CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE festival is back for another year – here’s everything you need to know about one of the most environmentally-focused arts festival in town.
The biennial, ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 festival returns to Melbourne and regional Victoria and will bring over 50 public programs, exhibitions, theatre works and events with one goal in mind: spurring action and opening up the dialogue on climate change.
Taking place from 23 April to 19 May, CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 festival will feature in excess of 30 curated exhibitions at museums and galleries across Victoria, and showcase the work and ideas of some of Australia (and the world’s) most influential artists, researchers, thinkers, scientists and policy experts.
“How do we make sense of the impact of global warming?” replies CLIMARTE executive director, Bronwyn Johnson when asked of the festival’s purpose. “How do we understand what is happening around us, and act to limit the worst ravages of climate change? CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 is a cultural response to climate change.”
A focus for the festival this year is to ensure accessibility for those not just in Melbourne, but in regional Victoria too. From Narre Warren to Prahran, and from Latrobe Valley to Swanston Street – the festival’s influence will be felt right across the state in 2019, and 95% of the programs will be absolutely free for the general public.
“In this festival, artists, curators, scientists and policy experts join together to envisage a world where we protect and care for our earth – from the river systems, oceans and lands to the air we breathe,” says Johnson. “We invite the public to join with the artists, curators, scientists and our committed partners to demand action on climate change, for a just and sustainable future for all life on earth.”
As Principal Partner of CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 festival, Bank Australia has been committed to helping the festival deliver exceptional, action-driven art festivals and activations since 2015. ”Bank Australia readily understood our mission to create a cultural response to climate change by engaging the arts and science communities,” says Johnson. “Their support is critical to all that we do, and in every aspect of our programming.”
The exhibitions themselves range from photography, paintings and billboards to a ‘biodegradable and edible event’ as well as a ‘techno-arachnid fantasy’ and a live breastfeeding performance – the latter care of Melbourne-based performer and artist Lara Stevens. Inspired by the notion of gender lines becoming increasingly muddled as our planet heats, Stevens pondered what role models her daughter would have as this new world emerges.
“[The work] explores the nature of the human-animal and the political animal through the live performance of breastfeeding,” says Stevens. “The show asks: What happens when you take the quiet, intimate and private act of breastfeeding and put it on stage, in a theatre, before an audience?”
Elsewhere in the program, visual artist David Finnigan will be showcasing a ‘live documentary’ of sorts. Having spent two years asking a slew of scientists the question ‘what’s the biggest change happening in the world today?’, Finnigan is set to release those answers – which he says are at once “unexpected, frightening, and awe-inspiring” into the world. “It’s like a David Attenborough TV special, live on stage,” he says. “‘You’re Safe till 2024’ brings these stories together – mixing science, narrative, and my own personal journey.”
For ‘It’s in the Bag’, an exhibition at Caves in Melbourne’s Nicholas Building, artist Rebecca Mayo will be taking people on walks along Elizabeth Street in a bid to encourage them to look anew at familiar places. “Elizabeth Street used to be a creek,” she says, “and I’ll be taking one aspect of waterway restoration, practiced by volunteers across the world, to this former creek site – come for a walk to find out more.”
In terms of the practical applications of how art, and state-wide events like CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 festival can help affect positive change when it comes to the issues facing our planet, the organisers and artists involved have no shortage of answers. For a start, says Mayo: “It may sound utopian, but if we can foreground care as a practice and ethic, that sits equal or above money and time - then perhaps we can gain some traction in finding new ways of living. Art is a great place to start that discussion, and this festival is a space in which these voices and ideas can come together collectively.”
For Stevens, it’s about presenting possibilities for our species we may never have considered before. “It can even sketch possible endings for our kind,” she says.
Finnigan believes it’s as much about the audience – and the question the art forces them to ask – as it is about the art itself. “In some ways I think the strength of art, and one reason it’s a force for good, is that it’s actually very bad at spreading messages,” he says. “Good art is rarely propaganda, and propaganda is rarely good art. And broadly, I think that’s a very good thing. What art does, which I think is far more valuable, is open up a dialogue … it needs the audience to be complete.”
“The art in CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019,” he continues, “is asking questions of the audience. The artworks don’t stand by themselves as self-contained objects – they are waiting for the audience to react, to question them, to debate them, to respond, to take action.”
CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 will run from 23 April – 19 May 2019. Find out more information about the locations and events at artclimatechange.org