Researching on art about global warming and climate change.

This blog post is about research I'm doing as part of my work in designing a new public artwork for Ranua Wildlife Park in Finnish Lapland. The park specializes in arctic animals, and the theme of my work, too, will be our relationship with arctic nature in our everyday life.

The arctic surroundings are at the moment carrying perhaps the heaviest burden caused by global warming, affecting of course, in the long run, our whole planet and its ecosystems. I want to speak about this with texts, but in a hopeful, peaceful way.

I have experimented with text and using steel in previous works, and at this point I'm studying possibilities for this new work to be made of mirroring steel, as my last work, Peilikirkas / Mirror Clear, seen below. I'm listing a couple of other, older works as well, getting now in my mind, back to their techniques and details. 

To better understand the medium with which I'm experimenting here, I have gone back to researching with older, classic minimalist works and contemporary textual, conceptual works - I'll share some of my favorites below.

I love, have always loved, all minimalist mirror sculptures. Like this classic piece from Robert Morris. 

Robert Morris, Untitled, 1965, reconstructed 1971

Robert Morris, Untitled, 1965, reconstructed 1971

I do feel that the early minimalist movements themes around body are still relevant and very much try to work with the same themes in my own work. Tate describes this and his work in general as follows:

"Morris’s Minimalist sculptures of the mid-1960s consist of rigorously pared down geometric forms. He typically arranged these into ‘situations’ where ‘one is aware of one’s own body at the same time that one is aware of the piece’. This work demonstrates the principle. As the viewer walks around the four cubes, their mirrored surfaces produce complex and shifting interactions between gallery and spectator."

(link to Tate's article)

To create a space where the viewer can more fully understand ones own presence, to feel present, to feel alive, is I think, such a relevant goal for contemporary art, in a world which can easily make you feel alienated from yourself, your body, and other people. It's a sort of back to the basics -approach. These kind of works always make me feel so peaceful, and this feeling of peace is, I feel somehow universal and accessible, if we find the right tools. Art can be one of those tools.

A more contemporary mirror work, below from Jeppe Hein, seen on my trip to NYC 2016. Creating a kind of small mirror labyrinth, the work is playful and fun - another thing I value as I never thought deep or meaningful thinking or feeling has to be serious or grim.

Jeppe Hein, Please touch the art, detail

Jeppe Hein, Please touch the art, detail

Jeppe Hein, Please touch the art, at Brooklyn Park NYC 2016. Photo: Maija Kovari 

Jeppe Hein, Please touch the art, at Brooklyn Park NYC 2016. Photo: Maija Kovari 

Jeppe Hein, Please touch the art, detail

Jeppe Hein, Please touch the art, detail

Or one of Olafur Eliasson's mirror works - this one seen in EMMA -Espoo Museum of Modern Art, in Espoo, Finland.


Doing researh on orther artist working on the same subject, I found a new favourite, a british poet / visual artist, Robert Montgomery. Ignant (an extraordinarily beautiful online magazine on art/architecture/design/travel/fashion/photography) writes in their portrait of him:

"Working in a conceptual, post-Situationist tradition, the Scottish-born artist has lent his voice to urban spaces from Izmir to Kerala, supplying verse after verse of poetry that, while gently-spun, cuts to the core of the most crucial issues of our time." 

It can be hard to talk - even trough the medium of art - about difficult subjects in a way that does not make the viewer want to turn away, but will instead keep them engaged, wanting to see, wanting to feel, wanting to understand. Montgomery I think, has this talent. Working myself now with the theme of gobal warming and the arctic, it is indeed an important task for me also to find that balance. One of the people who have found a way to speak about climate change in an engaging way, is James Balog from the Extreme Ice SurveyYou can find the documentary about their work on the time lapses below on Netflix, titled, Chasing Ice

In the time lapse video, the Sólheimajökull Glacier in Iceland is retreating due to a combination of stream erosion and ice melt. The cracks (“crevasses”) that you see forming parallel to the flow indicate that the glacier is also spreading out (thinning) as it flows forward.

Finally, Banksy's humour has been as inspiring as always.  

Banksy, Global Warming, 2009. Photo by  Duncan Hull

Banksy, Global Warming, 2009. Photo by Duncan Hull