Climate change in sound and imagery – science meets performance art in Whangārei's Fringe Festival
Whangarei climate scientist Matt de Boer (left) and Kim Newall prepare for their Climate Imaginaries performance. Photo / Supplied By Susan Botting - Local Democracy Reporter for Northland Journeying through climate change is the focus of an immersive live installation performance at Whangarei's Fringe Festival . Climate change specialist Matt de Boer and NorthTec/Te Pukenga creative technologies tutor Kim Newall are collaborating on Climate Imaginaries - an improvised performance installation at Whangarei Art Museum on Thursday. Seventy Northland towns and localities are projected to be significantly affected by coastal flooding, erosion and permanent inundation (flooding) through sea level rise due to climate change. "Climate Imaginaries is focused on imagining pathways through the climate crisis," de Boer said. "As the earth goes through transformations because of the climate crisis, with that, collectively and personally as humans it's changing our experiences," he said. The live immersive performance would provide a space for attendees to reflect on this. Northland-based de Boer is a New Zealand Climate Change Commission senior analyst and a past Northland Regional Council (NRC) climate change coordinator. Self-described as a 'science creative', he will be playing a range of instruments including clarinet, electric guitar, frame drum, saxophone and end-blown flutes from the Balkans to build an improvised climate change journey soundscape filling the room. Newall will be projecting improvised visual imagery around the walls and high vaulted ceiling of Climate Imaginaries' intimate venue performance space. His images will include climate related scientific data. The performance's goal is to create an evocative experience, allowing for attendees to reflect on where the world is and where they personally are, in the climate change journey. "It would be great if Climate Imaginaries sparks something in people to think about their role in the pathways through the climate crisis," de Boer said. People coming to Climate Imaginaries will walk in and experience a mood journey through nine different scenes. The sound created by de Boer as the show progresses through those scenes will be recorded en route and replayed during the performance, building layers into the complex story of climate change. de Boer has played a key role in Northland's New Zealand-leading climate change mahi. As NRC climate change co-ordinator from 2017 to 2021, he kicked off creating the New Zealand-first Te Tai Tokerau Climate Adaptation Strategy finally formally adopted by Northland's NRC and Far North, Kaipara and Whangarei District Councils in May this year. The strategy underpins councils' climate adaptation mahi with 195,000 people across nearly 14,000 sq km and 3200km of coastline. Climate Imaginaries travels through a journey onwards through climate change increasingly impacting the world and towards final resolution and a new normal. The performance is based on four phases, through what in science is known as the adaptive cycle - where an ecosystem under stress moves through build-up, overshoot, collapse and re-organisation where a new equilibrium prevails. de Boer said the earth was currently in the overshoot phase when it came to climate change, with its growing population under increasing pressure and increasingly imbalanced. "We're definitely hitting some tipping points, things are starting to change," de Boer said. He said some people were strongly committed to the status quo and did not want to accept or deal with climate change. The evidence for the existence of a climate crisis was however, irrefutable. Northlanders would experience transformations in their own lives and those of the people around them due to the climate crisis "For some people, there will be grieving for the way things were," de Boer said. He said imagination was the limitation when it came to people dealing constructively with climate change's inevitability. It was about how to successfully operate in the new normal of a climate changed future. "Many people can't really visualise what a positive successful transition through climate change looks like, asking 'how are we going to do this and what does it look like?'," de Boer said. de Boer was instrumental in setting up the region's across-council staff level climate adaptation Te Tai Tokerau group and governance level joint climate change adaptation committee, along with hapu and iwi. He said Climate Imaginaries allowed him to explore his fascination with complex issues that intersected the personal and global. Merging the social and scientific has long been a passion. "It's always been about how to solve wicked problems at work." This year's two-week Whangarei Fringe Festival finishes on Sunday. Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air A new economic impact report details the effects of repeated closures.