Saving the planet

Art is an ideal way to communicate climate imperatives in digestible chunks, Pam McKinlay says. Bruce Munro talks to the Dunedin artist and curator ahead of the family-focused art expo “Oku Moana”. 

Pam McKinlay is saving the planet, not one, but a dozen interactive art works at a time.

But not at this moment. Right now, she is parked on the side of the road waiting for the Automobile Association technician.

As important as climate change is, McKinlay says people are a bit tired of it and want it to go away.

“It’s not going to go away. So, we want to celebrate what we’ve got and we want to look at simple things people can do to make a difference.

“We’ve got some solutions we want to put on the table. And, actually, we can do that through art – not everything is done through science.”

Works in the exhibition include prints, fabric textiles, sculptures, ceramics, film and soundscapes. They will be interpreted and engaged-with through performance, song, workshops, storytelling and art-based activities.

A paua shell from the Shell Exchange installation referencing ocean acidification.

A paua shell from the Shell Exchange installation referencing ocean acidification.

Or, for instance, ocean acidification.

“All the carbon dioxide we are putting in the air … is increasing the acidity of the ocean, too.

“That has lots of effects. All the organisms in the ocean that have shells – that use bicarbonate chemistry to create shells – they either find it harder to make shells, so you end up with smaller shellfish, or the shells dissolve and they die.

“It’s also affecting fish. It’s affecting their brain chemistry. And that goes right up through the food chain.

“But what we should be most concerned about is that it’s affecting phytoplankton, the most minute parts of the ocean, which make half the earth’s oxygen.”

A variety of “Oku Moana” installations speak to ocean acidification.

For instance, Jane Venis’ Ka Taki o te Moana soundscape presents the sounds of threatened sea creatures. McKinlay and Pickery’s beach stone, flotsam and ceramic shell installation, The Shell Exchange, references the Pacific use of shells as currency and the threat of pollution to kai moana.

And science communicator Caroline Beamish has created a work comprised of three large, illuminated glass jars filled with shells and sea water at present and projected acidity levels.

“It’s quite a beautiful visualisation of what happens to shells in an acidic environment,” McKinlay says.

Working in tandem with these art works will be a performance that opens and closes the exhibition – a scientist and the voice of “Oku Moana” conversing about the fate of marine creatures.

See it

• “Oku Moana” opens at 10am on Monday, July 9, and runs until 8pm, Friday, July 13, at Community Gallery, 20 Princess St, Dunedin. All ages. Admission free.

Bruce Munro, Otago Daily Times, 2 July 2018. Full article.


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