Art and Climate: Making the Invisible Visible
On view in the Works on Paper Study Room, Saturdays and Sundays, December 31, 2016–February 5, 2017
Much of climate change is invisible to us. The “smoke” you see coming out of smokestacks is not carbon dioxide, which is transparent in visible light, but a combination of water droplets and soot. The trade-offs of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources are generally not discernible. And changes, particularly natural changes, occur so slowly that they can be difficult to observe directly. So, how can the reality of climate change, its impacts, and its solutions be communicated? The photographs in this installation make the invisible visible through a variety of means.
- They play with interesting adjacencies, such as a sooty fire next to an oil well in Robert Adams’s Denver, 1974, or a field of wind turbines between sand dunes and a forest fire.
- They use unusual vantage points, such as aerial perspectives of landscapes, or the dramatically low viewpoint of smokestacks in Michael Kenna’s The Rouge, Study 59.
- They incorporate disconcerting cropping effects, such as the high-contrast presentation of a car factory, or the fragmentary view of coastal houses in Alexander Heilner’s Palm Jumeirah.
For those concerned about mitigating and adapting to climate change, we must ask how to make our climate system visible to all.
The photographs also challenge us to ask whether Earth’s environment and human civilizations are resilient or fragile—or both. Among the most fragile landscapes are our coastlines, because of sea level rise, and our cryosphere, because the icy parts of the Earth system fluctuate dramatically over decades and millennia. We make ourselves more susceptible to climate change by assuming that these landscapes are stable. What is unique about each landscape shown, in what ways do they change through time, and how do those shifts impact ecosystems and humans? The choice of these photographs is our argument that there is no single answer to these questions.
Catherine Riihimaki, Associate Director, Science Education, Council on Science and Technology
Veronica White, Curator of Academic Programs
Students in GEO 102 (Climate: Past, Present, and Future): Amanda Morrison ’19, Lila Currie ’18, Micaela Keller ’20, Grace Searle ’20, and Jenna Shaw ’20
The Rouge, Study 59, Dearborn, MichiganMichael Kenna, British, born 1953
The Rouge, Study 59, Dearborn, Michigan, 1994, printed 1996
The Rouge, Study 98, Dearborn, MichiganMichael Kenna, British, born 1953
The Rouge, Study 98, Dearborn, Michigan, 1995
The Blue Lagoon, Svartsengi Geothermal Pumping Station, IcelandVirginia Beahan, American, born 1946 | Laura McPhee, American, born 1958
The Blue Lagoon, Svartsengi Geothermal Pumping Station, Iceland, 1988, printed 1995
Windmills, Coachella Valley, and Fire in the San Gorgonio Mountains, CaliforniaVirginia Beahan, American, born 1946 | Laura McPhee, American, born 1958
Windmills, Coachella Valley, and Fire in the San Gorgonio Mountains, California, 1995
Amphitheater, David Gulch, Escalante basinEliot Furness Porter, American, 1901–1990
Amphitheater, David Gulch, Escalante basin, May 12, 1965
Sand Dunes with Truck on Pan Am Highway, PeruMarilyn Bridges, American, born 1948
Sand Dunes with Truck on Pan Am Highway, Peru, 1989
DenverRobert Adams, American, born 1937
Barn and Smokestacks, Moss LandingLiliane DeCock-Morgan, Belgian, 1939–2013
Barn and Smokestacks, Moss Landing, 1967–68
Windmill Farming, Tehachapi, CaliforniaMarilyn Bridges, American, born 1948
Windmill Farming, Tehachapi, California, 1986
Hoover Dam, Arizona/Nevada, from the Water in the West ProjectRobert Dawson, American, born 1950
Hoover Dam, Arizona/Nevada, from the Water in the West Project, 1987
Manhattan Beach, California, Looking North from MarinaRobbert Flick, Canadian, born 1939
Manhattan Beach, California, Looking North from Marina, 1982
Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab EmiratesAlexander Heilner, American, born 1971
Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 2008
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