MARIA PERSU contemplates her discovery of Nordic environmentalist art. I arrived in Helsinki on Midsummer Night, a celebration where Finns light up huge bonfires and go to the countryside to mark the beginning of the warm season. It occurs at that time of the year where it doesn’t get pitch dark at all for twenty-four hours. The city was mostly empty, apart from the occasional tourist, youngster, or seagull. Yet this did not detract from its charm; Helsinki is a city full of high-quality public spaces for locals, and local businesses thrive there. Testament to this are the second hand stores, the vegan cafés, the newly built public library, and the airy parks. Helsinki lives for its locals.   Prior to my trip to Helsinki, my only experience of Nordic art was Ruben Östlund’s harsh satire on curatorial obnoxiousness, The Square (2018). Kiasma, the famed Finnish contemporary art museum, as well…Continue Reading

NORDIC ARTISTS CONCERNED

ASIA CHOUDHRY reviews Olafur Eliasson’s In Real Life at the Tate Modern. Scrolling through Instagram one day during summer, I stumbled upon pictures of my friends standing in a dreamy, orange fog. It was both eerie and aesthetically pleasing, and I immediately had to know more. After briefly searching online, Olafur Eliasson’s name appeared on the first try, alongside words such as ‘mind-bending’ and ‘glorious’. I began to grow excited as I read more about him: a Danish-Icelandic artist, famous for his sculptures and large-scale installation art, who often employs elemental materials in his work. The exhibition itself, named In Real Life at the Tate Modern, is stated to explore his ‘deep engagement with society and the environment’, and the viewer is encouraged to ‘discover what an artist’s perspective can bring to issues of climate change’.  On that particular summer’s day, I was undergoing a familiar bout of climate anxiety,…Continue Reading

OLAFUR ELIASSON: IN REAL LIFE

MARTA BIINO considers the sustainability of food consumption and waste production. Addressing social and environmental issues is a growing trend in the contemporary art world. And yet, it is still uncommon to see an exhibition confronting one of the most pressing issues of our time: the problem of unsustainable food production and waste disposal. Food: Bigger than the Plate, hosted by the V&A, presents itself as a journey through the history of Western food consumption and waste production. The visitor is immersed in a four-step itinerary: composting, farming, selling and eating. Each section is conceived to uncover the inherent unsustainability of the contemporary food industry while focusing on the importance of promptly undertaking major changes. The exhibition starts off with a simple, often unacknowledged reality: human activity produces waste. Every action we undertake contributes to a polluting process that’s slowly destroying our planet. According to statistical estimations, every year the…Continue Reading

Food: Bigger than the Plate

MIER FOO discusses the digitalisation of the fashion industry. A staggering one billion people now use Instagram. Over 72% of these users purchase a product they viewed on the app. Within seconds, carefully curated content can be propagated through millions of users worldwide. As a result, an increasing number of brands are turning towards social media’s immediacy to promote their advertising campaigns. This pervasiveness of digital media, specifically Instagram, has caused a revolution within the fashion industry, permanently altering the way brands interact with their consumers. Sponsored posts, ‘live’ stories, and endorsement from a rising number of ‘influencers’ has allowed brands to target the millennial consumer market at a substantially lower cost than traditional print marketing. It is safe to say that Instagram has surpassed legacy magazines as the main form of advertising. The media industry titan, Condé Nast, reportedly sustained losses of 120 million USD last year after suffering…Continue Reading

Reformations in Fashion

HELENA WACKO explores the juxtaposition of aesthetics and crude reality in the work of photographer Mandy Barker. Every now and again, an image of sea turtles choking on plastic bags or polystyrene trash littered across shores complements headlines on the growing plastic pollution in our oceans. These unpleasant images have become commonplace to the general public. They are perhaps granted a brief concern by onlookers, but rarely a second look. Mandy Barker’s artwork greatly contrasts this salient indifference which plagues the comfortless images. She has devoted her career to photographing discarded litter from oceans collected from around the globe, ranging from the British shores to Hong Kong beaches. Her photographs are akin to celestial constellations. Plastic debris, which are the principal subjects of her images, are laid out to mimic the faraway asteroids mapped out onto our night skies. Her work, much like the cosmos, are a carefully organised chaos.…Continue Reading

Cosmic Plastic Constellations

CHIARA MAURINO analyses the representation of the environment in Seamus Heaney’s poems ‘Act of Union’ and ‘The Bog Queen’. The landscape has always been a vital theme in poetry. Artists of all ages have looked to their environment, be it natural or social, as inspiration for their works. But all too quickly we tend to associate natural imagery with romanticism, and with the sublime, the spiritual and the healing. We forget, perhaps, how the natural environment tells a story of its own, how it combines and couples with history to give its inhabitants a sense of national identity. Northern Irish poet Seamus Heaney portrays the Irish landscape as a victim and an aggressor in his poems, thus exploring the connections between history, violence and the natural environment. Conforming to ancient Irish poetic traditions, Heaney creates an unbreakable bond between women and nature, which critics have taken to be a reference…Continue Reading

Violent landscapes: poetry and identity

RUBY HARROP discusses the developments of UCL’s Fossil Free as part of a wider campaign to promote divestment from the fossil fuel industry and reinvest in renewable energy.  UCL publicly states in its ‘Green Environmental Sustainability Policy’ that it is committed to conducting itself ‘ethically and fairly, and in an environmentally sustainable manner, locally, nationally and globally.’ Simultaneously, it invests £12.1 million in the fossil fuel industry, including companies such as Shell, BP and Rio Tinto. The disparity is shockingly hypocritical. Why would an institution completely undermine its purported sustainable, ethical values in its funding from companies that danger human health and the environment? Climate change is fast escalating into a global problem that inflicts the most malicious harm on those most vulnerable. The sea level rise that results in severe flooding and storms, agriculture deterioration and damage to human health affect a disproportionate amount of the the world’s poorest populations in the Global South. I need…Continue Reading

UCL: Fossil Fools

ISY MOISY discusses whether women have a unique role to play in the battle against climate change. Is it plausible to claim that women have a more insightful understanding of environmental damage and are therefore more uniquely positioned to fight its effects? To see the effect environmental damage has, we can look to Ecofeminism, a theory that grew during the 1980s among women from the anti-nuclear, environmental, and lesbian-feminist movements. It is clear that environmentalism and feminism are both conspicuous, contemporary issues that cannot be understated, and that gender discussion should be integrated into discussions about environmental reparation. Ecofeminism sees a critical connection between the two, as both having been caused by a result of patriarchy – and wants to say more than just that women are more affected by environmental damage.  The Chipko movement in India accomplished a victory in 1980 when Indira Ghandi, the leader at the time, issued a…Continue Reading

Rethinking Ecofeminism