Thoughts about art and climate change

Nita Rao 4 years ago

Forget everything else, Brexit, the economy, none of it will matter in 12 years’ time if we don’t change the way we live our lives.’ This is what I want to shout through my art. A recent response developed from collecting litter from the banks of the River Soar to make a circle of waste, an ‘earth of plastic’.

Passers-by have been intrigued and I am surprised how quickly the conversation turns to climate change without prompting. This quiet intervention made a loud splash and I would like to develop this further to help individuals recognise and respond to the need for action. People added litter to the circle and after several days I collected it all, originally to recycle, but now I plan to repeat the work in other fields, making a bigger more visible piece promoting public engagement. Despite the work’s beauty, such visualisation challenges unsustainable ways of living and thinking which in turn creates space for thinking, anger and response that is a vital part of a way forward. I believe artists can, and should, influence opinion and I would like to be a part of the change that we so need. Climate change, more than anything, demands a response which unites individuals and nations, and art is key part of that articulation.

Ideas about our place within nature and concerns about climate change have always influenced my work. My foundation studies in Plymouth coincided with a greater awareness of ‘global warming’ and the damage done to our environment. During my degree I made boats as a symbol of hope against rising water levels, boats that could only float free as the water rose. I photographed this work by the sea. While on a student exchange in Virginia I read that the US government was the biggest polluter in America. I started using taps as a symbol for pollution out of control as these taps filled boats with water so they couldn’t float free. Elsewhere, I made giant taps where instead of water, fish poured out and taps that made the sound of a ticking clock, of time running out. I would like to develop my work about time, pollution and response around the metaphor of the tap.

Currently, in my ‘Cracked Earth’ series as part of the AA2A scheme, I am focusing on the combined forces of decay and renewal, threat and possibility. I have made willow and paperclay spheres that ‘decay’ in the elements outside. I am lighting a fire inside the latest “earth” creating an experimental kiln. The exact outcome is unknown, but results will determine how I proceed with an intended series of ‘cracked earths’. Thinking about our ‘12 years left to act’ makes the symbolic power of these works yet more pertinent.