Sunday, 20 May 2012

Art Activism

On art and communication
A year has passed since I joined the first Shortcourse/UK expeditions. Hosted by University College Falmouth and Cape Farewell, these were a set of local adventures designed to bring together artists and environmentalists, to get us thinking about climate change in a local context and what role artists can play in creating discussion around such issues. As I've commented before, it was a really illuminating experience for me, and led to my recent participation in Hevva! Hevva!, an art exhibition at the world-renowned Eden Project. The most important thing it taught me was the value of art as a tool for communication. Today, it seems crazy that I had never thought about art in this way - its something I talked about in the piece I wrote for Hevva! Hevva! - and the power of art as a mouthpiece was brought home to me this morning when looking at some of the images that Banksy has created.

Bow down to Banksy
'Best of British' is all the rage in the UK at the moment with both the Queen's Jubilee and the London Olympics taking place. In my opinion, Banksy is Best of British. This illusive artist is known for his anonymity, though considering the type of comments he makes through his art, I suspect that he wouldn't be too keen on the label 'Best of British'.

Why do I love Banksy? Well, because of what I think he is saying through his work, his comments about our society and its hypocrisies. The following image really sums it up:
Banksy mural in north London featuring Tesco bag as a flag
I think this is just brilliant. Painted on a wall in north London, the first thing I love about it is the way he makes use of the inherent features in the wall - i.e.. the electric wire running up the side of the building is recycled as a flagpole. The second thing I love about it is what it says about us: how we pledge allegiance to the corporations running the world. Some have interpreted this image as a comment on plastic bags, but to me it is more than that. To me, the recognisable Tesco logo represents corporate control; the two children with their hands on their hearts, how sucked in we are to letting them rule our everyday lives. One simple image; so many words and ideas. Now that is Art Activism.

On corporate control
Speaking of corporate power, yesterday my colleagues and I perched in the store window where we work to watch the Olympic flame pass through our little Cornish town on its first day in the UK. It arrived in Cornwall the previous evening to much fanfare (and road closing, and dark-windowed cars, and police), and while I'm not really into the whole Olympic thing (I have concerns over both the monetary and environmental costs), it was hard not to be a little excited by the crowds lining Truro's streets yesterday morning.

The flame itself was very - er - flamey and 'kinda cool' in a caught-up-in-the-atmosphere kind of way, but what I wasn't expecting was everything else that came along with it. Aside from three empty minibuses, a couple of cars and several police motorbikes, it was preceded by a large Coca-Cola lorry, a huge S Samsung lorry (really far too big to go through the streets of a small market town - wasn't that well though out), and a Lloyds TSB lorry, each one complete with music blaring and scantily clad dancers boogying. What does any of that have to with the original spirit of the Olympics? This demonstration of corporate sponsorship and power made my heart sink, particularly when it was backed up by the afterflow of children into the store all carrying the heavily branded flags and balloons these companies had been passing out along their journey. What is going to happen to them all? In the bin, I expect. More waste, as well as more honing of our children's brains to worship at these business altars. Bah, humbug.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

How to have an Eco Wedding

Befriend an alpaca farmer with land on the north side of Dartmoor that includes within it not only space for camping but also an ancient, double-tiered stone circle. Then find a pagan/wiccan priestess who can hold a handfasting in said stone circle.

Envision a day in early spring where the sun is going to shine magnificently, even though the days on either side are filled with rain, then create and print your own invitations and mail them to all your friends, preferably including those with hippy and eco know-how, as well those who automatically bring along with them skills in guitar playing, drumming, and storytelling.

Along with finding the standard pre-requisites such as hay bales, a marquee, a turkish tent decked out with comfy cushions, a maypole, and a teepee, recruit a friend to spit-roast an organic pig, then choose a best man with circus skills and bridesmaids who can weave flowers into crowns. Decorate the field with willow boughs in a big heart shape, along with ribbons and paper lanterns.
Source reduced-plastic, compostable tableware such as Green Gate’s PLA lined cups*, wooden knives and forks, and paper plates made from waste sugar cane pulp. Within the celebration field, set up a loudly labelled recycling/waste disposal area to ensure that as little end waste as possible is produced.

Encourage all local guests to bring a plate of food with them to share for lunch, and organise carob brownies, locally baked bread, local cheeses, and a butterbean stew for the evening meal. All organic, of course. Oh, and then pick some nettles from the field next door to add to the stew.

Don’t stand on ceremony and don’t be shy for the handfasting itself. If it’s a little boggy from the rain leading up to your special day, just take off your shoes and get the mud between your toes. Be emotional, and share those emotions and your love with everyone around you. And, if it really is your special day, chances are that a hawk will circle in the blue skies above whilst you’re saying your vows.

Ask your circus-skilled friend and his theatre partner to put on a skit after lunch, to keep the guests entertained, and then get him to do a fire show once it gets dark. Make sure you’ve prepared a big central fire for the evening too, and then scatter cross-cut fire logs and tea-lights in glass jars around the field to create a really spectacular atmosphere.

Party into the night, camp out in the field next door, and be woken in the morning by the singing birds**. As guests part for their journeys onward and outward, hand out little packets of wild seeds and happy blessings for them to sow.

Thanks Rich and Dawn for including me in your special day, for being so loving, and for living true to your beliefs and ideals. You’re an example to us all.

* This is a biodegradable plastic made out of corn starch or other other plant sources and are thus compostable. I'm always a tad sceptical about so-called compostable plastics because - as with most things in life - there are certain strings attached, such as certain temperatures needing to be reached before composting is complete. I've never seen the process in action for myself, and the pictures of this material breaking down always show a collect of small particles left at the end, so I am always left wondering: what happens to those particles? Are they organic? Can organisms eat them? Or are they teeny little plastic particles that will be left in the environment. Natureworks LLC are the main company manufacturing PLA: perhaps they'd like to invite me to their premises to demonstrate for the effectiveness of their technology?

** Ok, I'll admit it, I didn't camp. It was freezing! Plus camping on my own didn't really appeal. But I went back for brunch the next morning and was reliably told that the birds did sing and that it was lovely.