The Privileges of Piety
Friday Ephemera

Artists for Gaia

Yesterday’s post mentioned in passing an Arts Council project that typifies the standards we’ve come to expect from publicly funded art. Jarvis Cocker, the country’s foremost socialist pop musician, was sent to the Arctic for “inspiration” and to raise planetary consciousness, along with another two dozen artistic luminaries:

The ambition of the expedition was to inspire the creative team to respond to climate change... It was an amazing journey; 10 days of artistic inspiration, debate, discussion and exploration.

The ecological insights gleaned by Mr Cocker? 

Men have produced a lot of great art over the centuries, or whatever... but... an iceberg kind of, basically, pisses on it.

Here’s the contribution by Beatboxer Shlomo, who “dedicates his beats to the cause.” 

Mr Shlomo’s deep, deep insights into climatology and life can be read here. They include,

I couldn’t help but notice that it’s really quite cold.


Being with all these inspired people seems to have filled my head with a zillion ideas for musical endeavours that could easily save the world.

The expedition organisers explain the artistic riches to be tapped and why the creative excursion is so worth your money:

Through witnessing the environment, taking part in stimulating discussion and observing and participating in scientific field research, we enable our voyagers to gain a real connection to the subject matter. Our ambition is that this experience will inspire all who journey to somehow respond to the Arctic and create work on their return.

Such was the level of inspiration, some of the assembled artists began to work their creative magic immediately.

Tracy Rowledge constructed three series of ‘automated’ physical drawings, mapping the movement of the boat during the expedition.

We must heal the planet with drawings, people. It’s a matter of urgency. For readers of a technical inclination, these ‘automated’ drawings involved suspending a felt-tip pen from the underside of a chair, resulting in random scribble on numerous sheets of paper positioned underneath. This feat was “REALLY exciting” as it “explored movement, time, place and permanence.” The radical innovation also freed the artist to leave the dangling pen and do something more interesting. According to her two brief blog entries, the sum total of her commentary, Ms Rowledge spent much of this liberated time struggling with Greenlandic place names and making sure her fellow passengers knew how “overwhelmed” she was. 


David Buckland projected video onto a glacier wall and re-filmed it.


Michèle Noach collected Arctic poppies.

I realise it’s a lot to take in but brace yourselves, there’s more. And I think I’ve saved the best for last.

Francesca Galeazzi performed her CO2 work.

I know, you itch to hear what this “CO2 work” entailed. You want to behold its majesty

I walked across the fresh snow with a gas cylinder in my arms, containing 6kg of CO2. I took it across the unspoiled snow field of the Jakobshavn Fjord until I found what, to my eyes, was a wonderful place.

You can see what’s coming, can’t you?

I walked to the top of the small hill, I put the cylinder down, got on my knees and opened the valve.

Because great art is challenging and transgressive. See for yourselves:

Ms Galeazzi then reflects on the devastating fallout of being so goddamn edgy.

A few people on board were quite upset by my gesture, they thought it was outrageous. But generally I got lots of support for what was perceived as thought provoking and courageous.


Reading this you might think I am an evil horrible woman.

No, love. We will be fair in our judgment. You’re not evil. That would at least be interesting. You’re merely a talentless poseur and a freeloading narcissist. Not evil, just a bint.

Ms Galeazzi’s other artistic contributions are described in greater, more harrowing detail:

Yesterday for me was a roller-coaster of emotions: determination and failure, hope and fear, anticipation and disappointment. One of my projects on board consisted of an artistic response to the melting and retreat of glaciers as result of climate change. My response was to place a park bench on a newly formed iceberg or floating ice-shelf off the fast-moving coast of West Greenland. A bench which, in its fragility and remoteness, becomes a silent witness of the dramatic changes that are occurring in the Arctic.

A bench with nobody to sit on.

Embrace the profundity. And there’s even more to it than that.

Key to the project, the bench would be tracked in its slow and inexorable pilgrimage through a satellite device that will make it possible to locate it for months to come, through the unfamiliar frozen sea, the ever-changing scenery, the incoming uninterrupted nights. The tracker was a fundamental part of the project, commenting on our contemporary surveillance society.

Two birds, one stone. A bargain.

Tragically, the search for a suitable location for the Great Symbolic Bench proved futile.

The wind was so strong that the mission would have failed immediately, the bench would be blown off the iceberg in no time. Around 8 in the evening we gave up.

Undeterred, our heroine took comfort in a loftier, more conceptual approach.

I started to feel that my project was gaining a different, and maybe stronger, meaning… it was the search that mattered, it was the effort, the determination, the non giving up at the first difficulty. It was the common effort that supported me which made me feel I was doing the right thing. And maybe the bench was an excuse and didn’t need to be left out on the ice at all.

Isn’t it wonderful when that happens? Serendipity, she is kind.

Failure is real, is human, it is part of life, so I accept it and somehow celebrate it as part of a lesson that I will hardly forget.

And doubtless nor will we.

So, readers, I think you’ll agree that’s £150,000 well spent. Thank you, Arts Council. We should do this every year.

Oh, wait.


Update: Another Arts Council Triumph.


 Heavens, a button.