How can the visual arts broaden understanding and awareness of climate change?
Which artistic mediaare most effective in driving social action?
What is the responsibility of museums and galleries when it comes to climate change?
And why should the sciences and the arts collaborate in the era of climate change?
These are the questions which have arisen from my research over the past two years at the Royal College of Art.
While the vast majority of the world’s population acknowledge that climate change is a fact, it is also a fact that there is not enough social and political action taking place now, in order to avoid an extremely difficult future. The global inequality of climate change is such that countries with the least emissions are experiencing the worst repercussions, while the most culpable societies are, by majority, the least affected. This dichotomy even exists on a local level, with rural infrastructures disrupted by extreme weather, while cities remain stable. Without direct experience, there is very little emotional connection, which is problematic considering that many of our global change-makers are based in cities.
Emotional connection sways public opinion which in turn drives the change-makers forward, and I believe this can be achieved through immersive arts experiences, in particular, those using new media.
New media is transforming the way that we see the world: augmented reality allows architects to ‘walk’ entire streets before a brick is laid, virtual reality is used to help amputees ‘feel’ new prosthetic limbs, and audio-visual installations can transport audiences back in time to ‘see’ a historical landscape as if it were today - so why are these art forms not being used to enable us to walk through, feel and see the changing future of our planet?
While cutting-edge science can appear inaccessible, the arts are able to reachan enormously diverseaudience: they traverse language barriers, communicate with any age and level of impairment, and require no preliminary level of education. Most significantly, artists are experts in persuasion, causing audiences to consider subjects that they would usually choose to avoid. This is particularly poignant in this case, as climate change is a subject which many people do choose to avoid.
Still, in the UK the arts and the climate sciences are failing to work together to encourage positive change. This is exemplified by the fact that in London, a leading global city, there is not a single art museum which nurtures arelationship between the arts and climate science. There are institutions which support interdisciplinary research between the arts and health (Wellcome), and the arts and natural history (The Natural History Museum) - though not climate health or the future of natural sciences.
This is not the case globally, and therefore I intend to change the situation in the UK through furthering my work at Banff Centre for the Creative Arts, a Canadian institution which is engaging with this conversation.
I have been invited to spend one month in Banff working as a think-tank with nine other internationally-based cultural producers, under the title ‘Geologic time’. The intention of this international collaboration is to understand the communication of climate change across the global arts, and to generate forward thinking strategies. This work will be given contextual grounding through symposia and field work with visiting world-leading climate scientists: ensuring that the resulting projects convey accurate, cutting-edge research, and act as a model for interdisciplinary work between the arts and sciences.
Each individual will produce an independent outcome; my own will include formal research papers and a curatorial project designed at the Banff Centre, and developed and exhibited in the UK. The first public presentation will take place in July 2018, as part of ‘Diep~Haven’, a cross-channel arts festival which takes place annually between East Sussex, UK and Normandy, France and whose theme next year will be Terra Firma: humans and the land. This event will be accompanied by a symposium during which I will present my research from Banff, alongside PhD researchers at the University of Sussex School of Life Sciences. Following this, the project will be presented in London in spring 2019.
As the aim of this work is to influence the profile of climate change in the UK, the papers presented in Brighton and London will also be discussed with UK universities and institutions such as the Natural History Museum (which does not yet include exhibits focused on human-centred climate change). Furthermore, I intend to develop a workshopexploring
interdisciplinary practice between scientific and arts institutions for global museums conference ‘Communicating the Museum’, which takes place in two different countries, twice per year, and invites representatives from every museum discipline.
While this residency will generate two immediate projects over the next two years, the project itself will not have an immediately quantifiable effect. Instead, it is the intention of this project that the most significant impact will be a gradual change in how climate change is represented by curators and cultural institutions: encouraging inventive, immersive displays which present up to date science and explore climate change in a way that reaches diverse new audiences, and catalyses positive public, institutional and political action.
There is a distinct lack of funding in the UK for art/science collaborations regarding climate change. While I have been awarded programme funding by the Banff Centre, I am in need of support to travel to and stay in Banff and for the progression of the project.
£1,750 board and travel
£800 artist fees
£1,350 production costs (equipment and staff hire, artist materials)
£450 installation/de-install costs
£4350 in total
Any support will be enormously appreciated and gratefully received!
Another key focus of this crowdfunding page is to open up my work to new interested parties and widen the discussion. Please sign up to the link below for updates: http://eepurl.com/cWT9M5
Many thanks for reading,