What about a (SLOW) MOBILITY MANIFESTO?

At the #Mobility4Creativity 2019 two-day Conference, Jana Wilcoxen, conference rapporteur, reflects how can we be more aware of what we are doing and the impact that our choices make on the society and environment as well as our own personal health and well-being. In 2023, this topic is important more then ever.

As (creative) humans, we don’t really like either/or situations. Dr. Lučka Kajfež Bogataj’s talk at the conference sent many of us into a tailspin of sorts when she said, “Mobility is great, but …” and then listed all the dangers and impacts of our travels on the environment, our health and the health of other inhabitants of the planet. We were crying to ourselves: “But we can’t just stay at home!”

Next day, we heard more about the artistic issues that can arise with mobility – issues of copy/paste, generic programmes, the lack of understanding about the role of the artist participating in them and their needs while participating in residencies or exchange programmes from the experiences of an artist and a curator. We also heard about the social-political issues of who travels, why and to where, as well as for what purpose and varying opinions about how to measure the results. It’s clear that if we are forced into an either/or position, none of us feel very free in that decision or in our actions, as if we must give up mobility completely or feel guilty about our mobility activities or that we must once again subject the arts and artists to be the mediators of social change.

Indeed, this question of the role of the arts and artists today could be the topic of another conference, so for now we stayed only on the level of questions – questions that we add to our increased awareness of our environmental and social impact.

But these very questions are what can drive our decision-making in the future as we integrate this new information and test and (re)affirm our practices. So instead, we might consider changing that phrase to “Mobility is great, and … “and thus follow that and with the list of things that we would like to keep in mind.

If you start to be aware of how your ideas about mobility are shaped, you might take a moment to observe the spaces of airports and the advertising in them and maybe contrast them with the messaging and organisation of train stations. If we look at the messaging about flying and world travel, pay attention to the ads in the airports as well as in in-flight magazines. Compare and contrast them with those in your local train station. Could we consider a disruption in that type of messaging?

Dr. Lučka Kajfež Bogataj calls for innovation at all levels. Suggesting that airfare tickets cost more to offset the damage we do when we fly. That’s not to say we should never fly, but instead: How can we be more aware of what we are doing and the impact that our choices make on the society and environment as well as our own personal health and well-being? Perhaps this innovation needs to take the form of a disruption.

In 1986, the Slow Food organisation started a worldwide movement about the importance of sustainability in our eating habits. Is it time to start a SLOW MOBILITY movement? Could we perhaps consider creating a mobility manifesto? What would such a document contain? Is this a task that we could take back to our organisations, artist associations, professional networks and working groups? Fatima Avila proposed that perhaps adding a point or two on environmentally-conscious mobility to the Canary Islands Declaration on Artistic and Cultural Mobility (2014).

We might consider how we could attempt to lower our kWH/day consumption in the areas of transport. A good place to look is the website Carbon Footprint which helps you to calculate your annual carbon footprint as well as offers ways of offsetting it. What if instead of frequent flyer miles, there was a frequent flyer tax? Or if one could use frequent flyer miles not to buy luxury items but to plant a tree, support ecological business development or other environmentally-friendly actions? What if people used their status to influence doing good for the planet and not having luxury for themselves? Nowadays low-fare airlines have taken the place of rail travel, especially for youth, who now hop around Europe by plane instead of hopping on and off of trains. Obviously these measures are beyond our sector, but we can start by raising awareness about the needs and issues in our local and global communities.

Mobility4creativity 2019 Foto Colinerobin Motovila Day 1The conference Mobility for Creativity International Conference (4-5 April 2019, Ljubljana, Slovenia) organized by the Motovila Institute and partners explored the benefits and challenges of international mobility in the cultural and creative sector (CCS), especially putting mobility’s environmental impact to the test. See conference full report.

Jana Wilcoxen 150x150Jana Wilcoxen has been working in various capacities, contexts and countries in the field of culture for over thirty years. Since moving to Ljubljana from Seattle in 2000, she has been involved in numerous European cooperation projects for different Slovenian public institutions and NGOs, especially in the process of their development and design. As a regular collaborator of Motovila, she brings an outside eye that is capable of zooming in on the details as well as taking in and reflecting on the big picture.

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