Global Warming Symposium:  Day Two presentation by Climate Clock Teams

By Julia Bradshaw

Just over two years ago concerned citizen and engineer Seth Fearey approached Joel Slaton from San José State University, San José’s Public Art Director Barbara Goldstein and ZERO1 with the notion to create a landmark public art project that will inspire and create a behavioral change in how the public views climate change. The Climate Clock will be a destination art piece that will combine measurement and computational technologies to help people understand climate change. The landmark Climate Clock project will be situated at the Diridon Station in San Jose. With the anticipated arrival of the high-speed train, this station will be the largest railway station in California.

Two years ago 47 people submitted proposals for the public art project and seven finalists presented their work to the Climate Clock Symposium in 2008. From this symposium, three finalists were chosen. Each of these finalists will now take part in a residency at Montalvo. This development has been made possible through funding from the Packard Foundation ($82,500) and the Bank of America ($25,000). Together, San José State University, San José Public Art Program and 1stACT Silicon Valley have contributed over $150,000 in support of the Climate Clock Initiative to date. The final project will require funding in the $10 million – $15 million range; the money for which still has to be raised.

Each residency is an opportunity for the public to spend time with the artists and also for the artists to learn about the site and the space and the concerns of creating a public art project that will be self-sustainable for 100 years.  See the Montalvo website for more information.

The finalist teams presented their projects and their approach at the Global Warning Symposium at ZERO1. The teams are very different, two teams taking a technological, kinetic and robotic approach and another team looking at nature as the ultimate technology. Each team is thinking about how art can affect behavioral change – and none of the teams is trite or simplistic in their approach. Through these symposia and other meetings, the teams have learned of the projects of their competitors. In this way, the teams are both competitors and collaborators.

The team from the UK consists of artists, engineers and psychologists: Usman Haque, Robert Davies and Caroline Lewis. This team submitted a video to the conference that explained their approach to the climate clock residency. Their proposal draws inspiration from the film ‘Silent Running’ and the suggestion that in 100 years from now human beings may no longer inhabit the planet. Their project, therefore, has to be completely self-sustaining and also provide meaning and data for unknown beings. Thus, the team proposed a self-maintaining project that will grow and maintain itself and also to produce representative products reflecting climate change. Through the involvement of psychologists, the group will take care that the choice of symbols used does not lead to negativity but provide the link between visualization and positive behavioral change.

The Wired Wilderness is created by a team of Freya Bardell, Bent Bucknam and Brian Howe. They intend to create a project that will require the participation and the residency of artists over 100 years. The team has turned to nature as the most reliable technology. They are firm in their belief that nature can be used as a tool to explain complex scientific data. Lest this come across as a little trite, the group is taking efforts to avoid the ‘polar-bear on the iceberg’ meme. Indeed, all the three teams talk of the psychological impact of the project and the care that needs to be taken to ensure that the project promotes positive change. During their residency, the group intends to look for ecosystems prevalent in San Jose and find out how they can introduce this traditional ecosystem within the project. For example, they have partnered with a local visual ecologist who collects data and promotes visual interactions to communicate this data to the public.

The team from Amorphic Robot Works consists of Chico MacMurtrie , Gideon Fink, Geo Homsy and Bill Washabaugh. This team consisting of artists, an aeronautics engineer and an architect has worked on kinetic and robotic projects for a number of years. Their project proposal ‘Organograph’ is an attempt to reproduce the climate change process. A time-inspired structure, they want to create a monitoring and representational artwork that allows people to reflect on what we are doing and how it affects the people on the planet.  As they describe it, the project tries to ‘close the loop’ between the ‘Big Here’ and the Long Now’.  Essentially the project tries to connect a visceral connection between the human body the experience of time.

100 years is a long time, the City of San Jose and the Climate Clock team has developed a short list of three extremely talented, intelligent and smart teams who are each taking a different approach to the project. Each of these projects will evolve as the teams take part in their residency at Montalvo. The public is invited to get involved.

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