A new website, stagereads, is publishing plays by emerging playwrights, which are e-readable on mobile devices. They are available by subscription, with a 155 discount for those subscribing before 15 September. The first featured playwright is Caridad Svich and her recent play The Way of Water. Svich received the 2012 OBIE Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. The Way of Water has been traveling since 3 April, 2012, and has had readings in fifty cities in the United States as well as in the UK and beyond. The play, written after the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, tells the story of two fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico, who have to deal with the after effects of the spill. The introduction to the play is written by Henry Godinez, Resident Artistic Associate at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.
He writes in his final paragraph:
Many a great play has been written about corporate negligence and devastating catastrophes, but what makes The Way of Water so compelling is the way it exposes the after effects of such sensational evens in the most real of human terms.
“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)
ashdenizen is edited by Robert Butler, and is the blog associated with the Ashden Directory, a website focusing on environment and performance.
The Ashden Directory is edited by Robert Butler and Wallace Heim, with associate editor Kellie Gutman. The Directory includes features, interviews, news, a timeline and a database of ecologically – themed productions since 1893 in the United Kingdom. Our own projects include ‘New Metaphors for Sustainability’, ‘Flowers Onstage’ and ‘Six ways to look at climate change and theatre’.
This colorful kiddie ride comes courtesy of gleeful art prankster Banksy, an artist well known for his graffiti and politically charged installations. In his most recent creation, the artist transformed a coin-operated ride into a searing statement against the BP oil spill.
It’s been the story that has covered the financial press for weeks. BP’s involvement in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has dominated the news, sent its share price plummeting, and erupted a row of diplomacy between the US and the UK over the treatment of the oil giant.
But in all the bad news perhaps there is one area of hope to come from all of this. And that’s in the area of green technology and innovation.
Vinod Khosla, of Khosla Ventures recently said that he believed the BP oil spill would spur innovation in the green technology market and provide a once in a lifetime window of opportunity to develop and build new and sustainable technologies as a result. Khosla, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems has a track record of investing in winners making his comments worth taking notice of. Could this be a turning point?
Perhaps we are entering a new age where it’s not warfare but the environment that will drive innovation
Evidence of new ideas spurred on by the disaster have been seen close to home. The BBC website asked readers to come up with novel ways to find a solution to plugging the gap. Ex-plumbers and would-be inventors all came up with a variety of solutions to deal with the problem from a giant umbrella to a larger version of the technology used to plug a leak in household plumbing. None would work, but what’s promising in all of this is that the oil spill has managed to capture the imagination of innovators and would be inventors.
Courtesy of Infrogmation of New Orleans
So the question that this raises is what fosters such innovation in the light of such adversity? In a world where technology has generally been spurred on through wars and subsequent technologies spun off from military hardware, perhaps we are entering a new age where it’s not warfare but the environment that will drive innovation. And why is the BP oil spill different from the many others corporate accidents that occur?
Firstly, the locality of the accident to the US and to Silicon Valley will play a big part in the regions industries and venture capitalists focusing on green technologies. When the problem is on your doorstep, and the environmental impact of the gulf spill certainly is on America’s, it makes the problem local, personal and the need to solve it becomes greater. America has long been criticised for not doing enough in terms of the environment but this will all have to change following these recent events if they are to continue to enjoy the landscape and ecosystems that many have taken for granted for so long.
The second reason is that things can’t actually get much worse, which leaves innovators with a golden opportunity to make mistakes. Sir Harold Evans, the legendary journalist and commentator on innovation discussed this very concept in his talk here at the RSA a few weeks ago. He discussed that the myth of the “Eureka” moment has discouraged many would be innovators and inventors to consider themselves not good enough with their ideas. The process of innovation as described by Evans is one in which mistakes are allowed, if not essential, as part of the process of developing and bringing forward new inventive ideas. So in the Gulf of Mexico things can hardly get worse. This gives a golden opportunity to try out new solutions and develop and innovate them. Entrepreneurs and would be inventors can work and trial the unthinkable, knowing that failure is only one of the steps to finding success. This will allow for more bolder and creative solutions to be tried which Kholsla and many others argue will be the place in which we find some of the great technologies that will change the environment and our society.
From an entrepreneur’s view, the green energy industry has just received a cash injection of £20 billion dollars and unrivalled government support
Thirdly, view this crisis from the eyes of on entrepreneur and it’s an industry that has just received a cash injection of £20 billion dollars and unrivalled government support to help technology – not bad conditions for any would be industry. This opens up opportunities for the rate of change and rate of innovation in the green tech sector to develop far beyond what has been seen previously. If we look at the development and innovation of the internet, new entrepreneurs and new minds accelerated the use of technologies and changed the industry from dial-up to the super fast broadband we have today. This same pattern of development could be spurred on from the BP oil spill as a variety of new entrepreneurs who follow the mantra “that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste” enter the market supported by venture capitalists in Silicon Valley who have a personal interest in cleaning up the environment because it’s right on their doorstep.
So even in the face of one of the world’s most significant disasters, we can find hope for the future, and for our planet. Localised problems spur on localised innovation, and a space to make mistakes may well see the development of technologies that help combat climate change and ensure that we have the tools to deal with future environmental disasters. Let’s hope that one thing that comes from this is that we don’t waste this opportunity to change the face of the green technologies industry or even more importantly create a new wave of green entrepreneurs committed to developing technologies in this sector.
I got invited to a facebook event the other day. It was a protest. It instructed attendees to wear black and march up San Francisco’s Market Street in a statement against the ongoing BP oil spill. And for the first time in my adult life, I found myself wondering “Why protest?” Nothing makes a statement quite like hundreds of thousands of crude oil flooding the gulf. No amount of marching equals the dramatic impact of the loss of marine life and fisheries. The spill is not suffering from a lack of media coverage: it’s a constant point of discussion on blogs, television news broadcasts, The Daily Show. In the same way that the Exxon corporation has become synonymous with the Exxon Valdez spill, so this spill will haunt the reputation of BP, and justifiably so. Why march? Why not, say, collect natural fibers for booms and send them to the gulf, to aid in the cleanup effort?
I had a similar reaction to Rising Tide’s recent “Liberate Tate” action. The organization sent a letter to Tate Modern Museum officials, stating:
By placing the words BP and Art together, the destructive and obsolete nature of the fossil fuel industry is masked, and crimes against the future are given a slick and stainless sheen.
It goes on to threaten:
Beginning during your 10th anniversary party and continuing until you drop the sponsorship deal, we will be commissioning a series of art interventions in Tate buildings across the country. Already commissioned are Art Action collective, with a birthday surprise at this weekend’s No Soul For Sale event, and The Invisible Committee, who will infiltrate every corner of Tate across the country in the coming months.
That No Soul for Salesurprise involved hanging balloons of oil in several Tate galleries and littering them with dead birds, forcing portions of the exhibition to close. The blogs Liberal Conspiracy, Art Threat and Indymedia UK touted the action as powerful and appropriate. In the meantime, museum workers were attempting a cleanup of their own artful oil spill.
PLATFORM London argues:
A decade ago tobacco companies were seen as respectable partners for public institutions to gain support from – the current BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery was previously sponsored by British American Tobacco. Now it is socially unacceptable for tobacco to play this public role, and it is our hope that oil & gas will soon be seen in the same light.
The Liberate Tate action is the brainchild of John Jordan, a former co-director of PLATFORM and the co-founder of the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination (Labofii). It’s his feeling that arts funding should come from “taxes not corporations,” despite the fact that the British government is reducing arts subsidies. While “Liberate Tate” has no alternative-funding actions planned, Jordan cites’ the Tate’s budgetary silence: “Even if we did find other funders who could take their place, we would never know how much were talking!” In the meantime, “Liberate Tate” will continue to pummel the museum with insurrectionary actions.
I live in California: my taxes don’t fund the Tate. I can similarly not regard the Tate as my neighbor. But I am an employee of a San Francisco museum, and as such I can’t help but feel a bit of sympathy for the Tate, a bit of shock. Seriously? We’re going to punish art institutions for the crimes of its funders? And simultaneously: seriously? BP is just now starting to use natural fiber booms? Why shouldn’t corporations fund initiatives that seek to reconcile their most grievous errors, like Tate’s Rising to the Climate Challenge? Or are the taxpayers to shoulder the burden of cultural advancement, as they will shoulder the burden of the oil spill’s ecological cleanup?
To be fair, Jordan took the issue up with Tate officials directly before beginning the “Liberate Tate” campaign, engaging with director Nicolas Serota via a forum led by the Guardian, and emailing director Penelope Curtis,
Does what takes place outside the citadel that is Tate not feature in the decision-making of the Ethics Committee? If not, is that Committee held back from doing what is right by legal restrictions forcing it to act only in the interests of Tate itself? If so, how can we help change that situation?
This in response to Curtis’ statement that
Without BP’s support Tate would be less able to show the collection in a changing and stimulating way.Given that the majority of Tate’ s funding is self generated, it is necessary for the gallery to work across a wide range of corporate organisations and the sponsorship policy is regularly reviewed by the Trustees. The points you raise are important ones.
Jordan is well versed in disobedience against art institutions: the Nikolaj Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center dropped a workshop led by the Labofii when it became clear the the resulting “tools of civil disobedience” were to be used in COP15 actions. The Art Center feared a clash with the City of Copenhagen, a funder of the museum. Similarly, participants in Labofii’s “Art and Activism” workshop at the Tate Museum learned largely about actions against Tate and its funders, specifically because the Tate stated, in workshop preparations, that it could not host any such actions. The resulting insurrection hung a large “Art Not Oil” sign under the Tate’s “Free Entry” welcome.
In an age where environmental artists are using their skills to solve problems both cultural and ecological, are protest and disobedience really the most useful tools in the box? Or are they just the most dramatic? If there are artists working in soil health, reforestation, and urban gardening, can we not also have administrative artists? Where are the massive bureaucratic art “actions”? And, finally: who would be willing to donate 10 pounds to the Tate for every 5 pounds of BP funding dropped from its budget?