview with Xiao Ting (Singapore)

Xiao Ting is a freelance Singapore-based hyphenated practitioner – performance-maker, movement-based performer, actor, educator and interdisciplinary collaborator. She was a recipient of the Singapore National Arts Council Undergraduate Scholarship and graduated from Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Arts (LICA), Lancaster University, UK, where she received the LICA prize for Outstanding Achievement in Theatre. She is currently an Associate Artist with The Theatre Practice (Singapore) and Programmer for Practice Tuckshop.

How did your interest in eco-theatre and eco-scenography begin?

I absolutely love hiking and trekking in the mountains (responsibly, of course!). Climbing Mount Rinjani (Indonesia) and completing the Annapurna circuit (Nepal) were two of the biggest highlights in my life. It was only a matter of time before I started thinking about integrating two of my greatest passions – the natural environment and theatre.

What does ecoscenography or eco-theatre mean to you? How do you define it (for yourself and others)?

I believe that Eco-theatre is about harnessing the power of theatre to advance a slowly-but-surely cultural shift. For me, theatre is a space for stories. Theatre is a space for hope and transformation. There’s already so much good work by local communities about how to contribute in meaningful ways that I think the best thing theatre can do is to be a bridge – to empower or motivate people to care, to think differently and take action in their own ways.

Eco-theatre is as much about creating work, as it is about ethics in collaboration. So much of our work also involves fostering meaningful relationships to build a healthy ecosystem that we can create within. For example, how do we embed environmental sustainability into our operations, logistics and creative practices?

In my practice, I use an interdisciplinary approach to create work that inspires climate action. I want to create different ‘access points’ for specific audiences. This means each work will look very differently, depending on the audience. Therefore, I am always on the lookout for inspiring collaborators around the world who may vary differently in art form, but stem from the same ethos.

Poppy (by Ang Xiao Ting, Jean Ferry, Zoea Tania Chen.) Composer: Sim Shao Jean. Lighting and Set Design: Kuo Jian Hong.

Can you tell me about your latest project, Poppy?

Poppy was inspired by the ‘Greta Thunbergs’ of the world. It was also written in response to Kuo Pao Kun’s ‘The Silly Little Girl and The Funny Old Tree’. We wanted to maximise the potential of digital theatre to create a live-streamed hybrid performance of film/animation/theatre specific for young people (14-18 years). So, we ended up with Poppy – a story of an adolescent environmentalist, who goes on a journey navigating the complexities of climate action and social media activism culture.  

Through the use of social media platforms such as Telegram and Instagram (@p0_ppys_ok123), we positioned our young audiences as social media followers, so they have to experience and witness the complexities of talking about the climate crisis online. They experience first-hand, how easily it is to say something in an effort to ‘do something’, and how challenging it is to follow-up with meaningful action.

As the majority of Singapore youths are ‘city kids’, this entry point for climate action is familiar. This means that we were able to engage them in deeper conversations at the post-show segment.

Animation still from Poppy (by Ang Xiao Ting, Jean Ferry, Zoea Tania Chen.) Illustrator: Mary Bernadette Lee. Animator: Jawn Chan.
Poppy (by Ang Xiao Ting, Jean Ferry, Zoea Tania Chen.) In picture: Ang Xiao Ting, Tan Beng Chiak.
Post-show conversation from Poppy (by Ang Xiao Ting, Jean Ferry, Zoea Tania Chen). In picture: Ang Xiao Ting, Masturah Oli.
Poppy (by Ang Xiao Ting, Jean Ferry, Zoea Tania Chen.) In picture: Ang Xiao Ting, Masturah Oli.

Can you tell me about your longstanding projects, Recess Time and c o o p?

Food waste is one of the biggest waste streams in Singapore and the amount of food waste generated has grown by around 20% over the last decade. In 2019, Singapore generated around 744 million kg of food waste. That is equivalent to 2 bowls of rice per person per day, or around 51,000 double decker buses. As most food in Singapore is imported from overseas and bought in supermarkets, consumers are used to purchasing unblemished produce. In order to de-stigmatise ugly produce, we created Recess Time!

Recess Time is a lunch party at the heart of the Singapore arts district. It is a long-running participatory work that stages a social situation, i.e. lunch, as the site for public engagement. It has served 30 lunch sessions to date. For this programme, invited chefs go on rescue missions to salvage unwanted or ugly produce. They then incorporate the rescued produce in their menu. Each Recess Time also features a “Kaypoh” King/Queen, whose main job is to archive the conversations that emerge from a lunch like no other.

Recess Time Chefs, also known as Makan Masters. In Picture: Imran Kidd and Priscill Koh.

Meanwhile, audiences also get to enjoy their food in the premises of Practice Tuckshop(@practicetuckshop) or on c o o p – a multi-level outdoor installation created by DO Agency with support from Nanyang Polytechnic. This reusable modular architectural system was built using biodegradable strand-woven bamboo. Herbs from the solar-powered aquaponics garden are regularly incorporated into our daily menu. It was awarded the COLA Environmental Sustainability Merit Awards (2018) and the Singapore Good Design Award (2019).

Last year, Recess Time was featured in a documentary about ground-up initiatives that tackle the climate crisis in Singapore.

Rescued produce, Practice Tuckshop

What were some of the biggest hurdles that you have had to tackle in creating these project/s? What are you most proud of?

Narrowing the scope of the research for each project is always daunting. The climate crisis is a global problem, but the way in which it manifests in each country is indisputably specific. To identify a focus area for each project, we start by asking:

  1. In terms of our local emissions, who are the biggest contributors and why?
  2. As city-dwellers, what is our relationship with the natural environment?
  3. How does that translate into practice with regards to the climate crisis?

I am most proud of the ‘sphere of influence’ each climate-focused project has generated. For instance, to be able to hear members of the creative team go: wow! I’ve always felt so much guilt about needing to do something for the environment, so I end up doing nothing. I never thought I could make a difference…

c o o p (by The Theatre Practice and DO Agency)

What tips would you give to a theatre maker who is exploring eco-theatre and sustainable practice for the first time?

I read an article by Jonathan Franzen (The New Yorker) and it really resonated with me. Franzen writes:

In times of increasing chaos, people seek protection in tribalism and armed force, rather than in the rule of law, and our best defense against this kind of dystopia is to maintain functioning democracies, functioning legal systems, functioning communities. In this respect, any movement toward a more just and civil society can now be considered a meaningful climate action.”

So I would start this exploration by first asking: As a (insert role), what is a possible ‘meaningful climate action’ for me and my community?

Also, as someone who struggles with climate depression, I also think it’s about constantly reminding yourself that there is hope for the future because every bit counts!!!

What do you think the future of theatre will look like for a climate-resilient world?


I think it will be come increasingly collaborative. Practitioners will find more reasons to do work online as geographical borders will become increasingly irrelevant, also because the amount of carbon footprint in air travel will be and has been, a serious point of consideration.

What is your next project?

I am currently in the midst of translating Poppy and doing a Chinese-language version of the work, as well as conceptualising Poppy 2.0. This next phase will include international artists who work in the intersection of theatre, education and climate action. We want to continue experimenting with Digital Theatre and bring teens from different parts of the world together on Zoom – without accumulating carbon footprint in the form of air travel!

If you are curious, find out more here.

(Top photo: Recess Time (by Ang Xiao Ting, Sim Xin Yi and Joey Cheng), Practice Tuckshop.)

The post, Community Engaged Eco-theatre Action: Interview with Xiao Ting (Singapore), appeared first on Ecoscenography.
———-

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

Powered by WPeMatico

Cheaper renewable energy for arts and culture

We are all working towards a net-zero society, where we are not negatively impacting our planet through how we live and work. Switching to renewable energy (energy generated from renewable sources, rather than polluting fossil fuels) is one practical and achievable solution.

However, historically the price of renewable energy has made it difficult for cultural organisations to switch. It can also be confusing to identify an energy supplier that provides truly renewable energy. Creative Carbon Scotland is partnering with BAFTA’s albert initiative and provider Good Energy to enable Scottish cultural organisations to get 100% renewable energy with preferable pricing and guaranteed benefits.

What is genuine renewable energy?

Most energy suppliers are able to provide a green energy tariff, but just how green is the energy you receive?

Firstly, it’s important to realise that unless you have your own energy generation on site, all our electricity in the UK comes from the same place – the UK electric grid. Suppliers can provide green tariffs to customers in different ways, but how they do it bears a little explanation. Some companies, including Good Energy, buy renewable electricity directly from generators, often from UK wind or solar farms. This is the greenest energy you can buy.

Some larger energy suppliers own or work with a mixture of generators (both renewable and fossil fuels) and match their green tariffs through the proportion of renewables they purchase. They are legitimately providing renewable energy to consumers that are paying for it, but there is a knock-on effect on their general tariffs where they become dominated by fossil fuel generation because all the renewables are ‘taken’ by the green tariffs.

There are also companies who buy excess renewable energy guarantee of origin (aka REGO) certificates when there is an excess and they are cheaply available and use these to back up a green tariff. They are still selling renewable energy but essentially the ‘leftovers’ and, unlike suppliers who invest directly in renewable generation, this doesn’t directly stimulate growth in the UK renewables sector.

We always advise researching the approach any potential any energy supplier takes and checking it against this Which? article.

How can cultural organisations benefit? 

If you’re looking to ensure you’re getting green energy, the Creative Energy Project takes the hassle out of energy procurement for cultural organisations. In the cultural sector we are already limited for time and resources, and often our smaller scale means it can be hard to secure the best rates. The Creative Energy Project essentially bundles all participating organisations’ energy procurement as one, streamlining the procurement process, securing the best rates available, and doing the qualitative research on behalf of all.

BAFTA’s albert initiative tenders for the Creative Energy Project’s energy provider on five key criteria:

  • A renewable, zero carbon product – including no nuclear power or greenwashing
  • Business customer service and value-added benefits/services – a guaranteed account manager so you always speak to the same person about your energy needs
  • Preferential pricing – quoted prices include a reduction from ‘standard’ pricing
  • Investment into renewable infrastructure – the potential to install EV charging or energy generation on-site
  • Investment in marketing and engaging with creative sector audiences – providing support to the sector as a whole through working with organisations like BAFTA and Creative Carbon Scotland.

Since the scheme began, Good Energy has been the project’s energy provider, with 100% of their energy produced by the sunwind and water in the UK.

How does this affect your organisation’s emissions?

In changing your supplier, you are part of a market shift that makes all the electricity in the UK grid lower carbon. We’re seeing tangible results from this shift – for every kWh of electricity used in the UK in 2020, 0.23kgCO2e is emitted. In 2019, this figure was 0.26kgCO2e. As mentioned above, even with the greenest supplier in the country (which the Creative Energy Project can get you!), your electricity still comes from the UK grid. To follow best practice in reporting, we continue to use the UK Government conversion factors for kWh from the grid to calculate the footprint from your energy use. If we counted your organisation’s emissions from energy as zero, we would have to calculate every other organisation’s emissions to fit with the energy they buy. Energy markets are continually changing, which would make this task very time consuming and ultimately not of all that much use.

How can you switch?
  1. Find out when your current energy contract ends. Often commercial contracts run for a number of years and are automatically renewed through an energy broker – ask you facilities manager or finance manager to check!
  2. Get a quote for 100% renewable energy from the Creative Energy Project. To find out more, and get a unique quote, get in touch with Michelle at albert. 
  3. Make the switch! Switching to renewable energy is an easy win when trying to reduce your emissions. The Creative Energy Project helps cultural organisations do just that and tries to reduce the time and cost barriers of the past. If you’ve already switched – let us know! 

This video by film production company Band Studio explains how their cultural organisation has benefitted from switching to renewable energy through the Creative Energy Project.

The post Cheaper renewable energy for arts and culture appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

———-

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

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

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

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

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

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

Powered by WPeMatico

Familiars

By: Christopher Reiger

In the fall of 2019, a little over a year after my family moved from San Francisco to Sonoma County, I looked up one morning while driving my two young boys to daycare and preschool and saw the familiar “V”-formation, or skein, of Canada geese flying over Route 12. I’m a nature nerd, and I’m forever trying to excite my kids about natural history; I pointed the birds out to the preschooler and I asked him what species they were. He answered correctly, and I felt that wonderful surge of daddy pride that’s really just my ego being stoked.

But the good feeling didn’t last long—my son asked me where the geese were going. I didn’t know. I hazarded a guess that, perhaps because the birds were flying west, they were headed to graze on the dairy farms near the Laguna de Santa Rosa wetlands, but I was frustrated that I couldn’t give him a more sure answer.

Growing up, when a flight of geese passed overhead, depending on the species and time of day, not only could I tell you, with confidence, where they were headed—a salt marsh, perhaps, or a farmer’s field—but I could usually name the specific spot. I could tell you the geese were heading for the tidal estuary at the outlet of Rattrap Creek, or Buck Lane’s winter wheat field behind the post office. When a child spends as much time outdoors as I did, and they have a parent or parents who are deeply invested in the local ecology, it’s almost inevitable that they will become intimately acquainted with the land and the other animals, the nonhuman animals, that also call the place home.

As a kid, I regularly explored our nearly 300-acre coastal Virginia farm, and at times it felt as though I could summon an animal. Not literally, of course, but I’d find myself in a loblolly pine grove on a warm afternoon with the sun slanting just so, and I’d “feel” that I was going to encounter a black rat snake. Then there it would be. I don’t believe I was actually sensing these creatures before I spotted them, but I was so in tune with the farm that I knew—even without thinking about it—when and where I was likely to encounter different species.

But that was thirty years ago on the other side of the country, on the Delmarva Peninsula, the narrow strip of land between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. My parents still live there, and my family visits at least once a year, but I’m no longer rooted there. Frankly, I’m no longer rooted anywhere—which is, for most of us, typical.

My father lived in two dozen places before he married my mother. In 1970, they purchased the farm on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and, a few years later, abandoned their professional and personal attachments to Washington, D.C., and New York City, and settled full-time on Heron Hill, the name they gave to the Virginia property. My father is a writer, and in one of his books, a 1994 memoir about his stewardship of the farm, he writes about continuity in our American imagination.

Unlike our European cousins, who—if wars permit—are content to live in the same towns that their great-grandparents built, Americans move on and build new nests as soon as the old foraging grounds are exhausted—more like our primate relatives. […] The irony of our culture’s cavalier attitude toward continuity is that in our hearts, we know it’s wrong.

I think “wrong” is a very strong word, but it seems to me the relative restlessness of Americans does diminish our sense of place. And, today, our peripatetic inclination is compounded by social media and the so-called “attention economy”; there’s always something else to look at and somewhere else to be.

Although I’ve lived in only six towns or cities, many fewer than my father, six is still more than the average European. I grew up in rural America, alongside Atlantic salt marsh and barrier islands, surrounded by flatland fields. After living in a few other places, I moved to San Francisco from New York City in 2010, and, as of last year, I call the North Bay my home. Today, my family’s house sits on the northwestern slope of a hill that rises above suburban Bennett Valley, near the northern extent of the Sonoma Mountain range. How do I root myself there, in this very different landscape? Will I ever be able to “summon” animals on the trails of Annadel State Park or the jetties of Bodega Bay?

I think it will be hard, but not impossible. And that important challenge brings me to one of my current bodies of work. Each piece in the Familiar series features an animal I have encountered near my new home. They help provide me with a “way in” to place. I need to observe and understand the landscape, along with its flora and fauna, and, over time, develop a more complete understanding and an intimate relationship with my immediate home and, more generally, the Bay Area at large—its contours, its rhythms, its aromas, its political history, the origin of its street names, the geological and ecological changes it’s undergone. All of it. This has been a work in progress since my cross-country move almost a decade ago, but I feel like I’m still tiptoeing in. As a child, all of this information is just absorbed; as an adult, the process is more like cramming for a test.

Credit: Christopher Reiger

But these Familiar works aren’t only about my portraying my new “familiars,” the animals that share my adopted home ground with me. The series’ name also references the concept of supernatural animal spirits or guides, a notion that may be most closely associated with European folklore and witchcraft, but in fact has ancient roots in almost every culture. The heads of the depicted animals are dark and insubstantial, yet seemingly on the verge of materializing.

At the base of each piece, I’ve written the animal’s scientific binomial on the left and its translation on the right. For example, on Familiar: Bobcat, you’ll see “Lynx rufus” written on lower left and “bright red light” written on lower right—“Lynx” translates as “bright light” and “rufus” means “red.” This naming is important to me. I’m fascinated by etymology, but I also think of enunciation as akin to incantation; that is to say, I think of speech as a means of creation. In this case, naming as a means of summoning. It ties me to the animal in a practical, scientific way—it satisfies our cataloging, labelling instinct—but also in a whispered, more mystical way.

Credit: Christopher Reiger

And these depictions of my new neighbors aren’t meant to be ciphers or simple symbols. The wraithlike animals look back. They stare, offering us an opportunity to accept their gaze and to wrestle with the very idea of doing so. What does it mean to look—to really look—into another creature’s eyes? Is it an empathetic exchange? Or is it hostile and defensive? And what does it tell us about ourselves? And about what we were—not long ago, evolutionarily speaking—or what we may yet become? The pieces are intended to be visually seductive, yet confrontational. I hope that viewers are drawn to the pictures and want to meet the gaze of each represented animal, but that sustained engagement isn’t entirely comfortable.

One of my favorite writers is Loren Eiseley. His thoughtful takes on geology and biology have informed my attitudes about natural history, conservation, environmentalism, and even art-making, and this series is steeped in his ideas, more than any series I’ve produced before. In a 1969 essay called “The Ghost Whisperer,” he wrote,

[The soul] craves that empathy clinging between man and beast, that nagging shadow of remembrance which, try as we may to deny it, asserts our unity with life and does more. Paradoxically, it establishes, in the end, our own humanity. One does not meet oneself until one catches the reflection from an eye other than human.

Here’s hoping you all meet the gaze of a nonhuman neighbor soon, and that we all find ways to further develop our sense of place.

Credit: Christopher Reiger

———-

ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

Powered by WPeMatico

Earth-based Serendipitous Scenography: Interview with set and costume designer Ruth Stringer (UK)

Ruth Stringer is a set and costume designer and creative facilitator, based in South Wales. Ruth is passionate about how site-specific projects can encourage engagement with the local community, and in exploring how designers can be storytellers. She believes that theatre and performance have an important role to play in the development of ecological thinking and has recently been exploring how her practice addresses climate change and sustainability.

How did your interest in Ecoscenography and sustainable theatre production begin?

I don’t think there was a defining moment for me. Whilst training as a theatre designer and working in scenery workshops, I felt very uneasy with the process of poly-carving; watching tiny piece of plastic falling everywhere like snow – more ending up in the bin than it did in the final sculpture. From there, the notion of reusing, repurposing, recycling was always integral to my process – looking at how I can be sustainable in theatre design and making, and consider where I might be able to improve.

Ever since my first role with National Theatre Wales, I have looked at what the landscape provides, allowing it to inspire and build my designs. I remember looking out of the window of our facility one morning and seeing a shopping trolley half-buried in a sand dune on the beach.  I knew it would be perfect for a large, mobile torch that I needed to make, and loved the idea of transforming this forgotten piece of rubbish into a prop! I made a light installation out of old abandoned umbrellas, which I sourced from pubs and nightclubs.  I was inundated with items that had been long-forgotten, waiting to be turned into art. Site-specific really opened up my practice in terms of responding to a site, and working with it, rather than imposing my vision upon it, which I think is fundamental in Ecoscenography.

What does Ecoscenography mean to you? How do you define it (for yourself and others)?

To me, it is thinking about the whole and taking responsibility for where our sets and costumes come from and where they will go once the production is over. It is about thinking how theatre can connect to a wider ecosystem. How can our practices be inspired by locality, and in what ways can it benefit a local community? How can we work in a way that allows people to take notice and celebrate what is around them? How can we make sure that we can give a voice to those who would otherwise go unheard? This bigger picture involves considering the final product as more than a piece of live art. It includes the wellbeing of the people involved in making the work and the sustainable practices being adhered to in order to achieve it, as well as the legacy of the project itself (beyond the production).

Ecoscenography is about acknowledging that theatre and performance design have a role to play in mitigating climate change – in both the stories it tells and the way it tells them. It’s not about leaving it to someone else to sort it out. And it is about acknowledging our own place in nature; learning from it, being inspired from it and giving back to it.

Egin Residency, National Theatre of Wales, 2019. Photo: Ruth Stringer

Can you tell me about one of your most interesting Ecoscenography projects? What was it about and how did you bring an ecological ethic to the work? (i.e. strategies, materials, approaches and aesthetics considered?)

In 2019 I took part in a climate change residency called Egin, organised by National Theatre Wales and Natural Resources Wales.  We spent two weeks in Snowdonia National Park, visiting local areas to learn more about their ecosystems, engaging with local connectors and bringing conversations about climate change to the table. We also had time to research and begin to experiment with our own ideas.  I worked with dancer and choreographer Vikram Iyengar on a series of interventions on the landscape. This included choreographed walks in various places, with Vikram wearing garments made of materials that contrasted with the local surrounding area. I made him a garment made of wood and bark which he walked into the lake with.  Myself and fellow artist Emily Laurens constructed attire made out of locally growing fern, which was worn to the nearby disused slate quarry.  Lisa Hudson, a local artist and connector, loaned one of her pieces, a dress made out of slate for Vikram to wear in the forest.  And on the side of a mountain, he performed in a dress I had made from all the single-use plastic we had collected over a day and a half of the residency.

These experiments encouraged the viewer to slow down, to walk in and notice the gentle rhythm of the natural landscape, to consider the materials that are of the area, as well as those that were brought into the area. I allowed the quality of the materials themselves to inspire the shape and style of the garments I was making.  The garment made of wood was held together by tough elm bark, which acted as a type of string, and took on the appearance of armour.

The bright green and varying sizes of the fern leaves leant themselves to a carnival-style dress.  The least enjoyable one to make was the plastic dress.  I washed all the plastic pieces by hand and put them on a rock to dry before fusing them together with an iron – they smelled horrible and handling them all continually put me a bad mood. They contrasted sharply with the rocky mountainside that Vikram performed in, and this was the garment that was least sturdy, and began to fall apart as Vikram danced. But this fragility also became woven in to the content and meaning of the piece – a parallel to the short-term durability of high street fashion items. Ultimately, this performance also made me think about human activity, and fashion – with the exception of Lisa’s slate dress, each piece was made specifically for the choregraphed walks – celebrated, and then discarded. The fern and bark dresses were returned to their landscape and allowed to biodegrade as they would have done before. The plastic dress ended up in the bin, but as a part of our process it had enjoyed one more use, one more purpose before it’s inevitable fate. But it made me consider: what are most of our own garments made from? How long do we love and celebrate them, and where do they end up?

Egin Residency, National Theatre of Wales, 2019. Photo: Ruth Stringer

What have been some of the biggest hurdles that you have encountered in implementing Ecoscenography? What are you most proud of?

Time and budget are major influencing factors of any theatre project. Both are often in short supply.  I find that it takes extra time to implement my Ecoscenographic practices: to research and speak to local suppliers about a specific material and experiment with it; to trawl charity shops and second-hand websites (to avoid buying new costumes from fast fashion chains); or to strip down old theatre sets so I can reuse them in a new form. Inevitably, at some point my time runs out and I have to resort to shortcuts I would rather not use. Similarly, budget constraints mean that I cannot afford to pay someone to help me with the extra labour of searching for sustainable materials, or in the process of reusing items.

Another problem I have is one of communication. As a freelance designer, I work with several different companies across the span of a year. Whilst I have noticed an increase in concerns about working ecologically with some companies, the change is slow. Coming on board as a designer partway through a production process means it is often too late to begin implementing ecological practice. It is far easier if the entire company is committed to sustainability, rather than one person attempting to do it on their own.

I think I can say that I most proud of being open about my own journey towards implementing Ecoscenography: from starting out with small steps of exploring how to incorporate second hand or recycled items into a design, to producing work outdoors and integrating myself with the local environment as part of the creative process, to seeing sustainability as the focal point of new works that I can inspire and drive forwards.

What tips would you give to a scenographer who is exploring sustainable practice for the first time?

It’s easy to feel alone in what you’re trying to do, but you’re not! Talk to your peers, begin conversations, get involved with sustainability initiatives. You don’t have to tackle this alone, and it is so much easier to share ideas and practices with others. Start small – look at realistic, achievable goals that you can achieve and make a positive contribution with.  And don’t feel disheartened by failure – we’re all learning, and sometimes that involves using the wrong thing or forgetting to consider a certain factor. Know that you can move forward from your inevitable mistakes.

Fabulous Animals Den. Idea conceived by: Zosia Jo. Sound: Christopher Michael Young. Photo:Ruth Stringer.

What do you think the future of theatre will look like for a climate-resilient world?

My hope is that theatre will slow down, celebrate what is around it, and put value into new aesthetics and practice: aesthetics that show a consideration of the natural world in the form and materials used, and practice that allows the designer-maker to work with their hands, understand the properties of a material and adopt techniques we might have forgotten. I am excited by the opportunity of allowing artists to visit and inhabit a place and be inspired by its local stories and idiosyncrasies, to work with the community to bring their stories, experiences and expertise to the forefront.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just completed the first stage of a research and development project, funded by the Arts Council of Wales, with writer Sara Lewis and Vikram which explores rivers. We are looking at connecting community stories of the Rhondda Cynon Taf rivers in South Wales with those across the world, such as the Ganges in India.  We are exploring similarities and differences in local relationships to rivers, including how climate change is beginning to manifest itself in natural disasters such as flooding. It’s the first time that I’ve led a performance project, and I’m excited about how we can implement local experiences and bring awareness to and celebrate the unique beauty of the areas we work in.

I am also working with a group of peers to update Ecostage – a website which includes ecological guidelines for anyone working in the performing arts to apply and communicate their practice, as well as inspiring case studies and a library of sustainability resources.  We’re hoping to launch the website early in 2021.

(Top photo: Egin Residency, National Theatre of Wales, 2019. Photo: Steve Peake.)

The post, Earth-based Serendipitous Scenography: Interview with set and costume designer Ruth Stringer (UK), appeared first on Ecoscenography.
———-

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

Powered by WPeMatico

Performing Sustainability: Interview with designer Silje Sandodden Kise (Norway)

Silje Sandodden Kise is a freelance scenographer and costume designer based in Norway. She graduated with a BA in Scenography from Oslo Academy of the Arts in 2008. She also studied 2 years at the Bergen School of Architecture, and has a BA in Theatre Studies from University of Bergen. Her work covers a broad range of productions: from text based theatre productions in large theatre venues to smaller, more experimental independent projects. Slije often works on cross disiplinary projects, and has been focusing on merging scenography and music/sound to tell stories through visual and auditive means as much as text and movement.

How did your interest in Ecoscenography and sustainable theatre production begin?

Over the last few years I have been increasingly aware of the climate crisis but wasn’t sure how to respond to this urgency as an artist, despite taking small steps towards sustainability in my personal life. I actually started to feel a bit guilty about spending all my time making theatre and art, instead of working on the ‘really important issues’ of the world. Then in 2014/2015, I was asked by a colleague, singer Bodil Rørtveit, to join in developing a theatre/music project about sustainability. This performance work (entitled, Sustain) became a big part of my life for many years and sparked my interest in sustainable theatre production. The project has influenced my work ever since.

Sustain (by Bodil Rørtveit, Jørn Lavoll, Vibeke Havre, Silje Kise.) Scenography/costume design: Silje S. Kise. Costume maker: Ceri A. Rimmer. Light design: Silje Grimstad. In picture: Bodil Rørtveit. Photo: Thor Brødreskift.

What does Ecoscenography mean to you? How do you define it (for yourself and others)?

Ecoscenography and sustainable performance art is gradually becoming a more important aspect of my work – it informs all the decisions I make on my projects. I am still in the process of defining Ecoscenography for myself, and to explore what it means for my artistic practice. For me, it is about creating an awareness of all the choices that are behind the making of a performance, especially in creating the design of the scenography and costumes, and the choice of materials. But I also find it relevant to many other aspects of production. For example, the choice of the performance theme, the location and its relationship to the audience, as well as all the practical aspects of making or touring the production, including what happens with all the material objects afterwards.

While I find working with an ecoscenograhic approach very demanding, I do think that it gives something extra to my creative processes. Nevertheless, there are certainly a lot of challenges that can make it hard to make sustainable choices. Sometimes it has to do with low budgets and/or too little time, especially in smaller independent projects. In the bigger institutions, I often find it difficult to get the rest of the theatre team on board to prioritize sustainability – theatres can be such big ‘machines’ with huge time pressures, with a ‘this is how we have always done things’ mentality. It is especially hard to come from the outside (as a freelancer) and try to tell the institutions to change and make other choices.

Fortunately, I have been noticing a big change in the Norwegian performing arts sector over the last couple of years. Almost every organisation now has a focus on sustainability, with a commitment to implement this into practice. Some theatres have actually put these demands into contracts for freelance artists (i.e. that they should choose sustainable ways of working and travelling to the theatre). This is very inspiring and makes it easier to demand that theatres make sustainable choices.

Sustain in symphony (by Bodil Rørtveit, Jørn Lavoll, Vibeke Havre, Silje Kise, with Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, 2020.) Scenography: Silje S. Kise. In picture: Magnus Brandseth. Photo: Magnus Skrede.

Can you tell me about Sustain? What was it about and how did you bring an ecological ethic to the work?

The aim of Sustain was to make a show about sustainability, overconsumption, and the way us humans have distanced ourselves from nature. I worked with two composers/musicians: Bodil Rørtveit and Jørn Lavoll, director Vibeke Flesland Havre and producer Hjørdis Steinsvik. Together, we wanted to make a performance for musicians to take centre stage (without actors). The images, music and actions of the musicians and the scenography would tell the story we wanted to convey. We wanted to make a strong political performance about sustainability, but at the same time, give the audience a powerful artistic experience, that they could interpret using their own associations and imagination. The process was very crossdisiplinary. We were able to develop the various components of the work (i.e. music, dramaturgy and design) at the same time: the director and me collaborating very closely on the visual concept, the plastic design inspiring the composers and the music etc.

Drum kit made of plastic garbage, from Sustain (by Bodil Rørtveit, Jørn Lavoll, Vibeke Havre, Silje Kise.) Instrument design: Hans C. Senneseth and Silje S. Kise. Photo: Thor Brødreskift.

The scenography consisted of self-designed instruments, made out from plastic garbage or reclaimed plastic. We chose plastic for several reasons. Mainly because plastic is not biodegradable and therefore causes big problems when it ends up out in the wild. We were inspired by Chris Jordan photography work (The Gyre) which depicted birds from the pacific ocean that have died because of eating plastic. Jordan’s images show the heartbreaking reality of decomposed carcasses of birds; bones and feather, together with lots of small plastic items, things such as toothbrushes that you use every day. We also chose plastic as a challenge to ourselves, because it is very hard to play music on plastic! Luckily, we worked with a very skilled sound designer, Thorolf Thuestad, and our brilliant musicians (Terje Isungset, Annlaug Børsheim, Magnus Brandseth) learnt how to play the unusual hand-made instruments, searching for ways to produce a lot of different soundscapes with these strange objects.

For the scenography, we made a big tree out of plastic bottles, and filled meters and meters of fishing nets with plastic garbage hung from the ceiling, conveying the image of big branches and leaves of the tree. I spent half a year searching for plastic garbage – finding pieces by the seashore and along beaches, by the road, or in my kitchen – and knocking and banging on things to find the right sounds! What shocked me was how easy it was to find used plastic bags and packaging for the set design. We asked a couple of big stores for their plastic trash, and in just a couple of days they had collected more than we would ever need! We had a big car full of plastic.

Percussion set made of plastic garbage, from Sustain (by Bodil Rørtveit, Jørn Lavoll, Vibeke Havre, Silje Kise.) Instrument design: Hans C. Senneseth and Silje S. Kise. Photo: Thor Brødreskift.

What were some of the biggest hurdles that you have had to tackle in designing Sustain? What are you most proud of?

The hardest part was to design and build instruments that actually worked. Plastic is a very hard material to work with. I tried to find environmentally friendly solutions and avoided using as much chemicals as possible. However, that meant that we had to put things together in a very labour-intensive way or use things like epoxy glue because we found no other solution. I was lucky to work with some very skilled people, and we found much joy experimenting and looking for solutions.

I think the biggest hurdle was talking to people about the work. Many people thought that it was kind of embarrassing to make a theatre production for adults that fore-fronted environmental issues. They assumed that sustainability would not make for good art. However, a few months before the premiere at Bergen International Festival in 2017, a large dead whale washed up outside our city with plastic in its stomach. This caused a big stir in the national media, and suddenly everyone was focusing on plastic and marine pollution! We had been exploring plastic waste for 3 years through our work on Sustain, and the show provided a timely platform for audiences to relate to the issue.

Another thing that I am proud of is that we have been able to perform this production in a diversity of arenas and formats (from 2017 to 2020).  Our last performance so far, was very special. We were asked by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra to create a new version of the performance, where the composers rewrote the music to include 80 philharmonic musicians and a children’s choir. We filled the philharmonic hall with an audience of over 1000 adults and kids amongst the mountains of plastic garbag!

Sustain (by Bodil Rørtveit, Jørn Lavoll, Vibeke Havre, Silje Kise.) Scenography/costume design: Silje S. Kise. Light design: Silje Grimstad. In picture: Bodil Rørtveit. Photo: Thor Brødreskift.

What tips would you give to a scenographer who is exploring sustainable practice for the first time?

Embrace sustainable choices as opportunities, rather than limitations. The search for alternative solutions can sometimes lead your projects in ways you could never imagine. Embrace the unpredictable and let the material(s) lead the way for the development of your design. New and experimental use of materials can sometimes lead to completely different aesthetics than you might have planned, but this can be a very fruitful part of your creative process.

Sustain in symphony (by Bodil Rørtveit, Jørn Lavoll, Vibeke Havre, Silje Kise, with Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, 2020.) Scenography: Silje S. Kise. Light design: Silje Grimstad/Ivar Skjørestad. Photo: Magnus Skrede.
Sustain, frontal version (by Bodil Rørtveit, Jørn Lavoll, Vibeke Havre, Silje Kise.) Scenography/costume design: Silje S. Kise. Costume maker: Ceri A. Rimmer. Light design: Silje Grimstad. In picture: Bodil Rørtveit.

What is your next project?

I am still working (and struggling) to fully integrate ecoscenographic thinking into all my theatre productions, and I don’t succeed 100%. But my aim is to always consider every choice carefully and to look for sustainable solutions as much as possible. I have just finished making a set for Jølster Hotell by Jeff Pedersen Productions, a theatre production about refugees, where a big part of the set was made from used bedlinens (sourced from asylum seekers centres). This autumn, I used ecoscenographic thinking and the Covidsituation to make ‘hammock concerts’ in the forest, where the audience broughttheir own hammocks. This was in cooperation with singer/composer Bodil Rørtveit from Sustain and director Ingrid Askvik. We are now making a new performance, about the dilemmas you facewhen you try to live a modern life as environmentally friendly as possible (and also a little bit abouttrying to change the world through singing). This performance will hopefully tour by train (when thepandemic is over), and all the items for the show will fit in 2-4 suitcases. For the big finale I am making a gala dress out of pine- and spruce cones. It makes the most marvellous sound when thesinger walks!

Cone dress from RØYST (means: VOICE/VOTE), (Bodil Rørtveit, Ingrid Askvik, Silje Kise 2021). Costume design: Silje S.Kise, costume maker: Julie S.Jensen. In picture: Bodil Rørtveit. Photo: Silje Kise

More information about Sustain can be found via: www.sustaintheconcert.com

(Top photo: Sustain (by Bodil Rørtveit, Jørn Lavoll, Vibeke Havre, Silje Kise.) Scenography: Silje S. Kise. Light design: Silje Grimstad. Photo: Thor Brødreskift.)

The post, Performing Sustainability: Interview with designer Silje Sandodden Kise (Norway), appeared first on Ecoscenography.
———-

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

Powered by WPeMatico

Job: Schools project manager with Eco Drama

The role is within the core staff team, delivering projects and tours across schools and communities.

We are delighted to announce a new opportunity to join Eco Drama’s small, core staff team. The Schools project manager will be integral to the delivery of our tours and projects taking place in schools and communities across Glasgow and Scotland. The varied role includes project management, tour booking, marketing and evaluation, working closely with the artistic director and producer.

Across 2021-23, supported in part by the Glasgow Communities Fund, the company will develop and deliver a diverse programme of theatre productions, creative learning projects, continued professional development and arts-based community food growing projects that engage and inspire people of all ages about the natural world and our place within it.

As well as engaging in theatre and arts activities, the work will support and encourage communities to take positive, practical action to develop and improve local green spaces, inspire positive thinking about tackling the climate crisis, and enhance everyday experiences with nature.

This position is 0.8FTE with the potential for annualised hours, and the salary is £25,000 (pro rata). The role will be offered as a one year fixed term contract, with potential for extension beyond this. The deadline for applications is Wednesday 17th February at 5pm.

For further information on the role and how to apply, please download the job description.

If you have any questions about the role, or require the application pack in an alternative format, please contact Producer Nina Doherty  or phone on 0141 552 9920.

The post Job: Schools project manager with Eco Drama appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

———-

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

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

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

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

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

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

Powered by WPeMatico

Wild Authors: Yun Ko-eun

By Mary Woodbury

This month, we virtually travel to South Korea and to a fictional island off the coast of Vietnam as we explore The Disaster Tourist (Serpent’s Tail in the UK / Counterpoint Press in the US, 2020). Thanks so much to author Yun Ko-eun and translator Lizzie Beuhler for their time in this interview, and to Counterpoint Press’s very helpful Megan Fishmann.

An endlessly surprising and totally gripping read, The Disaster Tourist is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking. It questions every aspect of life we so often take for granted, smashing apart any easy distinctions between natural and artificial, normal and abnormal, peaceful and violent, personal and political. There could not be a more prescient moment for this too-real fiction about how we create our own disasters on every scale and what resilience might mean in the face of catastrophe.

— Elvia Wilk, author of Oval

ABOUT THE BOOK

When it comes to approaching ecological devastation in the world, fiction authors employ a variety of approaches to tell their stories. Yun Ko-eun’s is unique in that it scrutinizes how the privileged have a choice when observing environmental catastrophes – and can do so, usually, at a safe, curious, and often almost pathological, happy distance, as if watching an animal in the zoo. Often, observation is not a choice, and the human experience is more harsh – such as at ground zero where it is likely not the rich getting richer but the poor getting poorer. Disaster satirizes the casual observer and makes us think about who we are and how we are affected by and react to ecological crises happening in the world today. It also looks at the dark underbelly surrounding the capitalization of such events.

Welcome to the desert island of Mui, where a paid vacation to paradise is nothing short of a disaster in this “mordantly witty novel [that] reads like a highly literary, ultra-incisive thriller (Refinery29).

Jungle is a cutting-edge travel agency specializing in tourism to destinations devastated by disaster and climate change. Until she found herself at the mercy of a predatory colleague, Yona was one of their top representatives. Now on the verge of losing her job, she’s given a proposition: take a paid “vacation” to the desert island of Mui and pose as a tourist to assess the company’s least profitable holiday.

When she uncovers a plan to fabricate an extravagant catastrophe, she must choose: prioritize the callous company to whom she’s dedicated her life, or embrace a fresh start in a powerful new position? An eco-thriller with a fierce feminist sensibility, The Disaster Tourist introduces a fresh new voice to the United States that engages with the global dialogue around climate activism, dark tourism, and the #MeToo movement.

CHAT WITH THE AUTHOR

Before you wrote a novel, you wrote a blog that included your travel experiences. Can you tell us about that as well as how those experiences inspired The Disaster Tourist?

I used to write short travel essays for my blog, and now I post photos from my travels on Instagram. They’re just photos and brief musings, but all posted for one reason: I want to capture these memories while they’re still fresh, still alive. When we can’t capture a living moment forever, we make a record of it.

My trips and personal experiences tend to find their way into each of my novels, with modifications of time and place. The trip that influenced The Disaster Tourist was one I took to Vietnam several years before writing the book, but if you look for moments from my travels reflected in the novel, there are a lot of elements beyond Vietnam as well. Thailand, France, Italy, Japan, England, Spain…memories of all those places have been reorganized, and made stateless, throughout the plot.

I do like to start new projects when I come back from a trip, but it’s not my ultimate goal as a writer. To be more specific, all types of “movement” give me inspiration: whether it’s crossing the street to go to the park or walking to the supermarket. What’s different about travel, though, is the psychological preparation for change. Travel makes you feel like you’re going far away to meet something, or someone. You’re ready to react to the unfamiliar – you wait to come across it – and then afterwards, you worry about the return to daily life. This is the mixture of feelings present in my blog and Instagram posts. It’s like putting air in a Ziploc bag: at first the memories seem well contained, and then after you return home, when you finally let them free, they forget about the bag and get all mixed up with the air outside – real life.

The Disaster Tourist is described as an eco-thriller, and it’s a uniquely woven story that engages with various kinds of disasters, including climate change, sexual abuse, and dark tourism. How did these themes come to you when deciding to write your novel?

A little while ago, I wrote a blog post for the Waterstones website, titled “What Makes a Great Eco-thriller.” Writing the post was a really new experience for me, because I’d never thought much about the eco-thriller genre before. In fact, I only came across the word after publishing The Disaster Tourist, so I worried the post might be difficult to write. I realized, however, as I wrote, that I may not have placed the label “eco-thriller” on my novel, but the ideas present in the genre were very familiar to me.

I’m very interested in plastic, and sometimes I begin and end the day with images of the world’s plastic waste flashing across my mind. One of my other novels discusses the horrors of animal experimentation and illegal waste dumping, and my newest project deals with climate change and the planet’s capacity for life. I feel much closer to the “eco-thriller” genre now than when I wrote The Disaster Tourist. Maybe The Disaster Tourist was the seed of this sort of discomfort.

The main character, Yona, is sexually assaulted at work and then sent to Mui, a fictional Vietnamese island. The company that Yona works for, Jungle, specializes in holiday packages that give tourists ring-side seats to ecological disasters – only Mui’s sinkhole is now turning into a lake and is not quite the disaster that visitors want to see. This is a very unique approach to exploring climate/ecological disasters in fiction. But it works – and reminds me of something that author Ilija Trojanow told me once: “We have had an enormous amount of dystopian narratives in recent years, not only in literature but also in the movies, on the TV screen. We lean back, munch popcorn and delight in the apocalypse. That’s pathological.” It seems that your novel exposes, satirically, this weird tendency of ours. What are your thoughts on this, and in your own experience, have you seen disaster packages like the ones offered in Jungle?

When I was young, I didn’t realize that even in dystopias, the rich manage to grow richer, and the poor stay poor. Some people have the option of taking in only the amount of dystopia that they want. But others don’t get that choice. This is true in real life as well, not just fiction – just look at how coronavirus has affected people of different social statuses. In The Disaster Tourist, too, some people can choose, and others can’t. The vacationers in the book think that they can witness disaster from a safe distance, and then they wander between sympathy and voyeurism. They mistakenly believe that they have their seatbelts on, but I wanted to change that. I wanted a story where, instead of the travelers looking down at apocalypse, we’re looking down at the travelers. I wanted to talk about disaster in a superimposed manner.

I’ve never seen disaster tourism packages like Jungle’s in real life, but I’ve thought about the opposite situation a lot: a crisis at a comfortable resort, in a safe place where natural disasters are rare. The safety that everyone trusts crumbling before them. When I consider travel destinations, I look up each location’s potential dangers, even though I know that very few places are truly free from disaster. I don’t only visit places without fires or floods or war or terrorism, but I do try to keep my own travels and disaster as far away from one another as possible. So it’s a bit ironic that I’ve written a novel with both these themes in its title.

At Bookanista, you described your creation of Paul and how it was similar to Big Brother in 1984. Can you explain more to our readers about this Orwellian power figure and Paul, the faceless corporation, and how, perhaps, this is not really science fiction anymore but reality?

One way to look at the world is to divide it into big cities, and everything else. Before The Disaster Tourist, my novels had always been set in dense urban areas. But by my criteria, The Disaster Tourist’s rural island setting of Mui is, in fact, like a city. It moves along the financial orbit of a city. Mui’s residents can’t survive without having a product to sell, which is why they end up packing disaster to survive in the world of capitalism. It’s terrible enough to imagine disaster as a consumable commodity, but Mui’s situation is even more serious – its people create a disaster to package and sell. Paul functions as the centripetal point in this process. Other than the ethereal Paul, almost no one knows about the plan to orchestrate a man-made disaster on Mui and then market it to tourists as an attraction. Even the screenwriter who helps plan the disaster only knows part of what is about to happen. Everyone on Mui says that they are simply following Paul’s orders, but no one knows who Paul is. Paul is like Big Brother, but he (it?) is also an excuse for indifference.

Just like on Mui, people in big cities don’t know the origins of the products they consume. But the further they are from factories and fisheries, the more they need to know about the processes that bring their purchases to them. What at first may be a simple lack of information can become the deliberate exclusion of information, and even though the consumer isn’t aware, he or she can become an unwitting accomplice to grievous crimes and abuses of power.

I think we can all relate to this nowadays. Once Yona is on Mui, she continues to run into a cult-like culture – like she experienced when working in Jungle’s office – and corruption that plagues capitalistic tourism. She must make some choices and face her own paradoxes and ethics. Her journey reflects a lot of people’s experiences, yet most of us feel ordinary, like Yona. How do you feel readers can get inspired by such characters?

Starting when Yona suffers sexual harassment at work – and really, even before that – she stands at a crossroads. Readers can count the number of times in the novel where she’s forced to make a choice; each reader will end up with a different number. One might say that Yona is forced to take certain action; another might see this action as an active choice. What, to some, doesn’t seem like a door at all could be a perfect escape hatch for others. It’s not that we choose different paths at each crossroads, it’s that the points where we make choices differ. We’re all different people. Yona’s life contains many moments of choice even before she leaves for Mui: her attitude towards a Jungle customer asking for a refund, or her response to calls for solidarity from other victims of sexual assault at work. To some people, Yona’s actions are typical, but to others she’s fearful or selfish, or naïve or spontaneous. There are as many iterations of Yona as there are readers.

How do you feel that climate change in fiction can impact readers?

Recently I’ve read a lot of books and watched a lot of documentaries that deal with this issue, and I’ve been learning more about the topic. My next novel partially deals with climate change. I’m much more aware than I was when I wrote The Disaster Tourist seven or eight years ago, and because the environmental situation has only gotten worse since then, I feel like I can’t avoid writing about climate change. The coronavirus makes an appearance in my next book, too. There’s no way to avoid these topics in my writing.

Are you working on any other novels or projects right now?

Like I mentioned above, my next novel. I talked about how it deals with climate change, but another theme in the novel is the concept of marriage insurance – policies that you can take out when you get married to protect against damages incurred during the relationship. So, climate change and marriage insurance – it’s the overlap of these two worlds, one real and one made-up.

Thanks so much for this insightful chat, and I’ll be watching for your next novel!

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

______________________________

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.

———-

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

Powered by WPeMatico

[re]Shaping Exhibition Practices

[re]Shaping Exhibition Practices — A Virtual Conference by Art / Switch

This conference is part of our virtual trilogy [re]Framing the Arts: A Sustainable Shift, organized in collaboration with the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture (AHM) at the University of Amsterdam and Nyenrode Business University.

In this second edition [re]Shaping Exhibition Practices, we will focus on environmentally sustainable exhibitions. Our speakers will discuss sustainability in curatorial practice, discuss the structure and process of loans, explore what the art market can do to create environmentally conscious exhibitions, and question how we can shift our thinking around blockbuster and travelling exhibitions, taking into account the effect of Covid-19 on the arts sector. We will emphasize how sustainability can be systematically integrated in the planning and decision-making processes of exhibitions in a post-pandemic world.

Program

16:00 – 16:10 Welcome by Art / Switch

16:10 – 16:40 Alice Bonnot — How Can Art Curators Lower the Environmental Impact of Contemporary Art Exhibitions: Choosing Environmentally Responsible Artists
(with 10min Q&A)

16:40 – 17:10 John Thomas Robinette III — Don’t Look Back: Cognitive Dissonance and Traveling Collections (with 10min Q&A)

17:10 – 17:25 Virtual booths with all Speakers or Break (choose booth prior to conference)

– – choose breakout room prior to conference – –

17:25 – 18:10 24 ORE Cultura —
Case Study: Rethinking Frida Kahlo (with 10min Q&A)

17:25 – 18:10 Galleries Commit & Gallery Climate Coalition: Heath Lowndes, Laura Lupton & Orlando Estrada —Environmentally- Conscious Exhibition Planning in the Art Market (with 10min Q&A)

18:20 – 18:50 Joel Taylor & Caitlin Spangler-Bickell — Factors that Influence the Changing of Climate Specifications for Museum Loans in Practice (with 10min Q&A)

18:50 – 19:00 Take Aways with Sara Kassam

Discussions lead and moderated by Art / Switch in collaboration with:

Sara Kassam — Sustainability Lead at Victoria & Albert Museum

Louisa Buck — Contemporary Art Correspondent for The Art Newspaper

GET TICKETS HERE

Open Call: The Green Open Space at Washington & National Blvds.

The City of Culver City will implement a permanent Public Art Program for the Washington/National TOD (Transit Oriented Development) District. The Washington National TOD Gateway Public Art Program will inspire artists in the creation of world-class, aesthetically rigorous artwork(s) that respond to the natural, cultural, and infrastructural resources present at the site. Formerly the site of the Hal Roach Studios, the Washington National TOD gateway has continued to be a site of artistic and entrepreneurial activity. This Public Art Program will offer artists the opportunity to aesthetically respond to the past, present, and future of this unique cultural site.

Deadline to submit SOQuals is March 4, 2021 at 11:59PM (PST). Please visit our website to access all RFQual Documents and Resources.

Questions concerning this RFQual should be submitted by e-mail to Dyson & Womack at info@dysonwomack.com by Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 4:00 PM (PST). All Artists or Artist Teams registered for the RFQual will receive responses to the questions and any other addenda that may be released via e-mail on Thursday, February 18, 2021.

The Black Gold Tapestry

By Joan Sullivan

In my 2019 interview with British solar artist Chloe Uden, co-founder of the Art and Energy Collective, we discussed the importance of the Bayeux Tapestry as one of the many sources of inspiration for her work.

The Bayeux Tapestry is a masterpiece of 11th century Romanesque art. Sixty-eight meters long (223 feet), it is an artistically and historically significant narrative embroidery that tells the story, in humble woolen thread on linen cloth, of the 1066 conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy. It has miraculously survived the ages and is currently preserved and displayed under dim lights in its own museum, the Bayeux Tapestry Museum in Bayeux, France.

Nearly one thousand years later, the Bayeux Tapestry has inspired a Canadian artist to create an epic narrative embroidery about a completely different kind of conquest. Nine years in the making, the Black Gold Tapestry is a 67-meters long (220-foot) work of art that chronicles how the discovery, exploration, use, and abuse of fossil fuels has profoundly impacted human civilizations throughout history – both positively and negatively. It begins with shifting tectonic plates of the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, and ends with a subject close to my heart: the current transition to renewable sources of energy. 

Sandra Sawatzky, a multidisciplinary artist based in Canada’s energy rich province of Alberta, describes herself as a writer, filmmaker, artist/designer, embroiderer, and dance fan. To this list, one must add “storyteller:” each of the eight panels in her hand-embroidered opus tells a part of the complex story about our complicated relationship to oil, gas, and coal. The stories she selected to include in her tapestry, based upon more than a year of meticulous research, carry us on a magic carpet ride across time and space. 

Many of these stories are well known, such as the sudden disappearance of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, or the more recent catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. But Sawatzky purposely included several stories that are decidedly unfamiliar, like the mysterious death of Rudolph Diesel, and the bamboo pipelines built in the second century by Chinese salt merchants to transport gas to cooking stoves for evaporating brine. It’s these unexpected colorful anecdotes that are so captivating. They broaden our understanding of humanity’s 5,000-year relationship with fossil fuels, shifting the focal point away from the politicized polarizing debates so common (and unproductive) today.

Sandra, Sawatzky, embroidery, tapestry, Bayeux, Black Gold, history, oil, Alberta, Canada, textile, art
Sandra, Sawatzky, embroidery, tapestry, Bayeux, Black Gold, oil, history, Canada, Alberta, textile

Sawatzky credits her varied background as a writer, producer, and director in film and television – e.g., writing scripts, designing costumes, choreographing movement, incorporating music and humor – for her seamless transition to imagining, designing, and creating a “film on cloth.” For example, the tapestry’s original pen-and-ink drawings – traced onto eight 30-foot rolls of cartridge paper – resemble storyboards from her filmmaking days. And, in true filmmaker mode, Sawatzky stitched out of sequence, beginning with the third panel instead of the first. 

While Sawatzky has been sewing and designing clothes since childhood, she did not seriously start embroidering until 2008, after seeing an exhibition of pioneer women’s stitchery at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta. She quickly mastered the basic techniques and began wondering what kind of illustrative projects would lend themselves well to embroidery. It was only after she remembered reading about The Bayeux Tapestry in an art history class that the spark was lit: Sawatzky sensed that something big was on the horizon, but she hadn’t yet found the right subject. Trusting her instincts, she knew that soon she would be “adding another arrow to the quiver” by embarking upon an epic solo embroidery project as the next step in her artistic journey. 

And what a journey it has been! Nine years later, the result was truly groundbreaking. Sawatzky’s Black Gold Tapestry is as magnificent, ambitious and visually seductive as its 11th century predecessor. Completed in 2017 for the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation, the Black Gold Tapestry was honoured with a prestigious seven-month inaugural exhibition at Calgary’s Glenbow Museum. In October 2018, one of the tapestry’s eight panels traveled to Europe for a reception at the Canadian High Commission in London.

The tapestry’s second major exhibit is scheduled to open in March 2021 (COVID-19 permitting) at the Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Future exhibitions are currently being negotiated, including Saudi Arabia (in 2022), Sawatsky’s home province of Saskatchewan (in 2023), and beyond.

Speaking by phone from Calgary and via a series of follow-up email conversations, Sawatzky described the joys and challenges of committing one-sixth of her life (17,000 hours!) to the herculean task of hand-embroidering the social history of oil, using the same stitches as the Bayeux Tapestry. But perhaps her greatest accomplishment is that she has succeeded – beyond her wildest dreams – in elevating embroidery to a serious art medium. The following quote is posted on Sawatzky’s blog:

“Through its scale and the global significance of its subject, The Black Gold Tapestry dramatically shifts the popular perception of embroidery from the quietly domestic to the assertively public.”

Robin Laurence, Preview Guide to Galleries + Museums, Sep/Oct 2017

Over the nine-year project, Sawatzky estimates that she spent approximately four years on the research and drawings, and approximately five years on the embroidery. But once the project progressed to the embroidery stage in 2012, she often had to revisit her research in order to either confirm or modify some of her original drawings before continuing with the embroidery. The last three years of stitching were the most challenging, requiring a grueling schedule of 80-95 hours per week to complete all eight panels in time for Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017. To get there, she allowed herself only one “off” evening per week: Friday evenings.

For a better understanding of how Sawatzky managed her time during the final push to finish the Black Gold Tapestry, see her blog post here. She adopted a similar routine for her current embroidery project, The Age of Uncertainty, which takes up where the Black Gold Tapestry left off. I will write about The Age of Uncertainty in a future post.

But I would be remiss by giving readers the impression that creating the Black Gold Tapestry was all work and no play. In a 2017 article in the Calgary Herald, Sawatzky explained, 

I wanted to tell a story that was multicultural and spanned the eons. I just moved through how people have used [oil], from Neanderthal man to present day; all the invention and all of the results of that invention, for good and bad. I just thought it was the most fascinating story. I got to be a kid again: dinosaurs, Egyptians, the Renaissance, the Victorian era with all its steampunk elements that people are digging these days. So it really was a lot of fun.

One final anecdote about the Black Gold Tapestry: the four wind turbines in the last panel were added in the last year of the project, 2017. Seven years earlier, Sawatzky had completed the original drawings for all eight panels in 2010, the same year as the environmentally disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It goes without saying that the story of the largest oil spill in history – which killed 11 oil workers and countless millions of birds, fish, sea turtles, cetaceans, crustaceans and invertebrates – would find its way into Sawatzky’s 2010 drawings for the final panel of the Black Gold Tapestry. But seven years later, in the afterglow of the recently signed Paris Climate Agreement, which called for increasing global commitment to the renewable energy transition, Sawatzky revisted her original drawings and found enough space to squeeze in four turbines. She also made room for a cameo appearance by Janus, the two-headed Roman god of transitions. 

With these final, last-minute modifications to the eighth panel, the Black Gold Tapestry ends on a cautiously hopeful note. But the big question still remains: what lies ahead in the next chapter of this epic story about humanity’s long and ambivalent relationship to oil? 

POSTSCRIPT 

Sawatzky pays homage to the 11 oil workers who lost their lives during the Deepwater Horizon explosion. In the three images below, you can see the outlines of their bodies (along with several marine animals) in the lower margin of the final panel of the Black Gold Tapestry. These stacked images below should be read from top to bottom, left to right. It is worth noting that the Bayeux Tapestry’s final panel also included outlines of dead and dying soldiers (divested of their armor) as the wages of war during the bloody Battle of Hastings.

ADDENDUM

The Bayeux Tapestry has been listed as a UNESCO “Memory of the World”, a relatively new program that protects documents of great historical significance. In addition to scientific and historical documents, this collection includes several influential works of art such as Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony no 9, d minor, op. 125. It is clearly too early to begin speculating, but I’m willing to go out on a limb here and suggest that decades from now, perhaps generations, the Black Gold Tapestry will join such good company.

(All images reprinted with permission from the Black Gold Tapestry project.)

This article is part of the Renewable Energy series.

______________________________

Joan Sullivan is a Canadian photographer focused on the energy transition. In her monthly column for Artists and Climate Change, Joan explores the intersection of art and the energy transition. She is currently experimenting with abstract photography as a new language to express her grief about climate breakdown. You can find Joan on Twitter and Visura.

———-

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

Powered by WPeMatico