Climate change and global warming are bound to be (no pun intended) hot topics as we head into 2016 and the presidential dog and pony show campaign race that will politically define the year. Even now, efforts to fight back against our gradually warming planet are being discussed, most recently at the U.N.’s Climate Summit in Paris where world leaders engaged in (I apologize again) heated debate over how to respond to this detrimental change in our planet’s climate.
While these heads of state bickered with each other over the proper course of action to take, passersby at Art Basel in Miami got their own dose of global warming rhetoric in the form of performance art. Los Angeles-based artist Lars Jan placed a large aquarium created by Early Morning Opera in a bustling Miami plaza where performers struggled to do everyday tasks like reading the newspaper or drinking a cup of coffee as water flooded into the enclosed tank. The flooding water was meant to illustrate rising sea levels and flooding worldwide due to global warming melting polar ice caps.
The installation, titled “Holoscenes,” actually responded to real-time environmental data synced to a hydraulic system that flooded the tank with water at various speeds and intensity to convey how devastating climate change could be if it continues to advance. As for the performers, they remained perfectly safe, just plenty soaked. As water flooded the tank, performers had to swim up to gasp in a last gulp of air before continuing to do their task, which proved resoundly more difficult submerged in water. The tanks would soon drain and then re-flood to hone in on the contrast.
A response to the massive floods that have hit areas all over the world but have largely gone overlooked, “Holoscenes” is Jan’s attempt to wake people up to what is truly going on. Speaking with the New York Times, Jan said he wanted onlookers to “feel climate change in their guts, rather than just understand it. The conversation needs to happen on the street.” While most people will remain blissfully unaware of the gradual effects of global warming in their everyday lives, walking by a drowning person in a tank might give them pause to stop and consider. Jan’s project is a valiant attempt of art hoping to inspire change and activism. Hopefully people won’t just drown themselves in the spectacle of it all.