A woman sits staring out of a train window as the train passes through mountains lit by the sun. The sky behind is blue with a single white cloud.
On the journey through the mountains. Image credit: Rachel Clarke.

Declaring Climate Emergency? Not just ‘woke words’ at the bottom of emails

Priya Mistry travelled to IETM 2019 in Rijeka without boarding a plane. Here, she shares her reflections and critical observations from the journey. Priya explores what it really means to be getting from A to B in the Global Art Climate.

A woman in stripy trousers and sandals sat on the floor in front of some pink graffiti that reads "Rijeka"
Image credit: whatsthebigmistry

2019: Awarded British Council Bursary £500 + Access via Unlimited to attend IETM in Rijeka, Croatia in October 2019.
19th October: UK – France – Belgium – Germany – Austrian Alps – Slovenian Alps
20-23rd October: Slovenia – Italy – Croatia
23-28th October: ITEM Rejika Croatia
28th October: Milan, Italy
29th October: Italian Alps – Swiss Alps – France
29-30th October: Strasbourg, France
30th October: France – Belgium
30-31st October: Brussels, Belgium
31st October: Belgium – France – UK
No Brexit 


I remember watching a TV programme, a man appeared. “Don’t watch television. I’m only here in television to tell you not to watch television.”

“Television sells back to you everything it takes away from you; while you’re watching people travelling through mountain-scapes, making love and drama, or filming a documentary memoir, you are not among mountains, having a relationship, or filling your life story with stuff. You’re watching television.”

A quaint street in Ljubljana, showing yellow brick buildings with shops on the ground floor
Image credit: whatsthebigmistry


Lake Bled in Ljubljana, the water is very blue and mirrors the blue sky. In the middle of the lake is a small island with a quaint church with a red roof. In the background are mountains and greenery.
Image credit: whatsthebigmistry

What is Slow Travel?
Trains, buses, boats, cargo boats, no flights, less carbon.
It is:
The journey and not only the destination
A conveyor belt of film locations
Visiting places you definitely didn’t dream about seeing
Realising your geography is off
Making it up as you go
Navigating a plethora of schedules

Joining the Circus
Many organisations and activists are “declaring a climate emergency,” but what are we doing about it? Many performance companies tour on short-dates culture, fly, pass through theatres but don’t really see the place they are visiting. The carbon footprint is inevitably high, the cultural presence transitory and compact.

Artists, programmers, and academics all require travel. How does one sustainably engage with the globalised arts sector? This conversation was central at IETM (an international gathering of international arts professionals).

Four row boats docked to a wooden jetty on Lake Bled. The sun is high in the sky above a mountain and the water behind the boats.
Image credit: whatsthebigmistry



A disused grey factory with broken windows. The sky behind is blue and is cut in half by a large chimney coming out of the top of the building. The sign on the front is written in Croatian.
Image credit: whatsthebigmistry

(Re)framing the International: a card game for art workers – Marijke De Moor & Joris Janssens from Flanders Art Institute, Belgium.By offering the player scenarios, this game encourages critical reflection on international working. Navigating the problems embedded in the game, which are all too common in real life, it forces us to question what we do and why.

I played with an Italian Project Manager and realised that if I was an artist based in Italy, I’m not sure I would make a living or life as an artist, in the way I do in the UK. It’s a quick lesson in the complexities of working across nations, how avidly local economy and politics determine co-production and creative practice. Ultimately, it asks: what if we shift priorities, centring our decisions on well-being? Or climate sustainability? Paying artists for their work, and not (simply) making the work happen? What would this look like? How would a Project Manager achieve this? Is it even viable?

A photograph of Priya's notes and two cards given to her about "natural capital" and "social capital."
Image credit: whatsthebigmistry

UK > Croatia Slow Travel is…

  • Two broken Eurostar trains, three hours of delay, screening football in Folkestone Terminal to keep the masses at bay
  • Finding your three-hour transfer between bus and train is now…six minutes
  • Travelling over tracks, through mountains, fields, cities, the lost-in-translation, the crying and sleeping babies
  • Questioning the six consecutive connections you didn’t question when booked
  • Passing the length of Germany in one night
  • Finding yourself in the throes of German city after German city on a Saturday night, the kisses, feuds, drunks, the singing
  • Passing between Alpine mountains while the dawn breaks
  • Straddling borders, crossing rivers, traversing bridges
  • Taking an entire day to walk around Lake Bled
  • Violating Slovenian Autumn dress because, “this is good British summer weather, this is!”
  • Sharing the journey with travellers headed to the same destination
  • Unexpectedly watching the sunset in Trieste, a bit of coastal land on the map you didn’t realise was still Italy
  • Finding Gelato on Google Maps between connections
  • Passing through the ruins of the former Yugoslavia you saw being bombed to bits on TV in the 90s
  • Retracting your lobster order because it’s £80, not £8…
  • Making a rest stop in Strasbourg because it’s “convenient,” only to find it’s chocolate-box-beautiful
  • Suspecting that, in a brief hostel stay, you can hear the buzz of a vibrator in the bed above you

A piece of advice: avoid night trains in the Alps, you’ll miss the view you paid for.

The outside of the Rijeka City of Culture office which is indicated by a bright neon pink sign. There is quirky street art on the walls either side of the office and a plant by the door.
Image credit: whatsthebigmistry
Two people sit on a stoney beach. One is reading a book, the other crouched on a rock. Behind them is the bottom of a cliff face and a chicken wire fence with a red checked towel hung over. The sun is setting and is getting in their eyes.
Image credit: whatsthebigmistry

Life Modelling by Railway
What if….Flexi-working allowed you to be a digital nomad?
Universal Basic Income replaced incomes as we know them now?
We all had 3- or 4-day week instead of 5?
The country shut up shop one day a week everywhere.
Annual leave was 120 days, not 28? What could you do with that time?
And what is time? Standardised time was first adopted in Britain in the 1840s by railway companies, so everyone would know when a train would arrive and leave.
What if we didn’t base our decisions on that which we deem to be most ‘efficient’ or ‘productive’ or fast? Is our idea of efficiency really efficient?

Priya in a lift with green walls which match the green of her blue and green patterned jacket as well as the small amount of green eye makeup she wears.
Image credit: whatsthebigmistry

UK > Australia. Train, Bus, and Cargo Boat (no flights!)
My next working challenge is truly global. Leaving the UK on February 15th 2020, I will head for a Research Residency in Australia with Critical Path in Sydney, attempting not to fly. Favouring instead train, bus, and cargo boat.
At the time of writing, I am still preparing. It’s Visa forms, vaccines galore, biometric fingerprints, and planning for air rescue in the middle of the ocean. And, now, circumventing the Coronavirus.


Useful Resources:
The Man in Seat 61
Cheap Eurostar Tickets
Carbon Calculator
Babs to Brisbane

Instagram: @whatsthebigmistry

Twitter: @whatsthebigmist

Website: whatsthebigmistry.com