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At this point, it’s hard to imagine that you could change anyone’s mind about climate change. If you’re someone who genuinely believes – despite the overwhelming scientific consensus – that global warming is a sham, then an art exhibition isn’t going to sway you.
But here we are at the RA, the choir showing up to be preached to in an exhibition of art and architecture about climate change.
It starts with work about right now. A globe by artist duo HeHe spins in an aquarium full of green goo, slowly becoming more and more engulfed in gunk, endangered tilapia are pressed on to rice paper by Tue Greenfort, glacial ice melts in a series of Olafur Eliasson photos.
The problem with all this is that if you’re here, you already know about melting ice caps and the dangers of pollution. This too-empty room of too-obvious art is too easy.
Much better is when the show looks forwards. Pinar Yoldas imagines future creatures in glass jars that can live off synthetic matter, Dunne & Raby create feeding tubes to help humans extract nutritional value from new environments.
It’s the final room that works best, though. Studio Malka envisions an adapted oil platform used to fertilise barren soil, SKREI designs a way to convert food waste into household fuel, New-Territories (S/he) develops ways to make pollution visible.
This is where the show finally lives up to the ‘visionary’ bit of its title. These works feel like actions, statements, calls to arms, dystopic visions. That’s all a lot more useful, interesting and powerful than telling people what they already know.
The show ends with an immersive installation by Rimini Protokoll featuring a tank of swirling jellyfish and the terrifying news that the gelatinous little shits are going to take over the world once we screw it all up with this global warming malarkey. It’s meant to be a stark warning about how we’re treating the planet, but it’s just given me a bloodlust for the creatures. Forget carbon emissions, kill the jellyfish, it’s our only hope.