Leah Barclay | BALANCE-UNBALANCE (2013)
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At a time when the world is experiencing unprecedented ecological threats, the Balance-Unbalance International Conference is a global initiative designed to harness the talents of innovators working at the forefront of the arts, science and technology to explore transdisciplinary approaches to sustainability. In 2013, Leah Barclay co-chaired the Balance-Unbalance International Conference which took place in the UNESCO listed Noosa Biosphere Reserve, in Queensland, Australia. Barclay initiated the opportunity to host Balance-Unbalance in Australia and the three-day event brought together over 200 participants from 24 countries, including artists, scientists, activists, philosophers, sociologists, architects and engineers, making it one of the largest interdisciplinary art gatherings in regional Queensland. This successful event has resulted in a wide spectrum of projects, collaborations and international publications that continue to evolve internationally. The event was scheduled to coincide with Floating Land 2013 in Noosa Biosphere Reserve, a regional arts festival Leah Barclay curated in 2011 that is now renowned as a key contributor to the international conversation around environmental art.

The goal of Balance-Unbalance is not just in hosting events, but bringing like-minded individuals together to collaborate and take action. The ‘Art!>Climate’ environmental sound art competition developed in partnership with the Red Cross Climate Centre is one example of a resulting initiative. This project showcased the possibilities of combining a large-scale humanitarian organisation with artistic practice and attracted global attention around the role of sound and creativity in responding to climate change. Balance-Unbalance 2013 explored how artists can participate in the challenges of our ecological crisis. The event inspired creative thinking and transdisciplinary action to create perceptual, intellectual and pragmatic changes. Balance-Unbalance is not just a conference, but the catalyst for new ideas, collaborations and most importantly actions in shaping our collective futures.

Visit the official website to see the 2013 conference program and proceedings – www.balance-unbalance2013.org 


Future Nature, Future Culture[s] – Balance-Unbalance 2013 Conference Theme

The 2013 conference theme: “Future Nature, Future Culture[s]” aims to challenge our expectations of Earth, provoke our understanding of nature and inspire our actions for a sustainable future. 

What we will be calling nature in 20, 50 or 100 years? How we will live in the future? What do we foresee for the future of human kind? How could creativity help us shape a society of understanding and interconnectedness? What role could transdisciplinary thought and action play in reimaging a sustainable future? Will there be a future withpeaceful knowledgeable societies and a rich variety of cultures? What can first nation knowledge teach us about our future? There are infinite questions and limited answers, but we have the opportunity to use our intelligence and creativity to make positive changes.

Balance-Unbalance asks us to consider what we want for ourselves, our families, our friends, and for the future of humankind. This complex universe, vastly unknown, has been revealing that all is interconnected. Timothy Morton states that everything is connected into a vast, intertangling “mesh” that flows through all dimensions of life. No person, no animal, no object or idea can exist independently. Our limited knowledge of life can be expanded, but to do so we need better ways to understand each other. This includes a deeper awareness of how different human societies can comprehend cultural differences and synergies. There is a dramatic need for a paradigm shift and we need to act now if we are going to survive as a species.

We want to inspire explorations of how artists can participate in this major challenge of our ecological crisis. We need to use creative tools and transdisciplinary action to create perceptual, intellectual and pragmatic changes. We want to discuss our proposals for the future from a diversity of cultural perspectives and socio-economic situations with open minds. 

Balance-Unbalance seeks to bring artists together with scientists, economists, philosophers, politicians, sociologists, engineers, management and policy experts with the intent of harnessing creative thinking to facilitate a paradigm shift for a sustainable future. This future is not an indulgent utopia we desire, but a matter of survival.

Leah Barclay is now a executive board director for Balance-Unbalance and is working on curating the virtual program for Balance-Unbalance 2015 at Arizona State University in the USA. Future information and the full conference program is available online – www.balance-unbalance2015.org 


 Leah Barclay with the keynote presenters (Tony Fry, Fee Plumley, Nina Czegledy, Ricardo Dal Farra, Ramon Guardans and Andrea Polli at Balance-Unbalance 2013.