Letters to the Earth

A Cultural Response to the Climate and Ecological Emergency

We are facing an unprecedented global emergency, the planet is in crisis and we are in the midst of a mass extinction event. Scientists believe we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown. Carbon emissions and temperatures keep rising; ecological collapse has begun. On this course we are likely to see abrupt and irreversible devastation. The time for denial is over – we know the truth about climate change. It is time to act.

On Friday 12 April 2019, at 9pm CET, UpStage joined theatres and arts organisations around the world in a global day of action coinciding with the international Extinction Rebellion and School Strike For Climate. Letters to the Earth, written by people from around the world, were read and digitally performed in UpStage, for an online audience. The readings in UpStage were performed by Clara Gomes, Miljana Perić, Katarina Djordjević Urosević, Lyn Cunningham, Suzon Fuks and Helen Varley Jamieson.

We had a very short time to prepare, only learning about the event on 1st April and receiving our letters a week before showtime. Everyone threw themselves into preparations, creating backdrops, avatars, animations, audio files, and testing our streams. Many of the group had not used UpStage for some time so had to relearn the tricks, and we had to work with the bugs that are flourishing in UpStage’s ageing architecture. Due to our other commitments we only managed one incomplete run-through on Friday morning, where we made an order of the material, and then it was performed.

Dave, a beloved character from make-shift, volunteered to introduce the event, and Lyn volunteered to sing. Clara sent a video recording of the letter she chose to read, as she was in a train at the time of the performance. Kat read live to camera and Mem played audio tracks. Suzon created a series of text animations and Helen hand-wrote letters in a live video stream. The letters were presented in a dynamic audio-visual collage, intermixed with the promotional video made by the organisers, and a constant accompanying live text chat from the audience.

Letters to the EarthAs resistance to government inaction and corporate irresponsibility grows, we believe it is important to bring this protest to cyberspace as well. We are citizens of the world and a global response to the environmental crisis is needed. Even in cyberspace we are not immune from the crisis – we too will suffer with ecological collapse, and we too contribute to it through our excessive, thoughtless consumption and energy demands. We must find solutions, and we must find them together.

Below is a screen recording of the live online performance of Letters to the Earth in UpStage, Friday 12 April 2019 and there is a report here that includes an extract from the text chat. The text material is from Letters To The Earth, a Culture Declares Emergency campaign; Twitter: @CultureDeclares.

Letters to the Earth from UpStage on Vimeo.

The Artists:

Helen Varley Jamieson (Germany/New Zeland) is a digital artist and theatre-maker whose work facilitates networked conversations around urgent issues. www.creative-catalyst.com

Clara Gomes (Portugal) Clara Gomes is a journalist, academic, video artist and performer that currently focuses on the contributions of net art to net activism.

Katarina Djordjevic Urosevic (Serbia) works as an activist, visual and digital artist, performer, web journalist, and web designer.

Linda Lyn Cunningham (UK/Ireland) is a performance practitioner and researcher who is interested in performing scenography and technology in contemporary performance practice.

Miljana Perić (Serbia) is a cyberformer and as such is a little bit mysterious. Usually, she is signed in as ‘mem’.

Suzon Fuks (Belgium/Australia) is an artivist bridging art, science & environment, using movements, video, photo & interactive technologies with a focus on refugees, people seeking asylum, women & water. http://suzonfuks.net

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