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

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Day 6 Copenhagen Chilled to the Bone and Soul-warmed

Came home about an hour ago, after helping Sacha & Oleg set up their installations for tomorrow. They chose locations far from the mainstream demonstrations to reach a working class neighborhood with many immigrants.

It's below zero here and I'm still chilled to the bone. But reports arethat there were over 100,000 in themain demonstration. The TV news showed demonstrators sitting on the cold asphalt of the road in this weather, hands handcuffed behind them. Oleg, who rode by them on his bicycle coming home, said they had arrested about 900 and they had been sitting there, practically motionless in this bone-chilled weather, with no bathroom or other facilities for hours, as the police ate pizza close by.

This evening, the newscaster described the demonstration as peaceful, like a party. Why then these arrests? The Precautionary Principle at work? Apparently the police cut the demonstration in half and fairly randomly arrested anyone wearing black. In NYC, they wouldn't be able to STOP arresting people if that's the criteria. Apparently, people who live along the site where the arrests were made, have opened their windows and are playing music to hearten the demonstrators.

A traditional party for the NGOs was scheduled at Bella Center tonight. It feels too cold to go out again but I am warmed by the idea that local people wanted to hearten those who stood up for their beliefs, even if they had to sit in the cold road to do so.

Day 6 Copenhagen Action Inaction: art's role in Moving us towards a Binding and Just Treaty

I know it must look from the outside like nothing is happening here and be frustrating to many who can't see what's happening. But I can tell people that more is happening than you can see from the outside. The action Tuvalu took Wednes has enormous repercussions because it threw down the gauntlet to all the "Parties" of COP.

The work of many at COP is to move forward regardless of the COP portion of proceedings (the distinction is that this is a gathering where we can all learn from each others projects in side events and social gatherings and develop a consensus about the legal "norm" for agreements. COP is the Conference of the Parties that puts that norm into formal legal agreements). The interval since Wednes has allowed attention to the language (which is why I've worked with the Ethics group) that will create international and ultimately trans-national legal precedents. If the impasse is sustained until the leaders arrive next week, then they will have to put a layer on Kyoto that will be the Copenhagen amendment.

Ed Morris blogged about the frustration with inaction in Copenhagen. But what I see from inside COP15 is plenty of action, just not obvious and dramatic. The urgency of activism inside and outside is slowly filtering thru to the meetings. Ethical action will be the result of years of work from the Ethics group.

The Ethics group work on language I've been tracking and involved with may seem nitpicking but it is the patient persistent work that will move events forward towards a just binding agreement. My engagement as an artist here is to be part of a team discourse that has no big drama-spectacle but does design our future.

The leader of the Ethics group, Don Brown, Associate Professor of Environmental Ethics, Science and Law at Penn State, was the lead lawyer for the Superfund under Clinton. They have been working on this problem for a long time and it is filtering thru to all the other groups. As far as the American position, as Kirk Junker, another member of the Ethics group, Chair of the American Law division at the University of Cologne put it, Americans respond to morality. that's why Carl Rove got Bush elected. It can be used to leverage the good. And incidentally, for Americans, this is why tort reform is the most dangerous thing the right can do to the left right now in the USA. Tort reform is where a plaintiff can ask that a law be reconsidered.

Art that allows itself to be at the service of old notions of art is not where I think we will make the new world that needs to respond to new conditions. I have spent some time here (at COP) explaining that my ideas aren't about art as entertainment, decoration, illustration or art as a tool (tho it can be all those things too). This is a new approach to artmaking for many. It is grounded in the history of conceptual, activist and performance art. Just as the climate changes are going faster than any of us can track, as artists, I think we are running to stay ahead of the curve. Sometimes that run is the art.

From the point of view of my approach to art, it is about finding the one small trigger point in a situation that will catalyze a larger effect and then putting my attention, as an artist, there. I am getting press credentials Monday, which will entitle me to attend the meetings with the leaders. That is where all this work will be tested. I feel like all I've done this past week, all I will do in the three day workshop/performance I'll lead at the Centre for World Culture, outside the conference, will prepare me to have some understanding of what will happen by the time Obama arrives at the end of next week.

Having my own press conference the same Friday he arrives and framing what I will present in a larger movement of ecological art in response to our times, is my one opportunity here to express another point of view based on what I've observed here. And after all, it is that observation that us artists are trained to do. As far as I know, it is the ONLY event where an artist will address the policy community here and I will do it thru the media. Just wish for me, please, that I have the time & skill, to bring them into the room and then fire their imagination once they are there.