Each of us, sometime and somewhere in our lives, has been profoundly moved by a piece of art, a song perhaps, or a poem, a book, a painting, or a film. The experience becomes absorbed into our psyche. It enriches us and helps to form who we are and the societies we construct.
With this notion Cape Farewell has, since 2001, been collaborating with the world’s leading climate scientists and our most influential artists to instigate a cultural response to climate change.
The Carbon 14: Climate is Culture festival is a world first. The culmination of two years of work by the Toronto based Cape Farewell Foundation team and the artists, performers, and cultural producers who, with their creativity and commitment, have made this vision a reality.
Our collective aim is to challenge, provoke, and inspire audiences to think and feel differently about our relationships with each other and with the natural systems we inhabit. This project is about our hearts and minds, our values, and our lives. It’s also about our future and the legacy we are handing to our children.
The great Canadian Marshall McLuhan wrote: “I think of art, at its most significant, as a DEW line, a Distant Early Warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.” Our de-stabilized weather ‘events’ are what the climate scientists have been predicting for decades. It is becoming obvious that we humans need to take this situation seriously and reconsider the lives and habitats we are making. This is a complex challenge that demands creativity and optimism. Who better to engage this challenge than well-informed artists and creators?
In 2011, on the banks of Lake Ontario, twenty-five artists gathered from Canada, the USA and Mexico to interrogate eight ‘informers’ drawn from across the professional spectrum of climate engagement: scientists, politicians, new energy technologists, economists, and social scientists. The artists were asked to develop ideas and artworks—through a process of action-based research—that would form the basis of an exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and surrounding festival. Cape Farewell embraced this ambition and we now have a four-month festival that’s filled with powerful work across the disciplines.
The Carbon 14: Climate is Culture exhibition at the ROM is at the core of this creative activity showcasing brilliant works by artists. Some of them live in the Arctic, at the front line of our changing climate. Alongside these works are others from Mexico, the USA, and from across Canada.
In addition to the Carbon 14: Climate is Culture exhibition we have developed with our partners a rich series of public programs, satellite projects and events that are set to unfold throughout our four-month exhibition run. These include:
The Trial of David Suzuki, a powerful live theatre and public engagement project to be held at the ROM; a performance series produced in partnership with Toronto’s The Theatre Centre; public screen-based art projects in partnership with Pattison Onestop as part of their Art in Transit program; a satellite exhibition and related programming focused on water at THEMUSEUM in Kitchener, Ontario; and public lectures, talks and discussions.
The Carbon 14: Climate is Culture exhibition and festival is a celebration of partnerships in Toronto and across Canada addressing what is probably the most challenging issue of our times.
Cape Farewell owes deep thanks to the Royal Ontario Museum staff who have embraced the exhibition with dedicated enthusiasm, and to all the great artists and informers. I would like to thank Claire Sykes, co-curator of this exhibition, and the festival’s program director; Katherine Bruce, our Development Director, and Rachel Spence, our Corporate Secretary, for all their hard work and commitment. I would also like to thank our funding partners and individual donors, along with the Cape Farewell Foundation Board, chaired with strength by David Miller.
We need you, our public, to make this exhibition and festival come alive. The artworks are about ideas, values and emotions. They question how we are formed and what we could be. We encourage you to get involved, participate in our dialogues, and follow our events and activities on social media. Be inspired and create your own engagement.
Founder and International Director, Cape Farewell