Artworks at Cop26 in Glasgow and beyond shed light on the world's climate crisis

A round-up of some of the works and installations highlighting today's environmental crisis

'The Flow of Time' by artist Nicola Anthony is at the UK Pavilion of Expo 2020 Dubai. Singapore Art Museum
Powered by automated translation

As world leaders gather at the Cop26 summit to discuss their nations' roles to combat climate change, many artists have also rallied behind the event by producing work that puts the issues at stake under the spotlight.

From a light projection to an eco-friendly house, The National takes a look at the most significant works:

A light projection containing climate warning messages, by Jenny Holzer

Words by the broadcaster Sir David Attenborough and climate activist Greta Thunberg will be projected on the SEC Armadillo building in the official Blue Zone of Cop26 next Monday. These texts are part of Hurt Earth, a light installation by artist Jenny Holzer, which first lit the Tate Modern’s chimney in London to mark the opening of the conference last Sunday. The work, which is part of the World Wildlife Fund’s initiative Art For Your World, will then appear on the Met Tower in Glasgow from Tuesday to Thursday, November 11, before travelling to Edinburgh.

Antarctic air from the 18th century, by Wayne Binitie

Antarctic air from the year 1765 – the date that scientists say predates the Industrial Revolution – has been encased in a glass sculpture by artist Wayne Binitie. Its gases, including carbon dioxide and methane from the pre-Industrial Revolution era, capture a pivotal moment in earth’s history. The work is part of Binitie's exhibition Polar Zero at the Glasgow Science Centre, the venue for the Green Zone at Cop26.

A glass installation that highlights the decline of Atlantic wild fish, by Joseph Rossano

More than 300 hand-blown glass cylinders symbolising a shoal of salmon hang from a ceiling in the Cop26’s Blue Zone, to shed light on the UK’s declining wild Atlantic salmon populations. This community engagement project, conceptualised by artist Joseph Rossano, includes contributions from environmentalists, scientists and craftspeople from all over the world. The work was commissioned by the UK’s Missing Salmon Alliance, and highlights their successful repopulation project in Glasgow’s River Clyde, where decades of industrial pollution had driven out the river’s wild salmon.

A digital experience shedding light on the global climate crisis, by Takram and Hitachi is an interactive web experience exploring the relationship between climate change, biodiversity and human life. Participants at home and at Cop26 can explore different pathways to help solve the global climate crisis. The project is a collaboration between the R&D division of Japanese multinational Hitachi and the design innovation studio Takram, and will be part of the Hitachi exhibition booth at the Green Zone at Cop26 until Friday, November 12.

'Extinction Bell' raising biodiversity loss awareness, by Luke Jerram

A fire engine bell from Edinburgh’s National Museums Scotland’s collection will toll at random intervals 150 to 200 times a day on the museum grounds. Conceived by artist Luke Jerram, each ring of the bell will symbolise the extinction of one of the world’s species, in accordance with the figures from a 2007 report from the UN.

In Dubai, a human-sized hourglass responding to tweets from the Cop26, by Nicola Anthony

During Cop26, artist Nicola Anthony will create an installation composed of pulsing and flashing fibre optics that respond to live tweets from the conference. Visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai can watch the artist at work in the UK Pavilion, until next Tuesday. The artist will then build a two-metre hourglass-shaped installation using scavenged ocean waste material and recycled paper, through which the fibre optics will hang.

Experience the air in some of the world’s most polluted cities, by Michael Pinsky

A series of interconnected geodesic domes aims to mimic the air quality in five different cities across the globe. Visitors entering the domes start by breathing in the fresh air from Trondheim, a city in coastal Norway, then walk on to the increasingly polluted cities of London, New Delhi, Sao Paulo and Beijing. By experiencing some of the worst quality air on the planet, visitors will understand why action on air pollution is urgently needed. The five pods were exhibited in London’s Granary Square, before travelling across the UK to Glasgow.

'The Conference of the Birds'

Artists, cultural associations and indigenous communities from seven countries have contributed to an exhibition that will premiere at Glasgow’s Pipe Factory during Cop26. The exhibition draws on the Sufi poet Farid ud-Din Attar's The Conference of the Birds, which tells the story of an assembly of birds, in a time of existential crisis. The exhibition will also include a large installation of origami birds, submitted by hundreds of participants from across the globe, with the aim of creating a “murmur” in response to Cop26.

'The Encampment of Eternal Hope' at Wasps Studios, Glasgow

Artists Neil Bromwich and Zoe Walker have created a sculptural environment within Glasgow’s Wasps Studios, where they will host events and workshops focused around indigenous cultures and the climate emergency, during Cop26.

An affordable house made of carbon neutral, re-usable materials, by Beyond Zero Homes

Cop26 House is Beyond Zero Homes’ temporary installation for a house made of homegrown timber, that can serve as an example of carbon zero building and living. Inside, an exhibition of sustainable interiors has been curated by writer and design consultant Roddy Clarke. It includes a kitchen by HOLTE, a design studio working to find alternatives to the heavily polluting “fast-kitchen”, and artworks by Blandine Bardeau, who uses natural vegetable dyes as a painting material. The house and the exhibition will be close to the SEC, the main Cop26 conference venue, until Friday, November 12.

The Cop26 conference runs until Friday, November 12

Updated: March 28, 2023, 1:29 PM