Highlights of first day at culture|futures 09 - "Not [just] works of art, but art that works"

Here are some highlights from a fantastic and positive first day, venue: the stunning Danish National Gallery. (Note: photos, videos and audio podcasts to follow in the next few days)

All speakers said that the cultural sector was fundemental to a global response to climate change.

Finn Andersen (President, European National Institutes of Culture & Secretary General, Danish Cultural Institute) said that Martin Luther King didn't say "I have a nightmare", he said "I have a dream", so if we want to change people's behaviour at scale we need to inspire rather than be negative.

Cecil Rajendra (Malaysia, Nobel Nominated Writer) shared some beautiful and evocative poetry, including Death of a Rainforest.

Arup's Peter Head spoke about creating an Ecological Age by 2050 (see some previous slides on our video page) - when you have an engineer giving you tangible, positive examples of an Ecological Age happening right now around the world, it makes one feel that maybe, just maybe, we can sort out the climate change / sustainability mess we're in.

Trevor Davies (Director, Copenhagen International Theatre) spoke in the language of the arts about the value that artists bring to the climate change challenge. After researching how 12 biennale directors had curated their exhibitions, he discovered that all had mentioned climate change / susatainability as key drivers. This is unprecedented, as artists usually strive to differentiate themselves. He also spoke about how, post Iceland's banking fiasco, the Icelandic banks were forced to take a 'normal citizen' onto their boards. Artists were apparently chosen for every post, as politicians are no longer thought to be representative of the people, and artists, through their perceived integrity, retain the people's trust.

Some of us then had an opportunity to learn about and wander round the spectacular exhibition at the Gallery: one of the four Re‐think exhibitions. This one was "Contemporary art and climate". We were asked to consider Utopia vs Kakatopia!

Ms. Ada Wong (Chief Executive, Hong Kong Institute for Contemporary Culture) moderated a session on "An expanding spiral of engagement ‐Cultural perspectives from around the world". Ong Ken Seng, (Artistic Director of Theatreworks, Singapore) spoke movingly about how artists are becoming climate change brand ambassadors, much like for products, and that we would do well to ask more of them than another 'climate change art' exhibition. We should find a more intimate use of artists, such as engaging them in addressing ecological issues with local communities, in a local context. It seems that Ong understands that an artist's value in the context of climate change is more about their vision and way of thinking than yet another overblown, pedagogic spectacle.

While they would have undoubtedly made some fantastic face-to-face connections in Copenhagen, it was a relief to see that some people hadn't flown in for our event: Sandra Gibson (President, Association of Performing Arts Presenters) and Terre Jones (President, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts) spoke from the USA via a video message on:

- how through the Arts Presenters Partnership, the first national survey of the arts sector is taking place in the USA, to create a baseline study of attitudes and behaviours towards climate change. The results will be presented at the Arts Presenters Conference in Jan 2010 and will be availalble for download at www.artspresenters.org

- how, by using Wolf Trap in innovative ways such as hosting a waste electrical goods collection, the Park managed to safely and responsibly recycle 3.5 tonnes of electrical equipment and consequently generate new audiences, fundraise and engage the community. Another (dance) event ended up as a PBS Special.

Nille Juul‐Sørensen (Chairman of Jury, Indeks: Design to improve life, Denmark) talked about how Indeks is a design competition based on form, context and [positive] impact. The popularity of the competition has increased rapidly over three years going from 1 to 3,00,000 and recently 2 million viewers in Denmark and 2.9 million in Seoul! The reason for this is that designers are getting fed up with competitions asking for 'nice' designs - they want to be challenged to save the world! Indeks has evolved as there is a need for the winning designs to get to market after a 2-year design cycle. In 2011 Indeks will therefore be connecting the designers with venture capitalists to help them get to market.

David Viner (Head of Climate Change, British Council), summed up the day with a call to action.

Views: 36

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Comment by neill woodger on December 9, 2009 at 22:40
I've just spent the last hour checking out the INDEX: site and was blown away by what they are doing and in particular their views on design and sustainability.
Comment by Paul Fitzpatrick on December 8, 2009 at 8:46
Thanks for such a thorough "report". We can feel very removed from the action when we are not at such an important event - your notes help.
Comment by John Devaney on December 8, 2009 at 7:41
How inspiring! Something positive from Copenhagen already.
Comment by Amy Kweskin on December 8, 2009 at 0:49
No sleep for you! This is amazing. Thank you.

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