ODE to the Future: Workshop on activism for climate change

How we can rethink environmental struggles through the dramaturgy of the body, design, essay-writing and socioenvironmental activism.

Group of people sitting on the fallen General Johnson Big Tree in Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, ca.1900

Group of people sitting on the fallen General Johnson Big Tree in Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, ca.1900 | Pierce, C.C. (Charles C.), University of Southern California. Libraries | Public Domain

The language with which climate change is approached tends to simplify its causes and make invisible territory exploitation devices. ODE to the future [1] is a project that groups together various activist collectives in the Catalan territory that have been fighting for years against the disintegration of its landscapes. They are working to make the local signs of climate change acceleration visible in order to defend a new culture of territory management, of self-organisation of the communities and of resistance to the crisis. The project received a special mention from the Jury of the 2nd Cultural Innovation International Prize organised by the CCCB, which considered that it brought into contact and structured a very important sector of activist work within the framework of climate change in Catalonia.

The environment and sustainability serve these days as a repetitive argument against continuing with the consumerism in which we are immersed. The environment house, which many of us believed had to be welcoming, has now become too small for us: the predominant green discourse no longer helps to help take care of our world and improve it, but rather it helps to sell more of the same things that we have already bought, masqueraded in modernity and with a new name.

Precisely, global exploitation of the territory carried out during the Anthropocene places in crisis our culture and climate change is literally “the change” that returns us to the earth, to the quality of that global exploitation. We take along our virtual, media spoons, to the meadows of the climate crisis and we behave like rabbits that don’t know how to eat the grass.

From the ODE to the Future we are working to make local indications of climate change acceleration more visible. By making the devices for exploitation more evident we can defend a new culture of territory management, of self-organisation of the communities and of resistance to the crisis.

The ODEs

ODE to the Future is formed by various activist groups from the Catalan territory who have been fighting for many years against the disintegration of its landscapes: from the Eastern Lands of the River Ter to the Western Lands of the River Ebro; from the snow-topped mountains that feed the River Segre at Viliella to the foggy plain of Vic; from the River Llobregat to the beaches of the Maresme; from villages like Manlleu to cities like Barcelona. So many places, so many struggles. One of us in every place.

We are also dissidents and we also work the squares: from the Camí dels Bons Homes, through which dissidents of the Franco dictatorship marched into exile, to the occupied squares of 15 May. One of us in every square.

Spoons in the meadow | Daniel Barbé Farré

Spoons in the meadow | Daniel Barbé Farré | All rights reserved

Rivers, plains, deltas, beaches, forests, mountains, towns and village: transferred rivers, plains contaminated with slurry, deltas that are receding, beaches that are losing their sand, pine forests that are dying, mountains of salt residues, strategically floodable residential areas, villages swallowed up by major infrastructures, cities besieged by drought, one of us in every place.

However, the old words are no longer of any use and we need a living and participative space from which to reinvent the narrative that we have inherited and to create new imaginaries. To do so, alongside the Workshop for Activist Dissidents in the countryside, (ODE to the Countryside), there is a Workshop for Activist Design (Graphic ODE), a workshop for Activist Dramaturgies of the Body (ODE to the Body), and a Workshop for Activist Dialectic (Ruminate ODE).

Every gesture of resistance in the territory will be converted into a graphic motif, a way of interpreting the body and an act of thinking, this is the bridge between culture and Climate Change that we call the ODE to the Future. The ODEs are sung to each other, passing from activism to culture.

The ODE to the Countryside has gradually distanced itself from its own identification as “environmental activists” because it considers that the environment is a totally written off concept that needs to be reinvented. We coincide in defining our activism as a dissidence that aims to make holes in the consensus on the capitalist exploitation of the countryside. We are a stone in the shoe of power: wherever it treads, it notices us.

The Ruminate ODE is formed by members of the different workshops who need a space to think about the metaphors that certain activating objects or processes take from the crisis in the countryside. At the workshop we make “canamillana”: a word that is a mix of hemp (cànem) and wool (llana) and that serves to name the cabbage and potato stew typical of some municipalities of Osona. We mix thoughts of hemp, which we pull from classical culture, and stories about wool, which come to us from the countryside. The Ruminate ODE gives continuity to the essayistic form of the “Archive of Unstable Landscapes”, taking the tales towards a space for collective thought that inspires, like a recipe, the cooking at all the workshops. Not only do we receive the ingredients that the activist groups bring us from their fields to think about how to cook them but, sometimes, it is us who propose that we use determined “species” to intensify the taste of their view of the territory.

The ODE to the body is conceived not only as a physical entity, but as an energetic flow that interacts with and in the physical spaces, intervening in intangible variables in an unpredictable way. From a spatial thought that passes through the body, dance and the choreographic phenomenon, we become articulators of narrative phenomena that originate ephemeral presences, filling with meaning possible spaces that describe a sensorial and affective experience with the place in question, in its relationship with the views and the perceptions that inhabit it. The choreography in situ becomes a sensitive cartography that strikes up dialogue, because it has the capacity to extract the temperatures of places and translate the human imagination which contains the body that dances them. Thus, the climate of the body is an inherent part of the landscapes, constantly changing and following processes of infinite variability just as the climate does. We explore this climate of the body from the intersection of the same bodies with the environment, which has become the place for pressure where Climate Change has an influence, generating landscapes in crisis.

The Graphic ODE is constituted as a space for exploration of the concept of activist design, grouping together: the Office of Design, the Automàtica (a self-managed printing company in the Gràcia neighbourhood of Barcelona) and the collective printing enterprise of Can Batlló. We transform the metaphor-concepts that explain the functioning of the mechanisms of Climate Change in our landscapes into graphic devices. Simultaneously, we use these devices to reflect on how they operate also on the inside of the graphic conceptions themselves and they can conceive design as a form of revelation and liberation: a device revealed no longer functions as such. The concepts of line, tube, shaded area, white, surface, grid, etc. can serve both as a description of modes of exploitation of the territory in Global Change, and as a description of the graphic functioning that enables the verisimilitude of this exploitation to be created.

Unstable Landscapes: The salt wedge | All rights reserved

Unstable Landscapes: The salt wedge | Daniel Barbé Farré | All rights reserved

The landscapes

The work of the ODEs is to make visible those significant elements of crises that enable us to seek new words, images, gestures and movements to describe them. We need a radical change of language to be able to make up a new counter-tale of words that the power uses in order to take out of the “black box” the reasons for the crisis. The problems are getting worse because the devices that generate them are not visible and the false solutions or halfway solutions generate new crises. The crises are simplified in media terms in such a way that they cannot be disentangled from the elements that generate them, therefore it is difficult to act against them.

The same torrential rain that can make the bases of contention of the salt mountain of Sallent and salinize the Llobregat will be the rain that, down river, in Martorell will flood the Strategic Residential Areas and along the Maresme will cause ground-floor toilets to start overflowing. The same drought that will concentrate the salt in the Llobregat, will concentrate the nitrates in the aquifers of the Ter and will make the saline wedge of the Ebro advance a few kilometres upriver. We have realised that climate change establishes common causes common to the episodes of crisis of our landscapes, for this reason we are working together. We have realised that there are some metaphors that run around our landscapes and help us to understand them.

The same administrative target that explains to us the hole that exists in the Master Plan for the Strategic Residential Area of Martorell and that had given a permit to build in a floodable area along the fertile floodplain of the river Anoia which to now had been preserved from speculation, will make us understand the collapse of the Sallent Station neighbourhood caused by the infiltration of water into the galleries of the potash mines, the re-accommodation of the neighbours of the station neighbourhood and the consequent cost of nearly €100 M assumed by our administration. The same target also explains the “slurrified” waters of Osona, a consequence of Catalonia having more pigs than human inhabitants and an economy based on mono-rearing of pigs that has transformed cultivated crop fields into slurry sinks. The metaphors and concepts slide and are transferred from some landscapes to others and help us to understand where we are living.


[1] The name ODE stands for Activist Dissidence Workshop, for which the Catalan acronym is ODA (Obrador de Dissidència Activista).

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  • Participation | 14 April 2018

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ODE to the Future: Workshop on activism for climate change