Using Art, Games and Narrative to Communicate Resilience

By: Michelle F. Fox

On July 29th, 2015, Dr. Marcus Moench, Michelle Fox, and Christopher Moench presented the results the Resilience Narratives project at a luncheon hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation. The theme of the event was the collaboration of art and science to communicate concepts of resilience. 

Given the complexity and nuances of science, and the difficulty of communicating these subjects across cultural and disciplinary barriers, ISET-International recognized the need to communicate in a new way. While the Resilience Narratives project is firmly grounded in research and science, the results of the project are communicated in innovative, non-traditional formats. Some of the products produced include:

  • Short documentaries that provide simple and clear examples of what resilience is and is not. These ≤4-minute long videos are designed to spur conversation and quickly illustrate different dimensions of resilience.
  • Ceramic artwork creates a reflective space for people from all walks of life to ponder and imagine the hope we have for our future and what a resilient future can look like.
  • Simple hands-on games provide an environment where experts and non-technical community members can interact and share their understanding, while building their collective knowledge of what resilience is and how it applies to their own city.
  • In addition to creative communication products, the team has also developed a series of working papers and case studies. The first installment of this series is Beyond Resilience, which provides an accessible introduction to the concept of resilience.

Through these multiple platforms and diverse range of mediums, the team is able to connect with, and bring together diverse groups of stakeholders—a component that is key to building resilience, regardless of the scale or location.

The luncheon involved brief presentations, the screening of short documentaries, interactive art, and simple, hands-on games. The products presented were produced collaboratively by the presenters and their teammates Kanmani Venkateswaran, Rachel Norton, and Andrea Caspari with support from the Rockefeller Foundation.

 


 

What is Resilience?

Presenter: Marcus Moench

The luncheon began with a brief presentation from Marcus Moench, Founder of ISET-International. He introduced the goal of the project, discussed the varying definitions of resilience by practitioners of disparate fields and why a new approach for communicating science through art is important. Marcus’ presentation presented the themes behind the commissioned artwork entitled, “A tale of two contrasting realities,” and how the imagery presented on each form provokes feelings of both fear and hope. His presentation discussed the 1000 1% solutions that are possible, and how these small-scale actions can aggregate to transform the fragile and unsustainable systems on which all of our lives depend.


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Beyond Resilience

Presenter: Michelle F. Fox

In Beyond Resilience, the authors seek to clarify what resilience is, and what it is not. In this publication they share an at-a-glance introduction to the concept of resilience and the factors that it results from. Our first goal is to generate a discussion that explores both the common meanings of resilience and the manner in which resilience terms can contribute to a much more profound understanding of complex system dynamics. Our second, but equally important goal is to prevent resilience from becoming a buzzword lemming that unwittingly follows sustainability (and a host of other terms) off the proverbial cliff into an abyss of meaninglessness.


 

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Using Games to Demystify Complexity

Presenter: Michelle F. Fox

The event engaged participants with a simple hands-on game called the Resilience Tumbling Blocks. This game breaks open concepts of uncertainty, resilience, core urban services, and encourages the audience to build their knowledge and understanding of the characteristics of resilience together. To learn more about this game, please see this blog.


 

Screenshot 2015-08-03 16.53.37Using art to communicate resilience

Presenter: Chris Moench

Chris Moench’s work, “A Tale of Two Contrasting Realities” juxtaposes the hope and threat of our changing world. In his presentation, Chris shared the story of his journey as a material artist, and the collaboration with the Resilience Narratives team that inspired these works of art. This kinetic sculpture invites the viewer to gently turn the wheel, write notes of reflection, and place them inside the vessels. It’s this connection with the art that brings them to life. The video above brings you as close to the experience as possible with scrolling imagery and calming music to bring the viewer into a reflective space to consider the question of “what is the hope to you?”

 

 

 


Short documentaries

These short, 4-minute documentaries were developed by the Resilience Narratives team as a way to open discussions on resilience. Each of the documentaries was produced as a way to illustrate one or multiple dimensions of resilience. Below are links and descriptions of the documentaries that were screened.

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Beyond Resilience: It’s more than just flood mitigation

Description: This documentary tells a story from Gorakhpur, India and how resilience building activities to increase the flood holding capacity of a city harnesses the force multiplier of social networks impacting the lives of nearly 18,000 people. Not only that, but the successful training and access to a 5-day weather forecast is offering improved farming yields and profits that farming families are reinvesting into their homes and children’s education. “Things will get better in the future,” says Karin, a model farmer who is participating with the Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group’s Farmer Field School. This documentary illustrates that building resilience isn’t about fixing the problem, it’s about finding elegantly frugal solutions that have cascading benefits—improving overall conditions through a thousand 1% solutions.

 

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Beyond Resilience: Jamestown Flood Bowls

Description: When we think about climate change and the potential disasters that lie ahead, the initial assumption might be to build infrastructure and invest in costly programs. One of the most basic variables that increases the resilience of a community, city, and even country are the relationships that they have with their neighbors. In the Jamestown Flood Bowls documentary, we share a story of a woman in Jamestown, Colorado who brought her community together around making art. “I wanted to do something that we could do together, and share our stories,” says Joy Boston, the ceramic artist behind the Jamestown Flood Bowls. The neighbors united around making these bowls using a simple “pinch pot” method. They’ve made around 250 bowls and gifted them to volunteers who came to Jamestown’s aid after the devastating flood of Boulder in September 2013. Boston optimistically reflected, “Your closest community are your neighbors… And in a disaster they’re the most important people. And I think that’s one of the most beautiful things that came out of this horrific disaster was that we became closer as a community.

 To find out more about the Resilience Narratives project, please see our project page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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