Artistic installations that depict the climate change takeover

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

Climate change. The defining issue of our time.


Excessive atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, record-breaking temperatures, rising sea levels, and retreating glaciers - the evidence is quite damning, and we are the culprits.


The only hope we have in protecting our wondrous biosphere lies in awareness, followed by action. In recent years, there's been a swarming number of catastrophic natural disasters, scientific research papers, public speeches, and social media posts that have captured the public eye. One of the most important forms of awareness around climate change that people tend to overlook is art.


Artistic installations have been a popular form of commentary on this issue. This art form consists of creative, mixed-media constructions that complement and rely on chosen environments to convey a message, one that typically challenges or celebrates some construct.


With regards to climate change, there are several artists who have created eye-opening artistic installations that collectively narrate the story of how humanity's most pressing matter came to be.

STAGE 1: INDUSTRIALIZATION


Mankind's first stride into becoming a more advanced society began with the concept of energy. Our initial understanding of it enabled us to design mechanisms that harness and convert energy into different forms for electricity production. In the early stages of industrialization, coal was the cheapest, most efficient, and most popular resource to satisfy our energy demands. Unfortunately, the combustion of coal releases high concentrations of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat and propels atmospheric warming. With humanity's ever growing population and technological success, energy production has enlarged drastically, along with the dreaded carbon dioxide emissions.



Chris Cheung's artistic installation, CarbonScape, perfectly illustrates the consequences of our developmental success. CarbonScape is a kinetic soundscape that "consists of 18 tracks of synthesized sound samples", located at the bottom of clear tubes scattered around a clean, blanch space. Each track mimics the sounds produced by carbon emitters such as jet engines, steam, and ship horns. Within the tube, the vibrations of each track move the black balls, representative of carbon, up and down. Collectively, the rise and fall of these carbon balls allow individuals to visualize real data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and to reflect over technology's doing to the health of our biosphere.

STAGE 2: RISING TEMPERATURES

Due to industrialization, the global temperature has risen drastically. In 2018, artist David Buckley Borden and ecologist Aaron Ellison captured this phenomenon perfectly in their artistic installation Warming Warning. The exhibition's launch was accompanied by a convention that discussed ways of combating climate change regardless of communal roles.

"'Warming Warning' was envisioned not just as a way to communicate global climate data, but also as a mechanism for spurring conversation, on and off campus, about direct action on climate change" ~ Borden and Ellison

Borden and Ellison's installation is comprised of timber wood triangles, painted over with a gradation of warm colors. Each side of the triangular prism displays a set of statistical data on the global average temperature. One of the sides, as shown to the left, displays a graph showing the dramatic rise the world has experienced from 1880 to 2018. The other side, as shown on the top right, exhibits the same graph with four other branching trendlines that represent how the global average temperature will change as a result of four approaches to offsetting, maintaining, and maximizing our carbon dioxide emissions.


STAGE 3: MELTING ICE CAPS


With temperatures skyrocketing, the polar ice caps are no longer safe. In Paris, artist Olafur Eliasson and geologist Minik Rosing created a simple yet astonishing piece called Ice Watch to mirror this reality in an urban setting. The display is situated at the front of Place du Panthéon and consists of twelve large ice-blocks that were obtained from a fjord in Greenland. The ice-blocks were positioned in a clock-like formation which, along with their natural tendency to melt, emphasizes the imperativeness of time in the climate change takeover.


The principal message is that time is of the essence. The world will face disastrous consequences if nothing is done to impede or cease the effects of global warming in tundra biomes.



“Art has the ability to change our perceptions and perspectives on the world and Ice Watch makes the climate challenges we are facing tangible. I hope it will inspire shared commitment to taking climate action" ~ Eliasson

STAGE 4: RISING SEA LEVELS

Pedro Marzorati's Where the Tides Ebb and Flow captures our inevitable fate perfectly. This installation is located in Paris's Montsouris Park and is comprised of blue, human figures resurfacing from, or being engulfed by, a water basin. Marzorati's purposeful coverage of these figures discusses the issue of rising sea levels and expresses his thoughts on the effectiveness of actions that are currently being taken to combat climate change.

Ultimately, these works are compelling commentaries that target different aspects of the climate change takeover. Despite differences in visual presentation, they all possess the same message. They reveal societal flaws and humanity's lack of care towards the health of its biosphere.


Collectively, these installations tell us a melancholy tale of hopelessness, however, these dreary emotions are meant to be counteractive by provoking us to rewrite the story they have already told us - in our own time. A story can only be rewritten if different words are used - a changed mindset - and that is exactly what these installations are trying to do.


Raise awareness while simultaneously giving us new words to tell our Earth's story.

Sources:

  • https://inhabitat.com/this-kinetic-installation-uses-sound-to-visualize-the-worlds-co2-emissions/

  • https://www.gsd.harvard.edu/2018/10/public-art-installation-warming-warning-engages-timber-color-and-shadow-to-stoke-dialogue-over-climate-change/

  • https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/11/a-warning-for-a-warming-world/

  • https://art-sheep.com/olafur-eliassons-ice-blocks-installation-is-now-melting-in-paris-to-comment-on-climate-change/

  • https://art-sheep.com/argentinian-artist-creates-stunning-climate-change-focused-installation-in-paris/

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