Contemporary art faces up to the climate emergency

Nicolás García Uriburu

Nicolás García Uriburu, boceto del proyecto en el Riachuelo Basta
de contaminar
, 1999. Colección Azul García Uriburu.

For some time now the pollution, devastation and imminent catastrophe have been
impossible to ignore: we’re experiencing them at first hand, they’re already affecting
our everyday lives. Over the past year, the pandemic has made itself felt in every
home across the world, while locally wildfires are raging all over Argentina,
consuming vast tracts of land with no indication of when or where they might be
stopped. These emergencies leave no room for doubt: the damage is being caused
by human activity, we can no longer take refuge in ignorance or false reassurances.


Artistic practice – which has never been afraid of questions, exploration or
reassessment – offers us different paths of thought and imagination within a
framework in which natural exhaustion, ambition and fear are linked to opportunities
for change and renewal, to rethink the terms of social and environmental justice. The
artistic gaze – at times critical and incisive, at others more poetic – is an important
tool in raising awareness of the merciless damage we’re causing to the earth, our
home. But it can also help to reinforce and repair frayed bonds of respect and
empathy towards our surroundings.

During a historical period when disaster seems inevitable and our hopes for change
feel at risk of being choked off by smoke from the blazes, or drowned in flood water,
art can be a liberating practice. With its means of re-educating the perception and
exposing the bond between our bodies and the environment, its elegant but revealing
ways of laying bare situations that might otherwise go unnoticed and its stubborn
faith in the future of the world, art acts as an emotional and intellectual guide toward
a new kind of human, harmonious, respectful and egalitarian growth. With its varied
forms; research, editing, juxtaposition, drawings, sculpture, installation, images both
subtle and provocative and many more, art emphasizes the value of learning through
the senses, keeping one’s gaze, hearing and touch alert so as to awaken a more
profound sense of time, balance and understanding.

Over the next three weeks, the Museo Moderno will highlight the work of a group of
artists from Argentina and overseas that either reveal and expose the historical and
social processes that led to this emergency or present micro-political aesthetics aimed
at redirecting environmental strategy and policy. As the Argentine artist Nicolás García
Uriburu, a pioneer in the combination of art and ecological activism, says: ‘We still have
time to rectify our mistakes, take care of our environment and become more worthy of
living on this wonderful planet.’