Climate Action Art Project-The Tent of Casually Observed Phenologies

Friday, October 14, 2016, 10am-5pm (lunchtime for ESS2000 students only), Between Fernow Hall and Tower Rd (or outside of 135 Emerson)


Event: The Tent of Casually Observed Phenologies of the Brooklyn-based artist, James Leonard
Portable ritual space. Climate change related Tarot readings inside.

Date: October 14, 10am-5pm
***During the lunch-time the tent available exclusively to students in the Cornell course ESS2000 Environmental Sciences Colloquium***

Location: Between Fernow Hall and Tower Rd (or outside of 135 Emerson)

Art can offer another way of understanding, responding to, and communicating sustainability issues. Here we propose to bring an environmental performance to the Cornell campus that allows expressing and evaluating climate concerns. We have the extraordinary opportunity to make the art project The Tent of Casually Observed Phenologies of the Brooklyn-based artist, James Leonard, available to the Cornell community.

The Performance

The artist has built a tent, in which he will sit and give divination readings with his self-made Tarot cards. The tent will be built in the morning, and the artist will sit in the tent during the day, offering visitors about 15 minutes of performance on a first-come-first-serve basis. The tent is decorated with motives of plant and animal species that are differently affected by climate change.

Leonard explains, “A lot of thought has gone into The Tent of Casually Observed Phenologies. I wanted to create a space for contemplation, where participants can slow down, articulate questions and find clarity. Climate change is a universal concern. Art is the perfect place for expressing and evaluating concern.” James Leonard is an internationally exhibited artist. He recently finished a 2016 artist residency at MASS MoCA. In 2015, he was artist-in-residence at the Boston Center for the Arts. When not on the road, he lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

During the lunch-time setting, we will make the tent available exclusively to the students in the Cornell course ESS2000 Environmental Sciences Colloquium (Riha/Lehmann). In an experiential setting, students not only engage with art but participate in this art project that will change their attitude to the persuasiveness of art as a public and personal way to influence environmental behavior. Through group (during class time) and one-on-one (throughout the day and during class time) interaction with the artist outside the traditional classroom setting, students will experience societal responses to environmental issues that are typically outside the classroom-based and science-oriented curriculum of ESS. The focus of this module on climate change behavior will bring the most pertinent issue of our time to the science campus of Cornell just weeks before the UN Climate Convention in Morocco.

The pop-up art project will be available to the entire Cornell community, but students in ESS 2000 will be the only ones to receive a curatorial and artistic explanation in small groups. The curator of the Johnson museum, Andrea Inselmann, will support the project through analysis and introduce the broader context of pop-up art projects to influence environmental behavior (that are often done in unusual spaces, and we envision to have the project be done not in or around the museum, but in the heart of Cornell’s science and climate community, possibly between Rice and Fernow Halls, where art is usually not found). Andrea Inselmann was the curator of the “Beyond Earth Art” exhibition at Cornell which was a landmark exhibition on environmental art. In turn with the curator, the artist will speak to a break-out group about the project. Students take turns being instructed by the artist and curator. If class size requires it, we will break out in three groups to allow close interaction.

We find that students react to the experience in a different way and retain information attained through experience much better than through classroom teaching, especially in a survey class such as the mandatory ESS2000. Varied stimuli of discussion, looking, touching, smelling, hearing all help in retaining information through associations with experience. This particular module will convey the experience that we can achieve changes in climate change behavior in more ways than conveying science facts.

This meshes well with other modules on behavior throughout the ESS2000 experience, and will be an unforgettable highlight for ESS students. The class portion of the performance is cosponsored by the ESS major.

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