Climate Collaborations symposium

Climate Collaborations symposium flyer

The project hosted a symposium in September 2022 entitled Climate Collaborations: Art, Science and Future Scenarios. The symposium featured presentations from a variety of academics, artists, activists and theatre makers about questions surrounding the climate crisis and how we think about art, culture, and knowledge in the past, present and into the future.

The event was Sponsored by the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne, the Macgeorge Bequest, and the Australian Research Council.

Presentation Recordings

A selection of recordings from the symposium can be viewed below.

“Slow dramaturgy: Ecological themes in contemporary performing arts”

Peter Eckersall (City University of New York)

In a time of ecological crisis, how does theatre and performance respond to existential challenges that we face as a planet?  Performance has been linked to environmental crises since the 1960s and ecological praxis and ecocriticism are now at the forefront of scholarly work, activism, science, and politics, as well as in the arts.  Performance can be both thematically about ecological topics, offering stories highlighting environmental emergencies, for example, and it is also materially made from the reactive, transforming properties that define an ecological system.  Following from this, artists now think about and create performances in terms of assemblages, non-human forms and what we are calling slow dramaturgy (Eckersall and Paterson 2011).

This lecture will consider examples of recent performance that deal with ecology and extinction of species in considering key works by three artists – Kris Verdonck (Belgium), Okada Toshiki (Japan) and Eiko Otake (US/Japan).  The lecture aims to outline a theory of slow dramaturgy as a way of seeing how contemporary performance is responding to climate catastrophe.  As will be argued, in creating affective and differently embodied responses, these performance show how artists are creating important ways of thinking about and responding to climate themes.  By exploring the emerging practice of slow dramaturgy, the lecture will try and address how performance is not only about ecological themes but is creating its own ecological systems.  Are these artworks, and others like them, foundations for much needed epistemologies in the age of extinction?

Peter Eckersall is professor of Performance Studies in the PhD Program in Theatre and Performance at the Graduate Centre, City University of New York and is an Honorary Professorial Fellow, University of Melbourne. Recent publications include Okada Toshiki and Japanese Theatre (ed. with Barbara Geilhorn, Andreas Regelsberger, Cody Poulton, 2021), Curating Dramaturgies (ed. with Bertie Ferdman, 2021), and Performativity and Event in 1960s Japan (2013). He is cofounder/dramaturg of Not Yet It’s Difficult. Recent dramaturgy includes, Sheep #1 (Sachiyo Takahashi, Japan Society) and Phantom Sun/Northern Drift (Alexis Destoop, Beursschouwburg, Riga Biennial).

“Possible future climates for the coming years and decades”

Andrew King (University of Melbourne)

Our emissions of greenhouse gases mean that humans have warmed the planet by about 1.2 degrees Celsius to date and we are seeing the consequences of human-caused climate change in many of the extreme weather events people around the world are experiencing. We continue to emit greenhouse gases at near-record levels but there are signs of more serious climate change action on the horizon. In this presentation I’ll discuss the climate changes we’re likely to experience over the next few years and the possible climates for the remainder of the 21st century.

Andrew King is a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne. He completed his undergraduate degree in Meteorology in 2011 and his PhD at UNSW in 2015. Andrew is interested in climate change projections, the links between climate change, climate variability and extreme weather, and seasonal climate prediction.

“The play of the weather: Australian theatre and climate”

Chris Mead (Victorian College of the Arts)

Is mainstage theatre lagging behind other art forms in its engagement with, immersion in and dramatisation of our current climate emergency? Is there a template for a theatre of cruelty, rage and radical hope? Where do science and theatre meet? Can we speak of greenhouse gases in iambics? Does climate change resist the five act structure? An overview of some recent Australian plays.

Chris Mead is the Head of Drama at the Victorian College of the Arts, based in the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music at The University of Melbourne. Previous positions have included Literary Director at the Melbourne Theatre Company, inaugural Artistic Director at Playwriting Australia, and Literary Manager of the Sydney Theatre Company and Belvoir St Theatre.

“The challenges and insights of the embodied process of interdisciplinary climate research”

Katie Holmes, Susan Martin and Jacqueline Millner (La Trobe University) with Deb Anderson (Monash University)

In this presentation, we, as researchers on the interdisciplinary ARC-funded project Parched: Cultures of Drought in Regional Victoria (2021-2023) and an industry-funded project Covering Weather Extremes: The Challenges for Journalists (2019-22), discuss how some of the challenges of interdisciplinary research offer insight into the broader need to change how we work together if we are to address climate justice. Representing the fields of history, environmental humanities, literary studies, creative arts/art theory and journalism, we consider how we attempt to understand and adapt our own methods and research frameworks by engaging with those of our colleagues’. We acknowledge how our own affective experiences have influenced our research paths, our areas of focus as well as our methods, and how these can be brought to bear to contribute to climate justice. And we reflect on how our own embodied vulnerabilities, and our encounters with the specific experiences of regional communities and individuals, provide a rich context for considering climate crisis and the challenges of climate action.

Katie Holmes is Professor of History and co-director of the Centre for the Study of the Inland at La Trobe University. She lives on unceded Wurundjeri country. Her work integrates environmental, gender, oral and cultural history and she has a particular interest in the interplay between an individual, their culture and environment. Her books include Spaces in Her Day: Women’s diaries of the 1920s-1930s (1995), Between the Leaves: Stories of women, writing and gardens (2011), and the co-authored Mallee Country: land, people, history (2020). Katie is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Science Australia, and, with Prof. Brenda Croft, the Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser Visiting Chair in Australian Studies, Harvard, 2023-24.

Susan K. Martin is Professor Emerita in English and a former Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at La Trobe University. Her current research is on the teaching of Australian literature, and Australian cultural production and the representation of drought. Susan is a former President of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL). Her books include Women and Empire 1750-1939, Volume 1: Australia (2009), and Colonial Dickens (with Kylie Mirmohamadi, 2012).

Jacqueline Millner is Associate Professor of Visual Arts at La Trobe University. She has published widely on contemporary Australian and international art in key anthologies, journals and catalogues of national and international galleries and museums. Her books include Conceptual Beauty: Perspectives on Australian Contemporary Art (2010), Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum (with Jennifer Barrett, 2014), Fashionable Art (with Adam Geczy, 2015), Feminist Perspectives on Art: Contemporary Outtakes (co-edited with Catriona Moore, 2018), Contemporary Art and Feminism (with Catriona Moore, 2022) and Care Ethics and Art (co-edited with Gretchen Coombs, 2022). She has curated major multi-venue exhibitions and received prestigious research grants from the Australian Research Council, Australia Council, and Arts NSW.

Deb Anderson is an academic and journalist based in Melbourne. Born in north Queensland, she worked as a journalist in Australia and abroad, mostly for The Age, before joining Monash as a lecturer. Her research focuses on the experience of extreme weather, and issues of gender, climate action and news culture. She is examining the challenges of disaster reporting in the context of climate change, supported by the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia, and completing a State Library of Queensland fellowship that is recording women’s oral histories on protection the Great Barrier Reef.

Please note: Susan Martin's paper was delivered in absentia by Jacqueline Millner.


Jill Orr (performance artist)

Depending on the lens through which one experiences time, its impact is subtle, molecular, geological and cosmic. It is witnessed in our back yard, impacting our bodies, human and non-human alike, within the Garden of Eden whose paradise is firmly fictitious. I will touch on the idea of hope, the stand in and listening as productive and non-productive entry points into the multi-faceted discussion of future scenarios through Climate Collaborations. To sit still in a natural environment is a way if we have sunscreen, hats and long shirts or a tinny ready to float on the torrential waters or a fire proof dugout, good for humans but what about the rest?

Jill Orr is a performance artist crossing between performances for live audiences and performances for the camera. Jill was represented in the inaugural Venice International Performance Art Week in 2012. She was awarded an Australia Council Fellowship to produce Antipodean Epic from 2015-7. Recent works include Detritus Springs, Listen, Laundry and Dark Night that have each been commissioned for 2018 and 2019 exhibitions. In 2020-2021, Jill was represented in Australia: Antipodean Stories at Padiglione d’Art Contemporanea, Milan, curated by Eugenio Viola. Most recently, her work This Tree was commissioned for Monash University Museum of Art’s Tree Story (2021-22). Jill was represented in Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now (2021-22) at the National Gallery of Australia.

“Dharma not drama”

Hartmut Veit (artist and researcher)

Drama (and its genres, comedy, satire and tragedy) are by their very nature deeply anthropocentric, positioning human beings at the centre of all relationships. Dharma – a key concept in religions such as Buddhism – can be understood as a set of beliefs in a universal truth common to all beings at all times and as such empathises the interdependent relations of all beings, seen or unseen. Within the context of the current climate emergency, war and energy crisis these two concepts are explored through the presentation of Hartmut Veit’s recent eco-art performance Suspended States at Stanley Ave Studio. Addressing the impacts of climate and ecological grief on individual and collective mental well-being, the intention of Veit’s current project Stanley Ave Studio is to integrate the imagination and creative arts into contemporary Dharma practice as an authentic path to deeply inquire into the nature of the mind and lived experience. The intention is to re-connect and transform our relationship with self, other and the living world.

Hartmut Veit is an artist, researcher and performer. Questioning our human relationships with geological matter has been central to Veit’s socially-engaged art practice. Over many years of social engagement and research his artworks and eco-performances with coal in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley created conversations with residents whose lives and livelihoods were intertwined with climate change and demonstrated the increasing ecological impact of human beings’ commodified relationships to nature, place and matter.

“Just and sustainable futures: how will we do it?”

Anitra Nelson (University of Melbourne)

Humans face two pressing challenges, ecological unsustainability and social inequities, even if most focus is on containing climate emissions and global heating. Social scientists, scientists and activists appreciate that broadscale, rapid and radical changes are necessary, requiring public discussion and decision-making on a collective future. To contribute to such debates, I have produced a short 8-minute film Beyond Money: Yenomon based on my recent book Beyond Money: A Postcapitalist Strategy (2022), which proposes a future built on social and environmental (rather than monetary) values.

Anitra Nelson is an activist-scholar whose recent academic and creative work focuses on degrowth, non-monetary economies and sustainable futures. She is Honorary Principal Fellow with the Informal Urbanism Research Hub (InfUr-) at The University of Melbourne.

“Civil resistance and the murder of our planet”

Violet CoCo (activist)

Throughout history, in times of great injustice, non-violent civil resistance (protest) has been at the forefront of community change. When reckoning with the greatest injustice the world has ever faced – the murder of our planet’s life support systems – what is the appropriate response? Beyond what is appropriate, what is effective? Protest is about telling a story, and art becomes the armour of the peaceful. As we see from flowers in guns of the anti-war movement, to Violet CoCo's burning pram.

Violet CoCo describes herself as a conscientious objector to the murder of our planet. She has been a part of organising major disruptive festivals with Extinction Rebellion, supported First Nations in decolonisation, while also advocating for justice for women, refugees, and queer communities. She is currently awaiting an appeal decision for a minimum eight-month prison sentence for blocking the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a 2022 climate protest, under the new anti-protest laws in NSW.

“The power of short form storytelling to communicate the climate crisis”

Amanda Anastasi (Monash University)

Communicating the climate crisis has been fraught with issues and challenges, and creative approaches are needed to close the gap between the concept of climate change and the everyday human experience. Amanda Anastasi, Poet in Resident at the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub (MCCCRH), has found that short and striking poetry combined with visual images can elicit emotion and convey climate change as an urgent, human-centred issue. By translating climate science into multimedia one-line storytelling involving real situations from the climate frontlines, future and current climate change impacts can be shared in an accessible way to expand climate change compassion and awareness and ultimately inspire action.

Amanda Anastasi is a Melbourne poet who writes primarily about the effects and impacts of climate change. She is the current Poet in Residence at the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub (MCCCRH) and was an Artist in Residence for Assembly of the Future’s The Things We Did Next (2020). Amanda was also a recipient of a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship to work on a series of poems set in the year 2042. Amanda’s poetry has been featured in Best Australian Science Writing 2021 and 2022, as well as The Griffith Review, Australian Poetry Journal, Right Now and The Massachusetts Review. She is a two-time winner of the Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize and is the author of The Inheritors (2021). She holds a Bachelor of Professional Writing & Editing and Literature from Deakin University and is the curator of La Mama Poetica.

“Harnessing the creative power of the arts”

Deborah Hart (activist & writer)

Given that the Climate Emergency is a reflection of a deep cultural crisis, my interdisciplinary practice has long asked: what role can art play in effectively shifting culture? How can creative interventions hold powerful polluters and their enablers (politicians, financiers, media) responsible for the climate crisis to account while effectively mobilising communities to demand urgent, best available science based action? My extensive experience working at the intersection of art, science and civil society has convinced me that collaborative and determined creative climate action is the most effective way of imagining and designing plans for cleaner, fairer and sustainable futures. And it is the greatest antidote to despair.

Deborah Hart is an arts and culture focussed environment and social justice activist and writer based in Narrm (Melbourne). She is the author of Guarding Eden: Champions of Climate Action (2015), Chair of CLIMARTE (est. 2010), co-founder and director of ClimActs (producers of Climate Guardians, est. 2013), and founder and director of LIVE (est. 2006), one of Australia’s first local climate groups. Before becoming a full-time activist, Deborah spent 16 years working in development roles with leading Australian arts and culture organisations as funding pressures were forcing them to form alliances with extractive and exploitative industries.