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WHILE REAL TIME HAS RECENTLY DOCUMENTED A NUMBER OF MEDIA AND VISUAL ARTS PROJECTS DEALING WITH ISSUES OF SUSTAINABILITY (RT103), THERE HAVE BEEN FEW REPORTS OF THEATRE, MUSIC OR DANCE PRODUCTIONS TACKLING GREEN TOPICS. WITH A FEW EXCEPTIONS, THE PERFORMING ARTS SECTOR SEEMS LESS INCLINED TO INCORPORATE THE CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSE OF CARBON TAX DEBATES INTO STAGED PRODUCTIONS.

If all things sustainable have not yet infiltrated the rehearsal room, they have started to change the producing structures. Sydney Theatre Company, for example, is positioning itself as a world leader, with its Greening the Wharf program, “believed to be a first of its kind for any theatre company in the world in its scale and comprehensive approach to sustainability" (sydneytheatre.com.au/visit/greening-the-wharf). The rainwater harvesting, solar power, waste reduction and programming of science and art talks (The Wentworth Talks series) makes STC a model for engagement with green issues.

Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne is another production house that is engaging with sustainability in major structural and program changes. Malthouse Greenlight includes an innovative recycling program for the many industrial lights used throughout the building and on the stages (malthousetheatre.com.au/page/MALTHOUSE_GREENLIGHT). A carbon surcharge on tickets, educational programs with green themes and the hosting of the very successful Tipping Point meeting in 2010 all contribute to a lively and multifaceted corporate engagement with sustainability.

Other major organisations in Australia engaging with infrastructure change include Queensland Theatre Company who launched the Green Theatre Initiative in 2008 and The Australian Ballet who are reducing the carbon footprint across their operations. City of Melbourne venue and producer Arts House has a very popular Green Tix for Nix project (melbourne.vic.gov.au/ArtsHouse/Program/Pages/GreenTixForNix.aspx) where those who travel by public transport, foot or bicycle receive free tickets to a weekend matinee.

These initiatives and many more are listed in Greening the Arts, the online resource published by Tipping Point, an international organisation that “energises the cultural response to climate change.” In Australia it is led by Angharad Wynne-Jones who is now the Creative Producer for Melbourne’s Arts House. Greening the Arts surveys sustainable arts and culture activities in Australia and is still the most comprehensive resource for the sector. When taken in conjunction with the many international publications to which it links, such as the Green Rider or the Green Mobility Guide created by Julie’s Bicycle, the pioneering London based organisation “making environmental sustainability intrinsic to the business, art and ethics of music, theatre and the creative industries," this document will assist most arts organisations in achieving carbon neutrality while starting to introduce dialogue around green matters into their programs and projects. See on-the-move.org/files/Green-Mobility-Guide.pdf; tippingpointaustralia.com/resources, and juliesbicycle.com/resources/jb-green-riders.

Since the guide was released in 2010 there have been a few new initiatives, such as Earth Station, a satellite event to WOMADelaide. Earth Station is “both forum and festival” and includes a full program of performances and art works as well as panels and debates over three days. Art works dealing with sustainability topics such as Stan’s Café’s installation, Of All the People in All the World, are accompanied by speakers such as former Al Gore chief of staff Roy Neel and Giselle Weybrecht, author of The Sustainable MBA as well as Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton. Perhaps inspired by international projects such as A Greener Festival, where leading music festivals have prioritised camping, reduced waste and emissions and incorporated discussion and debate, this new addition to the Australian festival sector will hopefully inspire other forward thinking festivals to follow suit. For details take a look at earthstationfestival.com.au and www.agreenerfestival.com.

So, as old buildings are renovated to reduce their carbon footprint and organisations strive to be carbon negative, artists are starting to explore new ways of making their work and taking it to their audiences. In a rousing article in Greening the Arts, Wynne-Jones looks forward to a new cultural entrepreneur: the artist-as-producer. “Who better than artists-as-producers to re-imagine the cultural infrastructure, funding frameworks and networks we’ll need in a zero carbon future, who better than those for whom the bottom line has never been the motivator.” Wynne-Jones writes about the need for a “fit-for-purpose infrastructure” where the artists-as-producers design a new set of tools for creating art and taking it to audiences. She imagines alternative forms of artistic encounter, where “our virtual capacity needs to be imaginatively maximised.” She writes of “face-to-face as a privilege” and has followed through on these thoughts in her Tipping Point commissions. In Home Art (homeartproject.com) in partnership with City of Melbourne, Lucy Guerin has been commissioned to create a series of art works in the homes of audiences, taking the art out of the infrastructure and into another form of connection. In Riot, the Tipping Point/Dara Foundation/Malthouse Theatre Climate Commission, Torque Show will stage a riot in which popular dissent and direct action become a form of performance.

Tipping Point is also partnered with the Australia Council’s IETM Collaboration Project on a climate commission with Kaaitheater in Brussels. Entitled Time’s Up: Control of the Commons, this project by Tim Boykett takes a series of watercourse journeys in Australia and Europe, investigating water usage, attitudes to water and kinship/friendship networks. The presentation at the Burning Ice Festival at Kaaitheater in June 2012 will include direct documentation, interviews, photography and video mapping.

Long term artist-producer, David Pledger, the outgoing Director of the Australia Council IETM Collaboration Project, contextualises this project in a European dimension in his blog on the Australia Council website entitled Do Nothing Do Something. Pledger is working with Julie’s Bicycle to measure the carbon footprint of his entire program. Pledger’s blog responds to the second of the Slow Boat conferences, initiated in 2009 by The British Council and Arts Admin to consider sustainable arts touring and perpetuated in 2010 by Kaaitheater in Brussels. He wrote of the conference’s problematising of cultural exchange and mobility as “a motivation and opportunity for artists, programmers and presenters to rethink what we do, and evolve cultural production imaginatively by developing new dramaturgical templates to create new work and new producing environments in which that work can happen" (www.australiacouncil.gov.au/special_projects).

The Slow Boat conference challenged the value of mobility with questions that included: “How can we genuinely reduce the ecological footprint of all our travels and tours?"; "Would better and more efficient co-operation and networking be a way of bringing down CO2 emissions?"; "Are such terms as ‘relocalising’ and ‘permaculture,' which crop up increasingly in the debate on a transition to a sustainable society, relevant to the arts too?"; "Is the nomadic existence many artists lead still desirable?" (vti.be/en/projects/slow-boat-2).

With the current political, social and financial turmoil in Europe and North America many Australian artists will be rethinking their touring plans and hopefully, inspired by Greening the Arts and other publications and initiatives, they will begin to explore more inventive routes to audiences, whether in their own communities or internationally via new media. Having recently collaborated on a publication examining the trend for international co-productions and in these same pages reported upon the growth in the international activity of Australian artists and companies, it is interesting to note that the tide that has to date so favoured mobility and exchange may now be turning. Ironically, the restrictions imposed upon artists often lead to the most impressive art, so there is great hope that straitened times might lead to longer residencies, works remaining in repertoire, more participatory projects, more innovative communications over distance between artists, more inventive exchanging of scores and other performance 'texts' and a general flourishing of the inspired and dynamic artist-as-producer.


Sophie Travers and Judith Staines edited the International Co-Production Manual, subtitled "the journey which is full of surprises," published by KAMS (Korean Arts Management Services) and IETM (International network for contemporary performing arts, March 2011. For more information go to IETM
(http://www.ietm.org/index.lasso?p=information&q=resourcedetail&id=125&-session=s:5B5591691638313D99iHmODC7F11) or download a PDF version of the manual (http://www.ietm.org/upload/files/2_20110615110511.pdf).

RealTime issue #105 Oct-Nov 2011 pg.

© ; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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