LIFT Artist Melanie Philips reflects on the Imagine 2020 Summerlab in Rotterdam
12th August 2019
The Imagine 2020 network of European arts organisations run a continuing programme of international Summer Labs for artists. These labs are an opportunity to join other artists, scientists, economists, philosophers, policy makers and NGO representatives from across Europe to learn new approaches to how we can bring together art, activism and science to tackle climate change and engage in a dialogue on global transition.
This summer, LIFT invited the theatre-maker, artist and games designer Melanie Philips to attend the 2019 Lab in Rotterdam. This is how she found the experience:
Over 5 days at the end of June this summer, I was invited by LIFT to be resident at a nature reserve on Brienenoord island in Rotterdam. The five days brought together theatre makers and artists from across Europe to explore notions of routines and transitions with a particular focus on how routines might change in response to our changing climate. The residency was organised by the Imagine 2020 network, a collection of venues and festivals who develop, create and program artistic work responding to the climate crisis.
We lived on the island for the five days, in yurts with camp beds, gathering around fires we had built each night. We were encouraged to live new routines and transitions ourselves, changing the ways we were sleeping, eating, moving together.
The residency was split into two phases – a day of talks presenting five different perspectives on climate change and breakdown, followed by a day and a half of creating an artistic response. The five talks, by a behavioural scientist, an eco-modernist, an ecologist, an eco-philosopher and a climate activist, presented five very distinct perspectives. I was surprised by how little these different talks and perspectives spoke to one another; they were often presented as being in active competition. When we came to reflect on the talks the following day, this was definitely one of the key things that felt elevated – there were five ways of approaching and thinking of things differently, with each pulling n some way against the others.
We spent our final day working together to create a piece to respond to what we had heard and seen, in talks and in exploring the island. Our final piece, ‘I would rather be horizontal’ was a guided walk across the nature reserve, created collaboratively by all the artists. The piece featured poetry and performance, and a component of the walk involved some audience members being invited to close their eyes and be led by us and the other audience members around a small part of the island, able to hear and feel the space around them, but not able to see it.
The next morning we packed up, and travelled home – it feels too soon to know if my routines have changed yet, if a transition has happened. Time will tell.