Climate change art

Plants, rust, concrete

Do we need climate change art?

I would say we do. Art inspires people to think beyond their experience and grasp the implications of trends. It also motivates people emotionally in a way that scientific analysis can be hard-pressed to do. (Indeed, does only by accident, since scientific reports are not written to evoke emotional responses.)

Has any important climate change art emerged? (Weird sculpture outside 111 Sussex aside) Is there a danger that art that plays upon the worst fears evoked by climate science will be counterproductive? Can art help us to really grasp the danger, without the need for costly disasters to prove the link from greenhouse gasses to climate change to danger to humanity?

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

23 thoughts on “Climate change art”

  1. I think you are right-on in your account of the function of art. The only thing I would add is to emphasize “beyond experience” to include enlarging, or en-richening experience. I don’t know much about the contemporary art scene with respect to climate change, but would be interested to see contemporary works reckoning with this issue. In general I’m under the impression that whereas previous environmental art and concepts emphasised fragility (i.e. spaceship earth), the next/current phase will stress responsibility, stewardship, gravitas – like this for example:

  2. SATURDAY, AUGUST 8, 2009

    Eco-art: an exploration

    Thanks to Milan Ilnyckyj, whose blog on climate change art blazed this trail. I spent a couple of hours chasing links and looking up old notes — but this is only a sampling. Suggest other links in your comments.

  3. The V&A design exhibition ‘Telling Tales’ had at least a few pieces commenting on man’s relationship with the environment and climate change. I seem to remember a lot of other UK stuff vaguely but would have to hunt for examples.

  4. At Glastonbury Festival this year, in the Children’s area, kids had been busy on an art project where they turned recycled objects into minature wind-turbines, which together created a mini-wind farm.

  5. Lamp that runs on human blood

    By Cory Doctorow on Green

    Mike Thompson’s “Blood Lamp” is a single-use lantern that draws its energy from a drop of your blood, making you consider the cost of energy in a uniquely personal way.

    For the lamp to work one breaks the top off, dissolves the tablet, and uses their own blood to power a simple light. By creating a lamp that can only be used once, the user must consider when light is needed the most, forcing them to rethink how wasteful they are with energy, and how precious it is.

  6. Cape Farewell has brought together leading artists, writers, scientists, educators and media for a series of expeditions into the wild and challenging High Arctic. Together they have mapped, measured and been inspired by this awesome environment and have endeavoured to bring home stories and artworks that tell how a warming planet is impacting on this wilderness.

  7. HONG KONG — A leading anti-pollution campaign group in Hong Kong is deploying a new weapon in the fight for clean air in this Asian financial hub: art.

    Enlisting the support of 40 artists and the auction house Sotheby’s, the Clean Air Network has organized an auction of 51 environment-inspired works of modern art in what it says is the first awareness and fund-raising event of its kind.

    Most of the pieces went on display Monday in the upscale International Finance Center shopping mall in Hong Kong’s financial district, where they will remain until March 27. They will go under the Sotheby’s hammer April 4, where they will form part of the auction house’s twice-yearly sale of contemporary Asian art .

  8. “Despite the differences between art and science, it can be argued that climate change art could support the uptake of climate science as it emphasizes the emotional motivation it considers. The question of whether we need climate change art was raised by Milan Ilnyckyj, who refers to the way art expands experiential horizons and motivates people emotionally in contrast to the sciences, where this appears only occasionally (2009). Ilnyckyj formulates a set of significant questions, including: ‘Has any important climate change art emerged? Is there a danger that art that plays upon the worst fears evoked by climate science will be counterproductive?’ (2009)— not only in relation to creating bad art, but also by instilling fear that in itself does not lead to positive action. “

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