Kunstenaars lijken een steeds belangrijkere rol te gaan spelen in het klimaatdebat. Denk maar aan de Pollution Pods van Micheal Pinsky en Ice Watch van Olafur Eliasson . Het werk van kunstenaars, die zich bezighouden met maatschappelijk relevante thema’s lijkt daarom ook steeds vaker te worden vastgelegd in de mainstream media.
Maar wat is eigenlijk de rol van kunstenaars in het klimaatdebat? In deze aflevering spreek ik Ulrike Hahn, een tweedejaars PhD onderzoeker aan de Erasmus Universiteit in Rotterdam, over haar onderzoek naar kunst en klimaatverandering. Zijn kunstenaars en klimaat een goede combi? En kunnen kunstenaars wetenschappers helpen de dringende boodschap rondom o.a. klimaatverandering over te brengen?
In deze aflevering hoor je een kort audio fragment van de het kunstwerk Archives of VATNJAKOL van Katie Paterson: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12317438&t=1618321589101
Host: Deborah Sumter
Meer informatie: Website Centre for Sustainability
Artwork: Visual Friday
Ulrike Hahn: So back then, I felt like, wow, there's really not much and I didn't understand it, I was like, why is there not much more on this topic? And by now I see it like almost everywhere. I mean, sustainability, of course, in general, climate change in general, since especially 2015 with the Paris Agreement.
Deborah Sumter: Mijn naam is Deborah Sumter. In deze podcast ga ik in gesprek met wetenschappers. Ik wil weten waar ze mee bezig zijn en hoe hun onderzoek de samenleving raak. Wat is de link met de echte wereld?
Ulrike Hahn: There's definitely movement. The last five years I feel a lot has changed.
Deborah Sumter: Je luistert naar Uit de Ivoren Toren!
Deborah Sumter: The pollution pods van Michael Pinski, de onderwater sculpturen van Jason deCaires Taylor en het marmeren masker van Ai Wei Wei. Het werk van kunstenaars die zich bezighouden met maatschappelijk relevante thema's lijkt steeds vaker te worden vastgelegd in de mainstream media, maar wat is de rol van kunstenaars in het klimaat debat? In deze aflevering ga ik in gesprek met Ulrike Hahn, en tweedejaars PhD onderzoeker aan de Erasmus Universiteit in Rotterdam.
Ulrike Hahn: Yes my name is Ulrike Hahn. I am a PhD candidate at Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication at Erasmus University in the Arts and Culture Department of ESHCC.
Deborah Sumter: Ik spreek haar over het onderzoek dat ze doet naar kunst en klimaatverandering. Zijn kunstenaars en klimaat een goede combi? En kunnen kunstenaars helpen de dringende boodschap rondom onder ander klimaatverandering over te brengen?
Ulrike Hahn: And I'm researching visual arts connected to climate change, meaning how are visual artists addressing climate related topics and what impact they may have? And yeah the working title of my Ph.D. is: Climate Change The Visual Arts to Rescue (?) Questionmark. So it's not a statement, but a question mark since I'm looking into the role that they can play.
Deborah Sumter: Ulrica drukt zich het liefst uit in het Engels als we het hebben over haar onderzoek. Ik vat daarom haar antwoorden af en toe samen. Maar het grootste gedeelte van deze aflevering is in het Engels.
Ulrike Hahn: Yeah, I mean,the research, of course, combines two topics. There's the art world that I'm looking into and then you have this massive topic of climate change. So in in a sense, it also gives art a bit a stage of being connected to this topic. Of course, it is also not entirely new. Artists have addressed socio environmental topics for so long. So it's it's also not that this is just a recent topic. We have environmental art like the 60s and 70s, where it was also very active. But climate change, of course, has become also the sort of trend in the art world. And, um, yeah, with the research, of course, it's also given some sort of stage in a sense that artists are addressing this topic and they are getting involved with it. It's not ignored, because also sometimes these comments or even accusations like what are artist doing, like why are they so silent and maybe not so much now in these years, but a few years back, decades of silence or something like that. And so the research definitely gives them a stage in a sense, because it connects artists or the art world to climate change.
Deborah Sumter: Ulrica kijkt dus in haar onderzoek naar visuele kunst en hoe dit een rol speelt in de communicatie en het motiveren van het brederede publiek.
Ulrike Hahn: Yes. So I'm looking at visual arts indeed. So that is my my focus, although there are a lot of different genres off course... art genres that address climate change. But the focus that I am choosing for this PhD is visual because indeed the visual plays a big role in the communication of climate change or in getting people engaged, although also the combination of visual with other genres or art forms like audio visual or different combinations, that that can really engage people with the topic. Yeah, so the visual arts, there's a lot of potential. There are also a lot of challenges. So I think that also is very important to consider. But talking about the potential maybe first, especially of the visual side of it, is that the topic of climate change is often invisible or abstract. So visual artists can make that visible, they can make it graspable. And it's also a topic that might feel remote, at least in certain areas, because not everyone is impacted in the same way. Or not everyone is as protected as others, so certain regions are hit much more by this than others. So some visual artists are trying to bring this topic closer to people that are not in such close contact with it. So they make it more personal. And another one would be, I think, going into the imagination of visual art. So they try to imagine different futures of hopeful, or it can also be more doomsday scenarios, of course, but also hopeful or optimistic scenarios. So the whole imaginative side of the arts is also, yeah, a huge potential. And of course, they can be also very different to what we may be usually see in this kind of discourse on climate change. So everyone maybe knows the temperature graph or has seen the CO2 graph and we've seen these images so many times. And usually many people are also not aware of this topic, but how can we really engage them? And then the visual arts might have a different way maybe of engaging with this topic than what we are kind of bombarded with by now, almost on a daily basis with. So that's definitely also an interesting aspect of the visual art in this whole climate change discourse.
Deborah Sumter: Waarom is visuele kunst zo belangrijk voor het weergeven van klimaatverandering? Het maakt complexe en abstracte onderwerpen wat toegankelijker. Het maakt het onderwerp persoonlijker en het kan helpen bij het visualiseren van de toekomst.
Ulrike Hahn: I think a good example, which might maybe also be more widely known, is the artist Olafur Eliassion, who, maybe some listeners know this, made an installation called Ice Watch. So he put massive ice blocks in the middle of the streets.
Deborah Sumter: Ice Watch een kunstwerk van Olafur Eliasson. Het kunstwerk bestond uit grote ijsblokken die midden in de straten van Parijs en Londen werden gelegd om mensen zo bewust te maken van de smeltende ijskappen.
Ulrike Hahn: It was really nice. He wants people to... to feel the ice, to see the ice, to smell the ice. Like to really engage with it. And his art... He has many other installations, many of them also very immersive, is quite accessible. So I can take my grandma to this exhibition or installation and I could take my kid to that and it would be enjoyable for a very wide range of audience. I think that's for it's definitely something that he's doing really well, that it's more accessible than than narrow. And he has a lot of exhibitions. So he's one of the most exhibited artists worldwide and also gets quite a bit of coverage in the news media. What I've been seeing in my first study. So he's yeah, very dominant in the coverage. He's coming back again and again and again in the... in the news articles
Deborah Sumter: Het kunstwerk van Olafur Eliasson werd vaak vastgelegd in de media. Is visuele kunst dan de nieuwe vorm van wetenschapscommunicatie?
Ulrike Hahn: Yeah, the the art and science collaboration aspect is very interesting. It's also something I've been reading about in my first study. It's mentioned so many times that someone is going to collaborate with a scientist. Olafur Eliasson, for example, also collaborated with a geologist to... to make his installation happen. And you read that a lot because, yeah, the two worlds come together and they don't need to be separate. They can work together to visualize this topic. So this is definitely a recurring theme for this topic of visual art and climate change. So that's very interesting. Another example would be data based artworks or artistic information visualizations. So where artists take a graph or take some data and info and then turn it into this creative visualization, and sometimes you might not even know anymore what it is. Sometimes you do. Sometimes it's like slightly adapted or it becomes just kind of this very abstract artwork that takes the data as a basis.
Deborah Sumter: Audio speelt ook een grote rol in bepaalde kunstwerken.
Ulrike Hahn: [Audio van de brekende de grootste brekende gletsjer Vatnajökull. Een kunstwerk van Katie Paterson]
Ulrike Hahn: The.. the audio part. Well, the first thing that came to my mind now was in relation to visual art or art was these kind of artists that use audio visual methods to bring the topic across. So one artist that comes to my mind now is Katie Paterson, who made and insolation, I think it's called Archive of Vatnajökull, I'm not sure how to pronounce it.
Ulrike Hahn: It was basically about... so people could call a number to listen to these cracks and pops of of of ice ,of ice sheets, I think. And then she also had pictures, which was the visual side of it. But there was this sonification of... of ice. And that's interesting because it appeals to more senses than the visual. So it's the visual and and the hearing. And in terms of the engagement, that's also, of course, interesting
Deborah Sumter: Kunstenaars die klimaatverandering vastleggen ondervinden ook wat uitdagingen. Zo is het de vraag of kunstenaars met hun werk diegenen kunnen bereiken die nog niet zoveel van het onderwerp afweten. En zo kunnen bijdragen aan structurele verandering. Ook is het uitdagend om een complex onderwerp zoals klimaatverandering op een simpele, hoopgevende en niet te belerrende manier vast te leggen. Daarnaast is het risico dat kunst gebruikt zal worden om politieke belangen te gaan behartigen.
Ulrike Hahn: There are certain artists that are activists, so we have activist-artists that are really very explicitly voicing that change is needed and they make that also part of their artwork, so there is a very action driven agenda there. Not all of them, but there are some that are very actionist activists oriented and of course, also some that give you more a kind of reflection or emotional or cognitive engagement, not necessarily action engagement. Because the thing with art is like in other spheres, in politics or somewhere you want people you want to get engagement in terms of action behavior, right? So it's really always not only knowing and caring about the topic, but really action. And in the art world, I mean, that's definitely one way of doing it. But you also have the art itself. So it's... you cannot demand from artists to to be activist or action oriented because they can do it and also very different ways and reflection oriented ways or just make it about the art, about the aesthetic experience, because after all, it's art. It has.... yeah. It shouldn't be a tool also for just engaging with this topic in one way. So that's also the challenges that that come with it, that you can't really make art address it in a certain way just because it might be action oriented or something. It's... There's so many different ways and I think, yeah, that's maybe also a contribution that I want to make is to show also the diversity, the potential, but also the challenges that come with this whole endeavor, this combination.
Deborah Sumter: Het onderzoek van Ulrike naar de rol van kunst en kunstenaars in het klimaatdebat is vernieuwend. Ze moest een hoop pionierswerk verrichten.
Ulrike Hahn: When I was doing my master's thesis with Pauke Berkers in 2016/17, I felt like, wow, there's really not so much out there. I was looking into databased artworks and I remember finding it pretty hard to… to find already previous research on that topic in relation to climate change. So, I always had to kind of take something from a slightly different area to kind of use it for this topic. So back then I felt like, wow, there's really not much and I didn't understand it. I was like, why is there not much more on this topic? And by now I see it like almost everywhere. I mean, sustainability, of course, in general, climate change in general, since especially 2015 with the Paris agreement and the sustainability goals. But also, I see more the connection of art and culture in relation to sustainability in forms of conferences, also in form of research papers. So now we just were approached by someone who wants to do a follow up study on a study we did back then. So there is definitely movement. The last five years, I feel a lot has changed. So I think we were the first one that the first one that combined these topics, these particular topics of climate change and then data and art or among the first ones. And yeah, the sample was very small. So, it cannot be generalized, which is why I'm very happy that now I know that there are some people who follow up on a study and also want to maybe even go in a quantitative direction or just follow up on a study to explore this a bit more, which I'm also very curious to hear about what… what will come out of that.
Deborah Sumter: Er zit dus beweging in de communicatie en de vorm van de boodschap ontwikkelt zich.
Ulrike Hahn: A topic that is very recurring is ice. So ice sheets. So the color, blue, white. So you can imagine that in paintings or in photographs where it almost looks beautiful, but at the same time it shows you the disappearance of something that was once untouched by humanity. So there's this photographer called, Camille Seaman, who yeah, documents and photographs, ice sheets. And it looks very sublime almost. Yeah, it looks beautiful. And at the same time, you know, it's horrifying because something is vanishing in front of our eyes. So the theme of ice is coming back in numerous artworks. There's also... There are also artworks that are immersive so that when you go in there as an as a spectator, as a viewer, you are really going into the world of that artwork. For example, there is an artist called Michael Pinski who created an installation called Pollution Pods. So you walk into these pods and they simulate air pollution and of different areas and cities and you go in there and you can experience yourself what it is like to live in.. in an area full of smog. So this is like a very immersive kind of way of.. of showing the issues. But of course, there are also some that go more into maybe solutions or hope. Although from a few years back the whole narrative, also the communication of climate change in general is quite problem focused. But there are also some that, of course, go into more solutions and or even have a positive impact. One example is by the artist Jason deCaires Taylor, who made an underwater museum, and he put sculptures under water and they nurture the marine life basically. That was his idea that the sculptures themselves can have a positive impact on the marine life there in that area.
Deborah Sumter: In veel kunstwerken komen ijskappen en de daarmee geassocieerde kleuren blauw en wit terug. In het werk van bijvoorbeeld Camille Seaman komt het contrast tussen de schoonheid van de ijskappen en tegelijkertijd de dreiging van het smelten samen. Maar er zijn ook steeds meer kunstwerken die het publiek de gevolgen van de klimaatverandering doen ervaren, zoals de Pollution Pods van Michael Pinski waarin je kunt ervaren hoe het is om in een omgeving met veel smog te wonen. Tot slot zijn er kunstwerken zoals het onderwatermuseum met sculpturen van Jason deCaires Taylor die meer oplossingsgericht zijn.
Ik ben benieuwd wat de academische wereld kan leren van de kunstwereld als het gaat om het visualiseren van zo een complex onderwerp zoals klimaatverandering.
Ulrike Hahn: I think they're good components in on both sides so I'm not entirely sure how.. How they can learn, maybe work together. I feel like this whole collaborative aspect, I mean, not only artists and scientists, but also artists and public engagement artists... academia. I feel there is so much potential for collaboration like this project from Accelerating Circular Economy in Zuid Holland (ACCEZ), where you can just combine different ways and I think that's really the magic of it, that you don't stick maybe only with one way, although the academic way or the scientific way is so important, I think it should. Yeah, it stands on its own. And then you have the artistic angle or combination of both and they go hand in hand. So I think that collaboration has a lot of potential to.... yeah... To extend that. Yeah. I think is super important to go also beyond the academic circle. So I feel like this is one of the, the. Yeah. Opportunities really of using. I mean the blog would be one example, podcasts like this one, different visualizations like cartoons. But also, I guess, talking to anyone that you meet, like, you know, usually the question is: What are you doing? And then when I start talking about this topic, usually people are like: Oh, really like this combination that's so interesting. And what does that mean? And then why are you doing that? And then you get talking about it and just in everyday life and with anyone. And that's also really interesting to see how how people react to this topic and what they know about it and how they feel about it. Yeah.
Deborah Sumter: Kunstenaars en wetenschappers kunnen dus zeker wat van elkaar leren. Ook is het van belang voor wetenschappers om meer buiten hun academische cirkel te treden. Ulrike doet dit middels een blog waarin ze haar leven als kunstenares en onderzoeker vastgelegd. Ze noemt daarnaast ook een aantal andere manier zoals het meedoen podcasts en het maken van cartoons. Ook door met anderen over haar werk te praten vindt er veel kennisuitwsseling plaats. Ik vraag tot slot wat Ulrike’s call to action is.
Ulrike Hahn: Oh, I have one. I have a very big one. My call to action for this topic would be to have an exhibition with artworks that address this topic. And it can be very accessible to the general public, so that anyone can pop in and have a look at the artworks. And so to... to basically put this very much in practice in a location here. Be with people and immerse in this topic through art. I think that will be, yeah, incredible to see this playing out in in practice, in action
Deborah Sumter: Ulrike vertelt dat ze graag in Rotterdam in een voor iedereen toegankelijke ruimte een expositie wilt opzetten waar kunstenaars hun werk over klimaatverandering kunnen tentoonstellen.
Ulrike Hahn: Could be like an open outdoor pop up installation, yeah, set up or somewhere inside. I think outside is interesting also. Yeah. I mean street art in the style of street art that you kind of encounter in your everyday life and it's not secluded or there's a barrier to actually see it, but somewhere where people can openly engage with it. I think that would be really really great. I feel very grateful to be working on this, this is for me like a dream come true, because years ago I was looking for that topic and this combination of art and sustainability and I couldn't really find it. And yeah, now I'm working myself on it because we, we created it basically. And I feel very, very grateful for that.
Deborah Sumter: Dit was weer de derde aflevering van seizoen 3 van UIt de Ivoren Toren. Het LDE Centre for Sustainability bedankt Ulrike Hanh voor haar bijdrage. Meer over onze gast vindt je op centre-for-sustainability.nl. Eindproductie en sound design door Michiel van Poelgeest van Klaenk. Klaenk met ae. Meer luisteren? Abonneer je dan op deze podcast via je favoriete podcast app.
Tot de volgende!
[Geluidsfragment: Archives of Vatnajökull – Katie Paterson]