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Art and Climate Crisis



Green Steps

Short summary:

A short conversation with Tarun Kade, the new artistic director of the Tangente Cultural Festival, has provided impetus to reflect on the meaning of art and a redefinition of the current concept of art in light of the climate crisis.ription

Tarun Kade has succeeded Christoph Gurk as artistic director of the Tangente Kulturfestival. The Munich-based artist is taking on a complex but interesting project that is endowed with an estimated four million euros. Green Steps has already tried several times to connect culture and nature via Tangente. So far unsuccessfully.

Today, I presented our NPO’s work to the sympathetic dramaturge. And I learned something important. Tarun listened to what we are doing and recognized the connection between place-based education and site-specific theater - but perhaps because of the presentation of the many steps that are necessary in our project, he told me: "The project is interesting and looks rather self-sufficient, but in particular it does not fit with how I understand art. Art doesn't provide solutions, it allows you to deal with problems."

This sentence reverberates in my head until now. Still in the office of Tangente, I asked Tarun Kade and the operational director Angelika Schopper, whether we still have enough time to enable an engagement with problems, or whether it is not overdue - for all parts of society, including art - to work on a solution to the climate crisis. Shit is soon gonna hit our cosmic fan.

What is the meaning of art? What is its task? Does this task change depending on the prevailing conditions? According to wikipedia, art is a human cultural product, the result of a creative process. The work of art is usually at the end of this process, but it can also be the process or procedure itself. Like art as a whole, the work of art itself is characterized by the interaction of content and form.

Considering the systemic crisis we are in, I remember a term that was coined during the COVID lockdown in the German-speaking world: system-relevant professions. Only those were allowed to continue to be pursued. System-relevant professions were vaccinated first. System-relevant occupational groups were clearly contrasted with those that were irrelevant to the system.

Which professions are system-relevant in times of climate crisis? Is art system-relevant if it only provides access to problems (which are clear to many) instead of working on solutions? I think that in times of climate crisis art has to put itself in the service of solutions. Tarun Kade's definition of art is understandable and logical, but obsolete. In particular, considerable sums of regional tax money should not be used to shed artistic light on problems instead of investing it in solutions.

Something else comes to mind. Ken Robinson once said that the art of teaching is perhaps the highest form of art. In the art of teaching, too, one encounters the conflict between an outmoded understanding of art and the conditions created by the climate crisis. A good teacher accompanies with tasks and ideally does not give solutions. He does not have a preconceived image of the student or an idea of where the student is headed. He gives room for development and accompanies the student in becoming himself.

However, the climate crisis has made certain behaviors a necessity. Regenerative practices, less consumption, active mobility, etc. are solutions that must be learned and lived if we want to give the next generation a chance. For both teaching and art, therefore, the same is true in the Anthropocene: redefine oneself between addressing problems and purposefully tackling solutions. Two frameworks must be established in this self-definition: 1. we should not waste resources or time continuing to point out problems that are already known to many. 2. art must subordinate itself to nature, otherwise it will dig its own foundation just like economic capitalism.

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