An experiment in arts-based immersive climate-change imaginaries
In July 2018, seven families took part in an experimental 4-day ‘Retreat’ in Cornwall, UK. It was a creative residency to imagine and design how to live when lives are radically affected by climate change. They came together as climate refugees fleeing their flooded homes to gather in a holding camp, where they had to imaginatively and emotionally explore the implications of their new reality.
The project began on the night of a lunar eclipse in a camp just next to Pip’s field, site of a neolithic ceremonial cairn. Some local pagans were gathered there to celebrate. Despite an unseasonable warm and dry summer, as soon as the refugees arrived, a storm hit! In reality, Cornwall faced flooding and storm warning and the spectacle of unpredictable and extreme weather.
[Read more: Imaginative Disruptions]
Near the camp bathrooms, we placed three doors that invited graffiti. Each door asked a different question each day: #1: What are you happy to leave behind? What is (a) home? Global warming: what’s the first thing that pops to your mind? #2: What’s most annoying about being climate refugee? Global warming? #3: What are you happy to leave behind? After 4 days in the climate refugee camp, what do you think of global warming? What would you most like to contribute? Some examples: People wanted to leave school, bills, social media, street lights. People were afraid of floods, droughts, ice melt, food insecurity. Interestingly, on day four people emphasized the importance of community and connections...
“Highly memorable and intuitively informative, this is something that sits alongside the finest books on climate change narrative and shines a light on the priority of community engagement as we look strategically to a changing world.”
The project was primarily designed and led by Siân (Blunt) Philly and her partner (outdoor instructor and forest school educator) and Dr. Natalia Eerstman, an artist and academic based out of the Portsmouth College of Art. Anke de Vrieze and Kelli Rose Pearson of Re-imaginary and SUSPLACE joined as design advisors and participant-observers.
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