The Natural History Museum Vienna is premiering MELTDOWN, an exhibition created by the climate change charity Project Pressure.
Project Pressure uses art as a positive touch-point to inspire action and behavioral change. The selected artworks in MELTDOWN relate to vanishing glaciers, and demonstrate the impact of climate change through various media. Unlike wildfires, flooding, and other weather events, glacier mass losses even out variations and can be attributed to global warming. As such, they are key indicators of climate change.
Since 2008 Project Pressure has been commissioning world-renowned artists to conduct expeditions around the world, and for the first time these works will be shown together as MELTDOWN. The projects were developed and executed with scientists to ensure accuracy.
MELTDOWN has work from every relevant continent on the planet and leads the viewer on a journey in three chapters. The first section, The Importance of Glaciers,provides an introduction to the subject. We learn how year-on-year comparative images illustrate glacier mass loss and the impact of climate change. Artist Peter Funch uses vintage postcards as a model for his images of American glaciers to capture the effects of glacial recession. These effects are highlighted through his use of RGB tricolor separation. Through his representation of the landscape, Funch aims to address human influence on nature.
Noémie Goudal challenges the notion of stability. Glaciers can look like mountains, but the so-called rivers of ice move and undergo constant transformations. In order to mirror the shifting glacial landscape and make the changing environment tangible, Goudal constructed a large-scale photographic installation printed on biodegradable paper that disintegrates when wet. As the image dissolves, the artificial landscape can be viewed against its natural form.
In the second section, Current Issues, MELTDOWN looks at various urgent subjects, including the fact that more than a billion people depend on water runoff from the Himalayan mountains – for irrigation, hydropower, and drinking water. We also learn how the borders within Europe are being redrawn by glacier recession.
Climate change can no longer be avoided; it is happening already and the world and humanity will have to adapt. In the final section, Meltdown Consequences, MELTDOWN looks at the well-known facts, but also surprises viewers by visualizing those consequences of climate change that go well beyond sea level rise. As people seek to lower the risks by making adaptations, artists Norfolk + Thymann look at a peculiar example, namely a part of the Rhône glacier being covered in geo-thermal cloth to limit the melting.
The exhibition is a narrative of the importance of glaciers told in a scientific, illustrative, and poetic way and each artist has a unique take on the subject. MELTDOWN shows scale from the planetary level to microscopic biological impact, and considers humanitarian suffering and more. Together, the artistic interpretations in MELTDOWN give visitors unique insights into the world’s cryosphere, its fragile ecosystem, and our changing global climate.
MELTDOWN will inspire, and will also activate the visitor. It is time to move beyond awareness: the mission of Project Pressure is to incite real behavioral change. To encourage this, Project Pressure has created a carbon footprint calculator. Touchscreens for this digital tool are placed at the exit from the exhibition, where individual visitors can learn how carbon-intense their lifestyle is. As well as an estimate, they will get recommendations for improvements to make in areas such as home, transport, energy, food, and more. They will then be prompted by e-mail to revisit and re-calculate online after two months. As they track their changes, each individual is reminded to keep on.
Project Pressure was founded in 2008 by Klaus Thymann. MELTDOWN is curated by Lina Aastrup.
Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin
Norfolk + Thymann