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Participatory Session: Climate Change in Me

Creative writing workshop

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Climate Change in Me
Creative writing workshop

In the words of author Margaret Atwood, climate change is “everything change” – it transforms not only weather and ecosystems, but cultures and societies as well. The means of making sense of cultural transformation, and making it happen, vary from historical analysis to political action and beyond. The main modes of climate change discourse are rational, practically aimed debate on the one hand and doomsday prophecies on the other. What is sorely lacking is a discourse of imaginative, constructive future-making that presents hopeful yet politically and ethically grounded visions. We propose that practices of creative writing can cultivate such a discourse.
We cannot experience climate change directly through our bodies. However, we can experience weather events and other environmental changes, and we participate in the societal and cultural transformation in embodied ways. Climate change connects and separates people: even as a global phenomenon, it is experienced in multiple ways depending on the particularities of local climates and personal backgrounds. Our understanding and experience of climate change is also shaped by the narratives created in the partly overlapping domains of science, art, fiction, and media. Narratives do not only give us representations of the world, but evoke emotions and collective moods, and scaffold our bodily experience. The estranging strategies of ecological science fiction, such as the work of Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. Le Guin, or Jeff VanderMeer, are particularly interesting in the ways they can help readers reconfigure their perception of lived environments, and clear out space for creative thinking.

In this participatory session, we present our practices for thinking with climate change and guide the participants into creative writing exercises. The exercises are carried out both indoors and outdoors, in interaction with the Malmö Folkets Park and the local weather. Our approach is informed by the posthuman feminist phenomenology of Astrida Neimanis (2017) and the creative writing practice of Active Hope (Macy & Johnstone 2012). By intentionally engaging with the bodily feelings and emotions stemming from ecological crises, and articulating them through writing, we can clear out space for action. We provide the participants with examples of our own engagements with writing and reading in posthumanist modes. The aim of the workshop is to guide the participants into acknowledging their bodily feelings and emotions relating to climate change, and cultivating a sense of more-than-human embodiment. A list of further reading in ecological science fiction will also be provided.

The workshop is open to academics, artists and activists alike. The workshop is designed for max. 20 participants. The total duration of the workshop is 2 hours.

Bio: Henna Laininen is a visual artist, writer and doctoral student in the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki. She specializes in creative writing and environmental questions. Her artistic research project Guide to Experimental Life – Communal Creative Writing as an Answer to the Environmental Crises (2017–) investigates the influence of climate change on the experience of an individual. Her research question is how to support the process of learning a sustainable lifestyle by the means of communal creative writing in the context of contemporary art. Lately she has been practicing writing with plants and weather to deepen her understanding of the non-human. Laininen often works with researchers and artists from other disciplines to compose polyphonic stories. In The Human Story video installation (2015), experts from different fields tell the story of the human race around a campfire. In The Future Village project (2011), she constructed an ecological village scene together with researchers, artists and activists in the central square of the city of Tampere. Laininen also teaches courses in creative writing, including ecological science fiction. She currently lives and works in Helsinki.

Bio: Kaisa Kortekallio is currently finalizing a doctoral dissertation in the field of literary research. The dissertation, Mutant Perspectives. Enactivist and Posthumanist Readings of Contemporary Ecological Science Fiction, explores the potential of ecological science fiction in cultivating ecological modes of experience. Kortekallio develops an ecological and enactive approach to fiction, asking how embodied engagement with estranging narratives reorients one’s environmental attunement. With this work, she hopes to contribute to the development of "ecology after Nature". Kortekallio teaches courses on contemporary speculative fiction and acts as board member for The Finnish Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy Research (FINFAR). She is also a subeditor for the Finnish periodical for ecological culture, Elonkehä. She currently lives and works in Helsinki.

Practical notes (not to be published, for organizers only):

The preferred venue of the workshop is a calm space within short distance of the Folkets Park.

Structure of workshop:

Introductions (10 mins)
Orientation by instructors (20 mins)
Warm-up exercise: Weather and Mood (15 mins)
Main exercise (outdoors, individually): Feeling the Climate (45 min)
Group discussion and feedback (30 mins)


Day: 2018-08-24
Start time: 16:00
Duration: 02:00
Room: ABF205
Track: Art for Degrowth



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