Panel Discussion – New Horizons: Art For Complex Times

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Despite much positive work done, our species remains as unsustainable as ever. Constrained by the self-destructive desire to keep growing our economies, the conversation remains stuck around technological fixes that might conserve energy and increase efficiency – just as long as it doesn’t interfere with continued growth. This kind of ‘common sense’ has got everyone off the hook so far.

But, phenomenal growth of something requires a phenomenal decrease in something else – and so we have become great experts at hiding, delaying displacing or ignoring our stunning capacity for depletion. Forty years of sustainability discourse and the warnings of innumerable scientists hasn’t much affected our culture. Any calls for a fundamental re-thinking about how we want our now severely threatened future to look are met with howls of extremism.

While design has done some significant thinking in this area the broader arts has largely approached ecological crises as a transient thematic or a specialised field for the few, often limited by woolly aim of ‘raising consciousness’. Clearly it hasn’t worked.

What does a new kind of science/arts partnership look like that can engage across the disciplines and help shift this deep-seated stasis?

This panel brings together theorists, artists and design thinkers to engage the big question – if science can only do so much – what kind of help can the arts bring now, and consequently what new kinds of practitioners do we need to train and evolve?


  • Tania Leimbach (Chair) – UTS, Institute for Sustainable Futures
  • Keith Armstrong – QUT Creative Industries
  • William Gladstone, UTS, School of Life Sciences
  • Jeremy Walker – UTS, Social Enquiry Program

Dr. Tania Leimbach is a Research Associate at UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures. Her research explores dynamics between local cultures and global issues. She investigates the role that public cultural institutions play in public life, politics and social change. Her work particularly focuses on questions of agency within organisational structures, and the processes and effects of creativity and cultural display on diverse, contemporary publics.

Dr. Keith Armstrong is an experimental artist profoundly motivated by issues of social and ecological justice. His practice provoked audiences to comprehend, envisage and imagine collective pathways towards sustainable futures. He specialises in collaborative, experimental practices with emphasis upon innovative performance forms, site-specific electronic arts, networked interactive installations, alternative interfaces, art-science collaborations and socially and ecologically engaged practices. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at QUT.

Prof. William Gladstone is Head of School of Life Sciences at UTS. He is a marine biologist with research and teaching interests in marine conservation biology and reproductive and behavioural ecology. Particular research interests of Bill’s include the value of biodiversity surrogates for selecting and designing marine protected areas, reef fish spawning aggregations, shark biology, and the management and conservation of marine biodiversity in developing countries. Bill also collaborates with artists and is currently working with artist Lisa Roberts to produce an exhibition in December on the art and science of seagrass.

Dr. Jeremy Walker is Lecturer in Environment, Culture and Society in the Social and Political Sciences Program at UTS. His research interest lies in the history of interactions between the natural sciences and the human sciences – especially between economics and ecology – and its critical consequences for present policy challenges.