As politicians, bureaucrats and environmentalists head to Copenhagen for the UN Climate Change Conference, international culture vultures will descend upon four Danish art institutions to engage with environmental issues from a more colourful perspective.
Rethink: Contemporary Art & Climate Change is an art exposition featuring 26 international artists whose work creates new ways for the public to grasp complicated climate change issues. Although many artists have been producing work inspired by the topic for years — Quebec’s ATSA is one of my favourites — the role art can play in educating the public and inducing behavioural change is now attracting widespread interest.
The exhibit provides a playground in which you can explore climate change and the environment from unconventional angles. Rethink invites you to “imagine a mountain moving to the beat of a seismograph, flying biospheres in the sky and hundreds of plastic bags with acid rain. What is it like when art merges with sounds from the Mexican jungle, satellite tracking data of the currently ‘most blue sky’ or arctic birds?”
I’m tempted to fly out to Copenhagen just to crawl around inside one of Argentinian architect Tomás Saraceno’s shiny, transparent spheres, gingerly suspended high above the gallery floor. Of course, as fun as that sounds, it’s probably not worth the 2.3 tonnes of CO2 that the flight would add to my carbon footprint.
Now, while some may question the role art can play in averting climate change, but the answer is easy for Saraceno: “Art is about trying to rethink the things you take for granted.” This view is echoed by the Danish Minister for Climate and Energy, Connie Hedegaard. “Art can act as a source of inspiration and initiate reflection. Naturally, I hope some of the many politicians who come to Copenhagen for the climate conference in December will be inspired by the exhibition. However, it is also important that citizens get the opportunity to view the climate challenge from a cultural perspective.”
Rethink: Contemporary Art & Climate Change runs until April 5, 2010 at the National Gallery of Denmark, closing earlier at other participating galleries. Visit their website for details.
Images (top to bottom): Biospheres by Tomas Saraceno, Solplænen by Eric Andersen, Safety Gear for Small Animals by Bill Burns.