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Three Stories+Art on Sustainability
1-Worldviews  2-Indigenous Lifeways   3-Innovation



Atmospheric Forest (2020) by Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits

"The Overview Effect" is a term coined by space philosopher Frank White in 1987 that describes the transformative experience of astronauts when they see Earth from the expansive perspective of space. This profound encounter significantly shapes their perceptions of themselves, our planet, and our collective future.
    Zooming in to earth, dramatic data visualizations convey the climate crisis in the micro particles of a breathing forest, and the conditions of mass migration across the globe. Works of art, music and SciFi express social inequities, human interaction and the controlling forces of power in all its forms. And humor, music and kindness are antidotes to the stressors of life.

A reality check from space:
Astronaut Ron Garon on the ISS 


Ron Garan aboard the ISS. Image courtesy of NASA.

"The universe feels close. Somehow, it feels to be a part of me and me a part of it," says Astronaut Ron Garan about his experience aboard the International Space Station.  

     As I look out at the thousands of stars, I realize that this vast sea of lights is but an infinitesimal fraction of the known universe. What I see is a small part of the thousands of millions of galaxies, each containing thousands of millions of stars. But what I find even harder to understand than the sheer number of stars is the incomprehensible vastness of the still, quiet nothingness between the stars. What is space? I wonder. What is this emptiness that contains the vast majesty of the physical universe?
     "There appears to be something much larger at work here, something just beyond the veil of reality. I’m not sure what. I feel as if I’m looking over a cliff of a tremendous chasm of understanding. The great mystery gnaws at me again. Why are we even here?

      "How is it that a species that has evolved to the point where it can ponder the universe and ponder infinity still preoccupy itself with the animal instincts that no longer serve it?" 

Data visualization art reveals climate change effects in a forest and in human migration 

Atmospheric Forest (2020) by Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits, blends science, technology and ecology in a way that immerses visitors in the sensation of awe as they wander through a forest experiencing the beauty and visualized micro energies of the breathing forest.

     Astronauts describe their experience of awe when seeing the earth in space that gives them an overwhelming comprehension of the reality of the fragility of life. It's understood that experiences of awe on earth can also bring this realization. Atmospheric Forest, an immersive data sensing, sonification, point cloud VR artwork, is an example. 

     Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits are cofounders of RIXC Center for New Media Culture in Riga, Latvia. This artwork reveals the complex relations between a forest ecosystem and the atmosphere. It was created from three-years of research in Pfynwald, an ancient Swiss alpine coniferous forest suffering from drought due climate change, which Swiss scientists have turned into a unique living observatory. 

     Overall, the trees are not only oxygen generators for us humans, but they breathe as well, emitting large amounts of volatile organic compounds that we can sense as a habitual scent of the forest. Scientists are studying the effects of natural volatile emissions and whether the stronger smell of a pine forest indicates that climate change can be limited, or that volatile emissions could make global warming worse. 

     Atmospheric Forest visualizes the data patterns of the weather changes, the volatile emissions and the resin pressure in Pfynwald's pine trees showing that with climate change we are set for a more fragrant and more 'atmospheric forest' in the future. 

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42_EXIT_Still_Courtesy of DS+R.jpg

EXIT by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and partners is an immersive data visualization artwork on migration and the causes and unstable conditions of populations on the move around the globe.
Unprecedented numbers of migrants are leaving their home countries for economic, political, and environmental reasons. EXIT was created to quantify and display this increasing global trend.
     The work
offers an aesthetic re-framing of the media’s coverage of global migrations. Forty-eight computers hanging from the gallery ceiling store and display a living archive of news footage, photographs, and documentaries about global migration and its causes. It evolves into an immersive dynamic presentation of the data documenting contemporary human movement. Statistics documenting population shifts are not always neutral and the multiple efforts to collect them are decentralized and incomplete. Here, they are repurposed to build a narrative about migration around the globe. 

​“Many refugees are brimming with talent and energy, and a drive to become financially self-reliant, if only they are given a chance,” says Alana Chloe Esposito, Co-Director of the NGO Lighthouse Relief which has worked to fill in gaps in humanitarian protection for people seeking refuge in Greece since 2015.                                        

     Policies governing asylum and migration have grown harsher over the past few years as anti-refugee sentiment grows across Europe. Adverse consequences include restricting NGO access to Greek refugee camps, which compelled Lighthouse Relief to suspend its mental health and psychosocial support program inside Ritona, the largest camp on mainland Greece. In 2022 Streaming Museum and Lighthouse Relief set out to collaborate on a 4-part series highlighting refugee artists living in Ritsona camp. However, prohibitions on entering the camps compelled us to curtail it after publishing the first story, Behind the walls of Risona, Greece's largest refugee camp. 

Artists' viewpoints on a world controlled
by the forces of power in all its forms


ISOLASHUN is a new album by Aditya Prakash that he created during the pandemic lockdown as a reflection of his inward journey, marked by the solitude and introspection shared by millions of people around the world, as well as a growing awareness of the social disparities that starkly revealed themselves in that period. 

     Throughout the album, Prakash’s powerful vocal performance, intricately-textured compositions, and experiential approach to Karnatik music of South India, fuse to create a deeply personal statement that explores how “the political happenings in my two homes — India and the USA — made me painfully aware of the one-sidedness of history that I was taught since childhood: how Indian “classical” art forms are glorified as infallible and divine but are built on discrimination and oppression. It made me aware of my apathy, made possible by my privilege, that until now had allowed me to look away from my own complicity in these systems."
     "I want ISOLASHUN to make people feel something deep at their core; to feel something which goes beyond intellectualism. Whether it be a disturbance or a joy or a feeling of peace – I want that emotion to be felt in a very deep, visceral way – because that is how I felt as I created this work."

 Two songs from ISOLASHUN album

CLUSTER (2009-2012) by Kurt Hentschlager is a generative audiovisual Installation and performance on group behavior and interaction, particularly looking at swarm phenomena.

     In CLUSTER's weightless choreography, human figures appear mostly as anonymous particles, as a pulsing, amorphous mass, a cloud of blurry matter from body parts and light. The work is visually fluctuating between realistic and abstract forms.
     By its generative nature never fully predictable, CLUSTER describes a meta-organism with decidedly anti-individualistic character. While the 3D characters are of human form, their behavior is not.
     The work draws from both repetitive elements, as well as from "natural" improvised structures. The bulk of sounds is rendered by the events driving the work - swarm motion and behavior as well as changes in light and color.
     CLUSTER goes through several stages to eventually presenting a humanoid cluster, packed tightly, spinning and tumbling through space, bodies glued together by gravity and kinetic forces.


May 26, 7 PM, 2021 by Zorawar Sidhu and Rob Swainston. Multi-color woodblock print on paper. 57.5 x 45.25 inches. Courtesy of the Artists and Petzel Gallery, New York. 


May 27, 2021 by Zorawar Sidhu and Rob Swainston. Multi-color woodblock print on paper. 57.5 x 45.25 inches. Courtesy of the Artists and Petzel Gallery, New York. Collection of MoMA

Doomscrolling July 4.jpg

July 4, 2021 by Zorawar Sidhu and Rob Swainston. Multi-color woodblock print on paper. 57.5 x 45.25 inches. Courtesy of the Artists and Petzel Gallery, New York. 

Doomscrolling (2022) by Zorawar Sidhu and Rob Swainston is a collection of 18 woodblock prints on paper, that takes its title from "the act of spending an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of negative news...and may result in harmful physiological responses."

     Doomscrolling during the pandemic and political and social unrest “was an experience of terror through viewing the media of it all,” said Zorawar Sidhu. In response, Sidhu and Swainston created the work with special printing processes and dirty and distressed plywood they collected from windows on buildings across New York City.

     Doomscrolling is comprised of 18 moments between May 24th, 2020 and January 6th, 2021, the day of the insurrection at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. These dates became the titles of the works and are tied to iconic images and specific events, conveying the conflicts of ideologies, physical violence, and meanings of these events that are still being negotiated.

Zorawar Sidhu and Rob Swainston on creating Doomscrolling. More about the story of Doomscrolling 

SENT BY GALLERY - ShS-S.23.122 NOW, 2023_Courtesy UAP Urban Art Projects_photo Chris Roque

Shahzia Sikander, NOW, 2023. Patinated bronze, 97 1/2 x 49 x 49 inches. © Shahzia Sikander. Photograph: Chris Roque. Courtesy: UAP Urban Art Projects and Sean Kelly, New York/Los Angeles

Shahzia Sikander is a Pakistani-American visual artist living in New York City. Her sculpture NOW (2023) is installed on the rooftop of the Courthouse of the Appellate Division, First Department of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, across the street from Madison Square Park.

     Rising from the base of a lotus plant—a symbol of wisdom—it is the first female figure to be installed amongst the sculptures of nine male legislators, including Confucius, Justinian, and Moses. With this exhibition, Sikander presents female figures as symbols of power and justice and examines long-standing practices and attitudes impeding the advancement of women.                   Through her work, the artist addresses systems of justice and injustice by situating women in positions of authority. Sikander has stated: “If we use art, media, and culture to reverse stereotypes about gender, race, immigrants, and the unfamiliar, the beliefs we pass on to future generations reflect the complex and dynamic world we live in.” 
     Further to this conversation are such initiatives as Girls Opportunity Alliance and the exhibition Re/Sisters: A Lens on Gender and Ecology at the Barbican Centre in London, highlighting the systemic links between the oppression of women and the degradation of the planet.

Octavia Butler's Sci Fi in the 1990s depicts climate
threats, a refugee crisis and class warfare in 2024 


Octavia Butler, 1999, image c. Alice Arnold
Arnold's story about photographing Octavia Butler

Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006) was an acclaimed African American science fiction writer. “Her imaginative stories are transcendent fables, which have as much to do with the future as with the present and the past.” (MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ grant award statement)
     Butler's mother was a housemaid and her father, a shoeshiner who died when she was 7. Growing up in Pasadena California, she faced dyslexia and social anxiety, and spent much of her childhood in the local library. Butler viewed humanity as inherently flawed by an innate tendency towards hierarchical thinking which leads to intolerance, violence and, if not checked, the ultimate destruction of our species.

     "Simple peck-order bullying", she wrote in her essay "A World without Racism”, "is only the beginning of the kind of hierarchical behavior that can lead to racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, classism, and all the other 'isms' that cause so much suffering in the world.

     "Are we ever free of our past? Not just of our personal choices — the boons or blunders — but of the uncomfortable histories we inherit, and the ways in which we are inexorably tied to them?"  

     Nisi Shawl, an author and student of Butler’s, wrote “Strong emotions, she counseled me, are the best basis for stories, “What do you fear? What do you loathe? What would you give anything to rescue and protect and preserve for eternity? Write about that.” "I don’t write about heroes,” Butler once said, I write about people who survive and sometimes prevail.” What Butler passed down to the following generations of writers, Shawl said, is the permission to do the same.​ Butler wrote in her notes:
     Tell stories Filled with Facts. Make People Touch and Taste and KNOW. Make People FEEL! FEEL! FEEL!

     Octavia Butler’s 12 original novels and two short story collections signify the profound changes necessary to shape a world not organized by hierarchical violence. This requires the remaking of the human to correct the sociobiological causes to bring about the evolution of the dominant community to a world of tolerance, acceptance of diversity, and a desire to wield power responsibly. Her vision about the climate crisis, political and societal upheaval and the brutality and consequences of power hierarchies seems both sobering and prescient

        Butler’s 1993 dystopian novel Parable of the Sower takes place in 2024 when the world is plagued by climate change, a refugee crisis, violent class warfare and the rise of a charismatic, evangelical leader who vows to “make America great again.”     
        This Afrofuturist novel was recreated as a “congregational” opera of over 30 original anthems drawn from 300 years of Black music by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon, and
premiered in 2017 at NYU Abu Dhabi.  


Bina48, photograph by Hanson Robotics

Robot Bina48 was developed by the Terasem Foundation, that was founded in 2006, inspired by Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

     Terasem, which means “Earth+Seed”, comes from Octavia Butler's book Parable of the Sowers, which envisions a legacy for the continuation of the human species through its technology, explains Bruce Duncan, Managing Director of the Terasem Movement Foundation.

     The Foundation’s development of Bina48 illustrates the concept “mind uploading”, which is part of a multi-decade experiment that is exploring the use of computer technology to capture and transfer human consciousness to machines to extend lives into the future.

Antidotes to life stressors

The song Feel / Mehsoos by The Tapi Project is a beautiful ode to the simple, things in life and finding meaning, love and beauty all around us. "In the great movement of life, what did you experience today?"

The Evolution of Humor is a story by Luri Lee, a student in Richmond, Virginia. She asks, "How has humor evolved? And more importantly, what can humor tell us about the future?"

The Bias Vaccine is an interview with Neuroscientist, Emile Bruneau, about how scientific tools can be applied to conflict resolution, and the results of his interventions, while Director of the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab, University of Pennsylvania. Originally published in Centerpoint Now.

Kindness, Key to Survival is a story about the factors that promote or hinder it--from individual psychology to international diplomacy, written by Daniel M.T. Fessler, Ph.D, Director of the Bedari Kindness Institute and Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles. Originally published in Centerpoint Now.

Three Stories+Art on Sustainability
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