Accepted Paper:

Visualizing Climate Change inside the Museum: Objects, Art, and Exhibitions  
Gerald McMaster (Ontario College of Art and Design University)Iris Edenheiser (Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums Mannheim)

Paper short abstract:

Exhibitions, as more-than-visual media, provide wider dissemination of issues surrounding climate change. Focusing on the Arctic and Amazonia, this paper describes how Indigenous material culture and the works of contemporary Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists are addressing climate change.

Paper long abstract:

The Arctic and Amazonia are environmentally sensitive areas that have required specific human adaptations, while also spurring the creative imagination. Europeans historically viewed these regions as realms of pure and pristine nature, whereas their Indigenous inhabitants have always understood these environments to be populated with spiritual entities in constant communication with humans. Both regions have been zones of contact — meeting, clashing, contradiction, and entanglement — between Indigenous peoples and outsiders. Although the regions are geographically remote, they have recently come into focus because they are environmentally important to debates around climate change, and they are rich in natural resources, thus attracting greater national and corporate interest.

Drawing upon a Canadian-German cooperative exhibition project aimed at bringing these two areas together, this paper explores the ways in which objects from world culture collections, as well as Indigenous and non-Indigenous contemporary artists, address issues of climate change in and about the Arctic and Amazonia. One of the main questions is how Indigenous ecologies of these areas are being explored. Objects in a museum display can trigger a sensual response, drawing largely upon their visual impact. And artists are facilitating new ways of seeing, hearing, feeling and tasting how we understand the land and the effects of climate change. Whereas European and Euro-American artists and scientists have a long history of collaboration, Indigenous artists have now entered the debate. In addition, museums are contributing their voices to this topic with exhibitions that provide wider dissemination while serving as effective vehicles for public dialogue.

Panel P32
Visualizing Climate - Changing Futures?