The occurrence of the Funability work came out of the intense programming of the artist residency. With visits, presentations and discussions with very different environmental stakeholders in Cambridge (among others: the Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) at the Anglia Ruskin University, the Sainsbury Laboratory and diverse community initiatives like Cambake, Cambridge Carbon Footprint and Transition Cambridge) a diverse view of sustainability was provided. This also nurtured the exploration and discussions of “sustainability” among the artists.
Through the above-mentioned program it became strikingly clear to me that sustainability has a lot to do with language and culture. Organisational cultures are moulded and do determine to a large extent how sustainability is phrased and conceived in peoples minds. This phrasing, image building and value definition will then determine to a large extent what we will do, and what we won’t. Ironically, in the current world full of dependencies and non-transparency, sustainability has become so complex that this language is getting more and more important. It seems to be the only pillar that gives us guidance to understand what we are doing. Furthermore it gives a framework to “defend” and legitimise ourselves. As a result we trust more in language than in our common sense and feelings trying to sustain ourselves in this complex web.
As a consequence, people working for the same cause are having troubles understanding each other. This became evidently clear in a discussion among the artists after a presentation of the Global Sustainability Institute. Part of the audience was upset and disappointed by the way they phrased and categorised sustainability in their presentation. I noticed that this “disagreement” reinforced our own (read: the artists) language and “organisation culture”. Outrage gets easily the predominance over curiosity and dialogue. This artist residency and more artist residencies world wide, give the valuable opportunity to invest time in these connections and dialogue through creative means. To that extent sustainability is for me a lot about dialogue.
Following this we entered into an interesting dialogue with the Global Sustainability Institute. As a starting point for dialogue we both mind mapped the “world of sustainability”. The power of language was for me underlined by the fact that we as artists were limited in freely associating, caused by the confusion with the term “sustainability” in the middle of the paper. We felt that it is a polluted word, (mis)used in so many ways that it is confusing in itself. When we crossed the word “sustainability” in the mind map a big obstacle was removed. We started to associate more freely and positively and could explore what “sustainability” really embodies and how it is interconnected in this complex web. The mind maps showed me that something fairly simple and embedded in our primitive urge, namely to take care of our environment which we depend on, has become very complex. I believe that we, in a confused state are driven by our habits, conventions and short time dependencies, and therefore are not able to change radically. Time and perception of time are therefore interrelated to sustainability.
Looking at the changes in the environment, time becomes physical. For me the metronome is a metaphor for this delicate balance on earth. The metronome embodies the storage of time and energy. It continues at the same pace, but without you noticing it, it stops at a certain point. I see this as well as one of the reasons why we are having so many problems with a sustainable life. We hardly are noticing the change of pace and that it will stop eventually. Small community projects show though the amazing results you get with action, passion and dedication. The inspiration for my “Funability” work came from a person that said to me: “I have one rule for myself “No Fun No Do”.
This was the point that I realized that we can only be sustainable in the long run and large scale when we enjoy more what we are doing. In life’s broadest sense. Therefore: Funability!