Planet excerpts

Iwan Bala reflects on the theme of the 2015 Venice Biennale ‘All the World’s Futures’, asking whether the show really responds to emerging global urgencies, and the threat not just to the city but to humanity itself from climate change.

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‘When art, as Peter Halley puts it, “has been reconstituted according to the processes of bourgeois consciousness”, the thing that everybody really talks about is how to get a show. This is the shadowy juncture where aesthetics melds with economics as the main metaphor for a single value system in which the artist, without any other social role to play, seeks to gain the attention of collectors, curators and critics. A crisis of purpose is at stake here, and as Baudrillard succinctly puts it, “the boil is growing out of control”.’
Suzi Gablik. The Reenchantment of Art, Thames and Hudson 1991

As an artist, writer and lecturer, I have focused my attention for decades on concerns about the threat to the minority culture to which I belong. It now has to be recognised, that the threat to the language, community and culture of Wales is not only due to political, social and cultural developments but to environmental and ecological pressures too. We are at a time of great threat to all cultures and to humanity itself.

An awareness of this is unavoidable, yet perversely ignored by those who could do most to effect some changes. As a lecturer to BA and MA students at University of Wales Trinity Saint David, I am aware how important the environment is for young and mature students alike in the narrative and theme of their work, as well as in its making. The department on the Carmarthen campus (before its sudden closure this summer due to ‘restructuring’) ran a bilingual BA course in Art Practice and the Environment that focused on sustainability, and one on Art Practice and Community that encouraged students to be active as artists in wider society, to try and raise awareness about contemporary urgencies and cause changes in people’s mind-sets. An MA dissertation by Annie Morgan Suganami presented at the end of her first semester has brought me to consider these issues more thoroughly. Annie’s work as a painter and performer, recently exhibited at MOMA Wales in Machynlleth, deals with environmental issues directly and very powerfully...