Making sense of sustainability: Sensing, feeling, talking, reflecting, creating, futuring
An environmental futures dialogue involving artists, environmental thinkers, and members of the public
6-7 December 2013, Wales Millennium Centre
During 2013 the “making sense of sustainability – environmental futures dialogue” network has brought together artists, academics, and members of the public to experience artworks and performances, and to discuss and reflect upon how it might be possible for the arts and social sciences to work collaboratively for a more sustainable future.
Three previous network events – one in Aberystwyth and two in Cardiff – have energised and shaped the collaborative work of our network. In Aberystwyth, an arts-led event focused on the aesthetics of sustainability, featuring reflections and debates on how art practice can work to create relationships between home/place, sustainability and the body. In Cardiff, two Philosophy Café events explored the significance of our emotions about environmental risk and uncertainty about the future. These events drew on interpretive understandings of risk, sustainability and futures developed by social scientists and philosophers which, as a result of the dialogues conducted so far, have been brought into alignment with the creative approach taken by artists and arts performers. The notions of risk and sustainability that we have been working with carry meanings that are socially and culturally transmitted, affectively laden, and everyday as well as scientific. Such meanings are meanings that matter because of the way they make visible and tangible anticipated (but uncertain) futures. They express personally and collectively significant ways of responding emotionally to evidence about environmental destruction, possible dangers, threatened futures, expectations and prospects and other possibilities. As such, they can be considered as cornerstones of our identities.
Our final event will continue the collaboration at the heart of the project in ways that will allow us to reflect on key questions that have arisen so far and thus to deepen existing environmental/ecological arts-social science connections. The event is designed to optimise spaces for reflection upon the results of earlier network activities, in particular insights about the “onto-formative” effects of how we sense and make sense of the uncertain futures we face and what it might mean to live more sustainably while facing them. Our senses are onto-formative if and when they attune us to our environments experientially, affectively and imaginatively as we move in and through the places, spaces and localities where we live. Sense-making is onto-formative when there are material outcomes to our ways of producing knowledge i.e. when it impacts upon people in their daily lives, and is taken up by others (government, business, NGOs) in ways that must be publically accountable.
- What variety of ways has the network opened up for people to perceive the relationships between the arts and sustainability?
- What role does arts performance play in engaging the public with emotionally challenging aspects of sustainability practice?
- What forms of ecological awareness and environmental subjectivity are set in motion by arts performance?
- What ways has the network found of contributing, and not diminishing, the creative potential of arts-social science collaborative research?
The event will involve short talks, panel discussions and group reflections upon our previous environmental futures dialogues by participants at those events – including artists, academics, community activists and members of the public. There will be creative performances and films by leading artists working in the fields of environment and ecologies. Key environmental thinkers active in the areas of risk, environmental politics and citizenship, and sustainable futures will contribute key ideas, provocations and reflect on arts interventions. Members of the public will be invited to view performances and talks, and to participate in other ways, with all sessions on the 2nd day of the event being accessible to members of the public.