Friday 8 March 2013

New on our news page

Dome for sale at CCANW
Crowd-sourcing is building two online databases: Actipedia for activist art, and TippingPoint's database of climate art.

The Museum of Water and the pop-up Water Bar assemble in Soho, London next week.

Send a bottle of sea water to the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh for an exhibition in 2014.

The last of the Wasteland Conversations in Nottingham is on the Common Imagination.

The Center for Contemporary Art and the Natural World is selling its all-weather Dome, and moving to the University of Exeter.
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Monday 4 March 2013

Reports from Fukushima

'Ghost Town', photo by and copyright Su Grierson
Wallace Heim writes:

Artist Su Grierson has been sending updates to ecoartscotland on her 10-week residency in Kitakata, Fukushima Province, Japan. Su emphasises that she is there as an artist, not a journalist, and she is only able to report what she is told, often through translation, and what she sees herself without external verification.

Su’s reports evoke the everyday life of those living with the continuing effects of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters in stories of rescue, luck and tragedy.

Two excerpts:

19 February
Su visits the Scottish artist Aenaes Wilder and they drive to the coast north from Kitikata, an area decimated by the earthquake and tsunami

‘Aenaes was keen to revisit the area which still holds horror images and a memory of the smell that he was still needing to come to terms with ... He told me the story of how only one small town survived undamaged. Many years ago the Mayor of this town had insisted on building the sea defence wall many meters higher than anywhere else had even considered. He was laughed at and his wall was the subject of jokes throughout his lifetime. After 11 March his town was the only one in the area where not a single person died. The very next day the local people began laying flowers on his grave.’ more

11 February
The Director of Minamisouma City Museum guides Su and other artists through the area nearest to the nuclear disaster site.

'We carried radiation monitors in the car (you can buy them in the Home Centre)…
Miles of empty houses including whole villages with cars, lorries and tractors left abandoned because they are too contaminated to be moved. The ghost towns with their traffic lights still working are an eerie and disturbing sight especially in near blizzard conditions. Houses of all sizes are left abandoned with police patrol cars driving round as protection. These black-and-white cars with their silent red rotating beacons add an almost holocaust atmosphere as they glide around the empty roads...

The scale of all this is so huge it is only by seeing it that any idea of scale can really be imagined. I was told that in this Province there are 100,000 refuges and 200,000 in the next Province and there are more in many other areas.'  more

The residency, involving four artists, is working towards an exhibition with the Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art on the theme Spirit of the North. 
more ...

Thursday 21 February 2013

New on our news page

for Burning Ice #6, copyright Sarah Vanagt
Environmental Arts Festival Scotland is calling for projects connected to land, energy, the coast, rural living, Dark Skies, climate change, and more.

Wysing Arts Centre in Cambridge is calling for ideas on the theme of Tracing the Tacit, for retreats exploring the underlying ideas, influences and concepts informing artists’ practices.

The work of art in critical times works out on energy, economy and environment at a symposium in Falmouth.

Wasteland Conversations in Nottingham take on utopia, community and ecology.

Also in Nottingham, and in London, the vacuum cleaner talks: 'I Went Mental and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt' .

And in Brussels, Kaaitheater looks at animals looking back for their Burning Ice #6 Festival.
more ...

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Jennifer Monson live, indoors, at The Kitchen

Wallace Heim writes:

Tomorrow, at The Kitchen in New York City, the movement artist Jennifer Monson starts Live Dancing Archive, a week of live performances, video installation and a digital archive.

One of the first stories on the Ashden Directory in 2000 featured Jennifer's project BIRD BRAIN Dance, a dance touring project following the migratory pathways of birds and grey whales in the northern and southern hemispheres. Jennifer's work in the UK continued with Water Log, an outdoor movement project across the sands of Morecambe Bay. She returned to America and now is director of iLAND (Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature and Dance), developing collaborative art and environmental projects.

The New Yorker previews her show:

'For more than a decade, this esteemed improviser has done most of her dancing outdoors, following the migrations of animals and exploring the connections between dance and scientific research. In Live Dancing Archive, she reconstructs some of those outdoor experiences, attempting to reveal the traces a place might leave on a body. But the work is equally, if even more obliquely, about Monson’s history as a dancer, a queer performer, and an ever-questioning mind'.

more ...

Monday 11 February 2013

The form is the story with telematic climate opera

Wallace Heim writes:

Superstorm Sandy postponed the simultaneous performances of the climate change opera Auksalaq in two of its seven world-wide venues. Winter storm Nemo may make travel challenging, but tonight, performances in Washington, Virginia and New York are scheduled to go ahead.

The form of the opera is the story. Composer Matthew Burtner and media artist Scott Deal, created a system of telecommunications and informatics, a 'telematic', they say reflect the geographies of distance and interconnection. Performers play live in different venues. By video and audio these performances are mixed in one location and sent out via the Internet to the other locations. Audiences contribute via their laptops or cell phones using NOMAD technology.

Audience members in any one space will see and hear the live performance happening immediately before them and see the content created in another city. In no single location will the audience perceive the full work. Like an ecosystem, these musical elements create interacting layers that transform into new intricate structures.

‘Auksalaq’ is the Inupiat word for ‘melting snow/ice’. The narrative content is held together with a dramatic account of a boy’s journey, and incorporates testimonials from people in the region, social and political perspectives and scientific information along with characters personifying wind, sun, shifting ice, and clouds. These are layered with visual art, dance and music. Burtner’s score incorporates sung and spoken voices, instrumental soloists and ensembles, computer-generated sound, video and sonifications, including that of data on ice melt.

‘The composition foregrounds ‘remoteness’ creating a spectacle that is both complete and incomplete in each location. In this way Auksalaq captures a feeling experienced by people living in the far north, a centred feeling of deep attachment to the land but also an uncomfortable sense of isolation.'

The technology requires Internet2 and cannot be streamed live. There are sequences from earlier performances here and here.

Explanations of how the opera works are here and here.
more ...

Thursday 7 February 2013

New on our news page

It's about money. 

Opening at the Bush Theatre in London£10,000 in coins come onstage for Money, The Game Show.

Coming up at the Royal Court are Anders Lustgarden's If you don't let us dream, we won't let you sleep, about austerity,

and Bruce Norris' The Low Road, a fable on the 'natural' cruelty of free market capitalism (image above).

Continuing at Nottingham Contemporary, John Newling's exhibition looks at the ecologies of value in the natural world and economic systems.

more ...

Sunday 3 February 2013

Chasing Ice Chases Oscar

Kellie Gutman writes:

Chasing Ice, a film about National Geographic photographer James Blalog's quest to document the melting glaciers, has received an Academy Award nomination for Best Song.  The film, directed by Jeff Orlowski, chronicles Blalog's three-year project setting up time-lapse cameras to chronicle the effects of climate change on the great glaciers of the world.  Although the film is in limited release, the Oscar nomination should bring more attention to it.  Screenings in the UK, Canada and the US are listed here.

Chasing Ice has won twenty-three awards at film festivals, including the Environmental Media Association's Best Documentary Award.  The nominated song, "Before My Time," was written by J. Ralph. It is performed by Scarlett Johansson and violinist Joshua Bell.
more ...

Thursday 31 January 2013

14 ways to look at Scotland

from The Bothy Project
Wallace Heim writes:

The Year of Natural Scotland, an initiative led by the Scottish government, connects the country’s natural diversity and its artistic life. Their economic incentive is to develop tourism and the events industries. The means to do this include 14 arts projects across every region of Scotland.

The projects, supported by Creative Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, will share £500,000 to create events, poetry, walks, films and installations that combine the country’s natural and cultural life.

An outline of the projects shows their geographic and artistic diversity. The longer list of organisations, groups and communities that are collaborating on each project shows the social reach of this economic programme.

The projects:

NVA presents Island Drift, a lighting and photographic project on the islands of Loch Lomond.

Scotland's Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, Argyll, the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway will develop writing and walking residencies.

Sense Scotland, working with children and adults with complex sensory impairments, will take groups into remote areas near Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow to work with artists to create sensory artworks based on their experiences of the landscape. 

Wide Open and Crichton Carbon Centre, Spring Fling and the Stove will present an International Environmental Arts Festival based on themes of land and energy.

Walking a Line by Dunbar North Light Arts is a year-long site-specific project of walking, marking and recording in the environment.

Sound Out@Seven Lochs will compose music and soundscapes for a new planned wetland park near Glasgow.

Smallpetitklein Dance Company will present an outdoor event with professional and non-professional dancers around the Tentsmuir Nature Reserve.

Tabula Rasa Dance Company will bring together artists, environmentalists and people working on the River Tweed.

Tiny Geographies, by composer and television director ChrisDooks, will gather local stories and music for festivals in Aberdeenshire and Deeside.

For Natural Bennachie, three artists will work with scientists to celebrate the heritage of this north-eastern landmark.

My Place in the Natural World will involve young people in Aberdeen and creative digital media.

The Highland Print Studio and Cape Farewell will deliver the exhibition Sexy Peat celebrating the Lewis blanket bog.

Composers Inge Thomson and Lise Sinclair will create Da Fishing Hands, a project featuring song about Fair Isle’s fishing grounds and their changing and sustainable use.

Sweeny's Bothy / Bothan Shuibhne is an off-grid retreat for artists, writers and the public, involving events, walks, residencies reflecting on wild nature and contemporary culture.

In addition to these projects, in the Autumn, the Year of Natural Scotland will host a major conference, 'Reading the Landscape' exploring the representation, mis-representation, imagining and re-imagining of nature in Scotland. 
more ...

Thursday 24 January 2013

Sanitation is culture

Mierle Laderman Ukeles (righttalking with
Brooklyn Museum employee Peggy Johnson
Wallace Heim writes:

In New York last week, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, artist in residence since 1977 for the New York City Department of Sanitation, conducted a series of live interviews with Brooklyn Museum's daily maintenance staff, window washers, floor sweepers, security guards, and told them what they do is "the first kind of culture".

In her performance, which also included architects and city planners, she asked each person a series of questions: How do you personally survive? What do you need to do to keep going? What happens to your dreams and your freedom when you do the things you have to do to keep surviving? What keeps New York City alive? What does the city need to do to survive after Sandy?.

Ukeles told the workers, "Here's the museum with all this stuff, and then there's what you do. You are culture, and your work is culture. And the endless hours that will never be done, that's what enable us to be in an institution like this. Mopping up the garbage from yesterday. It's safe. And the things in here are taken care of. That's culture."

Full interview with Ukeles on Gallerist NY.
photo: Carole DeBeer, courtesy Brooklyn Museum.

h/t to
more ...

Friday 18 January 2013

New on our news page

It's the award season, nominations are open, as is a new chance for Fringe funding.

IdeasTap and Underbelly will help new shows get to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Dark Mountain 4 and the Nick Darke Award are welcoming submissions.

Nominations for the AWEInspiring Arts and Environment Award are open until 28 January.

COAL Prize nominations for works on the theme of 'adaptation' are open until 28 February.

And a new exhibition Frozen Relics: Arctic Works opened this week at the Architectural Association in London. (image above) 
more ...

Thursday 10 January 2013

from six seasons to two

Bronze-winged jacana.  Photo: India nature watch
Kellie Gutman writes:

The state of Orissa, located in east-central India, was once known for having six seasons.  Not only were there six, Grishmar (summer), Barsha (rainy), Sarata (autumn), Hemanta (dew), Sisira (winter), and Basanta (spring), each two months long, but the people in the area could forecast the onset of each one by the behaviour of certain birds.  For instance, the bronze-winged jacana would lay its eggs during the monsoons, so its mating calls signaled the arrival of the rains.

But climate change has brought excessive heat to Orissa, and now people say there are only two seasons: rains and summer. Winter is just a short transition between them.

The Glass Half Full Theatre in Austin, Texas, which crafts "Environmental Puppetry" is putting on Once There Were Six Seasons, opening February 13, 2013.  Environmental Puppetry uses very small puppets on large landscapes with visible puppeteers.  The puppetry focuses on the changing landscapes more than on the actual puppets.  Their earlier work, Bob's Hardware, about a small family-owned hardware store being pushed out by a big-box store can be seen here.

Once There Were Six Seasons is based on the story of Orissa's seasons, as told to the artistic director, Caroline Reck, on her visit to India.

See: What happened to the seasons
more ...

Tuesday 8 January 2013

New on our news page

Fevered Sleep: Above Me The Wide Blue Sky 
The year is starting with talks of passages, meanders and visions, and new productions exploring revelations, home and change.

The urgency of rivers meets the roles of contemporary art in discussions and an exhibition on the River Tamar.

Also in Plymouth, Baz Kershaw talks on meadow meanders and everyday performances of repair.

In London, at the TEDx Whitechapel day, theatre and storytelling mingle with economics, law and science.

Coming up are dreamthinkspeak's In the Beginning Was The End, in London, and Fevered Sleep's Above Me The Wide Blue Sky, touring Lancaster, Coventry and the Young Vic, London.

more ...

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Peace on earth

Kellie Gutman writes:

OVERVIEW is a short documentary with near-constant views of the earth from space interspersed with comments form astronauts, philosophers and writers. The word "overview" is used to refer to the astronauts' views of the earth. It was released December 7th, 2012 and is a prelude to a film in the making, CONTINUUM.  OVERVIEW gives a strong sense of the world being one environment, and a very fragile one, that needs to be protected.

more ...

Tuesday 11 December 2012

The tide could turn with 'Ten Billion'

Stephen Emmott in Ten Billion
Wallace Heim writes:

Theatre critic Kate Abbott in today's Guardian joins Michael Billington in reporting a life-changing experience watching Ten Billion at the Royal Court.

Like the facts that Stephen Emmott presented, Abbott can recite the well-polished instructions to "help us out of this hole":

"Never buying a car, iPod, or cotton T-shirt again … stopping our addiction to fossil fuels, starting a mass-desalination programme, building green energy power points on every strip of land, harnessing every scrap of wind, and every turn of the tide …"

But one change is missing. What about demanding that theatre itself changes? What about demanding that mainstream theatre no longer turns away from the compelling emotional, moral and intellectual questions of how humans can continue to live in a time of climate instability? Theatre is more than science, more than facts, more than an instruction manual. What about demanding that theatre takes on its full life-changing role, somewhere between fiction and fact, and becomes the place where audiences wrestle with their future?

See 'Ten Billion' from another side.
more ...

Friday 7 December 2012

'Ten Billion' from another side

Wallace Heim writes:

Michael Billington, in his nomination of Ten Billion as the best theatre event of 2012, claims that all the people he knows who saw the production found it life-changing. From my unscientific poll of the dozen people I know who saw the production, including myself, it’s possible we were in a different theatre. The lecture was well-crafted, the production tight, but the event was neither moving, informative or motivating. It was ‘old news’, a ‘first-year introductory lecture’, ‘Al Gore without the cherry picker’.

Billington’s lauding of the production is encouraging. That he, and others, were deeply affected is even more so, although one wonders what he has avoided reading or seeing for the past 20 years if the information presented was shocking. But Billington finds that it is not merely the accumulation of statistics, but the presence - the performance - of Stephen Emmott, the verifiable scientist, the speaker with a creditable reputation outside the theatre, that gave the production its urgency.

For this audience, the fluid realm of belief and disbelief that makes theatre work had to break down for the shock of climate instability to be heard. At the same time, the very theatrical occasion of sitting in that darkened room redolent of emotions of past productions, listening to another human speak, heightened any effect.

Asking again of those who found the production lacking, I found each person had, in their experience outside the theatre, at least one, if not many moments when the numbers add up, when the terror hits, when someone trusted speaks about a future irreconcilable with what one could bear. These events can be motivating and if Ten Billion provided that for some, then theatre’s role as educator has been met.

But if you’ve already had that experience, theatre is where you want to go to understand it, and a collocation of facts will not do that. This is a far more confused territory, requiring human imagination and many avenues of intelligence, deliberation, conflict and consent. It requires doing something like the processes of science, itself – its questioning and cross-questioning, experimentation, doubt and informed agreement.

Theatre may not be the place to present firm courses of action; Emmott’s advice to get a gun falls especially short. Conventional forms of theatre may, or may not, be adequate to the combination of reality and fiction that understanding climate change demands. But theatre, or something like it, continues to be a place where collectively, humans find a way through. There will continue to be many kinds of productions for many kinds of audiences. The hunger for a theatre by the audience that gets the facts but wants more continues to be strong. 
more ...

Thursday 6 December 2012

'Ten Billion' changes Billington

Stephen Emmott in Ten Billion
Wallace Heim writes:

Michael Billington in today's Guardian nominates Ten Billion as the 'most momentous theatrical performance' of 2012. The show was a lecture by Stephen Emmott, at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, on the consequences of human overpopulation and climate change.

Billington writes:

'I came out shaking with fear, but also moved by theatre's capacity to confront the emergency facing our planet.

'This was theatre doing what it does best: confronting us with unpalatable facts about our very existence. This doesn't mean that there is no room for invented stories or that King Lear and The Lion King have suddenly become redundant. But Ten Billion, directed by Katie Mitchell, shocked us into a new awareness of the future, and even the existing present, with ecosystems being destroyed, the atmosphere polluted, temperatures rising and a billion people facing water shortages.

'I don't know a single person who saw it who didn't feel it was a life-changing experience. If enough people, especially those in positions of power, could see Emmott's lecture, it might, just might, help to save our planet from destruction'.
more ...

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Turkey limerick results

Kellie Gutman writes:

Although my limerick did not win an iPad at the Greengrok blog of Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, it did garner second runner-up.  You can read the results here.

See There once was a turkey
Turkey limerick: melting glaciers
more ...

Tuesday 27 November 2012

new on our news page

Common Dance, choreographer: Rosemary Lee
A cluster of arts events in the next ten days consider different kinds of economy, generosity and profit.

Choreographer Rosemary Lee draws together a day of talks and films 'On Taking Care' in London.

Patronage and the theatre is explored at Birkbeck College, London.

Tim Jeeves' live art project 'Giving in to Gift' ends with a day of talks at the Bluecoat, Liverpool.

Climate and race are correlated with corporate oil practices by Virtual Migrants in an evening of spoken word and music in Manchester.
more ...

Monday 26 November 2012

Turkey limerick: melting glaciers

Melting Glaciers in the Himalayas (Credit:
Kellie Gutman writes:

Unable to pass up the opportunity to submit an "Environmental Turkey of 2012" in the form of a limerick, to the Nicholas School of Environment contest at Duke University, I have chosen the epidemic of melting glaciers worldwide as my subject.  The contest, open to American citizens, ends at midnight Eastern Standard Time tonight.

My offering:

As the global temperature warms
Our planet reacts with fierce storms.
The impact is felt
When our glaciers melt
And the coastline around us re-forms.

more ...

Friday 23 November 2012

There once was a turkey ...

Wallace Heim writes:

As if the American holiday of Thanksgiving wasn't hard enough on turkeys, the pejorative use of the word gives the Greengrok blog the chance to stage a contest for the 'Environmental Turkey of 2012' . The prize is an iPad. The catch is that nominations have to be in the form of a limerick.

Their sampler:

Two thousand twelve, oh what a mess
Dirty ads, gridlock, but I digress
When it comes to green
Little progress was seen
Who’s the turkey to blame for this mess?

You have until 26 November to submit a turkey. 
more ...

Wednesday 14 November 2012

new on our news page

'It's the Skin You're Living In'
Tomorrow night in London, five writers talk poetry, fiction, travel and climate: Tom Chivers, Daniel Kramb, Rachel Lichtenstein, Michael McKimm and Ruth Little.

There's film coming up in Glasgow: 'It's the Skin You're Living In' at FuelFest, and in Berlin: the GROUNDED festival of films about soil.

'Adaptation' is this year's theme for the COAL Prize, Paris. Applications are open.

And in Edinburgh, Bruno Latour will give the Gifford Lectures in February, searching for theatre and ritual in a world of Gaia and politics.
more ...

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Hitting the high water mark

Eve Mosher: High Water Line
Wallace Heim writes:

The Talk of the Town in the New Yorker last week was all about Sandy. Elizabeth Kolbert framed her piece on the impossibility of flood protection around an artwork by Eve Mosher.

Using a Heavy Hitter, the machine to make chalk lines on baseball fields, Mosher drew a blue line around the edge of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan ten feet above sea level, the height that waters were expected to rise during a once-in-a-hundred-year flood.

Mosher’s plan with High Water Line was to leave a visual mark and to open up a space for conversation, in 2007.

"I have pictures of where I drew the line and, if you look at the debris line, they’re pretty close", Mosher writes on her blog, continuing, "I never wanted to be right."
more ...

Thursday 1 November 2012

New on our news page

photo of / by Marcus Coates in Galápagos exhibition
TippingPoint launches a crowd-sourced database of climate art.

Kieran Lynn wins the Nick Darke Award for his play Wild Fish.

Galápagos makes it to the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh.

There are events in the forest at Wysing Arts in Cambridge.

TJ Demos writes on gardens, biotech and the politics of ecology at dOCUMENTA 13. 

more ...

Wednesday 24 October 2012

A bestiary of wonders, or, 'Attenborough on acid'

Wallace Heim writes:

Caspar Henderson’s The Book of Barely Imagined Beings. A 21st Century Bestiary came out this month, published by Granta. Here on Ashdenizen, Caspar contributed to our metaphors for sustainability with coral reef. And on the Ashden Directory, he was part of our panel on theatre and climate change in 2006.

Robert Macfarlane calls The Book of Barely Imagined Beings a genre-bending grimoire, a spell-book of species.

Reviewers are marveling at how the compendium of real animals, from the axolotl to the zebra fish, prompts Caspar's essays on the nature of seeing, walking or being:

Philip Hoare in the Literary Review
Roy Wilkinson for Caught by the River
Bella Bathurst in the Daily Telegraph
Stuart Kelly in the Scotsman
John Lloyd for We Love This Book
Anthony Davies in the Ham and High.

The advance reviews are by Robert Macfarlane, Frans de Waal, Callum Roberts, Simon Critchley, Roman Krznaric and Richard Holloway.

Real Monstrosities calls it 'fantastic!'.

more ...

Saturday 20 October 2012

dramas missing in action

Kellie Gutman writes:

With War Horse coming to the end of its run in Boston, the theatre critic for the Boston Globe, Don Aucoin remarks on the dearth of war dramas on stage.  He writes:

During a decade when the United States was mired in two wrenching, costly, and divisive wars, the only combat drama to win a Tony Award as best play was a heartwarming, puppet-driven tale about a British lad and his beloved steed in World War I: War Horse... In fact, if you scan the list of plays, musicals, and performances nominated for Tonys in the past ten years, you'd barely know we were at war at all.

Until recently, much the same could be said about plays on climate change.

See british playwrights have "blithely ignored" climate change
more ...

Monday 15 October 2012

Nigerian theatre mixes oil and climate, on the ground

Wallace Heim writes:

The Nigerian playwright and academic Greg Mbajiorgu got in touch with us after reading Robert Butler's blogs on Ashdenizen on the difficulties of writing plays about climate change. Greg sent us his play, Wake Up Everyone, which has a preface quoting from this blog.

Wake Up Everyone began as a commission by the African Technology Policy Studies Network, Nairobi, Kenya for their international conference on climate change in Nigeria in 2009.

That policy world is represented in the main character, Maukwe Aladinma, a retired professor of agriculture, now attempting to get the local government in the rural Ndoli area to build flood defences and advising communal farmers on using organic waste and planting stronger, non-GMO seeds. The professor, too, is a dramatist. In a play-within-a-play, the actors of his theatre company rehearse scenes describing the effects of climate change, those happening now and those anticipated: rivers dried, torrential floods, tornadoes, plagues, famines and poverty. The surrounding scenes are of a naturalistic theatre style; the rehearsals are a play to be performed as if in a dream or possessed.

A local official, Chairperson of the Ndoli Local Government Area, Hon. Edwin Ochonkeya, blocks the building of the defences. When the threatened flood sweeps the land, the farmers become an angry mob, running off-stage to extract revenge on the official.

Greg's writing is purposeful: to support impoverished farmers, to educate, to build resilience against the effects of climate change in rural Nigeria.

The information on climate change is familiar enough, if uncomfortable. The role of the expert in presenting knowledge to farmers is familiar, too, the belief and disbelief, the sometimes awkward juncture of different kinds of experience, the social power implicit in different kinds of knowledge.

The depiction of the official, Ochonkeya, is what startles. His actions are presented as commonplace. A militant against the oil companies, he was on the verge of forming his own kidnapping gang when a massive oil spill damaged his family's land and killed his father. He employed a lawyer to bring an action against the companies, who settled out of court for three hundred million naira and funded his campaign for local office on the condition that he didn't make any further case on behalf of affected farmers. He won his campaign with the rhetoric of environmentalism: 'Before this plague of climate change the oil companies had milked our land dry, but have given nothing to nourish it. All that is left (of my family's farmland) is thick layers of oil, oil in our waters, oil in our wet lands, oil in our fragile soil, down to the roots of our edible crops, oil and more oil...'

And now, he is stopping any adaptation to or mediation of climate damage.

In a single character, the play conveys the immediate, turbulent, deceptive forces underlying oil production in Nigeria and in Canada, Baku-Tbilisi, Iraq, the Arctic, a world not wholly expressed by the activists against it, working across political boundaries.

It couldn't be more topical. Last week, in The Hague, four Nigerians and Friends of the Earth began a lawsuit against Royal Dutch Shell Plc for its environmental record in the Niger Delta, a case that may set a precedent for claims related to the activities of international corporations.

And on Friday, Wake Up Everyone received a first Individual Award in Arts and Humanities Research at the 5th Nigerian Universities Research and Development Fair in Mina, Niger State. 
more ...

miniature horse meets war horse

Celeste and Joey, courtesy the Boston Globe
Kellie Gutman writes:

War Horse opened in Boston on October 10 for a two-week run.  The traveling Broadway production, which originated at the National Theatre in London a few years ago, is getting all sorts of press.

The day before the opening the main characters - the horse Joey, his owner and his puppeteer - went to the Animal Rescue League in Dedham, Massachusetts to have a play date with Celeste, a miniature horse who had been involved in an animal cruelty case earlier in the year.  Joey is a well-traveled steed.  He has also been to Windsor Castle where he apparently won over the heart of the Queen.  The Handspring Puppet Company cofounders Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones, who designed the War Horse puppets, were featured in a long article about their puppets in the Boston Globe.

editors' notes: On the Ashden Directory, Eleanor Margolies writes about Handspring and the power of puppets to enact human relations with animals. And Kellie writes about the opening of War Horse in London.
more ...

Friday 5 October 2012

the family and the world heat up in Nick Payne's play

Photo: Joan Marcus
Kellie Gutman writes:

If There Is I Haven't Found it Yet, with Brian O'Byrne and Jake Gyllenhaal, opened in New York's Roundabout Theatre in September and runs through 25 November.  It was written by Nick Payne, and inspired by his reading of Heat by George Monbiot, about decreasing one's carbon footprint.  Payne saw that many authors of environmentally-themed books had dedicated them to their children, and it gave him the idea of a father trying to save the planet in order to make the world a better place for his children, and beyond.  But the father is so wrapped up in his work that he fails to notice the problems within his own family.  The New York Times review is here.

Artistic director Todd Haimes writes:

On one level, we are watching a domestic drama play about a mother, father, daughter, and uncle.  But the play also takes on a much bigger global issue.  We all want to do the right thing for both the world at large and for the world of our own family, but maybe that's impossible.

More George Monbiot on ashdenizen:
roundheads and cavaliers
the negotiator and the polemicist
vanishing act
George Monbiot finds Dr. Faustus the classic text for climate change
more ...

Thursday 4 October 2012

New on our news page

High Tide Festival is looking for new plays

Good practice is recognised:
After the Edinburgh Fringe, The Man Who Planted Trees is awarded for the sustainability in its production and its themes.

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson, and The Dark Mountain Project's third collection are published.

High Tide Festival in Suffolk is looking for new plays.
Outlandia in Glen Nevis is calling for artists' residencies.
Sky Arts will fund a year's work about the future.
Commissions are available for artists responding to themes of empathy, belonging and values.

That Oceanic Feeling exhibition in Southampton culminates in a conference mingling the spaces of the sea with the landscapes of economics and politics. 

more ...

Monday 1 October 2012

Dr Astrov blogs

Astrov (Laurence Olivier) and Elena (Rosemary Harris) 
in Uncle Vanya
Wallace Heim writes

Dr Astrov is a new blog on ‘arts / culture and environmental sustainability’. Ian Rimington is the writer. He works as a Relationship Manager specialising in environmental sustainability and theatre at Arts Council England, but the blog expresses his personal views.

In his opening blog, Ian visits the British Museum with his son, fascinated by the dominating sculptural figure of the Easter Island statue Hoa Hakananai’a (Hidden Friend). The Ancestor Cult that produced these figures gave way during a time of environmental devastation and extinctions to the Birdman Cult. On the back of the sculpture, marks have been added from that newer cult, more like graffiti than the monumental face. In the differences between these carvings, Ian finds evidence of the changing relations of art and culture to the environment.

Another Pacific island features in a second blog, as Ian attends a read-through of Pitcairn, a new play by Richard Bean. The play tells of the events following the mutiny on the Bounty after Christian Fletcher and the sailors tried to set up a paradise republic there at the end of the 18th Century. This leads on to how the reason beloved of the Enlightenment falls short against the forces of values, beliefs and intuition, and to how art might produce behavioural changes.

The blog is aptly named. Dr Astrov is the visionary physician-philosopher in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, who presciently grasped the principles of ecology and the ethical relations of humans to nature. His worry that the forests were disappearing forever, rivers drying up and the climate ruined was assuaged by his own planting of sapling birches. In Act III, he shows Elena, who neither understands nor is interested, his maps of the changes in the landscape, the losses of farms, animals, forests. “(Man) destroys everything with no thought for the morrow. And now pretty well everything has been destroyed, but so far nothing new has been put in its place”.

We look forward to following Dr Astrov.

Here is a clip of that Act III scene with Astrov (Laurence Olivier) and Elena (Rosemary Harris) in the 1943 film.

Chekhov, a proto-environmentalist, is one of our playwrights revisited

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