As the climate talks drag on, the artist points the way to climate hell

As the climate talks drag on, the artist points the way to climate hell


Egyptian artist Bahia Shehab had one goal at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt: to let people experience the “hell” of global warming.

First, she said, she wants to “hack the rooms” to literally fuel the delegates from nearly 200 countries who have been talking for two weeks about how to drive action on worsening climate change.

As wealthy countries and developing countries struggled to agree on final deals, talks were extended until Saturday.

“There is research that says people who are in a hotter place, in a hotter space, are more likely to believe in climate change than those who don’t,” Shehab said on Red in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh Sea. who organizes the talks.

But for security reasons, instead of the “hack,” Shehab set up a public art installation titled “Heaven and Hell in the Anthropocene.”

It has two adjoining rooms, one heated to 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) and the other air-conditioned.

“We wanted to develop a scenario that is accessible to everyone,” she said.

Activists around the world have performed public stunts targeting artworks to draw attention to global inaction to fight climate change.

In Milan on Friday, climate activists threw flour over a car that American artist Andy Warhol had repainted.

“Are we really outraged by simulating damage to works of art while being indifferent to the ongoing objective destruction of natural works, ecosystems and our own lives?” activists from the Last Generation group wrote in a statement.

Activists have also glued themselves to a Francisco Goya painting in Madrid, threw soup at Vincent van Goghs in London and Rome, and threw mashed potatoes at a Claude Monet in Germany.

– Triggering questions –

Taking a more reserved approach with her art, Shehab says it works and influences many.

“Scary,” a British visitor who gave her name, told Jolene about the “hell room,” as opposed to the “cool, clean, nice” environment she found in heaven.

The artist said she’s already seen attitudes change.

“There’s a girl who came out of ‘hell’ and said, ‘I’m never going to throw trash on the floor again,'” she said.

“So for me it’s not important whether they like it aesthetically or not, but it’s really important that it raises questions and that they reconsider their daily practice.”

Another artist, Rehab el-Sadek, tried to be the voice of indigenous people across Egypt. She set up a Bedouin-like tent inscribed with messages in Arabic, English and Spanish.

“I want climate action to prioritize indigenous and local communities,” read a message.

Sadek said that given the COP in the Sinai Peninsula, home to nomadic Bedouins, “we thought the tent…will create a connection between local people and people around the world.”

Indian artist Shilo Shiv Suleman has painted an entire mural at the COP27 complex to send a message “to world leaders who see the planet as a product”.

The mural, which depicts animals in their natural habitat, is a reminder to “return to ourselves — to the mountains, the stars, the rivers and ways of life that brought us into the realm of earth, not outside it,” she said .

But art’s role isn’t limited to raising awareness, said Marguerite Courtel, a Paris-based expert on environmental change and culture.

It should also develop techniques to stave off the effects of climate change, and she said one key question remains: are the works themselves being produced with “environmental responsibility”?

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