Yearly Archives: 2018

90N: North Pole Installations

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

The Arctic Cycle is partnering with Xavier Cortada and Creative Pinellas to support the global reach of 90N: North Pole Installations. As Cortada’s work demonstrates, the melting of the North Pole will have implications for every being on this planet, from the eight Arctic states to the Florida coast, and everywhere in between. And we cannot tackle this challenge alone. By amplifying the local exhibition of 90N to a broader global community, we seek to inspire, motivate, and equip more audiences with tools for action. Through the course of this summer, we will share the visual and participatory elements of 90N on our A&CC blog and social media platforms. The outcomes of this process are exponential, and we are working with Cortada and Creative Pinellas to note and promote the sparks of connection along the way.

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90N: North Pole Installations and Florida Is Nature is an exhibition of artwork by internationally-acclaimed artist Xavier Cortada, a Florida-based artist who has developed numerous art projects globally, including art installations at the North and South Poles to address environmental concerns at every point in between. 90N features over 400 pieces, as part of the following categories:

ARCTIC ICE PAINTINGS
In the summer of 2008, Cortada used Arctic ice to create a series of Ice-paintings aboard a Russian Icebreaker as it made its way back from the North Pole.

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Xavier Cortada, Arctic Ice Painting | “90N-01,” 12″ x 9″, North Pole sea ice, acrylic, and mixed media on paper, 2008.

NATIVE FLAGS
At a time when melting polar sea ice had many focus on which political power control the Arctic (using the Northwest Passage shipping lanes and the petroleum resources beneath the sea ice), Cortada planted a green flag and reclaimed it for nature. To do so, he developed Native Flags, a participatory eco-art project that engages others in planting a green flag and native tree in their homes to prevent the polar regions from melting. Reforestation sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, helping reduce greenhouse gases that warm the planet.

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Xavier Cortada, “Native Flags | North Pole,” 2008.

ENDANGERED WORLD
Cortada highlighted the need to protect our endangered species by placing the names of 360 endangered animals in a circle around the North Pole, each aligned with a longitudinal degree in which the struggle to survive in the world below.

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Xavier Cortada, “Endangered World | North Pole,” 2008.

LONGITUDINAL INSTALLATION
As he did in the South Pole, Cortada placed 24 shoes in a circle around the North Pole, each shoe representing a person living in a different part of the world affected by climate change. Afterwards, he approached each shoe and recited a statement from each person about the impact of global climate change in their lives.

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Xavier Cortada, “Longitudinal Installation | North Pole,” 2008.

NORTH POLE DINNER PARTY
On June 29th, 2008, Cortada arrived at the North Pole to create ritualistic installations addressing global climate change and the melting polar caps. One of Cortada’s performances included a ritual where he fed his fellow travelers pieces of ice collected at the North Pole, thereby integrating the North Pole into their very being. “I figured that if they ingested a piece of the North Pole, it would become part of them.” said Cortada. “The North Pole water molecules would be swirling through their bodies. The North Pole atoms would be incorporated into their very cells. My sense was that after having North Pole communion, they would protect the North Pole. If nothing else, they would do so for self-preservation.”

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North Pole Dinner Party/Miami 2008: The Green Project | Claire Oliver Gallery.

90N: North Pole Installations by Xavier Cortada is being exhibited at Gallery at Creative Pinellas, 12211 Walsingham Road, Largo, FL 33778, from June 29, 2018 through September 2, 2018. Follow along via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and learn more at www.cortada.com/90N

This post is compiled with permission from Xavier Cortada’s website, where full details and more images from 90N: North Pole Installations can be found.

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About Creative Pinellas
At Creative Pinellas our mission is to facilitate a vibrant, integrated, collaborative and sustainable Pinellas County Arts Community and cultural destination. We strive to be the premier Local Arts Agency, recognized locally and globally for our contribution to arts and culture. We are focused on creating vibrant communities; supporting artists, arts organizations and the creative community; supporting economic development; showcasing Pinellas County as a cultural destination, and making arts and creative expression and experience available to all. As the County’s Local Arts Agency, Creative Pinellas and the programs we deliver are funded by the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners, Visit St Petersburg / Clearwater, the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and by sales of the State of the Arts specialty license plate in Pinellas County.

About the Artist
Xavier Cortada created art installations at the North Pole and South Pole to address environmental concerns at every point in between. He’s been commissioned to create art for CERN, the White House, the World Bank, Miami City Hall, Miami-Dade County Hall, Florida Botanical Gardens, Port Everglades, Florida’s Turnpike, the Museum of Florida History, the Frost Science Museum and Miami-Dade Children’s Courthouse. Locally, his work is in the permanent collection of the Frost Art Museum, PAMM and the NSU Art Museum of Ft. Lauderdale. Cortada has also developed numerous collaborative art projects globally, including peace murals in Cyprus and Northern Ireland, child welfare murals in Bolivia and Panama, AIDS murals in Geneva and South Africa, and eco-art projects in Taiwan and Holland. His studio is located in Pinecrest Gardens. For more information please visit www.cortada.com

About The Arctic Cycle
The Arctic Cycle uses theatre to foster dialogue about our global climate crisis, create an empowering vision of the future, and inspire people to take action. Operating on the principle that complex problems must be addressed through collaborative efforts, we work with artists across disciplines and geographic borders, solicit input from earth and social scientists, and actively seek community and educational partners. We manifest this mission through our ongoing initiatives, including Artists & Climate Change. Through the publication of essays, interviews, and editorials, the blog and international network Artists & Climate Change creates community and promotes the inclusion of the arts in the global climate change conversation. Since its launch in 2013, A&CC has become an educational resource for art, environment, and social change classes.


 

Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Grief and Melancholia

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

After reading the artwork’s mission statement, a mother carefully removed her shoes and socks, and waited patiently for her teenage son to do the same. He did so between gazes at his phone – completely absorbed with his handheld device. Per the rules of the installation, the mother put her phone away and opened her palm to receive the roughly two tablespoons of tiny black pellets she was instructed to carry into the exhibit.

She looked at her son.

“Put away your phone,” she said.

Her son did not look up from the screen. The mother, exasperated, retrieved the phone from his hand and put it in her purse.

“You buy a bottle of Gatorade every day,” she said. “Own your part.”

Confused but captured, the young man opened his palm, received the pellets, and followed his mother into the vast warehouse. Far ahead of them, reaching up towards the light of three massive sunlit windows, loomed Omega.

***

I created Omega from various forms of plastic. It spirals in structure, reaching up and outward like a post-apocalyptic tree covered in pitch. The majority of the sculpture consists of black plastic wings cast from taxidermized goose and pheasant. These wings twist, bend, and arch in a posture of both growth and deflation. Black morning glory vines climb from the base to the top, dripping with shiny black plastic ooze. Crawling around the work are the molted husks of cicadas, their backs split open and empty, their claws gripping the plastic “trunk” of the sculpture.

In five places are pools of imagery and natural relics. Cupped by black wings, the painted images of grasses, seaweed pods, and flowers float in pools of solid clear resin. Fake meets real in each pool, where a 3-dimensionally painted jellyfish floats with bright red wasp nests. A coyote skull – topped with a massive black wolf spider – bisects another pool… its teeth jutting out from beneath. Children often see this skull first because it sits low to the ground.

The base of the sculpture is made of thicker wings that were poured directly from a local recycling plant. Thick and spindly ropes of black plastic – the leftover purges from the massive machine – reach and crawl out from the base of the sculpture. They dive and scatter out into the space of surrounding pellets.

Amongst the antlers, the flowers, the insects, and the dripping resin, a story unfolds that wraps back on itself like a mobia strip. Is this sculpture alive? Are the colorful pools full of newly adapted forms of growth? Are they proof of Life’s unstoppable potential to evolve from dead seas, oil-soaked beaches, and charred landscapes? Is it an uplifting sign of rebirth? Or a post-apocalyptic monument to the hubris of our species?

Finally, there are the nurdles.

Tiny virgin and recycled pellets, or “nurdles” as they are known in the industry, are the means of transporting plastic around the world so that it can be melted down into various products. They can often escape into the environment, threatening wildlife. I purposefully chose to use something this controversial because I wanted to make a point…. a rather colossal point.

The sculpture is sitting in three and a half tons of these little black pellets… or, roughly eighty-seven million of them. If one black pellet represents one plastic bottle, then Omega is sitting in eighty-seven million metaphorical bottles. This is an abstract number and thus an abstract concept. It becomes significant when one enters the space holding in their hand 200 metaphorical bottles (the average for an American to purchase in one year).

But when one’s foot touches the pellets in Omega, where eighty-seven million pellets only represent the number of bottles that will be purchased globally in the next seventy-three minutes, the experience moves past significant.

It becomes undeniable.

***

We are in the midst of overlapping, abstractly huge, relentless environmental deaths all around the world because of climate change. Every day we hear of more melting glaciers, rising seas, burning forests, extinguished species, and bleached coral. We also hear of doubt-seeding climate change deniers, or leaders who opt out of climate change treaties. All of this is damaging us, and all are forms of death we cannot bury, and consequently cannot mourn. How does one have a funeral for habitat loss, let alone the death of our most treasured ideals and ethics?

When we cannot mourn something (via ceremony, symbol, or symbolic act) we enter a state of melancholia. When that loss is related to the Earth, it is considered environmental melancholia. Last year, I published a paper which argues that the melancholia, if left festering, will be overrun by an unconscious attempt to find another focus. A melancholic person can become manic… meaning they will shop, drink, smoke, overwork, watch tv, or dive deeper into their devices. I call this behavior collective social mania.

Why is this so common, and yet so misunderstood? Think about it: we are all encouraged to do this by advertisers, because a culture that is driven, encouraged, and addicted to consuming – and by that, I mean consuming everything: products, data, land, information, and entertainment – is a culture that is numb, indebted, and controllable.

In the paper, I argue that our environmental melancholia and collective social mania are connected in a loop, and the loop is destroying the planet. We are horrified and sad by what we see, so we check out… we consume. The more we consume, the more strain we put on the planet. The more strain we put on the planet, the more climate change happens. And on… and on… and on.

My argument is that in order to stop the cycle, we must allow ourselves to reconnect to our evolved, inherent affinity for other living beings on the planet, something that E.O. Wilson calls biophilia.

When we love something, and it dies, we grieve its passing. We have a funeral. We burn a love letter. We release doves to symbolize a soul’s exit. Yet, with all of these simultaneous ecological “deaths” happening, how do we have a funeral? How do we break our gaze from our devices, and feel our surroundings again? How do have conversations about how painful it all is? How do we pause to reflect on our part in both the collapse, and the rebuilding? How do we allow ourselves to grieve this very unique and crucial time in the Earth’s history?

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The docent who volunteered at the gate of Omega was the one who told me the story of the mother and son that day. The pair apparently wandered around in the artwork for a long time, whispering to each other about what they saw. There were evidently long, silent pauses as the young man made the connection between his seemingly uneventful Gatorade purchase and the pellets that both spilled from his hand and stuck to the sweat of his bare feet. How overwhelmed he must have felt. How angry, perhaps… or determined? Saddened? Fearful? Responsible?

The amalgamation of all of these emotions is, in fact, the goal of Omega. If nothing else, the abstraction of numbers crystallizes into a tangible response… an emotion. With an artwork like this, the indisputable distance between one’s actions and one’s consequences dissolves. Distraction gives way to awareness, melancholia is replaced by mourning, and suddenly there is room for grief.

The more individuals can utilize artistic symbolism to experience their grief (and thus, their love for what has been lost), the more authentically they can connect with themselves, and then move towards meaningful, pragmatic changes of behavior in the face of overwhelming collapse. The goal, if there is one, is not to solve the world’s problems, but to first get individuals to confess that they hurt at all.

In the age of climate change, artists are not just helpful.

We are crucial.

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Regan Rosburg is an artist and naturalist. She lives in Denver, Colorado where she teaches Fine Arts and Foundations at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design and Metro State University. She is known for her carefully constructed, layered resin paintings, as well as her sensory-laden, emotionally evocative installations. A published writer and passionate speaker, Rosburg’s commitment to environmental causes is evident in her poignant artistic imagery, talks, and writing. Her first curated show was Axis Mundi, a massive exhibition on the topic of eco-psychology (2017 Denver Biennial of the Americas). She is represented by William Havu Gallery.


 

Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Renewable Energy Soundscapes

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

This is an exciting time to be alive: we are living witnesses to the third energy revolution.

  1. The first energy revolution – wood to coal – was in the second half of the 18th century with the invention of the steam engine;
  2. The second energy revolution – coal to oil/gas – at the beginning of the 20th century with the invention of the internal combustion engine;
  3. The third energy revolution – oil/gas to renewables – is currently underway.

Some have described this third energy revolution as a tsunami. I would add: a tsunami that has already crested. There is no turning back. As an artivist, I am inspired by a sense of awakening, by the promise of clean abundance, of jobs, and justice. No more wars for oil.

Joan Sullivan, wind, Canada, photographer, winter, blur, renewable, energy, transition

Photo © 2017 Joan Sullivan

The dominant visuals in our collective memory of the third energy revolution to date are photos/videos of white horizontal axis wind turbines, blue rectangular photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, and large hydroelectric reservoirs. Yes, there are many other forms of renewable energy, but at this early stage of the current energy transition, our visual landscape is dominated by wind, solar, and hydro.

In contrast, the soundscape of this energy transition is not yet clearly etched into our collective memory.

A new exhibit in Venice by American composer and sound art pioneer Bill Fontana could change that. According to Fontana’s artist statement, Primal Sonic Visions “aims to awaken a sense of astonishment, wonder and curiosity in the power and beauty of wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal energy sources.”

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IRENA’s Director-General, Adnan Z. Amin (left) and the artist Bill Fontana (right) at the Venice opening of Fontana’s Primal Sonic Visions exhibit on May 26, 2018. Photo downloaded from IRENA flickr stream.

Commissioned by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Fontana’s Primal Sonic Visions is an “immersive series of sonic and visual abstractions” that focuses our attention on the primal beauty of renewable energy. During the exhibit’s opening in May, the former President of Iceland, Olafur Grimsson, suggested that Fontana’s work could be the “missing link” in communicating the transformative power of renewable energy to a larger public audience.

For me, this quote says it all:

Primal Sonic Visions prompts deep reflection on the power and effectiveness of energy capable of ensuring the future of our planet and triggers an emotional response to the environment, now under violent attack from the effects of climate change and atmospheric agents. As people enter the space, they are met with an emotional experience that at first instills a sense of wonder, and later transforms into a deep reflection of the potential and power of these energy sources to be used in securing a future for our planet.
Bill Fontana

To get a sense of the exhibit, click on each of the photos below (reprinted with permission) to view Fontana’s immersive videos of geothermal, wind, solar, and hydroelectric projects around the world.

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Bill Fontana, Fontana, Primal Sonic Visions, Venice, biennale, soundscape, sound sculpture, Austria, hydro, hydroelectric, renewabable, energy

Internationally renowned for his pioneering use of sound as a sculptural medium to transform our visual perception, Fontana has only recently begun exploring renewable energy from his unique artistic perspective. “The IRENA commission has transformed me as an artist,” he explained in a phone conversation. “It gave me the chance to experiment with moving images in ways that I had never done before. This project has helped me to invent a new visual language, one that has shifted from the literal to the abstract.”

“This whole project has been quite liberating,” he continued. “I’m 71, and have been working with sound for over 40 years. It’s really great at my age to feel like a beginner. I feel reborn!”

A blogger from Paris described Fontana’s Primal Sonic Visions as a “musical cathedral” that seduces visitors to “follow the call of the wind” and “surrender completely” to this abstract world. As a renewable energy photographer, I can’t think of a more beautiful paean to an artist whose highly technological methods stir such visceral emotions about renewable energy. To the best of my knowledge, no other renewable energy artist has accomplished this to date.

So how does he do it? Fontana’s work speaks to us at a primitive, subconscious level. Visitors are virtually bathed in the primordial ooze and steamy atmosphere of ancient Earth. This immersive experience helps us to embrace the undeniable fact that we live on a truly magnificent planet that has been generating its own carbon-free energy for millions of years. This energy is literally bubbling right below our feet and shining down upon us from above. It promises a future of limitless potential. It is free for the taking. Enough for everyone.

What the hell are we waiting for?

This must be the “missing link” that Grimsson was referring to at the exhibit’s opening. I would take it one step further and suggest that Fontana may have discovered the holy grail of climate change communication: a hypnotic combination of elemental sound and visuals that gently remind us – without politics, without environmentalism – that the solutions to climate change already exist. In fact, they have always existed, long before our species evolved. Yet somehow, wise man chose to ignore these incredible gifts of nature.

It is time to put the pedal to the metal and embrace the third energy revolution. Artists like Bill Fontana can help us get there faster.

Primal Sonic Visions continues through September 16, 2018 at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. Sponsors include the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates and the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea. The exhibit was organized by Arthemisia in collaboration with IRENA, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, and Science Gallery Venice.

For those who missed the exhibit’s inauguration in May, Mr. Fontana will return to Venice in September to direct a two-day accompanying workshop at the Ca’ Foscari entitled Acoustic Phenomenology (September13-14). I wish I could attend!

(Top image: Video still of a waste water electric turbine in Austria, downloaded with permission from Bill Fontana’s website.)

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Joan Sullivan is a renewable energy photographer based in Québec, Canada. Since 2009, Joan has focused her cameras (and more recently her drones) exclusively on the energy transition. Her goal is to create positive images and stories that help us embrace the tantalizing concept that the Holy Grail is finally within reach: a 100% post-carbon economy within our lifetimes. Joan collaborates frequently with filmmakers on documentary films that explore the human side of the energy transition. She is currently working on a photo book about the energy transition. Her renewable energy photos have been exhibited in group shows in Canada, Italy and the UK. You can find Joan on Twitter and Instagram


 

Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Sir Peter Scott: the embodiment of art and conservation

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

As part of the #art4wetlands series the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)have very kindly provided us with the following images and story on their founder, artist and conservationist Sir Peter Scott. Sir Peter epitomises one of the many ways that the power of art can be brought to bear on the challenges of conservation. One of the WWT reserve managers mentioned that every time Sir Peter wanted to do work to improve a reserve he would simply, “create another painting to sell.”

Image courtesy of Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)

Sir Peter Scott (1909-1989) knew how to take action, and how to inspire others.  He was a visionary who understood that people and nature are part of the same intertwined ecosystem. He realised – ahead of his time – that our wealth, our health and our emotional wellbeing all depend on the natural world. He understood that showing people how amazing nature is, can ignite a passion to conserve it.

Scott was an accomplished artist, writer, world-class sportsman, Naval Commander and the son of one of the most famous explorers of the 20th Century.  Famously, his father’s last letter from Antarctica prophetically instructed his wife to “Make the boy interested in nature – it is so much better than sports.”  As fate would have it, he was brilliant at both.

Image courtesy of WWT

Added to this he was an extraordinary wildlife artist with a particular passion for wildfowl art.  He produced hundreds of original wildfowl artworks in his lifetime and his deep love of painting birds must surely have driven his passion for working to save wetlands and wildfowl around the world.

In 1945/6 he became determined to set up a Wildfowl Trust – but where?  At Slimbridge – he had a ‘eureka’ moment.  Here, on the banks of the River Severn in Gloucestershire he spotted two unbelievably rare Lesser White-Fronted Geese in a flock of White-Fronted Geese.  So, Slimbridge would become the home of the Severn Wildfowl Trust – later to become the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

More than that, he began to address wider, global conservation issues.  A co-founder and first chairman of the World Wildlife Fund (1961), his work on international conservation issues continued over the coming decades.  He was instrumental in setting up the Ramsar Convention in 1971.  This international agreement works to protect wetlands of international importance and now includes over 2,300 sites covering 2 million square kilometres. In 1982 he established an international moratorium on whaling and later worked to secure agreements for the protection of Antarctica from international exploitation.  In 1973 he became the first person to be knighted for services to conservation.

Sir Peter Scott with Néné Geese. Image courtesy of WWT

Over the coming years he developed new conservation techniques and honed existing ideas; he saved the Hawaiian Goose (the Néné) from extinction; he established international protocols for conservation (i.e. the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species) still used today to categorise the conservation status of all known species; he brokered national and international agreements for the conservation of wildlife; he championed research into the damage done to our wild places and how to address this; he tracked the migratory patterns of wetland birds; he resolved to work across borders to protect their flyways and – insightful as ever – he recognised the power of bringing wildlife into people’s homes through the evolving medium of television and his ‘Look’ series on the BBC.

It is hard to identify anyone before him who had such an impact on raising conservation issues with the general public, and on bringing governments together to address global issues.


 

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform. It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

Go to EcoArtScotland