Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Midnight Day 2 COP15
Sarah James singing prayers for her peoples in the Arctic at the gallery last night...
For tomorrow at 1:PM, the smallest nation in the world, Kiribati, has created and extended a special invitation to COP15 delegates, to attend a talk about what it means to be in the front lines of global warming. The subtext is, "to be in the line of destruction and be so small that no one might even notice, so please be so kind as to witness our experience." I've never even heard of Kiribati. I feel like I'm going to a pre-wake. And I will definitely be going. As a citizen of the developed nations, I can at least have the courtesy to bear witness.
Tonight, after the work at Culture Futures to create detailed protocol to present to COP15, we went to two? three? more events (this is the point in a conference like this when times, places, etc begin to blend and blur. I have, after all been on the road since Nov 10. But there's still another ten days to go). The last event, "(Re-) Cycles of Paradise" at ARTPORT was the most impressive. Assembled by several curators, Oliver Orest Tschirky, Corinne Erni and Anne-Marie Melster, it was in a remote building that looked like it had been around for a few centuries, down a dark alley. Artists included Subankhar Bannerjee, Kim Abeles, Charley Case, Meschac Gaba (Benin), Anita Glesta, Nnenna Okore (Nigeria/USA), Frances Whitehead and Insa Winkler. There was also music and a dance-theatre performance by the African Theatre representing animal and human impacts of global warming. The space was grand: fabulous ceilings and all the art, ecological, had political content- specifically gender related but including men.
It was a beautiful show but what stuck most in my mind, was beautiful Sarah James from the Arctic Circle, what we call Anwar, in full Native dress, long grey hair streaming loose down her straight back, speaking of what is happening to her people, to the bears, to the caribou and singing a welcome song and then a prayer. I thanked her for her presence and told her how painful her stories felt to me because there was so little I could do. She nodded and said, "pray." I promised I would.
The most difficult part of COP15 is listening to these stories, knowing my relative helplessness- not passivity but limitation and still celebrating the beauty. Dinner after Culture Futures, another gracious affair, was a roomful of people who are lead administrators from Africa, South East Asia, etc etc and many of their stories are different than those we tell in the west. A gentleman from Sudan told me he would tell me the good news about Sudan. I wanted to be open but couldn't get past my mental images of raped women. I sat with Marco Kusumawijaya and we spoke about what it meant for him to have weathered the political storms in Indonesia and responded in his work. I said my hunch was that what he has gotten used to in Jakarta, the instability, was what the rest of the world would come to live with as global warming proceeds to destabilize nations.
From time to time, I hear news of the outside world: demonstrations, bland news reports of the proceedings. This whole city feels like for better or worse, it is the whole world now and the whole world is here. The people I meet are utterly committed. The external events are just as serious as the internal ones.
It was late when I headed back from the gallery. I left with Sacha Kagan, Nadezhda, the curators, Insa, Subankhar and a couple other artists. Sacha, Nadezhda and I went on to the train station when they split off to have some late dinner. I navigated the train and metro by myself back to "Ama" and walked home along deserted streets.
It's 12:28 AM and Oleg is still out working on the next event. Suzanne says the baby has dropped.