Harbinger Consultants

Culture + Complexity + Change

UPDATE | MRCF Environmental Outcomes

by Linda Carroli

This week I participated in the Ministerial Regional Community Forum for the Greater Brisbane Region. It is a state government community consultation process in which members of the community are able to meet with and interact with state government ministers.

As community representatives on the Forum, the 12 members are able to present a range of issues and ideas to the government. The Greater Brisbane Forum has several topics on the boil including ‘caring for the carers’, climate change, driver education and environmental offsets. Forum members are also working on additional reports and submissions (eg non-profit sector development) and I’m developing a submission that proposes the introduction of an art-science program as part of the state government’s commitment to climate change and sustainability. This extends its industry development and innovation agendas.

As was pointed out by two of my colleagues at the Monday forum, climate change and environmental issues can no longer be ignored. It’s not a looming crisis, it is here and we are living it. It is the result of every decision we make – what we consume, what we produce and what we do (or don’t do). Old ideas, old politics, old economics and old processes have delivered this result and they are unlikely to be the vehicle through which we redirect our behaviours and priorities. We often like to say ‘you get what you pay for’ – with $900 million towards (unproven) clean coal and $50 million towards renewables, we know what we’ll be getting.

In Australia, innovation, creativity and knowledge are lauded as economic multipliers. In a country that has such a small population, harnessing the intellectual and creative capacity of every individual to generate new thinking, ideas and approaches seems essential. That’s, in part, why art-science approaches are a worthwhile investment for the state. Given the investments in research centres around Queensland, there is a notable absence of ‘creatives’ in interdisciplinary research teams and industry development initiatives.

The Australia Council and CHASS have undertaken research in assessing the value of creativity in the knowledge/innovation economy. Similar research at a state level would be highly desirable in effectively mapping the contribution of knowledge and creativity to the economy. In suggesting art-science for climate change, the ultimate vision is for this program to be introduced across all industry and innovation sectors (and not driven by the arts or creative industries bureaucracies). Another perspective and approach is warranted for this type of industry development program, which is about making daring connections. It can be thought in terms of ‘creatives in industry’ or ‘creatives in research’. It’s not a new idea – it’s just that Queensland hasn’t tried it. Individual artists have sought sporadic funding to undertake self-driven residencies in research environments. They instigate these relationships and art-science is not pursued in a serious or programmatic way in the state.

If the arts and culture are integral to developing a knowledge society and innovation economy, what artists know is as important and vital as what they do or make. The abilities of perception, creativity and disruption are central to artistic practice as well as innovation. Out of artistic process, new knowledge is created. Art objects can be intangible. Art is no longer an expression of skill, but an expression of knowledge and scrutiny. It merges with and enhances other disciplines and knowledge regimes to produce other ways of knowing and sensing. The approaches can be, as a colleague recently described, ‘post-academic’.

Artists themselves may not solve the dilemmas of the current environmental crisis but they can certainly work in ways that illuminate alternatives and release creativity in centres of excellence that would otherwise only talk to like-minds in cloistered disengagement.


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