What is the environmental impact of digital art and what impact can environmental art have on environmental action?

by Dan Barnard and Rachel Briscoe

  • Theatro Polis OPAP
Fast Familiar

Fast Familiar have been engaging with ideas around climate action since the early 2010s. We see art as a space where people can imagine and rehearse different futures. In this talk, we will reflect on the strategies we use for both reducing the environmental impact of our digital artworks and for making artworks that invite people to take environmental action (or to lobby governments to do so). We will also share a number of case studies of other digital artists who are lowering the impact of their work or using their art to raise environmental awareness. Since 2016, we’ve worked in partnership with neuroscientist Dr Kris De Meyer (UCL’s Climate Action Unit), who uses ‘brain insights’ from his work to foster an action-led approach to climate change. We apply these insights to our interactive artworks. We also think very carefully about the carbon footprint of our digital artworks and our website and have developed strategies for reducing them, which we will share in this talk. As part of The Networked Condition, an ongoing project undertaken with Abandon Normal Devices and Arts Catalyst, we created a free-to-use tool for planning digital artworks. We also interviewed a number of digital artists about how they have lowered the impact of their work and/or used digital art to raise awareness or inspire action on climate related issues, which we can share in this talk. We’re part of the Julie’s Bicycle International Touring and Environmental Responsibility programme and are part of an experiment in “slow touring” which will involve traveling from England to Copenhagen by train in November 2022.


Fast Familiar are an award-winning interdisciplinary collaboration comprising expertise in theatre, facilitation and creative computing. We make artworks which are participatory, playful and political. For us, art is a space to explore questions which are too complex for daily life – and a space where we can rehearse better outcomes for a world where no decision of significance is taken by an isolated individual. We’ve been exploring digital technology in live performance since before it was ‘COVID-cool’ – we’re fascinated by how digital tech can enable new forms of human connection in a rapidly changing world. We were praised by the Guardian for pioneering “a hybrid form that is its own thing entirely… Fast Familiar are making participatory stories that feel distinctly theatrical.” We tend to make artworks for small audiences, where participants are invited to collaborate and find their collective way through ethical or social dilemmas. We ask our audiences to bring their intelligence and their humanity to our projects – we are aware that we ask people to take a trip out of their comfort zone with us, and we take our responsibility for caring for our audiences seriously. We think art can be experimental without being elitist. We think art probably can’t change the world but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying. Fast Familiar’s lead artists are Dan Barnard, Rachel Briscoe and Joe McAlister. We’re not as earnest in real life as this intro has made us sound.