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Tuesday, 23 June 2009


The first time I became truly aware of the ever troublesome relationship between the human species and its home planet was when, as a fifteen year old I watched Koyaanisqatsi - the Hopi Indian term for ‘life out of balance’. The collage of beautiful, rich imagery depicts the vastness and seeming impenetrability of the natural world contrasted with the rampant over consumption and needless wastage brought on by human activity. In the appendix of his book ‘The Rest is Noise’ Alex Ross describes the film as depicting humans as an ‘Insectoid Species’, I used to think this was spot on.

Koyaanisqatsi was released during the early 80's at a point when ecological changes were starting to become more widely known. Yet as was pointed out during 'My Dad's Strip Club' on Thursday night the changes we are bringing about are liken to the fuel spontaneously set alight in the hold of the Titanic on it's maiden voyage; we know the fire is there yet we're willing to take any number of reckless chances and disguise what is really going on. We'll just hope that non of the passengers find out.

Two-Degrees festival promised to be a challenging critique of the environmental predicament we currently find ourselves in and although I only made it to a couple of the events on offer, each of the artists involved bravely tackled aspects of something that is pertinent and hugely complex. The laboratory for Insurrectionary Imagination illustrated the urgency of this well – “This planet has no emergency exits”.

The ‘Lab of ii’ as they are abbreviated firstly allowed participants a glimpse into what skills might be needed for a post-capitalist (or post-apocalyptic) world. We were shown how to seed-bomb patches of wasteland, construct radical origami and (a skill that would be useful) construct AM radio receivers. We were then shown ‘Consensus Decision Making’

I confess I came to ‘The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination’ with many misgivings. When being introduced to Consensus Decision Making and given the choice of where to spend the rest of the evening, either in the Theatre, Spitalfields City Farm, or Bishop’s Square, I felt like I was making a large commitment in a short space of time in a decision making process that might take so much longer. having to make a choice about something that could have become a provocative act in one evening seemed difficult. I was won over though – during the large discussion many of the group expressed the desire to go to Bishop’s Square whilst sticking to the initial premise of the evening that we would have a “lovely time", eventually deciding to set up a temporary living space in the area using the modified wheel-barrows and lettuce plants supplied by the 'Lab of ii'.

We donned life-jackets (that felt more like portable hugging-machines), manned-up the wheelbarrows and headed for the square. Very soon we had the barrows on-end, bolted together so they formed frames for a canopy to go over and we had makeshift living spaces. We did have a "lovely time". What made it all the more special was how the authorities responded to us. What we were doing could have been interpreted as disruptive yet we shared tea with the police and security guards, it was explained what we were doing and they seemed fine with this.

What came across in the events, whether it be the workshops during the Lab of ii or Lottie Child's rediscovering of the city's green spaces is that we have choice. The two degrees rise in global temperature could be 40 years away, yet this isn't inevitable, it all depends on whether we really want to prevent it or not.

I started some work experience this week. By the lifts it states that 'A 15 second journey in the lifts uses as much energy as a 60 Watt light bulb does in an hour'. I took the stairs.


Joanne said...

Nice post Giles,

I came from the festival with the feeling that there sure is a choice and I am far more aware of the daily and long term choices that I make.

I really liked the permaculture info pack too. Quality and really informative!

And also I had a lovely time at all with events I saw

Holly said...

Me too!
I felt that the crash contingency event encompassed a lot of what i had learnt from the festival and working with people from the labofii. It kind of put it into practice and context... The extent of participation involved in a lot of the projects and 'talks' made you feel a part of something and i feel that i've learnt loads that i can now pass on and integrate into my life and my own teaching... it was ambitious and exhausting i'm sure but really effective in showing 'alternatives' and engaging people from all over... in simple ways...