ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE THROUGH CONTEMPORARY ART
Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey
Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey were invited to participate in this year’s edition of Colomboscope: Re/Evolution. The popular British duo displayed a series of biological installations, which embarked upon critiquing the onset and realities of climate change. Heather and Dan have been professionally working together since 1990, where a meeting in Soho, London, led them to further conversations and collaborative efforts.
Times of Influence Prior to a Climate-Oriented Practice
Ackroyd and Harvey spent a formative time in a largely abandoned and charismatic village in northern Italy that had been occupied by an international community of artists, designers and thinkers. Collaboratively, they grew interior spaces composed of living grass, which resulted in a series of installations and sculptural artworks in occupied sites. These investigations served as precursors to their active engagement with the concerns of global climate change and science. In 1988, Ackroyd created a life-sized camel covered in a coat of living grass and left it outside to observe the effects of bleaching with natural light - the living sculpture was completely affected after a period of time, bleaching the piece from a spring green to a golden, hay-like coat of imitative fur. Harvey at the time was working with found materials such as animal bones, different types of sand and recorded the passage of time within ecological features. Following their time in Italy, they continued working together, making installations and video documentation engaged with aspects of biology, architecture, and documentary.
Reflecting on Transient States
Ackroyd and Harvey made use of abandoned properties to produce their installations, working with architectural sites and natural environments. This seems to reflect on the balance between the fine line of security in urban spaces and the effects of climate change; entire towns and cities flood on occasion, with hundreds and thousands displaced or killed over time. The effects are evident today as natural disasters continually wreak havoc and cripple even developed countries on unprecedented scales. Recent flooding in Sri Lanka, killing and displacing annually, in addition to the Meethotamulla man-made garbage disaster, are some examples of what this country is unprepared for. In addition to this, the first passages through the Arctic ice is currently being created, as within the last fifteen years. The landscape of the North Pole has shifted so dramatically due to retreating and melting glaciers; waters are warmed as fast as those near the equator. Once the ice depletes, the cool white icescapes of the polar regions will be replaced by the darker undercurrents of climate ravaged ocean-water. There is currently enough plastic pollution to form another layer on the geological record of this epoch of the Anthropocene evidently of plasticine has been recently found in the Arctic itself shared Harvey.
“Climate change is cultural; we belong to a highly cultural and imaginative species that creates structural realities all the time. We have the extraordinary ability to imagine, and therefore even as we construct religions and philosophies we ultimately ascribe to the fact of biological evolution. Chlorophyll is a total reality within nature, and it is within the field of physics that we find realities that are not simply imagined. They a part of the presence of the interface of the world around us, to some extent between the construction of imagined realities and the other hidden realities presented to us through science” stated Ackroyd.