TippingPoint Newcastle

February 22 – 24 2012potsdam

Introduction:  TippingPoint, in partnership with Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability (NIReS), will be holding a major national gathering of those concerned with the interface between the arts and culture on one hand, and environmental issues, particularly climate change, on the other.

Our aim is to continue and strengthen the vital process of giving the urgent challenges of climate change and sustainability a cultural and artistic voice.  This will be a rare opportunity to step outside day-to-day work and engage with innovative peers from across many disciplines, using presentations, panel discussions, group exercises and creative projects.  Our ultimate aim is to help stimulate radical and imaginative thinking in wider society, as we all attempt to comprehend, mitigate and prepare for our inevitably changing environment.

This is the latest in a series of events that have been held by TippingPoint worldwide, and in the UK previously in Oxford.  The new location of Newcastle enables the event to draw from the city’s unique and exciting resources in both research and practice in the field (it has now been top of Forum For the Future’s Green Cities index for two years in a row) as well as its diverse arts community.

Why is this needed?  The broad fields of the study of Sustainability and Climate Change have a great deal in common.  They both address urgent aspects of the way we have come to live, they have become established as major fields of academic study, frequently cross-disciplinary, and are making major inroads into a range of disciplines in professional life and work, in both the public and private sectors.

However few could deny that their sometimes grave warning are being largely ignored, and that as a result the living world, the world of future generations, may be going to suffer hugely.  There are countless reasons for this, but one lies in their expression and communication, lying largely in the hands of the technical experts who have developed the concepts, who may not have the skills to convey them, and who may indeed have framed them in ways that do not lead to widespread understanding and action.

Many individuals and organisations are engaged in the very challenging task of finding an artistic and cultural voice to express these difficult ideas – ultimately of holding up the mirror and exploring issues of human identity.  TippingPoint is a key and lively part of this movement, having held many events worldwide at which artists have met and held deep conversations with experts from across the board in the environmental field, leading to innumerable outcomes: networks, new work, commissions, and collaborations.

As we all know, the subject has recently suffered from the cacophony around the domestic and global economy – which threatens to drown it out.  But it is still there – and is ever more urgent.

Who will be there?  We are seeking attendance from:

What will the programme consist of?  The event will draw on experience in holding around twenty such gatherings worldwide in recent years, in the UK held in Oxford.  Superficially resembling a conference, the event will in fact contain a minimum of being talked at, and a maximum of information exchange and cross-fertilisation between those present.  Throughout, we will aim to minimise disciplinary boundaries and emphasise the commonality of the creativity they share.  We will pay particular attention to reminding all of the urgency of the situation; understanding and making clear the work of all the individuals present; and looking in depth at artistic practice and some examples of artistic treatment of environmental issues.

Our outline programme is as follows

Weds 22 Thurs 23 Fri 24
Theme How do I feel about the future? In what ways might I influence the future? What am I going to do (about the future)?
AM Including an exploration of artistic and cultural projects which have had a genuine social influence. Including Open Space sessions focussing on specific projects.
Start: 3pm Including a discussion with Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, and Kevin Anderson, of the Tyndall Centre
More of the above, and an Open Space session to start or continue exploring personal or collaborative projects
Event finishes 2pm Opportunities to visit a range of science projects within the University
Evening Buffet supper, and a discussion led by Gregory Norminton with Jay Griffiths, Lawrence Norfolk, authors who have contributed to Gregory’s forthcoming anthology ‘Out of Chaos’ – short stories for our shared planet Reception, meal and
drinks, Northern Stage, including End of the World Cabaret compèred by Kate Fox

Thursday will finish with an evening of food, drink and performance hosted at Northern Stage, very close to the event venue.

The event itself, consisting of a range of plenary and group interactions, is designed as a whole, immersive experience, including the evenings.  Attending selected elements will provide an unsatisfactory experience, and is very strongly discouraged.

Theme: running through the event will be the concept of ‘positive messages’.  This is the first time we have used such an approach; it is a recurrent motif in environmental communications, due to the widely perceived need for a positive vision of the future, to offset frequently downbeat or depressing predictions. 

What does this mean for – and is it indeed relevant to – artists?

What outcomes do we expect?  The purpose of the event is to create a context for creative people to explore difficult, urgent and fast changing subjects, so guaranteed outcomes are impossible to predict, other than a continuation of the broadening and deepening of thinking around the subject.  What happens will be largely in the hands of those present.  However, past experience leads us to expect:

Open Application

If you are interested in attending, please complete the Open Application form here.

We request a small contribution of £150 for people attached to institutions and £90 for individuals. This covers attendance at all day/evening events plus food and refreshments.  Financial support, potentially extending to travel and accommodation, will be available for those who need it – though funds are limited.





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