Letters to the Earth

On Friday 12 April 2019, a group of geographically dispersed artists collaborated in the online platform UpStage to contribute to the global joint reading of Letters to the Earth. Through this online performance, the artists added their voices to the growing demand for urgent coordinated international action to halt the spiraling environmental collapse. This video is a recording of their performance.

Inspired by Extinction Rebellion and the global School Strike for Climate, Letters to the Earth was organised by individuals from the UK’s creative industries as a cultural response to the climate and ecological emergency. Over 1000 letters to the Earth were received in response to an open call, and on 12 April 2019 the letters were read at 49 participating venues around the world – from the UK to Zambia to New Zealand, as well as online in UpStage.

A web-based platform for cyberformance (live online performance), UpStage allows remote artists to collaborate in real time using a variety of digital media, creating live artistic performances for online audiences who interact and contribute via a text chat. Since its launch in 2004, UpStage has provided a unique platform for a great variety of performances and projects, including netactivism. The opportunity for audience to enter, through the text chat, during and after a performance, into direct dialogue with the artists and with each other facilitates engagement and meaningful discussion. The projects make-shift (2010-12) and We have a Situation! (2013-ongoing) in particular have utilised UpStage as a tool for netactivism on issues including the environment, consumption and disposability, water pollution, the social and environmental impacts of technology, migration and the industrialisation of food.

The six artists who performed Letters to the Earth in UpStage were Clara Gomes (Portugal), Helen Varley Jamieson (NZ/Germany), Katarina Djordjević Urosević (Serbia), Lyn Cunningham (Ireland/UK), Miljana Perić (Serbia) and Suzon Fuks (Belgium/Australia). The artists read, sang, wrote, drew and digitally performed excerpts from a selection of letters, using live audio-visual streaming, text2speech, animations, graphics and prerecorded audio-visual media. The audience were invited to write their own letters to the Earth into the text chat and some responded with poetry, comments and questions. Here is an excerpt from the chat after the performance had finished:


<Lyn> is it time for us to grow up and change

{Kaïn} Mother I am for globalwide sterilisation of humans change how?

<dave> change how will you give up your computer, mobile, electric appliances, ?????

<dave> indeed

<dave> we have to give up a lot

[Lyn] {I think we have taken this planet for granted} will you grow plants?

[Lyn] {used it} will take care of animals?

<dave> yes

<dave> i’ll do that will you take care of displaced people

<dave> yes

[dave] {i’m a bit displaced myself}

<dave> we have to confront the difficult questions

<dave> we do have to give things up well, there will be masses of displaced people because of sea level rise

<dave> you’re right

<dave> do you think there is hope?

{Kaïn} To be or not to be that is the question

<dave> many of the letters people wrote to the earth were dark and despairing

<dave> full of guilt i think children do have hope

<dave> guilt is paralysing and maybe some of us

<dave> i have hope

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