Because I ‘follow’ Artists and Climate Change, the New York-based project devoted to tracking art work all over the world in all media devoted to climate change as well as other media outlets covering climate change, I have been noticing a steadily increasing number of artists that are focusing on this important topic. Just this week, Artists and Climate Change’s Facebook page posted references to four powerful projects/artists in the Netherlands, Australia, England and the USA that are calling attention to the effects of melting glaciers, rising seas, increasing temperatures and dramatic storms.
In the Netherlands, a country in which almost one third of the land is below sea level, the water authority in the town of Westervoort commissioned designer, Daan Roosegaarde to create an installation that highlighted the dangers of coastal flooding in order to reinforce the constant threat from rising waters to a population that they perceived as being complacent. Using LED lighting that projected waves over a floodplain to simulate a virtual flood, Roosegaarde’s installation was so effective that neighboring residents who witnessed the pilot version of the project called the police to report a break in the local dike. The swirling patterns within the light experienced by the 20,000 visitors who attended the installation over five nights emphasized the extreme beauty as well as the inherent danger of water.
In Australia, Climarte: arts for a safer climate, a non-profit organization established to develop arts events and an alliance of artists and groups that advocate for “immediate, effective and creative action on climate change,” is sponsoring an exhibition entitled, Nature/Revelation, from April 11- May 17, 2015 at the Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne. The exhibition includes Australian and international artists, addresses the extraordinary beauty of the natural world and is a component of the Art+Climate=Change 2015 festival that will encompass additional exhibitions in galleries and museums as well as lectures and forums on climate change.
In England, The Guardian, a prominent British national daily newspaper, devoted a major series of stories to aspects of climate change and used a copy of British artist, Anthony Gormley’s climate change piece, “Connection,” to accompany an extract from This Changes Everything – Capitalism vs. Climate, a recent book on climate change by Naomi Klein. The image was wrapped around the print version of the paper and also distributed at a major climate change march in London on March 7. According to the Guadian, Gormley’s work of art “shows a disturbing silhouette of a giant body against a deep glow which could be manmade or natural. Both the body and the landscape appear to be equally toxic, raising questions of how humanity is impacting the planet through climate change.”
And, in the United States, The Orlando Museum of Art is hosting Maya Lin: A History of Water, a major exhibition by internationally renowned American architect, designer and artist. The exhibition, on view from January 29, – May 10, 2015, includes sculptures, drawings, installations and multimedia work addressing aspects of the disappearing natural world. In reference to her work on the earth’s ecology, she says, “I believe that art, at times, can look at a subject differently and in doing so, can get people to pay closer attention.
Climarte‘s call to action on the topic of climate change effectively summarizes the artist’s inherent role in society at large as a catalyst for change:
“Throughout history the arts have played a major role in recording and reflecting the state of human society and its relationship with the natural world. Indeed, for some historical periods it is only through the arts that we have been able to learn about our past. But sometimes we have also needed the arts to be a catalyst for change, a call to action, a pricking of humanity’s collective conscience. We believe that now is one of those times.”