In Pictures: Jenny Holzer, Cornelia Parker, and Other Artists Call for Urgent Climate Action at the COP26 Summit in Glasgow
Environmentally themed work are on view in Scotland and beyond.
The 26th edition of the U.N. Climate Change Conference, or COP26 summit—a global event that brings countries together to enact the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—has been a polarizing event for politicians and activists around the world. And artists are getting into the mix, with environmentally themed artworks and projects.
The two-week summit is held in Glasgow, Scotland and runs through November 12. Below, see a roundup of projects on view in and around the conference.
Grantham Climate Art Prize Murals
Seven environmental murals featuring animals, plants, and other wildlife habitats threatened by climate change were painted on the streets of cities across the U.K. thanks to the Grantham Institute’s Climate Art Prize. The competition was open to artists aged 12 to 25, and street artists executed the winning designs. The murals are on view in Brighton, East London, Glasgow, Nottingham, Rochdale, and Stoke-on-Trent, and photos of the murals will be shown at COP26 at the end of the summit.
John Gerrard, Flare (Oceania) (2021)
Earlier this week, artist John Gerrard debuted a new simulation created for COP26 titled Flare (Oceania) responding to a statement by Tongan artist and activist Uili Lousi regarding the threat of climate change on worldwide ocean temperatures. Standing before a video work Gerrard made in 2017, in which the site of the world’s first major oil find in Texas is marked by a banner of constantly billowing black smoke, Lousi told the artist: “I love Western Flag, but John, I have to tell you, the ocean is burning.” Gerrard was inspired to create a new flag from flames, set against a real-time seascape based on photographs taken by Lousi. In a statement, Gerrard described Flare (Oceania) as “an alarm, and a call to action.”
Steuart Padwick, The Hope Sculpture, Beacon of Hope, and Hope Triptych (2021)
British designer Steuart Padwick’s 23-meter-high attenuated figures stand on tall plinths inspired by the brick chimney stacks that once dotted the landscape of Glasgow’s East End. The structures are also inscribed with words and phrases of hope contributed by local children as well as well known Scottish authors and poets. The contemporary sculptures are made from cement-free concrete and low-carbon materials, and are meant to keep the impact of industry on the climate crisis in mind. During COP26, at least 20 governments have committed to stop public financing for fossil fuel projects abroad by the end of 2022, and other nations pledged last week to stop building coal plants in an effort to “consign coal power to history.”
Mary Ellen Carroll / MEC Studios, indestructible language: IT IS GREEN THINKS NATURE EVEN IN THE DARK (2021)
A large-scale neon installation stands atop the roof of The Schoolhouse, a historic Victorian building in Glasgow’s city center, visible from both the M8 motorway and the COP26 summit base. The work, titled indestructible language and on view through January 31, 2022, consists of three-meter-high neon letters, made from lead-free glass and powered entirely by renewable energy, that spell out the phrase: “IT IS GREEN THINKS NATURE EVEN IN THE DARK”.
Jenny Holzer, HURT EARTH (2021)
Another text-based work is Jenny Holzer’s HURT EARTH (2021) a large-scale public art project which illuminates major landmarks around the U.K. with the words of more than 40 activists and leaders, including Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough. The project launched at Tate Modern in London before traveling north to Scotland, where it lit up the Edinburgh Rock and the Met Tower in Glasgow, among other sites.
Cornelia Parker, HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME (2021)
Cornelia Parker’s work HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME (2021) is yet another urgent appeal to the public at COP26 and beyond. “We are all in the last chance saloon, but politicians are not responding quickly enough to avoid climate disaster,” Parker said of the piece, which is adopted from T.S. Elliot’s long-form poem The Waste Land. “Now is the time for us to be brave and embrace all the difficulties, that making a paradigm shift requires.” One version of the work is a glowing red neon sculpture installed at the Scottish Exhibition Centre, the main venue for COP26, and on November 10, a 1-meter-long lightbox emblazoned with the first part of the statement will appear at a panel event hosted by the Spanish government, in collaboration with the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose.
Robert Montgomery in collaboration with Olafur Eliasson, GRACE OF THE SUN (2021)
GRACE OF THE SUN (2021) by Robert Montgomery and Olafur Eliasson is a “light poem” powered by 1,000 Little Sun lamps, which will be disassembled and reused after the summit ends. The art project, which calls for a massive turn toward solar power, is an extension of Eliasson’s Little Sun project, which he began in 2012 and has provided 1.5 million lamps so far to communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. The work is on display at the Landing Hub in Glasgow, a sustainable pop-up site where events related to COP26 are taking place.
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