The Art of Life – Understanding how participation in arts and culture can affect our values

“We need new ideas, we need new ways of doing things and we need a whole new way of approaching each other with much more empathy and understanding. This means that the rest of society really needs to focus on the world of art and culture as a vital source for not only solutions, but also ways of finding solutions… and a whole knew concept of what a valuable life really means.” Uffe Elbaek, former Danish Minister of Culture

Last year the Future Generation Art Prize was created to help younger artists participate in the cultural development of societies in global transition. On launching the Prize, founder Victor Pinchuk said, “I believe artists can show our world of tomorrow better than politicians and analysts”.


Can we transition the values of our society and economy within a generation? We surely need to give it our best shot, armed with sharp insight into what makes a real difference.  Our customs, behaviours, and values are by-products of our culture. No one is born with greed, prejudice, bigotry and hatred; these are all learned behaviour patterns. We need to find more and better ways to learn from and understand each other, contest and disrupt vested interests and imagine and create more sustainable ways of living.

Art and culture’s core practice is one of the most participative, dynamic and social forms of human behaviour. It has the capacity to trigger reflection, generate empathy, create dialogue and foster new ideas and relationships and offers a powerful and democratic way of expressing, sharing and shaping values. It can help us build new capabilities and understand how to imagine and rehearse a different way of being and relating. It can enable us to design useful and meaningful things and is increasingly the basis of livelihoods and enterprises that are motivated by much more than financial profit.

But to realise fully this potential, we need to deepen our understanding of how arts impact on our values and rethink how and why we value art. Our values represent our guiding principles, our broadest motivations, influencing the attitudes we hold and how we act. They are the frame through which we construct the stories that we tell ourselves and others about what is important.

In The Art of Life, Tim Kasser, professor of psychology and co-author of Common Cause; The Case for Working with our Cultural Values, sets out the evidence base for the shaping of values and explores the potential of engagement with art and culture to affect our:

·      self-acceptance,

·      affiliation, and

·      community feeling,

As well as values that are known to affect higher levels of personal, social, and ecological well-being such as:

·      freedom,

·      creativity,

·      self-respect,

·      equality and

·      unity with nature.

A number of people have offered their responses to the ideas that Tim explores in his article, including an emergent artist, a playwright, a campaigner, a designer, a director of a cultural organisation, and two academics from different disciplines.  Their generous contributions and critique are fascinating and sometimes fierce.

This report is the beginning of a dialogue about how art and culture impact on our values, what that might look like in practice, and how we might foster new collaborations between artists and cultural institutions and the third sector to create new ideas for development. This is a dialogue that needs lots of voices, and we’d love to hear from anyone who’d like to be involved.

Read ‘The Art of Life’ here.

WindArt Project in Portugal 2016


Joana Vasconcelos and Vhils, two of Portugal’s most internationally visible artists, took on a pair of 100m-high Senvion MM wind turbines

Article by JUSTIN JAECKLE in Wallpaper 

Two weeks after Portugal made global news for running solely off renewables for a remarkable 107 hours, the country unveils a ‘tribute to renewable energy’ – vying for the status of tallest contemporary art project in the world.

In a gesture of national pride, two of the country’s most internationally visible artists, Joana Vasconcelos and Vhils, were commissioned to take on a pair of 100m-high wind turbines. In the midst of the Douro Sul wind farm in the mountainous Moimenta da Beira region now stand two contemporary totem poles, with wild wolves and a handful of local villagers the artworks’ primary audience.

Hatched as an optimistic flight of fancy barely a year ago, Âncora Wind’s privately-funded project sees the two artists adapt their signature motifs to the challenge, and canvas, of technological infrastructure.

In a rare transposition of his practice from an urban to rural context, street artist Vhils – renowned for carving city walls into monumental portraits of anonymous figures – wraps his turbine in a graphic extrapolation of nature’s textures and a surveying human eye.

Vasconcelos’ Gone With the Wind offers a celebratory mélange of folk-inspired iconography, whose central heart faces the small nearby community. ‘It’s so different from all the scales you are used to,’ explains Vasconcelos, previously the subject of a 2012 exhibition in the rather different context of Versailles. ‘I went there last week and thought, “What is this?!” But it’s so energising when you do something that you’re not expecting to see happen.’

As Portugal plots its path towards a sustainable future, the one-off WindArt project offers a cultural point of punctuation; a decoration, and declaration, of ecological and economic ambition.




Artist Residency Open Call: Thinking through the Anthropocene

Creative Carbon Scotland are delighted to announce the details of our annual Arts & Sustainability Artists’ Residency (30th September – 3rd October). This year they’re offering up to eight Scotland-based artists from any discipline with the paid opportunity to participate in a weekend of discussion and activities at Cove Park, exploring the relationship between their practices and environmental sustainability.

Co-facilitated by Jan Bebbington (Professor of Accounting and Sustainable Development, Director, St Andrews Sustainability Institute) and Lex ter Braak (Director, Van Eyck Institute, Maastricht, Netherlands), Creative Carbon Scotland’s third annual residency will use the spectrum of stories surrounding the Anthropocene as an entry point for discussing the relationship between cultural practices and environmental sustainability.

The residency will be hosted in partnership with Cove Park over a long weekend. Selected artists will be paid a fee of £450 for their attendance and travel expenses from within Scotland, accommodation and catering will be covered.

This residency is funded by Creative Scotland and kindly supported by The Dr David Summers Charitable Trust.

Image: Contains British Geological Survey materials © NERC (1990)

Find out more and apply here


METERS by Carol Ann Duffy


You may have seen Gaz and Leccy on the telly in one or other of their ‘out of control’ antics but it’s okay – We’ll have them under control soon as smart meters will be coming to a cupboard under the stairs near you before 2020.

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has released her most unusual poem yet, Meters, marking the passing of traditional gas and electricity meters, the coming of smart meters and an end to estimated bills.

This is an extract from an article by Brian Ferguson in the Scotsman

“The rollout of smart meters is the biggest infrastructural change in decades so it is fitting the poet laureate has put pen to paper to mark the occasion”
Sacha Deshmukh, Smart Energy GB

[Carol Ann Duffy] has created a 300-word elegy to the “whirring wheels” of “artefacts” that will have to make way for “digital, internet meters” by 2020.

The poem has been instigated by Smart Energy GB, the campaign for the roll-out of new “smart meters,” 3.5 million of which have already been installed across the UK.

Britain’s first female poet laureate has spent several months creating the poem in honour of the meters, which she hopes will “preserve their place in household history.”

It will accompany specially-commissioned short film by BAFTA-nominated director Gary Tarn.

When plans for the poem were announced in April, Ms Duffy said she wanted to pay tribute to meters as they had been “a fixture under stairs and in cupboards for more than a hundred years.”

She was appointed poet laureat in 1999 and has since produced work tackling climate change, people who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS, the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation and the re-internment of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral.

Ms Duffy, the first Scot to be named poet laureate, said today: “Household meters are one of the most unusual topics I’ve written about.

“I hope people enjoy the poem and film, and take a moment to think about the boxes under the stairs and in hallway cupboards, which have been silently recording household life for so long.”

Sacha Deshmukh, chief Executive of Smart Energy GB, said: “Britain has a proud tradition of marking significant national moments through the creative arts.

Smart Energy GB


Found by torchlight fingering gloom

inside the cupboard under the stairs

or in the hall, clamped to the wall;

in kitchen, garage, utility-room,

in bedsit, bungalow, semi-detached,

tenement, high-rise, council flat,

The Rochdale Electric, K. & J. White,

Ferranti, James and Graham & Co.,

measuring energy, consumed and used

by gas-oven, wireless, 2-bar fire,

40-watt lightbulb, 13-amp fuse…

for the whumf of the flame on the water-heater

it was shillings or florins into the meter.

Shillings or florins into the meter

in London, Liverpool, Llanystumdwy,

Perth, Prestatyn, Prestwich, Poole,

for the weekly bath, the hard-boiled egg,

too near the fire, the corned-beef leg,

the gramophone, the Christmas Tree lights,

the pan on the cooker simmering tripe,

Hoover, kettle, twin-tub, lamp,

sheets, shirts, steaming, damp

under the iron, the television

newly-installed for the Coronation…

then the luxury of central heating and quarterly

bills and a meter reading.

Quarterly bills and a meter reading

by the man from the Gas, Electricity Board,

polite, peak-capped, alert for dogs,

checking the digits under the disc,

the whirring wheel, the soft tick

of monitored moments skyping, googling,

downloading, scanning, Facebooking;

out at sea the wind-farms churning

air into profit, the salty breeze

powering the big flatscreen TVs,

the underfloor heating, costs mounting…

the kilowatt hours burning, turning,

meters, like monks in their cells, counting.

Like monks in cells, the meters, counting

well-thumbed, numbered days and nights

beneath the energy-saving lights

as though murmuring prayers, clicking beads

to the switching On and Off of needs;

each private, domestic revolution

circling the time of its own extinction

when mechanical meters, old Latin tomes,

stand behind glass in hushed museums,

gun-metal grey, silvery, black,

from household gods to artefacts…

while digital, internet meters glean

that History’s bill to the Future’s green.

History’s bill to the Future’s green.


Feeding the insatiable – a creative summit


Real and imagined narratives of art and energy for a troubled planet
Wednesday 9 November -Saturday 11 November 2016
Dartington Hall, Devon

Encouraging all manner of energy generation through creative intervention and invention and new approaches to scientific enquiry including the quirky, the impossible, the micro and the personal.  Encouraging debate – practical, philosophical, metaphysical, and theoretical – bringing creative minds from many disciplines to bear on these pressing issues. Find out more

Who is it for?
This is an interdisciplinary event; we anticipate proposals and participation from artists, writers, designers, engineers, industry professionals, philosophers, ecologists, and all those interested in new approaches to energy, energy policy and ecosophy.


This is the preliminary programme. At this early stage we anticipate there will be changes, but this nevertheless gives a clear sense of the overall shape and richness of the event.

In addition to the sessions below, there will be an exhibition of work in the conference gallery space, live on-air happenings on Soundart Radio 102.5fm, and other interventions.


Wednesday, November 9

Time Studio 1 or as noted
15.30 Registration
16.30 Plenary session: Welcome and Introduction
16.45 Opening Keynote : Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry (Land Art Generator Initiative), with Chris Fremantle
17.45 BREAK
18.15 Reception and Exhibition Opening in Garden Room
19.30 Dinner
21.00 Studio 3: Evening performance with Lola Perrin

Thursday, November 10

Time Studio 1 or other Studio 3
09.00 Registration
09.30 Session 1
Plenary session: Welcome and housekeeping
Ecologies Shaping the world
09.45 Session 2
Cathy Fitzgerald: The Ecological Turn: Why and How Can We Best Articulate Slow Art and Ecology Practices?
Session 3
Beth Carruthers A Compass Rose for the Anthropocene: new maps for old
10.15 Session 4
Nancy Holmes: A Dangerous Gift: Artists Expanding Frames of Cognition In Environmental Discourse
Session 5
Judy Spark: The Nature of the Machines
10.45 Session 6
Laura Kim Sommer: The awesome’ and other environmental art clusters with potential to inspire the climate movement
Session 7
Charlie Tweed The Signal and the Rock (performative lecture)
11.15 BREAK
Artist projects Communicating
11.45 Session 8
Natalia Eernstman and Bryony Onciul: Miss You Already: an artistic response to accelerated coastal change
Session 9
Anaïs Roesch: About energy transition, cultural change and the power of the arts
12.15 Session 10
David Haley: NON-EQUILIBRIUM: ecology of time
Session 11
Zoe Banks Gross: Intersections, How we communicate energy, ecology and sustainability issues, can it influence behaviour change?
12.45 Session 12
Chloe Whipple: How to make 15 litres of water a day work
Session 13
Pratheek Sudhakaran: The Role of Sustainability within the realm of architectural education
13.15 LUNCH
14.45 Plenary – Keynote 2
Laura Watts Walking with Energy– under sea and over stone
Workshops Artist projects
15.30 Workshop 1 – Holly Owen and Kristina Pulejkova: Switching Heads – sound mapping the Summit

Workshop 2 – Naomi de la Tour: Playing with metaphor: new ways of knowing

Workshop 3

Workshop 4

Session 14
Holly Owen: Switching Heads – sound mapping the Summit
16.00 Session 15
Ela Spalding: An Art and Science LAB in Panama
16.30 Session 16
Lori Hepner: #Crowdsourced Landscapes
17.00 Session 17
Hannah Imlach: Nautilus Turbine, Isle of Eigg
18.00 DINNER
20.00 Session 18
Report back from think tank day / discussion
Emma Welton (from workshop)
21.00 Late night bar in Garden Room

Friday, November 11

Time Studio 1 (or other) Studio 3
09.00 Registration
09.30 Welcome / Housekeeping
Artist Projects Energy Generation
09.45 Session 19
Laura Hopes: Tank: Non-standard Units of Measurement
Session 20
Ian Garrett: Vox: Lumen – engineering for performance
10.15 Session 21
Emma Welton: Damage Limitation
Session 22
Neil Burnside: Scottish Thermal Energy Park. A STEP forward in heat generation
10.45 Session 23
Siobhan McDonald: Crystalline
Session 24
Roxana Morosanu: The Factory of Doing: human agency and energy generation
11.15 BREAK
12.00 Session 25
Panel with Loraine Leeson: Active Energy
FILM screenings (repeats during lunch)
13.00 LUNCH
Poetics Other
14.30 Session 26
David Sergeant: Reading Poetry While the World Burns
Session 27
15.00 Session 28
Reka Szekely: Feeding the insatiable and feeding the birds – birdwatching in Kathleen Jamie’s poetry
Session 29
Facilitated Audience Panel / Discussion
15.30 Session 30
Soil Fictions
16.00 Closing Plenary (close by 16.40)

Other things

There will be a number of exhibitions and other related events during the Summit. To date we know these include:

  • Hannah Imlach: Nautilus Turbine
  • Felix Prater: 1 of 1.84 million

The summit is accompanied by CommunityArtWorks (Jennifer Hoernemann and Walbrodt) and the OFFICE FOR THE USE OF MISTAKES AND COINCIDENCES.

Energy – Formidable Vegetable Sound System

“By busting out live shows based around the principles of Permaculture (regenerative ecological design), Formidable Vegetable Sound System is paving the way for a new kind of musical activism based around simple, fun solutions to some of the largest problems on the planet and are rapidly becoming a favourite on the Australian and international festival circuit with packed dance floors and workshops alike.” Formidable Vegetable Sound System website

Published on Feb 24, 2014

Album, “Permaculture: A Rhymer’s Manual” out now at:

Permaculture principle number 5 – ‘Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services’ from David Holmgren’s book – Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability.

Animated by OzJThomas:
Thanks to Richard Watson for filming & green screen assistance!
New track featuring Mal Webb on trumpet and Kylie Morrigan on violin.
(Electroswing remix album out soon)

Charlie MGee Interview with Cassie Langstraat

“So infectious that the most ardent climate sceptic would have trouble staying still”- Sydney Morning Herald

To call Formidable Vegetable Sound System unique would be a gross understatement, however this award-winning West Australian oddity of a band has become notorious across the globe for their dynamic live performances promoting sustainability and the joys of gardening through dance music.

Out to prove that ukuleles and electroswing CAN save the world, Formidable Vegetable Sound System are a somewhat eccentric experiment in ‘ecological edutainment’. With energetic vintage-style live mashups of wonky glitch and antique beets, swing ukulele and hyperactive horns, Formidable Vegetable Sound System have only one goal: to pound simple solutions for sustainability deep into your consciousness in the funkiest way possible.

Paving the way towards a new genre of music based around positive solutions to some of the biggest problems on the planet, Formidable Vegetable Sound System are rapidly becoming a favourite on the international festival circuits, having performed everywhere from Woodford to Glastonbury (alongside The Rolling Stones… actually!)

“Formidable Vegetable Sound System are spearheading a new and exciting form of musical activism and becoming one of the most important voices in a global cultural movement.” – Harry Angus, The Cat Empire


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