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A Change in the Climate: New Interpretations and Perceptions of Climate Change through Artistic Interventions and Representations

Lesley DuxburySchool of Art, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Abstract

The uncertainties concerning climate change debated daily in the media polarize political leaders and the general public alike. While daily weather is something that can be experienced by everyone and changes in the weather can be accounted for within the timeframe of a human lifetime, climate change is more difficult to comprehend or connect with in an appreciable way because of its remoteness in time and unpredictability. General populations can be alienated by the overwhelming proliferation of scientific data and statistics and, in the face of potentially cataclysmic events, feel paralyzed and incapable of action. Scientific evidence alone may not be working to encourage or initiate changes in behaviors with the potential to curtail the perceived changes to life as we know it.

This paper sets out to explicate alternative ways of comprehending and addressing some of the complex problems of climate change through art by focusing on the ways people perceive and sense the changing world around them. It contends that artists have the potential to engage society in emotional and experiential ways to promote behavioral and cognitive change. Drawing on the work of certain artists and art commentators, this paper argues that, far from being a purely imaginative or aesthetic activity, art is integral to meaningful communication between humans and the changing world.

Corresponding author address: Lesley Duxbury, RMIT University, GPO Box 2476, Melbourne, VIC 3001, Australia. Email: lesley.duxbury@rmit.edu.au

Abstract

The uncertainties concerning climate change debated daily in the media polarize political leaders and the general public alike. While daily weather is something that can be experienced by everyone and changes in the weather can be accounted for within the timeframe of a human lifetime, climate change is more difficult to comprehend or connect with in an appreciable way because of its remoteness in time and unpredictability. General populations can be alienated by the overwhelming proliferation of scientific data and statistics and, in the face of potentially cataclysmic events, feel paralyzed and incapable of action. Scientific evidence alone may not be working to encourage or initiate changes in behaviors with the potential to curtail the perceived changes to life as we know it.

This paper sets out to explicate alternative ways of comprehending and addressing some of the complex problems of climate change through art by focusing on the ways people perceive and sense the changing world around them. It contends that artists have the potential to engage society in emotional and experiential ways to promote behavioral and cognitive change. Drawing on the work of certain artists and art commentators, this paper argues that, far from being a purely imaginative or aesthetic activity, art is integral to meaningful communication between humans and the changing world.

Corresponding author address: Lesley Duxbury, RMIT University, GPO Box 2476, Melbourne, VIC 3001, Australia. Email: lesley.duxbury@rmit.edu.au

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