There’s no credit for this image on the Facebook page so I’ve clipped the whole post and added a link. I find this profoundly moving, skilful, and so simply, alarmingly, graphically on point. Science fiction has produced numerous stories of the environmental apocalypse of our own making [unfortunately I can’t put my finger on one for now] but this sculpture is the best illustration I’ve seen.
I like art to have meaning, which is not to say I need it always to make political points or to be in-your-face emotional wrecking balls, just to say something that prompts a bit of thought, that doesn’t give all the answers right off the bat and requires a bit of consideration. Admittedly, I’m struggling as I write for examples that aren’t outright shockers and that’s partly because those are the ones that hit the headlines – the Banksys for instance that poke us in the eye about social injustice (Dismaland* anyone?) – but it’s also about my lack of depth in this new body of water I’ve chosen to immerse myself in. I’m paddling; things are nipping about around my ankles just out of reach but as yet I’m not even snorkelling never mind free-diving untethered down to any of the really deep deeps.
Which brings us back to this sculpture: without oxygen, we die and without awareness we wither everything that gives us the molecular, the intellectual, and the emotional oxygens we need to survive. I believe that art has a distinct role in raising awareness while acknowledging that, just as in films, TV, books and magazines, there’s room for light and delicacy, decoration, aesthetics, fun. After all, if those weren’t there, saving ourselves might not feel too attractive. Remember the jokes about giving up smoking, how you’d live ten years longer but it would feel like twenty? Everyone needs a bit of joy in their life, but we can’t have that without breathing.