Monthly Archives: February 2021

Wild Authors: Amy Barker

By Mary Woodbury

Thanks so much to Stormbird Press‘s Donna Mulvenna for allowing the reprinting of this interview. She talked with Amy Barker about her new novel, Paradise Earth, published by Stormbird Press in early 2020. Amy was the winner of Australia’s 2008 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Best Emerging Author. Her stunning debut novel Omega Park won the 2012 IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Ena Noël Award, and was shortlisted for the 2009 FAW Christina Stead Award.

The aftershocks from 1996 continued, year after year, often in the life of the individual more devastating than the Port Arthur massacre itself. Yet always the subsequent tragedies could be traced back to that unspeakable Sunday.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Coming home to Tasman Peninsula with her Northern Irish partner, Ruth journeys into her own psychic trauma as well as that projected onto the raw, monumental coast. When Ruth’s brother, John, helps his fourteen-year-old son apply for a firearm permit – almost two-and-a-half decades after Port Arthur – they risk condemning those who do not remember the past to repeat it.

A Port Arthur survivor, Marina has returned to the Peninsula with her brother Moon to pack up Doo-No-Harm, the family holiday home, after their mother’s death. Marina’s personhood was so violated by her early life experience that she has been left an angry she-wolf about to set out on the hunt. In a convoy of duck rescuers, the siblings head for a confrontation with shooters on the wetland.

In these lives choreographed by trauma, damage, and the ramifications of willful forgetfulness, transformation can only occur after an extremely painful lesson.

CHAT WITH AUTHOR

Donna: Hi Amy. Paradise Earth. It’s just fantastic. I pushed many aspects of my life aside so that I could keep reading. One of the things I loved most was the powerful way in which you introduced readers to issues that divide communities throughout the world today. Can you tell us what motivated you to write about the events surrounding the Port Arthur massacre and how you are able to write with such profound empathy for each character?

As a writer, there is really no higher compliment you can receive than a reader telling you they felt compelled to continue reading your book so I appreciate that. I certainly felt compelled to write Paradise Earth. I found myself uniquely poised to write about the events in a work of fiction. While not at Port Arthur on the day of the massacre, I spent my formative years on Tasman Peninsula, with both victims and members of the gunman’s family. If I had been more directly affected, I imagine I would not have been willing, nor able, to explore the events in a novel. At the same time, without the personal connection to the subject matter I would not have found the courage to approach it. One of my main motivations to write Paradise Earth was to explore the unanswered questions – those of the community, survivors, and all those affected – that still surround the massacre.

Regarding issues that divide communities, as one of my characters says in the book, there are a lot of good people who own guns. In Australia, we’ve determined that there’s no place for guns that are nothing but human-killing devices and after Port Arthur these were banned. The novel examines the genuine reasons for private firearm ownership (including self-loading and pump action rifles and shotguns) that remain, i.e., recreational hunting and primary production.

As a work in progress, Paradise Earth won the 2013 DJ ‘Dinny’ O’Hearn Memorial Fellowship, the judges commenting that the narrative “is deeply inward and managed with a keen eye”. It is due to be released in April 2020. How long has it taken to write the book and why?

I began writing Paradise Earth in July 2009, during the week leading up to the release of my debut novel, Omega Park. In all the excitement, I sought sanctuary at Varuna, The National Writers House in the Blue Mountains, where I found time and space to write the opening 15,000 words of a first draft. So it has taken me essentially ten years to write the book. The best way I can think to explain the process is that during that time I didn’t only write one book but a series of books. With each new book, while things like the main setting and core characters remained, there was always a completely new plot, certain characters were killed off and others introduced. Even the core characters grew and changed from one book to the next, for example, entering different professions or becoming parents.

The reason for a constantly evolving novel is so that it remains connected with the outside world. That means while you are writing you are monitoring important events or news relevant to your subject matter, collecting this information and then reflecting it back within the world of your novel. With a major project like this, you have to be able to adapt.

You hold degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing. I have to ask… can anyone learn to write like this or do you possess an innate gift?

I was writing from a very early age. I have “work” from when I was about five years old. I remember in my final year of primary school winning a competition amongst all of the students in my grade to create the dust jacket of a novel. It was the cover art and a blurb for the back cover. Then in high school, my English teachers would tell me they would “be first in line to buy the bestseller.” Personally, I consider it a gift but such a gift is not much use without discipline, commitment, and sacrifice. Anyone will learn valuable things by doing a creative writing or related degree but knowing what I do about the life of a writer, I wouldn’t advise anyone to pursue it as a career unless they felt they had no other options, that it was their calling. If you love something as much as you love writing, and you’re as good at it, then don’t write. Choose the other thing. As the author Hubert Selby Jr. put it, “Being an artist doesn’t take much. Just everything you got.”

I believe you were well on your way to becoming a lawyer, when you had a drastic change of direction and pursued writing instead. What initial steps did you take to become a writer?

I did in fact re-enroll in law, right before my credits were due to expire for prior studies, my last chance to get my degree, with the sole aim of practicing animal law. A few weeks into the semester, I was offered an internship with a film producer (the first money I ever earned from writing was having a feature film screenplay commissioned and optioned), so I quit again!

The initial serious step I took to becoming an author was to apply for an elite course, a Fine Arts degree that only accepted twelve creative writing students each year. As part of the application you had to submit a folio of your work. I used this as a test for myself, to see if someone qualified might think that I possessed potential and/or talent. As it turned out, I was ranked first amongst all the applicants that year and I graduated with distinction after three years of study. In my final year, I began work on what was to be my debut novel, Omega Park, working with a supervisor. Five years later, Omega Park was published.

Amy, you have won multiple awards and received wide critical acclaim for your first novel, Omega Park. What has that early acknowledgement meant to you? And did it change how you wrote Paradise Earth?

The kinds of acknowledgements you’ve mentioned certainly help to increase your confidence. After the publication of Omega Park, probably the most meaningful thing I read from a critic was a comment about me being a courageous author who is not afraid to tackle confronting issues of contemporary Australian life. When writing a book like Paradise Earth, you reflect on this kind of feedback time and again, particularly during trying periods. It provides ongoing encouragement.

What do you like most about Paradise Earth? Do you have a favorite moment, character, or line? And when you began writing were their moments when your inspiration surprised you?

This is a difficult question for me to answer. Honestly, what I like most about Paradise Earth is my personal connection to the subject matter. To have felt that I not only ought to write this novel but that I must write this novel, that this was my novel to write, to have completed this long and often times challenging mission (“task” just doesn’t do the journey justice), and to have found it the absolutely perfect publishing home. The existence of this novel gives extra meaning to my past and adds value to life experiences. It really is much more than just a work of fiction to me.

Stormbird Press is a relatively new press whose mission it is to defend nature and empower communities through the power of story. Why is it important to you to align yourself with an organization that is trying to make positive change in the world?

Stormbird’s mission is one very close to my own heart. I consider signing with Stormbird Press to not only be a great opportunity but an excellent investment. As an author, my success is Stormbird’s success and as a publisher whose mission I deeply care about, Stormbird’s ultimate success is my success. In my view, this is true partnership and the kind that is difficult, if not near on impossible, to find as an author in the publishing world. I can’t imagine any other existing publisher that would have been the right one for Paradise Earth so I am very blessed.

What do you hope people will learn from your portrayal of the Port Arthur massacre, its effects on individuals and community, the legacy of violence, and the suffering on the physical landscape?

I would hope that a reader might learn that the Port Arthur massacre is in many ways still an open wound – in the lives of individuals within the Tasman Peninsula community and beyond, as well as on the place Port Arthur and its surrounds. As such, the massacre remains an event deserving of our attention, understanding, and compassion. Most of all, I hope that readers might be provoked to ask questions about aspects of the current state of the world and what Port Arthur can still teach us about the reality that hurt people do hurt people and so not only our compassion but our common sense should tell us that to do no harm should be our ever present goal if we don’t want cycles of violence to continue and the past to repeat itself.

Have you found it particularly challenging having factual events and such a notorious figure as a key focus of your novel? How do you find that balance of fact and fiction, particularly with such sensitive subject matter?

Everything in the novel surrounding the gunman and the massacre is based on facts and the real historical events. My characters are the only fictional creations, as well as a couple of locations on Tasman Peninsula: a local cemetery and a fishing spot. Writing about this, or any other real world tragedy, is always going to be an ethically charged process. As an author you must listen most carefully to the voices of those affected, particularly those directly affected by the event. If you do that, it won’t be easy but you will have a constant guide throughout what might otherwise be a perilous journey.

One of the reviews of Omega Park stated: “Despite a cast of memorable characters, the real hero in this debut novel is the setting, a uniquely Queensland environment, but one sadly underexplored in fiction.” The same might be said of Paradise Earth. Why is the strong evocation of “place” such an important aspect of your work, which in some respects, could be seen as a central character?

When I think about it, I did begin Paradise Earth simply with place rather than a story. The time I spent living on Tasman Peninsula as a child affected me deeply and continues to affect me now. There is no other place quite like it. When it came time to write my second novel, I wanted to capture, or at least represent this place, in a work of fiction. What I soon found is that it is impossible to write about Tasman Peninsula without writing about Port Arthur and once you begin writing about Port Arthur, the events of 1996 in particular, this is such a vitally important subject matter that it subsumes any other potential narratives. I know that at least one of the reasons I feel such an affinity with the Peninsula is its unique geology. The coastline is stunningly beautiful and yet this unique beauty is the result of damage: millions of years of wind and wave erosion. This appeals to me as a powerful metaphor of the human psyche, that it is possible our own personal damage can result in a beauty that makes us unique, who we are, if you like. It’s a question of embracing it. I would challenge anyone to spend a significant length of time on Tasman Peninsula and not be affected by it in a profound way. As an author, I feel much obliged that I have a medium to be able to share my deep and lasting impressions with others in what I hope is a meaningful way.

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

Blog: carbon management update 2019-20

A carbon management reporting and planning update for 2019-20 and how we are mastering the data with the help of PowerBI.

Throughout 2020, I supported Creative Scotland RFOs and organisations receiving cultural funding from City of Edinburgh Council with their emissions reporting and carbon management. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions, it’s been a really challenging time for cultural organisations as everyone has had to adapt personally and professionally in a continually changing landscape. Nonetheless, to date 118 organisations have provided a carbon management plan and 111 Creative Scotland RFOs have reported their emissions. Considering the circumstances, this is very impressive and it points to ongoing engagement among the cultural sector in addressing the climate emergency.

Mastering the data

We were very lucky to host Iain Phillips, an MSc Data Analytics student at Glasgow Caledonian University for a work placement in which he introduced Power BI as a platform to work with the data we’ve gathered since organisations first reported their emissions on a voluntary basis in 2014-15. Together, we were able to bring the whole data set together to produce organisation-specific visualisations and observe wider trends.

colourful pie chart showing kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions by type. For example gas, electricity, landfill, water etc.

Thanks to this work we can share data that provides an overview of what proportion of emissions come from which sources for the whole of 2019-20:

chart showing relative difference in carbon emissions reductions since 2016

We can observe a reduction trend over the years as organisations have developed and implemented carbon management plans, although again remember that we received slightly less emissions reports for 2019-20 than the previous year:

Within the emissions reported over the past five years, those from utilities have reduced substantially as venue-based organisations have tackled lightingventilation and heating with infrastructural changes. At the same time, we’ve seen a reduction in the emissions associated with electricity consumption through more renewables feeding into the National Grid. You’ll note that waste remains a small portion of the overall cultural footprint, although it can’t be overstated in terms of its visibility to staff, artists and audiences, and environmental issues relating to waste that go beyond carbon emissions. As a portion of the cultural footprint, travel emissions remain stubborn both quantitatively and qualitatively, and travel is the central challenge for many organisations.

chart showing emissions by categories of travel, utilities and waste by organisation type

The following breakdown, which is based on the data for 2019-20, provides a snapshot of how the different emissions sources play out for each organisation type. On the whole, theatres are likely to see a large proportion of their emissions relating to their utilities consumption, whereas for tenant organisations a larger proportion is likely to relate to their travel.

The word cloud at the top shows the kinds of projects included in carbon management plans. Encouragingly, travel features large!

Carbon management planning in tricky times

As might be expected, many organisations were unable to deliver the activities they had planned in their previous carbon management plans, but the majority considered how changes to their programme would impact their emissions and a good number were able to build capacity for their future action on climate change through the following themes:

  • Using temporary closures of venues to better understand the baseline energy demand of building systems, allowing for a clearer picture of how this could be optimised when reopening
  • Engaging with strategic and policy development in environmental sustainability
  • Working with other organisations with shared concerns and plan to tackle more complex issues together; we particularly saw this in the launch of the Sculpture Placement Group’s Circular Arts Network and the coming together of the Scottish Classical Sustainability Group
  • Learning from the adaptations made in response to pandemic restrictions. In some cases an increase in digital activities and content reached wider audiences in a way that can outlast current restrictions. For others, travel restrictions triggered a sharpened focus on more local engagement and audiences in a way that similarly can outlast current restrictions and reduce the carbon intensity of some travel.

Through the carbon management plans in place since 2018, organisations estimate that they’ve saved a total of 878 tonnes CO2e in 2018 and 2019. That’s a good start. On one hand it’s larger than any individual organisation’s annual footprint but, since the savings took place over two years, it’s less than the 10% annual reduction that we collectively need to move towards Scotland’s emissions reduction target of Net Zero by 2045.

In December 2020, the UK Government published the Sixth Carbon Budget and the Energy White Paper, with the Scottish Government following up with a refreshed Climate Plan and this year, Glasgow looks forward to hosting the COP26 global climate negotiations this autumn. As we all move forward, we need to ensure our carbon reduction ambitions align with national and international targets and work together to think about how this intersects with our wider engagement and influence in artistic programming and environmental advocacy.

Continuing support and updated Tenant Energy Toolbox

2021 is a big year for many reasons, and we at Creative Carbon Scotland are on hand to support cultural organisations that are interested in learning more about their emissions and how to reduce them. In the first instance, please refer to our carbon management web pages, in particular our tools and resources page. This includes a 20-minute video tutorial providing an introduction to carbon management, our newly updated Tenant Energy Toolbox, which now includes advice on how to monitor emissions when working from home, and more.

by Caro Overy, carbon management planning officer

The post Blog: carbon management update 2019-20 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

We Become the Place: Making Climate Change Digestible

By Rose McAdoo

How does a New York City pastry chef get involved in addressing the climate changes affecting our planet’s most remote locations? Albeit necessary, the “doom and gloom” messaging of climate change can feel overwhelming, leaving us confused about how to interact with our home. I am a fierce believer in using the excitement and attention around cakes to redirect conversation and inspire connection. Through desserts, we can literally consume science and information – and redirect our fears about climate change toward joy and celebration.

After making high-end cakes for luxury events and celebrity wedding clients, I tired of the blinding diamond rings, the over-the-top first birthday parties, and the pretty white cakes with flowers. I realized that while cakes captured the grandness of celebration, unity, and creativity, I craved the telling of larger stories: the international refugee crisis, women’s rights, and the ever-reduced support for environmental protection. I made the heart-wrenching decision to leave Brooklyn and start celebrating those protecting our public lands and wild spaces.

On New Year’s Eve in 2018, our chartered military C-130 landed in Antarctica and I immediately began my work as a sous chef for McMurdo Station, the largest research base on the continent. After-hours, scientists explained their work at public science lectures where their vivacious passion for microscopic diatoms, atmospheric photon counts, the sex lives of prehistoric fish, and satellite sea ice measurements only made sense to me by reformatting their data as cake layers, tiers, and fondant decorations. I saw their science in sugar, and I was enraptured. 

After my seasonal contract ended, I flew 10,000 miles north to Alaska and set up a makeshift art studio in an Antarctic janitor’s log cabin, which I had to myself while he worked on the North Slope. There, I shipped hundreds of dollars of fondant, tools, and cake decorating materials, and spent a full week researching paleontology, microbiology, glaciology, polar operations, and aerospace engineering. After reading scientific blogs, watching educational videos, and digging into Antarctic outreach articles, I began creating the cakes I had originally sketched out on the ice. By reimagining the images and personal stories shared during science teams’ lectures, I was able to make the vast abundance of research taking place at the bottom of the world completely edible. These cakes joyfully captured the attention of a national audience with the support of NPR, Forbes, and the Mystic Seaport Museum

But cakes are frivolous. Unnecessary. Easily done without. And, of course, the same arguments have been made about our environment. As political leaders push for greater access to oil, lumber, and profit, I wanted to dig deeper – to use desserts to celebrate the need for, and abundance of, our public lands – to make environmental conservation literally digestible. My friend and fellow pastry chef Rose Lawrence flew north from Los Angeles to meet me in Alaska, and we packed our backpacks and started hiking.

Making and burying ice cream in the snow overnight while camping atop Alaska’s Harding Icefield.

It’s one thing to make desserts in a kitchen or a restaurant. While I had doubts whether it would work, I felt my edible art would have greater impact if it was crafted on the glaciers and in the forests that were being affected by climate change – using the earth as an ingredient. With a combined 100 pounds of butter, sugar, flour, heavy cream, eggs, tools, and fresh local sourdough starter strapped to our backs, we spent a week trekking into the wilds of Alaska to film the creation of our desserts in their “natural environments” – aiming to merge pastry arts and climate change, and using video to bring people around the world on this visual journey with us. We stopped to forage along the way: wild salmonberries, fireweed blossoms, watermelon berries, pineapple weed, and late autumn blueberries littered the bright red tundra.

Foraging fillings, making wild herbal pastry cream, and frying barley brioche donuts in the world’s northernmost temperate rainforests.
Biodiverse donuts in their natural habitat and making hard candy from freshwater glacier runoff in the Chugach Mountains.

Butane canister ablaze, we simmered three colorful jams and whisked together an herbal pastry cream, using everything we had foraged along the way. We infused sugar with wildflowers and fried brioche under the thick canopy of America’s northernmost temperate rainforest. Hot donuts burst open with the diversity of flora among the ferns and accumulated biomass.

Following our brilliant 23-year-old female glacier guide, Jordan Campbell, I ignited my JetBoil, cooked sugar, and made hard candy atop Matanuska Glacier to demonstrate the valley’s crevasse breaking patterns. Transparent raindrop cakes – made with nothing but freshwater glacial runoff and seaweed gel – encased the plants we collected along the way, showing the succession of regrowth after glacial recession.

Japanese raindrop cakes encase samples of plants that grow in succession as glaciers recede in Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley.

 We pitched my tent above Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, made and buried ice cream in the snow overnight, and whipped egg whites into stiff meringue as a storm rolled in overhead. Our attempt at a flaming Baked Alaska on Harding Icefield was designed to illuminate the state’s wildest forest fires and record high temperatures.

In Denali National Park, I accepted an offer to return to Antarctica. This time it would be a full year – a summer at NASA’s atmospheric research camp and then spending the long, dark winter forklifting hazardous waste shipped from the South Pole and learning rescue techniques on our Search and Rescue team. Again, I started the five-day journey south, this time filling my backpacks with cake decorating supplies and fondant to supplement my “extreme cold weather” gear.

The story we’re told about Antarctica is one of absence, of nothingness, and of harshness. But really, it’s a place full of life: human life, yes, but also bacterial life, wildlife, fungal life, deep sea life, glacial life, and volcanic life. It is a fiercely dynamic place. After nearly 500 days on ice, I felt Antarctica’s influence on my journey as a human, as a creative, as a woman, and as a friend.

I wonder what would happen if we changed Antarctica’s story? What if we ended the narrative of it being an inhospitable place incapable of supporting life? Instead, what if we become the place? We need to stop seeing ourselves as separate from our surroundings, and start considering the ways in which we become entwined with our environment – the crevasses etched into the wrinkles on our faces, our pale skin mirroring the frozen sea ice stretched out before us. On my last day in Antarctica, before entering a world newly ravaged by a global pandemic, I carried a four-tier cake up onto the ridge line and created a sugar self-portrait – my own wind-whipped hair becoming the topographic lines of the Ross Island Peninsula.

Cakes that tell the stories of Antarctic science: (clockwise from top left) from Weddell seal tracking devices and deep water arthropods to glacial ice cores and future star formation in our galaxy.

If we become the place, then we protect the place. Because in protecting the place, we protect the things that have made us who we are.

Through cakes – by finding unique ways to create art – I’ve learned nearly everything I know. As I create, I learn about places and about the threats to those places. I learn how interconnected we are as a human species. I learn how we are tied to our planet. I learn about the way glaciers form, move, and retreat. I learn about endemic and invasive species. I learn about human impact. I learn about Indigenous groups and systemic environmental racism. I learn personal stories. I learn ways to tell these stories through edible art: how to depict the loss of a specific habitat, or the miraculous expansion of a protected area, or the interconnectedness of an environment visually, on cake. I learn who I am: both my responsibility to my planet and my responsibility to encourage others to spark new ways of interacting with our world.

(Top image: Using desserts to document the environment by crafting pastry in the wild backcountry, Harding Icefield, Alaska. Photo by Rose Lawrence.)

______________________________

Rose McAdoo is a visual artist using cake to raise awareness around global issues. Her unique edible art centers around environmental protection and leads her to make cakes with remote populations in the world’s most extreme environments. By making sweets with Kenyan tribespeople and Congolese porters, on glaciers across Alaska, with scientists in Antarctica, and behind bars with inmates at LA County State Prison and NYC’s Rikers Correctional Facility, Rose makes big ideas literally digestible. Her work has been featured by NPR, Forbes, and Saveur, and her recent Antarctic short We Become the Place can be viewed at WhiskMeAwayCakes.com.

———-

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

David Haley ‘Going beyond Earthly’

Editor’s introduction:

The Barn, Banchory, has always had an environmental dimension, including allotments, a wild garden, biofuel boilers and shares the site with Buchanan’s, a slow food bistro. But as the largest rural multi-arts centre in Scotland, The Barn has used the challenges of Covid and the impact on the performing arts to rethink what it might mean to be an ecological organisation. To do that, amongst other initiatives, the team created the Becoming Earthly programme to engage with artists also interested in the question of what it means to be terrestrial. For the initial phase eleven artists/practices participated from across the visual and performing arts. This programme involved seven sessions, each led by a different person [1], and had physical, reflective as well as discussion elements. As David explains, Becoming Earthly isn’t a conventional project. It has generated its own energy and is continuing.

Chris Fremantle was an Associate Producer on the programme, and he put out a call to participants to reflect on what Becoming Earthly meant to them. This is David Haley’s response. The poem above and at the bottom is David Haley’s alternative to an image.


Reflection

This is not a review of Becoming Earthly and given the brevity of this text, much has been omitted, particularly the contributions of individuals at The Barn and each of the Session Leaders. The question is, how did Becoming Earthly influence my practice and thinking? This reflection starts with my application to Becoming Earthly:

Question: Emancipation from outmoded industrial urban infrastructures, corporate digital technologies and oppressive education is vital for human ecological resilience; how may we regenerate fundamental culture for critical recovery with Earth?

Expectation (extracts): I hope Becoming Earthly will enable me to explore and learn with others, new ways of thinking and doing to generate the critical mass for transition beyond the current straightjacket of social norms … I hope that we (will seek) timely, regenerative means of listening to others, human and non-human alike.

Together we may pursue diverse ‘capable futures’ to create the capacity to dream with passion, hope and grace.

Structure – Form – Process

Having the opportunity was very important, because it represented acceptance. Even as a mature artist, researcher and ecopedagogue, I still need assurances that the work I do is relevant, so being offered a place with Becoming Earthly (BE) was/is important. Zoom is a very particular environment to interact with others and given the ongoing pandemic, it is one that some of us accept as the ‘new normal’, some view as a great techno-communications advancement and others as a necessary evil. However, I think we must remain aware that it is not the same as meeting people face to face and it brings with it both favours and disadvantages different people’s communication and learning skills. At times, I find it difficult to contain my enthusiasm and have to rein myself in to ensure that others have space and time. Managed with care, as a co-learning dialogue, BEhelped my awareness to aim for listening in creative Zoom encounters I have created or participated in since.

Content, Relevance & Context

Given the conversational limitations of Zoom, notions of transition, transformation and regeneration did emerge and continue to do so. Some political widely/deeply cultural issues were explored beyond merely topical concerns, but overt expressions of outrage and passion are still considered unacceptable in polite society.

As for art and ecology, BE directly and indirectly touched on some aspects, particularly with John Newling’s work. While all participants seemed to be interested in his form of working and thinking, for some it seemed to be a relatively new phenomenon, so I learned that there is still a great need for further discourse on what ecological art might be and might become. Indeed, triggered by BE, the notion of ‘beginners mind’ [2] is something I have returned to.

There was some disquiet around the provision of academic texts, their relevance to artists and non-academic people. Personally, I wasn’t an academic until I, as an artist, needed to read and reflect upon complex issues. Given our contemporary, gross consumption of instant information and hyped culture of digital media, the texts provided by each session leader continue to provide good challenges and alternative perspectives for my slow thinking. It is worth noting the trust that built throughout the sessions, so maybe folk who were concerned about potential ‘academicism’ will be reassured and take the time to return to the texts.

Other Insights

Opening-up. Even as an aged, white, educated, male, artist, I thought of myself as pretty radical and empathetic to/with issues of colonialism and intersectionality, however BEopened me up to much deeper ‘acknowledgement’ – in the sense of John Coltrane’s Love Supreme, Part 1 [3] – re-examining the context in which we live, I see as essential to the process of BE. My reading has since found new paths of exploration, particularly around intersectionality, colonialism and nuances of pedagogy that previously I only saw as dialectical – rationalised arguments of political realities, now giving way to empathetic understanding. Dialogue as an art form is something I have been engaged with since the mid-90s and I immersed myself in Socratic and critical forms of dialogue, but BE expanded my capacity for feeling/experiencing perhaps, even empathising with these issues. And as personal transformative challenges, these are now embedded in my practice and engagement with others. Practically, I gained confidence and some skills to facilitate a series of Zoom, storying workshops with people experiencing stress and anxiety issues, What’s your story?.

Session 8 – BE was seven sessions, but ‘Unfinished…’ was generated by Paolo Maccagno’s initiative to self-organise. A great idea that takes the ‘what next?’ to a specific place of possible transformation, based on self-determinism. I like the idea of ‘Unfinished…’. It suggests evolutionary becoming, beyond hegemony; a dynamic to counteract many of society’s solution-led myths and takes Heidegger’s notion of daseinto that of grace (non-Christian) or becomingness [4]. If it works, it may emerge into a ‘Living Knowledge Network’; if it doesn’t, like most evolutionary events, it will at the very least have provided an opportunity…

Dreaming. Occasionally, at 3.30 in the morning, I find myself dreaming of cows at play, without guilt – an unresolved paradox that resonates from Wallace Heim’s session that found synergy between Play, Shame and Care.

Historically, emancipation takes time, sometimes a long time, for the conditions to be right. That is when ‘the most moral act of all is to create the space for life to move onwards’ [5] and when the time is right, like all revolutions, it will happen, ‘all at once and all together’ [6]. Becoming Earthy contributed generously to the former. I now await the latter; maybe a Second Becoming…?


down to earth dreaming

on becoming an artist

again and again


David Haley makes art with ecology, to inquire, learn and teach. He publishes, exhibits and works internationally with ecosystems and their inhabitants, using images, poetic texts, walking and sculptural installations to generate dialogues that question climate change, species extinction, urban development, transdisciplinarity and ‘critical recovery’ for ‘capable futures’.


Notes

[1] including Wallace Heim, Paolo Maccagno, John Newling, and Johan Siebers.

[2] Suzuki, S, (2020) Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: 50th Anniversary Edition Paperback. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala Publications Inc.

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Pi5ZJZ07ME and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Love_Supreme

[4] Hodge, J. (1995) Heidegger and Ethics. London: Routledge

[5] Pirsig, R. (1993) Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals. London: Black Swan, 407

[6] Harrison, N (2017) On The Deep Wealth Of This Nation, Scotland. Lecture for The Barn at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

Go to EcoArtScotland

Powered by WPeMatico

Seeking proposals for art-climate-science collaborations

Due April 1, 2021

Submission Webform/Details below. Please use that for proposals.

Broto: Art-Climate-Science is an emerging art-sci collaboration conference and community pointed at successful climate endgames. The transdisciplinary organization is asking for proposals for a single paid collaboration team. Each team must include at least one of each of the following — artist, scientist and observer — who will work together on a new project to test our Collaboration Blueprint

Broto has evolved as a unique opportunity for artists and scientists to collaborate in substantive, real-time, mutual and credible processes without the burden of outcome. The Broto inspiration is to add into the collaboration an “observer” role — the collaborator tasked with communicating, synthesising and mainstreaming the findings of the collaboration. In this model, artists and observers are equal to scientists in their contributions, sharing knowledge, co-creating innovations and experimenting freely. 

Applications will be vetted by art-sci peers and the selected team will:

  1. Test the model for strengths, weaknesses and improvements, 
  2. Be documented as they move through their process and 
  3. Communicate their experiences in a forthcoming Broto conference panel. 
    The collaboration period is up to one year and budgets and stipends, inclusive, will be capped at $5,000.

Submissions via the submission form HERE. Details include project team, scope, goals, timeline and use of funds. 

Questions to collaborators@broto.eco.

Wild Authors: Christiane Vadnais

By Mary Woodbury

We’ll begin 2021 on a positive note with a look at the lyrical novel Fauna by Christiane Vadnais. Here, we travel to the Arctic Circle (as indicated by Ursus maritimus), but the novel’s setting is fictional and inspired by places more than it is specifically set anywhere on the map. In my reading, I felt as though I was teleported to a futuristic forest somewhere in northwestern Europe’s Arctic Circle. The author tells me that she was inspired by the atmospheric forests in the Québec province, near the American border. If anything, Fauna invokes a wild imagination, and readers will find themselves anywhere that drips with cold water beneath a wild and dark canopy of trees.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Originally published in French, Fauna was translated to English this year by Pablo Strauss. It is Christiane Vadnais’s first work of fiction and it won the Horizons Imaginaires speculative fiction award, the City of Quebec book award, and it was named one of 2018’s best books by Radio-Canada. From the publisher:

A thick fog rolls in over Shivering Heights. The river overflows, the sky is streaked with toxic green, parasites proliferate in torrential rains and once safely classified species – humans included – are evolving and behaving in unprecedented ways. Against this poetically hostile backdrop, a biologist, Laura, fights to understand the nature and scope of the changes transforming her own body and the world around her. Ten lush and bracing linked climate fictions depict a world gorgeous and terrifying in its likeness to our own.

In a recent article at the Chicago Review of Books, I wrote: “Vadnais’s writing is raw, erotic, and dream-like. She’ll take you deep into the foggy, haunted woods and tantalize you to the core.” Some of my favorite stories have a wildly entertaining and sometimes mysterious landscape at their nucleus, with biology and ecology central to characters’ motives and how plots unfolds. The physical environment of Fauna is so ethereal that it’s entirely palpable.

CHAT WITH THE AUTHOR

Before and after Fauna, what has your life been like?

What Fauna changed for me is the way I approach writing. The freedom, the recklessness I felt while writing my first book – not knowing if it would be published – have been replaced by a more conscious work. I demand more from myself. Every day, I sit at my desk with both the desire to understand this weird thing that we do, telling stories, and the feeling that it’s really mysterious. I have a lot to learn about my art, I am at the beginning of a journey: it’s challenging but exciting.

I opened Fauna and didn’t stop reading until the end. It’s that addictive. What led you to write this novel?

The idea came from an article I read about dreams. I am fascinated by their symbolic logic and the way they make us see things differently. The article said that neuroscientists, when they study them, find a lot of people still dreaming about wild animals, about being chased, etc. It seemed strange to me: how can we dream about this, considering that most of us have never seen a bear outside a zoo? Could that be a reminiscence of our animality, a primitive signal sent by our brain to tell us that we are cut from our own materiality? The poetry I saw in this thought inspired me. I wrote what became the first page of Fauna. The book is inhabited by this dreamlike spirit, by a wild imagery, by a desire to be connected with our animal instincts in a positive way.

That’s pretty fascinating. Can you talk some about your thoughts and direction when writing this book? What were your intentions for reader impact?

I wanted to make the reader feel how beautiful and powerful and vivid nature is, even in its darkest moments. For a long time now, we – humans – separated ourselves from nature, thinking that we will always find a way to control it. But we are part of it, for better and for worst. To see it, we don’t have to look far: just see how pregnancy can take over our body, how a parasite can make its nest in our belly, or how we have to manage snowstorms and floods. We are living an ecological crisis due to our arrogance and violence against other species, so I think we need to remember that: we are not everything. We are part of a bigger system, of something powerful and magic. To dilute our ego is a key to engage our civilization in a better relationship with our environment. We should always care about sensitive beings, not because they are pretty or useful but because we share a frail balance, a unique world. That said, I didn’t want to write a political book, but something intimate, poetic, where not only humans would have their place, but also animals and insects and forests. They are all characters in the book.

I thought Fauna was a unique approach to life in a weird, climate-changing future. What is it about eco-horror that appeals to you?

Literature is always written from a particular place and time, and writing about nature today is unfortunately writing from a terrible ecocide. To be honest, I wasn’t conscious I was writing eco-horror while doing it. It came naturally, because this is the world we live in, and also because of this primitive imagery I talked about.

An important motive that links Fauna to the genre of horror is hunger. In the book, bears are hungry, Heather is hungry, Cathy’s mom eats her rabbits… Every life kills another to survive: if this is natural to animals, when it comes to humans, it turns into violence. Their appetite to consume others, to consume the earth, has no end. Since I have been a vegetarian for many years now, this is a striking image for me.

It’s interesting to see a biologist featured in these short, connected stories. In fact, a few of my colleagues have expressed interest in Laura’s role in the story. What inspired this character?

Science is at the same time a figure of progress and a figure of domination. I find this fascinating. It’s the tool we use to injure the Earth (to dig for oil, for example) and the environmental knowledge we need to follow if we want to solve the ecological crisis. I wanted Laura to be solar, to represent the “caring” side of science, but at the same time to embody its failures. Laura’s science is unable to save humanity as we know it. But she tries, and tries, and tries, and shows curiosity for the new forms of life emerging. Laura is a character driven by an intellectual quest, and that’s what I find interesting about her.

Is Shivering Heights and its environment inspired by any particular place? Have you been there?

While I was writing “Diluvium,” the first story, I wanted to create an ambiance of “noir” movie. I thought about the south of Québec province, near the American border, with its dark forests (which inspired a lot of Québec crime writers), and built the world of Shivering Heights from there. I also put in it a great deal of my love for gothic literature and atmospheric movies.

Are you working on anything else at the moment?

I am writing a novella for a collective project, inspired by the French genre of “merveilleux scientifique” (“scientific marvel”) and, at the same time, another dark eco-fiction (I can’t help it!).

Oh, sounds interesting, so I will be following that! Thanks so much, Christiane, for your time and insightful thoughts about your 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

Opportunity: Call for submissions to the Glasgow Goes Green Festival e-zine

Connections: People, Nature and Power

The Glasgow Goes Green Festival is brought to you by UofGGSAGCU and Strathclydeuniversities! We are all so excited to get started, and would love for you to get involved! Things are, of course, going to work a little differently this year – our usual physical gathering just won’t be possible. However, we are confident that our alternative format – a collaborative e-zine – will be equally effective and thought-provoking.

This year, our theme is Connections: People, Nature and Power. It is deliberately very open because we want to hear from everyone!

Potential topics could include teachings of the city’s COVID-19 response for the climate movement, the community’s preparations for COP26 or the role of nature-based solutions in Glasgow. Submissions can come in a range of formats – prose, artwork, music, videos, podcasts. Additionally, feel free to add in ‘How to get involved’ sections to your submissions to promote longer-term engagement with your work.

We hope this will be a space to reflect on the current socio-environmental circumstances and what feels important to you, or your organisation, at this time.

The deadline for submissions is March 31st. Pieces will be selected, and you will be contacted with the outcome on 7th April, with the online zine publication date in May 2021.

Please follow this link to access the submission form.

We ask that if possible, you use WeTransfer to upload a link to your submission, otherwise the form will fill up quickly with the data required for attachments.

If you have any questions or difficulties submitting your work, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by email: amy.stevenson@glasgow.ac.uk

The post Opportunity: Call for submissions to the Glasgow Goes Green Festival e-zine 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

Coexistence of Cultures and Species: An Interview with Lin May Saeed, Part II

By Biborka Beres

This is the second part of a two-part interview with the Berlin-based visual artist, sculptor and animal liberation activist, Lin May Saeed. You can read Part I here.

You depict and reference both imaginary and real environments in your pieces. There are typical Berlin scenes (for example a punk with a hound, or people promenading with dogs in Nelly-Sachs-Park) along with events and characters from the Bible and Quran. What is the place of your pieces, and what do these places and spaces represent to you? 

Gilgamesh is the oldest known narrative and it begins with a parting of an early man from nature. The beginning of this tale, even before the character of Gilgamesh is introduced, is what has engaged me the most. Grane is a horse from the German Nibelungen legend. I made a paper silhouette about it, in which I tried to depict a specific moment from the perspective of the horse. I am interested in leaving behind the anthropocentric perspective. It is probably not entirely feasible, but it might be possible to at least relativize the human view in favor of animals.

Berlin appears in some of the works because I can imagine so many things in this city. When I moved here in 2001, I saw Berlin as very diverse. As a person with a migration background, I felt I was in the right place. In this city where intercultural coexistence works relatively well, I wonder if another form of interspecies coexistence could take place. I see certain places within the city as spaces of possibility, and these sometimes emerge in my pieces. For example, the relief Asylum/ the Liberation of Animals from Cages VI, from 2009, depicts an interspecies scene in the corporate compound of a Berlin car rental company, Robben & Wientjes, in the neighborhood of Kreuzberg. This site, which does not exist anymore, was a democratic place, known to everyone who moved around in Berlin or wanted to take something from A to B for little money. On the roof of the company building were seal-shaped light boxes serving as the company logo.

However different these fictional and real places are from each other, I am interested in the mental journey through time, following a common thread, the relationship between humans and animals. 

ASYL – The Liberation of Animals from their Cages VI2009. Styrofoam , acrylic paint, aluminum foil, and wood.  59,44 x 39,37 x 7,08 in. (151 x 100 x 18 cm)

Often we see a mixture of non-Western subjects in Western environments in your works. It seems like animal liberation has a greater connotation to you than lifestyle choices, for example, becoming vegan. You depict a range of social and political issues from social classes or pollution to war in your work. Do you see animal liberation as a subject on its own, or as a piece of the larger whole?

Definitely, animal liberation is part of a larger fight, against climate change and for social equality. It is part of a left-wing movement. To me, veganism feels so self-evident and widespread today that it’s almost pointless to continue to address it directly. In the context of my work, this would be an unnecessary repetition. Also, I don’t necessarily want to link my personal lifestyle to my art practice. I usually try to avoid making direct appeals to the viewer although I certainly have my ambivalences: I like Agitprop and Comic culture, since they tend to be very direct in their statements. It is a constant balancing act; it’s impossible to accomplish everything in a single piece. 

The way I first perceived the relationship between man and nature in a larger context was influenced by the environmental disasters of the 1980s, such as Chernobyl in 1986. This was 1,200 miles from the city where I grew up. People were told to stay at home. I was personally not affected or frightened, but it made me think. Why do we call what animals do natural, and what humans do or make artificial, be it plastic bags or nuclear power? This thinking process turned into an alienation from the concept of humanity and from the results of human labor. Then, there was the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Later, I did a sculptural piece about this, Cleaner/Reiniger, a figure holding an oil-smeared animal in her arms.

Cleaner/ Reiniger, 2006. Steel, Styrofoam, plastic watering can, paper overall, acrylic paint, and wood. 40.15 x 27.55 x 21.65 in. (102 x 70 x 55cm) 

There are at least two kinds of humans depicted in your work: cruel, militaristic, and kind, peaceful. Do you see people differently based on how they relate to their environment?

The way people treat weaker creatures such as animals certainly affects how they are perceived by others. To avoid falling into black-and-white thinking, I look at temporal processes of change, and assume that the omnivores of today are possibly the vegans of tomorrow. Whenever someone mentions their meat consumption, I try to keep in mind their freedom to make choices. As for the future, there are several reasons why people would change their attitudes towards animal consumption: they might decide, out of a process of reflection, to live non-violently, i.e., to become vegan. Or they may adapt to new ethical standards embraced by society. Or one day, it may be prohibited by law to eat animals and use them for other purposes. Which of these possibilities will be the reason for shifting to veganism has yet to be seen. The main motive will probably be the fight against the climate crisis… In any case, I expect that the use of animals will end. 

Your use of Styrofoam as material makes me think of functionality with aesthetic purpose. With your sculptures, you create new, organic spaces out of artificial material. Do you see a role for artists in promoting material sustainability as well?

Yes. Art is no more exempt from the necessities of sustainable production than other professions. Styrofoam is an absolute prime example of a material that should simply not be. As I started working in figurative sculpture, it turned out to be the material that allowed me to work in large sizes. Since Styrofoam is imperishable, I considered it suitable for my works, which I hope will outlive me. I use as much found Styrofoam and other found materials as I can get. 

In all other areas of the studio, like art handling, I act as sustainably as I can. I try to minimize air travel or avoid it altogether. When I got a commission for the Skulpturenpark in Köln, I wanted to work with aluminum casting, as it seemed more contemporary and a more adequate translation of Styrofoam pieces. However, after doing some research, I learned that bronze is less environmentally damaging to produce than aluminum. So when I cast outdoor pieces, I work with bronze.  

Nagheoleed, 2011. Cardboard, transparent paper, wood, and fluorescent lights.
108,2 x 157,4 x 19,68 in. (275 x 400 x 50 cm) 

What’s your relationship with texts, history, and philosophy? On your website, there is a wide selection of texts on animal liberation. 

My homepage is basically one long entry from 2008, which was written shortly after I decided to fully dedicate my work to the human-animal relationship. I have often engaged with theoretical texts in exhibitions too, such as Nagheoleed/Neolith, a lecture by the Italian philosopher Marco Maurizi on the supposed beginning of capitalism in the Neolithic period.

I have included other texts in my exhibitions that I found particularly relevant. For the show at Lulu in Mexico City in 2017, I used an excerpt of an essay by the social scientist and activist Melanie Bujok, that visitors of the exhibition could take home.

In the last exhibition at Jacky Strenz, my gallerist in Frankfurt, Germany, I was able to include a text by Birgit Mütherich, which curator Rob Wiesenberger also published in the catalog for the exhibition Arrival of the Animals at the Clark Art Institute. 

Lobster, 2017. Steel. 4,3 x 9,4 x 5,7 in. (11 x 24 x 14,5cm). Stack of text excerpt: 
“The Enlightenment must (…) be fully thought out” by Melanie Bujok.

(Top image: Grane, 2013. Cardboard, transparent paper, wood, and fluorescent lights. 128 x 224.5 x 19.68 in. (325 x 570 x 50 cm))

______________________________

Biborka Beres is a senior student at Bennington College in Vermont, studying dance, drama, and philosophy. Her interests and works lie at the intersection of socio-political change and the performing arts. In her interviews for Artists & Climate Change, she is continuing her process of exploring how the arts can create models, practices, and imaginary worlds which allow humans to coexist peacefully with nature and with each other.

———-

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

Twist’s Shift #2

Twist’s Shift is a new strand of semi-blog, less formal and structured than Ben’s Strategy Blogs, more a rag-bag of thoughts and experiences from the last wee while.

It’s taken a little while to publish a second edition but, as for the previous edition, I hope there is something of interest for readers from both the arts/cultural end of things and the climate change side.

Talks and workshops

Despite – or perhaps because of – both the pandemic and the looming Brexit, the last few months of 2020 seemed to be full of requests for me to give talks on various topics at conferences in Europe. Or maybe it is due to the forthcoming COP. Here’s a rundown of a few notable events.

In October I was asked to be part of a panel discussion during a longer workshop being run for Creative Ireland, ‘a five-year Programme which connects people, creativity and wellbeing…. We are an all-of-government culture and wellbeing programme that inspires and transforms people, places and communities through creativity.’ The programme runs sort of parallel to, rather than part of, the Arts Council of Ireland (I think this has caused some controversy) and interestingly is funded (at least partly) through the Department of Environment, Climate Policy and Communications (my italics). Behind this workshop – which was aimed at an invited audience of policymakers etc. – was a report on Engaging the Public on Climate Change through the Cultural and Creative Sectors, which was published in 2019. This explores what might be termed an ‘instrumental’ use of the arts, although I personally find the instrumental/intrinsic argument old hat and a distraction. Most art historically has been produced ‘for’ some reason, often religion- or patronage-related, and much of it has been terrific; and there is no requirement on artists to work on climate change, although cultural organisations that take public money might reasonably be required to provide some social as well as cultural goods. However, I do accept that there might be a question of degree: it is important that some art and artists should simply be about making wonderful things, experiences etc.

Who’s at the table?

The interesting thing about the longer workshop was not so much what was said, although it was all good and useful stuff, but who was involved. There was a panel discussion with some arts officers and others with experience of running what I would say were quite traditional environmental art projects. But there was also a short film of an interview with Jenny White, who is the former head of the visual arts programme at the British Council and led on climate change there: an organisation which for some time was reluctant to make public statements, at least about the topic. Most striking perhaps were a welcome and introduction from the director of Creative Ireland and addresses by two government ministers – Eamon Ryan TD, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Communications, and Catherine Martin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (and Deputy Leader of the Green Party – a reminder of what a good coalition government can make happen…). And here we not only saw these two departments working together, in a way which in my experience is unusual; there was also an announcement about a programme with significant funds for Creative Engagement on Climate Change, run jointly by Creative Ireland and the Department of Environment and Climate and Communications. I understand the fund will launch in February. This builds on a commitment in the relatively new coalition’s Programme for Government to ‘Support Creative Ireland in their ‘Engaging the Public on Climate Change through the Cultural and Creative Sectors’ initiative.’1 An example for Scotland?

Building-in sustainability

In November, I was invited to be on a panel at the European Theatre Forum 2020: European Performing Arts in Focus on ‘Embedding Environmental Sustainability in the theatre and performing arts sector’. Our panel looked at how to get sustainability built into strategic and funding mechanisms in European theatre. Again, this wasn’t so much extraordinary for what was said as for the fact that it was happening at all. The three-day conference sought to provide a European representation for the entire sector as one of Europe’s major art forms, within and outside Europe, and its focus was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the performing arts and perspectives for the sector. Nonetheless, the whole of the second day was focused on climate change and environmental sustainability. Meanwhile, my colleague Catriona Patterson was (slightly confusingly) asked to give a talk at the more or less simultaneous European Theatre Convention on a similar topic but with a more practical focus. I don’t think that in previous years the European theatre sector has focused as much on climate change.

What’s more, in early December I helped shape and participated in the joint Satellite Meeting of the Informal European Theatre Meeting (IETM) in collaboration with Theatre Forum (the Irish version of the Federation of Scottish Theatre), which nominally took place in Galway, with the participation of the Galway 2020 City of Culture programme. The programme focused on environmental sustainability and climate change, with speakers including Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, the environmental and indigenous people’s activist Hindou Oumarou Ibrham, and the artistic directors of Druid Theatre Companyand Branar, two very different companies based in Galway (who it turned out had never met…).

In my session I asked Catriona Fallon, who runs the Green Arts Initiative Ireland, and Gwen Sharp of The Green Room, an organisation working on social and environmental sustainability in the music industry in France, to discuss how they were seeking to bring about change strategically, rather than on a piecemeal basis. We talked about the need to challenge our business-as-usual approach to cultural production to enable organisations at all levels, from funders to companies, to facilitate ways of funding, making, performing and touring work that are good for artists, audiences and the planet – and we acknowledged how difficult this is! Later, I listened and contributed to a terrific discussion with embedded artists Maeve Stone and Anyuta Wiazemsky Snauwaert about their work on the Creative Europe project that Creative Carbon Scotland is leading, Cultural Adaptations. Our forthcoming Cultural Adaptations conference in early March will feature contributions from all of these people and Tania Banotti, director of Creative Ireland.

There was a lot more at the Galway meeting than at the other events that was new and inspiring and again its very strong focus on climate change was striking. We have been working with Theatre Forum for a while now, which has led to the Green Arts Initiative Ireland; IETM has been increasing its work on climate change but this was by far its most ambitious and focused engagement with the subject. The audience – admittedly self-selecting – was enthusiastic and interested, albeit at very different stages of the journey. It demonstrated how the UK is possibly the European country working most coherently in climate change and the performing arts, at least, with Creative Carbon Scotland and Julie’s Bicycle (in England) working closely with their respective funding organisations and sectors. But clearly Ireland is on the move…  I wrote some preliminary notes for the Satellite Meeting participants, aiming to cover all levels of awareness.

Arts and globalisation

Finally, also in December, I delivered the keynote speech ‘in’ Lisbon for a conference organised by OPART (Organismo de Producao Artistica) entitled Navegar é preciso? Sentidos para a internacionalização da dança (my translation: ‘Is travelling necessary? Directions for the Internationalisation of Dance’). Navegar actually means (I think) ‘sailing’ or ‘to sail’, and by luck or someone else’s judgement this resonated with my talk, which started with a discussion about how the humble shipping container had been partially responsible for the globalisation of international trade, and that performing artists and the arts were just as affected by globalisation as the textile or any other manufacturing industry. This has many advantages: the possibility of more work far and wide and the chance to work with new collaborators; and for audiences and promoters a greater choice of work. But equally it has its downsides: competition for what work or performance slots are available from competitors far and wide. And international travel has implications for artists’ health, equalities (people with disabilities or caring responsibilities may find it harder to do) and possibly the nature of the work, which may end up being produced for an ‘international’ audience rather than rooted in a place as, for me, the best theatre is.

The Lisbon talk had originally been scheduled for March but was postponed due to the pandemic, which has been exacerbated by speedy international travel: the worst-hit countries are those with the most connections and permeability, whilst those which have managed the disease have done so by severely restricting incoming visitors. I argued in my talk for a radical localism and maybe a willingness to recognise that complete freedom to travel for all wasn’t ideal. Instead I wondered whether one way forward might be to consider a few slow, sustainable and extended trips in a lifetime, perhaps especially for the unburdened young, enabling learning and development, backed up with reports both from travellers and people actually living in other places. I pointed out that Shakespeare seldom if ever travelled beyond England but managed to imagine a much wider world in some very fine plays. This would be the bedrock of a long and sustainable artistic career, avoiding parochialism, nationalism and building a strong relationship with a local audience.

Confirmation

All these events and the requests to speak confirm what we’ve noticed in Creative Carbon Scotland over the last year: a great deal more interest in what we do. The pandemic has focused people’s attention on unexpected threats and new ways of working, and the forthcoming COP in Glasgow is concentrating minds. The EU is actively incorporating climate change into programmes such as Creative Europe, which is encouraging various European cultural networks to interrogate their ways of working, and consequently assumptions about international travel are changing. And maybe our own persistence – Creative Carbon Scotland will be 10 years old this year! – is beginning to pay off and people are catching on to the idea that what we’ve been talking about is mainstream, not crackpot. I’m a long-term pessimist but a short-term optimist and I’m looking forward to a positive, interesting and busy 2021.

by Ben Twist, director of Creative Carbon Scotland

The post Twist’s Shift #2 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

Coexistence of Cultures and Species: An Interview with Lin May Saeed, Part I

By Biborka Beres

As a senior at Bennington College and a multimedia performance artist, I have been exploring potential ways to engage with the climate crisis in the arts without succumbing to the danger of creating all too reductive and didactic pieces. One September afternoon, while doing some research for my upcoming senior show – a dance piece about our alienation from nature – I read that an exciting exhibition was showing in the neighboring town. It was Lin May Saeed’s Arrival of the Animals at The Clark Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Seeing the exhibition, I was captivated by the depth and clarity of her call to animal liberation. 

Lin May Saeed is a German sculptor, painter, and visual artist whose work has been exhibited in Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, and the U.S. Through her art, she embeds the issue of animal rights and human-animal coexistence into a deeper frame of how we, humans, treat our environment and each other. Inspired by historical events, mythological and spiritual sources such as the Quran and the Bible, contemporary events and present-day urban spaces, Saeed creates a microcosm of the human-animal imaginary. Through problematizing human greediness and cruelty, which lead us to gobble up natural resources with no end and abuse our “animal brothers,” we arrive at imagining a peaceful state of coexistence between humans and their environment. 

A text excerpt from Saeed’s website illustrates the human cruelty problematized in her work:

Hello to you all, how do you live?

Rabbit :
We live in small groups, have no fixed partnerships.
Build widely branching tunnel systems,
in which our young are born, naked and blind.
We still reproduce when imprisoned.

Hare :
I live solitary. Sleep in a shallow hollow.
My offspring are born with fur and open eyes.
I have never been domesticated.

Humans :
We don’t quite know.
Until we have found out, we wage wars.

What follows is the first part of a two-part interview with the artist about the ecological implications of her dedication to animal liberation, and her vision for the climate should animals “arrive” and take back their territories from human-made destruction. 

Can you tell me more about the origins of your art? How did you come to make work about animal liberation? What made you turn to the topic of injustices towards animals, and their arrival to reclaim the world from humans?

My first idea after graduating from high school was to study stage design. After I had already worked for some time at the theatre in my hometown, Wiesbaden, Germany, in several theatre and opera productions, I went to the Düsseldorf Art Academy to study stage design. In my first year at the Academy, I discovered sculpture, basically by accident. At the same time, I started to deal with issues around animal rights and became active against animal abuse, starting with the topic of fur. Despite my great love for theatre and opera, it became clear that these performative art forms were centered around  man: there are no animals in theatre. 

In contemporary visual arts, the topic of human-animal relations was not so welcome either, but at least it was possible to make work about  it, since in a field like sculpture I could choose my own themes. I was astonished by the works of artists concerned with animal rights at the time, but they often revealed the everyday horror of slaughterhouses and experimental laboratories and I could not imagine depicting cruelty against animals and manifesting it pictorially. Also, animal rights as a positive notion is an abstract concept and I couldn’t imagine what it would look like. 

The injustices towards animals mentioned in your question, especially in their systemic institutionalized forms, were of great concern to me. After initial sculptural attempts in this direction, I found that I would rather use my work to imagine what the ideal treatment of animals might look like. During this time there was also a shift in language: the animal rights movement changed its name to the animal liberation movement. This change opened up a new space of thought for me, and I got an idea about the form in which I could make an artistic contribution. It allowed me to think of images of the liberation of animals.

What role do animals play in your work, and what kind of creatures are they? I noticed that they are both anthropomorphic with their own will and power, but also symbolic of a larger world order. What do animals mean to you?

That is a good question! I face a puzzle when I look at animals. They are so much like “the Other,” especially in man-made, predominantly mono-speciesist urban environments. When I try to grasp the space between me and an animal, something opens up like a journey through time; the space stretches. Being so close to animals, such as those with whom I share my studio, feels fantastic. These are rabbits saved from slaughter, and they rarely appear directly in my work. They are just too perfect, too Disney-like. However, I make observations on them, such as symmetries and perspective foreshortening, which flow into my work. 

The Cave of Ashabe-Kahf near Amman, Jordan. Downloaded from islamiclandmarks.com. The legend of the Seven Sleepers tells the story of seven young men who were accused of belonging to the Christian community and escaped to a cave where they slept for centuries.

About the Seven Sleepers cave installation at the end of your exhibition at The Clark: Is this optimism for the future? What is the significance of sleep and dreaming in your work? Is climate change a nightmare, and climate utopia a sweet dream? 

The narrative of the Seven Sleepers defies plausible interpretation, and the fact that it could not be made subservient to any ideology is perhaps the reason why it has remained largely unknown to Christian-influenced culture. I first learned about the legend when visiting the Seven Sleepers cave close to Amman, Jordan. The fact that the legend is mentioned in the Quran, but not in the Bible, piqued my interest. Also, one of the Seven Sleepers was a dog. These two aspects seem to make it a story that is both trans-religious and trans-species. The blurring of the narrative in the legend made it easier to deal with it sculpturally. This stretched moment of sleep seems to articulate waiting, powerlessness, non-violence, and perhaps a form of silent protest. Sleep seems to me to be an everyday, or rather an all-night “being in another world.” I am less interested in analyzing dreams than in the very opacity of sleep. Dreams are a cross-species phenomenon, as animals also dream. That alone would be enough of a reason for me to not eat animals.

Thank you, Lin.

* * *

In the second part of this interview, we discuss mythical and urban spaces and interspecies utopias, Lin May’s views on animal liberation as part of a larger climate imaginary, and the importance of material sustainability in the arts.

(Top image: Seven Sleepers 2020. Styrofoam, acrylic paint, steel, jute, fabric, paper, plants, glass, water, cotton cord, wood, and cardboard. Overall: 84 5/8 x 177 1/8 x 39 3/8 in. (215 x 450 x 100 cm))

______________________________

Biborka Beres is a senior student at Bennington College in Vermont, studying dance, drama, and philosophy. Her interests and works lie at the intersection of socio-political change and the performing arts. In her interviews for Artists & Climate Change, she is continuing her process of exploring how the arts can create models, practices, and imaginary worlds which allow humans to coexist peacefully with nature and with each other.

———-

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