Culture and
Climate Change

We convene workshops and events that invite contributions from leading researchers, artists, producers, journalists and policymakers. These are often shared as podcasts and generate material for our publications. We want this work to support a more dynamic and plural public conversation around climate change.

Project 3

Scenarios

Project 2

Narratives

Project 1

Recordings

Scenarios

Climate Change in Residence: Future Scenarios

In December 2015, Culture and Climate Change launched the Scenarios project in Paris during COP21. This programme of work includes three artists' residencies within key climate change networks and institutions; Climate Change in Residence: Future Scenarios. Each residency includes an award of £10,000.

When the artists' opportunity closed in February 2016, we had received 270 applications. We are currently in the process of assessing these applications before appointing the artists in April 2016. The year-long residencies will begin in June 2016.

The residency programme will test the idea of 'networked residencies'. Climate research has long relied on networked collaborations rather than individual, geographically-located centres. Through these residencies, the artists will be able to research issues around climate change scenarios and spend time exploring and developing their own artistic practice. We hope this project will encourage cultural depth in public conversations around future scenarios.

The Scenarios project is generously supported by The Ashden Trust, Jerwood Charitable Foundation, The Open University and the University of Sheffield

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Applications now closed.

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Culture and Climate Change: Future Scenarios focuses on the imagining and representation of climate change scenarios.

Climate scenarios are ultimately collective acts of imagination about possible futures in human-natural-hybrid systems. Scenarios play a prominent role in climate research, policy and communication. However they tend to be dominated by natural science and economics, and there is little cultural depth to them.

In December 2015 at COP21, we launched the Climate Change in Residence: Future Scenarios networked residency programme, to catalyse new creative work that will encourage more open and imaginative, but also more purposeful, responses to the challenges of climate change in the present. We received over 270 applications from visuals artists, musicians, poets, writers, theatre-makers, choreographers and creatives from across film and digital media to the residency programme.

Three artist residencies will begin in July 2016 and each residency includes an award of £10,000. We will announce our appointed artists on 23 May 2016 at an award ceremony at Jerwood Space and online on this website.

This project is an experiment which pilots a new residency model — that of a ‘networked residency’. Climate research has long relied on networked collaborations rather than individual, geographically-located centres and the design of this Future Scenarios residency programme deliberately responds to and mirrors the distributed networks of climate change research

Rather than a traditional residency based in one institution, this networked residency engages with a community of people across institutions and disciplines whose work, individually and collectively, informs the development of climate scenarios. Through these residencies, the artists will be able to research issues around climate change scenarios and spend time exploring and developing their own artistic practice. We also hope that the programme will inform the way in which researchers from a wide range of disciplines think about the relationship of their work to wider cultural work on climate scenarios.

This website will host monthly updates from the artists as well as information on past and future events. It will act as a live archive of the residency programme and will seed future activity for the Culture and Climate Change programme and for those who engage with it.

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Join our mailing list to hear about future opportunities and events.

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Image Credit: Emma Critchley

Emma Critchley

Being immersed in water is a powerful scenario that resonates not only with me as an artist but unites us all; it is something we have all experienced. Yet the shifts that occur when our bodies are in this space necessitate both a physical and mental realignment, which alters our basic structure of being and allows exploration into the human condition itself. For me scenarios provide the opportunity to distill the complex and multi-faceted research involved in climate change and create imagined environments that allow space to stop, reflect and invite challenge and debate from an experiential position.

I am aware of the challenges involved in working with such a deeply layered and complex subject area and look forward to developing sustained discussions with researchers from a network of disciplines that will enable me to draw out some of these tensions as well as make meaningful, integral connections. I look forward to exploring the philosophical shifts we are experiencing, where scientific research is impacting on our way of being on a seismic scale. Complexity is inherent to engaging with environmental change and emotion is a core tenet of how people engage with complex and abstract problems. This is an opportunity to use art as a point of encounter in which to engage with the nuances, complexities and intersectionalities of the current and future climate change landscapes.

My ambitions for the residency are:

Bringing scientists, media and those involved in policy making together to explore how science attributes meaning within research and how this information is disseminated to the wider public.

Generating scientific and cultural collaborations in order to explore the psychological, social and political implications of the transgressions occurring through climate change across the body & environment, land & water.

‘In a sense, we can expect human egos to be pock-marked with traces of hyperobjects. We are all burnt by ultraviolet rays. We all contain water in about the same ratio as the Earth does, and salt water in the same ratio as the oceans do. We are poems of the hyperobject Earth.’ Timothy Morton

Sound as a mobilizing force. An invisible yet omnipresent indicator of environmental change. The ocean; a reflective membrane to the Earth. I am fascinated by the way sound gives identity to the spaces we live in and how our sonic landscape shapes us. Underwater, sound operates in an entirely different way and is perceived through vibrations in the bone and thus becomes a corporeal experience.

‘(T)he soundscape of the world is changing. Modern humanity is beginning to inhabit a world with an acoustic environment radically different from any hitherto known ... what is the relationship between humanity and the sounds of its environment and what happens when those sounds change?’ Murray Schafer

Monitoring the Earth from space. Exploring the depths of the ocean from the depths of outer space. The rhythms of the Earth, atmospheric shifts, tectonic plate movement. A means of gaining perspective. Vast expansions of timescales. The sound of a climate disaster.

‘(T)he heaviness of the stillness that comes before the storm’ Yves Lomax

Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping

We are Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping an artist collaboration working with conceptual documentary photography and artist film. Since 2012 we have been working on self-initiated projects relating to Climate Change and the Anthropocene, most of which have focused upon the so called “Third Pole” or, as it is geographically known, The Tibetan Plateau.

Our ongoing work has examined the climatic and geopolitical importance of this region highlighting the relationships between glacial recession, desertification, development, the economy, human rights and global climatic systems. In our most recent body of work entitled Feedback Loops, we have created sequences of images and captions that depict these phenomena with the intention of creating a visual interpretation of the mechanism of feedback. By doing so we intend the idea of feedback to imply that every action humanity takes has consequences that return to shape the future in a way we cannot foresee.

Over the course of the Future scenarios Networked residency we will be working with the Anthropocene and Climate Change as a cultural paradigm of our time that shapes the way in which we imagine our future. To do so we intend to utilise our indexical representation of current climate, environmental, geological, economic and socio-political phenomena to illustrate the visceral reality of different hypothetical future scenarios. Through images of our present we will suggest a palatable imagining of difficult and improving futures.

We are going to continue to work with complexity and the scientific methodologies used to represent complex systems. To do so we will encompass a multitude of issues and subject matter in a large body of work that will reflect on the broad spectrum of researched disciplines that contribute to our knowledge of Climate Change. This is intended to make visible the contradictions which are at the heart of the scientific and ethical challenges that humanity is facing.

Throughout the residency we will continue to focus on phenomena we have already identified within our previous work. We will also explore the possibility of representing: climate induced migration, future cities, overpopulation, drowning islands, the psychological pressure of climate change and the prognosis of a difficult future scenario, among other subjects.

We also plan to document the process of environmental policy making, intergovernmental climate change summits, conferences, seminars and climate change research facilities and methodologies, with the intention of increasing the visibility of the scientific investigation and legislating of Climate Change further clarifying the relationship between environmental and socio- political issues, Climate Change and human rights.

One of our key intentions is to re-examine the place of humanity within nature through a discourse on beauty. We would like to consider how to represent human-natural-hybrid systems and to rethink and demystify the human-natural divide in the Anthropocene.

Above all we would like to discover, whilst engaging with researchers and their work, potential strategies to enable greater understanding of the Climate Change discourse through culture.

The year-long networked residency will allow us time to learn, grow and experiment. Our projects require duration, dedication and commitment to access the knowledge and the locations. With great enthusiasm we look forward to match-made collaboration with researchers and scientists, something that we see as an essential step in the development of our inquiry and something that we have struggled to facilitate alone.

But if there is one thing we hope to achieve in the next year, it is that we want to empower people through the knowledge that being informed about the climate discourse is doing something about Climate Change, and by admitting that we too often feel confused, daunted and powerless to stop it.

Zoë Svendsen

Although this is officially only the first month of the residency, my thoughts have been bubbling from the start of the year. They have come in many kinds: the initial thoughts that went into the application, through the ruminating about how to share those ideas for the launch, and then the efforts of starting the research process now that the residency is live. As this is about a network, there has been no physical change of location or state. But I’ve noticed a fundamental shift in my attention – for my radar for the climate and the future-related has been (re)sensitised.

Further, two weeks before officially starting, the relationship of British culture to the future underwent a seismic shift: a vote took place for a kind of ‘no future’. I don’t mean by that that the vote to leave the European Union was a kind of cry of despair (although some have perceived it that way), but that whilst the vote was about the future, no one had made a plan for that future. What resulted therefore was a kind of minor implosion across the political spectrum. Whilst the Department for Energy and Climate Change has vanished in the Brexit fallout, and climate change recedes in visibility as a political and social concern, never has it been clearer that our ability to survive, resist and thrive depends on our capacities to imagine our future.

Artistic practice is partly about defamiliarising, and then reconsidering, our habits, norms, and the unthinking acceptance of the status quo. Brexit has done this to politics – with great risk of tipping us into short-termist xenophobic inwardness – but also with potential for a recalibration of what matters. Art can also construct, envisaging alternative ways of doing things, enlarging our capacity to imagine, stepping into the breach where there is no plan. Never has the need for such imagining been so acute – and therefore so political. Yet thrust into the maelstrom of urgency, the kinds of short-cut to efficacy that is often willed for artworks, could reduce the capacity of the work to resonate differently. How to make works that address these acutely urgent political questions of our future – whilst retaining an autonomy that invites a different and more profound form of engagement and thought?

The questions that drive my research for this residency revolve around two intersecting areas, both relating to how we understand ourselves as human subjects. I am fascinated (and disturbed) by the largely non-transparent interconnectedness of our current financial, social and environmental situation. I plan to investigate the economics of climate change, and in particular, the implications of alternative economic models for how we conceive of ourselves socially and culturally. I’m curious about our embroilment in these systems – in how we are beneficiaries of some of the very financial structures that counteract the values and actions that we undertake elsewhere in our lives. The representation of human agency that drives drama implies we are individuals separate from our situation – but are we really? With that in mind, I’m interested in exploring experts’ future scenarios – coming from geographers, scientific modellers, sociologists, and economists. What I want to work out is this: how would we live within those scenarios? What would our relationships to one another look like? What would our challenges and conflicts be? Do we need to alter our perception of what it means to have agency?

Politically, I can imagine an outcome to Brexit that would address the deep underlying economic inequalities, the loss of a sense of identity [see here], and which would present a decisive shift for British society and culture. If economic stimulus were structured towards creating a green, de-carbonised economy – if the country were put on an emergency footing to design, manufacture and install or implement the technologies and social practices that would mitigate climate change – we might find the purpose we are seeking, with tangible effects and concomitantly a renewed sense of how we might connect to the global picture. Somehow, although this seems eminently sensible to me, it appears unimaginable to the mainstream. And I wonder if it comes down to how we conceive of ourselves as (successful) humans? World Factory [see here] suggested to its audiences that it was ‘up to you what it means to win’ – and perhaps that is now what is at stake on all fronts. At what scale do we want to win? At an individual level, or collectively? The question is urgent. How might we imagine success differently – and with that, our relationship to the planet and each other?

We will list all events linked to the Future Scenarios residencies.

Upcoming

Archive

Future Scenarios – Surgery & Network Event

Wednesday 27 January 2016, 7:30 pm

Future Scenarios – Surgery & Network Event, Arts Admin

January 2016

This evening explored why scenarios are such a key element of climate change research and politics, and also why it is important to invite a wider range of perspectives on these themes.

Listen to an audio recording of the evening here

We are delighted to be working with Emma Critchley, Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping and Zoë Svendson on the first Future Scenarios Networked Residency Programme.

The year-long residencies begin in July 2016 and you will be able to see their progress through monthly updates. Join our mailing list to be the first to hear all the residency news.

Emma Critchley is an award-winning underwater visual artist and commercial diver working with photography, film, sound and installation to explore the human relationship with the underwater environment. Critchley will use the residency to inform and shape her ambitious ongoing work, When the Waters Recede, inspired by the Bristol Channel floods of 1607, the largest and most destructive in human history and commonly believed to have been a tsunami.

“This residency is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with a diverse reach of climate researchers, using scenarios as a way to distill the complex and multi-faceted research involved in climate change and create imagined spaces that allow room to stop, reflect and invite challenge and debate.”

Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping are a Polish-British artist collaboration working with conceptual documentary photography and artists’ moving image who have won many awards and prizes, and exhibited across Europe. During the residency they will investigate their interests in glacial recession, climate induced migration, drowning islands, the psychological pressure of climate change and the prognosis of a difficult future scenario, amongst other issues.

“We are working with the anthropocene and climate change as a cultural paradigm of our time that shapes the way in which we imagine our future. Over the course of the residency we intend to utilise current climate, environmental, geological, economic and socio-political phenomena to illustrate the visceral reality of different hypothetical future scenarios.”

Zoë Svendsen is an internationally renowned theatre director and dramaturg who creates research-driven interdisciplinary performance projects exploring contemporary political subjects. She has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Young Vic, New Wolsey Theatre, TippingPoint and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin amongst many others. Following her recent performance project, World Factory, Svendsen will use her residency to further explore the relationship between ethics and action, the economics of climate change and the tragic absence of real action against it.

“I am very excited by the residency – both by the idea of the ‘network’, and also by the chance to think more fully about the future, and the implications for human interactions that are implied in climate change scenarios, but which often are not fully fleshed out.”

The project is working with a network of individuals and institutions involved in climate research. This Scenarios network comprises a broad range of professional and disciplinary perspectives on climate change scenarios: earth systems, modelling, the insurance industry, oceanography, climate change policy, fashion and design, the built environment, philosophy, literature, theatre and visual arts. It is hoped that collectively, the Scenarios network will also benefit the wider academic research community through its engagement with novel framings of climate change responses and interdisciplinary and collaborative working methods.

Project 3

Scenarios

Project 2

Narratives

Project 1

Recordings

Narratives

Culture and Climate Change: Narratives features six essays, 11 short stories and an edited transcript from an event held in December 2013 at the Free Word Centre. Over 20 contributors including the authors Marina Warner and Caspar Henderson, the poet Ruth Padel, the journalist Isabel Hilton and the neuroscientist Kris De Meyer address the question ‘What Sort Of Story is Climate Change?’ In the introduction the editors argue that more diverse and dynamic accounts reflect this complex topic more accurately than the simplistic insistence that ‘the science is finished’. The editors suggest that more plural and nuanced stories about climate change will lead to better understanding and more credible actions.

Project 3

Scenarios

Project 2

Narratives

Project 1

Recordings

Recordings

In recent years, an increasing number of exhibitions, performances and publications have presented cultural responses to climate change. But is this really something new? Or are we simply reinterpreting long-established themes around human society and nature, apocalypse and utopia, hubris and nemesis? Culture and Climate Change: Recordings sought to ‘map’ new cultural work on climate change and to draw links between this new work and long-standing cultural framings. The publication features three essays and edited transcripts from four dialogues. The first dialogue is on the history of cultural responses to climate change; the second considers publics through popular culture and mass media; the third offers an anatomy of works in this area and the fourth explores the way that culture, politics and science interact as we imagine and respond to possible futures. More than 20 artists, academics, producers, broadcasters and journalists, including Professor Mike Hulme, the BBC's Roger Harrabin and The Economist's Oliver Morton, contributed to the publication.

Project 3

Scenarios

Project 2

Narratives

Project 1

Recordings