When arts meet climate change

Alongside the heated climate policy discussion happening at the COP21 climate conference in Paris, various ongoing art exhibitions, installations and workshops empower global artists to explicate their concern of climate change. Their unified message—climate talk should not be limited to politicians and scientists—makes clear the desire of civil society to address the climate issues. Paris has long been perceived as world’s integral cultural hub. It is the perfect place for me to witness the COP21 in conjunction with a myriad of art events.

Earth Guardians is a group of young environmental activists who performed in Solutions COP21 conference at the Grand Palais. People might not take them seriously because of their age, but they took the stage and offered the powerful message to condemn the fossil fuels industry. The audience were drawn to the outspokenness of their rap lyrics and inevitably started dancing to their groovy beats. The energy of the crowd spiked up at the end of their performance when the audience were chanting with the group in unison. And the organizer had to come on stage to end their speech. Their critical voices must be disconcerting to the participating energy companies in the same venue. Companies like engie paid up a big sum of money to have a booth here and attempted to present sustainable energy solutions. But they in fact are predominantly oil companies whose main motivation is making money. And that is what Earth Guardians are aware of. What they represent is a younger generation that demands disrupt revamp of the business model rather than minor transitional changes.

Another art exhibition Climats Artificiels (Artificial Climates) I visited explores the theme of human efforts reproducing natural phenomenon. A selection of nearly 30 installations, photographs and videos seeks to question the boundary between the nature and artificiality. These art pieces, without the appearance of human images, either depict the distorted natural scenes or amplify natural experiences.

Ange Leccia (c) La mer

The projection of Laurent Grasso’s short video ‘Double Sun’ displays an apocalyptic world where two suns coexist. This world is completely sterile and lifeless. While the Greek buildings and sculptures are scorching under two brutal suns, the hot air is vibrating. In the video, the static objects bear witness to the catastrophic effects of global warming. It packs an emotional punch to the visitors viewing in the dark room and allows us to envision the possible consequences of human action. Yet the central installation Cloudscapes , curated by artists Tetsuo Kondo and Transsolar, allows the visitors to walk through artificial clouds. People can climb up the staircase inside a large transparent container and put them through different layers of the clouds. The project is described as an unique experience to explore elusive properties of the clouds and provides an artistic recreation of the natural environment.

Cloudscapes

Up in the clouds

The art of climate change might be overt or subtle in delivering its message. But in both ways, it presents a creative approach for artists to communicate their ideas and inspire changes. Through my experience, I believe artistic representation is the most visual way for the public to realize the seriousness of climate change. These art projects always reflect the urging demands of the civil society that plays a big role in shaping COP21’s success. And my trip to Pairs gives me a taste of its bustling contemporary art scene and inspires me to use art for more creative use.