Climate change is here but not everyone can feel the impact yet. Some artists are turning to virtual reality to help audiences better “experience” it.
While climate scientists have warned about the effects of specific increases in the average global temperature, translating such numbers into something that people feel more viscerally has been a challenge, notes Nadine Kuhla von Bergmann, managing director of Creative Climate Cities, a Berlin-based consultancy that promotes climate change awareness and sustainable urban development.
“Mobilizing people to fight the climate crisis is only successful if the impact on their daily lives is well-explained and illustrated,” she says. “Art triggers emotions which numbers usually don’t… and VR art is powerful.”
At this year’s Venice Biennale, artists are using creative ways to drive home the urgency of climate change and sustainability.
Among the highlights is Rising, by performance artist Marina Abramović. First shown last year, it’s been rejuvenated as a walk-in installation, attracting a three-hour queue on its opening night. Presented by the Phi Center, based in Montréal, Canada, the work was produced by Acute Art, a London-based digital art lab that partners with artists to create works incorporating VR technologies.
Rising, Abramović’s first VR project, invites users to experience rising sea levels by visualizing what it is like to be submerged in water. The audience walks into the dimly lit installation, which has a layer of water hovering above the ceiling. After donning VR headsets in a small room, they are transported into what appears to be an abandoned warehouse, where an avatar of Abramović is standing in a water tank. Water is filling up fast and the artist is crying for help while explaining the impact of global warming. Read more