Friday, 23 April 2010

Here and Elsewhere

Thinking about places and spaces...


  1. You said something in your final entry on the Earth Exhibition blog which I think is brilliant and really important, when you were reflecting on the role of Cape Farewell:

    "Why do we need to go to remote places, already invested with a particular set of meanings, to try and make climate change meaningful"

    So you were saying this as part of the conversation about metaphor, and about what places and spaces have been used as metaphors for climate change (places like the Arctic for example).

    If we want to find different spatial or geographic metaphors, what might we see? Are we talking specific and real places (Cockermouth in the floods?) or are we talking generic places that say something about "climate change is occurring everywhere, including right here" (places like domestic spaces, homes, high streets, shops), or are we talking about poetic spaces (the place where human activity manufactures extreme weather: a weather factory for example).

    I'm specifically asking this question in terms of what we might see in an artwork. Imagining that I am making something image based, film based, where do I shoot? Is it real or imagined? Or both? Or neither?

  2. I love your title for this blog – ‘here and elsewhere’ – because it really gets to the heart of the problem and our challenge. Climate change is always elsewhere, never here. So how do we make it relevant and meaningful here (wherever here is)?

    If we use specific and real spaces (like Cockermouth, or London, or Liverpool) we could restrict the audiences’ engagement. Liverpool is meaningful to me, but it may not be to you. I would much prefer exploring how to use generic places which may be more familiar to a wider range of people. All of the generic places you have identified would be exactly what I would envisage as being an exciting way to explore climate change. More specifically, I love the idea of making artworks for these spaces, rather than of these spaces, because we could engage people by disrupting their experiences of these places and spaces in a way that makes them engage with, or think about climate change. Exactly how to do this would be the challenge!

    It’s interesting that you identify a difference between generic spaces and poetic spaces. You’ll have to explain to me what you mean by a weather factory as being poetic, but I think generic spaces can also be poetic, if we are asked to think about them and experience them in a different way. Can a high street be poetic? I guess it depends on what you mean by poetic. Poetic to me is when I experience something that makes me question my relationship to the world, when something is revealed to me. Can climate change be poetic? The danger with making climate change poetic is that poetics is often equated with feeling or emotion that is depoliticised. I wouldn’t want that. For me the poetic is political because it engages me as a human, it questions my relationship to the world, and being human is political.

    You asked, what might we see in the artwork? Is it real or imagined? It has to be both because climate change is both real and imagined, it is both present and future, it is material and cultural. What would you like to see?

  3. I was probably not using the terminology precisely when I set up a difference between the generic and the poetic. I think by "poetic" I probably meant "imagined" or "invented"...which might mean "created" or "creative" or "artistic". I guess, and with that example of a made-up, invented space like a weather factory, I was thinking about how art can both transform existing places and spaces, and/or transform our relationships to them, and how it can also invent spaces that don't exist anywhere else in the world, as a way of asking us to reflect back on the real, on the real world. I'd say this was political, that both these things are political, either reimagining, reinventing, reinscribing, reinvesting existing places and spaces, making us see them, feel them, inhabit them differently. Or to ask us to think beyond what we know and feel and inhabit already, by reflecting on a not-quite-real version of these places (we all know weather...we all know factory...but a weather factory, a place where human activity creates the weather...? - this place is an invention, a dream, and for me therefore approaches the poetic because it pricks my existing relationship with the world (we agree on what the poetic is, then). I suppose I think it might be interesting to do two things in this project:

    1. to think about real spaces and places and sites in and for which I might make an artwork, and to see how these places can help us relocate the elsewhere of climate change to the here and now of climate change...

    2. to also think about how real things (including real places, places like houses, streets, factories) can be reimagined and made strange, made uncanny, themselves but also strangely other, in order to dislocate our habitual relationship to them, to ask us to think differently about what they do or what we might encounter there...

    I need to think more about this. Public thinking out loud is a very strange thing...