Direct from Copenhagen, Denmark - 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference - (8 – 18 December '09)

Acting as the official High Tide COP15 envoy, distinguished ecological artist Aviva Rahmani will be immersing herself in the burgeoning eco-political activism in the city and sharing her experiences with us via this daily blog.

Why not get involved and join in dialogue with her? Log-on to share your views! This is the gathering storm…

Produced in association with FACT

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.

Guest Post from Gloria Orenstein

Reading your blog brought back so many memories to me of the Mid Decade Conference on Women that I attended there in 1980 . With artist Susan Schwalb,, we wrote a proposal to create THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF WOMEN ARTISTS, and we were funded by the U.S.. We held it in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek , and invited women artists such as Betsy Damon for performance art and Betye Saar, and many many others,too numerous to mention, from the NYC art scene. We also created a film festival of work by women and I coordinated some international women's readings. Present with us to participate in the readings were Audre Lorde, Robin Morgan, and Esther Broner. Susan and I shuttled between the Amager Center , the political happenings, and the Glyptotek, where the director even danced around Betsy Damon's installation. I spoke with Susan on the phone the other day, and I sent her your blog. She, too, was filled with memories of the excitement we all felt in Copenhagen that summer. She wanted me to remember the artist Karen Park, who died a few years ago. She gave a big reception/party for the artists., and was such a lovely woman. There were women's art shows all over the city---and big manifestations on the way to the UN. There were also panels about the femininst publishers (worldwide) that existed in 1980. Exchanges in manuscripts took place, and many contacts were made. Susan I reminisced about how---without any internet or even a computer, we got connected with women from everywhere who participated in this gathering. We worked in close collaboration a group of feminists in the arts in Copehagen, and THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF WOMEN ARTISTS turned out to be a great success. Some of the smaller shows, like the postcard show---where women could submit art the size of a postcard---(walls were filled with these amazing images)---small shows like that traveled to other venues. We loved Copenhagen, and I was particularly
impressed with the fact that my host family had five children, and the woman owned her own business--and could do that because of the Danish childcare system. When I fell in the rain, I experienced the Danish medical care system-the most beautiful treatment, and all free. I was living in a dream, and now , from this perspective, it really feels more like a miracle that we did all that without the trappings of today's tecno-savy world. If Copenhagen could speak, it would certainly have many tales to tell--and now some about your own experiences there as well. Our gathering had a lot of drama, fist-fights among feminist publishers, many other things---but it was so exciting to arrive there and find women from around the world involved in all the feminist arts. and politics. ( Susan Schwalb was the Arts Representative to the early Houston conference in 1975. ) The UN Mid-Decade Conference on Women was such a high. We feel so fortunate to have shared such momentous times together in Copenhagen with lovely dinners on the water. Enjoy your time there as well, and may the Tikkun happen over and over.

5: PM Culture Futures & COP15

Spent the after noon hashing out language of recommendations from Culture Futures to COP15. Sat with Pooja Sood from Khoj International, who was the moderator for our group, which concentrated on the cultural vs political recommendations. We were joined by Ed Morris, from the Canary Project, who stressed the importance of accountability. Now we're reviewing the sticks projected on the wall from each group.

Forced many of us to define what we mean when we fight for a position or against one, for example, funding support or eschewing the term "sector" as in cultural sector because it implicitly privileges the economic contribution of the arts. This will all go up at various venues, as video on YouTube.

In between met & was interviewed by Braden Smith (, working aon fascintaing project tracking changing attitudes towards global warming over the next 10 years.

2:PM Day 3 Copenhagen Cultures Futures & COP15

It took a while for me to get into the process of this alternate conference and maybe we had to get a bit further down the line from the children. It's dialog on a scale level that would be impossible with COP15, which has apparently swelled to 36, 000 people (meaning some of us won't be able to get in now).

Some of the range of presenters have included Maria Rosalie Gerrudo, working with children and exquisitely aware that if she crosses the political line, she'll be murdered; and on the other end Jacob Fuglsang Mikkelsen, who has created a whole universe about electric cars ( I really loved Alison Tickell of Julie's Bicycle, making being an artist greenable (less flying, less plastic, better freighting).

We had a lively discussion after wards that was over all too soon. What I'm interested in, is how to connect the dots between different kinds of practices, circumstances and geographies all working together towards solving the problem of global warming. We've had a delicious lunch (I'm eating a bit too well here) and are moving along towards recommendations for COP15.

Children & Global Warming; green mapping

COP15 emphasizes that children will be impacted more than any other group by climate change. Just watched an affecting international group of kids presenting their interpretations. Some have been to the Arctic as part of CapeFarewell. I cringe. I think of how the Hudson River School of Art introduced heavy industry to the pristine river in c.19.

Now watching greenmapping in Indonesia with Marco Kusumavijaya, Chair and Director of Jakarta Arts Council. It is hard for me to sort out my feelings about work that is essentially illustrative, no matter how well done. But he makes a connection to the politics of public space. Much of his work is educative, esp with children. What interests me most is when artists collaborate to catalyze new ideas and approaches that change things. But where do you draw a line to prioritize between introducing children to green city planning and solving global warming?

Day 3 Copenhagen Culture Futures Conference

Have escaped the Bella Center and attending the conference organized by Oleg, sponsored by a combination of the Danish Cultural Institute, Asia-Europe Foundation ( and the British Council and numerous other significant entities. It's 10: AM here and I've already met artists and administrators from all over the world. This is the alternate to COP15. some of those I met include Pooja Sood, from Delhi, with whom I worked on the first Virtual Residency in 2006, but had never met in person before and Anna Marie Orru, working on sustainable infrastructure in Ethiopia.

We started with some introductions. One was from Jens Lysdal, who commented that Denmark is not so climate friendly as she looks. He paraphrased Thor Pedersen, Chairman of Parliament in Government, who announced yesterday that he was always happy to return to his big house with all the lights on.

Now back to the presenters.