Artists from all over the world are mirroring the negative consequences of our actions. Can this sobering reflection help us change our ways?
The negative environmental impacts of the Anthropocene, the age of humans, are discussed in terms of physical damages sustained by the earth—rising carbon dioxide levels, melting ice caps, surging sea levels, and dying species to name just a few.
Yet, these dire realities are often described as separate from the human experience rather than a direct result of human choices. Artistic representations of environments don't let humans off the hook so easily because they draw stark images and paint grave consequences of our choices. In other words, art serves as an indictment of the actions of the human species.
Artists are highlighting this troubling future for our communities and our world. Perhaps we are too late, but artists from across the world—from the alleys of Brazil to the streets of Copenhagen, to the markets of Ghana, to the buildings of New York City—are showing how human impacts are affecting their neighborhoods often for the worse.
High Art High Water
Art uniquely evokes a mental and physical reaction from the viewer. Whether it is a sense of excitement, an inherent motivation or even a touch of melancholy—the observer of the artwork feels a personal experience through the artform that breaks through the noise and distortion of media-driven societies.
Explaining impending problems in terms of trends and volumes of ice melting is less effective because it cannot evoke the same reaction. Art viscerally shows the viewer that our choices will sink some of the earth's treasured cities and even entire countries. This is a stunning depiction, not a static dataset.
Rising Water Rising Awareness
Historically, regardless of where the vulnerability lies, disadvantaged populations often have limited access to the financial and political resources to assist them in cultivating necessary social change. In turbulent times, vulnerable populations have often levied photographs, videos, and street art to raise awareness about the reality of their situation and to hold up a mirror to the state of society.
With desperate times looming in the not-so-distant future, artists and environmental activists alike are figuratively and literally drawing attention to the challenges that define our species. Most importantly, art is showcasing the social injustices inflicted on those without the political and financial resources to protect their environment and community.
Rising water levels can literally be seen on our buildings across the globe from Venice, Italy to Jakarta, Indonesia to New York City. Likewise, art is showcasing the economic and environmental dangers of rising waters all over the world.
The artistic community is responding. As an example, the MiART foundation in Miami is addressing environmental and humanitarian issues by advancing a community transformation through the power and beauty of art. Pretty cool and inspiring mission from artists in the crosshairs of rising sea levels.
Through strokes of the brush and the steady hiss of spray paint, artists around the world create experiences that evoke strong emotions and convey vital reflections within their communities. You can too make choices to prolong the age of humans—the Anthropocene—by supporting the arts, voting in an election and reducing your consumption. Your actions, or inaction, will help write our species' future and you can be sure that artists will be there to record humanity's fate.