Ark (collaboration with Julia Udall and Tom Payne) [2022]

Commissioned by Sheffield Theatres for Together in the City Festival

Ark Sheffield is an artist-led community performance project that engages in questions of climate justice. We open space through which participants can explore fears, and frustrations, as well as tactics and strategies to find better ways to live together, in uncertain futures. In doing so we recognise our interdependencies and acknowledge the asymmetries of the causes and impacts of the climate crisis.  

ark structures different forms of ‘conversation’: the intimacy of dialogues; convivially, over shared food with new people; informally whilst salvaging or co-building; and through polyvocality on stage. Each allows for different rhythms, intensities, realisations, and stories to unfold. Each has different protocols, affordances and potentials. Our aim in developing such conversational space is to challenge seemingly fixed, and often abstract understandings of planetary crisis; fostering relationships, building solidarity, and creating an empowering basis for action.  

In early 2022, the creative team worked with people in myriad everyday spaces across the city of Sheffield, over the course of two months. The co-hosting of a series of shared meals and workshops allowed for conversations about climate to be situated, emerging from peoples’ experiences, and contexts. Their cross-pollination allowed for learning, and for friendships to form. These conversations built to a mass assembly at The Crucible Theatre on 6th April as part of Sheffield Theatres’ Together in the City.  

A circle of listeners, drawn from shared meals, took to the Crucible stage. The lights dropped, and an audience of more than 300 people listened in near darkness to recorded voices broadcast through the Crucible surround-sound system. The sonic weave allowed us to travel with these voices; into their lives, finding resonances, and dissonances, opportunity to laugh and be moved. A polyphony of voices explored questions ark posed: What form does the flood take? How would we create our ark? What would we take with us? What might we leave behind?… 

Through the audio, the audience experience the interrelation of space and time, multiple places and shifting temporalities. The spatial presentation of Ark Sheffield encouraged attunement, and a deep attentiveness. As the recordings faded, those on stage were prompted; how do you feel now? And the conversation moved around the circle, and then, later, out into the theatre audience. Through the use of binaural recording and live stream it travelled out further still to a remote audience, located elsewhere. For this moment, we held together, and through these acts of listening, sensed our collective agency. A world is created where many worlds fit.

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