‘If you really want to experience emergence you have to just trust, trust in your heart, trust in people, trust in the universe’ – Satish Kumar
January 31st 2011
Volcano Theatre, Swansea
The response to the first Emergence conference was so positive, momentum and energy around the project had begun to gear up for the next event in Swansea on January 31st 2011. The application for funding from Arts Council Wales had been successful giving the project the go-ahead and confidence to organise both the Swansea and Caernarfon events. It was always the idea to organise three one-day conferences representing a trilogy, where discussion around sustainability would become increasingly deeper and more rounded.
The first conference in Cardiff got the conversation started. The event focused on infrastructure, carbon emissions, and introduced the idea that the arts could have a pivotal role in the challenge of how we get from here to there – from a world which uses three times the current available resources to a ‘One Planet Wales’ or a ‘Zero Carbon Britain’. Cardiff was about laying out the stall and defining the territory, the focus now moved towards values that underpin sustainable thinking.
The name Emergence implies something which happens when a system develops or responds to changes in an adaptive and holistic manner. There is a sense that the system is ‘networked up’, all parts communicating and creating information feedback loops enabling it to learn and to grow. A networked system has emergent properties including an ability to constantly respond and adapt to new conditions. These ideas were central to how Emergence developed as a project from the very beginning. Emergence was a learning entity responding to new dynamics and was dependent on growing new relationships. The notion of an interconnected whole was something which inspired the next event in Swansea.
The theme ‘interconnectedness’ was chosen in order to examine what might support the development of a sustainable arts sector, society or planet. It was time to look at the values that drive and inspire us; the values or behaviour which are responsible for species to adapt and respond to change or threat. All of the speakers chosen were asked in some way to respond to this theme.
Satish Kumar was invited to speak about Emergence and, for many people, is a living embodiment of the concept. Satish, his work at Schumacher College, Resurgence Magazine and his involvement with the Schumacher Institute has been one of the inspirations behind the entire Emergence project. For many, he articulates why so many are drawn to work in this area. He touches on something very deep-rooted and speaks about interconnection with a combination of poetic power and philosophical precision. Other speakers were from Transition Network; People United; Arts Admin; and Meta Theater. Alan Dix as ‘artist in residence’ gave a genuinely funny and moving example of ‘Pecha Kucha’, subverting the formality of the typical powerpoint format.
The world café model was used again to create a space for delegates to come together. This time it offered the opportunity to go into the natural world and explore a question of mutual curiosity. Many projects and collaborations were dreamt up from just that one conversation.
“How do you want to work, how do you want to live, how do you want to see yourselves in the future?”
“If you really want to experience emergence you have to trust, trust in your heart, trust in people, trust in the universe”