Guest blog

The Gathering Swarm: connecting artists and climate action

By Lauren Davies

Think of Paris, city of love. With its outdoor, café culture of sipping coffee at small round tables. Romantic encounters with architecture, and visions remembered from novels and poetry, all brought to life during a pleasant stroll around the city. As well as the spirit of past revolution lingering on every corner.

What form will the new revolution take? And who will lead it? Recent calls from writers such as Naomi Klein and from the Guardian Keep it in the Ground campaign urge for a people’s revolution, to mobilise against government lack of action on climate change. Where are the arts in this revolution?

Swarms of artists are not unusual in Paris in any era, but the prospect of artists gathering in the city in one concentrated place, to make work, discuss politics and comment on economics, during the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in December is one that international climate arts activist collective Forever Swarm are making a reality.

Just a stone’s throw away from the Gare du Nord railway station you will find Place to B, at St Christopher’s Inn a youth hostel combined with bar and co-working spaces, the HQ for new creatively driven revolutionary thinking. Place to B and Forever Swarm are working collaboratively on a provocative series of artistic interventions in the city of Paris for COP21, and bringing together artists with experts to generate a fresh approach to climate communications – a new climate story. Intervention themes include taking a look in the mirror at our hyper-consumerism, sparking a step change in more inspiring and creative communication on climate change, re-visioning a radically better future worth fighting for, and calling on artists, musicians and creatives across the globe to join this call to arms.

From November the focus for the future of global economics and action on climate change will be on COP21, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. COP because since 1994 this conference represents the United Nations’ Conference of Parties and 21 because this annual event has been held an astounding 21 times across the globe already.

In previous years COP meetings resulted in significant developments including COP3 where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 where the Montreal Action Plan was produced, and COP17 in Durban where the Green Climate Fund was created.

Hailed as the most disappointing conference, the COP15 event in Copenhagen in 2009 failed to secure an agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol and has since resulted in various countries producing the highest levels of carbon emissions since records began. We are the first humans to ever breathe these levels of carbon dioxide on Earth.

Many scientists, activists, economists and environmentalists believe that the Paris COP21 event is the last chance to reach agreement on worldwide government action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 40–70% below current levels by 2050.

Projected outcomes of COP21 are that governments will not be required to sign any legally binding agreements at the event, and that there will be no agreement reached to keep emissions below the 2 degree warming limit but those present will need to pledge to working on four key factors:

  • All countries no matter their size or wealth need to commit to clear action on climate change
  • All countries need to commit their pledges into their national law
  • All countries to commit to regular reviews, every 3 years, of the cutting of their emissions
  • Climate finance: developing countries need to have access to financial support to aid action on cutting their emissions

Cue an international swarm gathering at Place to B for outstanding arts activism, inspiring climate action, and sparking mainstream belief in better futures. Along with hundreds of journalists, bloggers, activists, graphic designers, illustrators, web developers, photographers, video makers, comedians, writers, musicians and DJs, art will show what is possible.

So when you think of Paris in the coming months imagine Paris full of love for the Earth, our shared home. Think of Paris alive with the beginnings of a re-think of everything, and a long awaited swarming of artists to help us light the way.


Watch this space for more information on ONCA’s own ARTCOP21, 30th November-6th December 2015


ONCA meets… Ken Eklund

Image: ONCA Creative Producer Persephone Pearl with Ken Eklund

by George Pundek, Gallery Assistant

Ken Eklund is a man of many words, talents, and interests. An interactive play and game designer, Ken is the mind behind authentic fiction experiences such as World Without Oil and FutureCoast, the latter of which will be coming to Brighton and ONCA this autumn in the shape of FutureCoast Youth. These projects are essentially story-telling games that allow immersive and playful explorations of pertinent issues, such as climate change or education. Ken visited the ONCA Centre on Thursday 18 June and sat down to discuss questions about his work and his ideas.

One concept our conversation covered was the genre of ‘cli-fi’, or climate fiction. As environmental issues grow ever more pertinent, cli-fi, an off-shoot of science-fiction, has prominently emerged as a genre posing important questions about our future’s environmental fragility. Ken regards Margaret Atwood as the “shining star” of climate fiction, and talked on the fundamental participatory nature of the genre that marries so well with his own projects.

We also discussed COP21, the United Nations Climate Change conference in Paris this December. Ken noted the marked difference between the top-down/bottom-up approach of environmental action, and the unfortunate slow-pace that this entails. However, Ken recognised that Paris is an opportunity for people to make their voices heard, and that the emergence of climate fiction is further proof that acceptance and realisation of pressing environmental issues is growing and increasingly becoming part of the zeitgeist.

Ken was visiting ONCA ahead of the launch of FutureCoast Youth in September, an extension of the FutureCoast project that launched in 2014 in the US. In partnership with the University of Brighton Media School and Dorothy Stringer School, FutureCoast Youth will incorporate ONCA artists, University of Brighton volunteers, and GCSE Environmental Science students to create a climate change delegation from the future that will become a young people’s Climate Conference to coincide with COP21. More information will soon be available on the ONCA website.

The video of the interview will be uploaded shortly, as will more “ONCA meets…” interviews.