Monday, 8 June 2009

Electronic pavements

Continuing with the idea of cities and time I thought I’d write about an audio adventure I went on last year around the City of London guided by an eco-opera. And While London Burns tells a story imagining the streets’ past and future from the perspective of the oil-fuelled present. It is described by the makers as ‘a requiem for the warming world’ and can be downloaded here. To take part you listen to it on an MP3 player as you walk the route, receiving instructions about where to walk while listening to the story unfold. I found that the experience dissociated me from the usual thoughts I might have had in such places so that I was plunged into a whole other set of perceptions, which was at times eerie or illuminating. It’s also a little unnerving to be in a public place listening to a voice giving instructions for your next actions while not knowing what they might be (but don’t worry, nothing’s illegal or even embarrassing). I hugely recommend this experience, perhaps less for the story than for the way it gives new eyes. Some changes have been made to the buildings and street access since the piece was recorded in 2006, but I found the way my walk diverged from the speaker’s actually added another layer to the City’s palimpsest. There are artists doing similar things less polemically (such as Janet Cardiff) but this example is the most accessible and relevant to climate change that I’m aware of currently.

Some of the people who made this opera are involved in another performance piece in the City of London taking place on 17-20 June. The Laboratory of the Insurrectionary Imagination have developed CRASH Contingency (an experiment in three acts) as part of a series of arts events called 2 degrees taking place in central London this month. There is a huge amount of environment-related cultural activity around the country this June because of the Respond project, co-ordinated by the RSA. I’ll be going to a few events later this month and blogs will follow, but meanwhile quite a lot of projects are accessible online. Here are two highlights:

Ecopoetics study packs by Mario Petrucci are available here, commissioned by the Poetry Society.

Oxford’s Climate Outreach Information Network is hosting a Climate Radio here, with a long list of interviews and events available to listen to online or as podcasts.

It’s a bit overwhelming, but a great antidote to post-EU elections blues.

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