Climate Breakdown, Art and Me

We know now that Climate Breakdown isn’t a vague thing that might appear in the future. It’s here now and it’s only going to get worse. There’s so much research out there, so many reports and models for the future, that I don’t need to include them here, that’s not what this post is about.

I read some of them, and they scare me, and make me extremely anxious for my son’s future. I feel real grief for the world we are losing, and the beings that we share our planet with, that are being lost in ever increasing numbers.

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So what do I do with this fear, this anxiety and pain?

So far I’ve been telling myself I need to ‘do something’. In a previous post I told how I signed up for an Environmental Humanities MA and then pulled out again. It wasn’t right for me. I see people (Extinction Rebellion for example) taking direct action in the media, and I think ‘I should be doing that’. I sign up for more information, I click ‘Interested’ on Facebook events, and then I don’t follow it up. It isn’t me.

Then I read about Bolsonaro in Brazil and about Trump in the US. Here in the UK, Brexit leaves little room for any real discussion by our politicians or in our mainstream media, on the ecological catastrophe that is unfolding.

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As this year started, after a couple of weeks of Christmasy-ness, of warmth and food and family, I emerged back into the world of work, and the same issues that weighed on my mind before. This time though I feel something a little different.

As I write statements and applications, for exhibitions and residencies, I come to see my work and myself in a different light. I write about how experiences of connection and unity with the more-than-human-world are central to my work, and how embodied and situated ways of learning are my key areas of research. I tell people how the damage done through our inability to perceive our true nature, is what underpins and drives what I do. For the first time I write an artist’s statement that explicitly talks about Climate Breakdown.

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What I have realised, in the time since Christmas, is that I am already doing what I need to do. Not in a way that means I can sit back and say that I’ve done my bit, or that I’m better than you, but in a way that gives me a greater sense of purpose and self-belief, and which (I hope) frees me from some of the crippling anxiety and the rushing about like a headless chicken, searching for that ‘something’ that I can do.

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A key part of my practice as an artist is providing an experience, not only to feel connected and perceive unity, but to discover and develop a sense of creative identity, an identity that is at once unique, and formed through relationship with a wider whole. We are like pieces of a jigsaw, each one of us has difference strengths and capacities to bring to our work in a fast changing world, and each of us needs opportunities to share our anxieties and find our purpose.

The world needs us all to be true to ourselves, needs an education system that supports individuality and creativity, and which places learning within the wider context of social and ecological change.

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With PGCE Students for 5x5x5=creativity at Bath Botanic Gardens

So I need not to rush off and be an academic (although my work sometimes takes place in an academic environment), or to necessarily be an activist  (who knows what will happen in the future, but for now I cheer on the direct action from the sidelines).

I need to go deeper. Deeper into my practice as an artist, who pays witness to the changing world around him. An artist who develops ways of seeing beyond boundaries (Beyond The Binary) and who uses that practice to offer experiences to others. Experiences that enable us grieve together, to imagine together, and to support effective change through being deeply and connectedly authentic.

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10 thoughts on “Climate Breakdown, Art and Me

  1. James, I so agree with what you say. I spend may hours thinking and worrying about my beautiful blue planet, thinking what can I do to help? It feels to me such an unachievable and hopeless task. However, in recent years I have come to think that even though I can not make our planet better, I can effect how I live and take care of myself and my immediate environment. I try to live by this, not always easy by any means. I take comfort and pleasure from discovering what you and many others think and the conclusions you come to, your journey, and the art you produce. It is so inspiring to think that like minded people can make a difference. It encourages me.

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    1. Thank you for replying Mary, I felt quite nervous publishing this post, I guess because it feels so important and so personal. And I’m very glad you feel encouraged, we need to inspire and encourage each other don’t we?

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    2. I wasn’t sure if my comments to you were relevant and wanted this morning to re-read what you have written. However, I thank you for your comments. Inspiration and encouragement are such lovely and empowering words, my hope for myself and others is that they become reality and not just wish words. I enjoy your blog and your facebook site and reading about your work and seeing your pictures and am so pleased we keep in touch.

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  2. Yes I hope they aren’t just words too, but all we can do is be true to ourselves and our beliefs and trust that others will do the same… or at least seek out the ones that do! Great being in contact with you too, thanks again.

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  3. You actually see, feel, experience the natural world. It shows in your art. That is one of the best things you can do. Most people barely even notice the natural world anymore, even while we are actively killing it.

    See it, hear it, feel it, experience it, acknowledge it, be part of it. It is waiting for industrial civilization to be done, to welcome us human animals back home.

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