#SaveTheArctic at Art Basel
by Justin D'Angona
December 11, 2014
(Photo above: Artist Andrew Steiger, at Seattle’s Tukwila area waste management center. Photo by Yudo Kurita.)
This past week artists, designers and cool kids from across the globe met up in Miami for Art Basel. 73,000 international visitors attended the event this year, but the conversation tended to stay on high and low culture, and not the fact that much of Miamis real estate will be underwater if we dont solve the climate crisis. LA based artist and activist Andrew Steiger contributed art to the event, producing a video installation featured at the event Kunstmode, which focused on imagery inspired by Greenpeaces #SaveTheArctic campaign. We sat down with him to discuss the motivation behind his video and the importance of connecting activism with the culture industry.
JD: What motivated you to create this piece?
AS: To be honest, I was motivated by the lack of visual content linking companies like Shell to the issue of climate change. I needed to create a tool that my generation can understand. 30 page reports from the IPCC, arent interesting. Climate change is happening so fast, and we need to identify and isolate those that are contributing to it. Viral warnings or brand bombs have the ability to move through culture quickly, and can route people to a solution. Art is a universal language; it allows a diverse array of people to understand a concept quickly and intuitively. Signs, symbols and imagery are part of how we make information meaningful. Part of what inspired me to work with Greenpeace in the first place was that I know it was one of the first groups to take that understanding and put it into action.
JD: What is the message of this specific piece of art?
AS: The message is that if Shell is permitted to go into the last virgin frontiers of our beautiful planet and drill for oil, our coastal cities like Miami will surely disappear and weather related disasters will continue to increase. However, I dont believe this will be our fate. Too many good people exist. We still have the power to change things. People just need to wake up. This video is designed to create urgency and inspire people to get involved. The video was tailored specifically to Art Basel, and since it takes place in Miami, I figured it would make sense to have the issue hit home by simulating a flood that would devastate the city.
JD: A lot of people might not expect a group like Greenpeace to have a presence at an event like Art Basel, which seems like a party event, or a place where people might not be thinking of or talking about bigger issues. How do you see something like the #savethearctic campaign fitting into that scene? Why Art Basel?
AS: Ha! Art Basel is the epicenter of the world of creative communication – every major Art Gallery and Art enthusiast on the planet goes to see who is saying what. This is the platform for new ideas. The people that go to events like this are the culture shifters. The influential socialites. The kids with 188k followers on instagram. So, we want our message to be there, and to communicate it in a way that is current with trends in the art world. It helps make the message relevant. Its in our collective best interest that Greenpeaces #SaveTheArctic campaign be part of such cultural activities. People feed on whats new and cool, so I like the idea of finding new ways to infuse art and media to communicate these issues with the masses