Culture Shift – towards sustainability

Wednesday 12th November 2014 saw both a landing and launch of significance.

The landing of course was that, some 300 million miles away, of the spacecraft Philae descending at walking pace onto the surface of comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasminko, which is hurtling its way towards the inner solar system at 18 kilometres a second.

The ensuing unintended bounce seems to have left the robotic probe under a rocky cliff, its panels shielded from the energy of the Sun needed to prolong its battery life to send extended data. The mission’s subsequent gripping story was humanised with Philae tweeting its extraterrestrial adventure and ending it, for now at least until the Sun’s rays might perhaps once again reawaken it, with the message, “‘I’m feeling a bit tired, did you get my data? I might take a nap’.

On the same day, much closer to home on planet Earth, a new report was launched at the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff: ‘Culture Shift: How Artists are Responding to Sustainability in Wales’

During the event, highly entertaining MC, Daniel Glyn, quoted a line from Christopher Nolan’s new blockbuster, Interstellar – “We’re not meant to save the world. We’re meant to leave it”. Whilst leaving the earth was the purpose for Philae, despite the exhortation from Dr Brand, aka Michael Caine, for humankind itself that is not yet a possibility in terms of living on another celestial body and may never be, so we have to ensure a sustainable future for us and future generations on this, the third rock from the Sun.

Culture Shift, commissioned by the Arts Council of Wales, highlights the power of the arts to contribute towards or take a leading role in the transition to a life-sustaining society. With an overview of the many pioneering sustainable arts initiatives happening in Wales, the report provides a powerful statement of intent and a clarion call to action.

Importantly, the report was undertaken not by consultants but by a team of artists and specialists in sustainability; Fern Smith – actor, director and co-founder of Volcano Theatre, Sarah Woods – writer and performer, Emily Hinshelwood – poet and performer, Paul Allen – Communications Director at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, and Rhodri Hugh Thomas – actor, writer and sustainable development specialist with Cynnal Cymru.

Kicking off with a thought-provoking excerpt from Doin’ Dirt Time with Philip Ralph, Susan Richardson, and Fern Smith, other highlights of the launch included Emily Hinshelwood’s wonderful reading of a new poem resulting from her Three Questions About Climate Change walk around Wales, a “Provocation” question and answer session between Paul Allen and Joanna Wright with the visual backdrop of a developing new film by Joanna, and Susan Richardson’s illuminating closing poem with a new take and twist on Madame d’Aulnoy’s fairy tale, La Biche au bois – The White Doe.

If the Philae landing provided us with a powerful reminder of humanity’s scientific and technological ingenuity, the Culture Shift report and event reminds us that art and artists not only enlighten, help us explore, and contribute greatly to the big issues we face, but are necessary for us to do so.


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