Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping, Yet to be titled (portrait of resilience #1), (2017).

In a recent residency meeting we were asked the following question by Joe Smith:

“What will your proposed work in Bangladesh contribute to the narrative about Bangladesh’s vulnerability to Climate Change? Are you aware that Saleemul Huq has suggested that Bangladesh should be viewed as the world’s leading expert in Climate adaptation and that soon the rest of the world will be asking them (Bangladesh) for advice on how they should adapt to climate change…… “

This question was something that we had been struggling to articulate for ourselves. But most importantly the realization of the answer to this crucial question turned out to be the single turning point in our thinking (the answer was known and clear to us probably since the beginning of the residency and yet we were failing to see it all along):

“The narrative of vulnerability is an old one. The new narrative for the most vulnerable nations is the narrative of resilience and adaptation”

It was this sentence that we heard during our Skype call with Saleemul Huq – a research fellow from the International Institute of the Environment and Development and one of the most internationally prolific experts on the links between climate change and sustainable development, particularly from the perspective of developing countries.  The conversation that followed was the single most inspiring and clarifying conversation we have had about Climate Change ever…and it lasted no more than 20 minutes.

“The notion of vulnerability is a subjective one. We all are (all nations) vulnerable to Climate Change! Not just the 100 most vulnerable nations (1) but also the USA, the Uk and Europe too.”

The resilience and adaptation narrative is an altogether different way of framing the environmental crisis. It is also a far more realistic and a much needed perspective on the representation of the Other in the context of climate change, where those subjected to climate change are not simply reduced to objectified powerless victims but are presented in a representation that endorses their political agency and their possession of the scientific and indigenous knowledge needed to mitigate climate change.

Some also argue that the narrative of vulnerability can be harmful because it “silences alternative voices of resilience (even if that means accepting the inevitability of global warming)”. It has also being recognised that the dangers of the portrayal of fatalistic environmental chaos simplifies climate change and creates a “narrative of isolated localism (where the effects of climate change are foregrounded with no reflection on the global cause) “(2).

At COPP 22 in Marrakesh the Climate Vulnerable Forum (an international partnership of countries highly vulnerable to climate change) declared that they would lead the way by becoming carbon neutral and 100% renewable by 2020. These countries decided to work towards achieving this goal regardless of the decisions and actions of the highly developed nations, regardless of financial or charitable support of these nations and that they will do it simply because it is a right thing to do (even though the 100 most vulnerable nations contribute less than 5% of total anthropogenic emissions). The Climate Vulnerable Forum hoped that its actions would help trigger increased commitments from all countries in the world for urgent progress towards the 1.5°C or below goal.

When we were reading the Climate Vulnerable Forum’s manifesto we began to understand the need for emancipation from the mercy of the highly developed nations, from the disappointment brought with the lack of urgent international resolutions on climate change action and the desire to take matters into their own hands therefore becoming masters of their own destiny (even if it is on course for inevitable catastrophe).

As we plan and organise our second field trip and prepare to shoot more material we will think very hard about what our work could contribute to the narrative of future scenarios and in particular to the narrative of the future climate refugee. To quote the question from the chapter Climates of Displacement form Decolonising Nature by TJ Demos:”… Before we accept the inevitability of climate- refugee narratives, we must ask: How might we invent creative modes of resilience and mitigation in the face of approaching climate chaos, and think aesthetics in relation to the politics of climate justice (…) rather than surrendering to futurist speculation that potentially eclipses the real options in the here and now?”

  1. In our research we have been using Saleemul’s   Criticas List: the 100 nations most vulnerable to climate change.
  2. All quotes TJ Demos, “Decolonising Nature”

Saleemul Huq is a Bangladeshi scientist based in London and Dhaka. He is an expert on the links between climate change and sustainable development, particularly from the perspective of developing countries. He is a Senior Fellow in the Climate Change Group at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). To find out more about Saleemul Huq work please visit here: or



feb news letter (2)

Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping, Yet to be titled (2017).


We returned from Lao PDR at the beginning of this month in time for our second seminar in Sheffield.  The intense 28 day shoot was highly productive and we now have much material with which to experiment with as we begin to construct our artist film and photographic works.

Over the course of our shoot we worked with communities belonging to 9 different ethnic groups: Khmu, Akha, Hmong, Lou Loum, Tia lue, Sidar, lanten, Lahu (Muser), Thai Neua.  In dialogue with these communities we considered the challenges that they would face in the future due to climate change in relation to the ecosystem services provided by the forest surrounding the communities: food security, poverty, water stress and the loss of resources.

The experience allowed us to once again witness and confront Climate Change at ground zero as we crossed the gap between climate theory, policy, models and agreements to where climatic events, losses, discontinuities and catastrophe are indexical and present.

Over the course of the next month we will be working with the material we collected in Lao PDR and deciding how to progress.

Seminar Two in the Sheffield School of Architecture

The second Culture and Climate Change Seminar which was held at the Sheffield School of Architecture focused upon Energy Futures and Urban Humans and considered future urban transformations and energy systems.

Throughout the seminar we were asked what is it to live in an age described as urban and an epoch named after humans: The Anthropocene. And what are the central societal, economic and environmental challenges facing our cities now and in an uncertain future, and how our architects, urban planners and policy makers might respond.

Having just returned from a developing nation our questions centred upon the issue of rural urban migration and the gap between policy and practice.  We wanted to know how do we plan for a massive increase in urban populations in developing nations and the boom of informal housing (slums)?


This month we are honoured to have had our first meeting with our mentor Oliver Chanarin in his London studio in Hackney. Together we discussed strategies to create a jarring experience for the viewer, questioning how we may contrast the environmental and humanitarian concern that is implicate in our footage and photographic works with for example a formal investigation of the gimbal* ( a footstep-less camera) which we are working with, a discourse on simulation or a formal investigation into the representation of climate change / environmental catastrophe  in photography. Oliver is half of the artist collaboration Bloomberg & Chanarin to find out more about their work please visit here:

*A Gimbal is a motorized evolution of the Steadicam that with practice creates very smooth footstep less footage even when the cameraman is walking or running.


Whilst in London we went to see Richard Mosse’s new Exhibition Incoming, an immersive multi-channel video installation at the Curve gallery in the Barbican London.   The work maps the unfolding migration crisis across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe with an advanced weapons-grade thermal camera which records the biological trace of human life.

As well as visiting the exhibition we also attended the two talks that accompanied the exhibition. The first with Sophie Darlington, Richard Mosse, Trevor Tweeten and Ben Frost talk about the creation of the work. The second with Richard Mosse and Anthony Downey which considered how Richard Mosse used the military grade thermal imaging camera to attempt to engage and confront the way our governments represent and therefor regard the refugee.

During both talks Richard Mosse inferred the significands of climate change amongst other factors, as a driving force for migration, stating that the current international migrations crisis is only the begging of what we are to expect from climate change migration in the future.

We highly recommend going to see the intensely moving installation, as we felt that the experience enabled us to come closer to an understanding of what is the quintessential experience of the Anthropocene that of a migrants.

To find out more about Richard Mosses incoming visit here:  or

Collaboration at the British Antarctic Survey

In addition to what we are working on for the residency we have begun a collaboration with Anje-Margriet Neutel that is Supported by the British Antarctic Survey. Anje-Margriet Neutel  is a Community & Ecosystem Ecologist who works to understanding of the relation between the structure and stability of ecosystems. Together we are working toward a piece of work relating to climate change, ecological networks and the mechanism of feedback. The work we produce will be shown during the Festival of ideas in Cambridge in October.

To find out more about Anje-Margriet Neutel ‘s work please visit here:

What now?

Over the next month we will be working with the material we have already gathered in the Uk and Lao PDR, creating new material and continuing the all-important conversations that are feeding our exploration of future scenarios. Stay tuned for excerpts of film and photographic works in progress!




Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping, Yet to be titled (2017).

This month we have began the production of our artists film and photography work that we intend to produce as part of the residency. We are currently in Lao (People’s Democratic Republic of), working in the North West part of the country in Luang Namtha province within the Nam Ha National Protected Area. This section of the project will focus on Lao PDR’s vulnerability to climate change and will explore the relationship between climate change and food security, forestry and agriculture.

During the first week of our stay we were able to consult with RECOFTC scientists (The Centre for People and Forests) and UN REDD+ programme coordinators in Luang Prabang to establish a greater understanding of Lao PDR’S vulnerabilty to climate change and what is being done about it. We now hope to connect with local nongovernmental organisations(NGOs) and the Deputy Director from the Department of Agriculture and Forestry in Luang Namtha.

We have so far visited a number of villages belonging to different ethnic groups (Akha, Khmu and Hmong) that are largely dependant upon subsistence farming and foraging from the forest that make up the Nam Ha National Protected Area. We will now trek for 2 days to reach more remote communities living within the Nam Ha National Protected Area.

The Nam Ha National Protected Area despite being a protected area is under pressure both from the encroachment of monoculture plantations of rubber trees that are processed at a nearby Chinese rubber factory, and by the continuation of hunting. However the practice of slash and burn and clearing of upland slopes for rice cultivation are now largely controlled.

As the national park authorities clamp down on the traditional practices used by the communities within the park to secure food, questions of environmental justice frequently arise as access to the forest becomes restricted. Whereas some communities have quickly adapted to the new rules, taking up lowland cultivation and providing ecotourist infrastructure, others continue to practice hunting and timber harvesting in spite of the rules due to the lack of alternatives.

What we are hoping to achieve here is to gather images and film material that will not merely describe the environmental and political actions of vulnerable countries, but allow us to engage with those communities that have the smallest carbon footprints and at the same time are most vulnerable to climate change. The same communities that feature in scientific and media reports as future climate change migrants.

When trying to pursue work about climate change in developing countries in the light of the current political climate of the western world one can’t help but face a wall of resentment and sense of pointlessness of such a task. We keep asking questions such as: how is it possible that an eight year old child in a developing country knows more about climate change than some of the most powerful figures in contemporary politics? How is it that the most disadvantaged have the most willingness and determination to do more in their daily lives and in their actions as communities to constructively try to mitigate climate change? And, above all, how is it possible that those who are on the frontlines of climate change and who will suffer the greatest consequences are able to psychologically and conceptually engage with climate change without fear, anxiety or a sense of guilt? Maybe it is because the environmental emergency is a central subject not a marginal subject in their conversations?

Maybe because future scenarios are just the symptoms of the greater disease already present in their day to day lives? Maybe it is because they just accepted that this is the situation, whereas we are still trying to resolve it?

Developing nations are pioneers in education and in the implementation of low carbon programmes and the use of renewable sources of energy where possible. They are also more willing to transition from fossil fuel economies. But can they lead the way to a fossil fuel free future when the richest and most powerful nations spend time, resources and efforts on what prove to be sluggish plans for actions and endless debates?

2016 now seems like a tragic year in which to have begun a climate change residency, but nevertheless perhaps the political, social and climatic upheavals of 2016 were the only set of circumstances that could have happened in order for things to really start to dramatically change. And with this hope we will continue to pursue our work and the task ahead in this new year of 2017.




 Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping, Work in progress, film still (2016)

We are now preparing for our first field trip to Lao PDR where we will be focusing on the subject of forestry and food security.

After a lengthy period of researching we have made a final selection of the locations that we will investigate over the next six months.  Our rigorous selection process has revealed an underlying theme running throughout our locations, which is forests. Through this prism we will explore the political, economic, environmental and cultural contexts of forests and there relationship to climate change and future scenarios.

The orientation of our project around forests has largely been informed by conversations with Dr Poshendra Satyal, with whom we have had regular contact with since the first residency seminar in the Scott Polar Research Institute in September.

Dr Poshendra Satyal has a background in the natural and social sciences, working with an interdisciplinary approach and a wide scope of research interests, ranging from forestry management to development issues such as human rights and natural resource conflicts. Dr Poshendra Satyal’s multidisciplinary approach to Climate Change and work within multiple nations in relation to schemes like the UN’s REDD programme has demonstrated a need for our project to be carried out across several locations with a focus upon a broad scope of subject matter.

In our most resent conversation we disused ideas far beyond the rhetoric’s of why we need to protect our forests. Together we considered how we manage our forests and what is the role of forests in the mitigation of climate change and in the futures of those relying on them for their livelihoods. We spoke about environmental justice and the fundamental questions of who has access to the forests and the potential differences and conflicts that arise from the simultaneous presence of global policies, governmental legislations, indigenous customary practices and indigenous politics.

Dr Poshendra Satyal’s then revealed that close to 1.6 billion people, that is more than 25% of the world’s population rely on forest resources for their livelihoods, food security and income, and that forests do not just provide food and shelter but that they are also at the centre of peoples cosmologies, their identities and their cultures. He went on to say that deforestation together with farming and mining is perhaps the next most radical and extreme form of land modification and one of the ugliest signatures of the Anthropocene.

By working with forest systems and their cultural, economic and environmental significance we intend to work with forests as a visual representation of a complex system, life itself and the different possible pathways we can take to the future.

This is because we think that:

The growth of the tree has always been a powerful cultural metaphor for the persistence of life through time as an important symbol in many religions and traditions and is perhaps best know in science through Darwin’s Tree of Life.

The tree is often anthropomorphised, for example when we say that humans and culture are rooted in a specific location, implying that they exist according to a specific set of conditions we are of course referring to trees.

The tree also contains the same temporal register as the ice core or a coral, making it an important source of data for paleoclimatologists.

The forest is used to represent the unconscious and is emblematic of entering the unknown and not having a clear pathway ahead, the protagonist who enters the forest is always changed by the passage through its depths, revealing something about themselves…what will our Anthrops learn?

The jungle is used to describe complexity and density such as in the metaphor the urban jungle.

With great intrepidation we look forward to our first field trip in january and the continued development of our research and our project. Stay tuned for an update from the field next month.

To find our more about Dr Poshendra Satyal’s vast array of interdicalplinary work please visit here: and here:






 Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping, Work in progress, film stills (2016)

Over the last month we have refined our ideas and laid the foundations for focused work on an artist film and a body of photographic work. Here is what we intend to do.


Working Title: The Angel of Geohistory or The Anthropos of Geohistory

An embodied camera glides through an array of disparate landscapes and environments as the unknown protagonist behind the lens, who is seemingly not in control of where he or she goes, reflects upon what is seen over the course of what appears to be a non-linear journey through many different landscapes.

The film’s protagonist or the unknown Agent is a symbolic personification of what has been recognised in the Anthropocene as “human agency” through which we will explore the complexity of climate change from an individual’s perspective. This personification is made in response to the literal meaning of Anthropos which means man and the subsequent implication that there is one human in charge of the geostory that is the Anthropocene.

By asking who is the Anthropos we intend to reveal how human agency is actually made up of many different individuals each with varying degrees of agency that cannot all be ascribed equal responsibility for shaping the planet and therefore our future as a newly defined geological force. To do so the protagonist’s identity will be divided into three personas. Each persona representing a mode used to construct representation or for constituting knowledge: the subjective lens (cultural), the objective lens (technocratic), the lens of the Other (the postcolonial environmental justice and the non-human) and several different Anthropos with different degrees of agency for example: a hunter gatherer, a telemarketer and the CEO of an oil company. In this way we wish to interrogate the language of representation itself: the ideas of subjectivity and objectivity and othering.

The many varied landscapes through which the protagonist travels are intended to illustrate human agency’s varying effect across global systems. The film will be shot in England and several countries that are among the one hundred nations considered most vulnerable to climate change according to the IIED, see here for the list:

Working across many different ecosystems and cultures we will be looking at human nature to consider whether empathy can be extended to the entire human race, our fellow creatures and our biosphere. In this way our protagonist will consider cultural, ontological and ecological paradigms and imagine how different levels of coexistence will shape the future.

The working title of the film references both Walter Benjamin’s angel of history from his essay Theses on the Philosophy of History that talks about a Klee painting named Angelus Novus. It also refers to a dance piece The Angel of Geohistoire (FR) / The Angel of Geostory (EN) directed by professor Bruno Latour that is based upon Benjamin’s text but instead depicts an angel that has been informed of the implications that the Anthropocene has for history.

Benjamin describes his angel as having his face turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, the angel sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

By personifying the Anthropos we are seemingly embodying Benjamin’s storm or that which we call progress, and yet by working with a photographic medium that is only capable of representing the past we too look at history as the angel does. The definition of the Anthropocene seems to suggest that the Angel (the representative of human morality) and the storm (the representative of the damaging power of human agency that is justified in search of progress) are in fact one and the same thing. In this geostory (the Anthropocene) the angel is blown by the storm which it has itself created to move toward the future whilst looking backwards at the chain of events which we now perceive as one single climatic catastrophe.

From this allegory it would appear that if we wish to move toward a future that is anything other than a catastrophe we must be looking forward in order to navigate carefully through the wreckage of past disasters towards the future that we wish to move in the direction of. In response to this the Anthropos in our film will move in the forward direction facing the future, encouraging the imagining of what future scenario we would like to experience.


Working title: Future Scenarios

Within our photographic work we will be working with the Anthropocene and Climate Change as a cultural paradigm that shapes the way in which we imagine our future. Much of how we imagine the future is shaped by stationarity: the idea that we can anticipate the future by looking at the past and plan accordingly. As unprecedented climatic events (discontinuities) related to Climate Change surpass all statistical norms stationarity has become obsolete, and yet it still shapes many of the models from which we derive different hypothetical future scenarios. As a new condition of uncertainty arises the need to readdress what criteria we use to imagine our future becomes increasingly important.

We intend to investigate several unprecedented climatic events and their subsequent socio-political impact to illustrate how we can no longer depend on stationarity to define different hypothetical future scenarios. Our investigation will include the making of sequences of photographs in the location where events occurred and work around them through the exploration of historical, scientific and political contexts. By constructing sequences of photographs we intend to reveal how representations of circumstance are selected from a set of spatial and temporal variations depicting a given moment and how narratives are constructed that suggest certain futures. Different sequences will then be juxtaposed in spatial layouts to create narrative arcs that lead to the act of imagining how the uncertain future might be, with the intention of revealing how we are responsible for shaping the way we imagine our future and therefore what will happen in the future.


This month we have engaged in two very stimulating conversations. One was held with Dr Gareth Rees, a researcher at The Scott Polar Research Institute, to whom we spoke to about remote sensing of glaciers and remote sensing imaging technology. Another was with Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop a marine conservation ecologist and lecturer at Plymouth University with a focus on planktonic systems with whom we spoke about her work in science-policy knowledge exchange, plankton as crucial ecosystem indicators, the marine food chain and ocean acidification. Our conversation with Dr Abigail McQuatters-Golloptook place as we were collecting plankton aboard a boat within Plymouth breakwater with the help of Richard Ticehurst and then continued as we filmed the plankton under a microscope within the Plymouth University Marine Station.

To find out more about Dr Gareth Rees’s work please visit here

To find out more about Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop work please visit here and here




Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping, The agent, his agency and the whale (2016).

This month we have been talking to Dr Jason Hall-Spencer, who is a marine biologist specialising in Ocean Acidification* based in Plymouth University. Together we discussed how we might represent the process of Ocean Acidification, which is perhaps one of the most significant, unknown and underrepresented issues relating to climate change.

Together with Dr Hall-Spencer’s students we participated in the collection of plankton from outside of the break water off Plymouth, which we then had a chance to look at under the microscope in the universities’ lab.

Looking through the microscope at the contorting translucent plankton we are once again being reminded of the multiscallar character of climate change. In this instance we were confronted with the knowledge that changes at the molecular level amounted to changes on the macro scale.  The appreciation of the multiscallar we concluded seemed to be inseparable from the understanding of any of the complex processes or systems relating to climate change, and that it was something that had led us to understand the total influence of our activity upon the planet.

Throughout our work we have come to appreciate that the gigantic and all-encompassing nature of climate change is surpassed only by the enormity and complexity of the fearful relationship we have developed not only  towards it, but also toward the understanding of our own agency within it( be it as individuals or as a collective human kind).

This peculiar relationship, that of conscience to climate change, we found elegantly portrayed within the story of a certain painting that we stumbled upon in the collection of the FitzWilliam Museum during our last visit to Cambridge.

The painting of  Scheveningen Sands by Hendrick van Anthonissen was  until recently a rather typical 17th century depiction of people on the beach upon a winter’s day.  Yet while undergoing a recent restoration it was discovered that the painting had originally included the body of a beached sperm whale. The whale which had been painted over some time after the initial creation of the work and was now restored once again became the central element of the image at once dramatically changing the meaning of the painting.

The reappearance of the whale had transformed the otherwise typical wintery beach scene into the depiction of an unusual spectacle, the previously unknown gathering of people suddenly becoming spectators at the demise of a leviathan.

The whale we were told, had supposedly been removed from the picture approximately 140 years ago due to the negative connotations associated with beached whales which were seen as bad omens.  Whaling which was an important economic activity at the time, was hazardous, synonymous with death and hardship and was beginning by the mid-19th century to be superseded by the discovery of other sources of energy such as kerosene oil.

The gallery invigilator pointed out that the decision to reveal the whale (apart from the fact that it was the original intention of the artist) was to allow the understanding of the economical, industrial and material contexts of the time.

For us the restoration of the whale revealed the agency that had acted upon the scene all along, despite the agent (the whale) not being visible.

With this in mind we equated the missing whale (the agent) to the absent figure of climate change that acts upon the scenes depicted within our own photographs and films. We concluded that without the appreciation that the agent (climate change) is present by not visible in our imagery there would be no understanding of what was depicted, no rationalisation of why images were grouped together and no acknowledgement of the power of human agency and the anthropogenic origins of climate change.

We are left asking ourselves how do we reveal the whale?  How do we reveal anthropogenic agency?

One of the ideas which we are currently considering is to create an artist film that personifies human agency.  We imagine the agent’s moral dilemma as it sees the affect it has on the landscapes it visits, as it is scowled at by some people or mocked and ignored by others, as it transgresses scales and political frontiers.  Perhaps this is how we will do it?

* The term ocean acidification is used to describe the ongoing decrease in ocean pH caused by the uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere.  Additional anthropogenic CO2 emissions have increase the absorption of CO2 and therefore the acidification of the oceans which within the last decade have exceeded historical analogs decreasing from PH 8.25 to 8.1 between 1751 and today.

The oceans currently absorb approximately 30-40% of the CO2 produced by human activities which when dissolved in seawater forms carbonic acid. This gradually decreases the pH of the oceans which are moving from alkaline toward neutral and therefore a more acidic state.

The slight change in PH is significant enough to affect marine organisms, and has been linked to the depression of metabolic rates and immune responses, coral bleaching and disruption to the formation of shells and structures in organisms such as coral and plankton. Ongoing acidification threatens all food chains connected with oceans and therefor affects all the people and economies that depend on the oceans for food and services.

For more information on Dr Jason Hall-Spencer’s work please visit here:






Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping, The economic invisibility of nature, (2016)

This month we participated in the first Culture and Climate Change: Future Scenarios seminar at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge which explored the theme RISK. This was to be our first encounter with scientists and researchers in a seminar context.

With a focus upon the Polar Regions the seminar and our guided tour of the British Antarctic Survey successfully diminished the geographic remoteness of the Northern most and Southern most reaches of our planet. Through a combination of visual, haptic and oral presentations we were enthused with the Poles multiplicitous significance as mythological spaces, geopolitical zones, climatic components, ecosystems and to those that inhabit them as a home. We were then asked to consider what implications different future scenarios will hold for these regions and what will result globally thereafter.

In this way were made aware of the need to create a representation of these remote regions that emphasized their connection to global: climatic, environmental, economic and social phenomena and therefore to our immediate environments. It has long been our intention that our work should emphasis the relationship between a seemingly remote landscape such as a glacial landscape in the Third Pole and our daily lives in the UK.

A relationship that we hope is appreciated through the representation of the connection between the glacier and the communities, economies and ecosystems downstream, the countries in which they reside, the hydro-political and geopolitical situation within those countries and the significant climatic role that the entire geographic area plays in influencing the formation of high and low pressure systems and the reflecting of heat back into space.

But how do we help others understand the significance of these far away locations if they have not visited them? What sort of experience do we need to create and what can art do that the satellite imagery and the data visualisation of scientific descriptions cannot? And in what ways can one utilise the other’s representation? These are some of the questions we have to ask ourselves now.

What is it that the experience of holding a piece of 280 year old ice from an Antarctic ice core (at the British Antarctic Survey) and listening to the crackling of bubbles from a past atmosphere escaping communicated better than a graph or a documentary film or a political statement and what made it an experience?

Was it that the previously trapped atmosphere contained significantly less Carbon Dioxide than our atmosphere now? Or was it because the ice melted in the hand and that the fragile beauty of the thing could be seen no longer, or was it the sense that the information contained within was lost for ever that made the experience significant?

Can we communicate in the same way?


Last month we had our first discussion with Professor Rupert Ormond who is a tropical marine ecologist and biologist with a broad range of interests and particular expertise in the behavior and ecology of sharks and other coral reef fish, and in the monitoring and management of marine protected areas.

He has directed research and conservation programmes in tropical regions, particularly in the Middle East (Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain) and Western Indian Ocean (Kenya, Pakistan, Seychelles, Maldives) and also Australia and the Caribbean.

He has acted as consultant for a wide range of international agencies and non-government organisations (e.g: UNEP, IUCN, UNESCO, and  National Governments ( e.g: Egypt, Saudi Arabia) as well as a number of large consultancy companies (e.g: WS Atkins, Komex, and Huntings. Currently he is a director of Marine Conservation International, a partnership formed by marine scientists to enable them to pursue projects with conservation objectives in the most effective way and an associate Professor at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

Presently he is involved in research on the behaviour an conservation of reef sharks in the Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Caribbean, the ecology of basking sharks on the west coast of Scotland and coral health and protection on the red sea coast of Saudi Arabia.

He very often works with Dr Mauvis Gore who is fellow Director of Marine Conservation International. She is a zoologist with research interests in marine biology, behavioural ecology, nutrition and conservation biology, and has considerable experience in the protection and management of tropical habitats

As this was our first discussion with a researcher outside of the core Culture and Climate Change programme we were keen to explore the way in which two artists and a scientist would be able to communicate. Initially we drew up the set of questions below:

  1. Do you know of any initiatives that are turning valuable marine ecosystems into valuable economic resources and in this way reflecting the economic value of the ecosystem service that are provided by the location?
  1. What economies and cultures will be most severally affected by the loss of marine ecosystems and in what ways? For example we know that large numbers of people in South East Asia depend upon small scale fishing for protein.
  1. What are the best and worst future scenarios for marine ecosystems?
  1. In what way dose the loss of marine ecosystems affect the climate (CO2 scrubbing, El Niño, and the severity of storms)? As well as land based ecosystems?
  1. Is there a gap between the illustration/representation of the effect of global warming on marine ecosystems and the affect upon local economies, cultures and societies?
  2. What lesser known forms of pollution are affecting the oceans apart from, plastics, fertilisers, and sewage that contributing to the degradation of the marine environment and to ocean acidification?
  1. If the Chagos Archipelago lying within the British Indian Ocean Territory is the least affected marine ecosystem on earth what is the most?
  1. Through your experience of encouraging policy and legislation what has impeded its implication? (Is there corporate pressure?)
  1. Why don’t people engage with the science of global warming? Or policy information or campaigns like the vote remain? Why do they go with their gut feeling?
  1. What difficulties do you face in getting funding to continuing your work and what role do you play in disseminating the findings of your studies?
  1. Can you identify some locations that represent some of the greatest challenges in the developing world? What about Karachi? And within the developed world?

What we found was that the conversation organically moved through many of the key areas we had wished to talk about. It immediately became apparent on instigating the questions prior to the conversation that much of the science and case study questions could be answered through online research*.   BUT what could not be attained this way was a prioritisation of the issues and a personal insight into the way a scientist works, thinks, acquires funding and now more than ever, the way in which scientists have to draw public attention to the critical challenges that climate change is bringing about in our oceans.

*(latterly Professor Rupert Ormond has pointed out that 5% of everything you read on the internet or even within reputable text books is shown to be wrong in 10 or so years).

Here are some of the major points that were raised by Professor Rupert Ormond presented as rough notes:


As a scientist Professor Ormond was baffled by the ability that a significant portion of the general public have to deny that empirical scientific facts were in fact true.

He stated that people don’t have a problem with physical sciences, they believe in the science that makes their car work or their TV, they don’t question this, they are just happy to accept that the car works because of science. But people seem to believe that they can refute the equally empirical findings of complex systems science such as the science of Global warming as if the scientific process were any less sound, less rigours or less empirical?

Nearly all scientists (apart from a very small number of fringe groups) totally support the claim that climate change is happening.

The Brexit Vote has brought to light this very same habitual “going with your gut” decision making process, which is in opposition to  listening to the facts that are being presented by a group of specialists and responding by making choices that are based upon that advice.

It is ironic that a scientist must be 99% sure to make a statement yet a campaigner needs only be 80% sure to make a statement and that stamen is being used to influence opinions. The 19% difference is a huge gap in certainty.


We also spoke about Professor Ormond’s current focus which is Coral reefs, their environmental significance and their conservation.

Professor Ormond emphasised the significant ecosystem services that reefs provide.

Reefs are an important source of fish and habitat­ and spawning grounds young fish that make up fish stocks.  200-500million people are dependent upon fishing and use of other reef related recourses and reefs in addition to fisheries provide the main source of protein for up to 1 billion people.

  1. Reefs serve to protect coastlines from storms acting as buffers.
  2. Reefs create employment for the tourist industry and offer recreation to tourists, who visit the reefs and beaches protected by them.
  3. Reefs buffer ocean acidity.
  4. Reefs are important potential sources for new medicines.

Professor Ormond stressed the devastating prospect of the ongoing coral reef bleaching episode and the lack of attention that reefs get. He said that importance of reef only appeared 2 or 3 times in the 5th IPCC report, which he thought did not represent the ecosystems importance.

He said that scientists were looking into genetically engineering the symbiotic algae that feed the coral polyp to enable them to withstand higher sea water temperatures.

We asked Professor Ormond about the growth rings that are similar to tree growth rings that Coral produce, he explained that the rings that a coral produces are accurate indicators of past climate to an accuracy of a day. He also mentioned that the study of Coral growth rings had recently lead to the discovered that the day is getting longer which we discovered was at rate of 20 seconds per million years. The discovery was made by comparing the growth rings of Devonian corals from the fossil record with the growth rings of Corals living today.

Professor Ormond recommended the XL Catlin Sea View Survey as a source of information about the state of Coral reefs worldwide and the ongoing bleaching event. (Catlin is an insurance company).


We asked Professor Ormond to suggest the most significant challenges that the ocean faces, this is what he indicated:

  1. Temperature rise
  2. Microplastics
  3. Over fishing
  4. PCP’s and complex organic compounds

He suggested that oil pollution was to some extent over hyped by the media as a serious pollutant as it was in general well managed by oil companies.

Professor Ormond noted that we have already passed the 1 degrees mark and that it would take 50 years from the reduction in the amount of greenhouse gasses to the point when the temperature started to decrease.


Professor Ormond highlighted a seldom considered hypothesis that the current political instability in the Middle East was in part caused by a rise in religiosity that had culminated in fundamentalism that was a reaction to the degradation of the ecosystems within the Middle East. He had found that many people in the region reacted to the loss and degradation of environmental resources in a way that suggested they believed that a decline in proper religious practice had been punished by way of ecological disaster.


We spoke to Professor Ormond about how scientist work, we asked how they get their funding and what their work contributes to and how does that become legislation.

He indicated that funding was sourced by the researcher and that sometimes ideas for studies needed to be funded by making the proposed main focus of research something else that fit the criteria of the funding body or was currently deemed a priority. He said in this way it was possible to zigzag round a lack of funding to focus on something that a scientist believed to be important and without attention.

Professor Ormond suggested that there was a change in the way scientists acted in service of important research. Previously scientist had not acted in the political realm seeing them self as objective advisers and not campaigners the younger generation were finding that they had had to become increasingly involved in the promotion of important discoveries.

It is because of this that he responded to what Culture and Climate Change are doing having recognised the need for culture to play a role in informing the general public of the need to make changes.

Professor Ormond then suggested the difficulty in defining the value of an ecosystem such as a reef, that unlike a product such as a Television that had quality control standards and a physical value within the economy as an object that could be traded a reef with had none and therefore was invisible. He then went on to say that people needed to be prepared to make changes adding that he was willing to give up television altogether for reefs. That the loss of a few thousand pound now was minimal in comparison to the loss that might be incurred later on.

We also asked about the way in which research was used to enact policy and legislation and how researchers specialising in different areas such as: economics, conservation and human rights combined research to create a bigger picture of the ecological, climatic, economic and social impact of something like the loss of coral reefs.  He said that the exchange of information was often more informal than you would have thought and that events such as the Paris meeting often included well attended fringe events that fostered the meeting of scientists, researchers and groups from different disciplines.

He explained what NGO’s Such as the WWF and Intergovernmental organisations such as the IUCN do with research and how they work with governments. They develop policy ideas for governments to adopt based upon the research that scientist carry out, this saves movements money and makes them far more likely to implement them. He said that organisations such as Green Peace even though they sometimes acted abruptly were useful as they drew attention to important issues.

When asked whether policy and legislation faces corporate pressure he said he was not sure but he did know that the large insurance companies where now for action against climate change as they have realised the potential costs they will incur as a result of rising sea levels and severe weather events amongst other events.


Professor Ormond recounted some of the culture he had acknowledged as responding to or working to highlight climate change related issues.

He thought that the aerial photography used by photographers like Edward Burtynsky and Yann Arthus Bertrand successfully conveyed the scale of the problems we were facing. Examples include:

Yann Arthus Bertrand’s Home Film and Edward Burtynsky’s Water project.



He recommended watching An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore, which he believed had had a significant impact. (We noted that this is debatable according to Naomi Klein)


He identified Water World and The Day After Tomorrow as possible future scenarios, although th the rapid freezing that takes place in The Day After Tomorrow was a less likely and confusing potential future scenario, while the drowned planet depicted in Water World seemed far more likely.



This was the first of two conversations we will be having with Professor Rupert Ormond, to whom we would like to thank very much for taking the time to speak with us. The next conversation will take place in September with Dr Mauvis Gore.

To find out more about his work and research interest please visit the links below:




The second month of our residency has been an intense period of research, experimentation, organisation and planning.

During this time we have become acutely aware of the challenges associated with our intention to work with a broad scope of subject matter and a multitude of locations, to which we have responded  by investigating a number of methodologies. It is our believe that to adequately represent the multiplicity of climate change we should not focus upon case specific subjects, but instead try to represent a complex entanglement of issues manifesting as loops of causality or feedback.  Therefore we are tasked with considering how to represent complexity itself.

To initiate our inquiry we have devised a series of exercises and experiments to help us identify some of the conceptual and practical devices that we could utilise to consider complexity and to learn about the subject itself.

Our research dossier currently contains: a folder of hypothetical project proposals/scenarios, research collages, a body of preliminary photographic and moving image works and the summary of our first interview conducted with a scientist (Professor Rupert Ormond).

Project Proposals/Scenarios- Exploring Frontiers:

We have drawn up a number of hypothetical project proposals for research trips. The act of researching: locations, intentions, possible subjects, logistical means, philosophical shifts and cultural references is a fundamental part of our collaborative process. We find that this very considered and rigorous activity, one not always associated with artists, allows us to gradually accumulate and build upon initial ideas and develop them into more substantial and complex forms.

In the first few proposals we used the locus (place) based approach, concentrating on specific case studies that illustrated climate change symptoms. What we have discovered is that this approach greatly narrowed the possibility of revealing complex networks of interconnected incidents, phenomena, actions and reactions that cross multiple frontiers. This is largely due to the fact that phenomena relating to climate change transgress numerous boundaries which therefor renders the study of one place meaningless. Phenomena cross: political boarders, different ecosystems, atmospheric spheres and all denominations of scale (from sub atomic to planetary) and time (geological to anthropocentric). They are also massively distributed in these spaces in many forms that are present for different reasons, each one an object (hyperobject) exerting a different effect. (1)

Furthermore, most natural resources (or ecosystem services), apart from land to build on or extract from, are commonly shared but not commonly owned (the atmosphere, ground water, the oceans etc.).  This is reflected in the problematics of implicating “global action” something that has resulted in natural resources becoming political entities.

Equipped with this new information, we have identified that humanity has habitually hemmed in these massive phenomena into the shape of countries and into the structure of their economies, creating boundaries on top of the existing geophysical frontiers. As a result the geophysical frontiers are obscured by political lines which make it harder to identify when climatic, social and political events simultaneously take place upon or within the constraints of a geophysical frontier.

One very striking example of a frontier that exemplifies this relationship is the aridity line as identified by Eyzel Weizman in his book The Conflict Shoreline.  Aridity lines surround areas that receive a maximum of 200mm annual precipitation; this terrain is called arid terrain and it is typical to find desert there. But the aridity lines themselves outline the fringes of deserts where agriculture is still possible which are areas adversely affected by drought when slight climatic changes occur.

The majority of arid terrain is found in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. In the north the aridity line goes right through the city of Daraa Daraa in Syrian where a huge numbers of farmers were displaced in the years leading to the 2011 uprising which took place in Daraa Daraa, an event that marks the beginning of the Syrian civil war.(2)

“The connection between water and heat stress and conflict is a recurring, intensifying pattern all along the aridity line: all along it you see places marked by drought, water scarcity, scorching temperatures and military conflict – from Libya to Palestine, to some of the bloodiest battlefields in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”(2)

Here political and military action clearly aligns with aridity lines, yet this is largely hidden by the political demarcation of boarders and a focus upon country specific conflicts.

: “…certain patterns have become quite clear: first, Western fighter jets followed that abundance of oil; now, Western drones are closely shadowing the lack of water, as drought exacerbates conflict.” (2)

Throughout our previous work which focused upon the Third Pole we were in fact already working within the confines of an invisible demarcation line that signifies the extent to which the environmental, climatic and geopolitical influence of The Third Pole reaches. The so called Third Pole is the third largest source of fresh water on Earth and a geological feature that influences the climate. As a geographic area it is easily defined by a change in relief yet the sphere of its influence is much larger; potential global and as a result much harder to define.

Therefore we have decided to investigate the idea of the frontier, and structure our future field trips around an exploration of these multifaceted visible and invisible lines. We will consider not just one line but many and how they converge with the intention of revealing their relationship to hydro-politics, population growth, rural-urban migration and agriculture.

Thus by exploring the frontier that marks the extent to which the affects of glacial recession reach or the trajectory of a river, one simultaneously explores the frontier of human struggle, economy, conflict and history.

We hope that our focus upon the dichotomy of the geophysical frontier could illustrate how lines both hide and reveal interconnected issues as superimposition and crisscrossing takes place concealing and mystifying, revealing and rethinking.

Research collages:

We have found it very useful colliding together images from the Internet and other sources in themed collages. These image collections serve several purposes:

  • To estimate what kind of representation has been created, collected and entrenched in visual culture.
  • To unpick how largely invisible abstract objects such as climate are being represented by symbols through semiotic systems of keywords.
  • To work with an associative process (image search engines) when researching, that somewhat mirrors the feedback mechanism or the identification of components in a feedback loop. The structure of the cluster reflecting the process of associative keyword image search but also the way one phenomena relates to the other in a non-progressive, nonlinear way.
  • To consider ways of presenting images that reveal hidden relationships.

We do not use these image search exercises to repeat an established mode of representation or to identify subject to photograph or film. We do so because we are in the process of developing our own set of symbols and indexes.  Therefore we decode the already existing visual language associated with climate change to study how climate change has been represented and how do we relate to some of the images (symbols) associated with it.  Such as:  a picture of the sun, an engine, a leaf, or an iceberg.

The next thing we must think about is how we can create alternative representations or how to reinterpret or expand the meaning of well-known imagery. This is intended to increase understanding and questioning the relationship we have with established symbols. As part of the process we intend to access as many of the archives associated with the residency as possible.



Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping, Fire & Ice, reaserch collage


Representing disaster:

For us to work with future scenarios means to consider the idea of the disaster, this is because we believe that to address the degree of urgency associated with climate change, art and culture are required to produce works which “scream with intelligence”.(3)

The presence of disaster is of course nothing new, as ever since the rise of environmental consciousness the impending ecological disaster has been its accompanying narrative. Previously in our work we have been trying to some extend to visualise the Anthropocene and therefore we have been focusing on human agency. The human force of the Anthropocene is now being compared to the collision of an asteroid with the earth, in this way equating their geophysical impacts.

Historically and culturally asteroids, comets or falling stars were perceived as dysfunctional (as they do not stay in the sky, they fall) and therefor they are called dis-astron: a fallen, dysfunctional dangerous or evil star that is an omen or harbinger of trouble to come. (4)

But there is a difference between the disaster and the apocalypse, the same way as there is a representational and ontological discontinuity between the event and its sign (smoke is a sign of fire but it does not resemble the fire, just as smoke does not reveal the extent of damage being done by the fire). Therefor we will be considering the idea of the disaster as an apocalypse, a disaster in the making.


Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping, A disaster fueled by a cretaceous catastrophe, (2016)

We will be working with the meaning of Apocalypse in its original Latin derivative “apokalyptein” which means to uncover, disclose or reveal a meaning that was lost in the 14th century when it became connected to the catholic idea of “revelation”.

When approaching this subject one main thing needs to be realized: that the end of the world has already happened. It has happened at least once at Trinity, Hiroshima or Nagasaki, or with the invention of the steam engine. These meaningful events also mark the end of history and perhaps even the end of nature and the beginning of the geostory (Geo-history). (5)

The end of the world then is an indexical marker, such as a layer in an ice core or a sharp spike in CO2 levels on a graph, or traces of lead-207 in the strata. But the end of the world is also represented by an invisible spectrum of signs and marks that are reflected in the experiences of those who are there as it happened. This is what we as artists can hope to reveal through collaboration with scientists and through our field trips.


First interview: Professor Rupert Ormond

This month we conducted our first interview with a scientist.

We spoke to Professor Rupert Ormond, who is a tropical marine ecologist and biologist with a broad range of interests and particular expertise in the behaviour and ecology of sharks and other coral reef fish, and in the monitoring and management of marine protected areas.

In our conversation with Professor Ormond we discussed: The importance of Coral Reefs and the devastating impact climate change is having upon them. Ocean challenges, from micro-plastics to ocean acidification and warming. We also talked about researching, policy making and campaigning.  The Middle East. The public not engaging with the facts and what culture can do. And what culture he thought was successfully communicating the urgent need to act.

The full report from this interview will soon be presented in the research section of our websites under Future Scenarios, to find out more about Professor Ormond’s work please visit here:



  1. Morton, T., 2013, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), 1-2.
  2. Klein, N., 2016, Let Them Drown The Violence of Othering in a Warming World, Edward W. Said London Lecture, London Review of Books, Vol.38 No11,pages 11-14, Available at: <>, [accessed 30 July 2016]
  3. Morton,T. , 2009, Creativity in the Face of Climate Change, University of California, UCTV, media release, Available at: <>, [accessed 10 August 2016]
  4. Morton, T., Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), 15.
  5. Latour, B., 2013,The Anthropocene and the Destruction of the Image of the Globe, Facing Gaia, Six Lectures on the Political Theology of Nature, Gifford Lectures, The University of Edinburgh, media release, Available at:<> [ accessed  30 July 2016]




How are we going to represent disaster? how are we going to represent the complexity of Climate Change? This is what we have been asking our self’s this month as we carried out several visual experiments.

Perhaps like this?


Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping, A disaster fueled by a cretaceous catastrophe,  (2016), Archival giclée print from medium format negative, 110×87 cm

Or by using three channels to create a comparative and contradictory investigation of complex situations, systems and emotions?

Or what  about this? through movement, allowing us to explore the economy of scale in physical spaces….

These are just some of the methodologies that we are going to be working with.




Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping, A meditation on the digital divide (2015), Archival giclée print from medium format negative, 110x87 cm

Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping, A meditation on the digital divide (2015), Archival giclée print from medium format negative, 110×87 cm

We are Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping an artist collaboration working with conceptual documentary photography and artist film. Since 2012 we have been working on self-initiated projects relating to the Climate Change and the Anthropocene, most of which have focused upon the so called “Third Pole” or as it is geographically know The Tibetan Plateau.

Our ongoing work has examined the climatic and geopolitical importance of this region highlighting the relationships between glacial recession, desertification, development, the economy, human rights and global climatic systems.

In our most recent body of work entitled Feedback Loops, we have created sequences of images and captions that depict these phenomena with the intention of creating a visual interpretation of the mechanism of feedback. By doing so we intend the idea of feedback to imply that every action humanity takes has consequences that return to shape the future in a way we cannot foresee.

Over the course of the Future scenarios Networked residency we will be working with the Anthropocene and Climate Change as a cultural paradigm of our time that shapes the way in which we imagine our future. To do so we intend to utilise our indexical representation of current climate, environmental, geological, economic and socio-political phenomena to illustrate the visceral reality of different hypothetical future scenarios. Through images of our present we will suggest a palatable imagining of difficult and improving futures.

We are going to continue to work with complexity and the scientific methodologies used to represent complex systems.  To do so we will encompass a multitude of issues and subject matter in a large body of work that will reflects upon the broad spectrum of researched disciplines that contribute to our knowledge of Climate Change.  This is intended to make visible the contradictions which are at the heart of the scientific and ethical challenges that humanity is facing.

Throughout the residency we will continue to focus on phenomena we have already identified within our previous work. We will also explore the possibility of representing: climate induced migration, future cities, overpopulation, drowning islands, the psychological pressure of climate change and the prognosis of a difficult future scenario, among other subjects.

We also plan to document the process of environmental policy making, intergovernmental climate change summits, conferences, seminars and climate change research facilities and methodologies, with the intention of increasing the visibility of the scientific investigation and legislating of Climate Change  further clarifying the relationship between environmental and socio- political issues, Climate Change and human rights.

One of our key intentions is to re-examine humanities place within nature through a discourse on beauty. We would like to considering how to represent human natural hybrid systems and to rethinking and demystify the human natural divide in the Anthropocene.

Above all we would like to discover, whilst engaging with researchers and their work, potential strategies to enable greater understanding of the Climate Change discourse through culture.

The yearlong networked residency will allow us time to learn, grow and experiment. Our  projects require duration, dedication and commitment to access the knowledge and the locations. With great enthusiasm we look forward to match made collaboration with researchers and scientists, something that we see as an essential step in the development of our inquiry and something that we struggled to facilitate alone.

But if there is one thing we hope to achieve in the next year, it is that we want to empower people through the knowledge that being informed about the climate discourse is doing something about Climate Change, and by admitting that we too often feel confused, daunted and powerless to stop it.





Culture and Climate Change: Future Scenarios Networked Residency

I am delighted to announce that Lena Dobrowolska and myself  have been selected to participate in the yearlong Culture and Climate Change: Future scenarios networked residency supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation alongside Emma Critchley and Zoë Svendson. The experimental networked residency which will begin in July 2016 will enable us to collaborate with climate research and policy knowledge networks at the University of Sheffield, The Open University and the Ashden Trust and is supported by an award worth £10,000.  To find out more about Culture and Climate Change visit HERE.

This page will soon be used as a space to publish work and research relating to the residency.