Play it Cool?

Play it Cool? In Search of an Ethics and Aesthetics for dealing with Climate Change.

But why not play it cool? Why not survive
By Nature’s laws that still keep us alive?

~Wendell Berry

An anti-consumerist ethic and politics should therefore appeal not only to altruistic compassion and environmental concern but also to the more self-regarding gratifications of consuming differently: to a new erotics of consumption or hedonist ‘imaginary’.” 
~ Kate Soper

A Workshop with Marina Zurkow, Una Chaudhuri, and Fritz Ertl

• Workshop fee $5. 

The science of climate change seems finally to have silenced all but the most benighted of global-warming naysayers; today, few sane people doubt that it is time —way past time—for governments world wide to take action against the disastrous industrial practices that are threatening to change the very outlines of the continents and to bring untold destruction and suffering to millions of members of both our species and others’.  Yet the changes that are needed are happening—if they are happening at all—at a glacial pace and insufficient scale.

Clearly, the facts of science have not been enough to galvanize citizens or governments.  What else is needed? What will raise awareness to the point of meaningful action?  What new values might provide the foundation for such action? What new ethics will have us feeling and thinking differently about our lives and life-styles? What new aesthetics will illuminate our situation and empower us to make the changes we need?


This workshop will use performance, discussion, and art analysis to explore what the philosopher Kate Soper has called “aesthetic revisioning” in service of a new set of values she calls “alternative hedonism.”

Participants are asked before coming to read four (mostly brief) texts and to prepare a response to the readings in the form of a project of their own. (The fourth text, by Kate Soper, is a little longer and while strongly recommended – because it is so great – is optional)  The project can be something you have already completed, or entirely new; it can be visual, performative, writing, sound, etc.

The workshop will begin with a Presentation Slam, with each participant showing and talking about his or her project for FIVE minutes.  Following a short period of response and discussion, participants will divide into groups for a performance-based exploration of both the issues and the forms addressed in the projects.

Some of the strategies included in this think-make workshop include: embodying visual art, thinking of animals and plants as docents and helpers, rethinking the transformation of urban space and the imaginary to be inclusive of other species, and an exploration of what it would mean to inhabit a more organic and sensory life.

The readings are: 

  • Wendell Berry, “A Speech to the Garden Club of America,” The New Yorker, September 28, 2009. [poem]
  • Epicurus, “Letter to Menoeceus” and “Exhortation” [6 pages]
  • Robert Harrison, “The Garden School of Epicurus” Gardens, An Essay on the Human Condition [8 pages]
  • Kate Soper, “Alternative Hedonism, Cultural Theory and the Role of Aesthetic Revisioning.” Cultural Studies, Volume 2, No. 5 September 2008, pp. 567-587. [20 pages (Optional but Highly Recommended Read)]

• Download all four as one compressed file here.

 $5 workshop fee to cover food and drink.


play it cool banner


Una Chaudhuri is Collegiate Professor and Professor of English and Drama at New York University. She has lectured internationally and published extensively on modern drama, performance theory, and ecocritism. She is the author of No Man’s Stage: A Semiotic Study of Jean Genet’s Plays, and the award-winning Staging Place: The Geography of Modern Drama, editor of Rachel’s Brain and Other Storms: The Performance Scripts of Rachel Rosenthal, and co-editor, with Elinor Fuchs, of Land/Scape/Theater. She was Guest Editor of a special issue of Yale’s Theater journal on “Ecology and Performance,” and of TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies on “Animals and Performance.” Her current research and publications explore “zooësis,” the discourse and representation of species in contemporary culture and performance.

Fritz Ertl is a theatre educator and a theatre maker.  He is a senior member of the artistic faculty at NYU, where he teaches both acting and directing in the Department of Drama.  With long time collaborator Una Chaudhuri, he has devised and directed three new plays, including YOUTH IN ASIA, about branding, globalization, and suicide; and THERE WAS AND THERE WASN’T: AN OLD IRAQUI FOLK TALE, about…branding, globalization, and suicide.

Marina Zurkow is a media artist with a focus on humans’ relationships to animals, plants and the weather. These take the form of multi-channel videos, customized multi-screen computer pieces, animated cartoons, participatory works, and pop objects. Zurkow is represented by Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in New York; since 2000, she has exhibited at The Sundance Film Festival, The Rotterdam Film Festival, Res Fest, Ars Electronica, Creative Time, The Kitchen, The Walker Art Center, the Brooklyn Museum, The National Museum for Women in the Arts, and Eyebeam, among other venues. Her videos have been broadcast on MTV, FujiTV and PBS. She is a 2005 NYFA Fellow, a 2003 Rockefeller New Media Fellow, and a 2001 Creative Capital grantee. She teaches at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Download File: