How Can Eco-Art Inspire Change?


An image from artist Maya Lin's "Unchopping a Tree" installation from the What's Missing? project.

'Where do we go from here?' was the question that brought a panel of creative minds together at the Louisiana Museum of Contemporary Art, just north of Copenhagen last Saturday. Leading artists and designers met for a symposium about future solutions. While the battle at Bella Center marches on at COP15, Copenhagen is filled with environmentally themed artwork. Artists are inspired to create politically and socially conscious works, but is it cynical to ask how it can make a difference? "The only way to address anything professionally is to be an artist," stated Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson at the museum's panel. How's that? The ensuing discussion, which included environmental entrepreneur Kresse Wesling, scientist and artist Sissel Tolaas, and engineer Matthias Schuler, addressed future scenarios in the arts and design worlds in light of the goings-on at COP15.

One of the museum's current exhibits, to coincide with the Climate Change Conference, is "Green Architecture for the Future," presenting new inventions, materials, processes, and methods for the built environment and more sustainable development. Granted, design and architecture has made great strides environmentally, now how about art.

The panel's philosophical conclusion: there is too much focus on energy. We need to start focusing on resources instead. Panelist Schuler said, "We have to stop thinking about waste, and start thinking about materials." Okay, there's a long tradition of artists' dumpster diving and reuse, but not think about waste and energy?

Art saves two birds with one tree

Every gallery and public space in Copenhagen has been filled with eco-art from displays by 350.org's, climate crisis campaign, to exhibits such as "It's a Small World," showing human scale sustainable design ideas. Also, the Cool Globes were hauled overseas and the DaVinci Bridge is melting.

In addition, Fred George created a 50-foot (15.24 meter) Solar Peace Sculpture with oil barrels and solar panels to make his rather large statement. A 8.75-foot/2.6 meter model is displayed at Copenhagen's green Hotel Fox. It includes an interactive media center featuring videos of worldwide projects which embrace peace and sustainability. Art has an ability to transcend language, says George of his effort "to have a global conversation about preserving the environment and promoting alternative energy."

The acclaimed Maya Lin debuts her new media piece, "Unchopping a Tree," at the Support REDD+ Gala in Copenhagen, to honor worldwide organizations involved in deforestation, including the Green Belt Movement. Hosted by the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, heads of state will watch Lin's latest work from the What is Missing? project. "All of us can help to unchop a tree and show that trees are worth more alive than dead," said the artist. By protecting forests, we help stop species loss and curb climate change so in effect, we are saving two birds with one tree."

The Danish artist panel did consider practical approaches, such as the first carbon neutral city, Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, and transforming old fire hoses into handbags. Yet it was pointed out that sustainability requires changing the need for constant growth and consumption. "We need to find new ways of happiness," said Schuler.

Isn't that where art plays its part?

More on eco-art:
Climate Change Art: Art of a Changing World
Going Once... Twice... Green Art for a Good Cause
Rethinking Trash into Inspired Art
Top 5 Environmental Artists Shaking Up the Art World

Tags: Architects | Artists | Arts | Exhibits | Global Warming Solutions