It’s been over a week since the first prototyping workshop at Toynbee Studios on 20th July. I promised to write a blogpost but the session was so rich with ideas and questions, thanks to the expertise and creativity of the participants, I’ve spent the week cogitating (and working on other projects). Here are a few of the cogitations it stirred:
- What comes first? Forming an organisation with clear objects, policies and sources of support, and a bigger group of people around me, or a working prototype for a mobile museum that tries out methods as a way of building that support and forming those policies?
- How to ethically develop and sustain an organisation that focuses on climate justice, in a time when it is clear that the climate is breaking down earlier than expected? In some ways, it is the most direct response one could make to this emergency but it also gives pause, in terms of not wanting to exploit anybody’s experience for potential gains that are not evenly distributed.
- How to involve more people directly affected by climate injustices and historical inequalities in the prototyping process? Or, whether taking the working prototype on the road, if partners and communications are well chosen, would achieve this?
The workshop was in four parts:
- Getting to know each other, exploring personal and communal interests in the Climate Museum. Presenting the background and brief
- Exploring and generating questions that might help people engage with climate change, using clay (made from paper) to make an object to help ‘hold the question’
- Working in groups to make structures or visual ideas for an installation
- Reviewing and discussing issues and next steps.
These are the questions that were shared:
- How do we talk about the future shape of the UK after rising seas
- Is it inevitable that many species will go extinct, and does it matter?
- How could we imagine a future which isn’t stranded by what we want to revive from our past?
- What does progress look like if you factor in climate change?
- What is normal?
- How do we make sure questions and answers aren’t dominated by white privilege?
- Who is ‘we’?
- How do we ensure those imagining climate futures intersect with those more directly experiencing climate change in the present?
- What is the food of the future?
- What if we see the atmosphere as a peeled off orange skin, partly protecting but partly fractured?
- How do I know what is the right thing to do? How can I live my best life?
- How do you find space in every day life to address climate change?
- Do we have to go back in time? How do we talk about it without people feeling that things are taken away from them that they enjoy?
- How do we find the solution inside the problem?
- How do we measure our footprint fully and easily?
- How do I live a good life in an ecocidal culture?
The installation ideas
Group one (prompt – ‘past, present and future’)
- A structure for allowing visitors to frame and reframe the past, present and future
- An extendable table to allow more content to be revealed from either the past or the into the future
- Familiar objects: tables, cushions, knitting
- Lucy shared a stimulus object she had made – a 3D fox in a boat (see below)
- Hilary shared some old board games
- Who is left behind if we escape to other planets? (Other species and most people)
- The future is here just not evenly distributed, both in terms of its horrors and its benefits
- The future is open
- Layers and different depths for different people
Group two (prompt – ‘intersectionality’)
- Structure that enables conversation between different voices, like a web of strings with tin cans, like ‘tin can telephones’
- Involve more identities in the prototyping stage
- Encourage dialogue
- Leave space for it to evolve
- Don’t ask questions if you aren’t going to answer. What happens to the responses?
- Not trying to tell stories but to listen
- Who is listening? The museum is not a person
- Is the listener another audience member?
- Questions could be collected from everywhere, so that visitors start to make a map
Group three (prompt – ‘the Kubler-Ross change curve’)
- Structure: Make it easy for people to find and enter, and then through the experience to emerge with something (peace, clarity, agency)
- Invite people inwards
- A mirror reflecting ‘you’ to make it obvious who it is for
- Playful e.g. tree climbing, sticks, rhythm
- Intriguing objects, left behind items, curiosity
- Tactile and thoughtful
- Dissolving the normal rules of a museum
- Include a structure with extending bits e.g. pulling signs out of a stand to learn more
- Crazy mirrors
- Natural world element materials like grass under your feet or a natural textured wall, materials gathered from each place e.g. Like the clay or soil
- Sounds and music
- Remove your shoes
- Give and take away. Can take something with you, exchange ideas, and leave objects
- Connection to natural world
Group four (prompt – ‘an expanded perspective’)
- Structure inchoate and webby because climate change is a hyper-object
- Enabling you to make connections between you and the others
- A safe space for tackling the messy and complex issue
- Layers of information around a central object, so that visitors can add to it
- Climate change as a hyper-object (e.g. like London is a hyper-object. You don’t need to know every road to know London)
- It can be seen as an interconnected map of everyone who has interacted with it
- These four ideas could form a possible brief for the first iteration of a working prototype to try out with some groups this Autumn
- Key principle: Involve and evolve
- Consider who is listening to the questions? Mainly conversations between participants? Is the museum listening? How are people’s stories honoured and useful?
- Frame and re-frame: Make clear there is no single truth, no authoritative story of past, present and future
- Connections: To you, to place and to world
- The need to give choices to different audiences: Layers, different ways in, depth, tempo
- Clarity on the structures: The business? The physical manifestation? A development plan?
- Test, research, and ask people how they feel about climate change. Start small and simple e.g. with a chair
- Climate cafe e.g. look at Death Cafe ask what brings you here, have climate conversations
- Produce a small thing to start with and maybe add to it
- Think about climate as a hyper-object
Thank you very much to Judith Knight and Mark Godber for hosting us at Toynbee Studios. Thank you to everybody who attended and shared ideas, including those that couldn’t make it but who also shared thoughts. If you think anything is missing or inaccurate from this very rough summary, please let me know.