Activist countries

Artists from 28 countries come together to respond to the climate crisis with World Weather Network

A library on top of one of London’s oldest skyscrapers; the rainforest, mountains and coastline of Peru; a Canadian island in the Labrador Current.

All of these stations are weather stations, but they will not necessarily report changes in temperature or barometric pressure. Instead, they are one of 28 international locations from which writers and artists will work to make sense of the climate crisis in a one-of-a-kind collaboration called the World Weather Network.

“We want to see what happens when artists and writers start using their imaginations and lateral abilities to think about something that’s hard to think about,” project organizer Michael Morris of Artangel told EcoWatch. United Kingdom.

The World Weather Network

The World Weather Network is a coalition of 28 arts organizations from the Philippines to Nigeria to Utah who believe that artists and writers should be a bigger part of the dialogue surrounding climate change. The idea is that each weather station’s creative team will produce local on-the-ground programming and post “weather reports” on the network’s website during the year.

The website and programming launched at the summer solstice and will run until June 2023. The first “weather reports” included a live broadcast of sunrise on the longest day of the year since Enoura Observatory in Japan by renowned photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and audio and visual recordings by the Breath of Weather Collective from wind harps placed at eight locations in the Pacific and Aotearoa/New Zealand that are vulnerable to climate change.

Morris said the weather motif was chosen because it has been a subject of art and literature throughout history.

“Piers Plowman is all about the weather, Beowulf is all about the weather,” he said.

But the increase in heat waves and other unusual or extreme events due to human burning of fossil fuels has forced us to see time in a new way.

“In recent years, those inspirations from the past — which have to do with how time makes us feel, what time does to us — have really been replaced by a concern about what we do to time,” Morris said. . . “There has been… an inhibition to really relate to the weather that we have now, the extreme climate in many parts of the world, and artists and writers are moving away from that in one way or another.”

The World Weather Network’s goal is to invite them, and so far it seems to have succeeded. New York artist Liam Gillick, who designed a weather station on Fogo Island, Canada, told EcoWatch in an email that he was drawn to the project because it brought together so many people and people. organizations.

“It is truly global and offers the ability to access a huge variety of original approaches through a single portal,” he said. “This has never been done before, to my knowledge. Certainly nothing on this scale.

Participating artist Luz María Bedoya from Peru accepted.

“I decided to participate in WWN because it is an opportunity to work together, despite the fact that we are in different and distant places, and to generate the strength that the network can produce when we are united around the same key issue today. , the climate crisis,” Bedoya said in an email.

The project is climate friendly in its execution as well as in its theme.

“One of the other things about this project is that it’s a huge international collaboration that didn’t involve any flying around the world,” Morris told EcoWatch.

It grew out of digital conversations during the coronavirus lockdown, and Morris said he wasn’t sure the project would exist in its current form without the pandemic. Perhaps due to the virtual evolution of the project, it is important for the organizers that the weather reports displayed on the website are not simple reproductions of what is happening in situ, but rather specifically adapted to what the line art can do.

“[O]One of the things that every partner has to deal with is that they do two things,” Morris said. “They’re setting up something locally, which is physical and can be visited, and they’re also thinking about how best that would manifest on a digital platform.”

Weather station: London, United Kingdom

Senate Library, London. Commissioned by Artangel © Photography by Francesco Russo

Artangel has commissioned two London-based projects that illustrate the difference between local and online offerings. The first is a sound installation called A Thousand Words for Weather which was launched on the solstice in the London Senate Library, an iconic Art Deco building completed in the 1930s and considered one of London’s first skyscrapers.

Taiwanese-Canadian writer Jessica J. Le asked ten poets to write and define ten words for time in their native languages ​​- English, Arabic, Bengali, Spanish, French, Polish, Urdu, Mandarin, Turkish and German . Each of the ten words was then translated into the other languages ​​for a total of 1,000 words. Then, composer and artist Claudia Molitor transformed this dictionary into a “sound installation in a building ruled by silence”, as Morris put it. Recorded words are monitored by live weather reports from the UK Met Office.

“[T]The weather outside the building actually changes the mix, velocity, and volume, so every day you’ll hear something completely different,” Morris explained.

The installation will run until March 25 next year, giving Londoners a chance to hear three seasons of weather words. For those who can’t make it to the Senate Library before then, Chinese-born spatial and visual designer FeiFei Zhou will create a “living, animated dictionary for the web,” according to the website.

A second London project will exist entirely online. It’s called Abi Palmer Invents Time. The writer and artist will film her Siberian forest cats Lola Lola and Cha-u-Kao playing in four boxes corresponding to each season, as she brings outdoor time inside her felines.

Weather station: Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Fogo Island, Canada

The Fogo Island weather station took the mission a little more literally. Gillick designed a sculpture called A Variability Quantifier (aka The Fogo Island Red Weather Station) which will actually record weather data that can be used by the local community as well as scientists and artists overseas.

“I wanted to do something that would be properly maintained for a number of years and had the support structure to really collect accurate, actionable data,” Gillick said. “Historically, weather stations have taken many forms. It is only in contemporary times that they have become so functional. I wanted to reintroduce an artistic element in the establishment of a scientific structure.

When designing the sculpture, Gillick was inspired by the culture and architecture of Fogo Island, particularly the “fishing stages” that are common on the island. The sculpture is a near-life-size model of the setting for such a scene at which scientists and community members can attack time-measuring instruments.

“The sculpture is aesthetic and functional,” Gillick said. “It is a tribute to the island’s history and a useful site for data collection. It is also important that the wood is local and machined by local fishermen and [virtually] neutral with respect to the local ecosystem.

Fogo Island is an evocative place to consider the climate crisis, as it sits in the Labrador Current, “iceberg alley” along which melting ice travels. Gillick told EcoWatch he thinks it’s important for artists to participate in shaping the collective understanding and imagination of global warming.

“Artists have something to offer,” he said. “We can add new ways of imagining and visualizing the world around us. We need to move beyond the clichéd images that have often accompanied climate awareness. That’s what it’s about. We are not starting from scratch, we are here to support, refine and transcend the visual literacy needed to advance the good work already done by climate scientists, activists and researchers.

The project was commissioned by Fogo Island Arts and the National Gallery of Canada. It will remain in situ until October 2026.

Weather station: Coastline, Andes and rainforest, Peru

Atalaya, Peru. Maurice Chedel

While the Fogo Island meteorological station is centered around one structure, the Peruvian station integrates three different ecosystems. Bedoya presents two projects commissioned by the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI) that involve the different ways in which water flows through and beyond the country.

The first is called All Peruvian Coast Lighthouses. Bedoya created a graphic score based on the codes of the 56 lighthouses that dot the Pacific coast of Peru. This score was then performed by some forty musicians and authors. Bedoya’s second project, titled Other Scores of Water, stems from his first. These will be three films shot in the Andes and the Peruvian Amazon, focusing on the different forms that water takes, from snow to rivers. Bedoya will work with local communities, academics, musicians and other artists to produce its weather reports.

By focusing on three distinct Peruvian ecosystems, Bedoya also hopes to illuminate the social complexity of a country that is home to many different languages ​​and cultures, as well as the racial and economic inequalities inherited from colonialism.

“I try to ensure that my projects offer a reading of the local climate that goes beyond the purely meteorological framework, and does not allow itself to be enchanted by the grandeur of our landscapes, which is always a temptation in a geography like this, she told EcoWatch. “Based on some of the different expressions of water in Peru (ocean, snow-capped mountains, rivers, cloud forests, subsoil waters), I hope they will serve as guidelines that account for the social fabric and cultural environment in which they find themselves.

By choosing to make art around the climate crisis, Bedoya is also turned towards the world. She said that the human species as a whole is “living through a boundary moment,” and it’s the very liminality of the moment that makes it important for artists to respond.

“We are used to considering meteorology and climatology as devices for the statistical measurement of atmospheric phenomena, but what we call climate in an extended sense escapes statistical rationality,” she told EcoWatch. “This is where art can have something to contribute. These probably won’t be definitive solutions (in fact, there are no definitive solutions to our climate crisis), but it can allow us to change the way we encounter our present and get closer to creating forms of life we ​​wouldn’t have imagined.