When designing the programme of an institution, planning spectacles, exhibitions, concerts, discussions and other cultural and artistic events you can take up important issues, present and spread awareness about problems, approach them critically and encourage the audience to reflect on them and engage in discussions. However, remember that greening of cultural institutions should not be limited to referring to the climate crisis during debates or meetings with your audience. It should also influence programming of institutions’ activities, the organisation of work, relationships between team members and with the audience and lead to revealing established but harmful patterns of culture which require change. Remember that an institution’s programme is not only about events but also the whole process of preparation, production, promotion and communication.
Give yourself some time for reflection. The design and planning stage is extremely important as it is then that we decide about many solutions that would shape the character of our initiatives. Think about how friendly to the environment, both natural and work environment, these initiatives are going to be. Look at the contexts that form the basis for the programme of greening cultural institutions: the surrounding overproduction, the concept of post-growth, the idea of a feminist cultural institution, and ‘care collectives’. The critical self-diagnosis made at this stage can help us remodel existing patterns and introduce alternative scenarios.
In the shadow of the coronavirus
The years 2020 and 2021, overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, have allowed us to practise minimalism – it is a kind of training which exposes the former everyday life and its weaknesses: consumerism, overproduction, hyperglobalism, inequalities and socio-economic exclusion. The old system will not go back on track easily – and it shouldn’t. Reforms and a major reset are much needed. Remember that it is up to you, at least partly, whether the lessons of the pandemic will catalyse deeper changes or whether it will exacerbate previous weaknesses.
> Read a report describing the situation of artists not employed by institutions during the pandemic: “Other culture is possible. Coronavirus and the future of culture in Poland”, source: Instrat and Biennale Warszawa
> Read the report Culture of the Future, describing the situation in culture caused by the COVID-19 pandemic based on the example of the Poznań cultural sector, source: Poznan.pl
> Read an article by Katarzyna Niedurny about the reactions of theatres to the pandemic: The pandemic was assumed to halt pathology in theatre. For now, all we have is a huge crisis, source: e-teatr
Running away from overproduction
Tons of materials are rarely reused or recycled. Set designs, exhibition architecture, props are often produced for a one-off event. This is a compulsive mode of having to produce more and more artifacts only to dispose of them soon after use (see: PRODUCTION: MATERIALS). Overproduction associated with the life of materials is only one aspect of this problem. Another one is the imperative of ‘being productive’, i.e. running numerous projects, one after the other, or, better still, all at the same time, to prove one’s usefulness, take care of visibility, keep or gain an audience, start the funding spiral, as the success of one production is an excellent argument in the process of applying for more funds. Deadlines, projects, grants – we have learned how to catch, patch up, rush around, often losing quality on the way, giving up a chance for deeper reflection on the activities carried out and foregoing fundamental assumptions due to insufficient time to include them. Another problem is creating ephemeral productions e.g. shows or performances which are presented to the public only once or twice, as there is no more room in the busy programme and competitiveness and ailing cooperation between cultural institutions do not allow the productions to be shown elsewhere.
Interestingly, not even the pandemic could halt the overproduction momentum. Searching for the lost contact with the viewers, the Internet, which turned from a communication platform into one for programming activities and then remained so for months, was first a space for presentations of archival digital content, only to give way to new more or less polished digital productions. Insofar as the pandemic overproduction could be viewed as springing from the anxiety over the uncertain economic future and solidarity with non-institutional creative freelancers who otherwise would be devoid of income for many months, overproduction as such is not a new challenge as it has been shaping the area of culture for decades now. It is therefore necessary to stop accounting for cultural activity according to market rules, i.e. productivity, competitiveness, visibility, prestige, quantity. These indicators must cease to be the drivers of cultural activity for the escape from overproduction to be possible. Culture requires calming down, slowing down and use of longer creative processes. It needs cooperation, rather than competition; sharing, rather than ownership barricades. Contrary to some concerns, this would not reduce the space for creativity, experiments, provocation or innovation – these activities are supported by a more mindful process that allows for extension of both critical discussion and of cooperation.
A successful escape from overproduction also creates hope for solving another problem affecting the cultural sector, i.e. the lack of work-life balance, over-exploitation (or self-exploitation) of employees and the resulting chronic tiredness or burnout.
> See more: EMPLOYEES
> Also read: Weronika Parfianowicz, Overproduction, source: Dialog
> As a relief from overproduction, check out Stach Szabłowski’s text on making art which does not exist: The event has been cancelled, or art in quarantine, source: Przekrój
According to theoreticians of post-growth, the temptation of overproduction is not so easy to overcome. This is because it is not only our approach to the volume of production that requires reformatting, but also the values on which we build our activities. The problem is that the discourse of growth and development has become generally accepted as ‘natural’ and unquestionable. Yet, infinite development on a finite planet is not possible; the resources are inherently limited. Increasing wellbeing does not therefore depend on increasing the production and consumption of goods, but on the sustainable management of resources. This would support the wellbeing of all living creatures, the entire environment, and the entire planet. The post-growth project, although it is based on the necessity to rethink human attitudes towards the environment and the climate, translates these reflections into social relationships as well. Looking for a way to share and manage resources more equitably, the post-growth project sees opportunities in cooperatives, local organisational structures and horizontal methods of knowledge production, which can serve as scenarios for building a better future together.
> Check out this artistic post-growth toolkit and listen to interesting interviews on the connections between post-growth and culture: Post Growth Toolkit, source: Postgrowth.art
> Check the post growth encyclopedia to find out more about its assumptions: The Postgrowth Encyclopedia, source: Postgrowth
> Familiarise yourself with the definition of ‘degrowth’, one of the proposals for the organisation of reality not based on economic growth. ‘Degrowth’ which can be also called ‘the policy of moderation’, focuses on environmental, economic and social justice: Degrowth
Feminism and care collectives
The idea of a feminist cultural institution was promoted in the Czech Republic and Slovakia by activists associated with the Tranzit gallery, and in 2019, during the Forum for the Future of Culture, it was introduced into Polish discourse by Agata Adamiecka-Sitek, Marta Keil and Igor Stokfiszewski, who simultaneously tested the possibility of its practical implementation in the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw. They understood feminisation as a critical reflection on the areas of power, work organisation and the forms of oppression anchored in the current model of culture. Referring to current cultural policies in Poland and the challenges that cultural institutions face today as defenders of democratic values, they pointed out that work towards these values can only take place when they constitute the actual basis for the functioning of institutions and when they also translate into internal work processes. According to the authors, such consistency could be achieved through feminisation of cultural institutions, i.e. departing from patriarchal patterns of dependence and hierarchy and directing them towards values that are traditionally regarded by societies as feminine, such as care, cooperation, and caring about the community. A cultural institution interpreted as a figure of an ambitious, assertive, steadfast hero gave way in this model to an institution being a platform for empathy and dialogue, providing care to weaker voices, creating a space for support and cooperation.
> Read a collection of texts by Agata Adamiecka-Sitek, Marta Keil and Igor Stokfiszewski on feminist cultural institutions, under the common slogan: Feminism! Not Fascism, source: Didaskalia
> See a code of practices Feminist (Art) Institution created as part of tranzit.cz in 2017, source: tranzit.cz
Greening of cultural institutions as a programme project
A green cultural institution is not one that simply takes up topics related to the climate and ecological crises during meetings with the public. It is an institution where ecological reflection rebuilds its structures and the way it functions. It is a place that speaks about ecology and acts in a pro-environmental way. Therefore, programming in a green cultural institution is carried out on several levels. The first one is about ensuring environmentally friendly solutions in the process of preparing and implementing programme activities – including reflection on the formats, materials used, resources, and their impact on the ecosystem. The second level is about being mindful of your own work environment, which includes transparency and energy efficiency of procedures, fair employment and remuneration, respect for team members regardless of their function, opposition to exploitation, systemic inequalities and competition, broadening of internal participation and collective discussion, strengthening inter-departmental cooperation and sharing knowledge and resources. It is also a place for cooperation with others, inclusion of external creators, non-institutional and institutional partners or activist movements in the programming as equals. The third level is about the quality and character of our meetings with the audience, which concerns caring about inclusivity, diagnosing and removing barriers, using accessible language, broadening space for cooperation, taking diversity into consideration and including less audible voices of marginalised groups or groups discriminated against. Only the next level is the sphere which is classically understood as ‘programme’: events, projects and activities directed outside and addressed to the audience. In green cultural institutions this level is strengthened by advocacy, i.e. promoting introduction of pro-environmental initiatives in the daily lives of our audience members. Programming in green cultural institutions entails much more than just ‘talking about it’. The quality of cooperative structures, relationships and background processes which precede meetings with the audience is equally important as the quality of a classically understood programme. At the same time, green cultural institutions are self-reflective, self-critical and transparent – they do not hide their weaknesses and imperfect practices which require change; they acknowledge them, reveal and reflect on them in order to seek common solutions together with the team and other actors of the cultural sphere thereby reducing their negative consequences for natural and work environments.
Remember that greening is not a process which will happen overnight, nor is it a goal which can be reached single-handedly. It requires long-term engagement of people and teams from every level of an organisation. Ultimately, this process should become an element of the overall policy of a cultural institution. In practice, however, it is often triggered by grassroots changes – individual initiatives and informal steps taken by groups of employees who are not indifferent to this aspect. Searching for new formulas for action and creating a new language of cultural practices hold special potential and a great challenge for culture. Even imperfect trials, however, are better than perpetuating the present unjust system. The greening of culture requires ‘doing culture’ radically differently than before.
Having taken care of the preparatory processes and ensured that our initiative was part of a wider greening programme, we are approaching the moment of meeting the public. Before that happens, however, familiarise yourself with the available data on environmental awareness. With this information in mind, try to refine the goals and directions of your initiatives. Activities aimed at the public may vary in nature and scale – from one-off educational workshops, series of meetings and discussions, to long-term participation projects or complex cross-border cooperation. They can also refer to many aspects – from the use of natural resources and simple methods of reducing resource consumption, through deeper cooperation with the local community and joint work for the benefit of local ecosystems, to speculative activities, stimulating the imagination and creating visions of tomorrow. Get to know the profile of your audience, which will allow you to indicate important programming directions and find the most appropriate language of dialogue.
Ecological awareness: research
According to the latest report ‘Ziemianie atakują’ [Earthlings Attack] from the end of 2020, which concerned the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on environmental challenges and attitudes of Poles towards them, as many as 78 percent of Poles believe that the condition of the planet is serious and requires action. However, the attitudes behind this positive statistical data are greatly varied. There are various opinions about the reasons for the current state of affairs, different levels of individual readiness for changes, as well as different views as to who should take action. Still, many residents believe that humans are not to blame for the current crisis and that “nature will cope on its own” and that it is “none of their business”. Although anxiety about the state of the environment is generally on the rise, this is not matched by education. Those who would like to take some action lack knowledge (the average mark from environmental knowledge quiz came to E+) and tools to act.
According to the report, environmental pollution by waste, including plastic, as well as water shortages and droughts are considered the greatest environmental challenges, while climate change, global warming, and the extinction of entire species of animals and plants are at the bottom of the list of major environmental challenges. This means that, as a society, we have trouble assessing the scale of challenges and that current issues which we experience the hard way obscure the essence of the problem. The ranking of readiness to make sacrifices for environment’s sake shows that Poles are open to giving up disposable items (straws, bags, plates) and that they would consider buying and throwing away less and significantly reducing household water consumption. They are definitely reluctant to limit meat consumption, severely limit the use of their own cars and get involved in environmental protection activities.
The results of the study also indicate that the enthusiasm for independent action and a sense of agency are still limited among Poles; they expect that problems should be solved mainly by leaders, decision-makers, politicians and leaders. It is the people with ‘influence’, they believe, that should first of all look for solutions and take care of our future. This is also the thesis of the report, which ends with a call: “It is YOU who have to do something! People, citizens and consumers are looking for change leaders. They turn their eyes to the authorities and big companies.”
The results of this study indicate several main directions which should be taken into account when programming pro-ecological or climate-crisis-related activities:
Knowledge. The need for education and knowledge is enormous, particularly among those interested in acting. Public discussions spend too much time focusing on people negating climate science. While negationists are definitely a minority, there is a large group of people who are aware of Earth’s crisis and are open for action but they remain passive as they do not know what else they could do than sort waste and give up single-use plastics. As many as 50 percent of those surveyed said: “I don’t know what to do about it, but something has to be done”. This presents a big potential worth building on.
A sense of agency. Another area which requires development is strengthening the sense of agency and co-responsibility. According to the research, for some people, nature-friendly choices are dictated by personal benefits and everyday pragmatics (because they are healthier, nicer, cheaper), rather than by the conviction of their importance on a larger scale. The sense of agency among Poles does not go beyond the personal sphere. There is also little faith in the possibility of exerting pressure on, for example, corporations through consumer choices or on systemic regulations through small-scale initiatives. “There is little I can do in these circumstances, I mean too little to have any influence,” replied 33 percent of respondents.
Also us. The need for strong leaders. Poles look up to leaders and decision-makers expecting them to solve a problem. Undoubtedly, the role of leaders is undeniable but do not forget that You / We have an influence as well. When asked “Who should take action to prevent ecological catastrophe?”, most respondents replied “You” (i.e. authorities, companies), but the answer “We”, i.e. “private individuals like you (us, the society)” was also popular (39 percent).
When working on a programme, keep the above findings in mind. They show that a large number of people will be willing to implement pro-ecological solutions once they have gained knowledge and tools. It can also be assumed that strengthening the sense of agency of people willing to act can help them go beyond individual practices and broaden the area of action, inspire them to make wider change. And instead of waiting for high-level leaders to finally agree on appropriate regulations, we can become leaders in our own local environment, accelerating the implementation of necessary changes.
> Read “Earthlings Attack” reports prepared by Kantar Polska, United Nations Global Compact Poland and an agency for green transformation Lata Dwudzieste.
Culture and the climate crisis: inspirator
The possible activities (events, programmes) aimed at the audience are endless and can take various forms. It is important that they are not suspended in a vacuum and that the organisers and creators have environmental practices ‘at the back of their minds’. In the case of educational activities, it is important to take into account the needs and profile of the audience and to use language well suited to specific groups. The following list presents a variety of threads and directions appearing in the programmes of cultural institutions and organisations, as well as in the initiatives of independent artists and creators in response to the climate and ecological crisis. It is neither an exhaustive nor a closed set of directions, treat it as a guide or inspiration for your activities.
Education. According to the ‘Earthlings Attack’ report, the level of pro-ecological declarations in our society is quite high. The problem appears at the level of theoretical knowledge (what this is about) and practical knowledge (what I can do about it). Both these spheres are visibly ailing and formal education fails to respond to this need. This is why including threads concerning the climate and ecological crisis in the permanent programmes of cultural institutions is so important. Education departments can do a lot in that respect: workshops, discussions, meetings, exhibitions, publications, internet projects. The events should be addressed to children and young people, as well as adults. These activities may also relate to various aspects – from the micro level: dealing with narrower topics and giving practical tips, e.g. in the field of recycling of materials, responsible purchasing or correct sorting of waste, to broader topics, showing the global consequences of human activity for the natural environment and deepening more specialist knowledge. It is worth remembering that external advocacy and communication of practices implemented within the organisation can also be an important platform for education and dissemination of knowledge. By referring to practical examples from your own field, you shape the awareness and attitudes of the audience. (see: COMMUNICATION AND PROMOTION)
Examples of various educational activities addressed to different age groups:
> Eco-game for children aged 5-10 > Ecoexperimentarium, source: Mamy Projekt
> Educational programme for your people connecting four Warsaw-based cultural institutions KULTOUR: Art and ecology, source: Museum of Modern Art
> Theatre plays for children and young people (and reflection of Justyna Czarnota on the ecology of their production), Greta, aliens and ecological balance, source: Teatr
> A special space dedicated to ecological activities for children, young people and adults: Centre for Ecological Education, source: The Royal Łazienki Museum
> Discussion cycles for adults, e.g. Climate readings, source: Czas Kultury
Self-education. The need for education also applies to cultural professionals. Internal training, discussions and sharing experiences connected with ecological solutions should be a permanent fixture. The interinstitutional and intersectoral knowledge transfer is also extremely important; the climate crisis provokes discussions between cultural institutions and organisations, activists and researchers. It is worth creating or joining community support platforms or grassroots alliances to share your experiences and view the experiences of others. This way, you will update your knowledge, find practical solutions to your own challenges, and gain new inspiration.
> Listen to a cycle of programmes ‘Conversations about ecology’ as part of Praktycy Kultury programme, source: Culture Zone Wrocław
> Read discussion transcripts from The First Climate Plateau of Contemporary Art, source: Galeria Propaganda
> Join an informal Facebook group Museums for climate aimed at exchanging knowledge and sharing inspirations concerning greening of cultural institutions
> See more: INSTITUTIONAL POLICY
New approach to materials. Many projects address the issue of waste, drawing attention to the problem of environmental pollution and the need to minimise the waste produced. Revealing the problem of waste in a creative way and its creative recovery is one direction of activity, the other being raising awareness about the process of obtaining materials and looking for ways to increase the longevity of existing resources and find a more creative approach to their functionality.
> Recycling as a subject of artistic residencies combining art and industry > Recycled Artist in Residency programme
> International cooperations for increasing creative approach to waste recycling, e.g. project involving the Poleski Art Centre Unnecessary – useful and aesthetic. Creative approach to recycling
> A platform encouraging people to creatively search for new functionalities and combinations of found materials to extend their life cycle: Re-connecting people with materials
> Creating set design from recycled materials is an increasingly popular trend in theatres. They are built not only from the resources of institutions, but also rubbish passed on by viewers (see, for example, set design for the ‘Anhelli’ opera at the Grand Theatre in Poznań or the collection of unnecessary appliances – electro-waste – as part of the ‘Everything Will Change’ performance in Poznań’s Scena Robocza).
> Get inspired: Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition ‘Sometimes the River is the Bridge’ (source: Olafur Eliasson & Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo) presents research on sustainable and biodegradable materials and recycling techniques carried out by his studio.
> See more: PRODUCTION: MATERIALS, ECO-ETHICS OF COOPERATION
Exercising post-growth. Practicing a policy of moderation provides an opportunity to create alternative economic models, repair human relations with nature and improve social relations. The direction for new thinking about social and planetary welfare is set, among others, by indigenous and local communities and their way of co-existing with the natural environment, in which the use of land, water and air is not subject to the primacy of consumption, but is based on cooperation and respect for the environment.
> Read about one of the first exhibitions about alternative economy presented at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw in 2014 > Slow Future, source: Szum
> Gdynia Design Days 2020 focused its attention on new design methods which are needed in the times of post-growth. Read the article Designing the future. Will (Polish) design save the world? source: Polish Design Now and the internet exhibition guide Gdynia Design Days
> The world of architecture also refers to the subject of post-growth. The 2019 Oslo Architecture Triennale was held under the slogan ENOUGH. Read the curatorial text Enough: The Architecture of Degrowth, source: Oslo Triennale and the essays accompanying the event: Overgrowth, source: e-flux
> Read about an exhibition combining the perspective of a Colombian artist Carolina Caycedo and Zofia Rydet’s ‘Sociological Record’, which raised the topic of caring for common resources such as water, air and land, an approach rooted in traditional communities. > Care Report, source: Art Museum in Łódź
Initiatives that are linked to global challenges, but are implemented locally, i.e. they relate to the quality of life and specific functioning in one’s immediate vicinity, can significantly contribute to increasing a sense of agency of the inhabitants of a given place. This is a great opportunity for cultural institutions, which have close contacts with local communities, are rooted in them and can act as social engagement centres. Look around and think about what we can offer our neighbours as institutions, how to strengthen common care for the environment, and how to support grassroots pro-ecological initiatives. Remember that building relationships with the environment takes time and it is better to start with modest activities (informal meetings, discussions, creating a platform for permanent contact) to develop them over time, broadening and deepening the levels of cooperation. Specific subsidy programmes (collecting rainwater, civic budget, etc.) may become a pretext to initiate joint activities. Also, make sure that residents are involved in building the programme of your institution, so that their voice is empowered and properly represented. This may be facilitated by regular public consultations, the establishment of a social council, a programme council or discussing the directions of activities with the local partnership. Combine the topics undertaken by the institution with local history, local value systems and local heritage. You can initiate a discussion about common challenges, seek solutions together, and thus influence the integration of the local community, which may be particularly important and challenging in atomised urban environments or areas affected by a generation gap and migration away from the region.
> See more: GOOD NEIGHBOURLINESS
> Use of/by/for all methods, helping organisations connect with their local communities, source: ofbyforall
> Read how Polish museums try to build relationships with their neighbourhoods > ‘Museum Think-Tank: Museums and Their Neighbourhoods‘ source: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Józef Piłsudski Museum in Sulejówek
> See how interdisciplinary teams of artists, scientists and rural communities can jointly design their environs based on local practices and intergenerational knowledge transfer: Co-designing for Resilience, source: CoDesRes
> Get inspired by the idea of combining the categories of locality and urbanity based on the programme Urban Ecologies, source: Art Museum in Łódź
Gardens. The cooperation of neighbours, cultural institutions or local authorities can create a real effect in the form of a friendlier environment, including community gardens. Many gardens currently operate at cultural institutions, such as the Powszechny Garden at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, the Common Garden at the Służew Cultural Centre in Warsaw, the Open Garden at the Górna Cultural Center in Łódź, and the Theatre Garden at the Zagłębie Theatre in Sosnowiec. The aim is to create a green space for meetings, talks, recreation, joint cultivation and use of goods, and at the same time getting to know your neighbours, exchanging experiences and mutual help. The meeting of a cultural institution with its neighbours around a joint activity is an important gesture from the perspective of strengthening the sense of agency – it tangibly confirms that together we can create an environment we desire. Activities of this type do not have to be based in a particular place, they can also take the form of intervention, such as the joint planting of trees or regular initiatives related to the joint discovery of the local ecosystem, such as local ecological paths, walks or nature workshops.
> Get acquainted with one of the many community gardens in Berlin, which aims to grow plants organically in the city and share the results with others > Prinzessinengarten (source: Visit Berlin) and a British example of a community garden which transformed from a Todmorden neighbourhood initiative into a global movement > Incredible Edible
> Read about a social garden in Warsaw Motyka i Słońce, source: Sztuka krajobrazu
> Find out about Porta Posnania’s project consisting of ecological educational path and discovering the local ecosystem: Porta open onto the river
Interspecies communities. Humans are not the only species residing on Earth. Therefore, when we talk about building a good community, we must not ignore flora and fauna. Our co-existence, which is customarily conceptualised as a binary opposition of culture and nature, is in fact a permanent form of cohabitation. Therefore, as pointed out by artists and activists, the relationship with other species, so far based on power and exploitation, requires transformation into a more equal and empathetic one, while the non-human perspective requires empowerment. This is connected with searching for new project possibilities, not focused solely on humans but taking the needs and rights of plants and animals into account as well. Some initiatives transfer the issue of a fair approach to nature onto a legislative level, fighting for amending the international law and recognising ‘ecocide’ as a prohibited act. Questions about whether such an extended community is possible and on what foundations an interspecies understanding should be built, brings together people and initiatives from many fields: artistic, activist, ethical, legal, scientific, design, and speculative.
> Read about selected artistic work of Cecylia Malik–opposition against mass tree felling and artivist actions in favour of protecting the last natural rivers of Europe > Polish Mothers on Tree Stumps source: smoglab; River Sisters
> Read an interview with Diana Lelonek by Marta Jeleń ‘People and their neighbours’, source: Polisemia and ‘Interspecies Manifesto‘, created by Diana Lelonek and Anna Siekierska, source: Obieg
> Find out about Forensic Architecture website and its Centre for Contemporary Nature, which deals with the relationship between breaking human rights and violence against nature. See an example of an exhibition dealing with the topic of ecological crime > Race and Forest, source: Biennale Warszawa
> Become acquainted with an example of an exhibition on non-anthropocentric design: Zeopolis: Design for plants and animals, source: BWA Wrocław and the lexicon of basic terms associated with this topic prepared by the curators of this exhibition Monika Rosińska and Agata Szydłowska: Design for plants and animals, source: NN6T
> Find out about ideas and examples on how to facilitate the transition from the industrial age to the ecological age by translating solutions functioning in the world of animals and plants into design that is good for humans: Biomimicry Institute, Ask Nature
Understanding and empathy. Programme activities are a space for exercising care, developing the ability to communicate without violence, also with people representing other views, and caring for the inclusive language of dialogue. Provide support to people who feel anxious and stressed about the scale of the climate crisis. Feeling overwhelmed and helpless can lead to climate grief, withdrawal and becoming passive in the face of the scale of the challenges. Participating in group initiatives which bring together people who see the threats, but also see the possibilities of preventing them and act for change can be helpful in counteracting such situations, i.e. the feeling of loneliness and lack of agency.
> Find out about initiatives connected with empathy development in the cultural sector such as Congress of Empathy, source: Art Museum in Łódź.
> Read about culture’s responsibility for language and about how words and definitions impact building respect and a sense of social representation: Words Matter: An Unfinished Guide to Word Choices in the Cultural Sector, source: Tropenmuseum.
> Get to know about Climate Support Group, source: CzujCzuj.
Activating your imagination. Culture has enormous potential to change thinking patterns, activate individual and collective imaginations, anticipate phenomena, experiment and test alternative scenarios of functioning together in the world. It is a space for bold utopias, speculative action, ‘impossible’ projects which, by boldly shifting the horizon of questions, may help in ‘shifting’ reality. First, we need to imagine a possible better world in order to be able to pursue it. As Naomi Klein asserts: “we must dare to dream big and out loud.” Even if the proposed utopia exists only in our imagination, pursuing it may turn out to be an effective generator of real events.
> Read Naomi Klein’s text Let’s Demand Utopia, source: Przekrój.
> Read Ida Ślęzak’s text about ecological imaginarium in the theatre: Nature is not decoration, source: Dialog.
> Find out about the speculative Museum for Future Fossils, based on the idea that plastics become a new fossil layer.
> Get to know the speculative project The Parliament of Things, which draws on the philosophy of Bruno Latoura to create a vision of a common parliament of humans, animals, plants and things.
> Reach out for the resources of the Apocalypse Reading Room – a collection of books relevant in the context of the environmental and social crisis, encouraging a discussion on fair future
At this stage, the programme of an ecological cultural institution – emphasising both the need to permanently include climate crisis themes in its activities and to implement internal changes – should become an element of the institution’s policy. This will elevate the importance of necessary pro-ecological changes, their constant links with social and economic challenges, and integrate us into joint activities with other organisations.
Cultural institutions occupy a place at the interface between the public, artists, scientists, suppliers and contractors, as well as business, authorities, and politics. Such numerous interconnections can be problematic in everyday practice. Occasionally, the necessity to listen to and reconcile different needs, perspectives and interests presents real challenges, as does the need to resist pressure. However, this complicated knot of connections of a cultural institution and its involvement in the politics of everyday life, gives us great potential in the case of the climate and ecological crisis. Being ‘in between’ is an extremely convenient position to implement pro-ecological activities on many levels and use various methods to shape the discourse, as well as influence the attitudes of others with your own attitudes.
It is also worth emphasising that striving to create a coherent ecological institution is an activist program – it is striving for a real change in the relationship with the environment and in social and economic relations. The ‘neutrality’ that cultural institutions so often hide behind is not the need of tomorrow. The climate and environmental crisis requires disclosure of the problem, mapping it, learning and implementing institutional policies so that grassroots micro-activities are supported by larger strategies and efforts, and create a broad movement for global change.