I have conceived this project as an emergent work, like the rhizomes of a dandelion patch, growing and alive and thick with intersecting ideas, shared strength, and wild deviations. Livable Futures is about responding to planetary conditions of crisis and uncertainty with creativity, courage and love.
This is an offering, a living biome of ideas and practices that inspire and activate me even as I face the fear, the powerlessness, the pain. It is a dance of arriving, turning toward, decentering and falling into motion.
I turn toward climate change and planetary conditions of uncertainty and injustice and call in many collaborators including you, to create transformative spaces for reflection, connection, and change; this time as an accessible series of thoughts, images, gatherings, and improvisations offered online here and in your inbox.
In 2021 the project will include four audio walks, a treasure trove of interviews and opportunities for live immersion and interaction. Institutions recognizing the importance of collective, creative action have come together to support and share the project with their audiences, starting with the Barnard College, DanceHouse Melbourne, and the Wexner Center for the Arts in 2020.
The work will remain digitally accessible through Earth Day 2021.
About the Network
LivableFutures.art is an iterative offshoot of the Livable Futures Network that I co-founded in 2018. An ever-shifting community of artists, scholars and activists, members of the LF Network share resources and foster creative solutions to survival under planetary conditions of unpredictability and crisis. LF Network projects are collaborative, inclusive and socially responsive. Since its inception during the Collaboration for Humane Technologies in 2016, the LF Network has funded hundreds of artists, scholars and activists inventing creative solutions and deep engagement with the world as it is and as it can be. Their practices and projects are available online via the LF Network Idea Archive.
Acknowledgements and Project History:
There are many co-creators, collaborators, co-founders, and generous contributors in this growing network and each of us could probably locate a different beginning to the Network and our allied projects within it. The ideas would not have evolved in the way they did so far without Rick Livingston, Peter Chan, Ben McCorkle, Michelle Wibbelsman, Jenny Suchland, Tommy Davis, Mary Thomas, Laura Rodriguez, Awilda Rodriguez Lora, Andre M. Zachery and so many others.
For me, Livable Futures began somewhere in 2015 when I decided to return to performance after years of mostly creating digital works. At the time, I knew I needed to make a change. I was turning away from my fears and in so doing, was turning away my responsibilities. I knew somehow that I had to turn toward planetary conditions of crisis and overwhelming forces of inequity, violence, racism, homophobia, and misogyny instead of giving-in to feelings of powerlessness and despair. I needed to pay attention to climate change instead of just focusing on the more positive environmental practices of composting, land conservation, saving the whales, organic farming…A new Ebola epidemic in Africa was keeping me awake at night, the U.S. presidential race was filled with hatred, and I realized that in turning away from climate change I was essentially a climate denier. At the same time, the more I experienced turning toward instead of away, I knew I needed to face into the painful realities of racism and anti-blackness more courageously. I was involved in intercultural work, diversity and inclusion in teaching and hiring and mentoring, supporting Black-owned businesses…But again, these are the easier aspects of anti-racist work. In avoiding really seeing police brutality and state violence against Black people and the toxic pervasiveness of systemic racism, I was resting in white silence and perhaps worse, white exceptionalism.
I began to move into action by heeding the call in my heart to “be a better ancestor” (I am indebted to Layla Saad’s generous work on dismantling white supremacy for this beautiful turn of phrase). And as my friends in punk and sustainable arts have taught me, I started with the materials at hand. My mother says “you already know everything you need to know.” Trusting their guidance, I began by taking my what I know as a dancer and choreographer and educator and just assuming it could apply to climate justice. With 12 amazing young people, I created Let’s Make Climate Change for a faculty concert and entered into a dialog with hundreds of students and parents about the urgency of the issue. Perhaps the greatest success of that modest beginning was the lesson I learned about how surprise can be a powerful catalyst. The novelty of encountering climate change and youthful frustration with adult inaction at a dance concert made for a greater impact. I made other projects, an intermedia performance with dancers and audiences working together virtually to move and engage with headlines of pandemics and extreme events, an abstract requiem for animal kin, and many, many improvisations in sound and motion, collages and fantasy maps and resilience videos. I did what we all can do. I decided to use what I know as a mother, artist, friend, teacher. I asked myself, what do I know how to do and how can it make real and lasting change?
And I started to build a community to support and inform and expand the work. I called a group together to prototype notions of livability that would include technology and center social justice and the wellbeing for our bodies, our families, our communities, our planet. The university where I work supported our efforts through an initiative to address the “grand challenges” and seemingly insurmountable problems of our time. I called this early project the Collaboration for Humane Technologies and described it as “a network of artists, scholars and researchers exploring the interplay between physical and virtual experience and seeking to intervene directly in creating better futures. We are an interdisciplinary community. We embrace collaboration, nuance and complexity. We make games, virtual reality experiences, interactive installations, animations, data visualizations, objects, live performances and whatever else we need to invent given the problem or need we are tackling.” As part of that project I hosted a series of Creative Sandboxes and Pop-up Events to build relationships and tackle sticky problems in an atmosphere of discovery and play. It was in one of these events and a discussion of the problems with sustainable design (more about that here) that livable futures emerged. We wrote this call for projects and participation in 2016 and I see in it, the inception of so much of what we have done since:
Livable Futures Pop-Up Event 2017
We will use new and existing technologies to promote an inclusive ethics of livability, to spark creativity and curiosity and develop tolerance for complexity.
What do we mean by Livability?
Livability encompasses social justice and ecological ethics, it invites critically rethinking who survives and who gets to thrive in our communities including all biological and artificial life now and in the future. At the heart of our creative action is the conviction that in order to think (and make) livable futures we need to question such categories as: the human. We will critically reframe technological progress in favor of a posthumanism that is neither anti-human nor solely about sustaining human life as we currently know it.
Scholar Katherine Hayles critiques the fact that many visions of the future “point to the anti-human and the apocalyptic” and calls us to action showing that: “we can craft other visions that will be conducive to the long-range survival of humans and of the other life-forms, biological and artificial, with whom we share the planet and ourselves.”
Activist Frances Moore Lappe calls us to create solution stories: “Facing unprecedented challenges, we can choose to remain open to possibility and creativity—not mired in despair. Surely, the latter is a luxury that none can afford. We can create and enthusiastically share a solutions story today, every day. It is a revolutionary act.”WHAT ARE YOUR CREATIVE ACTIONS FOR BETTER FUTURES?
And it continued to emerge from there. I use that word, emerge a lot. I have long followed philosophies of emergence and complexity theory in the sciences and have an interest in processes that support creation. But it was adrienne maree brown’s 2017 text Emergent Strategy that gave me deep confidence in the importance of iteration and intricate structures and nuance and the embeddedness of all we do in our bodies and the rest of the natural world. We received further support for the LF Network in 2018 and again used it fund an amazing array of collaborations. Like dandelion rhizomes, Livable Futures has grown into a thick network of decentralized, allied practices and projects.
This iteration of Livable Futures is an act of appreciation and an offering. It is a way for me to understand and share lessons learned and sift through the rich soil to find the gems and be more generous about sharing them. From our archives, I synthesize an array of creative practices that can be applied to living in uncertain times. And with collaborators I continue to create new resources for radical tenderness and wellbeing: movement gatherings, workshops, practices and opportunities to connect. I am creating and will share audio walks, a series of interviews, and performance rituals as well as video and sonic incantations and recitations for arriving in the moment, turning toward what is and re-centering/decentering for intentional change. I am intensely interested in what it means to be-prepared for extreme events including experiences like this global pandemic. What is resilience and how do we radically interrupt differential conditions of vulnerability? What if emergency preparedness connected us instead of the survivalist mindset of fear and scarcity. I’m interested in confronting planetary crisis and systemic injustice with what I know how to do best, creative, collaborative projects built in diverse community.
In all of this and everything I do, I draw on study and practice of anti-racist and queer feminist creative facilitation, posthuman and ecological awareness, humane technology and data humanism, and the joy of movement and being alive in our bodies. For almost twenty years I’ve done this within my classes and communities in academia and in public lectures and exhibitions in arts contexts. In 2021, I’m inspired to share these ideas and practices in newly accessible ways and build an even bigger and more vibrant community on the planet. Let’s feel into action together!