An eye to the past, an eye to the future

The role of art in engaging with climate change in museum

Joshua Wodak, The University of Sydney, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning

One of the major impediments to understand and engage with climate change is the notion of it being an intangible process that occurs in elements and spatio-temporal scales that are largely inaccessible to human spatio-temporal scales. In this paper we argue that art can engage and inform publics about crucial environmental issues of the Anthropocene, and that museums occupy a formidable forum for such engagement. The authors discuss pertinent examples of how Australian museums are engaging with climate change, and the particular challenges that arise in dealing with a superwicked problem that is also of such importance to the future of life on earth, while drawing on their practice as artists creating work about climate change for museums. The authors review how museum exhibitions on climate change have negotiated the nexus between museums as institutions that have historically had their eye focused on the past, yet are increasingly turning their eye to focus on the future.

Museums are well positioned to take up the challenge of the Anthropocene her global research on museums and climate change has found that the story of living with climate change has yet to be told comprehensively in any museum.

In collaborating with environmental scientists, we have designed an interactive museum environment, which acts as a vehicle to display significant climate change data to a wide public audience. The installation seeks to expand knowledge through the synthesis and presentation of climate change research in an interactive museum context

Art about climate change created specifically for a museum context may offer both the emotive and intuitive understanding afforded by art, in tandem with the spirited inquiry that distinguishes such “cultural heritage organisations as agents of public good.”

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