New feels, new forms: art, play and ecological emotion

Join us for an evening of film, music, poetry and wordplay as we explore the complex emotional responses to climate change.

Framed as eco-anxiety, climate distress, or ecological grief, encounters with strong ecological emotions are becoming more common. While there is cause for dealing with some of these experiences in a clinical setting, and important work to do grappling with these emotions analytically, through interdisciplinary scholarship, these emotions are also begging for expression. This evening will explore the ways that art makes room for us to hear ourselves and each other in the spaces between words and ideas. Art helps us prise open parts of ourselves we did not know were closed.

Please join us for an evening of film, poetry, music and wordplay. Films by Rowena Potts, Ceridwen Dovey and Daz Chandler. Wordplay by James Dunk, Freya MacDonald, Christine McFetridge, Cameron Muir, Anastasia Murney, Lynda Ng, Kate Stevens, Jamie Wang and Toyah Webb. Poems by Frances Grimshaw. Multispecies drag performance by Laurie Form. Photography by Lena Schlegel.

This event is part of the Nature Feelz: Perspectives and reflections on ecological emotions symposium hosted by the Sydney Environment Institute in partnership with RMIT University's Urban Futures platform.

This event was held at The Royal Hotel Darlington on Tuesday 6 December 2022.


This video artwork created by Daz Chandler with original music for violin written and performed by composer and musician, Edwin Montgomery, travails a history of pivotal moments in the socio-political narrative of Climate Change. It takes this instance of "pandemic pause" to chronicle the decisions, and catastrophic events of the past that have shaped the future we currently face. Ranging from the early beginnings of industry; through to the nuclear blasts at Bikini Atoll in 1946; to the ecocide of US Military strategy in Vietnam, the largest industrial disaster of our time in India and even the recent Australian bushfires; these events are documented chronologically, and we encourage you to explore the full list as part of this exchange. The work is a confronting and illuminating experience, and uses these events of our past to pose a fundamental question we all face as we move - post pandemic - into an uncertain future.

Daz Chandler is an experienced producer and interdisciplinary storyteller, creating work that traverses live performance, radio, video, interactive platforms and emergent technologies. They are known for founding media and creative learning platforms in refugee camps in the occupied Palestinian Territories, making human rights advocacy films and producing large-scale experiences. They are currently steering their collaborative practice into immersive, experiential spaces using quantum mechanics and ‘parallel futuring’ frameworks. Daz is the creative instigator of The Parallel Effect – a project which was the 2019 recipient of the Graham F Smith Peace Award for excellence and innovation in rights-based storytelling.

How does climate change affect other beings with whom we share the planet? To better grasp the realities of the unfolding climate catastrophe for nonhumans in a more-than-human world, Lena Schlegel undertakes multispecies ethnography in bushfire-affected communities in Victoria and explores how people express their caring for animals and the environment. Lena experiments with photography as a method of what Anna Tsing calls the “arts of noticing”, to shed light on the more-than-human element of these caring relationships and their emotional depth.

Lena Schlegel is a Doctoral Candidate at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at Ludwigs-Maximilians-University Munich, researching human-nature relations and climate change. She is also a Visiting Fellow at the University of Melbourne (2021-22) whilst undertaking fieldwork into the effects of recent bushfires on human-nature relationships in Victoria. Her research interests are at the intersection of transformation research, social theory and environmental ethics, in particular New Materialist Theory and Environmental Care Ethics.

Frances Grimshaw has created a collection of poetry using the words of participants from her research into the climate emotions of local government adaptation professionals in the Barwon South West region of Victoria. These ‘research poems’ express how embodied life entangles with disembodied science, how agency shapes anxiety, or how personal privilege prevents despair.

Frances Grimshaw is a young geographer, poet and photographer living on Wurundjeri Country in Naarm (Melbourne). She is completing Honours at the University of Melbourne focusing on the emotional experiences and relationships with place of climate change adaptation professionals in Barwon South West, Victoria.

Attending to feeling is vital in environmental work, giving information about the world around us, our inner life and needs, and imbuing the strength and ability to act in ways we couldn’t otherwise. Noting that knowledge that cannot be easily worded are nonetheless vital ways of navigating the world well (Bateson 1987; Cixous 1997), multispecies drag performer, Laurie Form, offers a provocation that successful navigation requires working with something like delight. Considering what it might feel like to be a longfin eel, swimming from Aotearoa New Zealand to their deep-ocean spawning grounds near Tonga—traversing thousands of kilometres of not only water, but of land, swamp and built-up cities—Laurie will challenge listeners to consider the place of participatory experiments in delight—even amidst all this death (Rose 2012)—in our care for and as our environments.

Laura McLauchlan is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Drug Policy Modelling Program, Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. Laura’s area of speciality is how transformative change takes place, particularly with respect to environmental and interspecies care and connection. Laura investigates the ways in which we come to care for other species and lives, as well as the sociocultural and discursive inheritances that can block such connection.

What power do words have to shape worlds, and what words would we choose to give to the generations to come? In this short film lexicon, leading writers and scholars offer words they have picked up as gifts to children of today, the earthbound adults of a climate changed tomorrow.

Read by Aubrey and Ira Dunk. Shot by Lisa Grant. Film edited by Stephanie Dunk. Words edited by James Dunk. Words and definitions by environmental thinkers and writers from many places, including Glenn Albrecht, James Bradley, Danielle Celermajer, Sophie Chao, Rachel Douglas Jones, James Dunk, Andrew Errington, Andrea Gaynor, Billy Griffiths, Rohan Howitt, Jamie Lorimer, Ruth Morgan, and Emily O’Gorman.

Ira Dunk is six years old, and loves sword fighting, making music and reading out loud to people (poems, rules, and lists of ingredients).

Aubrey Dunk is nine years old, and enjoys climbing, lego, and exploring castles and dungeons with parties of intrepid adventurers.

Stephanie Dunk is a strategy manager in the not-for-profit sector and expert crafter. She has degrees in English Literature and Commerce.

James Dunk is a historian and writer, interested in words and emotions and the stories we tell each other.

Lisa Grant is a photographer based in the Kangaroo Valley.

Lexicons and glossaries organise language into structures, defining words and fixing the relations between them; they also gather communities, real and imagined, around their particular configurations of language. So as they draw connections between words they create connections between people. Philosophers, designers, curators, and historians, we noticed a spate of lexis written for the Anthropocene, as if people everywhere had forgotten the words that used to cleave to the world and were casting around for new words, or searching for old ones, seeking language to restory the past, mobilise the present, direct the future. In this performance, a weave of words, we will lead in a slowing towards a stillness, replete with loss, and then listen anew for the sounds and words of life and connection. Through our spoken choreography of words and silence, we will suggest paths of renewal that run through the silence of death and extinction to break into the untamed noise of life.

Jamie Dunk is a Research Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney and one of SEI’s Collaborative Fellows for 2022, working alongside Associate Professor Paul Rhodes on the project ‘Emotions, young people and climate distress’. He is an environmental and medical historian, interested in the role of the environment and more-than-human relations in mental health and psychology. 

Freya MacDonald is a Doctoral Fellow at SEI and a PhD candidate in the Department of English. Her research interest is in fictive representations of lived experiences of and emotional responses to the climate crisis in Australia.

Christine McFetridge is a photographer, researcher and writer represented by M.33, Melbourne, and a PhD candidate and sessional staff in the School of Art at RMIT University. In 2020, Christine co-founded Co- Publishing, an experimental publishing project, with Josephine Mead.

Cameron Muir is a writer and environmental historian. He is co-editor (with Kirsten Wehner and Jenny Newell) of the literary anthology, Living with the Anthropocene: Love Loss and Hope in the Face of Environmental Crisis (2020). He is currently a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Western Australia exploring “shadow places” in the Australian Anthropocene.

Anastasia Murney is a sessional academic at the University of New South Wales and currently teaches across contemporary art, activism, and environmental humanities. Her doctoral thesis on feminist speculative fiction is currently being translated into a book manuscript, titled Messy Aesthetics: Anarcha-feminist Worldmaking.

Lynda Ng is an Honorary Associate with the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sydney, and also an Adjunct Fellow with the Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University.  She is a postcolonial scholar who engages with ecocriticism frequently in her work on Aboriginal literature and literatures of the Global South.

Kate Stevens (Pākehā/settler) is senior lecturer in history at the University of Waikato, Aotearoa New Zealand. Her research focuses on connected and comparative histories of environmental, legal, and economic exchange in the Pacific world, including publications on whaling in southern Aotearoa, coconut oil commodities, and gendered processes of colonisation.

Jamie Wang is an interdisciplinary researcher, writer and poet. She is currently a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Literature and Cultural Studies at the Education University of Hong Kong and a research affiliate at the University of Sydney, and an editor of the journal Feminist Review. Her research is at the intersections of environmental humanities, cultural studies, urban imaginaries and more-than-human studies in the context of planetary urbanism, climate change and environmental injustice.

Toyah Webb is a PhD student in English at the University of Sydney, working on nonhuman subjectivity and the ways language bends around itself to represent the nonhuman. She has writing forthcoming in Canadian LiteratureAnimal Studies Journal, and here book Animals and Us will be published by Te Herenga Waka University Press.

Moonrise (2021, 11 minutes)

What might happen if we listen to the Moon as the agent of its own past and future? This experimental film by the Archival Futures Collective (Rowena Potts & Ceridwen Dovey) asks us to consider the Moon's point of view as it narrates its complex and ancient relationship with Earth.

Requiem (2022, 15 minutes)

It is New Year's Eve, 2030. The International Space Station has been a home for humans for decades, but it is the night before it will be deorbited. Parts of it will burn up in the atmosphere; the rest will fall into the ocean at Point Nemo, the spacecraft cemetery. This speculative documentary film by the Archival Futures Collective (Rowena Potts & Ceridwen Dovey) imagines what the final astronauts onboard the ISS might say in farewell to their spaceship. The film's sonnet cycle of lament is performed by real-life astronauts who have spent long periods in space.

Ceridwen Dovey and Rowena Potts are co-founders of the Archival Futures Collective. Their Archival Futures of Outer Space film quartet about emotions and ethics in outer space (MoonriseMuscaMemorabilia Requiem for the International Space Station) will be completed by the end of 2022.

Header image: Rapture by Paul Rhodes (IG: @morethanhumanart).


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