Artists of all stripes from around the world are reducing their carbon footprint in creative ways. Many prominent ones – including the Cirque de Soleil’s Gil Favreau – are coming to York this month to share how at a conference on sustainability and the arts.
Hosted by York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, Staging Sustainability: Arts, Community, Culture, Environment will bring together more than 100 presenters from all corners of the globe April 20 to 22. They will discuss the challenges of creating environmentally sustainable arts practice and performance. And they will tackle the question of sustainability from two vantage points: cultural and ecological.
Keynote presenters will share practical measures and radical rethinking about sustainability:
David Buckland, founding director of Cape Farewell, London
- Artists, Scientists and the Environment: For nearly a decade, Cape Farewell has been in the vanguard of an impetus to rethink climate change as an opportunity for cultural reorientation. Buckland illuminates how scientists and the creative community have joined forces to envision and work towards delivering a sustainable future.
Above: Michael J. Morris, Theresa May, Ian Garrett, David Buckland
Gil Favreau, director of social action and responsibility, Global Citizenship – Cirque du Soleil
- Cirque du Soleil: Creator, Performer and Citizen: In 2006 Cirque du Soleil adopted a proactive environmental policy based on sustainable development. Under Favreau’s direction, new initiatives aimed at reducing the company’s ecological footprint continue to be launched with Cirque du Soleil’s inimitable creativity.
Ian Garrett, executive director of The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, Los Angeles
- The Performing Arts and their Carbon Footprint: Shows can live long lives: The Phantom of the Opera became the longest-running Broadway musical at its 7,486th performance in 2006. But of 14,000 non-profit productions in the US that year, the average ran for less than 13 performances. While rapid creation and disposal are at odds with sustainability, this cycle is also an opportunity to reinvent the process and redefine theatrical production. Garrett explores available resources and best practices to enable more conscious choices while maintaining artistic excellence.
Theresa May, Department of Theatre Arts, University of Oregon; artistic director of Earth Matters on Stage/Ecodrama Playwrights Festival
- “This Is My Neighborhood!” – Community Identity, Ecology and Performance: In two indigenous performances, May explores how local identities and economies are linked to global challenges, and how global ecological issues are etched in the lives of people and the land they call home.
Above: Catriona Sandilands, Colette Urban, Gil Favreau and Katherine Knight
Catriona Sandilands, Canada Research Chair in Sustainability & Culture in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies; and Michael J. Morris, choreographer and ecosexuality scholar at Ohio State University
- Eco Homo? Queering Bodies, Queering Sustainability: This textual/choreographic conversation/dance takes aim at assumed understandings of the human body in popular and policy discourses of sustainability. It presents an imaginative-performative “taking in and taking on” of the other, as opposed to a version of sustainability built on corporeal closure and defence.
Performance artist Colette Urban and filmmaker Katherine Knight
- Pretend Not to See Me – The Art of Colette Urban: Directed by Katherine Knight, this film explores art and place, presenting Colette Urban’s enigmatic art performances set against the rugged beauty of rural Newfoundland. It received special mention at the 2010 Ecofilm Festival in Rhodos, Greece.
More than 20 panels will explore topics such as the sustaining, imaginative and parasitic potential of the ruins of human habitation; the ecological ethics of John Cage’s chance music; Max Goldfarb’s Deep Cycle art installation; Basia Irland’s river restoration art actions; and sound-walking.
Other highlights include practical workshops on sustainable stage production practices and technologies, and staged readings of two plays: Chantal Bilodeau’s trilingual work-in-progress, Sila, weaving together Inuit myth and contemporary Arctic ecological policy; and Jade McCutcheon’s The Elephant’s Graveyard, a consideration of the public and political implications of aging and scientific attempts to cure the “disease” of death.
The conference concludes with a roundtable discussion by leading Greater Toronto Area artists and arts administrators on the role of sustainability and the arts in a major urban centre.
Staging Sustainability is produced and presented by York’s Faculty of Fine Arts with the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Registration is $80 to $100; students $20 to $30. For program information and online registration, visit the Staging Sustainability website.