It seems that too many environmental and social justice advocates think they should be exempt from reducing their aviation-related footprint because their work is important. The continue their airborne ways because they donâ€™t see â€œrealisticâ€ alternatives, and, perhaps, more importantly, because they can.
It is not that the exercise of privilege canâ€™t be put to good use, but such action always and inherently also brings about injury. So the question we have to grapple with individually and collectively is, does the resulting good compensate (at the very least) for the harm, while laying the groundwork for eliminating the system of privilege and disadvantage — what ultimately, from a social and environmental justice perspective, has to be the goal of progressively minded folks?
The above quote is from an article by Joseph Nevins entitled Flying Is One of the Worst Things You Can Do for the Environment — So Why Do So Many Well-Intentioned Folks Do It?
It goes to the core of the question that this Environmental Audit posed for itself right from the beginning: â€œIf the museum puts on an exhibition about the environment, how much in the way of resources is consumed, how much carbon (etc) emitted in the process? In other words, was it worth it?”
Now, I can’t say that I have come anywhere near answering that question definitively. Actually, I’m not sure if it can be answered, except perhaps in small case studies where tangible social, political or environmental change has occurred as the result of a particular action. Too often, however, the outcomes of art projects (or of, as Nevins discusses in his article, “international meetings” enabled by air travel) are too hazy to properly measure.
This should be an event worth catching!
FRIDAY 29 OCTOBER, 12:30 â€“ 1.30PM
What would you say if you stood to inherit royalties from a five billion dollar project?
Jeffrey Lee rejected this extremely lucrative offer. Join him in conversation to understand the reasons why, as he discusses his country and ongoing struggle to assert his traditional ownership over his land, despite pressure from industry to allow uranium mining.
Jeffrey Lee is the sole member of the Djork clan and senior custodian of the land encompassing the Koongarra Mining lease within Kakadu National Park. Lee has reputedly declined lucrative offers from a multinational corporation who were eager to extract 14,000 tonnes of uranium, worth over five billion dollars. Leeâ€™s unwavering opposition successfully motivated the Federal Government to formally incorporate the area as part of heritage listed Kakadu National Park to ensure that his country remains unharmed for future generations.
In 2010 theweathergroup_U collaborated with Jeffrey Lee to produce a new video installation Koongarra, commissioned by the MCA for In the Balance: Art for a Changing World. The conversation will take place in the galleries, as part of the exhibition.
image above: theweathergroup_U Koongarra 2010 2-channel video installation, copyright the artists and Jeffrey Lee
Info from MCA website here.
This diagram shows the way that Environmental Audit has developed over recent months. The way I see it, the project has evolved into three parts, in terms of its working methods: blogging, printing, and (for want of a better word) “experiencing”:
…and in this next diagram, the audit is again shown to have 3 bits, but in different way. It focuses on the trio of areas to which I’ve been bringing attention: the MCA, the In the Balance exhibition, and my own working methods:
One of the things I’ve been struggling with – as I find myself becoming more and more confident in this field, is that every meeting, every encounter opens up a whole new can of worms – and I just don’t have enough time to follow each worm to its compelling wormhole.
And so these diagrams helped me realise something that had been rattling around in my head for a little while. That the scope of this project is actually a bit too large for one single fellow to handle. I think, if I were to do another Environmental Audit like this one, I’d plan in advance to have 2 full-time helpers working with me.
The move towards the MCA Staff Environment Committee mooted by Glenn seems to be gathering momentum. Watch this space (and maybe suggest a better name than the rather dry “MCA Staff Environment Committee”)…
I’ll be presenting a short update on my Audit-in-progress to the MCA “All-Staff-Meeting” on the 29th of September. I’m really looking forward to bringing it all back to the enclosed-public forum of the museum workers themselves…
There will be one more month of auditing beyond the meeting, so this is the chance for an interesting feedback loop (beyond this blog) to spring into life…
The following seems appropriate to mention now, given my recent musings on institutional critique and the machinations of what goes on behind the scenes in the art world:
As part of its current membership drive, the MCA asked me if I would consider donating one copy of each of the prints I’m making during Environmental Audit. I said sure, why not? One of the good things about printmaking is that you have extra copies, and they can be used for this sort of thing.
So, each week, one of these prints will be given away at random to a newly-enrolled MCA member. I’m looking forward to hearing from the Memberships Department as to who the first winner will be! I hope I get to reach down into a large sack, up to my armpit to pull out a numbered ball with the winner’s name etched onto it.
The catch (or is it the “bonus”?) is that I’m going to require the winner to come and meet me down at my Audit office, so I can do the hand-over personally (distance and mobility, of course, may make this impracticable in certain cases).
You can follow all this stuff on the MCA’s facebook page; and this link has all the gory details.
So there you have it! A cross-promotional gambit if ever I saw one. Feeding the hand that feeds me, and all that…
…PS, speaking of cross-promotional hoo-har: don’t forget to check the EVENTS page, where I’m listing relevant things that come up as we go along. The latest events to note are Diego Bonetto’s weed tours (there’s one this Saturday), and an artist talk event I’m participating in (alongside Bonita Ely, Catherine Rogers and Sumugan Sivanesan, this Sunday 19th Sept…
This will be my new officey home for the next couple of months. I figured that the next phase of my Environmental Audit might benefit if I could be a bit more ’embedded’ in the MCA itself. Two days ago I made this suggestion to Glenn the curator, who put Isabel onto the job, and presto, here I am, with my own Dilbert-style cubicle. I think of it as my ‘artist in residence within the office’. (A great precedent for this sort of thing is the 1960s-70s Artist Placement Group).
Everyone has been very accomodating and welcoming so far. Margaret from the Library popped over to say hello and offer her help with anything I need. I had a great chat with Gaby and with Krista from the marketing department, who are interested in cross-over publicity action with my project. And everywhere I go in the halls, there are little jokes and jollities – Seb, for example, keeps loudly accusing his fellow staff of incinerating tonnes of shredded photocopy paper out in the carpark (in spite of the fact that I’m ill-equipped to “bust” anybody for their un-ecological ways)
Here’s Pete down in the gallery, deconstructing a wall, “Reclaiming”, as he says, “every last screw”. (What about those bent ones, Pete?)
Jokes aside, it does seem like there’s “something in the air”. The fact that I’m here on site working on the project seems to have shifted the “office atmosphere” (I do believe there is such a thing).
I’m hoping that inhabiting the office will be a less formal way to get under the skin of the organisation. Chance meetings in the kitchen, waiting for the lift (many hours are passed in this endeavour) and en route to the photocopy machine: if you’re working in the office, here on Level 5, by all means bail me up and let me know what you reckon.
What does the MCA do well? What can it do better? Lowly serf or lofty overlord, I’m interested to hear from you. Maybe we can draw a few diagrams together…