The Wiki definition of sustainability talks of a biological entities ability to ‘remain diverse and productive indefinitely.’
Having just completed my 2017 – 2018 tax return (& subsequently reviewed the previous ten years of accounting records) this notion of ‘indefinite productivity’ is prominent in my minds eye. Despite working both nationally and internationally with a roster of clients that spans national charities and county council collections, sites of listed significance and regimental museums, I am still earning way below the National Minimum Wage in the UK. Add to this the fact that I have studied for the same number of years as a Doctor (2 x BA’s and an MA by Research) and you begin to see that being ‘productive indefinitely’, within a framework of sparse financial resources, is incredibly challenging.
But this is a notion that impacts upon not only my own personal and professional sustainability as a practitioner but to the materials that I use within my large-scale installations, with particular reference to plastic.
Plastic is a material that’s very close to my heart, it’s political and personal and I’ve written posts previously regarding its potency:
It’s a body of work that’s seen me install 3.6 tonnes of plastic waste next to ‘The Falling Warrior’ by Henry Moore at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool during 2013 with ‘Strangers in a Strange Land’. As well as working with 45,000 plastic bags (the average number an adult will use in their lifetime) to name just two projects. It’s a material that’s infiltrated both our consciousness and our environment:
‘Plastic pollution, which is set to treble between 2015 and 2025 without intervention, has a physical presence in the oceans, and can accumulate on the coasts or in particular areas of the sea.
While animals have been documented consuming or becoming entangled in plastics, the toxic effects they have when they break down and end up inside marine organisms are still not clear.’
Sustainable working practises impact upon the third-sector organisations I engage with as much as the government funded youth services that commission me too. Just this I contacted a youth service regarding a project I worked on last year and I asked the youth leader if they were still facing the government cuts that we talked about previously and he said: ‘Still here presently, no definite news as yet, still keeping the much needed support going with our young people.’ And this is in an area 1.6 miles away from a town where drug possession is said to have nearly trebled in the last five years, according to statistics from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
It’s against these frameworks of reference and more that I’ll consider the following questions when I travel to New York next month:
- The conference will prompt me to not only question my own personal sustainability but my global framework of activity as a practitioner.
- It will provide a location to consider systems thinking, ecological perturbation and the disjuncture inherent between profit & value in potentially resource scarce environments.