In the third edition of Two Degrees – the festival that sits somewhere between art and action – artists, activists, anarchists, filmmakers, storytellers, poets and writers come together to explore what is broken in the world and what can be done to mend it. Responding to today’s global concerns and challenging audiences to get involved in changing things, Two Degrees brings immersive theatre, gaming, singing, making and un-making, preaching, talking, reading and debating to Toynbee Studios and beyond into the East End.
Platform, the art and activist group whose work questions the disturbing antics of the global oil industry, takes six at a time on a journey into the dark underbelly of London’s oil economy. In a spy thriller for the post-Occupy era Oil City, the audience eavesdrops on business people and seeks out secret documents hidden in dead-drops, helping expose the government’s hidden involvement with an industry that is – amongst other tragedies – taking northern Canada to the brink of ecological disaster.
Elsewhere in the City, activist, anarchist and amateur Marxist Lewis Bassett hosts World Strike. A Daily Briefing, a special breakfast on each day of the Festival with assistance from business workers, financial analysts and activists. Browsing the news and commodity data in the salmon pink pages of the FT, Barrett and his cohorts reveal the ghostly presence of the world’s speedily diminishing resources in the face of seemingly infinite market growth.
Artist Kamala Katbamna’s concerns lie much closer to home. Change the Record ! is a one night only performance by a makeshift choir of local residents who will lead the audience on a tour of a series of intimate and unexpected spaces in the East End. Recruiting residents who have an interest in the rapidly changing geography, culture and politics of the area, the choristers’ repertoire comprises songs of personal and local significance.
In the Theatre at Toynbee Studios, two ecological preachers – performance artist Davis Freeman accompanied byJerry Killick – ask the audience for 7 Promises to take direct action against climate change. Spurred on by a sense of impending ecological disaster and the public’s lack of responsiveness, Freeman and Killick reward each promise to change the world with a shot of vodka.
In a mix of adventure, thought-provoking talk and sparkling debate in Toynbee Studios and the surrounding streets, the immersive storytelling and gaming collaborators Coney, present a special Show + Tell salon exploring the economic, environmental, personal and political systems that everyone inhabits, yet often do not fully understand.
Fresh from its recent launch at the site of the Soho water pump where the source of the 1850’s cholera epidemic was discovered, artist Amy Sharrocks’ Museum of Water arrives at Toynbee Studios with its collection of publicly donated water and accompanying stories. The Museum currently holds water from a holy river in India, snowballs, 20 year old water from Maine, USA, melted snow from a Sussex field, water from a garden bird bath, water from a Devon well, two weeks worth of rain water, fish tank water, water from a cat’s bowl, water from a burst London water main, Norwegian spit, Hackney rain water and condensation from a Falmouth window… Sharrocks invites further donations of water, and in a celebration of this precious liquid, she is also running Water Bar, a free pop-up outdoor bar serving only tap water.
In Worktable performance artist Kate McIntosh asks the public to use their ingenuity, creativity and skills to dissemble and reassemble everyday objects. Invited to choose from a multitude of objects including a teapot, umbrella, alarm clock, reading glasses, a globe, an ice skate, a rat trap and cassette tape, audience members are then obliged to take the object apart – by “dismantling, shattering or wearing“ – using an array of tools, in a room which amplifies the destruction throughout Toynbee Studios. The broken object is taken to another larger room, and put amongst other broken things, one of which is then selected for reassembly, using basic materials such as string, glue and rubber bands. In a final room, the new object is put on display along with an accumulating collection of other ‘re-mades’.
Continuing the theme of consumerism, artist Andrea Francke brings together ideas of collective enterprise, self-sustainability, consumption and production, in Read + Talk + Make, at a community venue in Shadwell. The artist invites outside audiences into a “maker space” set up in collaboration with local residents, based around the idea of creating and building objects from scratch. Read + Talk + Make is a long-term project that Francke hopes will become a permanent community-led initiative.
Back at Toynbee Studios poet Tom Chivers hosts LANDSHIFT, an evening exploring shifting landscapes, alternative geographies and new approaches to writing about place, as part of ADRIFT, a year-long collaboration with Cape Farewell. Chivers is accompanied by award-winning poet, novelist and librettist Michael Symmons Roberts reading from Edgelands, writer and artist Justin Hopper discussing his ongoing explorations of the South Downs, and poet and cultural geographer Amy Cutler talking about forests, coasts and tree-ring reading.
Two Degrees draws to close with Imagine the Great Transition, a day-long event around the ideas of the new economics foundation (nef), a “think-and-do-tank” whose goal it is to inspire a new economy based on social justice, environmental sustainability and collective well-being. Performances by Harry Giles, The Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home, Curious Directive; and new short films by Iniua Ellams, Goncalo Tochaand Mels van Zutphen, and a lecture by writer and nef fellow, Andrew Simms are followed by a roundtable discussion. The day ends with a performance of Sarah Woods and Richard Gott’s The Roadless Trip, a moving and funny work, part performancepart film-part gameshow, inviting audiences to imagine and create a positive future.
Participating Artists: Platform | Lewis Bassett | Andrea Francke | Kate McIntosh | Amy Sharrocks | Davis Freeman | Coney | Tom Chivers Michael Symmons Roberts | Justin Hopper | Amy Cutler | Kamala Katbamna | Sarah Woods | Harry Giles | The Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home | Inua Ellams | Mels Zutphen | Andrew Simms | Sarah Woods
TWO DEGREES A biennial festival of art and climate change 17 – 22 June 2013