If you enjoy documentaries you might be changing the world. Documentaries change conversations around important issues and some are so effective at doing so that they make a real-world impact beyond the audience. By bringing issues to light these films raise awareness to problems that we as a society can solve, sometimes the solutions are complex (like Inside Job) and other times they are easier to argue for (like banning the capture and torture of whales). If you want to make the world a better place then go watch some documentaries and tell your friends about it.
Two Columbia University staffers appeared in this exposé of the 2008 financial crisis: Economist/professor Frederic Mishkin and Business School dean Glenn Hubbard. Both men were less than transparent about their professional connections to the finance world. The film reveals that Mishkin wrote a paper about Iceland’s economy without disclosing the $124,000 he’d received from the country’s chamber of commerce. Hubbard, meanwhile, grew combative when questioned about his many consulting clients. A few months after Inside Job’s release, Columbia released much stricter disclosure rules for faculty who work with Wall Street, and the economics department chair credited the movie (which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2011) as a driving force.
We’re presently living in the anthropocene and it’s all our fault. The effects of industrialization will be felt for thousands of years to come and be evident millions of years from now (found in everything from fossil records to chemicals). There is a good chance that humanity will go extinct thanks to its own actions. You’re probably wondering where the good news is. It’s in art.
Paola Antonelli, a curator from MOMA, launched a project titled Broken Nature to address this future in the hopes it won’t happen; but if it does we will leave something beautiful behind for future life. She was recently interviewed by Fast Company about the project:
There are two in completely different areas of the world: One is Futurefarmers by Amy Franceschini. She has a project called Seed Journey, in which a sailboat goes from Oslo to Istanbul, and it carries artists and bread bakers and activists and philosophers and carries wheat seeds that are indigenous to those different places. It’s about trying to bring back these original breeds of seeds and to also bring with them that tradition. It’s a beautiful journey by sea of biodiversity.
Another project is Totomoxtle in Mexico by Fernando Laposse. He uses the husks of corn to create new materials, and he does so by harnessing the craftsmanship of the people who grow corn breeds in different parts of Mexico. He’s also trying to help local populations revert to the indigenous breeds of corn that are maybe yielding less each year, because so much indigenous corn has been substituted by genetically modified breeds that yield more each year. Ultimately, it’s about empathy, and a love of the land and the communities.
Major cities around the world continually grabble with the complexity of gentrification, at the recent World Cities Culture Summit San Francisco shared what they do. One of the city’s approaches is to protect cultural organizations that are unique to their neighbourhood. The idea is to protect what makes the city special while also keeping culture accessible to everyone. Indeed, what they’ve done is so effective that other cities are starting to copy it.
Like an idea London recently stole from San Francisco to reduce cultural displacement — Community Arts Stabilization Trust — or CAST for short.
“London has been completely inspired by the San Francisco CAST model, to the extent that we are setting up our own version of it,” Simons said.
CAST is a nonprofit real estate development and holding company that helps arts groups secure space through long-term below-market leases and a lease-to-own model funded by philanthropy and other sources. It has raised $36 million to support a handful of projects since 2013.
The company has also helped nonprofit cultural groups keep the lights on in the shorter term, through providing $1.8 million in grants and technical assistance to date.
Thanks to the Resilience art project from now until August art is being shown on billboards from coast to coast in Canada. You can locate billboards near you (or on your travels) via their map. It’s a creative way to use billboards to make the world a better place instead of filled with the same old consumer messages. Images by 50 First Nations, Inuit and Métis women artists are being featured not only as an artistic act but also as a political act.
The Resilience billboard exhibition is a response to Call to Action #79 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report: the integration of “Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history.” The call supports collaborations among Aboriginal peoples and the arts community to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration. This project is Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art – MAWA’s answer to that call: a creative act of reconciliation, and a public celebration and commemoration of the work of Indigenous women artists, who are still vastly under-represented, not only in positions of power in commerce and politics, but within the art world as well.
The Toronto-based band Places Erupt has put a lot of thought into the state of online discourse and decided to share their two cents. Their most recent video is all about online trolls and the disconnect between how they behave in their in person interactions compared to their online interactions. It’s a fun video and song that captures a current issue in today’s strange media climate.
“Bloggers is about the phenomenon of trolling, where people shirk away from expressing their political opinions until under the safe shield of cyber anonymity, ranting angrily online. It’s become a terrifying and unhealthy side effect of the internet, poisoning discourse and breeding hate. In the real, physical world, the troll is blah and beige, while in the cyber world, he grows into this outsized monster, breathing fire over everyone in his path.”
Disclosure: Greg O’Toole, who irregularly writes on this site, is in the band.