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5 Works of Environmental Art and Their Revolutionary Response to the Climate Crisis

Within the Arts, constant movement, and evolution coincides with the progression or even regression of the times. Especially within the past five years, we have seen newer and broader takes and interpretations on creativity and what that means and what it could look like. Art oftentimes comes from the need to express, this form of communication is usually but not limited to nonverbal and visual mediums.

This form of communication is inherently seen as revolutionary, notably when we look at forms of art done in response to the ecological and climate-related crisis. Environmental art has been on a consistent rise in response to the constantly progressing state of our failing ecosystem. This form of art has done wonders in shining light on the reality of how the collective lack of maintenance of Mother Nature is taking a toll on what is organically beautiful. Many environmental artists have taken a route in showcasing the natural world that must not be sacrificed.

As we continue to take in the natural art around us, here are 5 works of Environmental Art that reflect the hope, beauty, and resourcefulness that could still be our future.

John Dahlsen, Self Portrait with unintentionally ingested microplastics, 2020. Courtesy of John Dahlsen

1. Self Portrait with unintentionally ingested microplastics by John Dahlsen (2020)

When talking about environmental artists it goes without saying that they are educational creatives. Artists such as John Dahlsen have made their impact through their pieces by shoving the reality of the global effects of climate change and pollution in the faces of consumers. Not just in an effort to blend in with the conscious movement of today, but with the hope that the mediums they choose actually provoke the right people in mass to how it is already affecting us. In this self-portrait it is Dahlsen coming to the realization of the number of microplastics that have already made their way into the food we consume and the very water we even drink. It is described in this piece that “Apparently, we ingest the equivalent of a teaspoon of microplastics each week according to a recent report from the ABC, posted 12th June 2019”, This self-portrait is not just the reflection of one man, but the reality of millions of people.

Andy Goldsworthy, Working with time, 2001-current. Image source:

2. Working with time by Andy Goldsworthy (2001-current)

Just like nature the many forms of beauty and what can be discovered and uncovered are not limited.

Artists such as Andy Goldsworthy who is an environmental sculptor, take what they see in nature and elevate it to uncover the deeper meaning of what the material brings into the world. Goldsworthy is an environmental poet, he translates simple mediums and breathes a whole new life into natural objects such as rocks, sticks, leaves etc. This expression of environmental activism is very important because it gives just that importance. What many may see as obsolete and non impacting to their day to day is the very foundation of what is crumbling beneath them. Goldsworthy brings the smaller things into view that actually generates thought and movement within consumers and has one thinking deeper about the purpose of its existence. Without this translation of nature many will continue to be lost in the tsunami of consumerism that overloads the organic product that is sustaining us.

Agnes Denes, A Forest for New York ‘A peace park for mind and soul’, 2014 © 2014 Agnes Denes

3. A Forest for New York - A peace park for mind and soul by Agnes Denes (2014)

When discussing climate fighting efforts through environmental art, one pioneer that cannot be left out of the subject is Agnes Denes.

Denes has set movement through the length of her career to display an eco and culture friendly development that is globally needed. The need for green spaces is integral to how we as human beings function, the benefits that come from these spaces provide a breath of fresh air literally and figuratively. Especially within the states we see less and less greenery as the decades pass, one has to travel oftentimes to another city/state to experience true nature. This overtaking of industrial materials that eats away at the very fabric of our soil is what causes cities like New York to become known as concrete jungles. Architectural choices and infrastructures like these are what causes the heavy dense smog filled air that hugs cities such as Los Angeles. This is what Denes is fighting against, because she sees a potential future where nature is no more and skyscrapers fill our views instead of trees. She sees a potential future where the air is artificial and the effects it will have on our experience and relationship with nature.

Chris Jordan, Midway : Message from the Gyre, 2009 - Current. Wikimedia Commons

4. Midway : Message from the Gyre by Chris Jordan (2009 - Current)

No time or room to shy away from the message, that is Chris Jordan’s work. Jordan takes nature and the byproduct of man that has created artificial nature and merges them together in eye catching photographs, these images showcase the overall message of the effects of mass consumerism and how it has already damaged the other animals we share this planet with. Most of these images are not even manipulated, they display clearly the debris that lives within the deceased animals that have crossed its path. Humans in mass have created products that will outlive us and the nature that came before and if these objects already reside in the bodies of smaller animals and birds then there is no telling what resides in the bodies that were the brains behind their development. Chris Jordan sends a message through his work without hesitation, mass consumption will be our end. Not to sound morbid or provoke a feeling of doom, but his work is displayed as a conscious reminder to all that change is to be enacted now not saved for later when it becomes worse, because the worse is already here. Jordan searches for these images within nature because he still has hope like many other environmental artists who set out to do the same.

John Akomfrah, Sensory Overload, 2017 Photograph: © Smoking Dogs Films; Lisson Gallery

5. Sensory Overload by John Akomfrah (2017)

Stepping away from the science of global climate change, John Akomfrah takes a philosophical approach with his work. In this still from his 2017 video installation release of ‘Purple’, which was his environmental artistic approach to global warming, Akomfrah states “Once you become aware of the implications of climate change for future generations, it is almost as if you have to respond” (P. 5). Acknowledging that Akomfrah himself is an artist, he set out to interpret the climate crises the best way he knew how, in a way that would reach a like minded audience who would understand the translation of how our world is being affected by the neglect of Mother Nature. This image captures the waiting, the feeling of inevitability and being surrounded by a landscape filled with nothing but water and pollution. John Akomfrah has this unique ability of capturing the feeling that we all feel witnessing the progression of the decline. Perfectly titled is ‘Sensory Overload’, because what is there to do when you don't know where to start and the problem is already waist deep



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