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International conference explores creative solutions to environmental problems

desert landscape
March 20, 2015

A concert in the middle of Tempe Town Lake. A hot air balloon constructed from recycled shopping bags. An acoustic ecology workshop in Beaver Creek Biosphere Reserve.

This is just a small selection of the events coming to Arizona State University this month for Balance-Unbalance 2015, the fifth annual international conference that looks to art as a catalyst for exploring the intersections between nature, science, technology and society.

The three-day conference will take place March 27-29 on ASU’s Tempe campus.

The Balance-Unbalance 2015 International Conference, co-convened by Sabine Feisst from the ASU School of Music and Garth Paine from the ASU School of Arts, Media + Engineering, both in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, is coming to the United States for the first time to look, specifically, at issues of water, climate and place.

“We are living in a world at the tipping point, where the equilibrium between a healthy environment and the energy our society needs to maintain its interconnected economies could collapse more quickly than expected,” said Paine. “Today’s delicate balance is at a critical point, with the potential to herald a new reality where unbalance is the rule.”

International, national and local artists, scientists, philosophers, politicians, policymakers, academics, aid agencies and community activists will descend on ASU in late March to participate in this conference. Balance-Unbalance 2015 received submissions from 24 countries, and will offer a keynote lineup of high-profile presenters from art, business, music, the Red Cross, water research and community engagement with rain forest initiatives in South America.

The conference program features more than 150 papers, panels, performances, exhibitions and other activities, which will investigate sustainability and environmental issues through the arts, science, technology and local and global communities with the goal of exploring emerging intersections as a platform for developing transdisciplinary solutions to unprecedented ecological challenges. Many of the events are open to the public.

Indigenous involvement is a major component of the Balance-Unbalance 2015 conference. Videos from a project to record Native American Youth's responses to water and climate change will be shown throughout the conference. There will also be a welcome song and dance, and an indigenous panel bringing indigenous people from the Pacific Ocean, Australia and America together to discuss water stories and land management in a time of climate change. This will take place at 10:30 a.m., March 27.

Founded by Argentinian-born artist-scholar Ricardo Dal Farra in 2010 to promote novel forms of creativity that can help solve environmental problems, Balance-Unbalance is sponsored by the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, Leonardo Journal, UNESCO, the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology and the Ear to the Earth Foundation.

Public events:

“Maritime Rites”
3:30 p.m., March 27, Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Lake will be transformed into an enormous concert hall, with 100 musicians in boats performing the composition “Maritime Rites,” by the renowned American composer and conference keynote speaker Alvin Curran, who will be present to direct the work. The public will be able to view the performance from Tempe Beach Park.

Balloon Launch
8 a.m., March 27, Tempe campus

Pablo Suarez, the associate director for research and innovation at the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, will lead the launching of his project "The Way Forward," a large hot air balloon constructed from recycled shopping bags and inflated by the heat of the sun. The public is invited to attend the balloon launch and is welcome to get involved in a workshop to construct the balloon.

PechaKucha performance
6-7 p.m., March 27, Katzin Concert Hall, Tempe campus

An opening night PechaKucha event in the unique 20 by 20 snappy PechaKucha format will feature musical performances and leading speakers, including a member of Al Gore’s Climate Reality project and the founder of the Balance-Unbalance conference, Ricardo Dal Farra.

The conference also boasts numerous art installations in ASU’s School of Art galleries and the Digital Culture Gallery, as well as at the Night Gallery in Tempe Market Place and at Grant Street Studios in downtown Phoenix. There are free lunch-time music concerts and evening concerts; at 9 p.m., March 27, in Katzin Concert Hall, students from the ASU School of Music will present “Arid Landscapes,” a concert of original string quartet compositions responding to the Southwest desert.

Registrations for the three-day program are now open. A limited number of one-day tickets and tickets to keynote presentations will also be available at

Conference registration:

• full conference: $325 ($275 for ASU faculty and staff)
• day registration: $130
• student registration: $40 with volunteering
• single events (keynote presentations and single sessions): $25

For program information and registrations, visit