This piece has two beginnings – Here’s the first:
In January of this year I asked esteemed colleagues from industry, science and academia to share with us how the future appeared from their perspectives. None had seen each others presentations before showing them, but each ended, one way or another, on a date, a tipping point, the time when we will need two planets if we continue to consume at this rate in the UK and 5 planets, if the USA continues along the same path too. No one said anything – we’d heard this before in varying ways? Or was the renewed consensus of such a combination of voices, paralysing?
Walking home afterwards, traffic had come to a standstill, one driver had given up, and with his car engine turned off, was resting, with his hands behind his head. The car window was open and the sound of David Bowie’s’ 5 Years’ floated out, to tell me again.
Here’s the second:
When John Lennon sang “Give peace a chance”, he wasn’t saying he had the answer to no more war, what he was asking of us, was to live with its antidote for a while, to stay in relationship with each other and the questions which still need living, before we get to the answers – we could apply the same sentiment to how we live with the complexities of sustainability –Live with them, give them a chance.
These two different openings, one of acute urgency, the other, that has a kind of faith in us and time have resulted ever since, in a new kind of creative energy, not unlike the feeling of trying to persuade two magnets of the same polarity to stick together. Either way, I have found myself reeling through out this year, as I continue on my journey to see how own my practice can play a part in what the world now seems to be asking of designers.
Along the way, the aftermath of truly hearing what 2020 means to me, has changed everything – my relationships, the kinds of conversations I have, the ones I now simply have to walk away from and then there are the new people that have come into my life – the ones that appear as if human beings rising vertically, straight out of the sea – the ones that are going beyond their known selves and putting it all on the line for our planet and us.
When I first began my conversations to develop my own response to the time we have been given, I would recount our meeting in January and the effect it has had on my life and what I now irrevocably feel in service to. Most often this has led to a type of collaboration that knows no hours, can keep opposites in a room, melds life and the work, as only artists know and has brought a deep humanity as to how ‘ we do business’.
For others, it has been as if I’ve turned up too early to discuss their funeral arrangements and any meaningful conversation has shut down quite fast.
It’s clear that in talking about the only question that really matters ‘ How are we as species going flourish on this earth?’ that we can’t help but trigger our individual feelings and defences about endings; whether that’s a threatened end to how we have been doing business, or an end to the systems which are going to try and hang on until change collapses them, to the end of our own individual lives and of those whom we love.
A new language and approach is emerging however and it lives amidst the current tension that exists between nature and technology and within what’s both simultaneously possible and desirable. It’s at its most powerful and purposeful, when we remember that we are nature too and that we are capable of evolving again.
Collaborating with my friend and fellow traveller, Deepa, we have articulated it this way:
At this critical stage of our human existence and our planetary evolution when our destruction is as palpable as our potential, questions represent our hope for the future. The ways we get to answers are as important as the answers themselves. ‘A Dress for Our Times’ intends to explore three questions linked to three themes: Reciprocity: How could we act with those we consider enemies? Living in the eternal now: How do we face our prognosis with authenticity and optimism? Freedom: Why give equal value to the measurable and the immeasurable and the known and unknown?
So my response, ‘A Dress for Our Times’, will allow us to reach a global audience, with whom we can have a conversation that is less ‘ grim reaper’ and more about the wonder of ‘What it means to be human now’.
We need new songs!