July 2017 – Welcome to Re:Culture #1, the newsletter of ClimateCultures


ClimateCultures launched just a few months ago and has already attracted an array of creative minds engaging with environmental and climate change issues. It’s an online platform for all kinds of artists – writers, composers, painters, sculptors, performers, video and sound artists and more – as well as scientists, social scientists and humanities scholars, and curators in galleries, museums and online spaces. You can read here about the 50+ who’ve joined so far.

In issue #1

> Latest Members' posts  
> News in Brief from our Members & Subscribers 
> Coming Up - how early July looks on our Events page 
> Views from Elsewhere - recent readings from the web 
> ClimateCultures Book Club - the story so far... 
> On the horizon: this month on the site 

Latest Members’ posts 

It Begins …

Julia Marques introduces her research on climate change in theatre for her MA Climate Change: History, Culture, Society. Studying the increasing interest in climate change within new drama, Julia’s visual discourse analysis will chart how the topics are addressed explicitly or form a backdrop to the world of the performance. 

"I was inspired by the idea put forward by Matthew Nisbet and colleagues in Four cultures: new synergies for engaging society on climate change. They detail a new vision for the effective incorporation of the environmental sciences, philosophy and religion, social sciences and creative arts and professions. I decided to explore this for myself." 

A Personal History of the Anthropocene: Three Objects #3

Jennifer Leach shares her evocative contribution to our series A History of the Anthropocene in 50 Objects. Her selection brings to life a past, a present and a future where care and nurture are constants, and her words move from prose to poetry with an ease that makes for a timeline of hope.  

"Into the weavings over the years were entwined responses to the living world – stories, tales, colour harnessed from familiar plants, symbols, references to greater powers, and patterns laid down in homage to those observed in nature."

The Art of Noise

A lively, loud gathering of scientists, musicians, journalists, sound artists and social scientists can be both fun and thought-provoking. But my biggest impression from the creativity that unfolded at Climate Symphony Lab was the sheer noise … Here are my impressions and reflections on a day making music with the Anthropocene.

"Somewhere in all that, I gradually found the noise became my signal. Something meaningful emerged, slow and uncertain. The process: messy, seemingly chaotic, definitely confusing. The data, even our small sample: overwhelming. The choices: full of conflict. The time constraints: ridiculous. It was all pushing us to compromise so as not to fail. We’d fail anyway, but you have to act. Sound familiar? We'd become our own representation of the global 'problem'.

A People of the Fall

Rediscovering William Golding’s The Inheritors provided the first ‘book prize’ for a Members’ post on A History of the Anthropocene… (Julien Masson’s excellent Three Objects #2) and an opportunity to reread this classic. Here is my review of this essential reimagining of a key transition in the story of humanity.

"Golding used the restrictions of language to convey the world through the thought-images of our distant cousins – distant in time, and also in consciousness. Through the eyes of Lok, his people’s social and natural world (with no distinction possible between these aspects of being and belonging) is rendered as timelessly familiar to him and his family, while unfamiliar to us."

The Anthropocene Writ Small: My Friend Jules

Artist and game designer Ken Eklund shows how working with stories offers popular, engaging, and accessible routes into the past and present of our life with energy, as well as imagining possible futures. And fellow ClimateCultures member Vicky Long has been commissioned to create a work inspired by ideas in the first round of My Friend Jules.

"My Friend Jules opens up discussions about our complicated relationship with energy to the vocabularies we use to characterize our human relationships. At the game’s website you can find an elegy, character reference, how-we-met love story, short play, limerick, essays, video interview, superheroes, captioned photos, Amazon product review ... expanding the ways we can collaboratively envision the anthropocenic structures that shape our common future."

Óshlið: River Mouth Slope

In this reflective and evocative multimedia post, filmmakers Sarah Thomas and Jon Randall hold a conversation around the ideas, stories and creative processes behind their project exploring Óshlið, a disappearing road in Iceland. As you listen in on their conversation, you can see a slideshow of images they’ve brought back from this unique and changing place – and then watch a preview of their film.

"Our film represents a journey along Óshlið, an abandoned coastal road which is considered to be one of the most dangerous and beautiful in Iceland. In 2010, the road was closed and is now in the process of being rapidly reclaimed by both the mountain and the sea. The film delves into the stories of this road and its relationships with the people who maintained, traveled and died upon it. Through these voices, it reflects upon a post-human landscape and the nature of mortality."

News in Brief from our Members …

If you have news for Re:Cultured #2, send in just two sentences + a link - by 20th July at the latest.

Chris Fremantle shared this opportunity for artists: “WetlandLIFE Researchers will be awarding one or more Bursaries to artists to create new work related to their work focused on wetlands, biodiversity and mosquitoes. A full brief is available at wetlandlife.org and there is more info there as well as on the Valuing Nature Programme website.

Justina Hart, Darragh Martin, Sarah Thomas, David Thorpe and I all spoke at Realistic Utopias, a session of this year’s Hay Festival: “All four writers – as well as Emma Howell – won commissions following TippingPoint’s 2016 Weatherfronts and were reading from these at the event. I chaired the panel discussion on climate change writing, and you can listen to it at the Hay Player.”

Paul Michael Henry is calling for Expressions of Interest for UNFIX Festival: “UNFIX Festival’s next event in Glasgow (December 2017) will feature performance, film, installation, workshops and debate to unravel the knots in how we’re living: ecological crisis and renewal addressed through our bodies and physical sense of living. UNFIX has run previous editions in Glasgow, New York city and Tokyo; we’re learning as we go, trying to join the dots between the Anthropocene, runaway capitalism & inequality, and our most intimate sense of self.” See unfixfestival.com for more on how to propose work for the event. Deadline 14th July.

Julia Marques is looking for information for her research project (mentioned above): “I am a climate change dramatist looking for environmentally-themed theatre for visual discourse analysis. I’m keen to hear from anyone who knows of or is involved in current (or past) climate change productions.” See juliarmarques.wordpress.com for info and contact details; also her ClimateCultures post.

Darragh Martin shared a short video “… that a group I’m part of made about fossil fuel divestment – you can glimpse me in Crudella de Spill mode 🙂 Please do watch and share if you can.” Check out the video at Platform’s Facebook page.

Lola Perrin has updates on two musical initiatives: “ClimateKeys, a worldwide initiative to open up the classical music performance space as a new arena for talking about positive response to climate change kicks off in October and continues into 2018. There are currently 55 pianists in 19 countries preparing to collaborate with expert guest speakers who give a talk within the concert and then facilitate a conversation with the audience.” See climatekeys.com

And Lola has published Significantus, a sheet music piano book with distribution by Spartan Press: “Significantus, a keyboard conversation about climate change, continues its tour in the Autumn with a focus on the West Country. Cardiff date confirmed: November 10th with guest speakers Dr Stuart Capstick (Tyndall Centre) and Dr Adam Corner (Climate Outreach).” Details of this and Frome and Stroud dates to be posted at significantus.com

Dr Arran Stibbe sent this news on the free online course, The Stories We Live By: “The social and ecological issues humanity faces are so severe that they call into question the fundamental stories we live by: consumerism, infinite economic growth, progress and human separation from nature. Our free online course provides linguistic tools for revealing these narratives, questioning them from an ecological perspective, and contributing to the search for new stories to live by.” See storiesweliveby.org.uk for details and materials.

Robert Woodford shared this news on a new way of exploring Deep Time: “Deep Time Walk is the world’s first interactive mobile app of its kind, helping people as they take a 4.6 kilometre walk ­– anywhere in the world – to learn and experience a detailed, dramatized journey of Earth’s Big History, from the planet’s formation to the present day. The team is currently crowdfunding and the app can be downloaded for 50% off the usual price until July 11th.” See Crowdfunder now for details of the campaign, attractive rewards and to find the app on the Android and Apple stores.

You can see all our Members' profiles and websites on the About our Members page.

… and our Subscribers:

Carbon footprint analyst, writer and performance poet Danny Chivers reports that “With a third of its crowdfunding target already achieved, the Culture Unstained campaign for ‘fossil-free theatre tickets’ has already given a first batch of 16-25 year olds the chance to see a Royal Shakespeare Company performance without having to promote an oil company sponsor. Many big names from stage and screen have endorsed the scheme, which is still open for contributions.” See their GoFundMe and Facebook pages.

After the book talk, the rather nifty paper flowers: (l-r) Mark Goldthorpe, Sarah Thomas, David Thorpe, Justina Hart and Darragh Martin at Hay Festival

Photograph: Eva Ullrich © 2017

Coming up – how early July looks on our Events page 

Check the Events page for the details of these and other events. And do send in details of anything we should include there.

Global Warming and How We (Don’t) Respond to It – London, 6th July, 19.00-21.00

“A multi-lingual theatre project exploring our complex psychological reactions to climate change and why we so often fail to do anything about it. Devised and performed by an international cast of young theatre makers and students from the UK, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, and France, and inspired by the writings of climate psychologists, this work-in-progress presentation delves into the funny, twisted and often tragi-comic ways our climate change behaviours are ruled by anything but rational thought.” From Theatre Arts & Middlesex University.

Climate Symphony Lab – Newcastle, 8th July, 11.00 -21.00

“Climate Symphony is a creative lab that turns hard data on climate change into a symphony to tell the story of what climate change means through sound. Spend a day with journalists, climate scientists, data analysts and sound artists to collaboratively explore and discover how to change climate change research data into a sound and music composition. The day culminates with a live illustrated performance by leading sound artist Jez Riley French who uses field recordings in the composition of his work, often from places affected by climate change. From Disobedient Films, Forma Arts & Jamie Perera.

stuck – London, 11th – 14th & 16th July, various times & venues

“Don your frontiersman’s helmet for this comedic journey to the black heart of the earth’s ecological crisis. There you will see UNCANNY landscapes, Norman COWS, and perhaps – if you are lucky – THREE fates/women/gods from far flung countries who are stuck. In the muck. WTF. Part art installation, part immersive absurdist theatre ‘stuck’ uses clown, rhetoric and soft sculpture to examine our cultural paralysis around climate change.” From HOAX Theatre.

Views from Elsewhere – recent readings from the web

Check out the original links for these and other stories at Views from Elsewhere.

Glancing back at the pieces I signposted last month, a couple of strands emerge for me. These ramblings of mine in no way represent the richness or direction of the source materials. Do read the articles for yourself – and share your thoughts through the ClimateCultures blog!

  • The Anthropocene features in several thoughtful reflections on who we are: a species characterised by prospection – our orientation toward the future – and by the limitations of that drive; a species ‘both composed of and trapped inside its history’; and one increasingly haunted by a sense that our attitudes of dominance over other species – while in fact being wholly interdependent with them – is an ‘eerie intimacy’ with others. That intimacy could become ever ghostlier as we bring on a sixth mass extinction even while we egin to learn about the trajectories of the previous five and the relationships between people and ecosystems over recent millennia.
  • Human-animal relations have also featured on more domestic scales, from childhood memories of school exercises portraying animals as the food and clothing products they become, through to associations between more natural-leaning forms of beehive and the importance of ‘crisis homes’ for people: safe spaces at times of need. While, down on the planet’s ice continent, one man’s creative appreciation of nature has been uncovered after more than a century lying in the camp of a fatal polar expedition: one of 1,500 artefacts now being conserved and studied before being returned to their resting place, once the hut itself is restored.
  • That not all survivors from our own past can be preserved and assisted into an uncertain future is highlighted in reflections on the question “What possibilities emerge when change is embraced rather than resisted?” A link, maybe, to the more “kind, curious and non-judgemental awareness” that, it’s suggested, mindful awareness might offer to a transition to greater sustainability.  
  • Such a transition might also entail a shift from the centuries-old legacy of ‘Enlightenment’ to a future attitude of ‘Endarkenment’ and pulling back from the pollution – literal and metaphorical – of an “overflow of human consciousness” that is rapidly erasing natural sound- and lightscapes.

ClimateCultures Book Club – the story so far…

See our Book Club page for information and links about our first book, and Members can access the discussion.

In week 1 of our discussion of Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics, we’ve been getting to know the group and sharing thoughts on Kate’s introductory essay, Who wants to be an economist? It was fascinating to read how economics students around the world have been rebelling against the outdated teaching they’ve been receiving.

From the book:

“In 2000, economics students in Paris had sent an open letter to their professors, rejecting the dogmatic teaching of mainstream theory. ‘We wish to escape from imaginary worlds!’ they wrote ‘Call to teachers: wake up before it is too late!”…

From the discussions:

“Kate’s language and writing is centered around engagement and attempts to bring joy which has been systematically sapped out of the subject.”

“…for as long as I can remember friends and I have been complaining to each other about this artificial notion of “growth” – endless growth… to where?!”

“When she talks about Copernicus’ concentric circles – and then we think more of the potential power within her own Doughnut diagram … I began to feel that this book was going to be possible to understand even for non-Economics experts…” 

“She understands how it’s imagery – real and metaphorical – that’s key to helping us do more than understand and critique, but to replace damaging myths about ‘laws of economics’ with stories that are better suited to the challenges we are facing but which the ‘fathers’ (of course…) of economics never had to contend with.”

“For me, the most powerful and stimulating sentence in the introduction was ‘it is absolutely essential to have a compelling alternative frame if the old one is to be debunked.’ … I look forward to reading more about how this alternative frame coud work.”

Today (3rd July), we start the reading and talking in earnest with Chapter 1, Change the goal: from GDP to the Doughnut. Then it’s a chapter a fortnight – with discussions on the previous chapters staying open for those who want to join in. And Kate Raworth has offered to join us for a Q&A at the end!

You can join us. ClimateCultures Members: you're already registered. Subscribers: the Book Club is 'Members only' but our free Membership is open to all artists, researchers and curators, so this could be your excuse to join the creative conversations for the Anthropocene!

On the horizon: this month on the site

We have more Members’ posts in the pipeline, of course – and I’d love to add yours to the list. Do send in your reflections in words, images or sounds, sharing your work on our environmental or climate change topics.

I’ll be taking the Deep Time Walk app for a walk and reporting back on some of my learning from the free The Stories We Live By course (both mentioned above).

I’ll be reviewing Anticipatory History (edited by Cailtin DeSilvey, Simon Naylor and Colin Sackett); this is the book that’s heading off to Jennifer for her contribution to A History of the Anthropocene in 50 Objects. Will there be a new offering of three objects in July, and another book prize heading off down to the Post Office? It could be yours…

And we should have eaten our way through half of Doughnut Economics. Be part of the conversation in our Book Club, and I will pick some of the highlights for Re:Culture #2.

And no doubt there will be some surprises along the way.


Thank you to everyone who has contributed posts to the ClimateCultures blog since we launched back in March, and to all who have joined the group, signed up for this newsletter or sent appreciative emails about what you have liked most on the site.

Re:Culture is a monthly newsletter from ClimateCultures; both are edited by me, Mark Goldthorpe. If you have items you'd like to share as News in Brief, or suggestions for the website, contact mark@climatecultures.net

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Mark Goldthorpe
Editor, ClimateCultures & the Re:Culture newsletter