The entire world is watching as politicians pour into Paris today to decide the future of the Earth. But you might have missed what’s going on outside the summit, where dozens of activists and artists have transformed the city with installations about climate change.
Many of the protests and marches that would normally go on during the COP21 summit have been cancelled by the French government after the terrorist attacks on November 13 — but both organised and independent groups of artists and activists are still transforming public spaces in Paris with installations and art. There’s even an organised festival devoted to climate change installations, called ArtCOP21, responsible for work from street artists like JR and Shepard Fairey to the filmmaker Darren Aronofsky.
Together they have transformed Paris with work that ranges from beautiful, infuriating, and sad, to very, very clever. Take a look.
Where the Tides Ebb and Flow
Paris’s Lake Parc Montsouris, in the 14th arrondissement, has long been home to a lovely little pond — -but if you’re strolling by this month, you’ll find an uncanny sight cresting its surface.
There, the Argentinian artist Pedro Marzorati has reprised one of his most famous pieces, Where the Tides Ebb and Flow. The installation consists of 20 cobalt sculptures that sink progressively below the surface of the water — no small feat, installation-wise! — representing countries and people “already sinking into the sea,” he writes.
The Peoples’ Climate March
One of the most compelling pieces of public art was a literal public protest, not an organised art installation: Since the banning of public demonstrations meant that protesters couldn’t march in Paris today, organisers turned instead to a brilliant visualisation of their numbers: more than 20,000 pairs of shoes, arranged in perfect lines around the Place de la Republique.
The Standing March
If you’re driving by the Assemblée Nationale tonight, you’ll find it replaced by the intense stares of 500 strangers from around the world. These are the stars of a piece by the street artist JR and the filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. Together, the pair created a piece called The Standing March, which involved taking 3D scans of 500 different people and tiling them to create a dynamic, moving audience on the façade of the neoclassical landmark.
They say will the piece is meant to “remind leaders that the world is watching as they gather to negotiate a deal aimed at keeping global warming below 2°C.”
Breaking the Surface
Paris is home to a whole network of canals — and one of them, Ourcq Canal, became a dive site this summer as the UK artist Michael Pinsky prepared to install his work for the climate summit. The piece, Breaking the Surface, involved using divers to collect trash from the canal bed, raising up bikes, shopping carts, and trash from the water and framing them with floodlights on either side, “confronting society with its waste production”.
If you’ve seen a single piece from the summit, it’s probably on the Eiffel Tower, where a project called 1Heart1Tree is playing out until December 3. For a 10 Euro donation, the group contributes a tree to one of seven reforestation groups around the world — and in return, the donator gets their name and message lit up on the face of the Eiffel Tower for a few minutes through projection mapping. As of this writing, the group has paid for 49,494 new trees.
Oh, and if you look closely at the Eiffel Tower, you’ll see a ball hanging above its first tier: That’s a 2.3-tonne “planet” created by the artist Shepard Fairey.
Not far away from the Eiffel Tower, on the side of the American Center for Art & Culture, the artist Andrea Polli is using projection mapping to show the exact levels of air pollution in the city. The piece is called Particle Falls, and it displays pollution levels as a cascading waterfall — a visualisation that’s a little bit beautiful and a little bit unnerving. “The air is invisible,” Polli writes. “But it is important to become more aware of what is happening with our air, and talking.”
Lead images: AP