Climate change is frightening. But Vitalstatistix’s new festival Climate Century invites playfulness and even joy in the midst of global catastrophe. Over three weeks this month Port Adelaide will be the setting for a series of installations, performances and talks that respond to climate change in funny, moving and inspiring ways.
There’s a stratospheric science experiment that changes the colour of the sky; a river raft made from a bicycle and a tinny; and a walking tour through the upcoming apocalypse, for a start.
There’s something profound about aligning the innovation and creativity of art with strategies for climate-change adaptation. For Vitalstatistix director Emma Webb, that nexus of art, culture and science is integral for moving forward in the face of rapidly changing weather patterns.
“It’s about being able to think much more radically and playfully, and being highly imaginative about what the future might look like, and what kind of strategies – scientific, cultural and political – might be needed to make really big changes.”
“Inviting people to kind of dive in and enjoy the process of that is important, even though it sounds weird,” she says.
Climate Century is the result of a nearly five-year process between 2014 and 2018 – a time period that echoes the centenary of World War I. Webb found inspiration in considering how humanity might look back on the climate crisis 100 years from now. But it’s no moral high road.
“We wanted to avoid … communicating a correct behaviour, change, [or] message to a general public. And while that’s definitely got value, that’s not where we’ve wanted to go with this,” says Webb.
“We really wanted to invite artists to be everything from exploring grief and sadness to very playful, very speculative, very wild … imaginations around climate change and climate action.”
The wideranging program is mostly free, with some ticketed events – capped at $15 to keep the festival accessible.
Raft of the Medusa by Pony Express is a “playful and provocative live-art work” exploring a new “waterworld” order for future civilisations adapting to climate change. Set aboard the South Australian Maritime Museum’s boat Archie Badenoch, each intimate theatrical performance sails the Port River to consider the survival strategies of a future, ocean-dwelling society.
The experience economy is hilariously parodied in Eyes: part audio tour, part post-apocalyptic corporate experience. South Australian company Sandpit will explore myths, beliefs and strategies for survival.
Sovereign Acts III – Refuse is the third in a trilogy of works by The Unbound Collective, which brings together four First Nations women working across art, activism and academia. Refuse continues their exploration of resistance and rejection of environmental degradation, the role of Aboriginal women in caring for Country, and the intergenerational transmission of knowledge through protest.
The festival wraps up with End Times, a free “post-apocalyptic” dance party with participatory art by and with the Climate Century artists, and music from Bad Jelly DJs, Lonelyspeck and Winter Witches.
Climate Century runs from November 8 to 25 at Waterside Workers Hall, Hart’s Mill and surrounds in Port Adelaide. For the full program visit vitalstatistix.com.au.