‘Climate Refugees’ come to Durham
Warm weather, recycling and oil are three of the many things that come to mind when we think of climate change, but how about migration? Top researchers say its likely to be the largest human consequence of climate change, and it’s now bringing together an unlikely set of partnerships in Durham. International artists, researchers, communities and local activists are combining forces using art to push climate change up the agenda in a groundbreaking exhibition titled Footprint Modulation, which takes place in multiple venues across Durham City from Friday 5 June.
Artworks include a photo-documentary series titled ‘Climate Refugees’ by renowned award-winning Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam, who is exhibiting for the first time in the North East. Platform, the leading UK-based arts and activism organisation, are both exhibiting and performing. Other artists from across the world including New York, Zimbabwe and Iran are represented, giving the exhibition a truly international vision. Climate change, which is often seen in purely environmental terms, is given a human face by artists from diverse backgrounds who provoke us to connect with human realities in other countries, in particular the growing impact that climate change will have by forcing us to abandon our homes and migrate.
Taking place in Durham City from 5th June – 5th July, with a preview evening on Thursday 4th June 6 – 8pm at Durham Art Gallery, the exhibition is spread across five contrasting venues including Durham’s Oriental Museum, the Empty Shop artists’ studios, Durham University and the magnificent Durham Miners’ Hall.
As part of the month-long exhibition, from Saturday 27- Monday 29th June a series of talks, activities and screenings will highlight the topics of climate change and human migration. Events include a performance night hosted by London based artist-activists Platform and local activists Transition Durham on Sunday 28th June 7 – 11pm at Empty Shop HQ. At this event, alongside their section of the exhibition, Platform use film and performance to mark the 20th anniversary of the execution of environmental Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and highlight the corruption in global oil. During the evening while Transition Durham will premier their divestment film, which forms part of their campaign demanding that Durham University divests away from fossil fuel companies. They hope that Durham will follow in the inspiring footsteps of Glasgow University who have already set a precedent.
Other events include a debate at Durham Miners’ Hall around the thorny areas of workers’ rights, fossil fuels and the miners involving writer, ex-miner and trade unionist Dave Douglass who previously collaborated with Turner prize artist Jeremy Deller. The exhibition at the Miners’ Hall will also give visitors a rare opportunity to see historic paintings and murals permanently housed there, as well as its little-changed nineteenth century council chamber. Referring to the exhibition Dave Hopper, the General Secretary of Durham Miners’ Association, said, “We want to be able to reflect our concerns with pressing humanitarian issues and conflicts of our time across the world, and the exhibition is a part of that.”
The exhibition culminates in an international conference hosted by Durham University on climate-induced migration, titled ‘Human Migration and the Environment: Futures, Politics, Invention’. This concludes four years of cutting edge workshops by leading researchers across Europe and also sets the theme for the exhibition. The chair of the conference Dr Andrew Baldwin said: “When people think of climate change they don’t make any connections with migration, yet migration is probably the biggest human consequence in a truly devastating way for people who are forced to leave their homes and livelihoods. Getting it on the agenda is way overdue, and this art exhibition is a great way to do that.” A discussion about new approaches to art, research and activism at Durham Art Gallery will include researcher Andrew Telford of Durham University adding perspectives on how climate change is likely to affect Durham county and city itself.
The exhibition brings together a range of partners and participants and this integration of local grassroots involvement alongside art, research and activism at multiple levels is essential for Footprint Modulation artistic director Kooj Chuhan and his company Metaceptive.
Kooj Chuhan said: “It’s amazing to be showing thought-provoking work by international artists, but more than that the exhibition connects people with the art, the research and the subject of climate change and migration in an active way. People can get involved with worldwide issues right here in the Durham locality.
It is hoped that local involvement will leave a lasting legacy, encouraging more work – like that on show at Footprint Modulation – to be possible from the relationships formed and the experience and skills gained.
For more information, images or interview requests, please contact:
Dr Charlotte Lee, PR support for Footprint Modulation
email c.e.lee[at]durham.ac.uk or use the Contact page
FOOTPRINT MODULATION: GALLERY OF IMAGES AVAILABLE FOR PRESS USE
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