Signs, Wonders, Blunders: campus organization discusses climate change through art

Camryn Collier, A&C Reporter

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A partnership between campus program Climate Stories Collaborative and creative research project Dear Climate is bringing a new “playful and enigmatic” art installation to campus, co-founder of Dear Climate Una Chaudhari said.

Dear Climate was established in 2012 and has showcased four major artists over the years, including Chaudhari, Marina Zurkow, Fritz Ertl and Oliver Kellhammer. 

CSC is an interdisciplinary faculty-led program that started in 2017 and is co-facilitated by professors Laura England, Jennie Carlisle and Derek Davidson to better communicate climate change to the public.

 Opening this semester, “Signs, Wonders, Blunders” will remain on campus through the spring 2020 semester.

The installation will consist of 13 signposts with trail markers placed strategically around campus. 

Dear Climate focuses on changing its audience’s perspective of climate change, Chaudhari said during an Oct. 28 presentation with co-founder Kurkow about the new installation. 

The way (Dear Climate’s) project models interdisciplinary work is very much in keeping with the work that we have already been doing here on campus, and it’s really nice to feel like we are connected to a larger system of artistic process.”

— Jennie Carlisle

Often, there are feelings of “dread, guilt and fear” toward climate change, but Dear Climate wants to communicate ideas of playfulness and optimism through their design work. These ideas are implemented in the wording and presentations on the signposts, Chaudhari said. 

The signposts will have three quotations on each with a specific focus. One example will have “First Man,” “Second Nature” and “Sixth Extinction” quotations on it. 

“It’s a novel model for thinking about ways to reposition humans inside these larger stories of climate change, and to think about broader stories of how humans connect back to the non-human world,” Carlisle said.

CSC encourages multimedia use to tell stories of how climate change has affected people. This includes work from visual and performing arts, England said.

“There’s a big gap in the public understanding that climate change is happening, and it’s harmful in various ways to people now and people in the future,” England said. “But, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has documented with survey work that only about a third of Americans actually talk about climate change. So, we are engaging in the story.” 

Over 25 departments and majors are involved in CSC, including physics, social work, applied design, military science and leadership.  

The multidisciplinary involvement was what attracted Dear Climate to work with CSC.

“When I first heard about the Climate Stories Collaborative, I was so impressed because you want saturation and penetration of this subject matter into all areas of academia,” Chaudhari said. “It shouldn’t just be in environmental departments, it should be everywhere.” 

Part of “Signs, Wonders, Blunders” includes an “Adopt A Sign” program, where a class, individual or club can adopt signs for creative research and study, Carlisle said. 

CSC will host a Climate Stories Showcase in April, which will highlight work done through the “Adopt A Sign” program.

“The way (Dear Climate’s) project models interdisciplinary work is very much in keeping with the work that we have already been doing here on campus, and it’s really nice to feel like we are connected to a larger system of artistic process,” said Carlisle, CSC co-facilitator.