Women and Climate Change: Invisible Dust at the British Science Festival
Layla Hendow, one of the Invisible Dust Young Curators presented a talk on Women and the Climate Change Revolution at the 2018 British Science Festival in Hull with her fellow Young Curator, Natalie Lee. Layla shares her experience:
When I found out that Hull and the Humber was hosting the 2018 British Science Festival, I couldn’t wait to start planning the events I would go to – I never dreamt that I would be given the opportunity to speak at the festival, let alone host an event through Invisible Dust! The title of our talk was “Women and the Climate Change Revolution”, taken from the “Under Her Eye” event that Natalie and I had been part of with Invisible Dust. I was excited to talk to the public about the summit as well as our experience as Young Curators.
The talk was held at the Ropewalk in Barton, sandwiched between UV yoga and a glassblowing workshop (which goes to show the diverse activities that the British Science Festival offered!). Despite neither glassblowing nor getting painted up for yoga, being in the Ropewalk alone was fascinating! A tunnel-like building, it serves as both a museum for the ropery and a contemporary art and craft space: combining industry and art perfectly.
We began our talk by asking the audience: “when you think about climate change – what do you see?”. We wanted to find out what associations the audience had with climate change. Our notion was that people normally have very similar views on climate change because we are given a very one-angled story of climate change through the media and through science. So when we asked people, what images do you see? What images? Colours? Emotions? Animals? People unsurprisingly came up with words such as “loss”, “sadness”, “black”, “dirt”, “fog” “devastation” among others. Our talk, by contrast, was all about how art can offer a different form of communication when it comes to climate change. From the time we have spent with Invisible Dust at Under Her Eye, one incredibly important conversation concerned the way in which art and storytelling can communicate the issues of climate change in a unique way as well as offering interesting ways for us address the problem of climate change.
As well as this, a crucial driving force of “Under Her Eye” was exploring why it is so important to give women a voice in this conversation. We discussed two reasons for this, based on information from the UNFCCC. Firstly, there is a disproportionate amount of women living in poverty, and it is these women who are hit the hardest by the consequences of climate change including flooding, for many reasons, the most obvious of those being that the majority of these women cannot swim. Secondly, as well as being affected by climate change, women are drastically underrepresented when it comes to the decision making and policy on the environment due to long-standing models of power, especially in the global south. These reasons outline how important it is for women to be given a seat at the table for climate change conversations.
After getting out audience up to speed on the “Under Her Eye” events, we took two examples of the ways in which female artists are engaging with climate change in very different ways. I spoke about Tania Kovats’ artwork, Bleached, while Natalie discussed The Human Sensor LDN by Kasia Molga.
The talk gave us a unique opportunity to engage with the public about art, science and gender, although it was difficult to do all three in just one hour. One person gave feedback that they “wanted more about the art/science link” while another said it was a shame the “women’s issues” were somewhat “lost”. Otherwise, it was also an incredibly useful chance for us to get some initial feedback and reactions on the “Many Hands” project that we will working on in the next few months.
We showcased some of the raw pledges and photographs that will be used in the “Many Hands” zine. After the talk, we gave people the opportunity to take part and give pledges of their own, and we were thrilled that there were several responses, my favourite being: “[I pledge to] to forego the plastic straw in my gin and tonic”.
Overall, it was brilliant being given the chance to speak at such a well established festival, an experience I will take with me in my next venture with Invisible Dust.