How may we as artists, citizens, activists, students, and community organizers re-think and develop radical, counter-hegemonic practices that help us re-imagine climate resilience and enable the creation of a new commons? It is precisely these issues that will be explored during the 2019 Shelter Festival. The festival will take place in Helsinki, a city where such inquiries are informed by the impending sea-level rises, looming gentrification driven by climate change, and increasing distrust of the Other. Drawing on Isabelle Stengers' concept of "Cosmopolitics," where diverse stories, perspectives, and practices connect to lay the foundation for new strategies and radical possibilities, the Festival will act as a temporary commons for diverse approaches to the ecological crisis and its economic, social, and cultural affects and effects.
Although Nordic Countries have been at the top of the list of countries "least vulnerable" to climate change, recent protests by young activists and students have emphasized the very real impacts of the changing environmental conditions and continued ecological devastation that profit-seeking companies have unleashed on these shores. Moreover, recent commercial campaigns have sought to capitalize on the ecological effects of climate change, encouraging citizens to consume more under the guise of being environmentally conscious, and thus bring more profit to populist elites. Similarly, in neighbouring Eastern Europe, Baltic countries, and Russia, diminishing natural resources are considered top prizes to further exploit in order to maximize private fortunes. Governments have disregarded existing environmental protections and international treaties, and now their profit-driven logic is being challenged by waves of protests by concerned citizens.
Throughout the festival, cultural practitioners from the aforementioned regions and beyond will invite participants to engage with artistic platforms for inquiry, remembrance, and re-imagined futures in order to draw attention to the ecologies and environmental conditions around us. Their interdisciplinary practices span media art, site-specific installation, performance art, and education, in order to explore the interwoven reliance of humans, more-than-human bodies, and their environments. These artistic interventions disrupt the prevailing heteronormative discourses around ecological interactions and environmental politics and question how social, political and legal frameworks have altered the relationship between nature and ecological imagination. The unique space Shelter, with its Cold War resonances and references to a distant nuclear war (which is again at the forefront of our geopolitics 30 years later), will serve as a welcoming space for comradeship and living in common, which we hope will inspire new artistic experiments, sensitivities, connections and communications on deep and radical ecologies.
Taking shelter, we will collectively consider what forms cosmopolitical action can take in the climate-changed city of today, referring to specific knowledges and practices, both locally-driven and internationally-resonant, which may constellate into possibilities of a climate-just city. During the Festival, participants are encouraged to construct their own proposals for a cosmopolitics, one that corresponds to global challenges of the twenty-first century.