(an adhoc extention to the parenzana residency notes)

A year on from the residency at Parenzana in Istria, we are digging deeper with the research on both Weather Lore and Future Forecasting. In keeping with the form and structure of the first residency, we are again contextualising the project as a family in residence. Over four days our family, Matt, Miranda (5yrs), Florence (1yr) and myself will inhabit the foyer of the Waterside Workers Hall home of Vitalstatistix Theatre Company in Port Adelaide. Nik and Maya will contribute via a remote presence through these notes and participate through a skype presence in an artist talk on Future Forecasting on Monday the 9th June.

Speculative Culture/ Weather Lore is a project exploring future forecasting and sustainable living in a time of rapid climate change. It is a family-based project exploring weather lore and future forecasting through a series of cultural strategies.


History is full of rhymes, anecdotes, and proverbs meant to guide the uncertain in determining whether the next day will bring fair or foul weather. Farmers watched the sky colour to know when to sow and reap. Mariners noted wind and waves for signs of change. Contemporary weather lore often manifests from people’s anxiety about a future of floods, famine and fires. The question is how does the superstitious or curious imagination make sense of all this?

The project is utilising a future forecasting methodology which encourages people to investigate living in a range of possible futures, designed as artistic experiments. The methodology takes uncertainty as a creative challenge, a call for cultural work in which visions of everyday life in the time ahead become tangible and discussable.

The Neville-Thomas family subscribe to a sustainable, resilient way of life where they grow their own food, fish locally, raise chickens and work closely with local natural resources. At Adhocracy we will explore speculative cli-fi scenarios, document dialogues with farmers and fishers, develop digital stories and sound scores, conduct pop-up future forecasting and other cultural interventions within the Adhocracy event, cook, tend to plants, look after their children and conduct artist talks about the diverse facets of this cultural endeavour.

Subsequently we are continuing to collect Weather Lore proverbs both via the internet and in discussion with Fishers and Farmers.

Further research has foccussed on media depictions of Global Warming and Future Forecasts.

Studies on Foresight and Future Forecasting has centred around the work of Stuart Candy as well as a dedicated following of the Future Fabulators research and activities http://lib.fo.am/future_fabulators/about

Over the last five months, Sarah has spoken to a variety of experts who live in Adelaide;

Summaries of these chats will be documented during the Adhocracy residency.

Today we are preparing to bump in our scenario world to the Waterside Workers Hall in Port Adelaide tomorrow. Matt is preparing the herbs and vegetables growing in our glass house, fermenting ginger beer and kombucha, pickling tomato relish and packing up quince paste and pickled tuna. Sarah is packing up things to kit out the domestic interior incuding Miranda's paints and Florence's toys. Whilst Miranda has made an arguement to take the broody hen with her seven new chicks with us.

At this point in time we have sketched out activities for us to do with the children and with visitors over the four days. We realise that this residency will be foccussed on being in the scenario and doing things, as having the children with us means any computer based research or long adult discussions would be very difficult. This is our opportunity to see how things play out in practice.

Bump in done. More plants and food to come in tomorrow. Everything went well and to time with the Vitals team being very helpful. There are obvious concerns about the plants not getting enough sun so we might swap them around from home each day.

My main concern at the moment is not only remembering to give artist talks and to have activities on the go for people to enter the space but managing family life as is is. I am feeling quite pensive about managing 5 year old melt downs, toddler tears and the pressures of family concerns in public. However I am sure Matt and I will go about things as we do and this will simply reflect the true nature of things.

I am feeling grateful about having spoken to Futurist Kristina Dryza www.kristinadryza.com on the eve of this residency. She spoke about going with the flow and letting things happen. The metaphore she used to describe being at one with the rythm of life was about the person waiting to enter a skipping rope held by two others. If the one about to jump wasn't in the rythm of the rope before they entered they would crash. So as we start this family in residence I need to remind myself that we are already in the rythm of family life and this rythm will cary the project forward and is a wonderful thing worth sharing.

More thoughts and ideas from Kristina;

  • Look at Shell scenario methods
  • Biomimicry is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems.Living organisms have evolved well-adapted structures and materials over geological time through natural selection. Biomimetics has given rise to new technologies inspired by biological solutions at macro and nanoscales. Humans have looked at nature for answers to problems throughout our existence. Nature has solved engineering problems such as self-healing abilities, environmental exposure tolerance and resistance, hydrophobicity, self-assembly, and harnessing solar energy. (see biomimetics and/or biomimicry )
  • Kristina spoke about patterns vrs change in nature, rythm and fate vrs free will.
  • The future does not exist but we can actively build a bridge to our future.
  • Trends happen in food first because it takes less than an hour to make a meal but in contrast it takes years to design produce buildings, cars, clothes ect. I would also say it takes years to put on a show, a performance, create a new work.
  • She spoke about being sensitive to the seasons; food, clothing and mood. She questioned whether people in Adelaide knew how to hibernate and withdraw in winter.
  • She questioned whether it was necessary to be so interested in the future or the past and emphasised the importance of the present, which then leads to a better understanding of the way things are moving towards the future.
  • Kristina emphasised the importance in asking the right question rather than focussing to quickly on possible outcomes.


  • Today I cooked cauliflower and leak soup, which the children enjoyed and later was finished by visitors to late night Adhocracy events.
  • I placed proverbs around the space where they might provoke discussion amongst visitors.


  • We 'secured' our plants, to protect them from toddlers. One of our questions for our scenario is:

How would we secure our food in 2100.


  • We received a warm response to our artist talk which was a summary of the first residency with foam and gave an overview of what we hoped to achieve at this residency. It was apparent due to the interruptions by the children during the talk, that by framing the project as a family in residence the concept would be developed and grow at the speed family life would allow. The level of uncertainty in respect to the demands of the children is the driver in respect to the rate of progress.

My Artist talk can be found here artist_talk.pptx.pdf

  • Wonderfully, we were approached after the talk by people who wanted to share anecdotes about the weather.I listened to a story about snow in the South East of South Australia, Kalangado, when a woman's mother left her and her three siblings in a car to dance in the snow. I spoke to an older mother and daughter team who suggested 'waste not want not' and 'a stitch in time saves nine' should come back for reinterpretation.
  • In the forum following which was going to be about artists working with ideas about the future, but ended up being an introduction to the artists, I found myself quoting from organic farmer Nick Kentish.
  • Re: Red sky at night Sheppards delight. Red sky in the morning Sheppards warning. He always wondered what the sheppards were looking for? Did they want dry weather so they could enjoy their day or as most Australians would wish, rain so there would be feed for the sheep? The ancient proverbs are very human lifestyle centred.
  • Weather patterns these days are more random, hotter or colder when unexpected so there is more discomfort. Its like having one hand in boiling water and the other in freezing water, it is not pleasant. However the average temperature is still very much the same.
  • With agriculture timing is everything. If there is an untimely cold snap or an unseasonable heat wave then crops are ruined. In South Australia we have more crops than any other state. When the weather throws an unseasonal temperature change then the effect state wide is catastrophic. Crops do not recover quickly, they grow annually.
  • There is less carbon now in the soil than in the atmosphere. Too much mining has tipped the balance. So soil is now unable to hold enough moisture.Farmers are now investing in soil carbon mostly by returning the crop to the soil rather than burning.
  • Adding nitrogen through clover helps the soil to grow organic fungi and bacteria.
  • You can't control the climate but you can work on soil chemistry.
  • Weather lore yarn : Flying over the Pilbra all the cattle were lying down. They were resting up because rain was coming, the air pressure was low. For the next week they would be standing up in a flood and somehow they new and were preparing themselves.

Today I felt like we had an open house full of visitors and the trick was managing to speak to people, cook and keep focus on the project whilst keeping the children busy and most importantly happy. In every respect it was a day full of the stuff of everyday life.


Interesting comments coming after the artist talk about Weather Lore included:

  • Memories of life events and emotions connected to specific weather.
  • How romantic is 'self sustainability'? Is Economic Collapse, Post Climate Chaos becoming a new trope for the beginning of any future scenario?
  • Discussion about lifestyle choice, practicality and necessity.
  • Comments about story telling, educating and informing through hard hitting messages in the tone of the 1980's Grim Reaper TV ads warning about Aids.

Weather Lore talk found here Weather_Lore2.pptx.pdf

In reflection of the talk about Weather Lore I was very pleased in principle that there was a very open flow of people entering and leaving the space. Simultaneous to the talk I served soup and fed children. I chatted with visitors whilst presenting a planned talk and ultimately the final minutes were interrupted and the formal talk was finished by the baby having a melt down. To wind up, a friend helped me clear the kitchen whilst updating me on the status of her vegetable garden and fruit trees. I could not have scripted things better to frame our future scenario enactment.

However, I came away a little unsettled that the talk was not in focus by either myself or those around me. Multi-tasking exhausted me and softened the impact of the important points I wanted to make. The soup sipping, children playing around us and the flow of people through the space punctuated the time in ways I was not prepared for. So, things were as I had hoped and at the same time not what I had wanted.

This residency is an opportunity to experiment with formats, frames and structures as well as ideas and from yesterdays artist talk I learnt a lot about my expectations and assumptions.I am very pleased that we had the opportunity to prehearse this presentation within our family in residence scenario.

Transcript of Maja's talk about FoAM's work with foresight and futures

Again people were served veges and were welcome to play with Florence as she danced about infront of the projector and distributed toys to hands and laps. Miranda left to run around the hall. Most visitors were fascinated by the beautiful images from foam and intrigued by Maja's talk. Whilst the afternoon ws again cut short by children's needs and the schedule for Adhocracy, a half a dozen people stayed to ask about foam and Future Forecasting. Many others left deep in contemplation.

A very warm thank you to Nik and Maja for their early morning start and the very informative and extremely well received talk about Future Fabulators.

Sarah Neville & Family with foam Speculative Culture / Weather Lore Adhocracy Residency Report 2014

Our time in residence at the Waterside Workers Hall for Adhocracy was not only creatively fruitful but also enjoyable and fulfilling. As a family we took up residence in the foyer, a place of arrival, networking and critical banter. Here we cooked, played, chatted, shared stories, met people and posed questions.

We questioned ourselves about how we would really manage in a future of climate chaos, post economic and social collapse, as a family. The answer being not clear other than our enthusiastic ability to try to sustain ourselves with the food taken from our garden at home and our reliance on our neighbors to swap goods and services. In that we must acknowledge the warm support of the Vitalstatistix team who assisted us with all elements of production including playing with our children. Lara Tor and Emma O Neill were particularly wonderful with their assistance. It was also to our advantage to be situated downstairs to PVI Collective who involved them selves in our eco tasks, painted weather pictures with Miranda, laughed with Florence and enjoyed our food. Then there was Rosie Dennis’ residency group who made us feel at home in respect to their likeminded inquiry and shared interests.

The most revealing part of our residency was the format of the artist talks. The idea of family in residence initially sounded cosy and custom built for us across all our planned activities. However, what this meant was that we would be delivering presentations in what we had set up as our lounge room with children playing, food cooking and the demands of parenthood leading us to multi-task with visitors observing us. From this point of exposure and feelings of vulnerability we were very keen to share our research and our ambitions for this project. This all went just as we had hoped, but the reality was that as an artist it was a new and somewhat confronting format. No longer could the talk take focus, the stuff of life came crashing in to better illustrate and sound out what we were really talking about. This residency really highlighted a change in artistic practice as well as allowed us to extend our artistic ideas and in doing so was invaluable.

In respect to extending and developing our artistic content there was also a huge shift for me as an artist. In the past I have enjoyed an artistic practice based on research and reflection and extension and simplification of critical questions. A large percentage of this work was done alone, stationary and in silence over many hours in one sitting. Later I would take my ideas to collaborators in a studio and challenge them with highly planned tasks that I wanted to be followed precisely with the hope of achieving a new set of more complicated questions to once again unravel, simplify and then cast into a new set of tasks. Shifting my arts practice to working with the family changes everything. There is no time to sink into personal reflection and deepen research and ideas through contemplation. Everything is in action, everything is about what you are doing in the moment and everything is directly in negotiation and cooperation with each other. The wealth of knowledge from the greater world drops away in the face of the immediate needs, emotions and response of those you are with. A United Nations study about climate change could not hold focus during the hour Miranda painted a series of rainbows because she worries that in the future there will not be enough rainbows. Florence’s hunger for honey with her vegetable stir fry leads us to question how we would live in a world without bees? Then how would we pollinate our crops? And then back to how can we entertain the children with dress ups and dances themed on bees? The process is therefore in continuous momentum. Our response and consequently our actions are because of the immediate emotions of those around us rather than studied questions evolving from more abstract sources.

Now, reflecting on this residency we feel that as a family we could propose this type of structure as again. I would like to suggest that Vitalstatistix look at offering family in residence opportunities to artists in the future. I would be happy to share more information about our processes and mentor others who want to follow down this path. We learnt a lot and are looking forward to reconsidering the idea as a cultural event as we deepen and extend our investigations into Speculative Culture and Weather Lore. We have begun a conversation with Arts House about a follow up residency, have opportunities to contribute to festivals in Europe and look forward to being involved in Vitalstatistix’ Climate Century projects over the coming year. We are very fortunate that foam introduced us to this format of Family in Residence and as our children grow this structure expands, develops and challenges more each time.

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