Between Two Waves

Sydney’s Griffin Theatre Company recently launched their 2012 season programme, announcing that this time next year, it will present Between Two Waves, “a relationship drama against a climate change backdrop”.  The play, which will open in November 2012, is one of a small few performing arts productions to engage with the real life issues of the nature of our modern day environment in an artistic capacity. This contrasts with the visual arts, in which the exploration of the issue of how to approach our increasingly fragile environment is being rigorously and widely interrogated globally—an exploration to which this blog, the exhibition Try This At Home and the five-year Curating Cities project are contributing.

Alex Bellemore from approached Griffin Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Sam Strong, to ask him to contribute his thoughts on the performing arts and sustainability and Between Two Waves. This is what he had to say …

On the performing arts and sustainability:

We had a fascinating moment at the Australian Theatre Forum that was a discussion about sustainability and what theatre companies are doing about sustainability. There are a lot of concrete things going on and obviously STC [the Sydney Theatre Company] has led the charge in that regard—the recycling of sets, less paper in the office… but what was also fascinating about what came up at the session was, well, are we making art about this? And the usual conversations that go on that said we don’t want to make art about issues, sometimes art that is about issues is less effective or didactic, or get buried in the research or the science.

We are endeavouring to make work which is more urgent and responsive to our immediate environment, and the great thing about the performing arts is that we can do that fairly quickly, we can respond quicker than film can for example. We think it’s important for us to be immediate and responsive to the world around us and to reflect that present world back to us as well as the recent past.

On Between Two Waves:

I think what’s fascinating about what Ian Meadows [the writer of Between Two Waves] has done in Between Two Waves is his entry point into the climate change question—it is emotional and imaginative. Yes, it confronts all of the science, and it confronts what is the biggest issue of our time, he does that, but he does it in a way that is about one character’s quite personal struggle.

Ian has created a main character who is a climatologist, who has specialist knowledge of where the world is headed, the anxiety that that creates is sharpened in that his personal life evolves over the course of the piece, which is the relationship side of it [the play] and his partner falls pregnant, so they are confronting that very personal take on that climate change question: how do you bring a child in to a world which you know is fucked? There is also the imaginative side of it as well, what was originally a film script that Ian wrote, that was in development, had these wonderful visual moments,  of what I suppose were nightmare sequence of  a kind of environmental dystopia. Ian faced the fascinating but challenging task of bringing those into the theatre and he has found a great, formal solution for that so that there is some wonderful, imaginative takes on climate change that exist in this piece.

Between Two Waves

5 October—17 November 2012

SBW Stables Theatre
10 Nimrod Street
Kings Cross NSW 2011


Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

By Saskia Beudel

Natural Fuse by Haque: Design + Research asks viewers to weigh their responsibility for life-forms not immediately within reach or within sight, testing the adage out of sight out of mind.

A few weeks ago I planted tomato seeds in a shallow tray of soil. A gardening article in the local paper advised now was the time to get tomatoes going indoors if they’re to fruit before Christmas. I planted two types, Brandywine and Red Cherry, and within a couple of

Haque: Design + Research, Natural Fuse, 2008-

weeks several healthy seedlings had established themselves. I brought them inside on cold nights, placed them outdoors in full sun each morning. I live in Canberra where regular frosts are lethal to young tomato plants. If the wind was too strong and dehydrating during the day I brought the seedlings indoors to safer climes. In a couple more weeks they were getting too big for the tray. But somehow I lost momentum. I kept looking at the thriving seedlings, imagining their roots spreading horizontally rather than deeply, tangling with one another, but kept putting off the day when I would transplant them. I found some pots to separate them into, cleaned them out. The pots stood empty for another couple of weeks. After having eagerly waited for the first green tips to emerge, followed by careful administration of moisture, temperature and sunlight, my responsibility for the young tomato plants had reached a stasis. I can think of several ordinary reasons for this: work, visitors from interstate, routines disrupted by school holidays, procrastination, distraction.

Fresh home-grown tomatoes ripe before Christmas are a nice idea. The reason I tell this small story is to illustrate how easy it is to lag, lose enthusiasm, not make the effort, even when you’re keen about making an idea happen that involves what Donna Haraway calls ‘the myriad of entangled, coshaping species of the earth’.[i] How much easier it is to let something die or fail to thrive when there’s a lag between your actions and their consequences. Or when you can remain anonymous in your choices. Or when choices involve not individual species close to human needs and desires (edible or decorative plants, pets, ‘cute’ threatened species), but whole ecological systems.

In the end I did transplant the seedlings, stirred into action, in fact, by beginning this blog and thinking about Natural Fuse’s networked planter boxes that invite their minders to risk killing another set of plants, out of sight, but not necessarily out of mind. I’m not sure many participants would dare risk the lethal dose of vinegar to their co-participants’ plants under the gaze of their imagined audience?

In a way I had no choice but to aid my tomatoes. They were right there in front of me, sharing my house and garden. (Apart from anything else, what would my six-year-old daughter who helped plant the seeds have said if I’d let them die? She’s another kind of imagined audience …)

I’ve been thinking about proximity—of what’s tangible—in relation to water too. Landscape ecologist Richard Forman notes that ‘a huge city population depends fundamentally and daily on resources that are out of sight, out of the city’.[ii] As a newly regular visitor to Sydney I’ve begun wandering some of Sydney’s waterways to get a sense of the water catchments that comprise City of Sydney’s topography. And to start thinking about those other invisible and distant catchments that supply the city’s water. But more on that another time.

Saskia Beudel will be contributing to throughout the duration of the blog’s life; Sakia is the author of numerous essays and the novel Borrowed Eyes (Picador, 2002). Read more about Saskia HERE.

[i] Haraway, Donna, When Species Meet, 2007, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, p. 5

[ii] Forman, Richard, Urban Regions: Ecology and Planning Beyond the City,2008, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. xvii