Next week, leaders from many countries in the Western Hemisphere will gather in Los Angeles for the ninth Summit of the Americas, a week-long conference, hosted this year by the Biden administration, on addressing regional issues such as tackling climate change, slowing migration and recovering from the covid19 pandemic.
LA artists Mark Bradford and Andrea Bowers, along with New York artist Jenny Holzer, are launching a three-part public art exhibition across the city to debut in tandem with the summit, highlighting the crisis climate facing our planet.
The project is a collaboration with Emerson Collective, an organization based in Palo Alto founded and led by Laurene Powell Jobs, who is committed to philanthropy, advocacy and “impact investing towards social change”, says Director of Strategy Integration Jennifer Arceneaux.
“We saw this moment as a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness about climate migration and the climate crisis as world leaders gather in Los Angeles,” Arceneaux said. “We are truly moved by these artists and their ability to incite, provoke and stir, and we hope to engage Angelenos in conversation.”
The works, which will be exhibited from June 4, include both installations and activations. Bradford presents its large scale, iconic sculpture, “The Mithras”, in downtown Los Angeles State Historic Park. East Holzer install several dozen billboards, light projections and LED signs throughout the city with messages from climate activists, writers, academics and people whose lives have been affected by environmental disasters. Bowers will perform the next iteration of his “Political Ribbons” series, an ongoing site-specific participatory project that debuted at the Jewish Museum of New York in 2016. A variant of this was shown at the Hammer Museum in 2017, and it has since been activated worldwide.
Bradford’s ‘The Mithra’ has been shown internationally, but never before in LA This is a massive 70-foot-long vessel resembling a Noah’s Ark, made from wheat-glued recycled plywood and steel. In response to Hurricane Katrina, it was created for the Prospect.1 New Orleans Biennial in 2008, where it was shown outdoors in the city’s Lower 9th Ward.. The installation at Los Angeles State Historic Park – where the piece will rest on a vast ocean of grass as if it had washed ashore on an urban oasis – is also the first time since its inaugural presentation that it is shown outside.
“To me, it’s symbolic of a shared responsibility to protect the most vulnerable from the threats of climate change,” Bradford said of the work. “It’s like this hasty, poor construction of a ship built to escape a calamity that is fast approaching, like rising sea water. It’s a call to reduce and reverse our impact on the planet by by all means necessary and with all available resources. The damage is already done.”
Los Angeles State Historic Park is a thoughtful place, says Bradford. The park has a history of environmental justice. Nearby communities, many of them immigrant enclaves, have fought to transform the land – a former train yard transformed “brown field” who sat down vacant for decades – into green space for public use instead of being developed as an industrial centre.
“These are spaces that can be used by many people and that have a history of belonging to people, and as these spaces close more and more, we lose more and more spaces. green,” says Bradford. “Which again has to do with climate, weather, spaces and people – how it affects people.”
Holzer will show an updated version of his “Hurt Earth”, which was originally presented at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Its billboards, light projections and LED signs will appear in downtown Los Angeles, the Miracle Mile and Mid-Wilshire areas, Hollywood and West Hollywood as well as Griffith Park along the cliffs. from Santa Monica and in Point Mugu State Park.
The messages will take the form of both planned activations, targeting areas where large crowds will gather, as well as “guerrilla-style pop-up installations” on the sides of buildings, such as a car dealership, or in nature. , in a park. hill – picturesque places in which messages will be documented with drones and shared later, via live broadcast or on social networks. Its static billboards are already in place and visible from the Santa Monica Freeway that runs through downtown. And there will be a presentation of the before and after messages the screening of “American Psycho” this Saturday at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Rather than “speaking out” on the climate crisis, Holzer prefers to let his project do the talking: “The time has come, the time is urgent,” read one message. “We have a fundamental right to a livable future,” reads another.
“And there are some tougher ones that will make you cry,” says Holzer. “People speak beautifully for themselves and about their own concerns. I wouldn’t assume. I collect and simply represent.
Bowers and a band volunteers will be, during the week, distribute approximately 5,000 screen-printed ribbons in bright colors, free of charge to participants in public demonstrations and other summit-related events organized in the city. It is the greatest of the artist non-institutional ribbon activation to date. The colors are meaningful, she says, with the blue and green evoking aspects of nature. “And red is a very famous political color that goes back to the 1800s,” she says, “and I always think of pink as a radical woman. I think there’s a whole feminine aspect to it because suffragettes used to make and wear so many political ribbons, these have been replaced by buttons, but ribbons are so much more exciting and fun.
Each of Bowers’ ribbons carries a climate emergency message, such as “System change, not climate change”; “Forests are the lungs of the earth” and “Women and the earth have to tolerate a lot. She encourages recipients to share the ribbons at future events or on social media.
“That’s the most exciting part. This project can have a big presence,” says Bowers, who has a retrospective grand opening at the Hammer Museum later this month. “The climate crisis is a huge recurring problem. There is no more time. We are destroying our planet and heading towards our own extinction. If another world is still possible, we must change the way we live on this planet.
Arceneaux says that while awareness is key to the project, so are calls to action.
“We believe hyper-localized action can be incredibly profound right now and we also know national action is essential,” she says. “It could be about protesting, it’s about voting, it’s also about encouraging our own civic action and ownership by ensuring that we are collectively invested in the issue.”
The three artists’ very different artistic approaches to expressing the urgency around the climate crisis were exciting for Emerson Collective, as was their shared unwavering commitment.
“And there’s also a sense of optimism that binds the work,” she adds. “Can work offer hope and inspiration?”