My project is going to be about ‘Global Warming’ and the causes and effects that surround this issue. How humans have come to waste resources and created excess wastage which is thrown away, polluting our planet and lands, killing species and plants that are endangered. This concerns me and is a big issues for me because everything in the world around us is powered by something which in consequence will be somehow effecting our planet, in silent ways in which we cannot see. However, it is good to talk about this topic as I would like future generations to continue living and work towards a better world where resources are not taken for granted or wasted for our continuous human development. Mirzoeff’s idea about what it means to be a citizen in this global era is mainly about how mostly everyone in the world is involved in the creation of issues, or simple partake in the spreading of news somehow. To be a citizen in this global era is simply being a part of networking and connections, “… understand the total noise all around us every day as the new everyday condition” (Mirzoeff, pg280), Mirzoeff believes that everything happening around us is left for us to experience and control. Mirzoeff uses images such as ‘Tank and Bread’ by young graffiti artist Mohamed Fahmy (Ganzeer) to explain how graffiti marks places to tell a story and has the ability to reach those who are illiterate or who do not won device that are connected to the internet. Mirzoeff uses this image to show the different types of visual techniques used to reach all types of groups, and that his artwork marks the city walls as a statement for all to see, not as exclusive as a museum or website. This is a good example of being a citizen in the global era as people who walk past the graffiti of a tank targeting a boy in a bicycle, it is up to them to decide what to do with that information, their reaction and emotions control how they act or wish to act. Ganzeer only creating a story for citizens to think about, making them think for themselves in how they want the world to be, this is their job as citizens of our global era. It is what they do with that information that counts in changing our society.
Mirzoeff states that “visual culture practice has gone through several versions in the past twenty-five years and has now converged around visual activism” (Mirzoeff p.261), meaning that visual activism has bought deeper meaning into our visual culture. Purpose intertwined with politics and social justices in society that has been continuously changing, but now mainly focused on using visual methods to represent group/s to the public.
He also believes that ‘visual thinking’ has evolved from visual culture and into a form of practice. ‘… is something we do not simply study” (Mirzoeff p.263), stating the different degrees in which we are able to engage ourselves with visual texts. It is something that has been growing in society, our desire to make meanings of everything made, to make those connections and question the representation and use of media.
For a long period of time now, water pollution has been rising at a faster pace than we anticipated, “… it is created by industrial and commercial waster, agricultural practices, everyday human activities and most notably, models of transportation” (Owa, F.D). As citizens of this planet we fail to comprehend the global issue of our deteriorating environment, we continue to exponentially produce waste that in end we light-heartedly disregard, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. The Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century not only introduced new developing machinery but also new types of air and water pollution. Before new machinery was introduced “industrial communities grew up around the water-powered mills” (Evans, p163) and natural materials less harmful to the environment and its species. During this starting period of developing ground breaking machinery, “well established coal was the most important domestic fuel in towns… beginning to find uses in industry” (Burton, p39), crucial in powering most steam machines, resulting in mass releases of smog and soot, harmful emissions affected the health of communities living in urban areas in close proximity to the factories. As long as people are willing to purchase and consume products, we continue to fuel the creation of waste and develop the issue that is pollution, “… up to 500 million tons of heavy metals, solvents and toxic sludge slip into the global water supply every year”, (A&E Television Networks), manufacturing consequences and unwanted waste thrown away by corporations and businesses that are too lazy to properly deal with their own responsibilities. Groups affected are those who are living in developing countries, such as India and China, where there is a lack of health funding and infrastructure to assist them with proper treatment facilities, “…3.2 million children die each year as a result of unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation”, (EcoMENA.).
It has recently become highlighted as more of a major contemporary issue, as more people have addressed it on social media, which Mirzoeff states “has accelerated change in movements that were now noticed by public” (Mirzoeff, pg272), as the effects of these changes has become more vivid and evident throughout the world by mid-20th century. Consumer waste are products that have been bought and used for its sole purpose and left to be disposed of, being a consumer item, it has fulfilled its intended use and waits to be recycled or thrown away. Although some of these consumer waste materials are not as harmful to humans, garbage that we routinely throw away daily “… average person generates 4.3 pounds of waste per day” (Duke Univeristy), slowly builds up in the shadows to our disregard, finding their ways to oceans, disrupting animal species, poisoning the environment in countless ways.
Toxic wastes are poisonous by-products made from factory processes in form of liquids, gases or solids, “… considered toxic when it causes death or harm by being inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin” (The New York Times). Toxic waste since the industrial revolution, has affected humans, animals and the environment, a serious damaging environmental issue that is becoming globally terrifying as a main cause of diseases and death. The BP Oil Spill in 2010 exemplifies how human activities are piling up waste and fuelling the mass pollution of oceans. On 15th July 2010, “it is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry” (EcoMENA), the consequences of this large spill in the ocean meant months of cleaning up and preventing the further spread of oil, already damaging marine and wildlife habitats, and many distresses about direct contact to the oil and public health. With “… media as the form that keeps us all connected, we are shown the representation of real life events” (Mirzoeff, pg290), meaning that communities are able to tell their stories, having free will to state their opinions and protest on social media against events that concern them. Many sea turtles, pelicans and marine mammals were found dead, however surviving species were nursed back to health. Our desire and greed of living luxurious lives, buying and throwing away wasted materials is not only physically affecting our world and its species, but is influencing us as citizens of the 21st century to take this information, think and do something about it, using the power of mainstream media which is very influential worldwide, taking issues to a public stage.
Figure 1. (Jordan, Chris. Photographic Arts. http://chrisjordan.com/gallery/midway/#about. Midway Project. February 2011. June 2016. Blog)
One of the more subtle approaches to drawing attention to ocean pollution existing in our world today is shown through the photographs taken by Chris Jordan from 2009- to current. As a photographer, he has focused on the effects of plastic pollution on animal species, birds in particular, and has dissected the already dead birds, “plastic found inside birds includes bags, bottle caps, synthetic fibres from clothing, and tiny rice-sized bits that have been broken down by the sun and waves” (Parker, Laura), opening up the ugly truth behind human waste and ignorance. As a cultural critic, Chris Jordan has tackled our society’s way of thinking, questioning whether our actions are actually helping the environment and its species the right way, not necessarily pointing the finger, but using the photograph as a means to capture what others have not been able to witness, asking us how this has happened in the beginning. “These birds reflect back an appallingly emblematic result of the collective trance of our consumerism and runaway industrial growth” (Jordan, Chris). Using a photograph itself has the power of digitally documenting something to be seen, which is usually unseen by the public, and he has critiqued how we as humans are stuck in a culture and society where consuming and throwing away products has become second nature, and is therefore our responsibility to change and fix this growing problem that he has addressed to us through his still but emotionally moving photographs. He acts as an agent of change as he expresses his individual opinion which Mirzoeff states is “more authentic to have each person tell their own story, individual opinions shown have a more unique and heavy influence” (Mirzoeff, pg264), taking what he sees and feels and transforms them into visual representations of his ideas, demanding a reaction from his audience, his goal is to make people feel how he had felt when looking at these birds who had died at the expense of our waste and environmental destruction.
Figure 2. (Vartanian, Hrag. Liberate Tate Annotates Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 25-Hour Guerrilla Protest. http://hyperallergic.com/214959/liberate-tate-annotates-tate-moderns-turbine-hall-in-25-hour-guerrilla-protest/. June 2015. June 2016. Website)
‘Liberate Tate’ is a self- managed organisation of a group of artists working in cooperation to intervene in the social change of ending sponsorship between Tate Museum and BP, “raising their voices for a more ethical approach to the art museum’s relationships and sources of funding” (Vartanian, Hrag). Using social media such as Facebook to keep in contact and organize these protests, “Facebook did not cause the revolution, but allowed for the dissemination of information” (Mirzoeff, pg281), which have been very successful in terms of being able to reach the news media on website and videos online. ‘Liberate Tate’ have already staged 14 protest works that focused on sharing their opinion that the BP company “… presence in galleries and museums is a stain on our culture” (Vartarian, Hrag) to a large audience. “Glen Tarman, a member of the Liberate Tate movement states, “… art museums are places where we make sense of the world… We shouldn’t be complicit in climate change just because we appreciate great art” (Scaife, Amy). They believe that the Museum should not need to continue promoting BP, as they were known for finding cheaper ways out of cleaning up their own mess that still continues to negatively affect the environment. An example of one of their most well- known performance protests ‘Time Piece’ 2010, was when seventy-five protestors spent almost an entire day writing words of warning about climate change on the floor of the museum hall using charcoal. As a group of self-managed artists working together, these powerful 21st century citizens take action and shape what they want to see change in the world. As cultural critics, they are standing up against the collaboration and support of Tate museum with BP, they disagree with BP in regard to their slacking of cleaning their oil spill ocean pollution and reach out to people visiting the Tate museum, a large number of people that all gather to one place. In response, ‘Liberate Tate’ has managed to get their message across to thousands of people through social media, through the internet and physically at the site of the work itself, demanding and captivating their audience, in which a large majority agree that the partnership should end.
Figure 3. (Autonomous Nonprofit Organization. French rivers dyed green – and it’s not even St Patrick’s Day. https://www.rt.com/viral/340914-french-rivers-dyed-green/. April 2016. June 2016. Website)
Recently, a stunt performed by French environmentalists in 25th April 2016 has drawn a lot of attention to water pollution being a more contemporary global issue. Their eye- catching protest of safe dyeing multiple rivers neon green across France, aimed to highlight the vast extent to which pollution spreads in the water, the dye following the flow and creating a visible path of where the dye is carried and spread. This form of visual activism is a very demanding and strong in captivating its audience, asking them to recognise the “lack of environmental public service” in their cities (Autonomous Nonprofit Organization). These unknown French environmental activists criticise the works of their government and disagree with their inability to enforce regulations to safe guard the environment and the growing pollution of water. They are agents of change who have acted against the government by calling them out, asking the big question of the lack of environmental public services. Mirzoeff believes that news is only made important by people and groups who take this information and share it “made important through our engagement and participation in adding news and spreading it throughout the media” (Mirzoeff, pg259). By dyeing not one but twelve rivers, audiences are made to ponder what would cause such an uproar for a group to do this, the large degree of this visual protest provoked the government attention. In the end they were able to get answers from the Environmental Inspector at ONEMA, stating that they were going to begin tackling some of their environmental public services. By arranging their own self- managed protests, the French environmentalists have been able to draw attention to water pollution issues and have successfully influenced their government to take action, being good examples of agents of change, working towards a change in the environment that they want to see.
In New Zealand society today, our developed country has allowed the necessary equipment for keeping our water safe, “The Government’s Fresh Start for Fresh Water Clean-up Fund has contributed to seven community initiatives to clean up some of New Zealand’s most iconic waterways” (New Zealand Ministry for the Environment.), the govenrment the issue of water pollution is not as drastic here compared to other developing countries who lack the funding to improve their water and health systems.
Being a 21st century citizen has given us a better advantage with our developed technology, having the ability to globally communicate and share ideas in almost an instant through social media, compared to basic pen and paper in the earlier years. It is up to us as a 21st century citizens to take information of issues and participate in working towards creating the change that we would like to see, our individual influences and actions have the absolute ability and individual power to change the world into what we desire. Our role as cultural critics is up to our opinions and perspectives, our worldviews are each different which contribute to our way of thinking in terms of fixing a problem that we relate to or desire to improve. “Networking and young population has led to revolution and sharing information” (Mirzoeff, pg294), it is important for our generation to make use of the social media that the previous generations had no access to, with faster ability to share information and ideas, activist groups are able to collaborate quicker and revolutionise society through movements and protests.
Visual activism alone does not change the world, but it is the audience who uses their visual thinking skills to interpret the artwork, making sense and comprehending what it is trying to say. Mirzoeff believes that visual thinking has been growing in our society, the ability to make connections and decided their opinions and ideas. Without visual thinking, people would not be able to make the right connections or be motivated to take action through demonstrations or protest. In our current society, human garbage is finding its way to the oceans, forming into a giant floating landfill in the centre of the ocean“Great Pacific Garbage Patch… bigger than Texas” (NOAA’s Ocean Service). The global issue of water pollution is snowballing, in the future our growing population will need more advanced machinery to meet the demands of the purchase of products, meaning more new gas emissions and leftover waste.
I have created a series of photographs of used trash left to waste flying around our streets, hiding under people’s ignorance. I spent 3 days picking up rubbish polluting our streets, grouped them into a collective pile to be photographed. These photographs were then printed onto A3 paper and pasted onto the side of a building with labels beside them. My creative artwork has been inspired by Chris Jordan, where he documents the unseen, what is silently happening under all the noise of human activities. I have also been inspired by the‘Liberate Tate’ group as they publically state their opinion for a public audience, I have formed an open gallery for pubillc viewing. All these different forms of visual activist projects and various types of citizenships work collectively to stand up against corporations and communicate the change in the world they strive for. This project materially responds to the environmental issue as it only uses paper which is bio degradable, the print is a simple documentation and collection of human waste that demands attention as the paper flaps in the wind on the side of a building wall. The open gallery symbolises the rubbish itself, being a part of the street, only seen when people want to see it. The work promotes needed change in our environment to a wide ranged audience, and how we as a collective community are becoming the main source of pollution and in end, our own destruction. I wanted to change people’s perceptions, not to disregard the singular pieces of rubbish floating around left by humans, but to look at it as a whole and make sense of pollution of consuming products. These series of photographs are associated with visual activism as it challenges the audience to think about what could be done to prevent the continuation of global pollution, to take the necessary action before time runs out for the growth of human waste and lastly the artwork involves label of corporations of products that uses packaging that is not eco-friendly, allowing audiences to pinpoint which companies are not concerned about the environment or planets well-being.
‘The Human Collection of Waste Street Gallery’
Reused A3 plain paper, ink, masking tape, vivid pen, rubbish and camera.
I have created a series of photographs of used trash that has been left on our streets. I spent 3 days picking up rubbish that pollutes our streets, grouped them into a collective pile to be photographed. The work promotes needed change in our environment to a wide ranged audience in an open art gallery, and how we as a collective community are becoming the main source of pollution and in end, our own destruction. I wanted to change people’s perceptions, not to disregard the singular pieces of rubbish floating around left by humans, but to look at it as a whole and make sense of pollution of consuming products.
- (A&E Television Networks. Water and Air pollution. http://www.history.com/topics/water-and-air-pollution. 2016. June 2016. Internet)
- (Autonomous Nonprofit Organization. French rivers dyed green – and it’s not even St Patrick’s Day. https://www.rt.com/viral/340914-french-rivers-dyed-green/. April 2016. June 2016. Website)
- Duke Univeristy. Sustainability and Commerce. https://center.sustainability.duke.edu/resources/green-facts-consumers/how-much-do-we-waste-daily. 2016. June 20126. Internet)
- (EcoMENA. Amir Dakkak. Water Pollution Worries in Developing World. http://www.ecomena.org/water-pollution/. February 2016. June 2016. Internet)
- (Jordan, Chris. Photographic Arts. http://chrisjordan.com/gallery/midway/#about. Midway Project. February 2011. June 2016. Blog)
- (Parker, Laura. Nearly Every Seabird on Earth Is Eating Plastic. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/15092-plastic-seabirds-albatross-australia. National Geographic. November 2015. June 2016. Website)
- (Owa, F.D. Water Pollution: Sources, Effects, Control and Management . http://www.mcser.org/journal/index.php/mjss/article/viewFile/1760/1764. Rome- Italy. MCSER Publishing. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences Vol 4 No 8 ISSN 2039-9340. September 2013. June 2016. Journal)
- (New Zealand Ministry for the Environment. Freshwater quality and availability. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/fresh-water/overview-fresh-water/quality-and-availability. September 2014. June 2016. Website)
- (NOAA’s Ocean Service. How Big Is the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”? Science vs. Myth. http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/about/media/how-big-great-pacific-garbage-patch-science-vs-myth.html. February 2013. June 2016. Website)
- (Scaife, Amy. Activists plan oil protest at British Museum. https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/sep/03/art-not-oil-plan-protest-british-museum. The Guardian. September 2015. June 2016. Website)
- (The New York Times. S.: Toxic Waters: Polluted Harbors | The New York Times. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rreBKDko6OY. November 2009. June 2016. YouTube video)
- (Vartanian, Hrag. Liberate Tate Annotates Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 25-Hour Guerrilla Protest. http://hyperallergic.com/214959/liberate-tate-annotates-tate-moderns-turbine-hall-in-25-hour-guerrilla-protest/. June 2015. June 2016. Website)