• Madison White

The environment is the empty space that talks back to you: Attending a Climate Change Workshop

Updated: Nov 6, 2018

September 27th, 2018: I arrived at the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art taken aback by the glowing yellow sign that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Nestled in between the historic red-brick buildings of the Northern Quarter (think early Captain America, they filmed the 1940’s scenes here), The CFCCA stands out with its expansive windows and modern style. I came here to write some poetry – something I hadn’t done a whole lot of post-master’s thesis – and hopefully engage with some art. The climate change aspect particularly interested me because environmentalism and ecopoetics (the study of the environment in poetry) has become such a massive part of my personal and academic life in recent years. In short, I had been looking forward to this all week.

Dr. Sam Illingworth, a science communications researcher/professor at Manchester Metropolitan University, and poet himself, welcomed our small group and debriefed us on the evening. A member of staff guided us through the current exhibition of Aquatopia which featured 6 international artists’ reflections and interpretations on water scarcity and pollution. Some standout pieces were Horizon, an interactive display that encourages people to try and create an even horizon using water in different sized vessels, Empty City, photographs where an artist tries to return to her childhood home that is now submerged beneath a reservoir, and Wave a video collage of various coastlines and waves. We took notes on words, phrases, or images that stood out to us while touring and learning about the art, then returned to the round table in the basement to write and discuss.

We chatted about standout pieces and ideas; Sam read us some climate change poems for inspiration and then led us through a few writing activities including some associate list poems and a Dada-like cutup technique. The cutup exercise gave me some surprising sentences that I then used to create a rough draft. A couple of favorites:

Water is everything beyond what we already know.

Art is the ultimate shape-shifter.

The environment is the empty space that talks back to you.

The workshop concluded with the writing and optional sharing of our rough drafts. I returned to my draft – now titled “Pet”—and did some more work on it a couple days later; I hope that it will become something meaningful and surprising in the future, and go on to be published. I really enjoyed the workshop because it allowed me the space and inspiration that I hadn’t been giving my writing in recent months. I plan on seeing Sam again during the Experimental Words event that is happening as a part of the Manchester Science Festival. If you’d like to know more about Dr. Illingworth, Experimental Words, or the CFCCA, follow the links below.

Dr. Illingworth

Experimental Words

The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art

The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art

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