Ancient Chinese ghosts parade for the environment
As the afternoon sun slipped below Sydney Harbour on Sunday 1 September, Sydney artist Jason Phu and more than 100 school children, costumed as masked spirits, gods and ghosts, marched across the Sydney Opera House Forecourt in a rousing performance in protest of climate inaction.
The one-off public artwork, Procession in the Warming Light/Procession in the Rising Darkness, was commissioned as part of new initiative Art Assembly to explore human responsibility for the environment. The work was presented as part of Antidote festival, punctuating on-stage discussions from the likes of climate activists Tim Flannery, Kyle Pope and Anna Rose.
Phu’s vibrant procession emulated the recent school climate strikes through the lens of Lunar New Year lion dance rituals, as a moment where spirits visit the earth. His school-aged collaborators conjured these spirits through folkloric costumes which they hand-made from recycled and repurposed materials to signify their own relationship to the natural world.
This collaborative process was crucial to the procession’s development and message. Jason Phu led workshops at Erskineville Primary School and Newington College over several weeks, helping students to consider their relationship to the natural world, and learn about the Gadigal peoples’ relationship to Tubowgule (Bennelong Point). The students then created costumes and crafted messages that communicated their hopes for the future of the earth they will soon inherit.