Interview: Glenn McGregor | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The UK’s most talked about new art space, Pineapple Black in Middlesbrough are collaborating with Durham University’s’s Ustinov College and launching their new exhibition, Encounter.
It’s an exhibition of artwork that engages with the encounter between climate change, nature, society and the broader challenges of sustainability. It’s an expansion of the successful Encounter 2019 exhibition staged in Durham earlier this year. This new exhibition retains the original cast of practitioners alongside artists selected by Pineapple Black. It previews on 5th July (6pm-9pm) and will be viewable 10am-4pm, Thursday – Saturday, from 11th July. We talk to Glenn McGregor, climatology professor and the man who initiated the project to find out more.

Tell us more about Encounter at Pineapple Black.
This is the manifesto I wrote for Encounter…

In 1962, American playwright James Baldwin wrote that “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” This is very apt in relation to the current situation society finds itself in, with much uncertainty about the shape of the future at the local to global scale and what needs to be done to manage our way to a future that poses little risk to all living and non-living entities.

Amongst the range of ‘risky’ futures that we need to face, including political, economic and societal, is the one related to environment, of which climate change is a major component. The worry about the future relationship between climate, nature and society is articulated most clearly in the so called Paris Agreement, an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), aimed at strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change. The ‘Agreement’ calls for an international effort to keep the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Further the ‘Agreement’ encourages the 195 country signatories to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius since a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius would substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change compared to a rise of 2.0 degrees.

Because of the gravity of climate change as a major societal issue  and the considerable way we have to go to convince a range of audiences about the need to face the ‘climate imperative’ and achieve a sustainable future, the Encounter 2019 exhibition calls for artists whose work engages with the encounter between climate change, nature and society and the broader challenges of sustainability in the context of the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Encounter attempts to present work that resonates with the theme of climate change, nature and society and a sustainable future that pays attention to society’s responsibilities as custodians of our climate and the earth at large.

Do you think that art is an effective way to convey important messages?
 Art has an important role to play in conveying issues about the environment and engaging the public in the thought process about our impacts on the planet and how our daily behaviours are important in terms of sustainability. The fact that art is seen as a vehicle for communicating important messages manifests in the form of the development of the field of environmental art.

What’s your opinion of climate change deniers, especially those that are in power?
 It is regrettable that people in the political or business worlds who hold the key to developing strategies to adapt to and mitigate climate change use popularist arguments or false facts to divert attention away from the emerging climate crisis. Arguments based on the idea that mitigating climate change will be costly and affect industry and therefore jobs deny the fact that the cost of non-mitigation and the associated impacts will far outweigh the costs of doing something about climate change. Added to this the use of false climate facts is doing no-one any favours as the evidence for anthropogenic climate change because of an enhancement of the natural Greenhouse Effect through human related increases in Greenhouse Gases (e.g. CO2) is unequivocal.  For me, in relation to climate change, the denial of what is happening and what confronts us Plato sums it up quite nicely in stating “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” As does  James Baldwin wrote in the early 1960s  “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

What do you hope people take away from Encounter?
Hopefully the exhibition will provide an opportunity to inform individual and societal attitudes towards the environment in general. Given this I hope people take away a better understanding of climate affairs and how our lifestyles are important to the future of the planet.

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