The Climate Odyssey process – having fun and creating a play!

The Climate Odyssey (Odisseia pelo Clima) 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. The process involved a series of interactive workshops with diverse arts-based methods and embodied practices to create performative material. From this process a space emerged for the creation of meaning about climate change. It seeks to contribute to new approaches to climate change using the potential of artful and participatory elements to increase awareness and agency for the topic of climate change.

Between February and June 2019 the we promoted weekly interactive art-and science workshops engaging local participants in the co-creation of the community theater Climate Odyssey to be presented to the public in a neighborhood festival in the end of May 2019 (Festival de Telheiras). In weekly interactive workshops we have been reflecting and sharing knowledge and perspectives on climate change. We have also been creatively playing with and dancing (!) about many different ideas related to it. Inspirations have been endangered species, climate fiction, historic events, utopian visions and many others. Some small performances are already crystallising.

Climate Odyssey is a transdisciplinary approach involving artistic practices, social and natural sciences as well as local knowledges and collaborations. The project aims to co-create with the local communities a thematic trajectory (‘odyssey’), which elicits local stories of change and transformation and make visible the various aspects (social, cultural, environmental) of climate change.

ART FOR ADAPTATION @ ECCA2019

I am excited to curate the art program at this year’s European Climate Change Adaptation conference (ECCA) to be hosted in Lisbon from 28–31 May 2019. A program of thought-provoking art, including visual art and music is being developed exploring alternative ways of communicating and engaging people in the complexities of climate change.

Some highlights of the Art Program:

The conference will open with a live music and video performance by Tone Bjordam and Marten Scheffer. They will perform a new work specially composed for the conference, built upon a recent article co-authored by Scheffer entitled Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene. This art and science collaboration aims to provide the audience with a multi-sensory experience showcasing a transdisciplinary approach to the climate challenge.

An exhibition of Tone Bjordam’s paintings, inspired by different biotopes, will be hosted at the conference. The drive behind the Norwegian artist’s practice is to create a space for reflection around processes in nature, and to achieve an in-depth understanding and a sense of feeling connected with nature around us. Bjordam has a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from Oslo National Academy of the Arts and her work has been on display in numerous countries around the world. Bjordam is particularly interested in finding ways to communicate science through art, especially the wonder that drives science.

Marten Scheffer is interested in unraveling the mechanisms that determine the stability and resilience of complex systems. Although much of his work has focused on ecosystems, he also worked with a range of scientists from other disciplines to address issues of stability and shifts in natural and social systems. With the help of a Spinoza award and an ERC advanced grant he founded SparcS and now works on finding generic early warning signals for critical transitions. He also co-founded the South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies (SARAS) and is currently a distinguished professor in ecology and mathematical biology at Wageningen University.

ECCA will also host an exhibition of work from young artists. Entitled Art For Change, it is the result of a collaboration between Artistic Secondary School Antonio Arroio, Lisbon and project Art for Adaptation. 80 eleventh and twelvth-grade students engaged with climate change through transformative learning approaches, by approaching change as an experiment, and through climate fiction. Their artworks reflect their newly gained insights and critical thinking about the subject. The exhibition integrates posters produced with silk print and stencil techniques, and objects which aim to question, highlight and reflect different aspects of climate change. Art For Change aims to empower young people to explore new climate narratives and solutions, help to visualise the connection between global climate change and our daily actions, and reflect on the implications of individual and collective change towards more sustainable forms of living.

Parallel to the scientific program, conference participants are invited to the Art Room, where short films and videos on climate change will be shown.

Finally, the conference will close with a musical performance by the children’s choir of Santo Amaro de Oeiras, Lisbon. This choir participated in 2012 in the Global Rockstar competition, promoted by the United Nations, winning the first place with the song “My blue planet” and representing Portugal at the Rio+20 Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The choir has taken part in recordings and performances with several international artists, including Mara Abrantes, Suzy Paula, Michael Jackson, Secret Lie, and Lemm Project.

Art and climate change education – book chapter (in Portuguese)

Thanks to the collaboration with the project ÁGORA, I published a book chapter about artful climate change education in the beautiful e-book CRIAR CORPO CRIAR CIDADE. It discusses preliminary results of the collaboration project with Antonio Arroio Art High School and shows some art works of the involved students.

Have a look. Free download.

Screenshot 2018-07-24 14.42.20

The ART OF CHANGE school project

How can we pass on climate change knowledge to young people in a way that they become responsible and empowered agents of change? According to the Brazilian writer, thinker and educationalist, Paulo Freire (1974) “responsibility cannot be acquired intellectually, but only through experience” (pp. 13). He advocates for an education that enables people to reflect on themselves, their responsibility and their role in society. Such education intends to develop a critical awareness (conscientização) and conscious action to transform the world.

Recently, 25 students of the António Arroio Art High School in Lisbon were engaged in an experiment with change: to choose a sustainable behavior (such as to eat less meat/be vegetarian, use pubic transportation, don´t use plastic water bottles, buy only national products) and adopt it for 30 days.

IMG_5588

Day 1

The 30 day experiment with change took place from the 12 January until 16 February 2018. During this period, the students reflected in regular posts on habits, social norms, structures, systems and values. They engaged in group dialogues sharing their difficulties and lessons learned and their relationships to the many facets of change. They learned that their experiment was more than just about behavioral change, or making a small reduction in the global carbon budget. Instead it was about understanding how change happens, and recognizing why people are the most powerful solution to climate change.

img_58051.jpg

An exhibition about an experiment of collective change

What if we really changed? What does changing a habit imply for me and for those around me?

After completing the 30 days, each of the students developed an art project about their experience with change: a poster and a booklet. The posters and booklets were curated in an exhibition taking place between 8 and 19 May 2018.

cartaz

Creative writing and storytelling Lab

Imagine you sit in a seminar room in Brussels with a small group of people. Imagine you close your eyes and travel out of your body, out of the room, flying higher and higher until you see the street from above, then the city, the country, Europe and finally the Earth. You are floating in space, looking down at the Earth with its oceans and continents and clouds. Eventually, you decide to fly back to Earth. Approaching it, you realise that it looks different. It’s the year 2089.


The paragraphs above introduced a creative writing exercise at the PLACARD Strategic narratives workshop in Brussels. Over two days, we invited participants to engage in a number of practical exercises in order to learn and share experiences about using narratives as a communication method. The creative writing exercise focuses on a thought experiment:

You arrive at an imaginary museum in the future, in the year 2089. In small glass vitrines you find four artifacts: a piece of formed glass, a small piece of wood, a metal pincer and a braided ring. Why are these pieces in a museum? What do they stand for? What’s their history, what story of transformational change do they tell?

The participants formed small groups: each group was given one of the artifacts and a driver which had an important role in the artifact’s story – either creativity, collaboration, flexibility or empowerment. The groups were then asked to write a story about the artifact.

The exercise encouraged participants to take a different perspective by looking through the lens of creativity and imagining a future with few boundaries, outside the common frames of what is plausible, possible and reasonable.

Creative practices have the potential to challenge present barriers and discourses, and could serve as a tool to catalyse sustainable transformations through their ability to open up different possibilities and spaces for dialogue.

A growing number of artists are working on climate change issues through their creative practices. Indeed, art and creative approaches are increasingly recognised for their potential to challenge current thinking on climate change (Gabrys & Yusoff, 2012) and to present new ways of approaching an issue that is scientifically, politically, economically, socially, and culturally complex, unburdened by the weight of disciplinary constraints (Goehler & Prüss, 2012).

“Art and science interactions can liberate one’s thoughts…. By becoming aware of preconceptions that have been conditioning us unconsciously we are able to perceive and to understand the world in a fresh way and could free habitual responses at various levels.” David Bohm, quantum physicist (1996, p. 49)

From this perspective, a stronger interaction between creativity, science and practice has the potential to change habitual responses, possibly into transformative directions towards a more sustainable future.

The participants’ stories

IMG_4743Piece of wood

“In 2020, when the oil crisis happened, the international community came together to commission a special working group to develop an alternative energy and technology that could provide free, clean and unlimited energy to the masses. Promising developments in nuclear fusion were found in the following decades. In 2040, the working group announced in Oslo that the collaboration of scientists from different countries had allowed the development of a special nanostructure that opened the doors to nuclear fusion on a large scale. This object is a scale model of the space where atoms fuse and release a huge amount of free, clean and unlimited energy.”

IMG_4745

Braided ring of friendship

“The artifact was discovered, very well preserved, in the ruins of an ancient Greek temple. The earth around it was dated and revealed to be thousands and thousands of years old. It was brought to Athens and installed in a museum there. No one knows its original purpose, but this display of creativity inspired the design of the traditional Greek symbol as a sign of connection, collaboration and relationships in a time when people were spread across all of the islands – nothing begins and nothing ends. This piece is the original object that has been reproduced millions of times as a sign of friendship and connection.”

IMG_4742

Piece of glass

“A glass replica of the last piece of Arctic ice is preserved in the Museum of Transformation in Brussels. Brussels is now a coastal city that has survived thanks to the flexibility of the populations’ planners. Transportation is now by water, instead of road. This piece was chosen as it closely resembles a penguin, a formerly popular and beloved species of bird in the Arctic areas. Despite enjoying a glass of wine from the Ardennes, this piece of glass represents a cautionary tale. We´ve finally reached a zero-net-emission state, unfortunately we’re 50 years too late.”

IMG_4740

Pincer

“In the 50 years up to the middle of the 21st century, humans across the world were very angry. Population rise, a changing climate, financial problems and increased stress led to many people being extremely unhappy. In Venice, during major reconstructive work, this small pincer was uncovered. For years, the smartest minds in the world could not work out what its purpose was, and it was almost forgotten. After many experts had tried to solve this mystery, it was a young assistant at the museum who finally discovered its use.

One evening, he brought a female companion to the museum show her the ornate design of this almost-forgotten artifact, without knowing that true love was the secret to its power. That night, they discovered its ability to extract love and copy it from one person to another.

In later years, the technology behind the artifact was mass produced and people across the globe were empowered with love to act on the issues that unite them. In time, with problems on the way to becoming solutions, the world learned to use love to empower itself without the aid of the technology – by realising that everyone already had the tools to change the world all along.”