Artists and Climate Change is setting about embedding climate change into our culture. Currently, it is part of politics, which means, of course, it is suspected of having an agenda. To get people to think about the very real future of the country, we need to make it part of the narrative.
In 2005, in an article called “What the Warming World Needs Now Is Art, Sweet Art,” Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, wrote that although we knew about climate change, we didn’t really know about it; it wasn’t part of the culture yet. “Where are the books? The plays? The goddamn operas?” he asked. An intellectual understanding of the scientific facts was not enough – if we wanted to move forward and effect meaningful change, we needed to engage the other side of our brains. We needed to approach the problem with our imagination. And the people best suited to help us do that, he believed, were the artists.
Recently, their site published an article that I thought was worth re-posting here:
This week, the Jan Van Eyck Academy, a post-academic institute for art, design and reflection in the quaint town of Maastricht (Netherlands), opened a Lab for artists to do Nature Research. In addition to offering a range of (amazing) facilities that can support woodwork, (RISO) printmaking, photography, video, and metalwork, the institute now acknowledges that nature is not only a great inspiration for artists, but the lack of it is a growing concern for many. The Van Eyck is positioning itself on the frontline of international pioneering art institutions that are enabling artists to explore in depth, through their work, their relationship to nature. The playground for this new Lab is a studio, garden, and greenhouse. Named after Jac. P. Thijsse, a famous Maastricht ecologist, the Lab gives artists an opportunity to do active research (get their hands dirty) and to consider the subject of nature in relation to ecological and landscape development issues. It’s supposedly a place to build bridges – between humankind and nature, but also between art and other disciplines, including agriculture, biology, botany, and (landscape) architecture.
The Jac. P. Thijsse Lab launched during the Van Eycks annual Open Studios with two works, including one by artist Marcus Coates who will be a Van Eyck advisor this year. Outside in the gardens, people could hear birds enthusiastically singing, ready for spring. Inside the Lab studio, however, it was revealed that the cheerful chirping outside was human voices replicating bird songs. Coates’s Dawn Chorus (2007) features individuals sitting in their own habitats – a car, an office, a bedroom, a school staff room – singing bird songs. For this project, Coates recorded birdsong of individual birds and then digitally slowed down the songs by up to 20 times. Singers from amateur choirs were asked to mimic this slowed down sound, which is similar in tone to the human voice. The recording was then sped up to the original speed of the birdsong, creating a magical transformation of the human voice into that of a bird. The work shows us a new way to look at nature and highlights our interconnectedness. Solely by changing the speed of the sound, we end up speaking the same language.
https://videopress.com/embed/gvYNDmV3?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=0&loop=0In the greenhouse, a mysterious installation by artists Fabio Roncato (Van Eyck participant of 2016/2017) and Ryts Monet was found. It consisted of original bricks from the greenhouse, infused with a bright blue Yves Klein-esque pigment that reminds us of chapel ceilings in small Italian towns. A galvanised meteorite seemed to have crashed on the floor among the blue bricks – an invitation from the artists to reflect on the topic of the unknown landscape and the outer space. Their work shows that a greenhouse in the context of the Van Eyck is not just a place to grow plants; it is really a laboratory for ideas, questions, experiments, and reflections on the landscape in the widest sense of the word.
The van Eyck is not the only art institution that has picked up on artists’ growing interest in growing. Other great European places that accommodate artists unafraid to get their hands dirty include Prinzessinengarten (Berlin, Germany), ZKU (Berlin, Germany), Pollinaria (Abruzzo region, Italy), Grizedale Arts (Lake District, UK) and AtelierNL (Noordoostpolder, Netherlands) amongst others. In the last few years, even upmarket commercial gallery Hauser and Wirth re-purposed an old farm and garden in rural Somerset (UK) into an artist residence, complete with restaurant and exhibition space.