“Human activity endangers entire species, yet human culture is profoundly rooted in nature. The loss of a species is also a loss of the images, stories, symbols and wonders that we live by – to call it a cultural loss may sound too cerebral: what we lose when we lose animals is the very meaning of life…The range of animals and plants threatened by the sixth extinction is such that it menaces the foundations of culture as well as the diversity of nature. We are part of nature and it has always fed our imaginations. We face the bare walls of an empty museum, a gallery of the dead.”
“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’.
”When the greatest beasts before whom our ancestors shrank in terror is in danger of extinction, when the very biodiversity of the planet seems to depend on the implementation of a political treaty, the only thing to be in awe of is the dizzying power of human culture…. our problem today… is that our awe has given way to an exploitative and managerial approach to nature.”
I loved Olivia’s courage to present her ‘passion, which she knows is out of fashion’ but I couldn’t help but feel though that many in audience while applauding this audacious poetic gesture fail to see the bigger crisis that extinction is pointing to, ie that extinction doesn’t only apply to snakes! (I saw the polar bear image above earlier this week and thought, yep, the polar bears have got it – a friend of mine has it as his avatar on Facebook)
Other contributors to Care of Creation printed back in 2000, from scientists to theologians state that ‘the ecocrisis is so serious that scientists and political solutions alone are unlikely to address it satisfactorily’… which some of us are beginning to realise. One of the contributors quotes an earlier writer, Hamilton in 1993, who argued, ‘it is not the ecologists, engineers, economists or earth scientists who will save spaceship earth, but the poets (even small ones), priests, artists and philosophers’.
Here’s another creative work which dovetails Olivia’s piece above, don’t you think.
Olivia gets where science often fails and where artistic performance excels…. ‘if I say their Latin names will you listen more?’
An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.
Like Brian Sewell at a Jeff Koons show, BBC Radio 4’s John Humphrys seemed baffled by the idea of Bill Viola creating a video installation altarpiece for St Paul’s cathedral when he interviewed him a couple of weeks ago.
It’s interesting, in this secular age, that art keeps its privileged position to engage with the spiritual. Religion makes the British twitchy. Increasingly, we’re more at ease with Richard Dawkins’ shouty there-is-no-God-and-anyone-who-suggests-there-is-is-an-idiot line. I am a nullifidian to the bone, but 10,000 years and more of human culture suggests Pascal’s God Shaped Hole may well exist, as some neuroscientists seem to be saying, and this uncertainty is territory that art has always been perfectly at ease in.
Art has always represented the shape religion takes but at the moment it appears we’re not too sure what that shape is. The Romantic-era God, glimpsed in the sublime of the perfect landscape has taken a hike, gasping for breath. The foot-stamping God of vengence is making a come-back, true, but here is plenty of space for art to build a new God.