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How do we Connect Art to Action?

Heidi Duckler Dance is hosting our biannual Ebb & Flow Festival this Saturday and Sunday at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook from 3-5pm. Ebb & Flow is a free, site-specific community festival of local artists which integrates dance, visual arts, music, and technology to investigate climate change and its influence on the environment and consequently our health. We are excited to be featuring artists of various disciplines in our communal exploration of how climate change impacts our experiences, communities, environment, and society. Learn more about our talented Ebb & Flow artists as they discuss their inspirations, connections to climate change, and how artists play an active role in activism and social change. 

Distracted and Disconnected: Wake up!

Artists express their views on the current state of climate change awareness, and how our ways of thinking about and approaching climate action in society may need serious attention and revision.

JOBEL MEDINA: “The world is getting warmer and warmer, and now that we feel it a bit more, we understand it better. The world is changing and it always is, but when you feel the actual shift in the environment, it puts your proximity closer to climate change. A lot of people who might not have taken climate change seriously could potentially have the feelings that I have now. It’s a bit sad that we have to feel it to believe it.”

LUKE DAKOTA ZENDER: “The problem right now isn’t that we aren’t recognizing the problem, it’s that we don’t know how to work together and listen to each other and respond accordingly to what’s needed. We’re not collaborating because our egos are intact.”

DAN GREENE: “We’re in a rut where our means of persuading and trying to effect change with climate change are still stuck in the way it has been for so long. It was developed when we viewed climate change as a thing in the future and we were trying to redirect where we were headed. Now we’re in a state where climate change is here. It’s not this future we’re trying to steer away from. We are experiencing the reality. I feel this plight in our language we’re using words to inform and effect change. The words are not doing what they need to do. It’s here now, but still we have words.”

PETER J. HARRIS: “We are in a compromised world. There are scholars and workers, men and women, on the ground who have done this work and made it clear that it doesn’t have to be this way.”

Inspiration Comes from Everywhere

Everyone is inspired and moved by different elements of the Earth and climate change, often connecting to concepts that feel closest and most personal to us. See how artists draw unique inspiration from their cultures, loved ones, and other earthly creatures. 

DOMINYKA ŠEIBOK: “I am from Lithuania, which was the last Pagan country in Europe. I grew up in touch with all the traditions and natural remedies: traditional dances, songs, and a strong knowledge of nature. With this background, I see that it can be harder and harder to keep these traditions and keep this respect for nature. And without respect, we lose contact and love and we all have these issues with ecology and climate change. It’s all connected. In our performance, we will want to bring these traditional chants from Lithuania and try to awaken our hearts once more, to hear these songs of our Earth and our hearts.”

CAITLIN JAVECH: “My partner is a climate scientist, so we always have discussions about climate change. I’ve always kind of been hesitant about making climate change work. Knowing what his work is like, it’s so tedious and detailed. We always debate about how to translate info from big research institutions to the general public. I really want my work to honor and be informed by actual information, but in a way that is still abstracted and artistic and the general public can be affected by it, gain knowledge, and do something.”

ASHTON S. PHILLIPS: “This is a collaboration with a colony of mealworms, which are the only organisms that are capable of consuming and metabolizing styrofoam into something else. It humbles humans; these insects we think of as so lowly and gross are able to do this thing that we don’t know how to do. There’s a miraculousness and an everyday nature to it. This is one way of reminding us what our role is and the limits on our power. And our dependency on other creatures and non-human forces.”

Our Relationship with Earth and Land

Artists share about the importance of rebuilding our mindsets regarding the Earth and land, and how they are embracing the festival’s location to enhance their artwork.

INDIGO SMITH: “When you have a relationship to the Earth, you see it differently, as opposed to something that’s happening. It’s something that you’re doing. It’s not just gonna happen; it’s happening to you. You are in control of climate change. This is your planet, your existence. You are the elements; the elements are you. You have to relate to it.”

JOHN EAGLE: “To say that we’re harmonizing with the environment makes it sound like we are outside of the environment, but we are always included in the environment that we are participating in. We are trying to develop that awareness, both within ourselves as performers and within the audience. You are always a part of the environment, whether you choose to acknowledge that or not. For this piece, it’s an interesting location. A beautiful park elevated above the city with beautiful nature, in a sea of the LA sprawl. Getting the balance between the sounds of planes and cars, of trees or birds, or people walking through the park. I want to bring out the intricate web that we are always in. An attentiveness to the places we live can only breed more positive and intelligent action when it comes to decisions that matter, at every scale. Whether that’s changing government policy or picking up trash.”

SHENANDOAH HARRIS: “I am trying to bring the audience in to contemplate what it means to release things and let go, exploring how we can let go of the land and allow it to be its own being, because I believe the Earth is its own creature. I want to offer the audience the idea that if we released our ownership or tension around how we earn things and make things happen, how much easier would it be for us to coexist?”

PETER J. HARRIS: “The fundamental focus is that the ocean is ours, it’s not the oil company’s, it’s not the fisherman’s. All cultures have extracted resources, but when you get into the scale we are at now, where the water and ground are looked at strictly for what kind of money it can make for you, we are at a fundamental flaw in terms of the breakdown of the relationship between humans and our role in the broader sense of nature. Everything is everything. From Baldwin Hills Overlook, if you look to the west, you’ll see the ocean. If you look east, you’ll see downtown (on a good day). If you look north, you’ll see the mountains. The location is about all directions. We need to be about all directions, all strategies, all people, working in rigorous ways to find the balance that human beings can be in, so we can still extract what we need without destroying and existualizing others.”

Artist’s Impact

How does art connect to action? Artists delve into their motivations for creating ecological artwork in the context of individual, social, and societal change. 

Altering Perspectives

INDIGO SMITH: “My hope would be that my piece inspires an intervention amongst the audience. I hope it connects to them in a way that is subconscious, visceral, something deeper than ‘I guess I’ll go recycle’. It has to be a spiritual change; it can’t just be behavioral. The way we connect art to action is if it touches you deeper, because that’s the only way you’ll change your everyday behaviors. And that, in turn, has to change your communities.”

SHENANDOAH HARRIS: “All of us in the piece have a transformative experience each time we perform around the topics that we are exploring, and that experience for us is real. And that will reach the audience. For me, I would love for the audience to walk away thinking, ‘I didn’t know dance could be like that, and I want to see more’”

VICTORIA GORING: “At first, the audience might dismiss the work and just see just a pile of trash. But as they look closer they’ll see that it’s actually a castle and a ballgown, and they’ll see that it can be beautiful. That can help shift people’s perspectives from the concepts of beauty and nature that we might have in our head, from the image in your head of what’s beautiful to an image of what is beautiful and sustainable for the Earth.”

Embracing Hope, Optimism, and Play

ANDREA BURR: “We take on the role of cowboys. Not traditional cowboys fighting each other, but caught up in this world of cardboard cactuses. We’re roaming this world that’s already affected by climate change and we are working together to find how we will fight climate change as a team. Something with a more playful take will engage more people in taking part in the work and climate change as a whole.”

LUKE DAKOTA ZENDER: “I think it’s important to think about how we can talk about climate change in more imaginative ways so it doesn’t have to always feel so daunting. If we can have the conversation with a sense of play, the places that we come to are closer to our humanity.”

JOBEL MEDINA: For me, I want to reach out to as many groups as possible. How can I engage other people and make work that doesn’t exclude? When I make work relating to climate change, I wonder how I can engage these people in a thoughtful way, or even a fun and entertaining way. That is how I see art as a tool to create, because art is so inclusive and there is an accessibility in art that is highly embraced by both artists and viewers.”

Art is Unique and Unforgettable

DAN GREENE: “We have learned from the quarantine how vital creative people are to the mental well being of humanity. We got to see how we preoccupy ourselves has made a crucial difference, and our recognition of how valuable artists are to the surviving and thriving of our culture is now in front of us. Now artists are able to see that they are as important as any other person in our culture, and what we are doing now to build the creative outlets for the future generation is as key as a desalination employee fixing flooding.”

CAITLIN JAVECH: “I think art opens people up in a way that other forms can’t. It has the potential to bring someone closer to a topic, a feeling, an idea, through a medium that sticks with them. You don’t forget a piece of art if it is impactful. Sometimes it’s less about immediate action, but instead opening up a channel for someone to think about something differently, or think with more hope, or intensity, or have bigger questions. There has to be a persistency to art. Art is larger than us, and so are these big social problems.”

Heal Ourselves to Heal the Planet

MAELYS RENAUD: “I believe that as an artist, as a pole dancer, I can overlay my passion for the planet and for the living ecosystems and bridge the two together and intertwine them in different ways. There is an element of empowerment to pole dance where all are welcome in the practice. We learn to be stronger and more powerful, and build a community of people who have the power to take action themselves and speak out for others. I’ve explained to people what I do, and people start to see what they do through the lens of caring for nature, sustainability, and climate change action. They think, ‘I guess if she can blend pole dance and sustainability, then I can blend what I’m doing with sustainability too’”

DANIEL GOLDBLUM: “Our free improvisation process can be particularly cathartic. The way we do it is pushing to expressive extremes without any boundaries, where all the frustration and tension and anger can get out. And it’s very liberating and empowering because whatever emotions you are feeling at that moment can be channeled through it. You don’t have the restrictions of just playing notes or a perfect piece exactly as it should be.”

MARIANNA VARVIANI: “Maybe this is a utopian idea, but I believe if everyone is happy with themselves and generous and open with each other, we would not cause so much harm. Because we are working with connection, I hope the audience connects with us as well, feel that warmth in my ideal eyes and way of thinking, creates a strength, a power to endure, and a need to do good and do better. I hope that they feel connected, empowered, and cared for. They are motivated to do what they think is best.”

ASHTON S. PHILLIPS: “My practice and this work is less of an effort to fix, and more as a way of opening up a different kind of space where we can feel things like grief, but also hope. A kind of hope that is tinged with grief and reality. There’s so much pressure in contemporary culture to be simplistic, to get to the point, to pathologize any dark emotions and fix them. Climate change is an enormous problem that I don’t feel is in my personal power to just fix. But I can create work that allows us to fix ourselves. I think there’s a kind of healing that is possible through art that I’m interested in sharing with viewers. That kind of healing has untold consequences for the Earth.”

Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the variety of innovative, meaningful, and inspiring artworks that these artists are presenting! Join us for HDD’s Ebb & Flow Festival on Saturday, September 10 and Sunday, September 11 from 3-5pm at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook in Culver City. 

RSVP here!