Learning through the body about sustainability transformations: article published

Research is emphasizing more and more the importance of connecting disparate ways of knowing, including scientific, artistic, embodied and local knowledges to better understand environmental change and to foster community resilience and engagement. This paper argues for an integrative approach to sustainability transformations, one that reconnects body and mind, that fuses art and science and that integrates diverse forms of knowledge in an open, collaborative and creative way.

This article published in Sustainability Science draws on the experience of an arts-based project in Lisbon, Portugal, and explores embodied and performative practices and their potential for climate change transformations. It puts forward and enlivens an example, where such forms of engaging communities can provide new insight into how equitable, just and sustainable transformations can come about.

Link to open access article

Cyanotype and storytelling

Workshop

In this workshop, participants create an image/story for an imaginary museum of sustainability. The image/story creation involves creative writing and cyanotype photographic printing.

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This workshop explores the transformative potential of art through challenging current thinking on climate change and presenting new ways of approaching it. Participants embark on an imaginary journey to the future and use creative-artistic practices to develop alternative narratives (image/story) and share insights. Participants learn in a playful way about the topic of climate change as well as about the of artistic practices. Creative writing techniques and cyanotype printing elicit the image/story.

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Cyanotype is a simple photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue prints. Discovered in 1842 by the English scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel, it was used for reproducing notes and diagrams, and for documenting plant life. In this workshop we use cyanotype prints to illustrate core values and messages for present generations imagined and gathered and on a journey to the future.

Make a difference by singing

We are living in times of complex and global challenges, such as environmental degradation, conflicts, migrations of millions of refugees or climate change. Addressing these complexities requires new ways of thinking, creating and acting.

Music is a universal language and a powerful form of expression. Music affects us on a level beyond the rational, touching on emotions, perspectives and values. Singing in a group creates a sense of community and contributes to physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. But above all singing is a birthright and everyone knows how to sing

Ubuntu Choirs

Ubuntu, a Zulu word means “I am because we are”. This concept calls for empathy for others, creating community and valuing diversity. Ubuntu means that our potential is reached in relationships with others.
Ubuntu choirs are inclusive (open to everyone), do not audition (all voices are welcome, under the right conditions everyone can sing in tune and in harmony) are focused on creating community (rather than focused on concert acting ) and get involved in social projects (e.g. through fundraising).

Between November 2018 and February 2020 I offered a free weekly Ubuntu choir in Penha de Fraça, Lisbon.

Below is a video of an ad-hoc choir that I taught this Hawaiian earth blessing song called “E malama” by Bryan Kessler, harmonized by Nickomo.

Climate Odyssey – video

It took a while but here it is: a short video of the Climate Odyssey public performance.

Over a 3,5-months period we engaged 15 project participants in weekly interactive art-&-science workshops. Inspirations were endangered species, climate fiction, historic events, utopian visions and many others. From these inspirations small performances started to crystallize and the play was created. The public performance took place at Festival de Telheiras, Lisbon, 26 May 2019. We had three sold out shows! To us it was moving, special and inspirational. It showed the power of community and the importance of meaning-making to create climate action. Luckily Guilherme Ornelas was there to film it to capture the moment and later Elisa Purfürst could edit it.

Nature speaks – creative writing lab

When dealing with socio-ecological problems such as climate change, people typically address it exclusively from a human-centric perspective, prioritizing anthropocentric values, needs and visions. Learning to appreciate non-human perspectives, however, is crucial for socio-ecological harmony.

Inspired by project SUSPLACE´s Toolkit for arts-based methods, we used a creative writing exercise in a storytelling workshop to helps us to see more-than-human viewpoints by asking participants to embody the perspectives of specific beings and natural entities, such as animals, plants, rivers, forests, or mountains.

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Photo by Catriona Forrest. Storytelling Workshop, Glasgow, 25 Nov. 2018

Blueprint stories for desirable futures

ART FOR ADAPTATION promotes art-and-science workshop such as the Blueprint Stories. In this workshop, participants create an image/story for an imaginary museum in the future. The image/story creation involves creative writing and cyanotype photographic printing.

DSC_1241This workshop explores the transformative potential of art through challenging current thinking on climate change and presenting new ways of approaching it. Participants embark on an imaginary journey to the future and use creative-artistic practices to develop alternative narratives (image/story) and share insights. While learning in a playful way about the topic of climate change, participants experience the creative potential of artistic practices. Creative writing techniques and cyanotype printing elicit the image/story.

DSC_1255Cyanotype is a simple photographic printing process that produces cyan-blue prints. Discovered in 1842 by the English scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel, it was used for reproducing notes and diagrams, and for documenting plant life. In this workshop we use cyanotype prints to illustrate core values and messages for present generations imagined and gathered and on a journey to the future.

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On the festival Andanças taking place in Castelo de Vide, Portugal (1-5 August 2018), ART FOR ADAPTATION promoted two Blueprint Stories workshops.

Facilitators: Sofia Regalo (cyanotype printing), Julia Bentz (science, storytelling)

Photos: Ana Isa Mourinho

ABOUT

ART FOR ADAPTATION is a six-year postdoc project, financed by the Portuguese Foundation of Science and Technology (SFRH/BPD/115656/2016)

During this period it will develop innovative research on the relationship between art and climate change adaptation and transformation, based on the assumption that successful adaptation occurs through processes of transformation. In other words, successful adaptation involves more than strategies and interventions to tolerate warmer temperatures, adjust to drier or wetter conditions, or manage changes in disaster risk – it is also likely to involve the transformation of larger structures and systems (e.g., energy, financial, and social-technical systems), and possibly transformations in beliefs, values and worldviews such as perceptions of human-environment relationships, understandings of causality and attitudes towards individual and collective agency to affect change.

About me

My name is Julia Bentz, I am a postdoc at the Interdisciplinary Centre of Social Sciences at the University Nova of Lisbon. My background in interdisciplinary social sciences (MPhil. Development Studies, Univ. Vienna; PhD Economics, Univ. Azores, Portugal, 2015), and my personal interests have directed my research towards the interactions between social and ecological systems in a variety of research fields, including marine spatial planning, marine wildlife tourism, protected areas, sustainable mobility, climate change adaptation and transformation. With project ART FOR ADAPTATION, I am focusing on the question of how can art and creative practices contribute to broader, deeper and more inclusive perspectives on adaptation to climate change.

My advisors are:

Karen O’Brien 

Carlos Pereira da Silva

Tiago Capela-Lourenço