Art has the power to trigger an immense change in people’s mind-sets. Over the past decade, a growing number of artists have used art as a tool to adjust the way people think about the environment, including climate change. Numerous organisations encourage artists to communicate this critical issue to the public in an engaging and influential way, for example, Cape Farewell is an artist-led network consisting of artists, scientists, designers and creatives who work together to carry out research on the environment and attempt a cultural response to climate change. They present their findings through enthralling films, artworks and literature, and their incentive is to motivate and inspire change to create a more sustainable future.
‘’Climate change is a reality. Caused by us all, it is a cultural, social and economic problem and must move beyond scientific debate. Cape Farewell is committed to the notion that artists can engage the public in this issue, through creative insight and vision.’’ David Buckland (founder), 2007.
On the 28th and 29th of January 2017, Cape Farewell presented a scene of creative action: Space to Breathe. This project was in response to the impact that air pollution has on our health. It was a weekend overflowing with stimulating installations, artworks, performances and talks aiming to trigger a public conversation. Set in Somerset House, London, it intended to discuss and explore the innovative strategies which will help to lessen the damaging effects of vehicle emissions.
This organisation has reached out to the public on a global scale, and it is vastly aware of individual artists also committing to expressing the same values. During the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris 2015, artists including Olafur Eliasson, Shepard Fairey and Tomás Saraceno revealed their artworks throughout Paris’ streets. Fairey suspended an enormous globe in the centre of the Eiffel Tower; it was adorned with ironic anti-oil slogans such as, ’petrol for an unlimited future’. While, Eliasson addressed the issue of rapid melting ice glaciers by arranging ice blocks at the Place du pantheon, which gave the public a direct vision of climate change around the globe. These artworks were part of an initiative calling for global unification and a pledge to act on this critical issue.
It is evident that public art has become a central way to engage people in vital issues, which the organisation: LAGI (Land Art Generator Initiative) makes clear. LAGI aims to provide a platform for artists, architects, scientists and engineers to present their ideas of sustainable energy infrastructures which both generate power and enhance cities with their incredible artistic structures. One design, ‘Wind Nest’ has successfully had a prototype built and, if accepted, it will be built in Pittsburgh. This will enable people to charge their mobile phones with wind and solar power generated from overhead rotating nests. LAGI’s concepts and ideas are an exciting insight into the future of public art structures.
A curator at the contemporary art foundation, Dia, Alexis Lowry, highlights that: “Today’s artists are dealing with more expressly socio-political concerns…environmental sustainability, energy, power and economics.” Dia Art Foundation is committed to evolving and conserving the vision of artists. It is apparent that now this vision is turning towards promoting a message of sustainability. Another organisation which supports artists is the ONCA gallery in Brighton. ONCA’s mission is to cultivate ecological and social wellbeing through the arts. They focus on inspiring creativity and positive action in terms of climate change having recently presented an experimental Swap Shop featuring live music and video work by emerging artists. These support networks, like ONCA and Cape Farewell, are growing successes as they continue to inform and engage the public with important environmental issues. Ultimately, they create platforms which encourage and trigger action, as well as providing events which enthrall and inspire people.