Guest Book

bec puts herself on the map

Just met me at the MCA exhibition and want to slap me on the back / poke my eye out with a stick? Want to say hello? Want to sing the praises / condemn a particular artwork you’ve seen for its laudable / laughable use of resources?

Got something to say about the Environmental Audit that’s more general than any particular blog post here? Got any tips for the winning horse in race 9 at Randwick? Or on where I should take my girlfriend out for a fancy dinner?

Well, the “Guest Book” is for you.

I look forward to hearing the full range of your wisdom and banality.

-Lucas, the Auditor.

10 thoughts on “Guest Book

  1. IN THE BALANCE: ART FOR A CHANGING WORLD is an awesome exhibition. A must see. I’m very pleased to see ‘Cradle to Cradle’ as a book to read. I was very impressed by this book and related video ‘Waste is Food’. This is meant as both biological and technical waste streams that can be recycled or upcycled.

    As 40-50% of our waste is organic food and compostable materials, it makes a lot of sense that I am now a keen worm farmer and spreading the skills to others. (Call me the Worm Wrangler). Lucas showed me around the MCA today and it was very apparent that Glenn and the staff are itching to take waste reduction to a new level.

    Another of my favourite books ‘Affluenza’ is on sale in the bookshop. Let’s not forget the first steps in reducing our global footprint are Avoid and Reduce. A good sign is that reuseable coffee cups are becoming more common, and many of us bring our own ceramic cup or drink in the cafe instead. And safe strong reusable water bottles are making a mark against the plastic bottle. It goes on. Great work everyone. 🙂

  2. I visited recently and had a great conversation with Lucas and company. Prior to our conversation, while taking care of business in the bathroom, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t I be using the toilet even if I wasn’t at this museum? Is there any way to quantify what resources visitors like me would have been using if they weren’t viewing the exhibit (i.e. driving their cars, using lights in homes, cooking food, expelling bowels, etc.)?” I think it would be a really interesting (though immensely frustrating) thought experiment to try to balance the “resources” (e.g. lights, toilet paper, water) used by visitors at the museum with the resources they would have used elsewhere if they hadn’t come to the exhibit. I think it’s probable that the exhibit allows for a total per capita resource usage less than the usage of the number of individuals at the exhibit, though I have no data to back this up. If we can divide the overhead (things like costs to install a toilet, or the lighting system) over thousands of visitors, maybe encouraging people to congregate in one place, such as a museum, is really more sustainable. It’s definitely something to consider when weighing the environmental impact of the exhibit versus it’s impact on society.

    Another interesting thought (which recently occurred to me): Wouldn’t it be fascinating to compare the total cost of the exhibit (the end product of the audit) to the difference one enlightened person can make? Basically, we could say that, at a minimum, the MCA exhibit changed one visitor’s life significantly, such that they reduce their water, electricity, petrol, and food (meat) consumption. What if we compared the lifetime reductions of this one person to the total cost of the exhibit? Can one person offset the resources used in this exhibit over a lifetime? What about two people? Or one person for every thousand visitors? I think this is a really interesting way to think about the value of something as substantial as a museum exhibit–I believe that changing even one person’s life can make a difference. But what do the numbers say?

    I’m really excited about this idea, and I hope people continue to be excited and ask questions.

  3. Hi Alex
    Alex: yes, it was great to chat with you when you were in the Audit Room, very lively and provocative it was!

    In the first part of your comment, I think you’re partly talking about the concept of a “base load” of resources which humans consume just by being alive. You’re saying that this base load should be separated out from the “extra” load consumed by particular non-essential activities. This big question that raises is about what we regard as essential, and what as extra? I suppose drinking and eating a minimum amount, pooing and weeing, and breathing, might constitute our basic load. But is it not in the “nature” of humans to “do culture” (culture here being all manner of activities, from needlework to rugby)? In other words, these things are not extras, but are actually part of our base load?

    Putting aside the complexities of this philosophical discussion for a moment – one of the implications of your remarks is that it might be cheaper (ecologically and financially) to heat/cool a single building which supports 100 employees, than to heat/cool 100 individual houses, if the workers were all working from home. Another classic example of this is public transport versus private cars.

    In this vein, if we think of a museum as an example of “public culture” enjoyed by many people, you could be right about it having a smaller footprint than the equivalent number of private cultural activities carried out elsewhere. (Notwithstanding the greenhouse gas emissions produced by transporting visitors to the MCA, of course…)

    Your second point is close to the heart of what this whole Environmental Audit project is about.

    Basically, the scope of Environmental Impact studies is usually to investigate the raw material effects an activity. But as you point out, “art” – as a communicative and affective activity – has the potential for producing social transformation, which puts it in a different category to the production of a standard commodity on the market.

    I haven’t come across any way to “measure” this transformation, so far, as it could be many years after visiting an exhibition before it occurs, and as it would be very difficult to single out this one exhibition amongst a myriad of other factors as “the” event which created such a transformation…

    Tricky stuff. But worth keeping in mind, even while not being able to resolve it.

  4. The word audit makes people guilty. It also makes them think they need to give you things. It’s a very useful social constuct to adopt for alternative purposes because both parties already have an understanding that some kind of exchange needs to take place. The realisation that the audit is actually ‘Arty’ business often comes as a relief, hence the Prismatic Auditors sticker slogan ‘I Love A Good Audit’.

    Having never been audited myself I can only assume that withholding information and a general lack of interest in results can only lead to no good. In the case of our most recent audit of Melbourne Central shopping centre this certainly seemed to be the case.

    I may be generalising but I would say artists who work in socially expanded capacities are optimistic in assuming the strategies they employ are effective in at the very least, generating a little mystery and curiosity?

    I will not go into the details of our process (you can read about them on our website if your interested –, suffice to say that we talked, showed, played, explained, – explained again and then again.

    If you take part in a non-stop two-week process, which involves your hourly participation, wouldn’t you want to find out what your neighbours were doing? Perhaps your floor, heaven forbid your actual work precinct?

    When does the micro relate to the macro?

    It distresses me to have come away from a project feeling disappointed in people. I’m not used to it, but perhaps that’s what its like being an auditor.

    The Prismatic Audits will be featuring on Art Nation this Sunday 5.30 on ABC 1. You can also youtube some of their recent public moments in the throbbing heart of Melbourne fashion retail.

  5. Dear Jason
    thanks for your message. Your Prismatic Audit sounds so interestingly and hilariously weird!
    I wish I could have been in Melbourne to see it.

    Yes, you’re right, taking the moniker “Auditor” does tend to have a ‘guiltifying’ effect on those around us. Even if it’s not intended to have that effect. It’s very curious and powerful.

    [By the way, the Art Nation clip that Jason mentions is here:

  6. Hello Lucas, I saw you in the environmental audit about 2 weeks ago.

    I want to continue the conversation we were having about economics, not least because momentum is a gathering on economics that is better suited to the 21st century, e.g. the statement by the CEO of BHP that there needs to be a price on C.

    This is pertinent because any efforts to rein in green house gas emissions will only be successful if the source of those emissions is better described and understood.

    Then enter stage left things like ‘judicious affluence’. I will be able to explain that to you, but it would take an artist to convey the embodied idea in a captivating manner.

    ‘There are a few other people I am getting together on economics – people who have been thinking long and hard about it – and I reckon that it would be would be mutually rewarding to bounce some ideas around.’

    Cheers. Don.

  7. Don, I really enjoyed talking with you when you visited the exhibition, and I’m looking forward to discussing economics further. It’s part of “my education” in this project to get to grips with the carbon emissions versus carbon tax systems, so I hope you can help with that. And I’ll be happy to put my visualisation methods to work in trying to show this all on a single page, if that is at all possible!

  8. Hi Lucas,

    Good to meet you at the MCA exhibition the other day and thanks for your tips on Sydney sustainability happenings. From the MCA I walked to The Wharf at Walsh Bay as you suggested and had a look at the Sydney Theatre Company’s ‘Greening The Wharfproject. A very interesting and innovative project that Fremantle (where I live and which has similar port-like qualities) could borrow some ideas from.

    The next morning (after spending the rest of that day on an art gallery run) I walked to Myrtle Street,
    Chippendale and then to the Surry Hills Library and Community Centre (another two of your recommendations). It was perfect timing because Michael Mobbs was there in Myrtle Street and he showed me around, then I met a project manager on site at Surry Hills. Both were helpful and knowledgeable people and it was terrific to see a sustainability project at street level in the centre of a city, and then the sustainable community building project.

    Now I am back home and off tomorrow to our local sustainability festival.

    Also here are links to the two articles about the problems with the BCA and housing energy efficiency star ratings, that we talked about:

    Home building guided by stars.

    Green houses expose flaws in ratings

    As discussed my background is in architectural design, building and sustainability, and I look forward to more contact.

    Thanks again; cheers, Mike (Michael Norriss)

  9. i wish you were here too…

    where are you guys? i need carl to do his silly bicycle dance to ward off the evil spirits of climate change!

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