Climate Change & Art
This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules – like don’t poison the water, soil or air; don’t let the earth get overcrowded; and don’t touch the thermostat – have broken. Paul Hawken
We are working in critical times. Times of rapid change. Human civilization, in the social structures we have created, is impacting on the planet in such a way that global average temperatures are rising at a rate far faster than ever seen before. As temperatures rise a series of tipping points will be passed, such as the melting and disappearing of the polar ice-caps. These then significantly accelerate the rate of temperature rise, beyond our control. We don’t need to reach far beyond our daily news updates to see the impacts are already being felt around the globe.
While we need to recognise that the lifestyles we have become accustomed to in the West are unsustainable and have to change, we also have to see that simply changing our lightbulbs is not the answer. The problem is on a systemic level. We need wholesale social change in terms of the ways in which we organise, think and act. Judging by track record, current government/political systems are not the answer. It is imperative that we take responsibility for ourselves, for our communities and our shared space. This often feels like an insurmountable task, but creative expression as a means for building connection and community, is an essential ingredient in looking for a way forward in such uncertain times.
Creative expression speaks to people on a level which news headlines and magazine articles cannot reach. We are increasingly surrounded by images and slogans warning us of climate change and how we should be doing our bit by buying more environmentally ethical products, but this doesn’t put us in a receptive space emotionally. Dance, sound and visual art enter our emotional bodies and affect us far more readily. If there is a way of shifting something in people through these mediums then we see a strong value in creating work with this aim.
With making art, we are offering an opportunity for a different means of access to watchers/interactors that isn’t solely to do with ‘experiencing’ nature and intellectually appreciating the madness of our way of life, but also offering in-roads to a somatic/felt body of experience. The more open we can make the actual performance of each work, the more headless and heart-led the dissemination can be, the more we can re-script a relationship to climate change and natural phenomena. It seems that one problem with head-led/top-down organisation is the constant sense of ‘ought’ – we ought to do this or that, but actually, for most, this is truly an abstract decision, and there is no emotional or felt truth there. By contrast, where there is passion which is impossible to re-create without an emotional connection, there is no obligation, just a rightness. This creates a place of less thinking, more feeling, which as meaning-making human beings, is essential in order to change our behaviour, and subsequently, thinking patterns. Change is what we are looking at, in terms of natural phenomena, and movement IS change. We experience life most immediately through our body. It constantly reminds us that we are alive, and witnesses and responds to all other life. In working with the body and inviting people into closer relationships with their moving bodies and with others, we can make a contribution to this process of re-connection and change.
In many ways, sustainability is woven into our ethos at a root level. In a time of uncertain economic stability and a rapidly changing natural world, we feel strongly that all people need to be environmentalists. It is important for our work as a whole, and the delivery of all CSP projects to foster an awareness of how these implications affect the entire process of the work – not only in terms of content, but how the work is rehearsed, constructed, and realised. Our work offers a unique and exciting way to embed environmental concerns and the creation of ‘greener art’ into new artistic practice offering ideas about changing the social constructs around how we live, travel, create community, develop and share art. It is our belief that in order for sustainability to become sustainable as practice and not simply as ideal, it is imperative for artists to take a leadership role in bringing such ideals to life, such that individuals in a wider community are involved and begin to understand their level of engagement with sustainability as a practice has consequences.
There is a juxtaposition here – that the making of work often necessitates the use of computers, fossil fuel energy, and many other things which are not ideal from an eco-ethical point of view. However, we see this juxtaposition as providing some possibility to create change – if we were to disappear into the woods, grow our own food, and live a simple, land based life, we would be withdrawing from the rest of society. Although food growing and simple living is part of our shared interest, creating community and making a contribution to social change is our primary interest. In this way, there must be a meeting point – some common ground to share, so that the ideas/suggestions we bring bare relevance to other people’s lives. In view of this juxtaposition we see that there is a balance to strike between remaining true to our values which present an alternative way of engaging with our environment (including direct action, no short haul flights, an ethos of re-use and recycle, vegetarianism, organic, local, seasonal food buying, boycotting international corporations etc) and finding common ground with our audience so that we can engage them.