Emergency On Planet Earth At Valencia’s Centro de Cultura In El Carmen

As climate change becomes an ever more important and frequently discussed topic – with friends, on the news, by charities working to fight it – we’ve naturally seen the number of artists using it as inspiration also rise. Orla O’Dwyer went to an exhibition on the subject at Centre del Carme Cultura Contemporània (CCCC) in El Carmen, and was impressed with the playful treatment masking a deadly earnest message…

 You’ll probably be familiar with dystopian scenes of cities submerged by rising sea levels or monstrous landfill sites reminding us of our overconsumption, but the Emergency on Planet Earth exhibition now on at the Centre del Carme Cultura Contemporània (CCCC) offers something different. A collaborative project created by 12 artists from both Spain and abroad, the exhibition tackles 12 different aspects or issues surrounding climate change, described by the creators as ‘12 problems that are one: Emergency on Planet Earth’. Although taken in totally different directions by each artist, one consistent element of the pieces is a fun, colourful approach to the issue that doesn’t leave you feeling too pessimistic when you walk out of the door.

Found in a large exhibition space at the back of the impressive CCCC building, the exhibition splits off into individual rooms housing each of the artworks. Before passing through to the individual exhibition rooms, visitors find themselves in a huge room with a scene that we’ve come to instantly associate with climate change. In many ways, it feels as though this first piece gets the traditional global warming imagery out of the way before delving into the more experimental pieces. A huge mural snakes around three walls of the room, starting with a scene of a polar bear trapped on melting ice caps and gradually shifting into a blazing forest fire. Surrounded by these walls in this large room, you do, as a visitor, truly feel your insignificance against such a daunting issue. Moving through the exhibition and into the individual rooms, we are introduced to the different aspects of climate change – pollution, deforestation, soil degradation, depletion of energy resources, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity, production of waste, overpopulation, pollution of the oceans and space debris – one by one, through a range of mediums and styles. 

Barbiturkills and Will Cole’s deforestation piece cleverly constructs gravestones for extinct or endangered animals in the form of “Hello my name is…” stickers that are often worn in America by workers in service jobs. Intended as a comment on how corporations would respond to the issues created in no small part by themselves (with a ‘mass-produced’ reaction), the artists intend to fight back at this with colourful and life-filled drawings of the animals. The jumbo-size nametags give a very fun, playground-type feel to this piece.

Another stand-out piece is Vinz Feel Free and Nayra Lopez’s sculpture presenting the issue of soil degradation. A UV-lit room depicts a scene of a farmer spraying crops with ‘toxic waste’, and the neon colours shown under the UV light of the room certainly catches the eye whilst the life sized sculpture really puts the visitor into the scene. 

What makes Emergency on Planet Earth worth visiting is that as opposed to the doom and gloom of most art that discusses climate change, this exhibition opts for colour, humour, and descriptive captions to convey the intended message in a refreshingly light-hearted way. Although still clearly a serious topic, the playful artworks work well in alleviating some of the pessimism the facts and figures can often leave you feeling. 

Although it does give the feel of visiting 12 separate miniature exhibitions rather than one cohesive project, it is nicely tied together with an informative video discussing all the topics at the end. If you’re interested in learning more about global warming but are often put off by the gloomy message, this exhibition is for you. It would also serve as a great introduction to the topic for children. This is also one of the only exhibitions at the CCCC that is accompanied by English language captions, so make sure to check it out before it ends in September.

  • ‘Emergency on Planet Earth’, Centre del Carme Cultura Contemporània, admission free; open daily from 11am to 9pm; www.consorcimuseus.gva.es/

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