The Christmas Climate Change Variety Hour (Carols by Candlelight meets the Apocalypse) was an event at the Verge Gallery Forecourt (Jane Foss Russel Plaza) on December 12, 2015. Curated by Lisa Mumford, Craig Johnson and Jennifer Hamilton. Earlier in the year, we called out to artists to consider the links between Climate Change and Christmas. The event was hosted by feminist cabaret stars Lady Sings It Better. It featured 8 other performances and the combined work of 16 local artists and musicians. The curators knew the links between climate change and Christmas urgently needed to be thought through, but going into the event we did not have any clear expectations about how artists would take them up and animate them for a live audience. We were extraordinarily surprised by how equally entertaining and serious the performances were. On the whole, the artists ended up presenting a darkly comic look at a range of different issues, from fossil fuels, consumption, disenfranchisement and alienation, to drought, seasonality, the virgin birth and boredom. The mainstream spectacle of contemporary Christmas tends to overlook any consideration of the global ecosystem that supports it, and this event opened up a variety of ways to think through these connections.
Before and after, the event was caught up in a media storm where the conservative press got hold of the event and used it to leverage negative press against the sitting Lord Mayor of Sydney. Although the articles constituted a radical misrepresentation of the ideas behind the event and a general contempt for both creativity and freedom of speech, the media coverage revealed the degree of difficulty in the task of not only rethinking, but actively changing mainstream cultural traditions that involve excessive consumption. The surprising outcome of the negative press for us was that it served to bring the politics of the event into sharp focus. This night was not just an outdoor party but a community gathering that enacted a widespread critique of the status quo.
After the event many have asked if we will do it again. “No comment” is our official response.
The night in pictures…
Photographs by Lucy Parakina