Global warming is certainly one of the biggest problems our society has to face nowadays and yet, how can you hold an exhibition on such matter without talking about industry pollution, over-consumption and environmental damages? Cape Farewell did not chose to go down that road. The British association organizes collaborations between artists and scientists to create a cultural response to global warming and for “Carbon 12” EDF foundation EDF shows 5 artistic propositions that originate from these collaborations. Being Carbon is at the core of the global warming problem (both problem & solution) this exhibition focuses on its central role and interrogate different scientific fields to illustrate the problem at hand.
David Buckland, the founder of Cape Farewell, worked with Dr Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez on chalk. Chalk is also made of carbon but unlike oil or coal, this form of carbon is white and cannot be used as fuel. The gigantic chalk cliffs are the aggregate of millions of dead shells of coccolithophores. These micro-organisms are part of the photosynthesis happening in the ocean. They capture carbon in the atmosphere and transform it into oxygen, making our planet breathable, but the ever growing carbon rate in the atmosphere makes it difficult for these organisms to keep up their work, which leads to the acidification of oceans.
Mr Buckland has created three different pieces to express his collaboration with doctor Iglesias-Rodriguez. A large chalk drawing explaining the scientific phenomenon, a sculpture of the chalk cliffs and a series of pieces where chunks of chalks are the support of photographs of the coccolithophores, creating some kind of “mise en abyme”. More than the artworks, the video really caught my attention. The discussion between the artist and the scientist puts into perspective the problem in a very sensible way. Without ever dumbing down the complexity of the phenomenon, the conversation makes a difficult problem within reach of a wide audience.
Another great project is the collaboration between American artist Erika Blumenfeld and Michael Latz, a researcher in maritime bioluminescence. The dinoflagellates are a species of luminescent organisms, part of of the phytoplankton, responsible for the renewal of oxygen in the ocean. Blumenfeld isolated the organism in order to photograph its movement in the water and her photographs and videos use the luminescence of the dinoflagellates to reveal the flow patterns of the water. The abstraction of the results exposes the fragility of these micro organisms and highlights how the sea level rise caused by the climate change has a direct impact on the the carbon cycle.
There is something quite ironic about the exhibition being held at the foundation EDF space. The french energy company isn’t one of the most environmentally friendly companies out there. However the exhibition actually works using artists as mediators between the audience and the scientific community.