Climate culture: Cop26 round-up - Museums Association

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Climate culture: Cop26 round-up

See the human face of the climate emergency with our selection of environmental events and installations
Museums for Climate Justice
Eleanor Mills and Francesca Collins
Visitors can explore the hidden life of a forest in this interactive installation at the Design Museum
Visitors can explore the hidden life of a forest in this interactive installation at the Design Museum Photo by Felix Speller, courtesy of the Design Museum

As the world's eyes move to Glasgow for the launch of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop26) on Sunday 31 October, we've taken a look at some of the concurrent culture, arts and heritage programmes, events and installations which show the human face of the climate emergency.

On the Front Line: Arctic Museums and Climate Change, virtual symposium, 3.00pm to 5.00pm, 2 November
Arctic museums and the communities they serve are being immediately affected by the climate crisis © Manuel Ernst, NASA

Hosted by the National Nordic Museum in Seattle, in partnership with the American Alliance of Museums, the National Museum Directors' Council, and the International Council of Museums, this virtual event will convene speakers from museums located in or representing the Arctic to address climate change and the imminent threat it poses to the indigenous communities they serve.

There will be sessions on the impact of climate change on indigenous communities and the collections and programmes that explore indigenous ways of life, with panellists from museums in Canada, Finland, Greenland, Norway, Sápmi (Lapland), Sweden, the UK, and the US. There will also be a keynote from Jago Cooper, the head of the Americas section at the British Museum, and Amber Lincoln, who recently organised the exhibition Arctic Culture and Climate, with moderation from Chris Breward, the director of the National Museum of Scotland. The event is free to attend, so register now.

Extinction Bell and Scotland's Climate Challenge, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
Curator Meredith Greiling with the Extinction Bell at the National Museum of Scotland Neil Hanna Photography

Two new displays themed around the climate crisis have opened at National Museum of Scotland. The Extinction Bell has been created by artist Luke Jerram using a 19th-century fire engine bell from the museum's collection, which Jerram has had adapted to toll randomly 150-200 times a day. Each toll represents the estimated rate of species lost to extinction. The intervention will be on display until 9 January 2022.


Scotland's Climate Challenge explores Scottish innovations that aim to reduce the impact of climate change. Leading-edge equipment, much of it newly collected, is on display alongside samples of natural material. The show also profiles some of those working in associated industries, such as Faisal Ghani, whose invention the SolarisKit has won awards for its contribution to lowering carbon emissions and addressing fuel poverty in the developing world.

Amazônia, Science Museum, London
Chaman Yanomami by Sebastião Salgado Courtesy Science Museum Group

On until 22 March 2022, this Science Museum exhibition of the work of world-renowned Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado documents the social and environmental issues facing our planet. Salgado’s work explores the dialogue between nature and humanity, and for this project he worked in the Amazon rainforest for six years with 12 different indigenous communities. The exhibition captures the Amazon's unique environments and cultures in over 200 black and white photos.

Our Future Planet, Science Museum, London
Our Future Planet exhibition view © Science Museum Group

Our Future Planet (until September 2022) reveals the latest scientific and technological innovation in carbon capture and storage, from conserving ancient woodlands to installing processes that prevent carbon dioxide leaving power stations and factories. The exhibition explores how we can reduce atmospheric carbon and how this carbon can be held in mass storage or used to create everyday products like building materials, toothpaste or vodka.


There has been consternation in the sector that the exhibition is sponsored by Shell. The Science Museum also has BP on its sponsor list and has just gained sponsorship from coal giant Adani.

After Cop26, What Next? Virtual event, 7.30pm to 9.00pm, 2 December

The Science Museum Group's last event in its Climate Talks series, this talk sees a panel of climate scientists, policymakers and activists come together to review the successes and shortcomings of Cop26. The panel includes the research director of the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, Radhika Khosla, founder of People, Planet Africa, Wanjuhi Njoroge, and is chaired by presenter of The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4, Ritula Shah.

Power to Change weekend, Tate Modern, London, 29 to 31 October
'You Vote' light projection, Detroit Institute of Arts (c) Jenny Holzer
Jenny Holzer's 'You Vote' light projection, Detroit Institute of Arts © Jenny Holzer

To coincide with the launch of Cop26, Tate Modern is staging Power to Change, a weekend of free events, installations and workshops to empower the public to take positive action in response to the climate emergency. The weekend will feature a large outdoor artwork by US artist Jenny Holzer, alongside activities for all ages and a dedicated Tate Late. Inside the galleries visitors will be able to get involved in hands-on workshops, meet climate experts, listen to short talks and attend free film screenings.


Holzer's public light projection will illuminate Tate Modern's chimneys from 5.30pm to 10.00pm each evening with a collection of testimonies from activists, leaders and others addressing the climate crisis. The work is presented in collaboration with Art For Your World, a movement by WWF to engage the art world in the fight against climate change.

Where do we go from now?, CIRCA, Piccadilly Circus, London
Ai Weiwei installation in Piccadilly Circus
Image courtesy of CIRCA

In advance of the conference, CIRCA is dedicating its art and culture platform to a month-long public investigation of the question ‘Where do we go from now?’, featuring responses from artists, activists and thinkers including Ai Weiwei and Marina Abramović among others. Every member of the public who answers the question will have the opportunity to both see their response appear at Piccadilly Circus and win a signed print by Ai Weiwei.

The installation aims to connect public art with public debate, moving the CIRCA public art programme into its next phase, a year on from its launch in October 2020.

indestructible language by Mary Ellen Carroll, Glasgow
Rendering of indestructible language by Mary Ellen Carroll
Rendering of the installation indestructible language at The Schoolhouse, Glasgow Mary Ellen Carroll/MEC studios

indestructible language, a large neon artwork by Mary Ellen Carroll, will launch at 7.00pm on Saturday 30 October, the eve of Cop26. Situated on the roof of The Schoolhouse, a Victorian building in the centre of Glasgow, the display will be visible from both Cop26 and the M8, the busiest motorway in Scotland. The work will be on show from 30 October 2021 to 31 January 2022.

The eight-foot high illuminated characters are made of lead-free glass and powered by 100% renewable energy, spelling out the phrase 'It is green thinks nature even in the dark'. The installation uses language to spotlight the myriad meanings and challenges of the climate emergency, asking viewers to reflect on its many readings alongside their own actions around climate change.

Waste Age: What Can Design Do?, Design Museum, London
Design Museum display in Waste Age
Photo by Felix Speller, courtesy of the Design Museum

From 23 October 2021 to 20 February 2022, the Design Museum is hosting an exhibition showing how design can tackle the critical problem of waste and its environmental consequences across the globe.

The museum invites visitors to explore how designers including Formafantasma and Stella McCartney are redefining fashion, construction, food, electronics, packaging and more by designing out waste and creating a more circular economy. Visitors travel through the exhibition as it confronts the state of our consumption habits and waste production today, and then proposes solutions and new, experimental ideas for change. The exhibition concludes with an interactive installation by Sony Design Centre Europe, which connects visitors with the hidden life of a forest in a responsive audiovisual experience.

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