USHUAIA, Argentina (Reuters) - A giant metal sunflower stands atop a wind-swept hill in the world’s southernmost city, an artistic statement gauging and protesting climate change near the ends of the Earth.
As icebergs melt and sea levels rise at the north and south poles due to global warming, dozens of artists are installing and performing works in this small Argentine city on the island of Tierra del Fuego to highlight the damage being done.
“Sunflower: Sentinel for Climate Change” is just one of the pieces on display here this month at the so-called End of the World Biennial. But with its solar-paneled petals, thermometers and cameras, it is probably the most functional.
“I think all of us should do something” about global warming, said Argentine artist Joaquin Fargas. “The idea of Sunflower is that it becomes an icon, an emblem of the need for all of us to be witnesses to what is happening.”
In one corner of the main exhibition center, a Canadian group installed a mess of melted ice cream cones, while elsewhere a Paraguayan woman built a crooked stream out of filled drinking glasses.
An Argentine woman ran a video, accompanied by the sounds of fierce winds, of a piece called “Methane” performed on the frozen continent of Antarctica. Two people wrap themselves in long blue and red banners, which represent toxic gases.
The month-long art show is meant to complement the International Polar Year, a research drive launched in March by more than 60 countries to study the effect of climate change on animals, people and the polar environment.
“Ecological emergencies have a great deal to do with the relationship between the poles and the concept of the end of the world,” said Corinne Sacca Abadi, one of the show’s curators.
Another Argentine artist, Daniel Trama, set up a series of portable heaters, glowing bright-orange and melting nearby blue blocks of wax. He “drew” pictures of icebergs on the wall with blue cables, and ran them down toward the hot pools forming on the floor.
“This is something beautiful which aims to seduce but also act as a warning because the landscape is generated by a source of energy that we humans created, but which destroys its surroundings,” he said.
Scientists say global warming is stoked by human use of fossil fuels, such as crude oil.
Although Argentina and Brazil are the event’s main organizers, funding also came from Canada, which is a home to Arctic regions and the largest participant in Polar Year studies.
On the fringes of the contemporary-art show was a small exhibit called “Sacred: the two ends of the world.”
It compares the amulets used by the Inuit in the Arctic to tap spiritual powers with the mystical body painting of the Selknam culture in Tierra del Fuego, more than 1,850 miles
south of Buenos Aires.
The Inuit artifacts, dating back as far as 800 years, were on loan from the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
David Morrison, the museum’s director of archeology and history, said the Polar Year was a strictly scientific enterprise in his home country but that art should also play a role.
“To look at it through the lens of art is I think a very good idea that broadens the whole thing and makes it more accessible to the general public, makes it something that’s easier to communicate,” Morrison said.