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Larsen the polar bear, Edwina Fitzpatrick, 2015

Paper polar bears, Antarctica passports and digital dresses – creatives respond to COP21

Written by Anna Castleton
Published date 01 December 2015

Antarctica World Passport Bureau Lucy and Jorge Orta
As the 21st annual Conference of Parties begins in Paris, creatives around the globe respond to the urgent need for action on climate change. With 25,000 official delegates from governments around the world due to attend COP21, the conference represents the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations that they are aiming to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius.

UAL artists and designers are at the forefront of the creative responses to COP21, here we share some of the activity taking place in London, Paris and beyond.

4–10 December, Art COP21 Grand Palais, Paris

ArtCop21 Antarctica Lucy and Jorge Orta
At the Solutions21 exhibition, during the COP21 Climate Summit, UAL Chair of Art in the Environment Lucy Orta will create an Antarctica World Passport Bureau. An estimated 50,000 visitors will be issued with an Antarctica World Passport and invited to sign a commitment charter for the protection of the environment and the future of our planet. Lucy comments: “Antarctica embodies a new vision of Utopia: a continent whose extreme climate imposes mutual aid and research, for the benefit of mankind. The Antarctic continent contains 75% of the planet’s fresh water, of which 90% is ice. Antarctica has begun its irreversible decline. The Antarctica World Passport public engagement project asks us to take action against global warming, to become a global citizen to mitigate the potential catastrophic human consequences.”
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Larsen’s Lost Water
Until 11 December, Wimbledon Space, London

Larsen Edwina Fitzpatrick, 2015
Larsen’s Lost Water focuses on the ways that the relatively uncharted parts of the globe – the Polar Regions and the seas – are (mis)represented, through exploring context and how introducing an alien or unexpected object into a space affects both components’ readings.

Larsen the polar bear, Edwina Fitzpatrick, 2015

Curator, Dr Edwina Fitzpatrick comments: “I was initially very hopeful about the 2009 climate change summit in Copenhagen, where sadly nothing was agreed to mitigate climate change, so have approached COP21 with cautious pessimism. However, so far the pre-COP meetings have been more inclusive than ever before and discussions seem to be positive, so perhaps we will get the legally binding and universal agreement to keeping global warming below 2 degrees centigrade. The cherry on the cake would be that this is in place before 2020.

I’m delighted that there had been an exceptionally large response to COP21 by artists. David Buckland from Cape Farewell says that climate change is a cultural issue, and has set up ArtCop21, which lists global art events addressing climate change. I’m delighted that Larsen’s Lost Water is included in this listing, and that participating artists Lucy + Jorge Orta, and Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey will also be creating events for this in Paris over the next few days.”
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One and All
Until 13 December, Somerset House, London

Installed at Somerset House, One and All is a voyage through sight, sound and sea by three leading artists, including Wimbledon College of Arts’ Tania Kovats. Working across art, language and 3D sound, they capture the powerful connection we all have to our coast.
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Dress for Our Time
St Pancras Station, London
DRESS FOR OUR TIME Helen Storey photo by David Betteridge
In the lead up to COP21, London College of Fashion’s Professor Helen Storey MBE RDI unveiled her new work Dress for Our Time at St Pancras International – the gateway to Paris. Helen designed a dynamic piece of digital couture displaying data which shows the impact of climate change on our physical world. The dress display shows our planet, both as we know it now, and as it will be if urgent changes aren’t made, to help change the way people think about and act upon the current threat to the environment.
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Until April 2016, Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester

Wimbledon College of Arts’ Tania Kovats explores the significance of our relationship with water and the world’s seas and oceans in a brand new installation ‘Evaporation’. Taking James Lovelock’s Gaia theory – of the earth as an interconnected super organism – as her starting point, this new sculptural piece explores global bodies of water. Lovelock’s work focuses much attention on the significance of the planets’ oceans as a barometer of its health, and how better to understand how the planet regulates itself. As global sea temperatures rise and the impact of pollution is becoming increasingly clear, this work is more relevant than ever. Kovats’ installation is comprised of three large-scale, shallow, metal bowls reflecting the shape of the world’s oceans lifted from the globe. Each bowl contains a solution of salt and blue ink that gradually evaporates in a hydro-cycle, leaving a jewel-like crust of salt crystals in concentric rings. These are objects with their own tides; different each time a viewer sees them.
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I Stood Up
8–11 December, Paris
Centre for Sustainable Fashion brings I Stood Up to the streets of Paris during the COP21 Climate Summit, facilitating dialogues through fashion artefacts, forming and voicing public concerns in relation to Climate Change.

Student Voices for Change

As the last generation to be able to do something about climate change students at UAL are in a unique position to take positive action in the face of climate change. The Centre for Sustainable Fashion worked with LCF’s School of Media and Communication and alumna Alix Hayhurst to create a series of podcasts exploring the issues.
Listen to the first podcast on SoundCloud

The Insect Snack Vending  Machine
Carly Wan and Alistair Moncur's insect snacks

On Buzzfeed, check out the London College of Communication graduates trying to make eating insects go mainstream, as sustainable food source of the future. See the article on Buzzfeed

Read more about COP21

Read more about sustainability at UAL