Re:Culture #3 – September 2017

ClimateCultures launched in March 2017 and brings together an array of creative minds engaging with environmental and climate change issues: 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 about our Members here.


In Re:Culture #3 

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

Latest Members’ posts 

Anticipatory History

The first post in a series on “anticipatory history” is a review of the book of that name, produced by an interdisciplinary research network. I describe it as a process, a product and a provocation. A slim volume but written in many voices, offering rewarding encounters on different levels, it explores some of the thinking and possibilities involved in ‘looking back’ at histories of environmental change in order to help us ‘look forward’ to what futures might be in store, and which we might shape. 

Doggerland Rising #1: Walking Across the North Sea

In the first of two posts, writer Justina Hart – one of five winners of commissions from Weatherfronts 2016 – introduces how she collaborated with palaeo-scientists at Durham University. The research she conducted with their help fed into the creative process for her long poem, Doggerland Rising, about a tribe forced to leave their homeland as the North Sea rose to swallow the last remaining island, Dogger Island.

Beyond Tongues: Into the Animist Language of Stone

I met artist Oliver Raymond-Barker at art.earth’s In Other Tongues conference in June. Here, he shares the talk he gave there. “As a climber I have the visceral knowledge that stone is alive. Minutes, hours, days and years spent on rock have given me an opportunity to listen to its song. It crashes and rumbles, creaks and groans, whistles and hums. However, it lives and speaks to us on another level – a subtle yet altogether more powerful pitch – a language beyond tongues.”

The Words That Make Our Stories…

In the second in the series on ideas explored in the book Anticipatory history, this post looks at four of the entries there, and other illustrations of how language reveals and shapes the way we understand and respond to environmental and climate change – including my recent learning from the free online ecolinguistics course, The Stories We Live By.

News in Brief from Members …

If you have news for Re:Culture #4, send in just two sentences + a link - by 22nd September at the latest.

Chantal Bilodeau invites us to consider joining Climate Change Theatre Action: “Support the United Nations COP23 meeting by hosting an event in your community between 1st October  and 18th November, 2017. We have already close to 200 people signed up to present events in 40 countries.” More details at The Arctic Cycle.

Chris Fremantle is researching the role of education and learning in ecoart practice and would love to know if this resonates: “The way I think about it, most ecoartists want people who experience their work to come away more engaged, informed and concerned about the environment they have made the work about. ‘Didactic’ used to be used about art quite regularly, but I’m not sure it’s the right word for this aspect of ecoart, encouraging people to learn about the world for themselves inspired by art, but not dictated to by it.” Contact Chris via the details at Ecoartscotland.

Lola Perrin has added a page to her ClimateKeys website, with people’s one-sentence responses to ‘The way to solve climate change is…‘ “I know it’s difficult to produce just one sentence on this, but having a collection of these on what what the bottom line is for different people may end up being of value to us all.” Please check out the page at ClimateKeys and send in your sentence!

Author and journalist David Thorpe is part of the panel at the final of three workshops exploring the nature and role of the concepts of fate, luck and fortune. “Fate, Luck and Fortune: Popular Narratives of Environmental Risk is on 8th September. Other speakers include: Nick Alfrey (Nottingham University), Claire Craig (Royal Society), Karen Henwood (Cardiff University), James Lyons (Exeter University), Joe Smith (Open University), and Jonathan Wolff (Oxford University).” Details at: Eventbrite 

… and Subscribers:

Robert Holtom is holding the next in his series of training workshops, Myth-Makers: Storytelling Skills for Change-Makers. “Where storytelling meets change-making with mythical consequences. For campaigners, activists, social entrepreneurs, writers, artists, environmentalists and more: 22nd October, London.” Details at Eventbrite

Lucy Latham at Julie’s Bicycle shared an invitation to join in a creative season celebrating the environment and inspiring action on climate change. “From 1st June to 1st December 2018 the UK’s creative community will host a season of work and activities celebrating the environment and inspiring action on climate change. The Season for Change will coincide with the COP24 global climate talks.” Details at Julie’s Bicycle

Coming up – September on our Events page 

Check the Events page for further information and links on these events and others over the next month and beyond. 
  • There should still be time to catch renegade economist Kate Raworth tonight (Reading, 4th September) at St John & St Stephen’s Church, where she discusses her book Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st century economist – the topic of our own Book Club, of course. For details see Outrider Anthems
  • Cross Multi Inter Trans (Sheffield, 6th – 8th September) is the annual conference of the UK & Ireland Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE-UKI). It’s co-sponsored by ASLE-UKI and LAND² (“land squared”), a creative practice-led research network of artist/lecturers and research students with an interest in landscape/place-oriented art practice. With In the Open, Sheffield: an exhibition of collaborative artworks around place, landscape and environment.
  • Seven Coats: Divesting for Beginners (Reading, 7th September) is is based on two stories that happen underground. The time is 3500 BC in Sumer (now Iraq) and 1991 AD in London, UK. One follows the myth of Innana, Queen of Heaven and Earth, as she steps into the kur, the Underworld, in search of her sister Erishkigel; the other a real-life voyage of ‘divestment’ from a culture fuelled by the oil that flows beneath the desert floor. The challenge is to go through the seven gates of the ‘Great Below’ and unshackle yourself from a civilisation that began in the reedbeds of the Tigris river. It’s an upside down Cinderella tale for a world that has forgotten about consequences. But it is also an imaginative encounter with the Earth and the transformative life-forces that Innana, and those who follow her track, forgo their privilege and power to secure.
  • The Return of Animal Spirits: Towards a Vitalist Narrative of Environmental Risk (London, 7th September) is a public lecture by Jackson Lears (Rutgers University): “I plan to use Keynes’s conception of animal spirits as the jumping-off place for reflections on the recent revival of vitalist themes in social, economic, and political thought. Keynes’s usage of the term was rooted in the modernist vitalism of the early twentieth century – animal spirits were expressions of a spontaneous “impulse to act,” a vital energy that became a major part of the maelstrom of avant garde thought. Keynes was talking about investors’ motives but the notion of animal spirits has a longer history and broader meanings than economic ones. Recent developments in epigenetics, for example, suggest the possibility of an animated universe, composed of purposeful organisms and “vibrant matter” rather than the programmed creatures and inert matter embedded in the rationalist and positivist traditions.”
  • Popular Narratives of Environmental Risk (London, 8th September) is a workshop asking “How do we talk about the risks of our environment? Who do we blame when things go wrong?” It will investigate whether and how conceptualisations of fate, luck and fortune remain powerful in current as well as historical popular discourses concerned with environmental risks. Speakers include: Nick Alfrey (University of Nottingham), Claire Craig (Royal Society), Karen Henwood (Cardiff), James Lyons (Exeter), David Thorpe (sustainability consultant and author), Joe Smith (Open University), Jonathan Wolff (University of Oxford).
  • Symposium on Darkness (Reading, 9th September) asks what this word means for scientists, artists, educators, philosophers and theologians. “It will be a ‘grown up conversation’ which allows for the insights of one forum to crossover with others. Speakers include Kester Brewin on Mutiny! Alison Webster on Transgression, Colin Heber-Percy on Darkness, Mystery and Art, Helen Bilton on Upturning Education, Vincent Gardner on Dogs**t Theology, Gary Collins on Desire, others to be confirmed, including ‘a man with bees’…”
  • ‘Where The Wild Winds Are’ – An evening with Nick Hunt (Bristol, 13th September). Nick will be talking about his new book ‘Where The Wild Winds Are’ and how he walked the invisible pathways of four of Europe’s local winds – the Helm, the Bora, the Foehn and the Mistral – to discover how they affect landscapes, cultures and people. 

Views from Elsewhere – readings from the web

For my selection of posts and articles in August, I’ve decided not to look into the themes but to admire the random poetics of headlines when ordered by alphabet. What links and kinks emerge for you?

Al Gore Q&A / fixing democracy to combat climate change
Big, non-native mammal invaders / not a problem, but a solution
Butterfly effect / everything you need to know about this powerful mental model
Data rescue projects
Don’t blame climate change for the Hurricane Harvey disaster / blame society
Eco guide to optimism
In other tongues: badger dissonance
Seven ways of looking at an eclipse
Trying to keep nature the same is a fool’s errand / we should embrace change
What type of changemaker are you?
Why are the crucial questions about Hurricane Harvey not being asked?
Your Prius is not enough

In the words of one of the writers quoted this time – “So, forests may burn, snakes may attack, people may go blind. Stay safe out there.”

You can find August’s selection plus all the readings from April onwards, with links to the original stories, at our Views from Elsewhere page.

Book Club – the story so far…

In our latest discussion on Doughnut Economics, we have been looking at Kate Raworth’s suggestions that we need “five broad shifts in how we can best depict our economic selves. First, rather than narrowly self-interested we are social and reciprocating. Second, in place of fixed preferences, we have fluid values. Third, instead of isolated we are interdependent. Fourth, rather than calculate, we usually approximate. And fifth, far from having dominion over nature, we are deeply embedded in the web of life.” 

Our comments included:

  • “This opens up big questions of what and who controls our ways of perceiving, thinking, and then our subsequent behaviours.  Big questions about free-will, nature vs nurture.”
  • “Monetary incentives tend to erode more intrinsic motivations such as wanting to act for the common good, to earn respect and contribute.”
  • “I was very encouraged by this refreshing look at how human societies and economies might be described differently – almost ‘spoken into being’.  Creativity has a huge role here. Joseph Beuys: “If we want to achieve a different society where the principle of money operates equitably, if we want to abolish the power money has over people historically, and position money in a relationship to freedom, equality, fraternity…then we must elaborate a concept of culture and a concept of art where every person must be an artist.”‘
  • “I’d like to know more about what he means by ‘artist’ here … An artist has some responsibility to continually open up possibilities rather than close them down to a final conclusion? Of course, we also all need to decide on courses of action, not just have a never-ending discussion: but this is another aspect of creativity – to make things, try them, not hold them too tight, be prepared to let them go if they are not working, and be open to ideas from others?”

I will feature more insights from the book and from our discussions as the Book Club progresses. Members, of course, can follow the discussion – and join in. 

On the horizon: this month on the site

I’m excited that we can offer something a weekly series of short extracts from Nick Hunt’s fascinating new bookWhere the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe’s Winds from the Pennines to Provence will be published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing on 7th September, and Nick is sharing texts on each of the four wild winds he has researched, encountered and experienced, with a scene-setting piece from the book’s introduction. We will also have follow on posts from some of our previous authors. I’m delighted that we can build up such a valuable resource of your creative thoughts and work over time, bringing new and familiar voices into the mix.

I’ll be sharing more of my continued reading and thinking on The Stories We Live By. I highly recommend this free online course to anyone interested in how language reflects and shapes the different ways we think about (or don’t think about) environmental change. I’d welcome ClimateCultures Members’ experiences and reactions to the course and ideas on how we could use its resources in ClimateCultures, and in our own practices.

New Members’ Posts are working their way down the pipeline. There’s still room in September for your words, images or sounds to join in the conversation. And what’s that you say? You think it’s time we had another contribution to A History of the Anthropocene in 50 Objects? I think so too (and that could be you). Plus I have a stack of some of my favourite books that I want to give away. There’s one book per set of three objects (and that could be yours!).

Finally

Do check out our Resources section. If we are missing something, or there are other ideas you’d like to see alongside these, do let me know.

And if you would like to talk through any ideas or issues in your creative, research or curatorial work, do remember that I’m very happy to act as an informal ‘Sounding Board’. I’ve really enjoyed the phone, Skype or email conversations I’ve had each month, and it often seems to help to have that chat with someone who is new to what you’re working on or want to explore. Email me and we can set up a time to talk 🙂

Thank you to everyone who has contributed posts to the ClimateCultures blog, and to all who have joined the group or signed up for this newsletter. Please do link to ClimateCultures on your own sites and feel free to point your contacts or networks to our posts or resources. 

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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Thanks,

Mark

Mark Goldthorpe
Editor, ClimateCultures & the Re:Culture newsletter
mark@climatecultures.net