Art-Science Collaboration to Communicate the Impacts of Sea Level Rise

CIG researcher, Heidi Roop, has teamed up with local artist, Anna McKee, and UW glaciologist, Peter Neff, to create an art installation about the regional impacts of sea level rise for the 2018 Surge exhibition at the Museum of Northwest Art. The installation, called Evidence Wall, is a series of “maps” that explores the unique relationship between ice sheet decline in West Antarctica and rising sea levels in the Pacific Northwest.

CIG researcher, Guillaume Mauger, also served as an advisor to artists participating in this year’s Surge exhibit, through his participation in a art-science residency at PLAYA in July, 2018.

The Surge exhibition is designed to draw attention to climate change and its impact on the Northwest’s coastal communities. It provides a forum for artists, environmental researchers and educators to collaborate and present the public with new perspectives on issues such as flooding, sea level rise and storm surge.

The 2018 exhibition runs from October 6th, 2018- January 7th, 2019. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, October 6th, 2018 from 2-3:30 PM.

 


Evidence Wall is an art installation developed by Seattle-based artist, Anna McKee in collaboration with CIG’s Heidi Roop. Evidence Wall explores the unique relationship between ice sheet decline in West Antarctica and rising sea levels in the Pacific Northwest.

Image courtesy of Anna McKee

The central drawing, Fingerprinted, takes its name from “static-equilibrium fingerprints”, which refers to regional changes in sea level caused by the melting of land-based ice. The melting ice sheet in West Antarctica reduces the gravitational attraction of the ocean near it, causing a corresponding rise in the North Pacific. This brings into focus the interrelationships of seemingly unrelated and remote places. Global climate change means just that.

Image courtesy of Anna Mckee


Artist Statement: Locating ourselves in our surroundings is a primal survival instinct. Throughout time humans have shared our need for orientation through stories, pictograms, maps, and remote sensing.

Maps are fascinating both for the information they offer and as aesthetic objects. Mapmaking is a graphic narrative form, loaded with mysterious symbols and markings. They require codes, keys and training to decipher. Without interpretation, they allude to a story, but we are left without direction.

Evidence Wall is a collection of drawn maps that together suggest an array of clues, but without precise determination. These were developed using a variety of sources, from highly detailed satellite and Lidar maps, to schematic illustrations of projected sea level rise, flood zones and past glaciations.

The central drawing, Fingerprinted takes its name from “static-equilibrium fingerprints”, which refers to regional changes in sea level caused by the melting of land-based ice . The melting ice sheet in West Antarctica reduces the gravitational attraction of the ocean near it, causing a corresponding rise in the North Pacific. This brings into focus the interrelationships of seemingly unrelated and remote places. Global climate change means just that.

The “fingerprint” also references the human hand, specifically the artists own complicity in rising greenhouse gas emissions. Even when unseen, we leave the marks of our actions. We are integral players, affecting and being affected by changing global systems.

In some of the drawings, the viewer may be able to identify specific locations around La Conner and the Skagit Valley, and there is evidence of landforms altered through time. However, specific details are left out and the maps become a metaphor for uncertainty. This reinforces a sense of the unknown and illustrates the limits to locating oneself within the certainty of maps. We look to maps for reassurance from the uncertainty of the future. The scientific measure of earth systems can provide us with understanding and tools to mitigate change but does not provide psychic clarity or reassurance.

Viewed from another angle, these maps represent information and understanding. Scientific knowledge offers potential solutions, mitigations, and adaptations in response to our changing planet. It is easy to become paralyzed by temperature and sea level rise. It is scary and foreboding. However, an informed public, and forward thinking, well informed land planning can build resilience into our landscapes and built systems. Understanding the impacts of climate on our geographic contexts and lived experiences, while orienting ourselves in the direction of solutions and adaptation can help us involve our fingerprints in shaping a more sustainable future.


 

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