Environmental Storytelling in Diverse Media

In their article 'How can we tell difficult stories differently', Sydney Environment Institute researchers Freya Grace and Jennifer Degar reflected on the the power of stories to transform our relationship with the environment, through the series of talks presented at the workshop Environmental Storytelling in Diverse Media in 2022.

At the workshop, Ceridwen presented and spoke about her short film Musca (a collaboration with Rowen Potts as part of their Outer Space Film Quartet) and Zoë spoke with Thom van Dooren about their collaboration storying the regent honeyeater.

Earth Rise images taken from Apollo 8 in 1968
Earth Rise, Apollo 8, taken by astronaut Bill Anders in 1968 as the first crewed spacecraft circumnavigated the Moon via NASA.

From the article:

Novelist and non-fiction author, Ceridwen Dovey, began her presentation by confessing a powerful desire to work with images after many years of writing had taken her to what she described as the limits and ethics of language in storying with the more-than-human world. This had sparked a desire to collaborate and co-create. The short film, Musca (2022), made with visual anthropologist, Rowena Potts, playfully relocates conventionally Earth-bound questions about nature to the tiny constellation of Musca in the Southern Sky. Dovey pointed to the multidimensional narrative opportunities that film affords as it enables the work of making the unseen visible.

Diagram showing elements of a collage and the archival images they were cut from
'Exploded Diagram' showing elements of a collage and the archival images they were cut from, by Zoe.

From the article:

Thom van Dooren and Zoë Sadokierski reflected on a work-in-process, co-authored and co-created with Myles Oakey, Timo Rissanen, Sam Widin and Ross Crates, that explores the life of the regent honeyeater, an endangered species from eastern Australia. As van Dooren and Sadokierski noted, this bird's movements are not well understood, and their numbers have declined drastically — they no longer exist at the density required to breed and maintain territory.

This presentation again captured the power and importance of multi-voiced, layered storytelling that in this case encompasses intricate illustrations and a series of “side flights” that include audio and textual accompaniments. The designs pictured are not simple illustrations to aid comprehension, they reflect an effort to engage design in ways that reinforce, complicate and animate the stories they are trying to tell. As van Dooren noted, part of the research for the project has been about finding ways in which the biology of the bird speaks to the ethics of storytelling, and then weaving these into the design. He described how this creates a kind of nested set of commitments, strategies and possibilities that become mutually reinforcing and work on the reader/viewer, and the world, in powerful ways.