What does art do when the world is on fire? In the autumn of 2015, I brought together a group of fourteen artists from within and beyond the performing arts. The Dark Mountain Workshop was part of my role as leader of audience and artistic development at Riksteatern, Sweden’s touring national theatre. We met for a day each month, for eight months, gathered around the question of the role(s) that art might play under the shadow of climate change.
Each month, we were joined by a guest whose work might help us find our bearings. These included the storyteller and mythographer Martin Shaw, the artists Ansuman Biswas and Monique Besten, and the philosophers Per Johansson and David Abram.
Often these workshop days would be followed by an open session in the evening – The Village & The Forest – in which we shared where our conversations had taken us and hosted a performance by our guest contributors.
During an early meeting about the project, I remember saying, ‘If there needs to be an evaluation, here’s how I’d like to do it: five years on, we send a storyteller around to ask each of those who were present what things have happened in the years since that probably wouldn’t have happened, had that group of people not spent those days together in that room.’ (It’s not quite five years yet, but the suggestion was taken up in another context by one of our guests, Maddy Costa, writing about one of the events at Redrawing the Maps.)
Things I’m aware of that probably wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for those eight workshops include:
Människa och natur – a three-year strand of repertoire at Riksteatern which grew out of a conversation with Per Johansson during the fourth workshop. The productions within this strand included Slutet enligt Rut (2018), a new play commissioned from the novelist Jesper Weithz, one of the members of the workshop.
Medan klockan tickar (2017) – four of the writers from the workshop group were commissioned to write a play for the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm about what it’s like when the Anthropocene is your day job.
A series of projects around ‘uncivilised dance’ by the choreographer Emelie Enlund, as well as Where the Words Run Out, a performance in which I collaborated with the dancers Alexander Dam and Sara Rousta.
‘Childish Things’, the essay I wrote for the SANCTUM issue of Dark Mountain, begins with the story of a work by Ruben Wätte, another of the artists in the workshop group.
There’s more to add to this list, when I get time…