Journalist, Artist or Diplomat? What’s the difference?

Photo:Greenpeace/Åslund

Photo:Greenpeace/Åslund

DAVID BERRIDGE: Copenhagen or Hopenhagen; images of an elderly Barack Obama and Gordon Brown saying “We could have stopped catastrophic climate change… We did NOTHING”; special lines for COP15 delegates at passport control. Arriving in Copenhagen and exploring, Alex and I bought pizza and were asked straight away if we were here for the climate change conference. Were we representatives of the British government, said the proprietor rolling pizza dough. Or were we protestors?

A pair of possible identities to choose between and we hesitated before saying “Er…we’re artists” which seemed to cause some confusion, and some urgent translation and word checking in the kitchen. In Frederiksberg we went into the Zusammen Red Cross-run cafe. We chatted about our project, and about New Life Copenhagen. This time talking about it as an art project generated a sense of interest: “ Oh, so you’re not journalists then.” No, we’re not journalists, but quite what the difference is is also something we want to explore.

Our project starts today: 1000 interviews for Copenhagen. In between all the practical things of being in a new place – finding the flat, food, working out how the public transport works – I’ve been looking back at the Question Time project description. It’s a press release, a summary, but it’s also a minute from a day spent in London at Mary’s flat thinking through what the four of us might do here, and a score that we will perform again and again and possibly change over the next two weeks:

Question Time is a series of 1000 interviews, conducted throughout Copenhagen during the UN COP15 conference, towards an alternate statement of the way forward on Climate Change. In a context of inter-governmental debate and negotiation, Question Time explores an alternative approach to climate change based on anecdote neurotic behaviors, misunderstandings, and gossip.

Curious to now think through these terms in Copenhagen itself, and the unusual relations of local and global that COP15 sets up. A particular city transformed by a global event; a natural phenomenon encountering the micro- weather systems of diplomacy. To talk of gossip or neurotic behaviors is to try and map these debates as they interact with our everyday emotional landscapes, to find out how we relate to climate change across our personal and professional lives.

Mary Paterson will be in London for the first week of the project. In many ways, I imagine Mary has more access to how COP15 is being broadcast and understood internationally than we do here. In Copenhagen itself there’s more the physical landscape thrown up by such events: the welcoming stalls at the airport; the COP15 bus taking its long, slow, free route through the city; tonight’s launch event for Hopenhagen.

Mary has proposed the following score to get us started. We ask each of our interviewees the following questions. In the questions themselves – and in the manner of asking and answering – we’ll be testing those identities: journalist, diplomat, artist? What’s the difference?

1. Am I making you nervous?
2. What does it feel like to be part of a social sculpture?
3. Using 5 words, can you describe what COP15 means to you?
4. What do you think this place [i.e. the room, café, street where the interview is taking place] will be like in 50 years’ time? In 150 years’ time? In 1,000 years’ time?
5. What do you feel nostalgic about?
6. What have you learnt today?
7. Where were you and what were you doing 10 days ago?
8. Would you describe yourself as ‘a political animal.’
9. How old are you, and where are you from?
10.Who are you here with, and why?


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Posted: December 7th, 2009 | Author: Alex Eisenberg | Filed under: Text | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »