H2O: Life and Death

Posted on September 25, 2017

J.M.Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice The University of Adelaide, 14-16 September ‘Lost Waters’ was proposed as a key theme when  GALA was established. Professor Claudia Egerer from the University of Stockholm was one of the key members of the early group. Her keynote at ‘H2O: Life and Death’ was entitled ‘Imaginings of Water – Lost Water and the Entanglement of the Living’. In a masterly analysis of narratives set in Australia, South Africa, Finland and the United States concerning climate change, Claudia identified the power of stories in our understanding of the environment.  There are no simple answers. As she puts it, there are ‘impossible choices as ethics is pitted against stewardship, life against (hi)story.’ GALA partnered with the University of Adelaide and the EU Centre for Global Affairs in the conference convened by the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice, a GALA member. The director, Jennifer Rutherford, and Camille Roulìère, a co-tutelle student in the centre, convened the conference, supported by Jane Drake-Brockman of the EU centre. The conference was opened by Michael Young, a leading environmentalist , who called on the artists, writers and literary critics attending to make vivid scientific facts. Poetry, art, history, music (Ravel’s Jeux d’Eaux, played by the extraordinary young Adelaide pianist, Anna Goldsworthy) and science (Anastasia Tyurina’s ‘New ways of seeing water: Artistic experimentation with the scanning electron microscope) did just that. Among the gathering of Australian New Zealand and South African scholars, three represented Bath Spa University. Staff member Sara Penrhyn Jones’ film, Timeline and PhD student Laura Denning’s Liquid Mimesis were centrepieces of an evening open to the public. There were calls for Sara’s powerfully polemic and moving documentary  to be shown more widely. Charlotte Shipperley,  a student with Laura  in Environmental Humanities, talked of flooding in Southern Louisiana as portrayed in Behn Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild. Elegantly argued, Charlotte’s paper resonated as the waves of hurricanes swept across the Gulf of Mexico. I was delighted to be able to attend the conference and see Bath Spa University so well represented. Professor Emerita Christina Slade, Founding Director of GALA