In December, Dance Exchange hosted Amara Tabor-Smith, our first Green Choreographer-in-Residence. Amara and her collaborator Sherwood Chen spent a week with Dance Exchange artists exploring sustainable food practices and food justice. Amara’s residency, which took place in our studios, as well as at sites like Eco City Farms in Edmonston, MD, culminated in a Thursday night HOME event featuring a potluck dinner and reflections on food and family. Visit Dance Exchange’s Facebook page to view more pictures from the residency.
Jill Sigman, of New York City, is our second Green Choreographer-in-Residence and will be in residence from January 28-February 1, 2013. Sigman will explore principles of permaculture and engage in hands-on work with small living systems, and this research will inform the development of movement scores and improvisational systems for use in her work The Hut Project, a series of site-specific structures built from trash. Sigman will share her methods and research in her HOME event on Thursday, January 30th from 7:00-9:00pm, and teach FRIDAY CLASS on Friday, February 1st from 9:30-11:15am.
A threare group aims to use powerful images of everyday garbage, humour and solid facts to examine Lebanese attitudes towards consumption, and prompt them to consider where their trash ends up. Zeina Aboul-Hosn takes a seat in the final performance.
‘Junkitecture’ is a clever term, combining design and ‘waste’. But what if the materials used for buildings, for sets, for props, for puppets, for the vehicles and floats of parades, were thought of simply as ‘materials’? Of course, they would have a special value or feel if they had been used for something else. But to call them ‘junk’ is to share the attitude that separates the ‘new’ from what we think of as ‘waste’. What is happening with the use of materials in the arts that have a history can often be more of a valorisation of consumerism and excess, a celebration of trash as ‘trash’ or salvage, than a critique of waste or an affirmation of recycling.
What if no special claims could be made for using reclaimed or recycled materials because it was commonplace? Then, what would be remarked on would be the design, the space or object itself, and the qualities that the materials brought to it.
The Jellyfish Theatre building was enchanting for its design and for its transiency, a theatre space in a symbolic shape, assembled from what was to hand, played in, and then dispersed, the theatre becoming again the material that it was, maybe to be used again, having acquired another layer of history.
What is the next step after the Co-op? Where do resources go after the Austin Scenic Co-op [Collaboration between Salvage Vanguard and Rude Mechs] can no longer use them? I found inspiration this week from two community service volunteers that were helping me to organize the shed where we house the Austin Scenic Co-op stock. Community service volunteers are court appointed by the city of Austin to complete a certain number of hours with a local non-profit.
This week I worked with two young men to get rid of some of our stock that had not been used since it was donated. Most of these were odd shaped platforms that are very show specific and therefore not used readily by many people. We were hauling these out to the dumpster making way for a new batch of standard 4×8 platforms –by far our most popular item to loan out. To me these old platforms –some of which have not been touched by anyone for three years–were just trash, but the guys that were helping me out asked if they could use some of the lumber. They informed me that they had friends that would break down things like what I was throwing away. If they got the things for free they could turn just enough profit to make it worth their while.
This reminded me of an essay I read recently, “Ecology and Community” by physicist and systems theorist Fritjof Capra. In it he argues that communities should turn to ecosystems to learn how to be sustainable. Capra insists that lessons learned from ecosystems aren’t mere suggestions, but are laws for how communities must organize themselves. The laws of sustainability are “just as stringent as the laws of physics . . . If you go up to a high cliff and step off it, disregarding the laws of gravity, you will surely die. If we live in a community, disregarding the laws of sustainability as a community, we will just as surely die in the long run.”
Capra identifies five laws of sustainability: interdependence, recycling, partnership, flexibility, and diversity. I think the most fascinating argument he makes in the article is when he writes, “you can define an ecosystem as a community where there is no waste.”
In establishing the Austin Scenic Co-op we have been very concerned with getting donations–making sure people know about us so that they don’t throw away set pieces that others could use. We have been working to establish networks to recycle theatre companies’ sets and we still have a lot of work to do in this regard. Now that our stock is starting to grow we are encountering a new problem–one that I did not foresee. What is the next step in the network? What do we do with those things that aren’t useful anymore to theatre companies?
Now that we have to be more selective about what we can accept and are starting to have to cull some of our less useful stock we need to establish another link in the network. Another level of recycling. I am excited about establishing another partnership one that is interested in using lumber that we cannot. And getting closer to our goal of zero waste.
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?
Did you know that nearly 70% of materials thrown in the trash are commonly recyclable? Help educate your students by educating yourself. Go to the Waste Reduction and Recycling Workshop!
Are you interested in learning why recycling is so critical? Interested in how to recycle on your campus? Interested in the best practices to take your recycling program to the next level? The Waste Reduction and Recycling Workshop introduces participants to Los Angeles County’s waste cycle and helps teachers and students set up or improve their campus recycling programs.
The Waste Reduction & Recycling Workshop will take place:
Saturday, November 7th
9:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Registration begins at 8:30am
Culver City High School
4401 Elenda Street
Culver City, CA 90230
Click here to register! Registration Deadline: November 6th, 2009
Contact Steve Howe at: email@example.com or (310) 402-7400
I’d like to take an opportunity to salute some minor heroes of the eco-art movement. These are people who aren’t neccessarily attending conferences or participating in exhibitions. They might not even consider themselves eco-artists: they aren’t taking it too seriously. I’m talking about funny folks.