Art and Climate Change / by Lora Martens

This week 60 participants will gather together at the Salzburg Global Seminar to talk about art and sustainability. While this does seem like a huge subject, I am interested to see what comes out of these discussions. 

This conference has a six themes and the one that particularly interested me was the one titled  "Artists Catalyzing Change" summarized below. 

"Artists Catalyzing Change
What remarkable arts-based projects around sustainability have startled and moved people and broken through barriers to inspire lasting change? What can be learned from these groundbreaking stories and ideas, and is it possible to transfer these insights to other contexts, replicate them and/or take them to scale?  Can we identify best practices and pre-conditions for success?"

Through my research in the subject of art and climate change I have been most inspired by projects that started as art projects with a sustainability focus and became public policy as well as  art projects that have morphed into hard core research studies.

I recently learned of the infamous Harrison Studio, and their 50 year long project in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the Segehen Watershed. The husband and wife artist team have partnered with UC Berkeley and the Washoe tribe to move a variety of native plants from a lower location to 5 different plots, each 165 meters higher than the next, and study their responses. The hope is that these seedlings become resilient to the warming effect of climate change.  

The Segehen Watershed project is part of Harrison Studio's epic latest collection of work called "The Force Majeure", which is both a reflection on their lifetime of work and a reflection on the state of affairs that is climate change today. They have started a Center for the Study of the Force Majeure at UC Santa Cruz.

From the Harrison Studio website: "The Center, in its Statement of Purpose, defines the Force Majeure as the pressure of global warming on all planetary systems, in collaboration with the industrial processes whose negative effect on the environment has perhaps co-equally accelerated over the past 100 years. The Center believes that we must adapt ourselves to a very different world and that is the basis of our research."

Rock on climate change artists!