Can art move people to combat climate change? This artist thinks so
Neuroscientists at Columbia University he saw something strange. When asked by a group of test subjects to focus on a picture of an angel carrying a sword, they found that it stimulated responses in the fists of the subjects. Others have commented on the feeling of dancing while watching Ballerinas Degas. This is the result of a process called physical psychology. When we look at a piece of art, our brains mirror actions that can be seen on the canvas.
Not only does art stimulate physical activity, it can also stimulate emotion and create an unhealthy feeling. According to eco artist Thijs Biersteker:
Context is also important with the feeling that, when you go to a museum or a festival, you are open to new ideas. It's a time when people are actually taking advantage of new messages, allowing them to be digested.
Sounds nice ... but why does it matter? Well, the maker of EV Polestar promises the inspiring powers of art to convey their message of sustainability.
The company recently released a sustainability report for its new Polestar 2. While the report is an integral part of Polestar's effort towards brutal, naked publicity, the team behind it had to ask themselves whether it was the the best way of achieving it. If one does not read more endurance reports than the most nerdiest of conventional EV drivers, do they have any effect at all?
That’s why they teamed up with Biersteker to create an interactive installation inspired by key data from the report. The piece is entitled, We will win Wind, now on display at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
TNW received a special interview to find out about the background behind this interesting piece and the call to action.
Converting cold hard data into climate art
“When I was growing up, I noticed that I stopped listening to headlines. For years we have been reading about deforestation in the Amazon and the dangers of plastic in our oceans, but it has not changed. This is very dangerous, ”said Biersteker.
He began working with researchers from around the world to see how he could use their rough data to create something that connects people to the numbers in a deeper way:
I think there are immersive art centers that you can control and that you feel empowered by leaving you with a message. You will be deceived by the beauties and then the facts will strike you.
In the past, he has focused on creating sensory pieces including plastic from the ocean that mirror your body's movements and installation showing the amount of toxins emitted. out of just one bottle of cigarette.
When it comes to making art based on complex data on climate change, sometimes extracting a single stat or figure in a report can help bring it to light. Just one small change in our lifestyle can have a far greater impact than we might realize.
Could installation make you think twice about choosing canvas or plastic at the grocery store or throwing those cigarettes on the street? Biersteker hopes so.
Overview of conversion to renewable energy
Earlier this year, Polestar released what they call 'LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) Report.'Get down to great detail about the environmental impact of their new Polestar 2, from the materials used to the end - of - life emissions of the car.
One of the key parts of the report was an assessment of how long it will take for drivers to resist production and manufacturing emissions based on the type of energy used to power their car. .
“Buying an EV is not enough, we need to make sure it relies on renewable energy, "explained Fredrika Klarén, Head of Sustainability at Polestar. "It has been so confusing for consumers to realize that EV is better than a petrol car as the car industry has not put real data into the conversation."
Klarén said this is why Polestar wants to take a new approach by being clearer than other car brands. “We are about to announce the LCAs for all our upcoming models. You see when we fail and you see when we move on. It really is a way for us to connect with our customers and build trust.
But, as she explained, they had to ask themselves, is there a report and no one is reading it, will it make an impact?
We published this report and talked about it in ways that are very informative about data science, but we just felt that we may not be reaching out to the wider community.
That's when they decided to contact Biersteker.
At the time of reading the report, the data on the direct impact of switching to renewable energy sources was particularly striking to the artist. By engaging in this, he decided to create a large wind turbine that could be visitor-driven.
I want people to connect with the facts in this report. I want them to experience the power of change with their hands. Switching to green energy is such a simple task, which should be enabled by governments and supported by consumer action. So I wanted to talk about how simple that is.
You just press the fan and this world comes alive with wind power. I think if they take that away - the power is in their hands and it's not that difficult - I'm happy. It doesn't have to be more complicated than that.
Trying new sustainable products
Polestar has a stable materials team tasked with exploring new materials that can be used to replace future models with unstable parts, with the ultimate goal of a climate-neutral car. to be implemented by 2030. Klarén explained:
We have eight and a half years and 20,000 more parts going into a car. But we also have a list of releases related to the products and parts that go into the cars. So we are very aware from our EMA data of what we need to address.
Biersteker studios teamed up with their researchers to create the installation.
Polestar is already making progress in creating a suitable material to replace plastic in its cars, so Biersteker decided to incorporate it into its installation.
While the center of the installation was constructed using 60 kg of used PET plastic bottles, the outer wings were created using replastering with a Polestar square pattern. The material is a web-based knitting structure and is currently being used to create the BCOMP PowerRibs displayed in the Polestar Precept car.
End of life for a piece of eco-art
Just like Polestar's production process, when Biersteker develops a new piece, his team calculates emissions on each part to make sure that the pieces they make are as stable as possible. Each installation also comes with a material passport, which makes it easier to collect and recycle in the future.
This may sound like a strangely practical approach, but for Biersteker, the goal of each piece is to have an 'end of life' - so there needs to be a plan for how to lay the his art after his death.
I do something for centuries. It may be optimistic, but I hope that those pieces of awareness that I am creating about wind energy, deforestation and plastic pollution are not needed and needed in the future.
To me it is logical that things will come to an end. And, as a creator, you are responsible for how your pieces end up. It may be there for 30 or 100 years, but at least I know I left it in a state that does not leave the world worse than it used to be.
This is also why Biersteker outlets do not sell them. If sensory pieces like this are sold to collectors or museums, they may be in the ground floor somewhere. "It simply came to our notice then. I'd rather be shown somewhere to create that awareness, ”said Biersteker.
Just like the installation, the Polestar team has also come up with an end - of - life plan for the Polestar 2 outlined in the LCA report.
What should you take away from this piece?
Art is thematic. Everyone will experience a piece from their own perspective. But Klarén hopes to get at least two key messages across:
I hope visitors are aware that they can contribute to a good cause and are motivated to get involved. When it comes to climate change, we sometimes get this horrible feeling that nothing we do is going to work. But that really puts an end to it all.
I also hope that we will realize that we are not getting renewable energy in our grid in the way that we should. We are going to do our part at Polestar to make sure that we eliminate the production of our cars, but we need to get support from an energy grid that gets renewable energy. That movement is going far too slowly.
The only question that remains is, does this motivate you to get involved? Find out by visiting We will win Wind which will be on display at the Stedelijk museum until November 3, 2022.