Posted on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 by Allison Byers
In December 2011, 12,000 people gathered in Durban, South Africa, at the 17th annual Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change to discuss and assess progress in dealing with climate change.
Not traditionally a conference you’d expect to find an art school at, but Painting/Drawing faculty member Kim Anno and Critical Studies faculty member Christine Metzger were there to represent CCA -- and indeed CCA was the only art school present, making a bold statement that art can be a powerful tool in the struggle against climate change.
“When people found CCA at the conference they were ecstatic,” Anno reports. “Hundreds of delegates came by and wanted to about what we were doing. Artists and designers are key communicators at the cross roads of environmental issues. They can make a substantial contribution to the conversation, and being part of the international dialogue is critical.
"We are wrestling with environmental and world problems of monumental proportions. Artists in particular can do things that governments cannot. Designers can create objects, machines, and aesthetics that make a difference in people’s lives and in our environment.”
A Science Teacher at an Art School
At CCA, Metzger teaches courses that focus on environmental science. So, what is a science teacher doing at an art college? She explains: “Art and design are media in which science and policy can be translated to people.
"I find that my students are often hungry for information that they can incorporate in their creative work. While we may be passionate about different things, my students and I mirror each other’s enthusiasm for our respective subjects.”
Artwork Addresses the Environment
For Anno, environmental issues and art go hand in hand. Her recent project Men and Women in Water Cities is a multichannel video work about post-sea-level-rise society in port cities. “There are aspects of it that are light as well as dark,” she says. “Adaptation is a complex thing.”
The first sequence, created in 2011 and shown at COP17, was shot in Venice Beach and Oakland. Anno subsequently shot a second sequence in South Africa while working with youth from the Bartel Arts Trust Centre.
She says that although she set out to make something specific, her improvisational actors created something more complicated. “This allowed me to find the contradictions, the layers of meaning, that make the work really transcend.”
Anno has also recently been awarded the Open Circle Foundation $20,000 Fellowship to create the third chapter of Men and Women in Water Cities.
Anno reports being inspired by the other presentations at COP17. “Seeing all of the projects being piloted in various ecosystems around the world was thrilling. There are lots of compelling ideas out there, and many provocative approaches to art and design.”
CCA’s Commitment to Sustainability
In terms of commitment to sustainability and the environment, Anno and Metzger agree that CCA is setting the bar. “We have the Eco-Tap courses, inspired faculty, field studies across all disciplines, and sustainability task forces and policies,” says Anno.
“It’s so important to educate the next generation about these issues,” agrees Metzger. “Meaningful change is happening from the level of people-up, not government-down.”
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