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UAL students host ‘Carnival of Crisis’ as response to COP26

By Rachel Douglass


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Image: Carnival of Crisis, Ana Blumenkron

The University of the Arts (UAL) Climate Emergency Network has presented a series of events running parallel to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), demonstrating how creativity can be used as a response to climate and ecological emergencies.

Ran over the course of the two-week long conference, ‘Carnival of Crisis: Mobilising Creative Action in the Age of Emergency’ saw students, staff and alumni come together from across UAL’s six colleges and institutions. Events tackled a range of subjects, from conscious consumerism to how the climate emergency intersects with race and equality, with the final climax of the Carnival coinciding with COP26’s conclusion.

The goal of the interactive events was to showcase the innovative contributions being made by the creative sector, which is currently not recognised as part of the COP26 Summit. The platform looked to provide an opportunity for those in the sector to demonstrate their imagination and collaborative efforts towards climate justice.

Image: Carnival of Crisis, Wearable art by Alisa Ruzavina

In a release, James Purnell, president and vice-chancellor of UAL, commented on the initiative: “The Carnival of Crisis will show how creative changemakers can help bring about climate justice. Culture should take its place alongside social, economic and environmental interventions as one of the main pillars of sustainability.”

Advocating for culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development

Two weeks of events rounded out with a Parade for Climate Justice at Chelsea College of Arts’ Parade Ground. Members of UAL were joined by Carnival partners and co-producers to showcase the collective power of the creative industries, as well as the cultural and education sector. Installations and artworks were present at the finale event, including Helen Storey’s ‘Dress for Our Time’ and ‘Nexus Architecture’ by Lucy Orta, as well as a stage for speeches by special guests and affiliates of UAL.

Image: Carnival of Crisis, Nexus Architecture by Professor Lucy Orta

Other events that took place throughout the month included the ‘Colour of the Climate Crisis’ initiative, which saw students of colour shown alongside established artists and designers of colour from around the world. The virtual exhibition examined the relationship between race and climate justice, addressing the division it causes.

The Carnival of Crisis’ message corresponds to that of UAL’s broader commitment outlined in a pledge to achieve net-zero by 2040, a whole 10 years ahead of the UK Government mandate. The institution is also set to unveil an ambitious new Climate Action Plan following COP26, that further confronts climate justice and address commitments across four key strands: academic discourse, governance through purposeful policies, co-designing a movement and ecosystem infrastructure.

“Design today is expanding upwards in government and upstream in policymaking processes, and design also works on behalf of communities and activists,” said Professor Ramia Mazé, of the Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability at London College of Communication.

She continued: “These multiple influences of design entail a significant role - and power - of design in shaping society. This power comes with responsibility: we must shape and use design towards a more sustainable and more just society.”

Image: Carnival of Crisis, Dress of Our Time by Professor Helen Storey
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