Scenario planning

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 15.18.29I love it when a plan comes together—as the, um, poets say. (There’s more about those poets below*).

But seriously, I am really thrilled that a conversation I have been involved in behind the scenes over the past year or so has resulted in three new and innovative—and well funded—artists’ residencies in the field of climate change, which have been announced this week at COP21.

Back in 2014 I published a provocation entitled ‘Wanted: A New Kind of War Artist’, building on the research I had undertaken in writing my climate change novel Shackleton’s Man Goes South, and the ongoing discussions with scientists and others that writing the novel had both required and engendered. Here is a short extract:

… right now, the climate science and policy communities actually need artists, writers, composers, film directors more than ever: people who know how to tell stories, and how to reach new audiences with new ideas. Models and expertise already exist for artistic intervention within the international scientific arena, models which might relatively simply be adapted and used to create not just ‘flying visits’, but deep and long-term engagements. One ready example is the artists’ residency programme at CERN. Why not artists and writers in residence at the IPCC (or across its operations)? … At the outbreak of WWII (following the work that had been done by artists including Eric Ravilious, Wyndham Lewis and many others during the First World War), a new War Artists’ Advisory Committee oversaw the appointment of artists who were charged not only with documenting the conflict at home and internationally, but—given its scale and complexity—with interpreting it too.

Could it be that the ‘climate crunch’ and the next phase of mobilisation against climate change demand the creation of a new kind of War Artist?

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 15.03.37A month or two later, a few of us gathered in a breakout session at TippingPoint Oxford called by the Culture and Climate Change programme of the OU’s Mediating Change partnership. I reprised the ‘War Artist’ analogy, and pointed out that the word ‘scenario’—so prevalent in climate change policy—comes from the arts, from the early days of opera, rather than from military planning. Quickly putting two and two together, Joe Smith and Renata Tyszczuk of Culture and Climate Change wondered whether scenarios might provide a useful focus for some new artists’ residencies. Judith Knight of Artsadmin, Rose Fenton of Free Word Centre and I pooled our knowledge and experience of residencies and—at the invitation of Culture and Climate Change—and together with Robert Butler of The Ashden Trust, we formed an advisory group in order to support them in developing such a programme.

Now, with generous support from the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, in addition to that provided by The Ashden Trust, The Open University and the University of Sheffield, this networked residency idea has been announced, to tie in with COP21. Here is the press release (opens as PDF) and here is the blurb:

We’re delighted to launch the Climate Change in Residence: Future Scenarios Project.

We are seeking three artists to take part in a new form of arts residency, offering access to a network of climate change researchers across the UK. Each residency includes an award of £10,000. We welcome applications from individuals and collectives from any artform to work on new creative projects engaging with scenarios of climate change. The closing date for applications is Monday 15 February, 5pm GMT. This project, sets out to test the GSxEvJqzgWbCu8kq61--96qVJm2uWaBVrWl0ptMYwLXT_BEpxhRuGN2MnK_742s-IjYd6Dpe5lk_HHz6rtKw-Vjhe3bWUgzu8KZNZGAGTvcDpM9WJjcfXl47pg=s0-d-e1-ftidea of ‘networked residencies’. Climate research has long relied on networked collaborations rather than individual, geographically-located centres. Through these residencies, you will be able to research the issue of climate and spend time exploring and developing your own artistic practice. In this way we hope you will introduce a new cultural depth to public conversations around future scenarios.

This project has been developed as part of the Culture and Climate Change programme of work which began in 2009 as a series of discussions, events, podcasts and publications organised by the Mediating Change group. The group is based in the Open University’s Open Space Research Centre, and is rooted in a partnership between the Open University Geography Department and the University of Sheffield School of Architecture.

Hold the date
We will be hosting an evening at ArtsAdmin on Wednesday 27 January, 2016. The event will explore why scenarios are such a key element of climate change research and politics, and also why it is important to invite a wider range of perspectives on these themes. It will also be an opportunity for those wishing to apply for the residency programme to find out more.

*Oh yes, and those poets:


Climate Change in Residence: Future Scenarios—Application deadline: Monday 15 February, 2016, 5pm. The residencies will take place between June 2016 and May 2017. Click through for full information and application form.

You can still download Shackleton’s Man Goes South free and DRM-free in all ebook formats

‘It’s not often that fiction, a novel, genuinely manages to shock’—Read David Gullen’s review of Shackleton’s Man Goes South on Arcfinity

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