Leonardo Journal Editorial by Ricardo Dal Farra
Can the Arts Help to Save the World?
We are living in a world that is reaching a critical point where the equilibrium between a healthy environment, the energy our society needs to maintain or improve this lifestyle and our interconnected economies could quickly change, from the current complex balance to a completely new reality where unbalance would be the rule and human beings must become more creative than ever before in order to survive. Have the arts a role in all this? Do artists have a responsibility in this context?
But who are the “we”, in the preceding paragraph? Clearly not everyone on Earth but at least those of us reading these lines and many others around. A large part of the population is living in uncertainty [regarding basic needs] and many barely surviving. Then how can we do something from where we stand to become more humans?. We don’t need to abandon our activities, but perhaps more can be done to help.
John Cage put together a list of rules for students and teachers. Among those, number seven starts with: “The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something.” [perhaps not valid for everyone but for many] And then number ten: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules.”. I hope we can examine our journey, reflect upon it, keep building and start again and again, breaking our own carefully constructed rules when we viscerally feel that is needed.
When the Balance-Unbalance project started some years ago (the original name in Spanish is Equilibrio-Desequilibrio) it probably appeared to be a naïve, good-will based, utopian initiative, trying to join intelligence and forces from a variety of fields using [e]art as a catalyst to face a problem we all share: the complex environmental crisis.
This proposed catalyst is starting to act by helping to bring people from very different sectors of society together. And today, Balance-Unbalance is working not only to prove it is feasible to connect art creation and realistic tools for change but to actually make that happen, and taking it as far as possible. The [e]arts as a driving force for…? Yes, sometimes it happens that the unexpected but highly desired occurs: the possibility to work on a project where artistic quality, knowledge building and humanitarian actions are all together in a balanced equation to confront the unbalance.
The art!⋈climate project became possible as a creation-knowledge-action proposal to reach those who are already affected or in imminent danger from the consequences of climate change, and also to those who are not directly touched by it yet. It can be seen as a tool but it is not less artistic for being that. On the contrary, the principal idea here grows from a cooperative effort having powerful means based on artistic creations -with a value independently from its potential functionality- and simultaneously, a tangible application in humanitarian actions. It seems to be a true collaboration that can have an effect on “real people” while preserving the significance and meaning of each contribution and action. Art can be created with or without a specific goal, and this appears like one of those cases where both situations harmonize.
art!⋈climate has been developed -as part of the Balance-Unbalance initiative- by the Electronic Arts Experimentation and Research Centre (Centro de Experimentación e Investigación en Artes Electrónicas – CEIArtE) at National University of Tres de Febrero in Argentina and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre. It is a project with multiple stages, and we are just realizing the first steps, convinced of the potential “benefits” in a variety of ways. Please feel welcomed to share your thoughts, knowledge, comments and -even- critiques [!] with us; and let us know about your initiatives too; we want to help in building a network without duplicating efforts but to extend our possibilities and learn from each other.
And because this first instance of art!⋈climate is devoted to the power of organized sound, I want to end quoting Jacques Attali, from his seminal book Noise. The Political Economy of Music: “All music, any organization of sounds is then a tool for the creation or consolidation of a community, of a totality” […] “Music is prophecy”.
Ricardo Dal Farra
1. Attali, Jacques 1977 [English translation by Brian Massumi, 1985]. Noise. The Political Economy of Music. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
2. Balance-Unbalance conference 2011 <http://balance-unbalance2011.hexagram.ca>
2. Balance-Unbalance conference 2013 <http://www.balance-unbalance2013.org>
3. art!⋈climate contest (arte!⋈clima) <http://www.ceiarteuntref.edu.ar/art_climate>