Art invites itself to COP27

“Help us!”: At COP27, as everywhere else in the world, art and ecology come together, where activist movements or artists’ performances in major museums are increasing to raise awareness of climate emergencies.

Egyptian artist Bahia Shehab wanted to immerse the participants of COP27 in Egypt in the “hell” of the global world, in a model of fist operations recently carried out by activists with mashed potatoes, glue or tomato sauce on master canvases to warn the public. warming up

For the installation Heaven and Hell in the Anthropocene, he wanted to hack the heat controls of the huge UN-run negotiating complex in Sharm el-Sheikh to raise the temperature during meetings of officials.

Because, he tells AFP, a recent study showed that “people in warmer places are more likely to believe in climate change.”

But due to strict security measures, this Cairo relied on another concept, “heaven and hell”: a room heated to 45°C, symbolizing damnation, and another air-conditioned room, representing Eden.

“Artists can enrich the discussion, they are the bridge,” he pleads.

– “Soundboard” –

Visitors explore halls depicting Hell and Heaven by Egyptian artist Bahia Shehab in Sharm el-Sheikh on November 14, 2022 (AFP – Mohammed ABED)

Marguerite Courtel, an expert on the cultural sector’s environmental transition, says artists can help humanity adapt to climate change.

“The artists have a message to continue the transition in terms of imagination and the stories that will accompany it,” he told AFP.

It seems that Mrs. Shahab converted at least one person to faith. “The young girl came out of “hell” saying “I will never throw garbage on the ground again”.

“For me, aesthetics are less important than the questions asked,” he continues with one piece.

In a new shocker in Vienna on Tuesday, environmental activists sprayed Austrian Gustav Klimt’s famous painting “Death and Life” with a black liquid.

Egyptian artist Bahia Shehab in a room representing paradise in Sharm el-Sheikh on November 14, 2022 (AFP - MOHAMMED ABED)
Egyptian artist Bahia Shehab in a room representing paradise in Sharm el-Sheikh on November 14, 2022 (AFP – MOHAMMED ABED)

In recent weeks, other activists have stuck their hands to a Goya painting in Madrid or Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup on display in Australia, sprinkled tomato soup on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in London and smeared mashed potatoes on a Claude Monet masterpiece. Potsdam, near Berlin.

While the paintings were not damaged, the “Sunflowers” incident caused slight damage to the frame of the canvas.

“It’s interesting because it shows that the museum is a sounding board for contemporary issues,” Ms. Kurtel analyzes.

“Those who rebel against these actions should rebel against big groups like Total who continue to pollute,” he said.

– “Eco-responsible” jobs –

If climate activists have invited themselves to museums, art is inviting itself to COP27.

Indian Shiloh Shiv Suleman covered the entire wall of the complex in Sharm el-Sheikh with colors and sent a message to “world leaders who treat the planet as a product”.

Egyptian artist Rehab El-Sadeq in a tent covered with environmental messages in Sharm el-Sheikh, November 14, 2022 (AFP - Mohammed ABED)
Egyptian artist Rehab El-Sadeq in a tent covered with environmental messages in Sharm el-Sheikh, November 14, 2022 (AFP – Mohammed ABED)

With the Fearless Collective, he “painted a large mural representing jungles and animals to remind us to return to the source: mountains, stars and rivers, and a way of life in harmony with nature.”

Egypt’s Rehab El Sadek pitched a tent at COP27 in the middle of the Sinai desert, just like the Bedouins of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Surrounded by environmental messages in English, Spanish and Arabic collected from locals, this “universal construction creates a connection between the local population and visitors from all over the world”, he explained to AFP.

Because, Ms. Kurtel adds, art should not only warn. He, too, must adopt short-circuiting and other techniques to avoid accelerating climate change.

Museums have already moved away from their once major patrons, the hydrocarbon companies.

But “one of the questions that arises is the eco-responsibility of the works, are they eco-produced?”, Ms. Kurtel adds, citing a sadly famous example.

At COP21 in 2015, artist Olafur Eliasson created a giant “clock” symbolizing the urgency of fighting global warming.

The problem? Its dim carbon footprint, as it was represented by twelve huge blocks of ice transported every hour from Greenland to Paris in refrigerated containers by boat and then by truck.

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