Tuesday, January 8, 2019

What Can We as Artists Do for this Earth?



Storm-watching workshop at Long Beach Lodge, Tofino, BC


I posted the video below on Facebook the other day. It was a Greenpeace initiative from 2 or 3 years ago but I just came across it. I found it incredibly moving. Pianist and composer Lodovico Einaudi floated along on a platform in the Arctic near the island of Svalbard. He played Elegy for the Arctic, a gloriously haunting piece, while great chunks of ice broke off from the glacier behind him, crashing into the sea, almost overwhelming his music. So powerful, shocking, sad and beautiful all at the same time. I cried.





"It's time for a different formal defence of nature", suggests Michael McCarthy, one of Britain's leading environmental writers, in his book Moth Snowstorm.  He goes on to say, "We should offer up not just the notion of being sensible and responsible about it, which is sustainable development, nor the notion of its mammoth utilitarian and financial value, which is ecosystem services, but a third way, something different entirely: we should offer up what it means to our spirits; the love of it. We should offer up its joy."

"This has", he continues, "been celebrated, of course, for centuries. But it has never been put forward as a formalized defence of the natural world. Firstly, because the mortal threat itself is not centuries old, but has arisen merely in the space of my own lifetime; and secondly, because the joy nature gives us cannot be quantified in a generalized way."  "We need to remake, remake, remake, not just rely on the poems of the past, we need to do it ourselves––proclaim these worths through our own experiences in the coming century of destruction, and proclaim them loudly, as the reason why nature must not go down"



Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist and author of the book One Square Inch of Silence, writes, "We've reached a time in human history when our global environmental crisis requires that we make permanent life-style changes. More than ever before we need to fall back in love with the land. Silence is our meeting place."

As a silence activist, Hempton says, " Silence is an endangered species." His art is collecting and recording natural sound. He records the soundscapes of prairies, mountains, and forests around the world and defines silence not as an absence but a presence. Hempton has made sound recordings inside Sitka spruce logs in the Pacific Northwest, of thunder in the Kalihari and of dawn breaking across 6 continents. Hear his interview with Krista Tippett in the podcast On Being

Do you ask yourself what you as an artist can do for the environment?  I do. 

In my own small way, I'm aiming to do that by organizing Workshops in Wild Places. The idea behind this initiative is to travel with small groups of artists to remote, silent places, and to encourage them to really experience these places, to fall in love (again) with this glorious earth and to paint from that place.

Messenger
By Mary Oliver
 
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.





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