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ISSN 2206–9615

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PUBLICATION STAFF Guest Editor – Tamar Kelly Copy Editor – Amber Poppelaars Designer – Kathleene Capararo

CRITICAL PATH STAFF Director – Claire Hicks General Manager – Amber Poppelaars Producer – Ozlem Bekiroglou Administrator – Paul Walker


Artists, Activists and the Anthropocene Tamar Kelly


Dancing in the Post-Anthropocene Renae Shadler


The Anthropocene Transition Kenneth McLeod


Dancing Jailolo Eko Supriyanto


“Condensations� Samuel Hertz

60 Enter the Whale Emily Johnson 72

Big Change & The Feels - The role of Arts and Culture in the Climate Crisis Pippa Bailey


ARTISTS, ACTIVISTS AND THE ANTHROCOPENE Tamar Kelly Critical Path respectfully acknowledges the Gadigal, the traditional custodians of the land where the organisation is based and this publication was compiled.

The first volume of this, the 11th edition of CRITICAL DIALOGUES, was born out of a Choreographic Laboratory at Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) in January 2019. A Critical Path initiative, it brought together five artists with a choreographic practice to participate, along with a critical thinker of their choosing, in a laboratory or forum responding to the ‘Anthropocene’. The laboratory was co-developed with Strange Attractor and presented as part of Sydney Festival. In this second edition we expanded our reach and invited four artists from three continents to share their thoughts and work on the Anthropocene. We coupled them with an educator and producer, who are both dedicating their lives to climate activism. Rather than an academic response to the Anthropocene, we asked them to write a ‘feeling response’.


It is now beyond doubt that we are facing a climate emergency. There is plenty of data on the tangible effects of too much CO2 in the atmosphere; an increase in wildfires and accelerating sea rise, to name but a few examples. Just in the last five years we have seen migrations of people around the globe (primarily although not exclusively in the Pacific) but it is hard to see how this is influencing our cultures at large. Children are walking out of schools in protest but that doesn’t seem to have an impact on election results, or what the average Westerner aspires to - luxury goods and travel. For those concerned with climate change it is disheartening to say the least.

Viewing the Anthropocene, of which the climate crisis is just a small part, is both more and less confronting. On one hand, the Anthropocene offers us a broader landscape to view. Humans are just a blip in the timeline of Earth’s history, a fraction in time, which can make us feel insignificant. On the other hand, our impact on the earth, its atmosphere and biodiversity, is measurable, significant and horrifying. Let’s discuss the term ‘Anthropocene’. Just the word itself can be problematic. Climate scientists, geologists and geo-engineers have different ideas of when the Anthropocene began and how we might effect, reduce or (though it’s unlikely) halt climate change. This is discussed at more length in the previous volume and further explored in this one. Since it is the catalyst and spring board for thinking in this 11th edition we should examine it. The term ‘Anthropocene’ was popularised by atmospheric chemist and Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen in 2000. Many stratigraphers argue that the evidence for a new epoch (a move on from the Holocene) is not clearly evident in the rock strata they study. Do we really need to argue about these geologic-time terms? Is it not enough to say we have had an effect, regardless of the exact time it happened?


Undeniably, agricultural signatures can be found deep within the rock strata which mark mankinds departure from a nomadic life to one built upon cultivating and manipulating the earth to sustaining human existence. The earliest evidence is found in the Fertile Crescent in Jordan and Israel, a region also known as the southern Levant, and dates back 11,000 years. Much later, with the dawn of the atomic era, traces of radiation were laid down in soils around the globe and in the oceans.

Humans are having a measurable effect on the earth, one that is out of scale with the effect of the other creatures with which we share this world. In order to explain this in more detail let’s look at the concept of ACTION AND REACTION. The world shaped us. We responded physically, adapting and evolving to suit our environments. For example, in cold climates we typically find peoples with stocky builds. The reduced surface area compared to weight allows more body heat to be retained. By comparison, a thin, long-limbed build is typical of humans in hot regions. The more expansive skin surface compared to weight allows for body heat to disperse more readily. Further, people living in hot, humid climates tend to have broad, flat noses that allow inhaled air to be moistened and that moisture to be retained. While people inhabiting hot, dry regions typically have narrowed, projecting noses. This allows the nose to reduce the amount of water that is lost from the lungs

during breathing. Additionally, Indigenous Australians living in the Central Desert have an unusual physical adaptation . On cold desert nights the temperature can drop to freezing for short periods. In response they have evolved the ability to drop their body temperatures without triggering the usual reflex of shivering[1]. We adapt to survive. ACTION REACTION. However, humans also react in ways separate from the principals of adaptation and evolution that all beings are held to. Now, let’s consider some cultures which have had more impact on the earth than others? First Nation cultures, for example, seem to be able to adapt to and appropriately use resources available within their habitat without abusing it. Philipp Blom in his 2019 work, “Nature’s Mutiny”, gives this example: In the year 1400, global temperatures began to drop and by the 1500s had dropped by a full 2°C, resulting in extreme weather events. In

A R T I S T S , A C T I V I S T S A N D T H E A N T H R O C O P E N E | Ta m a r Ke l l y


‘ ...we are no longer expanding human potential but vastly endangering it.’

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England a freezing winter followed by a dry spring and hot summer dried out the largely wooden structures of London resulting in the Great Fire, in which 80,000 lost their dwellings[2]. Harvests also failed during this period. Peasants starved, social systems collapsed and anarchy threatened as a social world largely centred on grain production struggled to recover. Blom suggests that the crisis in agriculture led to a vast reorganisation of social structures, more efficient production and the advent of long-distance trade. Whole continents full of natural resources were identified and systematically plundered. This was the new age of colonialism. The world was pulled towards ‘Westernisation’ and ‘Modernisation’, whether the people wanted it or not. ACTION REACTION.

Blom summarises: “The medieval acceptance of human economic life as cyclical and stable was rejected in favour of the idea of continuing economic growth based on exploitation…built on relentless imperial and industrial expansion….”[3] He argues that contemporary economies operate largely on the same model. However, those natural resources once thought to be infinite are now known to be exhaustible. With the industrial revolution, global expansion and energy wars driving an increase in atmosphere-altering CO2, we are no longer expanding human potential but vastly endangering it. As beings we have been masterful in REACTING. So, it is dumbfounding to observe the INACTION on climate change.

A R T I S T S , A C T I V I S T S A N D T H E A N T H R O C O P E N E | Ta m a r Ke l l y


For powerful, meaningful, measurable change we need concrete policy change at the highest levels of government, infrastructure and commerce. WE NEED ACTION.

Sadly, humankind is short-sighted. If someone is struggling to put food on the table, pay school fees, rent or mortgage, they are probably not thinking about the melting permafrost, the effects of rising sea temperatures on plankton, the effects of fracking on bore water or sonar on dolphins. This is why we need government action. Incentives are needed to support people to make difficult transitions. The writers contributing to this issue are diverse. They come from different professional backgrounds and are spread over four continents. One thing they have in common is that they are AWAKE. They are more than conscious of the current situation - they are looking forward to the future and preparing for a time and place which will, very possibly, not include humans. Some are listening in, some are feeling, some are planning and strategising for survival; others are preparing for the grieving process in response to the great loss of life - human, animal and plantbased. Their reactions are varied, but they are looking at this earth and our impact on it and REACTING. They are

not asleep, they do not look the other way. They are awake. This is where the artist can be of service, the artist as ‘agent-provocateur’. Artists awaken the masses. It is time to make personal and individual change. It is also past time to shake things up. It is time for ACTION. Please open your mind, let these artists stir the contents of your brain. Allow response. REACTION for CLIMATE ACTION.

[1] human-evolution/how-have-we-changed-sinceour-species-first-appeared/ [2] [3] Blom, P. 2019. Nature’s Mutiny: How the Little Ice Age of the Long Seventeenth Century Transformed the West and Shaped the Present, WW Norton & Co.

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DANCING IN THE POST-ANTHROPOCENE Renae Shadler Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are respectfully advised that there are people mentioned in this article who have passed away.

Renae Shadler in ‘Leaning into the air, whisper the wind’ an immersive and multisensory workshop led by international performance group, Susurrus (Renae Shadler, Maria Numela, Kalle Ropponen, and Samuel Hertz) at Palais de Tokyo. | Image by Maria Korkeila


All humans, animals, minerals, digital technologies, and broadly, the ‘more than human’[1] on planet earth share entangled histories and intrinsically connected futures. Algorithms run our economic markets and fossil fuels are intermingling with the oceans to create new life forms while at the same time contributing to the unfolding sixth mass extinction. This current geological epoch has been proposed as the ‘Anthropocene’. The Anthropocene is a period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. In an attempt to give voice to other species and the planet as a whole, I want to first articulate my concerns about the term Anthropocene. While humanity’s impact is undeniable, this label places the human species in the powerful position of colonizing the environment and activates a hierarchical value system. In contrast, my value system and artistic practice is rooted in Post-Anthropocentric[2] thinking.

Post-Anthropocentric thinking is a way of seeing which fully acknowledges that the human species is embedded within the global ecology. I envision the Post-Anthropocene as an era in which we are all entangled with other species in the process of living and dying — driven by non-hierarchical human and non-human processes. Since our thoughts create our feelings, which in turn determine our actions, I believe that Post-Anthropocentric thinking can catalyse a socio-political and cultural paradigm shift.


A lexicon for Post-Anthropocentric thinking:


MULTI-SPECIES LIVING: is when we make

our lives within communities who give equal value to the needs and desires of other living and non-living entities. Coined by cultural theorist, Donna Harraway as an ‘ongoing, non-innocent, interrogative, multispecies getting on together’[3]. NON-HIERARCHICAL HUMAN PROCESSES:

effectively remove humans from the top of the decision-making pyramid on planet Earth. NON-HUMAN PROCESSES: refers to

feeling/sensing that life and death are very close to one another and inexplicably linked. THINKING-WITH: the process of considering

and/or reasoning from multiple perspectivesiinfluenced Haraway and post-humanist thinker Rosi Braidotti’s teachings on the power of becoming with human and nonhuman entities. It is vital now to bring this discourse into the performing arts as a way to better understand and care for the global ecology.

all the systems that humans are not involved in, such as plant life’s process of photosynthesis.

Renae Shadler and Roland Walter, a dancer with full-body spastic paralysis, in SKIN a new duet in-development. | Image by Ronald Spratte

D A N C I N G I N T H E P O S T-A N T H R O P O C E N E | R e n a e S h a d l e r


The Performing Arts are a potent political platform that can embrace imagination to devise new futures. As artists, we have highly trained and powerful imaginations which can ‘feel the pores of our skin breathing’ and ‘see a direct line of energy running between a tree and neighbouring stone’. ‘Imagination is thinking of something that you are not seeing.’[4] Imagination is the next step between where we are, where we come from and the future. One of Ecopsychology’s[5] pioneers Laura Sewall writes, “particularly in an age of disembodiment and disenchantment, sensing our embeddedness within the biosphere may be practiced with imagination […] It produces a notable, sensual experience of being part of, within”[6]. More specifically, the moving body on stage is ephemeral and primal. Dance is unique because it does not require a shared understanding of language or form. It is created between humans and non-humans in the present, the here and now. Therefore, dance is well fit to comment on the world as it is. By embodying the imagination of the artist, dance can reframe the present and prefigure the world as it could be. Realising this entangled future, I want to live ‘part of and within’, which is what drives my choreographic practice. I choose to share and co-create my work with people both

onstage and through a physical participatory practice. I am aware that I reflect an ideal, and that letting go of anthropocentric privileges is complex and uncomfortable. I am in between knowing and not knowing. From this place I will simply share with you where I come from and where I am now... ‘I speak from where I stand.’[7] I encourage you to read with soft eyes. Be drawn into my personal context and artistic practice, to let it intermingle with your own, as we collectively deepen our ecological embeddedness.

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Maggie Brown in ‘Can You See What We See?’ a site-responsive walking work by Renae Shadler at Junction Arts Festival. | Image by Chris Crerar

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Jumping on the environmental bandwagon I have colleagues who express a concern that dance gets ‘hijacked’ as a vehicle for social change at the expense of artistic integrity. Since the early 90’s dance in Australia has been whipped up by government initiatives; implemented in prison rehabilitation programs, used to advocate for gender equality, has championed bodies of mixed-ability and now serves as a tool for communicating the effects of climate change. While I appreciate the argument and acknowledge the need for high quality artistic research, I am in favour of artistic practices that respond to, and spark conversations about real-world problems. As humans one of our inherent responsibilities is to use whatever means available to bring awareness to the looming environmental collapse. It is important to resist the fear of ‘jumping on the environmental bandwagon’ and instead genuinely and rigorously apply artistic practice to the current discourse.

Realising Post-Anthropocentric thinking in choreography I believe the difficulty and urgency of communicating the complex problems of a changing climate can be addressed by embodied and immersive performance. Dance has the potential to bring audiences closer to a nuanced and sensual understanding of ecological embeddedness. Below are some of the threads to my artistic practice that I have collected, shaped and been affected by over the years. This may be valuable for readers to have a tangible pathway towards realising Post-Anthropocentric (henceforth, PA) thinking in choreography.

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SF Storytelling SF storytelling is an entanglement of criss-crossing narratives that invite non-humans to assume the role of storyteller. Coined by Haraway, “SF is a sign for science fiction, speculative fabulation, science fact and also, string figures”[8]. SF champions that “it matters what thoughts think thoughts; it matters what stories tell stories”[9]. It is a powerful tool because it not only takes into account the genealogy and context of the often-human speaker, it also introduces the possibility of connecting, empathising and conversing with other species and entities. Using SF in the creation of new work has led me to think-with the migration of Arctic Terns, small birds that fly annually from their Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back again. At times, it has called me to embody the story of warm water which causes human muscle tension to relax, our skin to wrinkle and reshape earth’s crust. SF effectively hones how and what I choose to listen to, respond to and articulate through my practice.

Yarning, ‘we are land and land is us’ I see a direct link between Haraway’s SF storytelling and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ ‘yarning’ culture. Yarning is a collective storytelling practice that embraces our connection to each other, the land and spirituality. It often involves people chatting in a seated circle on the ground. I feel an urgent calling to listen more deeply to Indigenous cosmological perspectives, especially during the current environmental crisis. I was taught yarning as a young child. My mother Deborah Shadler was a primary school teacher who owned and operated Arminui Art Gallery — the first Indigenous Australian gallery in my hometown of

Bunbury, regional Western Australia. Half of my childhood home was dedicated to the gallery, with my mother’s room situated at one end, living area at the other and gallery in the middle. Arminui Art hosted regular traditional Indigenous events, such as smoking ceremonies and corroborees by visiting artists. My ‘Aunty Peggy’ (Peggy Rockman Napaljarri) is a Warlpiri-speaking Indigenous artist from Lajamanu, Australia’s Western Desert region. At age five, she told me that ‘we are land and land is us’. The concept wasn’t said to be questioned, or theorised, it was an “is” — set in stone and passed through generations.

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‘Aunty Peggy’ (Peggy Rockman Napaljarri) at Renae’s family home/Arminui Art Gallery, AU 2016 | Image by Deborah Shadler

My recognition that land and humans are innately connected was strengthened through Goobalathaldin Dick Roughsey’s children’s books that retell traditional First Nation Australian Dream-Time stories. Roughsey (ca. 1920–1985) was an Indigenous Australian Lardil artist and author from Mornington Island, Queensland. He was fondly referred to by my mother as her ‘kinship’ Grandfather. The stories tell of multi-species living and dying practices; such as the dreamtime devil-dingo, Gaiya, who was domesticated to become man’s friend and helper, or the rainbow serpent who carved out the waterways.

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Praxis I am theoretically driven by contemporary philosophers, primarily female, working within the PA discourse; New Materialism (Jane Bennett), the self-organizing powers of nonhuman processes (Donna Haraway), Posthumanism (Rosi Braidotti) and Ecological Perception (Laura Sewall), among others. In performance I’m searching for concrete and accessible ways to facilitate embodied conversations rooted in theory and to move thinking forward through choreographic frameworks.

Backwards Walking My main entry point for developing sensitised PA movement vocabularies is ‘backwards walking meditation’. This practice is an ancient Chinese Qigong meditation that enables one to lean into their own strength and the core support of the backbone. The technique also encourages people to slow down as we become more sensitised and cautious of the unknown space behind us. Backwards walking activates somatic thinking, enabling an oscillation between ‘the micro’ within our cellular selves, and ‘the macro’ of our greater social, spatial and geographical context.

D A N C I N G I N T H E P O S T-A N T H R O P O C E N E | R e n a e S h a d l e r


Clowning To enable new ways of embracing all entities we must first acknowledge where we stand, create an aberration, and then embody a new becoming. This pathway emerged through my learning with Philippe Gaulier, a French master in clown teaching. Gaulier teaches ‘the angle of aberrations’, an aberration being a departure from what is normal, usual or expected. “Like an owl at dawn, an owl which always ponders whether to look at the rising sun or earth which grows bright, an owl which has never known exactly where to look and has always thought ‘If I look at the rising sun,

doubtless I won’t see the cow as it grows bright. If I look too much at the cow, I won’t appreciate its beauty in the light dawn’. I teach an impossibility of looking: as if always, somewhere else, another image was going to appear. To simplify, I will tell you: I teach the angle of aberrations.”[10] Gaulier’s constantly shifting perspective is a key to successfully alternating storytellers and engaging in the sometimes-playful practice of thinking-with. I believe PA thinking is best achieved through the clowns’ curiosity and contagious warmth, sensitivity and humour.

Collaborating with the sciences For me the strength of PA lies in its non-linear and multifaceted approach to living and dying. This is often difficult to articulate to audiences and/or participants. Therefore, I find it valuable to cross-pollinate with the sciences, and other disciplines, to develop concrete entry points. In 2017 I co-initiated Susurrus performance group with Finnish dancer/choreographer Maria Nurmela. For the last 18 months we have been collaborating with the Aerocene Foundation. Initiated by visual artist Tomás Saraceno, the Aerocene Foundation is an open source community leading the way in fossil-free air travel research. The core of the foundation is the Aerocene Explorer, a lightweight 6mx8m solar-powered sculpture that is inflated by the air, lifted only by the sun and carried by the wind. The Aerocene Explorer makes visible the invisible materials surrounding us, which creates a poetic and tangible entry into environmental discourses.

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Susurrus group launching the Aerocene Explorer at Hellerau: European Center for the Arts Dresden. | Image by Maria Nurmela

Susurrus performance group has been hosting community launches of the Aerocene Explorer and is currently developing a new performance work for stage that is inspired by these ethereal and aerial, soulful, moving/dancing membranes.

D A N C I N G I N T H E P O S T-A N T H R O P O C E N E | R e n a e S h a d l e r


As artists we can begin to deconstruct our archaic and hierarchical understanding of the Anthropocene, which elevates humans above the rest of the biosphere. To achieve this, we must engage in a trans-disciplinary process of cross-fertilisation and acknowledge that “it matters what thoughts think thoughts; it matters what stories tell stories” [11]. Multiple interpretations, entities and recreations of stories, movements and “materialities” can weave together to create a complex, uncomfortable and sometimes joyful matrix. Embodied interrelations connect spaces, our human and ‘more than human’ bodies, entangling us all in the process of thinking-with.

[1] Manning, E. 2013. Always More Than One:

[5] Ecopsychology studies the relationship between

Individuation’s Dance. Duke Press.

human beings and the natural world through

[2] I use the term ‘post’ to refer to ‘after’. In

ecological and psychological principles.

the near future I foresee this way of thinking

[6] Sewall, L. 1999. Sight and sensibility. New York:

will have a new label completely void of any


Anthropocentric associations. For now, in order

[7] Braidotti, R. 2013. The Posthuman. Cambridge:

to contextualise my debate, I will refer to it as the post-Anthropocentric thinking. [3] [8] [9] [11] Harraway, D. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press. [4] Cvejic, B. 2018. ‘Imagining and Feigning, Movement.’ Movement Research Performance Journal 51: 36-47.

Polity Press, 2013. [8] [9] Harraway, D. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press. [10] Gaulier, P. 2007. Mes pensées sur le théâtre : ex Le Gégeneur = My thoughts on theatre : ex The Tormentor. Éditions Filmiko.

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RENAE SHADLER Renae Shadler is an independent choreographer and dancer based between Melbourne and Berlin. She works across a variety of contexts; from dance on stage and major festivals, to museum events and outdoor public engagement projects. Shadler is committed to developing and creating work across Western Europe, regional Australia and Melbourne, inviting international collaborators to teach/perform in Australia as well as initiating independent projects. Her current co-productions include SKIN a dance duet with Roland Walter, a German dancer with full-body spastic paraplegia, and the Susurrus project (2017- ongoing ) initiated with Finnish choreographer Maria Nurmela. Susurrus has been performed multiple times including at Tomas Saraceno´s exhibition ON AIR at the Palais de Tokyo Museum (Paris, 2018). In 2012 Shadler founded Renae Shadler & Collaborators. The group create interdisciplinary performance experiences that engage creatively with the site and are developed in collaboration with touring artists and local participants. Past projects have been presented in train stations, city squares and in 2015 represented Australia at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design & Space. Renae also works as a performer and acting coach with leading theater and dance companies such as Alexandra Pirici (Romania), Dewey Dell (Italy) and Australian companies; PVI Collective, Triage Live Art Collective, Maybe_Together and Blackhole Theater. She was also the acting coach on ‘Asobi’ by Koari Ito produced by Les Ballets C de la B (Belgium, 2013).

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Slide from Kenneth McLeod on the Anthropocene Transition. | Image by Kenneth McLeod


The term ‘Anthropocene’ entered popular usage as the proposed designation of a new geological epoch generally held to date from the 1950s. But over recent years it has been widely adopted across the social sciences and humanities to signify a transition in human affairs in response to changes in the Earth System triggered by humankind. The Anthropocene Transition is about what we do collectively to reshape the most fundamental of our relationships which has become deeply dysfunctional—our place in the Earth’s precious web of life. Ultimately it is about what it means to be human in the 21st century and beyond.

Facing the Anthropocene Paradox Despite disagreements about possible start dates for the Anthropocene, there is one thing everyone agrees on. From the years immediately following World War II there has been a rapid escalation of human impacts that have taken the planet well beyond Holocene[1] norms. And all these trends continue to climb. Since 1970 the global average temperature has risen at 170 times the background rate of the last 7,000 years. Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide increased in two decades 100 times faster than the fastest rate during the last deglaciation[2]. Almost every week we hear reports of polar and glacial ice melt well in excess of climate modelling projections. In the high Northern latitudes vast stores of methane locked in

permafrost for thousands of years are beginning to escape into the atmosphere. Many scientists fear this will be a tipping point for the Earth System that will trigger runaway warming. But these measures of climate change tell us only half the story. Human impacts on the biosphere have been even greater. One dramatic illustration of this is the now tiny proportion of surviving wildlife. Of the total biomass of terrestrial vertebrates (animals with backbones) in 2011 30% were humans, 67% were animals bred by humans for their own use, and only 3% were animals in the wild[3]. Little wonder that we are accelerating towards a global extinction spasm with thousands of species facing extinction within decades.


We must not forget that this scientific research is describing the symptoms and the bio-geo-chemical dynamics of the Anthropocene. It does not necessarily address their origins in the techno-industrial complex. Because these symptoms are most easily seen in physical systems like the climate, the water cycle, the carbon cycle, the phosphorus and nitrogen cycles, biodiversity loss, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, etc., much policy debate and informed public awareness is focused on disruption of physical environments as problems we need to address. And indeed we do—urgently. But too often we speak as if each symptom is a discrete problem with its own answer— banning CFCs to solve atmospheric ozone depletion, renewable energy to solve climate change—and by addressing them separately we can ignore the dynamic interconnections and unpredictable knock-on effects or tipping points with the potential to cascade across the whole Earth System. Thus, our political responses have generally been conceived within dubious notions of simple linear causality and framed in terms of technological innovation and hard-systems interventions like geo-engineering. This encourages a very dangerous disconnect, a belief that the answers are “out

there” in the hands of scientists and technocrats and politicians. But the changes we have triggered just in the lifetimes of the baby-boomers will endure for thousands of years. There is no going back. We must, as a species, learn to live with what we have created or accept the inevitability of our own demise as a species. This clash of our power to wrought planetary change with our inability to control what we have done is the great paradox of the Anthropocene. For decades our principal response to the looming existential threats of our own making has been a grab bag of policies, processes, practices and products bearing the label “sustainable”. But “sustainability” as both a concept and a practice all too often falls short of the mark. As Christopher Wright, co-author of Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction, suggests, many of the policies and practices of sustainability are really about being less un-sustainable. As such they fail the test of proportionality—valuable but inadequate in the context of the challenges of cultural transformation and systemic redesign we face in the Anthropocene Transition.

T H E A N T H R O P O C E N E T R A N S I T I O N | Ke n n e t h M c Le o d


By focusing on sustainability within the cultural and political envelope of the status quo we maintain the convenient illusion that “we” (who?) are in control and can manage the transition to a viable planetary future by economic, technical and lifestyle tinkering. It’s not that honest efforts to advance sustainability are pointless. Many significant incremental gains can be achieved. It’s just that we’re attempting ad hoc workarounds when the problem is with the operating system—the dominant cultural values and economic and political orthodoxies they generate that shape the forms and functions of key social institutions.

A crisis of culture The Anthropocene is a concept that challenges many of our most deep-rooted takenfor-granted cultural assumptions. Throughout recorded history humanity has regarded the continuity of Nature as a given — the reliable if episodically capricious backdrop against which the glories and tragedies of the human story are enacted. Now that backdrop is shifting rather rapidly. In the face of increasingly radical discontinuity, we must achieve feats of rapid adaptation beyond anything in our evolutionary

experience. This will be a challenge for many generations to come. As science and technology scholar, Sheila Jasanoff, warns, it could take “decades, even centuries to accommodate to ... a revolutionary reframing of human-nature relationships”[4]. This is the Anthropocene Transition. Anthropocene Transition is a cultural term that encompasses the ways in which changes in the planet’s bio-geo-chemical dynamics, triggered by the techno-industrial complex, interact with human social

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systems. It spans the geo-political, economic, social, and even the personal. Look around. The symptoms are already everywhere apparent. They include resource wars, increasing competition for shrinking productive lands and fresh water, the eruption of violent extremisms, economic instability, trade wars, huge disparities of wealth and power, rising food shortages coexisting with massive waste, an ever-increasing risk of pandemics, large-scale population movements and societal trauma, political polarisation, and pervasive demoralisation and despair. These are soft-systems issues – driven by cultural understandings, aspirations, behaviours and values.

It conditions our ways of being, seeing, doing and imagining. It determines what we consider appropriate action in and on the world. It defines the taken-for-granted limits of the possible and the acceptable. As Swedish scholar Steven Hartman has written: “The great environmental predicament of the early 21st century is not primarily an ecological crisis, though its ramifications are far-reaching within ecological systems. Rather it is a crisis of culture.”[5] In the final analysis the Anthropocene Transition may prove to be either the apotheosis or the dénouement of humanity’s cultural evolution.

Culture is a civilisation’s shared way of making sense of the world: what is real, what is knowable, and what has value.

It’s time to stop pretending A new consciousness is beginning to spread in a growing number of ‘hot spots’ around the world. Increasing numbers of young people, realising their future has been stolen, are school striking to demand adults belatedly accept their responsibilities to the next generation and others as yet unborn. A

new mass movement of civil disobedience has sprung into being under the Extinction Rebellion banner, challenging the complicit and the unaware to face reality by bringing business-as-usual to a standstill. Denial, or avoidance, has for too long been a defining response in the techno-industrial world to the existential dangers of the

T H E A N T H R O P O C E N E T R A N S I T I O N | Ke n n e t h M c Le o d


Anthropocene. Perhaps we’re just too entranced in our cocoon of consumerism and mass distraction to bother with the threat our societies pose to the life support systems of planet Earth. It’s not only the ideologically blinkered ‘climate change deniers’, their political boosters and corporate patrons that stand in the way of sensible action. Now we must call out the implicit avoidance in the wellmeaning prescriptions of ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable development’ and belief in the possibility of technological redemption. The time when they might have been viable responses has passed. The new mass movements emerging around the world focus on the ‘climate emergency’, calling for immediate and effective action to stem the discharge of greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere and waters. They are right to do so. The situation is urgent. Radical mitigation is essential.

about preparing our communities, our cities, and our households for systemic disruptions and failures that, even with effective mitigation, can no longer be avoided. And we must address the psychological trauma and anxiety already apparent amongst those who have chosen to stop pretending and face the realities of the Anthropocene. Beyond radical mitigation and deep adaptation lies the most fundamental questions of the Anthropocene Transition—how can we transform core cultural values and the dysfunctional economic and political systems they foster?—and what does it mean to be human in a time of collective existential danger? Could this changing consciousness that is animating young people around the world point to the cultural tipping point that might make a difference?

Yet at the same time we must look beyond mitigation. More and more people, particularly the young, are realising that the world is heading straight into wide-spread systemic collapse and there is little we can do to head it off. This means that deep adaptation must also be on the agenda. We must seriously set

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Telling a story of co-creation Ultimately humanity’s ability to survive and perhaps even thrive in a period of radical uncertainty and profound change will depend on our capacity for wise collective action reflecting a new consciousness of our place in the Earth System. The Anthropocene Transition challenges us to explore new ways of imagining ourselves and our relationship to the planet and the other complex life forms we share it with. The Anthropocene calls us to abandon the underpinning conceit of the techno-industrial complex—that humans stand outside of nature with first claim on environmental resources. The nature/culture divide has been at the core of Western civilisation for centuries. It is no longer a tenable worldview and the sooner we recover more intimate and empathetic ways of being present to the Earth the greater our chances of a successful Anthropocene Transition. Enduring Indigenous cultures have much to teach us about the interdependence of all life, and about respect and responsibility for our relationship with the Earth. Here in Australia settlers from every continent have the unique privilege of sharing this land with the oldest surviving culture on the planet. What Earth-wisdom and respect for life are embedded in their cultural traditions and practices. To grasp the full implications of this transformation of our Western worldview requires us to scale-up our imagination of the human. The fact that we have reached the numbers and developed technologies that can impact the planet itself implies that we have unleashed forces of similar intensity to those that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. We have reached “a time when the geological and the planetary press in on our everyday consciousness”[6]. This not only requires us to stretch our social imaginations. It also has far-reaching ethical implications that call us to accept

an expanded collective responsibility for the consequences of our cultural choices at planetary and geological (or deep time) scales for generations yet unborn and for non-human others. It requires a greatly enhanced capacity for adaptive social learning—groups of people sharing their experiences in action, experimenting with different ways of dealing with common challenges, reflecting together on the meaning of their experiences, and deciding on new forms of co-operative action.

T H E A N T H R O P O C E N E T R A N S I T I O N | Ke n n e t h M c Le o d


At the very core of every civilisation lies a theory of human nature and a cosmology— the foundation stories of who we are and where we came from. These stories are the ultimate source of the unifying narratives of our societies. They are explicitly or implicitly manifest in the cultural practices of a society: its public ceremonies, its performing and visual arts, its literature, its music, its popular culture. Contemporary science has unfolded for us an origin story of breath-taking magnificence. This story shows us that our human journey on planet Earth has seen the emergence of a uniquely reflexive consciousness, embedded in our many cultures, and complementing the great diversity of nonhuman adaptive intelligences with which it has co-evolved.

Now, we need to fashion a new story—a story of courage and co-creation in the face of hitherto unimagined danger. There is no blueprint to guide us through the Anthropocene Transition. This will be a story of travelling on a path we must invent as we go—a learning journey. By its very nature, it will be a collaborative undertaking. Finding ways to more fully manifest this collective creativity to serve the future of our species within planetary boundaries is the key challenge before us. Creativity is not a singular event, but an on-going universal process within which each one of us has a part to play. As the ancient stories tell us, we issued from a creative universe and can continue only as participants in its inexorable creativity.

[1] ‘Holocene’ is the name of given to the 12,000

[4] Jasanoff, S. 2010. ‘A New Climate for Society’

year period since the end of the last Ice Age

Theory, Culture and Society 27: 2-3.

[2] Steffen W. 2018. ‘Trajectories of the Earth

[5] Hartman S. June 2015. ‘Unpacking the Black

System in the Anthropocene’, Proceedings of the

Box: the need for integrated Environmental

National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

Humanities (IEH)’. Future Earth Blogg.

[3] Smil V. 2013. Harvesting the Biosphere: What We

[6] Chakrabarty, D. 2018. ‘Anthropocene Time’

Have Taken from Nature.MIT Press, Cambridge.

History and Theory 57, no1.

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KENNETH MCLEOD Kenneth McLeod is the convener and program curator of Anthropocene Transition (AT) based in Sydney. AT aims to stimulate transformative thinking and regenerative action to bring our professional and social practices into line with the challenges of an age of radical uncertainty and existential crisis. Ken has been involved in change processes in organisations, communities and social action movements since the late 1960s. A graduate of the National Art School, he played a leading role in the anti Vietnam War movement, and was involved in educational and research roles with trade unions and community organisations through the TransNational Co-operative which he founded. Later, he worked for many years in postsecondary education and professional development and then as a process design consultant to community, civil and public sector organisations in Northern NSW and SE Queensland. The Anthropocene Transition website is at:

T H E A N T H R O P O C E N E T R A N S I T I O N | Ke n n e t h M c Le o d


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Performance of Cry Jailolo (2013) | Image by Pandji Vascodagama

DA N C I N G JA I LO LO | Eko Supr iyanto


Introduction Conversations and perceptions regarding the body have been triggering conflicting perspectives from philosophers across the globe. Furthermore, the development of human civilisation has also brought changed perspectives towards the body. Based on cultural background, humans have been perceiving their body’s biological functions with varying conclusions. In the pre-religion era, the body was operating optimally in a biological and instinctive way. Along the way, the body was “disciplined” with various religious regulations, especially during the classic era. Up until the postmodern era, perceptions about how the body works were continuously challenged.

In his work Sugiharto[1] posits that Michael Foucault assumed perceptions about the body could only be comprehended as a consequence of social changes throughout history. Collisions of perspectives raised questions about the development of different human cultures. Based on my personal experience, I agree with these theories. Back in 2012 I was made aware that the existence of the ‘cultural body’; which demonstrates the difference between a cultural body and a biological system. This experience puts an emphasis on the evidence that humans truly experienced evolution within themselves when they are forced to adapt to the environment.


Before my personal experience regarding ‘body’, I felt that the journey of my body as a whole had reached its climax. Back then, movement and movement exploration were not an issue for me. Now, my body has finally reached a stage where it can facilitate and interpret matters that were ordered through brain stimuli — be it jumping or freezing in fast or slow motion. Moreover, as a choreographer, I have the ability to transfer body exploration knowledge and choreography to dancers, where they are able to interpret the choreographic pattern I give. Such experiences should leave me with feelings of accomplishment as my job as a dance trainer and choreographer are realised. In addition, my ability of transferring knowledge and choreography could be considered as successful as I have produced young talented dancers with immaculate physicality and stamina. Unfortunately, these accomplishments do not prevent me from feeling anxious, knowing that bodies that were rigorously trained no longer accept new challenges. My anxieties regarding the use of the body was suddenly answered when I was given the opportunity by the West Halmahera government in North Maluku to develop the Performing Arts festival scene in Eastern Indonesia. Ir. Namtu Hui Roba, the regent of West Halmahera, humbly asked that I — based on the performing arts knowledge and experience that I have — highlight the growth of the arts in Jailolo, the place where Festival Teluk Jailolo (FTJ) takes place each year. I agreed without any hesitation. Since the beginning, Eastern Indonesia culture has been igniting my curiosity. It is my belief that this particular part of Indonesia has a lot of mysteries hiding below the surface of this crowded modern culture. Capitalism and materialism has been harshly inflicted on the western part of this country. However, it did not take long for the maritime culture of Jailolo to carry my heart away.

DA N C I N G JA I LO LO | Eko Supr iyanto


Sensorially, my body experienced new sensations; where my sense of vision was served with visuals of a maritime landscape, a completely different archipelago compared to the rural and urban agrarian nature I was accustomed to back in Java. My sense of hearing absorbed nature’s sounds as completely non-industrial. The residents too had a whole new accent. When it came to taste buds, what a wonderful experience tasting the fresh commodity caught by local fishermen. On top of that, the air in Eastern Indonesia was not as polluted compared to Java. These various foreign sensations awakened the alertness in my body in its effort to adapt. This alertness should not be interpreted as negative, because it redefines the condition of body where it is able to receive more stimulants in reaction of the surrounding environment. That was the exact moment where I felt my body memory was flooded by new information, fulfilling needs that weren’t filled before. At the same time, it forced me to perform various interpretations and translations to understand this brand-new nature and culture. As a result, of this personal experience, I was motivated to do more comprehensive research toward Eastern Indonesia.

Performance of Cry Jailolo (2013) | Image by Pandji Vascodagama

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Body Research After agreeing to the offer to develop the Festival Teluk Jailolo, I was given the time and facility to do my research. The research method that I used within those two years did not follow default rules within research methodology, but was more of a deep, comprehensive observation towards Jailolo’s cultural values, overview of the social mapping, and adaptation within the people’s daily lives. Interpretations were done gradually, to muffle the rise of unnecessary sympathy or empathy towards the reality of social conflicts in Eastern Indonesia, caused by differing political and ideology agitation. The results I found during the research in Jailolo can be divided into the three categories below: - Physical artifacts - Human (individual) - Social system within the society These three cultural aspects helped me interpret this new culture that I aim to comprehend. This perspective matches with what Madison[2] explained in his literature; that interpretation is important to help research produce a comprehensive visual. I believe it also needs to strike harmony between detailed findings about the culture as a whole.

DA N C I N G JA I LO LO | Eko Supr iyanto

Failure to achieve this harmony means failure to understand a culture or the phenomenon within it. These findings later became media that is utilized to achieve comprehensive understanding and cognitive knowledge that triggers my creativity in order to work with the local residents. PHYSICAL ARTIFACTS are a concrete, phys-

ical matter that become the unique characteristics of a culture. In semantic theory, artifacts are seen as signs from a culture, where it consists of symbolic system and meanings that represents thoughts, ideas, and image of a society group[3]. Jailolo culture is extremely linked with the maritime culture of archipelagic society. What is unique is that Maluku is known to have a volcanic nature and is close to oceans, beaches, and mountains. Tribes that live within the Jailolo area also have unique characteristic that stole my attention. For example, in one of its tribes, the Sahu tribe, half of its residents reside near the coast and the rest reside near the Sahu Mountain. Those who live near the coast are dependent for their financial source on the fishery sector, so that the artifacts found within that area are linked to equipment that are used by fishermen, in ocean rituals, and for conservation efforts of the beach and ocean.


Performance of Cry Jailolo (2013) | Image by Pandji Vascodagama

By comparison, the rest of Sahu tribe who reside on area with higher altitude in the mountains, fulfill their daily life needs with kopra gardening. Physical artifacts such as Sasadu houses are often utilised as the convention room for society meetings. These houses are also a proof of an artifact that is heavily linked to the gardening culture and lives in the forest. Other tribes live side by side in the Jailolo area such as Tobaru, Tobelo, Wayoli, and

Gamkonora and are completely under the power of Jailolo sultanate. Belief systems of Jailolo residents could be considered as quite varied, from Animism, Christian, to Muslim. This produces different ritual artifacts and daily lives. Immigrants from the Bugis tribe and Java, who have been acculturated and live in the coastal area of Jailolo, are majority Muslim. By comparison, those who reside in the mountain area are generally Christians.

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HUMAN (INDIVIDUAL). Existence of humans

within a society can be seen through the physicality of the individual or through its social function. However, our understanding about perception (existential and societal) heavily relies on our own body experience[2]. I am interested in doing research on individual bodies before perceiving individuals inside the social system in Jailolo. One thing I instantly realised is that there is some physical uniqueness that I did not see in Java or other part of this world. This is their muscle structure. Body evolution managed to develop muscle and body organs to suit their daily life as fishermen, divers, and kopra climbers. Along with differing muscular there are distinctive gestures and body and this became an interesting dialectic to me, as someone who is used to urban bodies on Java Island. I will explain my interpretation regarding body languages of Jailolo society in the next section. SOCIAL SYSTEMS WITHIN SOCIETY. Social

systems within society. As explained above, Jailolo consist of local tribes and immigrants that mostly come from Sulawesi, Ambon, Papua, and Java. This could not be separated from the history of the ‘herb track’ that made Maluku archipelago one of the ultimate destinations in the colonialism era. Wars, power struggles,

DA N C I N G JA I LO LO | Eko Supr iyanto

and conflict have occurred in this region, leaving trauma for Jailolo societies. The last conflict revolved around religion and ideology, where the local tribes that are mostly Christian Protestant, faced the immigrants who are Muslim in majority. This conflict ultimately had to be resolved by the military. I visited Jailolo for the first time back in 2012, when violence was still the only solution for conflicts between the tribes. It was the moment I saw the leadership of Namto as the regent. Namto holds a significant role in maintaining the stability of his area, while continuing progressive actions for the development of Jailolo. The figure of regent can be considered as a role model within the society in West Halmahera, and inspires hope that society will one day agree to unite to bring Jailolo into a better future. It leads me to believe that high social titles make it easier for an individual to become a role model who can produce a revolutionary social movement. There were two significant events that became the motivation of my creative process in Jailolo and became my source of inspiration and core enlightenment. The first was a dance called Legu Salai. A kid — describing war dance from the Sahu tribe — performs this dance. The movement pattern that was performed in this


traditional dance was something that I have never witnessed anywhere, and it triggered me to learn it. The coordination between legs, arms, attitude, and body rhythm is performed in such a wonderful way, aiming to convey a language that is interesting to interpret — and that is what I have been trying to do since the beginning of the research. However, I realized from the beginning that traditional arts could only be owned and felt by the owner of the culture. Therefore, even if I tried to respond, interpret, or take inspirations from it, I needed to deconstruct every single element in the dance first. Along with the research regarding Legu Salai dance, I had an experience that managed to give me an explosive sensation for my sensorial nature and it was the time that I was forced to dive into the ocean. At the beginning, I refused to dive into the ocean but once I did, I was amazed by such different nature from what I had ever experienced before. I felt that my body and my existence, as an individual, became extremely vulnerable. I needed to survive in such foreign nature. My life depended on complicated diving equipment that requires special knowledge to operate it. My body, which is usually pulled by gravitation on the ground, suddenly felt the need to adapt to flying inside water. Breathing was also a challenge, because I needed to manage the oxygen intake so that my body could move freely. At the same time, the underwater nature gave some sense of calmness that I never ever felt before in my entire life. It was serene, intense, and meditative at the same time. It was such a paradoxical condition, where I felt vulnerable in such foreign environment, but at the same time, this nature gave me an extraordinary calm sensation. An explosion of new information flooded my body, slowly constructing new body memories that carried me to the connecting line — to my interpretation towards the culture in Jailolo.

Cry Jailolo Based on the hermeneutics postmodern perspective that was mentioned by Heidegger (as explained in Mudji Sutrisno, SJ’s book), new interpretations could only be made through our actual existence; where it linked to our experience, related

to physical matters, and had aspects that put us into situational context and meaning. Hermeneutics according to Heidegger is used to determine existential being through understanding, where understanding is more meaningful than mere knowledge.

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‘ My diving experience

truly opened my eyes to feel my existential being physically and let my body absorb the body memories that shaped the society in Jailolo. ’

DA N C I N G JA I LO LO | Eko Supr iyanto


This perspective is the opposite of rationalist perspective, put forward by thinkers such as Descartes, who perceives the human existentially through their ability to think. According to Heidegger, no matter what, the ability of human to think is strongly connected to the existential in daily lives and could not be separated from knowledge to feeling experiences. My diving experience truly opened my eyes to feel my existential being physically and let my body absorb the body memories that shaped the society in Jailolo. In terms of visual, I saw movements of fish in the ocean, where they move as a colony, individually, and unite together, making an amazing composition. At the same time, I felt concerned about the damage of coral reefs caused by violent activities. In meditative terms, I slowly traced back and felt the power of cultural bodies within the Jailolo society, still facing difficulties from past conflicts in that area. The ocean water that often feels soft still needs to be anticipated. So too are the people in Jailolo shaped into flexible individuals. They must anticipate and be able to get back up when faced with challenges. I also had an experience of strong physical sensation when trying to deconstruct the Legu Salai dance while connecting it to my other findings during my movement on the

ground or in the ocean. During my creative process, I reconstructed the rhythmical war dance into its core layer. Traditional arts that are being reinterpreted need to stand on their own independently, returning body to its real existential and basic movement; non-ornamental, without seeing it as an exotic object. Deconstruction within traditional arts is an effort to return back the roots of traditional arts as the ultimate source for art in a bigger form, specifically contemporary dance arts (Mudji Soetrisno). Perspective, whilst attempting this deconstruction, needs to be examined carefully because misunderstood perspective could cause commoditization, cooptation, and commercialization towards cultural values — which has often happened in many parts of Indonesia when traditional arts and modern arts were combined. Based on the perspective above, I produced a contemporary dance work called Cry Jailolo, and was a direct result of body research done in those years in Jailolo. Based on that research, I chose a Jailolo male to perform this dance. Each dancer carries their cultural bodies. A Jailolo dancer could not be replaced by anyone else. Based on Heidegger’s perception, Dasein is impossible to imitate because every single human body carries its existence through a time and place frame (Soetrisno). The originality

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and honesty of the dancers with no dance background made the creative process of Cry Jailolo easier because, mechanically, I did not need to transfer my interpretation about Jailolo culture. Taking the movement pattern that is similar to groups of fish in the ocean, this contemporary dance work aims to voice my concern towards the damage of ocean nature caused by humans. I am aware that this critical attitude within the medium is what society needs. Audiences are no longer sitting down watching a beautiful narrative of an art form in an exotic place. Now an audience can raise questions, issues, or even protest. A mature modern characteristic is the appearance of self-reflection[4]. This is what I offer through Cry Jailolo.

Conclusion This research-based creative process undertaken in Jailolo involved a lot of components and cultural matters that needed to be examined, as objects need to be interpreted, especially by people who are not originally from the culture. With this research, I aimed to understand the culture of this archipelagic society by observing the history of their bodies (remember that the work that I produced is strongly connected to the body). The Hermeneutics perspective as a basic theory of linguistic interpretation is ideal to the process that I undertook. It was performed through language conveyed

DA N C I N G JA I LO LO | Eko Supr iyanto

through bodies of Jailolo. Various socio-cultural elements and individualised bodies lead to an understanding of a culture that has been through a long history of power shifts and challenges to the economy, ideology, and environment. As a result, this work of art makes use of traditional arts as an inspiration, but the traditional values were processed into interpretation and deconstructed until it was born into a new art entity that stands independently. It thinks critically and contextually to be presented in the contemporary culture in the present time.


[1] Sugiharto, B. 2000. ‘Penjara Jiwa, Mesin Hasrat, Tubuh Sepanjang Budaya’. Jurnal Kebudayaan Kalam: Menguak Tubuh. e Yayasan Kalam. [2] Merleau-Ponty, M. 2011. Phenomenology of perception. London: Routledge. [3] Siefkes, M. 2012. The semantics of artefacts: How we give meaning to the things we produce and use. Image. Zeitschrift für interdisziplinäre Bildwissenschaft,16 (Special issue Semiotik). http://; Part 1. [4] Giddens, A. 1992.

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EKO SUPRIYANTO Founder and Artistic Director of EkosDance Company and Solo Dance Studio in Surakarta Indonesia, Eko Supriyanto is the leading Indonesian dancer and choreographer of his generation. He is a full-time faculty member of Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) in Surakarta. Trained in Javanese court dances and the Indonesian martial arts of Pencak Silat since the age of seven, Eko’s performance career spans major works and tours throughout Indonesia, Europe, the United States, Australia and the Asia Pacific. A Fullbright Grantee of 2010, Asian Cultural Center New York and Ford Foundation Grantee, Eko holds a PhD in Performance Studies (2014) from Gadjah Mada University. In 2018 he completed his second doctoral degree in creative arts at the Indonesian Institute for the Arts in Surakarta. He holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Dance and Choreography from the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures (2001) USA. His performance career stretches between major commercial productions to dance research projects. He choreographed and performed for major international productions including Peter Sellars Le Grand Macabre, John Adam’s Opera Flowering Tree, the Barbican Centre in London, Berlin Philharmonic, the Lincoln Center in New York and LA Philharmonic, Lyn Dally Jazz Tap Ensemble Los Angeles. Eko was a dance consultant for Julie Taymor’s Lion King Broadway production. He worked as an actor and choreographer on Garin Nugroho’s Opera Jawa film, Iron Bed and Tusuk Konde, Musical ONROP with Joko Anwar, MAU’s Lemi Ponifasio’s Tempest New Zealand, solid.states with Arco Renz, Belgium, and was a featured dancer in Madonna’s 2001 world tour of Drowned World. He was awarded best supporting actor of Harry Dagoe Suharyadi’s film entitled Sunya.

DA N C I N G JA I LO LO | Eko Supr iyanto


His recent major work is Cry Jailolo with seven youth dancers from Jailolo North Maluku (2013) that toured in Japan, Australia (2015-2018). Again Cry, Jailolo’s sister work, with five young women from Jailolo BALABALA was developed and toured intensively in Australia, Japan, Europe and Taiwan (2017-2018). The most recent performance research on the body embodiment of Indonesian Dancers is connected to his work on maritime culture entitled SALT, completing his Trilogy of Dancing Jailolo, with a world Premiere in Belgium October 2017 to March 2018. Due to start touring in 2020, The Future of Dance is Under Water and Post Colonial on Body of Borders, to Japan, Australia (AsiaTopa) and Europe –IBUIBU BELU.

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Excerpt of score from GUNSLINGER | Image by Samuel Hertz

Anthropo-sonic Sensuality Taking up the challenge provided by the term Anthropocene demands new approaches to sensing and engaging with complex ecosystems at non-human scales. From the expansion of automated industries to the detonations of nuclear weapons and increased instances of catastrophic weather events, the Anthropocene is an epoch of new vibrations and planetary resonances precipitated by human influence. As the capacity for understanding sounds of the Anthropocene increases, so too does the chance to further our identification with - and engender sensuality towards - this volatile Earth. Not to aestheticise anthropo-sonics, but to understand to a greater degree the trajectories and relationships that they render audible.


This volatility however, as well as the term ‘Anthropocene’ in general, does not uniquely apply to the scale of the planetary; as important as it is to explore these distortions at ’Earth Magnitude’, we can similarly understand the immensity and intensity of environmental transformation at smaller scales. Seemingly insignificant changes that elude attention or notice - not acute changes ending with a bang, but a slow fade to black.

{sensuality : distinguished from sensibility and sensing : the making-intimate of sense perceptions across vast spaces and scales : between ears, organs, atmospheres, seismic motion, and chirps }

A recognition of sensuality allows us to bind - in some capacity - to scales and forces, beyond that with which we might usually interact and would not normally consider. In some sense, the development of this type of sensuality could be understood as extension, but I prefer instead to think of it as reconciliation. Which is to say, what good is an ever-increasing amount of data if there is no developed mechanism for making sense of

and internalising the conditions of the data in the first place? I consider that the sounding/listening practices developed below can be used both as a literal and conceptual medium through which to explore the complex and nuanced stratifications that require our attention for tackling serious ecological issues.


Samuel Hertz: Aero-Acoustics Workshop at Palais de Tokyo | Image by Samuel Hertz

“ C O N D E N S AT I O N S ” | S a m u e l H e r t z


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Planetary Sound & Meeting Points Scholars such as Gallagher, Kanngieser and Prior[1] explore the notion of an expanded ’geo-technological listening’ which they argue is necessary for initiating responses to global environmental change, planetary subjectivity (sensuality), and aesthetic and political approaches to listening. This type of listening/feeling offers a more nuanced and personal understanding of timelines and magnitudes of change - not only acclimatising us (humans) to a ‘deeper’ time, but also attempting to build geologic common ground. It is through these new magnitudes of listening, sensing, and feeling that sonic affinities towards largescale events at ‘“Earth Magnitude”’[2] might be encouraged and better understood. Or to put in another way: to discuss the marker of a geologic era from the perspective of sound requires geologic-scaled listening strategies.

My work with infrasound - sound that is below the frequency of the “normal limit” of human hearing - articulates an aspect of sound on a planetary scale. Produced by powerful artificial and natural sources, infrasonic signals offer pressurised illustrations of large magnitude forces at work across the globe. An intriguing class of sounds, pressures, and vibrations in their own right, yet simultaneously meaningful as a spectrum through which to understand the tremblings of a changing planet, alongside our own sympathetic vibrations. The behaviour of infrasonic signals in the atmosphere - floating between and among atmospheric layers - also functions as a metaphor for the types of energetic and material crossings exhibited by Anthropocene problematics: collapsing, condensing, creating meeting points between disparate objects at different times.

“ C O N D E N S AT I O N S ” | S a m u e l H e r t z

“You’re hearing the past, of sound that you made; you’re continuing it, possibly, so you’re right in the present, and you’re anticipating the future, which is coming at you from the past.”[3] Pauline Oliveros’ articulation of the swampy, sticky nature of time means that we can understand compositional space as existing in that same messy nexus created by the spatio-temporal condensing properties of anthropogenic climate change. A prompt to understand the complexity of its entangledness. My piece body split and hand remained untouched with the exception of itself offers this same approach to past/ present/future by attempting to trace the flow of infrasound among atmospheric layers, all the while maintaining that transference of forces and pressures also carry the weight of memories (place, affect, sensuality, origin……).


Scalar Sound & Meeting Points Meanwhile, researchers from sound studies and geography such as Smith[4] and LaBelle[5] detail the function of sound not as an object but as a processual medium amplifying and articulating relationships among landscapes, atmospheres, and biomasses. Sound is not a self-referential phenomenon: the behaviour of sound illustrates and details complex interactions between different actors, sources, and forces by virtue of its ability to operate at different scales and portray connections between these problematised spheres.

Sonic profiles of environments — as well as sound production — become vectors for understanding spaces of transformation. The scaling challenges of political, ecologic, economic, and aesthetic landscapes posed by the term Anthropocene require languages and practices that can amplify their complex interactions and intersections. Therefore, dealing with scales of sound allows us to examine the multiple and overlapping strata at which sonic indicators of climate change can occur: we can easily account for the critical and large sonic events indicative of a changing earth (e.g. the sounds of glacial melts), but if we shift focus onto smaller pockets of life, we can see more nuanced and subtle changes, such as minute variations in animal mating calls due to changing habitats, or the steadily decreasing hum of insect populations.

never the end-goal. Rather, it is the ability to reconcile timescales of glacial melts and nuclear detonations on the one hand — with those of animal mating calls on the other — that provides a path forward. By placing these two scales (for example) in proximity to each other, we can then begin to tease out the interstitial relationships that tie these soundscapes together. To begin to extrapolate (in a tentacular fashion) the extensions and dimensions of each scale in particular, as well as with what other -scales and -scapes it comes into contact, affects, cancels out, or amplifies.

It is, however, not simply the ability to hear at drastically different scales that is — in itself — a practice or strategy. Certainly, I play with concepts that deal with hearing at different scales individually, but this is

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Two Exercises In Scale, Both Featuring Guitars

DECADENT FRUITING BODY performed by Layton Lachman / Mara Poliak / Abby Crain (Swimming Pool where timescales start to slip, the water keeps getting in y/our eyes and our collective imaginations become material and felt Three performers converge to form a make-shift doom metal band, performing a dirge expanding outwards in time. An Infinite Reverb….

Decadent Fruiting Body | Image by Chani Bockwinkel

“ C O N D E N S AT I O N S ” | S a m u e l H e r t z


GUNSLINGER performed by Wilfred Amis / Kieran Blyth where water droplets from an ice cliff are re-synthesised into a score for two guitars which lasts for anywhere from 40 minutes to 500 hours As the droplets begin to run together, a picture is slowly formed of a process that can’t be explained by any individual droplet; only by slowing listening patterns can we sense the long event unfolding before us. GUNSLINGER | Image by Opera North

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‘ The collection of

forces that have brought about the Anthropocene are... sticky, enmeshed, and nested issues. ’

“ C O N D E N S AT I O N S ” | S a m u e l H e r t z


Distant History & Overwhelming Presentness Reconciling my artistic practice within the Anthropocene means developing a material approach to time and space scalings — an attempt to understand the force of the Anthropocene marker that has suddenly collapsed ‘distant’ history into an overwhelming present-ness. Texts such as Bruno Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern make clear that “[the] horizons, the stakes, the time frames, the actors — none of these is commensurable, yet there they are, caught up in the same story”. The collection of forces that have brought about the Anthropocene are not causes that are equally and easily quantified, but sticky, enmeshed, and nested issues. They are at once inseparable from — and out-of-scale with — each other.

[1] Gallagher, M., Kanngieser, A., & Prior, J. 2016. ‘Listening geographies: Landscape, affect and geotechnologies’ Progress in Human Geography DOI: 0309132516652952. [2] Kahn, D. 2013. Earth Sound Earth Signal:

This designated title of a relatively recent period of human history forces us to consider a much broader engagement of past, present, and future. Part of this practice is admittedly imaginative. And yet, as Karen Barad makes clear, imagination has material weight[6]. While the literal/technological aim of bringing the sounds of large and small worlds into closer focus remains a part of my inquiry, I believe it is equally important to amplify and detail the material properties of listening practices that trace entangled histories, timelines, and forces.

energies and earth magnitude in the arts. Los Angeles: University of California Press. [3] Toop, D. 1995. Ocean of Sound: aether talk, ambient sound and imaginary worlds. London: Serpent’s Tail. 248. [4] Smith, S. J. 2000. ‘Performing the (sound)world Environment and Planning D’ Society and Space 18. 615-637. [5] LaBelle, B. 2010. ‘Acoustic Territories’ Sound Culture and Everyday Life. NY: Continuum. [6] Barad, K. 2015. ‘Transmaterialities: Trans*/ Matter/Realities and Queer Political Imaginings’ GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 21.2-3. 387-422.

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SAMUEL HERTZ Samuel Hertz is a Berlin-based composer, researcher, and sound artist working at the intersection of Earth-based sound, sonic sensualities, and climate change. Often crossing genres, his previous work has taken form through composed music, multi-media electronics performances, large-scale speaker installations, IMAX and standalone films, performative installations, and more. As the first winner of the DARE Prize for Radical Interdisciplinary (UK), Sam researches environmental and artificial infrasound alongside climate scientists, music psychologists, and paranormal investigators. Sam’s research and works are supported and presented by Studio Tomás Saraceno (DE), Temporary Art Review (DE/US), Centre for GeoHumanities (UK), Opera North (UK), Palais de Tokyo (FR), Macerata Opera Festival (IT), and the National Science and Media Museum (UK). Alongside artist Carmelo Pampillonio, their Librations project commences in summer 2019 working between Wave Farm and Pioneer Works (US) within an Earth-Moon-Earth signal array.

“ C O N D E N S AT I O N S ” | S a m u e l H e r t z


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ENTER THE WHALE Emily Johnson I acknowledge the Kulin Nations, the Boonwurrung and the Wurundjeri people, upon whose lands and waters we depend on today. I pay my deep respect and offer gratitude to their elders and ancestors past, present, and future.

Emily Johnson and Tania Isaac in Then a Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing at Stars on Randall’s Island, Lenapehoking, August 2017 | Image by Paula Court


Breath. Whale enters the room. Undulates its spine. Rolls its huge belly forward. Opens its mouth pours

over its teeth out the door

down the stairs.

There is,

smell of rain. Whale’s soft eye is gazing at everyone in the room. Whale a deep breath. And then its weight. Creaks the room

there is the sound of breath.

And then


The floor sinks a bit under

There is a sound the world has never heard.

All the people in

drop their heads their shoulders their arms their hands to the floor. We are

crawling forward in the sound.

Each one of us

Toward whale.

touch it We want to remember We want to hear We are whispering. ongoing


And we want to

We want to rock into that belly.

We are whispering without knowing we are whispering

everlasting forgotten sounds

Sounds we forgot of our mothers

Sounds our mothers made when we first entered the world.

The house I grew up in was made of plywood. And when my parents built their new house, which they still live in, I went outside, pressed my little body up against the plywood and said, “I’m sorry.” Breath. The first time I told this whole story - I told a story right now about how the ground we’re on is connected to the next bit of ground bit by bit across the world, each bit of ground connected to the next bit and the next, under rivers, over mountains, there were about a thousand people in a circle all around me. They were all crying. Could you kiss my fingertips? Could you raise up your arms? What is it like to stand in one place for seventy-five years? What is it like to stand in one place for seventy-five years? What is it to stand in one place for seventy-five hundred years? What is it to be in one place for seventy-five thousand years?


OK. Try this. Stand up. Stand at the banks of the Birrarung River. Stand at Newtown Creek. And the Mississippi, the Kuskokwim River. Stand along the edge of all the Great Lakes. And all the little ones. Stand at the edge of the Nile, the Timor and the Caspian Seas. Stand at Merri Creek and The River Daugava. Stand with your toes along the little trickle of LA River. Stand with Lake Oahe and The Pacific, The Arctic Oceans. Stand along the edge of Three Gorges Dam, Pebble Creek, the Murray River. Each ocean and stream and harbour and basin. We are standing at all of the lands that make up all of the shores. And we face the water. And we are incredibly still. And the water. It kind of regards us. Then, it backs away. So. We take a step forward onto the newly exposed shore. The water backs away again. We step forward. The water backs. We step forward, the water backs. This is gonna go on for days. Step step step. So. Deep breath. We reach out our hands. Our bodies beg. Deep squat. Someone begins to sing. Then millions of voices are singing. Those of us not singing realise it is our grandmas. We realise in a simultaneous second it is our grandmas who are singing. The grandmas amongst us who had children born and or cut from their bodies, who donated eggs for other bodies to carry, who had children whether or not they wanted to, whose children - some of whom aren’t alive anymore - went on to have children of their own; fifteen, twelve, sometimes fifty, more, years later. These grandmas. They’re the singing ones. The millions of grandmas are singing with their arms and their hands outstretched. And the rest of us, billions - have laid our arms down to rest and with our arms down, we take a step back. So our grandmas, past and future - wail. Out of breath. Smell of rain.

ENTER THE WHALE | Emily Johnson


Camai, I’m Emily Johnson. I’m a Yup’ik woman who grew up on Dena’ina and Kenaitze land in Alaska and I live now on Mannahatta in Lenapehoking, on the Lower East Side, quite near to the East River. I make dances and have eyes that are very similar to my dad’s eyes. They’re blue, my dad’s eyes. And mine. Big blue eyes like King Salmon, we say. Because where else did they come from? Did someone drop them in the snow, freezing them whole, for more life to come when warm and birthed and safe? Did they walk themselves across a bridge? Jump up into our heads? Or, were they forgotten? Left, upon leaving. Left, when done with skins and pelts. In these eyes, did someone find use? Did someone find some eyes, some left behind eyes,

some frozen blue eyes and put them to use? Is someone missing some eyes? Did you lose your eyes somewhere, where you came, looking for skins and pelts, where you saw more than skins and pelts, where you took more than skins and pelts. Take my eyes. Take my eyes. Not my life. Or hers. Or ours.

Big blue eyes, like King Salmon, we say. I just hope there was a, nice man somewhere along the way who, for a moment or more loved instead of killed, blurring history enough to notice these blue eyes are strong. Not mine, but how we pass the blue down and on, down and on.

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Or maybe, there was a nice man here who, for a moment or more loved instead of killed, blurring a history, creating a long line of blue eyed warriors and fishers and weavers and drunks. These blue eyes are strong. Not mine but the code, the digits that send them on, makes blue and blue and blue. And we resolve to be warrior fisher weaver drunk, if we must be something more than just alive. And alive we are. Standing at the river and the ocean and that other ocean and at all the oceans of the world, including the one that laps the shores of our would be conquerors, who came

ENTER THE WHALE | Emily Johnson


and did not conquer but mingled, mixed, and left stories behind, and blue. Left furred, broke, rich, dead, or dead themselves. Or maybe, there was no kass’aq leaving semen and a penchant for things. Maybe it was King Salmon all along. Besides, this is the same ocean we share the same shores. Besides, I would never draw the Blue out. I would never extract the Blue. Quyana for the Blue and for my Blue, thank you. Thank you for my Blue. Thank you, King Salmon, for my Blue. RIGHT FOOT AND LEFT FOOT. RIGHT FOOT AND LEFT FOOT. My great-grandmother, Lena - she was in Anchorage. And all the birds lined up to see her. Imagine, birds coming to see you, flying from where they were last night,

asleep, perched, branches,



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their take off, bright, silent.

Their flight,

bright, silent, too.

Imagine, my dad - with his blue eyes, and he also has this bright silver hair - he looks up and sees the birds. The birds are lined up, he says. The birds are perched above Anchorage. The birds have come, he says. The birds are perched above Anchorage. The birds have come to see grandma, he says. The birds are perched above Anchorage. The birds will be gone when we come back,

he says

none of this

out loud.


The birds are silent. We look up. Silence

makes us

The birds. They came to wait, he says, out loud.

ENTER THE WHALE | Emily Johnson



For her, he says, out loud. It is a long way, he says, out loud.

And they

know the most

direct path.

her grandma

Where else do a million birds go so quickly? From silence to more than silence. Do you hear that wind? Your grandma,

your great grandma,

and her grandma

and the birds,

came to Anchorage all of them.

Millions. It took that many. They flew all night in silence, bright silence

and they will be gone when we come back.

Look, he says, my dad. And they are. Imagine.

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The water is still. Which is strange. Our grandmas begin to move their feet. Right foot and left foot, right foot and left foot. Their stomping and their singing lights up in volume and the grasses and the sands and the salts and the muds beneath the feet of our grandmas splashes up onto their calves and the solid ground beneath us tips. No. I think it undulates. So. The land and the grandmas are calling the water back, back to before these grandmas and their grandmas and theirs had children and children and more children and children and children who decided to just take and take and take continually, whatever they wanted, all the time. Us. So. Scream. My body. MY BODY comes from generations AND GENERATIONS and generations OF LOVE. My body COMES ALSO from men who took, who raped, who tried, ABOVE ALL ELSE to conquer. But MY BODY, scream MORE THAN ANYTHING comes from women who unfurl again scream AND AGAIN, heated, un-accepting of scream force and scream FORCED RAGE - who in their own wisdom direct their anger and grief to scream MOVEMENT scream ACTION scream PEACE. Now. We stand behind our grandmas watching the women discuss matters with water. Their feet are still moving, their legs are covered in debris, their voices are still singing. The water is still still which is still strange and we realise in a simultaneous second it is us our grandmas sing for. Of course. Also, us the

ENTER THE WHALE | Emily Johnson


water would rather be rid of. Our hands are for some reason still scream hanging useless at our sides. And it takes a really long time. But once a decision is reached, the millions of grandmas turn toward us. The water is waiting at their backs. And it is silent. Across the world. It is silent. Until, “I’m sorry,” they say. “I’m sorry,” the grandmothers say. And as the water moves toward them and then past them and toward us and then over us, the grandmas, they keep singing. And that is when we decide to join.

The above is an excerpt from a keynote, offered at WaterFutures - part of ASIAtopa in February 2017.

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EMILY JOHNSON Emily Johnson is an artist who makes body-based work. A Bessie Awardwinning choreographer, Guggenheim Fellow, and recipient of the Doris Duke Artist Award, she is based in New York City. Originally from Alaska, Emily is of Yup’ik descent and since 1998 has created work that considers the experience of sensing and seeing performance. Her dances function as installations, engaging audiences within and through a space and environment — interacting with a place’s architecture, history and role in community. Emily is trying to make a world where performance is part of life; where performance is an integral connection to one another, our environment, our stories; past, present and future. Her choreography has been presented across the United States and Australia. Recently she choreographed the Santa Fe Opera production of Doctor Atomic, directed by Peter Sellars. Her large-scale event, Then a Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing at Stars is an all-night outdoor performance gathering that takes place among 84 communityhand-made quilts. It premiered in Lenapehoking (NYC) in 2017. Emily’s writing has been published and commissioned by Dance Research Journal (University of Cambridge Press); SFMOMA; Transmotion Journal, University of Kent; Movement Research Journal; Pew Center for Arts and Heritage; and the recent compilation Imagined Theaters (Routledge), edited by Daniel Sack. She is an advisory committee member for Creative Time’s 10th Anniversary Summit and the Advancing Indigenous Performance Initiative of Western Arts Alliance. She serves on the Native American Arts Program Expansion Committee for Idyllwild Arts, and is the Pueblo Arts Collaborative Diplomat at Santa Fe Opera.

ENTER THE WHALE | Emily Johnson


Emily is a lead collaborator in the Indigenous-artist led Healing Place Collaborative; she was an inaugural participant in Headlands Center for the Arts’ Climate Change Residency; a member of Creative Change at Sundance; and served as a water protector at Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock. As a facilitator she has worked with artists and communities most notably during First Nations Dialogues (NYC and Australia); TIME PLACE SPACE, NOMAD in Wotjobaluk Country, Australia; and during UMYUANGVIGKAQ with PS122 in Lenapehoking and LA Performance Projects in Yaanga (LA). Each month, Emily hosts ceremonial fires on the Lower East Side in Mannahatta in partnership with Abrons Art Center and Lenape Center. andWith a transnational consortium—including BlakDance, Vallejo Gantner, Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance, ILBIJERRI, and others — she is developing a Global First Nations Performance Network.

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What does the title of this piece make you think of? A rock band swinging laidback surf tunes? Could be. That’s a good start for this story; music connected to nature with a smooth, feel-good ambiance. Urban myths tell us that surf music was connected to the babes and dudes who spent their sun-kissed time on the waves. Those tunes expressed the vibe of an easy life with a, then, new technology: the wet spring reverb that ‘sounded like waves’. It was the late 1950s, and the USA was in a period of great social change, with Cold War fear of communism underpinning the aspirational American Dream. This music helped pioneer a new global music business and conjured yearning for growth, youth and freedom. It was part of a sea change where mass produced spinning vinyl played new tunes to millions across the world.


space or a U-turn in a story; creative expression offers us leaps of imagination to bypass everyday drudgery and sense making. Artists apply their skills to new creations designed to interrupt the ‘usual’ and take us out of ourselves. At best they open our hearts to new possibilities and help us to think and feel our way through our own lives. Artists and cultural expression also help determine the attitudes and behaviours of Now. And Now is pretty complicated. Now there is a Climate Emergency.

I grew up in a beachside city in Australia where these sounds and other cultural exports from the US and UK helped define Australian culture. Then our own fledgling music, film and arts sectors were finding their feet on the boards, be they stage or surf or in the studio… You get my drift. Music, like most art forms, is dominated by feel. Whether it’s the notes dancing over rhythm, the blend of shapes and colours on a canvas, the sinew of bodies and voices in

At this point, the old needle should be scratching violently across the vinyl of our blissed-out summer tunes. The oceans are full of rubbish, the rolling waves are increasingly replaced by violent storms and tsunami. Even on a fine day the beaches are littered with millions of nurdles (tiny pieces of plastic) on seemingly ‘pristine’ white sand. How does that make you feel? Furious? Exhausted? Powerless? Feel is one thing, but this story is also based in fact. The science is iridescently clear: the natural world is seriously threatened by excessive carbon and other greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. Scientists are describing the rapid decline of so many animals, birds and insects that the


United Nations report one million species are now endangered. The signs are everywhere: bee colonies in decline; polar bears starving; major bleaching events in our coral reefs; enduring drought and so much more. After decades of down-play and denial the media in Australia have finally woken up — partly in response to global pressure and children on strike from school. News reports are also bursting with political chaos in so many countries. This may at first seem unrelated but isn’t it part of the same story? Leading experts talk of broken systems. And the culture is scared: we have been taught and sold fear. Fear for our safety, fear for the future and for our children. In Australia, safety has been exhaustively politicised and everything has the ‘security’ label: borders, water, food and land. As if the fabric of our lives could be controlled and governments could bring order. In fact, there are much bigger commercial powers at play. And our feelings are tuned to political advantage, fuelling the biggest fear of all: fear of change. Yet change is all around us. In just ten years our lives have been radically transformed by mobile technology. We are experiencing warmer temperatures, more extreme weather events, polluted air and poisoned water, and we are drowning in plastic. We


know all of this… Climate anxiety is a thing. According to the Lowy Institute poll, 64% of Aussies think it is the most serious threat of all[1]. Yet despite all this, something is blocking large scale responsible environmental action. What would that action look like? Well, for a start, the PM and Leader of the opposition would declare a Climate Emergency, engage First Nation Leaders to help them understand the unique natural systems we are busy destroying, set an immediate agenda to mobilise environmental scientists and all the solutions that are already available. We would invest in research for new solutions and re-imagine the country’s resources so that food, shelter, energy and health care are assured through rapid transition to a low carbon economy. Good leadership would steer change with confidence so we all feel reassured. Instead, Australia is stalling. The truth is that we are embedded in the global economic system’s reliance on consumption, led by the USA and built steadily since WW2, (accompanied by some classic tunes). Growth relies on increasingly intense and accelerated use of fossil fuels and other natural resources. Australia is rich in natural resources. We are ‘early adopters’ of new technology, which has entwined us


with big businesses who seduced us with the latest toys. We have the fourth largest accumulation of personal debt in the developed world. We are indebted to the Mining Industry, which helped us escape the Global Financial Crisis. In short, we are deeply committed to the system that is causing Climate Change. Propping up our wasteful and inequitable global economic system is the culture that has grown along with it. That culture teaches aspiration, where wealth and power are ‘accessible’ to everyone if only people work hard, don the trappings of success by consuming, and keep ‘winning’. We believe that the most successful are relieved of everyday responsibilities and can do whatever they want. Money and success, we are told, is freedom. Artists work hard to offer alternatives, explore difficult issues playfully and throw up challenges for our society. Behind that work is the machinery that enables it to be created and presented. The Arts industry is synonymous with privilege and aspiration, and plays a significant role in the often contradictory cultural messaging. Making a living in the arts or the cultural sector requires a different kind of feel. Putting projects together with the right partners, the right money, the right content and context to reach the right audience,

all contributes to the elusive success of a project. This ‘feel’ relies heavily on building cultural capital: aligning reputation with those who have power and privilege, who control the financial resources to make something happen. This is the feel we seldom hear about, yet is informing the messaging all around us. It is steeply hierarchical, and we are all looking up, dreaming of rising to the top. The spoils of ‘stardom’ are the bait and everyone is hooked. As well as personal gain, the hope is that this complex composition of artists and partners can transfer some good ‘feel’ to the audience. This can rise to a frenzy for a ‘sold-out’, ‘must see’ event or evoke a cool offhand ‘pass’ if the art is somehow deemed to be off-trend. It’s an inexact science with a rush of endorphins if the project feels right. Sometimes the art is communicating something new to the audience, like the wet spring reverb. More often it is comforting or cathartic, where a known story, images, sounds, characters or partners confirm the audience’s place and position in the world. It reflects other aspects of society: adversarial, competitive and all at the mercy of powerful individuals. Artists, arts managers, producers and marketeers pour over their work and the associated data to try and determine successful

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outcomes. Everything is a business. The feel for business has increasingly replaced a feel for the creative work or other social values. We all got the memo: Money is power. Driven by profit and competition, business language and methodology has increasingly taken centre stage, while no one notices the cost to the other values inherent in creative practices. Mimicking the corporate model has meant an increased focus on markets, showcasing and selling our artistic cultural ‘products’. The audience is only one part of the equation and all other payers are carefully lined up. This has happened across society. Government is business. Social services are business. Detention is business. Even unemployment is business. Art is definitely business. And that feels right.

So, when business is interrupted by the many calling for change in the face of a Climate Emergency, it feels uncomfortable, difficult, wrong. I have spent my career in the arts, fascinated by the industrial machinery, watching artists lose ground and position, seeing them replaced by managers, marketeers and fundraisers. This has led to a greater disconnect between cultural policy and creative practice. Too few have noticed. In the performing arts, for example, there are now far more people off stage than onstage. The artists are perceived to be uneconomical whereas those associated with the business are deemed necessary. When organisations come together to make a show, there is duplication of people managing the business machinery, with relatively fewer artists in the mix. Look to the boards of our significant cultural institutions and there are very few artists, or even arts professionals. They are crowded with lawyers, marketeers and financial managers because these are the people with power. This machinery is mostly invisible to the audience.



‘ The truth is that we

are embedded in the global economic system’s reliance on consumption, led by the USA and built steadily since WW2, (accompanied by some classic tunes).’

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And what has all this to do with the Climate Emergency? For many years, I saw myself as a curious observer. Anxious about the worrying developments in the natural world, busy trying to make a contribution, I have always believed — and still do — that artistic expression and experiences are powerful, playing a vital role in helping society to understand itself, to tease out challenging questions and dream up new solutions. I did not see how implicated I was. Then, finally, the penny dropped. Eureka. I am part of the problem. That epiphany felt pretty terrible. Since then I have been determined to try and focus on the growing Climate Crisis in a sector with so much to offer adaptation to a low carbon future. The truth is, the Arts also need to change.

And the reluctance in the sector to meaningfully engage and show leadership has been immensely disappointing.

them. What’s more, if we invest in artists and focus on practice then we are investing in a sustainable future.

Responding to this Emergency is not simple. Taking action is far more complex than doubling down on your recycling. What artists and cultural workers need to do now is what people all over the world are facing. We must STOP EVERYTHING, step back, assess the damage we cause and articulate the sustainable value we have.

So what else can we do to feel better?

There is good news. Artistic practice, for the most part, is pretty low carbon. There are wonderful artists who are confronting the Crisis every day and rehearsing innovative new realities. My heroines include Marrugeku (Dalisa Pigram & Rachael Swain), Latai Taumoepeau and Artist as Family (Zero, Meg, Patrick, Woody & Zephyr). There are many others. Find them, support


This is personal. The Climate Crisis can’t be siloed, escaped or pushed into the too hard basket. It’s happening now. We have to act quickly. 180 countries are signed up to the Paris Agreement, including Australia. This pledge commits us to drastically reduce carbon emissions, invest in and protect nature, and adapt to a warmer climate. Start acting on these commitments in your own life. Notice the resistance and challenges. Don’t let business get in the way.


FIRST NATIONS FIRST. We are so fortunate that Australia has the oldest living

culture in the world and can still connect to ancient knowledge that is connected to nature, culture and country. They must lead us. BE RADICALLY LOCAL. The arts industry is now built globally on travel and

tourism. We all identify with work and special interest communities that take us geographically ‘away’ from where we live. We fly without thinking . A sustainable future needs to be radically local. Reconnecting locally helps us to notice supply chains and utilises local services (including creative ones). It develops strong communities where artists can play a leading role. I’m inspired by the work of Wan SmolBag in Vanuatu, a local arts centre with two impressive theatre companies at its heart that also provides a range of health, youth and nutritional services. They tour to local islands but don’t tour internationally. They don’t need to. The theatre is full every night. GET CREATIVE. It’s time for creative power to be unleashed. That means learning

new creative skills and encouraging more people to engage in creative practices. Not only do we want more people to attend the many amazing shows, exhibitions and creative events on offer but to become more creative themselves. We need flexible, adaptive imaginative people to help transition our economy and our systems. For the Arts community that means opening doors and encouraging greater participation. Sporting communities are better at encouraging all levels of engagement. The creative sector needs to follow this lead with our unique focus on expression, not competition, or we will all lose. FIND REAL WORLD ACTION FOR THOSE VIRTUAL CONNECTIONS. Technology

has transformed our lives and has brought huge advantages. Spending too much time in the virtual world disconnects us from the real and the natural worlds. We need to better critique its environmental cost and complement our virtual lives with real connections and ways of communicating. Make conscious decisions to put those clicks, likes and comments into real world practice. Connect virtually rather than travel, find a community garden or climate action group in your area that needs a creative voice and connect them to artists and communities in other parts of the world through your networks. Be embodied. Walk your talk.

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So… Let’s imagine Big Change and the Feels as a feel-good band of action, a new cultural movement responding to the Climate Emergency. Big Change is coming and needs our attention. It will require emotional intelligence, courage and imagination. Society desperately needs creative, imaginative people to adapt to the challenges and new realities ahead. We all need to focus on sustainable principles and champion the artists who understand how to live simply, take brave leaps into the unknown, ask difficult questions and are forging new pathways. Artists help shape our identity and define the values at the heart of our culture. We must get real, examine the machinery and start to transition our organisations, practices and lifestyles. It won’t feel easy or comfortable or even necessarily ‘right’ by current standards. Like any new movement, the post contemporary Re-generation will challenge all that you thought you knew. If it’s overwhelming and you want some help, please get in touch. I know how you feel.


[1] are-australians-more-worried-about-climatechange-or- climate-policy


Danish artist Jens Galschiot on at COP 23 in Bonn by Art against Climate Change | Image by Pippa Bailey

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PIPPA BAILEY Pippa Bailey is a senior producer / director and currently Director of ChangeFest 19, a national celebration of place-based social change. She is working with Critical Path, Australia’s leading centre for choreographic enquiry, research and development, to respond to the Climate Emergency.



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