Lake Ballard, silhouette of man against purple sky on sand

Artists have never been more important

A panel of renowned artists, curators, writers and commentators will address the claim that in this moment of planetary environmental crisis, artists have never been more important.

Scientists collect data and from it create information about the world, which is of great value to society, but not necessarily reflected in policymaking and political action. The failure of society to act on anthropogenic-driven climate change is the prime example.

This gap between information and action can be bridged by the humanities, in particular the arts. Artworks create links between field observations, such as climate records, through the visualizations of the effects of climate change up to artistic direct interventions in earth systems.

Artists are now coming together to work on climate change, to deploy research methods that inform art, while at the same time creating empathy for the planet place by place, species by species. These practices build the bridge from information to action – a cultural intervention without which we risk our own survival.

In this Sydney Ideas forum William L. Fox, Director of the Centre for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada, whose extensive practice as a curator, writer and commentator crosses the arts and sciences, will address the claim that in this moment of planetary environmental crisis, artists have never been more important.

This event was held at the University of Sydney on Tuesday 27 March 2018.


  • William (Bill) L. Fox is Director of the Center for Art and Environment at the Nevada of Museum of Art; a writer whose work is a sustained inquiry into how human cognition transforms land into landscape. He has published poems, articles, reviews, and essays in more than seventy magazines, has had fifteen collections of poetry published in three countries, and has written eleven nonfiction books about the relationships among art, cognition, and landscape.
  • Janet Laurence is a Sydney-based Australian artist who exhibits nationally and internationally. Her practice examines our physical, cultural and conflicting relationship to the natural world. She creates immersive environments that navigate the interconnections between organic elements and systems of nature. Her work is included in museum, university, corporate and private collections as well as within architectural and landscaped public places.
  • Ian Maxwell is a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts School of Drama, where he majored in Directing, Ian is now Chair of the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies. Subsequent to that training, he embarked upon academic work at the University of Sydney, where he completed his PhD, an ethnography of Hip Hop culture in the suburbs of Sydney in the 1990s in 1997. In 2008 he was awarded the Marlis Thiersch Prize for research excellence in an English-language article published anywhere in the world in the broad field of theatre and performance studies for his essay on Victor Turner.
  • Killian Quigley (chair) is a postdoctoral fellow at the Sydney Environment Institute. Killian’s dissertation research, which he conducted at Vanderbilt University’s Department of English and completed in 2016, attended to relations among literature, aesthetic theory, and natural history in eighteenth-century Britain, Ireland, and France. At SEI, he is elaborating part of that work into a book called Seascape and the Submarine: Aesthetics and the Eighteenth-Century Ocean.

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