In August I received an artistic rendering of the globe as part of the Carry the Earth project with a brief introduction that the purpose was reflect on environmental concerns while holding the globe and think about action that you can take, then pass it along. The following day the company I direct, Artichoke Dance Company, was performing at Summer Streets, where select streets of Manhattan are closed to traffic and activated with performances and interactive activities. I love this because it places people over vehicles and reimagines spaces, something I do quite a bit as a choreographer of site-specific work.
My role as director of Artichoke Dance Company puts me in front of crowds as we mostly perform in public places. Part of our mission is to get the arts out to the people, an alternative to getting people into a theater. My work also topically addresses environmental issues. At this event we were performing excerpts of Visioning Bodies, a folk dance for a resilient future that was created after studying the complexities of interconnected systems at play in Los Angeles River revitalization, and Overflow, a reflection on the power and energies of water created after Superstorm Sandy hit my home town of New York.
I took the globe to our shows at Summer Streets and announced the project during Intermission, passing it into the audience, and asked people to take a selfie with it and post the photo on social media along with their concerns and action items. This was my interpretation of the introduction to Carry the Earth I’d received from Julia Levine, a talented and thoughtful theatre director I’d previously worked with.
There was some paperwork that came with the globe that got misplaced and the box containing the globe ended up next to my desk and drifted into the background. Finding out what to do next was on my to do list, but I kept putting it off. Not right now, I thought. I have more pressing things to do.
Last week I got an email from Carry the Earth wondering if I would be posting a story about my interaction with the globe. I followed the web link in the email and suddenly realized the magnitude of the project. This wasn’t one globe; this was a universe of globes building a complex and interconnected web. How did I miss that?
It dawns on me that my experience with Carry the Earth runs parallel to interactions with the climate crisis. The topic of climate change surfaces, assumptions are made, often based on little information, an action is perhaps taken because it sound great and you like the person who you were talking to, and then…you put it aside.
And then at some point…suddenly it hits…holy s**t, this is a BIG DEAL!
…leading me to the ongoing challenge in climate activist work…engagement and progress.
Being inspired to enact lasting change in our lives is required to create the cultural shift necessary to overcome the climate crisis. I believe it takes reencountering engaging experiences from many perspectives, and this is where the arts play a key role.
Nearly 30 years ago, Leonard Shlain, in the book Art and Physics, laid out how the work of artist pioneers preceded discoveries in physics, and how these in turn produced cultural shifts. Given there is an increasing amount of artists working at the intersection of arts and climate change, I have hope. Julia and her work with Climate Change Theater Action, Artichoke Dance and our interactive approach to working in the environment with communities, other choreographers working with environmental issues, and a plethora of visual artist projects including Carry the Earth, all creating encounters and shifting the culture.