April 30, 2014

The Spark Project

Frank Kuzler is the Executive Director and a Producer at DecadesOut, an organization dedicated to producing and supporting art that is inspired by science and sharing in the growing dialogue between the arts and sciences.

Our mission at DecadesOut is to foster the communication between the arts and science. We started programming a variety of things in 2009 including documentary work, a theatre development series, and a film festival, but found that although it’s great to have a variety of programs, it would go a long way toward achieving our mission if we focus our programs on one particular issue confronting society today.

So in 2013, we decided to create a festival of events spanning two years that would allow us to bring together a group of artists and scientists who wanted to collaborate and explore different perspectives on an issue.  Of course, we are all in tune and have a healthy concern about climate change and the future, so we decided that that was the most important issue to focus on. It didn’t take long for people to start coming forward when we announced that the theme for our 2014/2015 Systems Festival would be climate change, and the way it related to the systems of humanity.

It’s been an extremely busy year already, but in reality we’ve just started the programming. We’re excited to continue the momentum in order to bring some of the core programs to life including one of the things I’m most excited about: the SPARK Project.

This idea is simple, but it’s also one of the most fundamental for our mission. Basically, what we’re doing is building a multi-phased communication platform between artists and scientists working in the same discipline. The project is going to move in several steps from an online initiative to a live performance or exhibition.

The project will start simply with an introduction of the artist and scientist through a profile of their work and inspirations. The profile will have not only background information but also links to research, artwork, as well as any media provided by the participants. The second phase will be a direct dialogue curated by DecadesOut, including questions for each of the participants formed by us as well as each other. The third phase will be the collaborative inspirations phase, which will hopefully result in the creation of new work for public exhibition. In our ideal vision, this would be a performance piece surrounded by visual art along with a digital presence – a full contemporary media exhibition.

What makes this amazing for us working at DecadesOut is that we get to support artists and scientists that are exploring this topic in some very interesting ways. We really get to see the levels of expression coming forward from both sides and we get to share the results. It’s this idea that goes to the core of our mission. What is also important is that we get to meet people who are similarly dedicated to their own missions of knowledge seeking, creation and social activism. We’ve already had the good fortune of meeting so many fantastic organizations on the science side such as the NY Hall of Science/Climate and Urban Systems Project (CUSP), Columbia’s Earth Institute and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and on the arts side, there’s of course The Civilians, NACL Theatre, and many visual artists.

I think one important aspect of what we’re doing, particularly when it comes to issues like climate change, is adding to the volume of expression in a substantive way. The communication and the dialogue that is being opened – whether collaborative or confrontational – adds value to an intelligent discourse, and this inevitably leads to solutions. There’s so much out there, but I think/hope what makes us unique is that this is our focus. This is this is all we do — Art & Science & Art. We are dedicated to seeing collaborations through and exploring the ideas they generate in the most in-depth way we can.

If you want to know more about DecadesOut and the SPARK Project, please visit our website.

–contributed by Frank Kuzler, DecadesOut


April 21, 2014

The Arctic Cycle

We’ve got a special “guest blogger” on The Great Immensity today, playwright Chantal  Bilodeau. Read about her epic and fascinating project The Arctic Cycle!

A few years ago, as I became acutely aware of the challenges posed by climate change, I asked myself “What can a playwright do to address this issue?” The most obvious answer was “write a play about it.” But somehow, that answer lacked in scope. How could a single play capture the complexity of this global problem? How could one story illustrate the interconnectedness of all involved? A search for a less obvious, more multifaceted answer eventually yielded “write eight plays about the impact of climate change on the eight countries of the Arctic: U.S., Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.” And so The Arctic Cycle was born.

I started research for SILA, the first play of the Cycle, in 2009 with a commission from Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company. Set on Baffin Island in the territory of Nunavut, SILA looks at the web of interests bearing down on the Canadian Arctic and local Inuit population. Equal parts Inuit mythology and contemporary Arctic policy, the play uses puppetry, spoken word poetry and three different languages (English, French and Inuktitut). SILA will receive its world premiere at Underground Railway Theatre in Cambridge MA April 24-May 25, 2014.

FORWARD, the second play of the Cycle, was inspired by a 10-day sailing expedition with the Arctic Circle program in 2011. Set in Norway, FORWARD presents a poetic history of climate change and examines how a spirit of innovation propelled Norwegians through three major events of the 20th century: the conquest of the North, the discovery of oil and adaptation to climate change. FORWARD is being developed in collaboration with Hålogaland Teater in Tromsø , Norway.

The remaining six plays will be written over the next decade and chronicle our evolving relationship with climate change. In addition, operating on the principle that complex problems must be addressed through collaborative efforts, each play will engage artists across disciplines as well as geographic and cultural borders; solicit input from earth and social scientists; and actively seek community and educational partners to foster public conversations and provide strategies for action.

– Chantal Bilodeau


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