I was asked to comment on how art can respond to the current planetary crisis we now find ourselves in with regards to environmental issues, such as climate change , extinction, covid, sustainability, justice and also how this influenced us in our work on Connect – A Creative Response to Climate Change.
Firstly, I would like to say what do we mean by art? – in my view art is the many differing creative expressions on how we see things around us ,our relationships to them and each other at an individual , communal, social, and universal level. What we might call our world view , our story, our cosmology.
To me the universe is the ultimate artist , the primary expression of creativity which birthed the universe some 13.8 billion years ago. From that very moment waves and waves of creativity exploded into being – all space and time was formed, stars exploded, 2 trillion galaxies formed of which we are just one. In this sense I do think of Art as a part of that ongoing process. It should not be viewed as detached from the universe, left to the expensive galleries , venues, and record companies, just for those who can afford it, for those who decide what is creative and what is not as it then becomes art with a capital A and not inclusive. If new scientific cosmology tells us anything it tells us the universe is totally inclusive, it does not exclude any atom, animal, planet or being. Are our current models of creativity inclusive or exclusive?
Therefore, to me, it does pose the questions ”How big is our cosmology?” “What is our understanding of how we got here and our role?” “What will truly inspire us to change at the level that is required in these perilous times?” “Can we dream big?”
I feel that despite all the benefits of the modern era we have clearly become disconnected with nature. We are so caught up in an anthropocentric- human centred approach to what is the financial , economic, or national gain for us as a species. We sadly see things in parts not as a whole and what benefits all of creation.
Covid 19 is a case in point that clearly illustrates our failure to grasp the interconnectivity of our planet and the literally deadly consequences ( W.H.O. Covid death figs as of 17/04/21 are at 3 million ) We have destroyed so much natural habitat for species that they are forced to migrate ever closer to human inhabited areas. This close proximity with cities exposes humans to newer diseases we are simply not used to deal with at a biological level. If we continue the Global Pandemic, we all have lived through in the last year will not be the last, there will be more…
On our current path of “human progress” we really are at a huge crossroads, therefore. The decisions we make now will scientifically determine the future of the planet , the bio systems and ours and other species destiny . We are 10 years and counting down before we do irreparable damage to the planets eco systems.
Creativity, Imagination and Education are THE key areas that will help us to reset. The artist is in all of us, not just the painters, musicians ,sculptors and so forth. The artist is also the nurse, the doctor, the midwife, the binman and bin women, the teacher, the scientist, the politician, the shop assistant, the road cleaner, the child, the unemployed, the displaced, the refugee, the prisoner.
The role of creativity in this process must not be underestimated. Creativity, as we mentioned before, must engage with a bigger creative process than just themselves and their ego. Otherwise to me it seems it is a self-glorifying process not a collaborative process with the primary artist, the universe.
The artist should be reminding us in all the differing ways of the wonder and magnificence of our bigger story, they should be providing us with windows to which we can experience this. This will involve engaging with not just the aesthetics of art, for the danger here is the style becomes the content. Rather the artist also needs to actively engage with science, spirituality, justice and do their own inner work ( or mindfulness in today’s parlance ).
In doing so art, or creativity, also develops its prophetic voice, and one that calls out injustice when it occurs, that says no whenever or wherever this happens. Something surely, we can see unfolding in our times.
Out of this will come true transformation, true liberation for all, not just the two-legged species.
The tools for all of us as artists at this time are unlike any we have had before as a culture - audio, visual, sensory, immersive, and experiential. How wonderful to have such a pallet from which to dance with, to create , to build, to fashion, to inspire, to change and to heal.
If the artist can play with these colours, then breakthrough occurs, individually , socially, and universally and cosmically . The artist therefore has the power to change community ( the word derives from the Latin “Communio” – meaning the common goal).
Surely in today’s world our common or communal goal is one of sustainability for all. Art, or creativity, is one of the few things that will lead us into this community.
Steve Mortimer ( The Black Chapel Collective )