Arctic Intrigue: SJDC Show Explores Culture of Climate Change

Chris Wainwright, "Red Ice 3," 2009, on display at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center.

Feist, KT Tunstall, and Ian McEwan are on a boat, traveling to the farthest reaches of the Arctic. If that sounds like the set-up of a particularly culture-heavy joke, you probably are not familiar with Cape Farewell. Over the past five years, this organization has embedded artists with scientists on expeditions to the world’s most fragile regions to witness firsthand the effects of climate change.

Feist, Tunstall, and McEwan have all participated in Cape Farewell expeditions, and are among the 25 artists featured in U-n-f-o-l-d: A Cultural Response to Climate Change, the fall 2011 exhibition at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC) at Parsons. Showcasing a body of work inspired by these treks, U-n-f-o-l-d will be on view in the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Galleries of the SJDC from September 30 until December 15. Admission is free and open to the public.

Although it deals with a hotly debated issue, curator David Buckland is quick to point out that U-n-f-o-l-d isn’t your typical statement art show. None of these artists came to us as climate change activists,, said Buckland, who co-curated the exhibition with Chris Wainwright of the University of the Arts in London. They were people with extraordinary talents and a genuine curiosity whom we sent to an incredible part of the world to be inspired.,

The resulting photographs, sculptures, songs, and stories, Wainwright’s photography of a glacier glowing red is a great example, depict a world that is beautiful and in danger, a delicate balance that Buckland hoped the exhibition would capture. We realized that this story is always told through science, which can be difficult for people to connect with,, said Buckland. At its core, climate is culture.,

The exhibition will also draw on the talents of the New School community, as a number of courses and projects will transform the gallery into a living laboratory. WNSR, the New School radio station, will broadcast from inside the gallery during various public programs, and a student video contest, entitled (How) Does Climate Change Affect You?, is also in the works.

While U-n-f-o-l-d is dominated by images of some of the planet’s most remote locales, a series of public programs throughout the fall, including a creative research workshop on the Gowanus Canal led by The Canary Project, will focus attention on New York’s natural environment, adding an urban slant.

At its core, U-n-f-o-l-d is about harnessing our collective talents to face an urgent global issue. This exhibition stakes a claim for the artist’s role in addressing climate change,, said Radhika Subramaniam, Director/Chief Curator of the SJDC. For our students, budding artists, designers, writers, creative thinkers, it’s important to know that their imagination is integral to any solution.,

There will be a free public reception to celebrate the opening of U-n-f-o-l-d on Thursday, September 29 in the galleries, 6:30’8:30 p.m.. For more information, visit the SJDC website.