Artwork on Climate Change Increasing Worldwide

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.

 Waterlicht, Don Roosegaarde's Virtual Flood Installation in Westervoort, Netherlands

Waterlicht, Don Roosegaarde’s Virtual Flood Installation in Westervoort, Netherlands

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.

 Ansel Adams, The Tetons and the Snake River, Wyoming, 1942

Ansel Adams, The Tetons and the Snake River, Wyoming, 1942 in Nature/Revelation

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.”

 Anthony Gormley, "Connection," Aniline Dye on Paper, 2000

Anthony Gormley, “Connection,” Aniline Dye on Paper, 2000

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.

 Installation view of the exhibition: Maya Lin: A History of Water, Orlando Museum of Art, January 31–May 10, 2015. Foreground in marble: Disappearing Bodies of Water: Aral Sea, 2013. Background: Water Line, 2006, © Maya Lin Studio, courtesy Pace Gallery.

Installation view of the exhibition: Maya Lin: A History of Water, Orlando Museum of Art, January 31–May 10, 2015. Foreground in marble: Disappearing Bodies of Water: Aral Sea, 2013. Background: Water Line, 2006, © Maya Lin Studio, courtesy Pace Gallery.

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.”


Artists and Climate Change

The Latest News on Climate Change: Not Good

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading international body for assessing climate change under the auspices of The United Nations, has just released its Fifth Assessment Report, entitled, Climate Change 2014, the most comprehensive analysis on the topic ever produced. Hundreds of scientists from all over the world contributed to the report, which identifies the impact of climate change in great detail, includes data on melting glaciers, rising sea levels, more frequent and more severe storms, warming temperatures, etc., and proposes significant interventions/mitigations for policymakers. Here are just a few of the highlighted statements included in the report:

In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans. Impacts are due to observed climate change, irrespective of its cause, indicating the sensitivity of natural and human systems to changing climate.

Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks.

 The Future?

The Future?

 Artists and Climate Change

So what’s a person to do? While politicians debate, scientists produce reports and journalists describe the issues and potential solutions, there are some writers, visual artists, musicians and dancers who are using the power of the arts to call attention to the very real threats resulting from climate change. In the September, 2014 post, I highlighted the compelling work of Spanish installation and street artist, Isaac Cordal, whose tiny, white collar bureaucrats convene endlessly on the subject while they are literally being submerged in water.

Chantal Bilodeau is a playwright and translator originally from Montreal who is currently living and working in New York. She is the Artistic Director of The Arctic Cycle, an organization created to support the writing, development and production of eight plays that explore the impact of climate change on the eight countries of the Arctic. Ms. Bilodeau’s blog, entitled, Artists and Climate Change: contributions from the artistic community on the vexing problem of climate change, identifies scores of artists working in dance, design, film, installation, literature, music, painting, performance, photography, poetry, public art, sculpture, sound, textile and theater, who are using their voices to increase awareness and effect meaningful change.

One particularly compelling example of the work documented on Artists and Climate Change is cellist, Daniel Crawford’s composition, A Song of Our Warming PlanetUsing surface temperature data between 1880 and 2012 and assigning low or high notes according to the yearly recorded temperature, he has created a musical representation of climate change. Listen to the remarkable piece here.

 Daniel Crawford in a photo clip from "A Song For Our Warming Planet."

Daniel Crawford in a photo clip from “A Song For Our Warming Planet.”

Artists don’t generally sit in meetings that generate political change but, as Chantal Bilodeau puts it so eloquently in her blog on Artists and Climate Change,”what artists have to say about climate change will shape our values and behavior for years to come. For that reason alone, we should pay attention.”