Online discussion with Jem Bendell
and Isabel Lewis, Ibrahim Mahama, Solvej Helweg Ovesen
Since 2018 Professor Bendell has warned about how the anxieties from anticipating vulnerability and experiencing disruption could lead to harmful reactions. He offered a framework called Deep Adaptation to help people avoid contributing to that and instead finding positive ways of responding to societal breakdown. Considering the pandemic effects and responses globally, Professor Bendell is exploring whether the West has been both hit the worst and responded the worst due to its populations being more dependent on corporate-dominated systems of communication and governance. Can the centres of industrial consumer life cope with their declining safety, certainty and supremacy? What are the implications for both the West and the rest?
Professor of Sustainability Leadership, IFLAS, University of Cumbria Fellow, The Schumacher Institute
Professor Jem Bendell (UK) is an engaged sociologist who enables leadership and communications for people to reduce harm in the face of disruptive environmental and social change. He has lived and worked in 8 countries for clients in business, politics and civil society, as well as with UN agencies, for over 25 years. Ten years ago, the World Economic Forum appointed him a Young Global Leader for his contribution, since 1995, to international alliances for environment, development and social justice. However, in recent years he publicly regrets inadvertently helping global corporations to further degrade both the planet and humanity through their influence on sensemaking and governance. His 2018 analysis of the implications of the climate science was that it is now too late to prevent the breakdown of industrial consumer societies. His analysis went viral and encouraged both the Extinction Rebellion and Deep Adaptation movements. In 2020 founded the Scholars Warning initiative to help scholars speak out on these topics. He regards the changes in society since 2020 as both aspects and accelerators of societal breakdown and now combines research in psychology with sociology to help explain the dangers. He also uses his skills in methodology to analyse competing views on matters of public health. When sick with Covid-19 in 2021 he began to write music, and now records and releases songs on similar themes to his work and activism.
"Jem Bendell is the leading voice on what the climate crisis means for society and how we must let go of old ideas to discover what could reduce harm in future." Gail Bradbrook, co-founder, Extinction Rebellion
Isabel Lewis, Ibrahim Mahama & Solvej Helweg Ovesen, 2021, photo by Juan Saez
XO Curatorial Team 2021/22
Isabel Lewis (DOM) began her professional career in the world of contemporary dance in 2003. The formal constraints of the proscenium and its relationship to the audience motivated her to begin showing work in alternative spaces such as bars, living rooms, and gardens—all places where she could interact directly with the public. She is also founder of The Institute for Embodied Creative Practices at Callie`s Berlin.
Ibrahim Mahama (GHA) is best known for the massive tapestries of sewn-together jute sacks that he drapes over entire buildings. In 2019 he founded the Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art (SCCA) in Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region of Ghana, which has expanded to become a hub for research and local engagement, with a programme of artist residencies and exhibitions that span SCCA and its sister institution, the nearby Red Clay, where Mahama also has a studio. Last year he acquired Nkrumah Volini, a huge disused building in Tamale—originally intended for food storage and distribution—which he is in the process of converting into a cultural centre.
Solvej Helweg Ovesen (DK) is an independent curator and cultural studies theoretician (Master in Communication and Cultural Studies Roskilde University, Copenhagen University and Humboldt University of Berlin). Since 2015 she is, among other activities, the artistic director of Galerie Wedding – Space for Contemporary Art in Berlin Wedding. Ovesen refers to her practice as “deep curating.” In 2021 she founded XO Curatorial Projects which focuses on an intensive, recurring (long-term) and ongoing exchange among artists and theorists.