Paris 2015

Place To B – A Meeting Place for Art and Media during the Climate Change Conference

 Plant fresco at Place To B | Photo: Marine Leduc

During the 21st UN Climate Change Conference, the Place to B in the heart of Paris will set the course: in cooperative work journalists, artists and experts from around the world will develop a new climate message.

“It’s a nest in which everyone can lay an egg”, says Rob Hopkins about Place To B. The founder of the Transition Town Movement could not describe the temporary workshop two hundred metres from the Gare du Nord better. For two weeks the youth hostel St Christopher’s Inn and the bar Belushi’s transformed themselves into a co-working space and conference and concert hall for hundreds of journalists, dreamers, NGO representatives and artists who had come to the 21st UN Climate Change Conference (Conference of the parties), especially from civil society.

The idea for such a place came from the journalist and blogger Anne-Sophie Novel after her experiences at the 15th UN Climate Change Conference in 2009 at Copenhagen. There she stumbled upon a network of bloggers and activists in the midst of the city centre: “It was a very casual atmosphere; we exchanged ideas about what had happened. As a journalist, it struck me how difficult it is to relay messages and solutions. It’s a sensitive issue, which puts people off”.

Reviving the debate on climate change

With Place To B have emerged new perspectives on the significance of climate change, new opportunities to raise the awareness of the population and to show how everyone in his or her way and in his or her surroundings can do something. “Everyone should see that not only men in suits and ties are taking part in the Climate Change Conference. Creative people are becoming active”, says Natacha Bigan, a graphic designer from the Place To B team. After working many years for an agency, she started her own business in order to focus on projects in the area of ecology and species protection. “Artists play an important role, since they work up the themes differently with original means”, she adds.

For this occasion the premises were completely redesigned, with a huge plant fresco and wood panels on the walls. The residents could exchange ideas, hang up posters, draw something, let the imagination run wild. Every day they filled the various halls with more posters, sketches and other colourful hangings.

In one room next to the bar is the Creative Factory. Here every two days artists, journalists and experts treat issues in connection with climate change and develop projects and artistic presentations. The Creative Factory was designed especially for Place To B by the organization Forever Swarm.

“People are tired of forever seeing polar bears and leaves when it comes to climate. With that stuff you don’t reach anybody who isn’t already convinced”, explains the Australian-British musician David Holyoake, who together with Chris Aldhous founded the initiative. “You have to find other ways of bringing people to the subject, and you can do this best by showing them the consequences of climate change for their daily lives.”

Redefining the role of the arts

For David the problem of communicating about climate change cannot be solved without art and culture: “What is the big dream today? There is none. We have to create it. For a better future we need better dreams. We need artists to construct this great new vision of the world. Here people have the opportunity to work and dream together”.

At the Creative Factory everyone can contribute his creativity and skills to a joint project. This gives rise to various initiatives, such as campaigns, mobile apps and art actions which can be disseminated.

For Scott Shigeoka, a participant at the Creative Factory, it could not have gone any better: “I wanted to go to the Climate Change Conference and take part in an art project. This is the perfect place for me”. The Hawaiian writer emphasizes the diversity of the participants: “Here is not only a new generation, but also people of all ages and from various countries, with diverse stories and from different walks of life. This is unique”.

How can I as an artist make a contribution? David asked himself this question before he founded Forever Swarm. No easy task. And Natacha recalls: “It’s always difficult for an artist to earn a livelihood while remaining true to his convictions“. But her career proves that this is not impossible: “Clients get in touch with me because I, unlike the big communication agencies, which also work for corporations, do only environmental projects, and above all because I’m familiar with the issue”.

And then?

This is exactly what Place To B wants to prove: the future lies in a different vision of the world, of the economy, education and art. The participants are full of energy and motivation for what is to come, for a future that is not catastrophic but rather optimistic and, above all, possible.

The adventure will not be over on 12 December 2015. David plans to start a crowdfunding campaign to realize certain projects that were initiated by the Creative Factory. Anne-Sophie Novel, for her part, is thinking about a sequel to Place To B: “We’ll collect and reflect on ideas about what a continuation at other climate conferences can look like, and whether we’ll found a larger community and want to belong to it. Because this here is like a home, like a nest”. A nest that you don’t want to leave.

Marine Leduc
studied European journalism (master’s degree) at the Université Sorbonne-Nouvelle – Paris 3 and works as a freelance journalist based in France.

Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut Frankreich
December 2015

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