The Paris climate summit isn't just wonky haggling—it's also a multimedia pageant. Artists from every continent are responding to the urgency of this year's talks with a curious variety of projects: a giant whale beside the Seine, say, or massive chunks of ice at la Place du Panthéon.
Meanwhile, with marches banned, protestors had to get creative. The results—from artists, activists, and people who wear both hats—have transformed Paris. Below, you'll find just a few of the pieces that caught our eye.
On Sunday, artist John Quigley and photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand staged a living art installation on la Place Joffre. Well over 100 activists gathered to create a giant, technicolor peace sign. The ground was their canvas; their bodies, the paint:
At la Place du Panthéon, Olafur Eliasson, an Icelandic-Danish multimedia artist, created an installation of actual ice that had broken from the Greenland sheet:
American artist Shepard Fairey suspended this (rather trippy) "Earth Crisis" globe from the Eiffel Tower:
At the Bourget conference center, France's Minister of Ecology Ségolène Royal and street-artist Gad Weil oversaw a project they call "Une Arche de Noé pour le climat" ("Noah's Arc for the climate"), a collection of 140 giant animals in acrylic glass. Lucite depolymerizes with ease, and the installation is built to be disposable—a tribute to recycling, and a quiet reminder that climate change threatens many of these animals with extinction.
Elephants, tortoises, boars, crocodiles, pumas, whales, and camels line the avenues of the Blue Zone in Bourget, and even make their way inside the pavilion halls:
Patti Smith and her daughter Jesse Paris Smith joined Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Canadian singer Rebecca Foon to perform at 350.0rg's "Pathway to Paris" concert last week:
Indigenous activists from South America took to the Seine on Sunday, paddling colorful kayaks in solidarity with aboriginal peoples around the globe, whose lives and cultures are under imminent threat from extreme weather. The banner on the left reads "INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DEFENDING MOTHER EARTH":
There's also a lot of art that takes place on screens, or on virtual-reality machines. The Natural Resources Defense Council's Tumblr page is currently devoted to "Storytelling for Global Action," with illustrations by Perrin Ireland and words by Brian Palmer. Ireland and Palmer have gathered voices from around the world: Take Mundiya Kepanga, of the Huli tribe in Papua New Guinea, who has become something of an informal climate ambassador—"an international celebrity ... a commentator, a curiosity, and sometimes a comedian," Palmer writes.
“I am here as a bridge between your world and mine,” Kepanga said in Paris. Here is his testimony:
Virtual reality has been a popular medium at COP21. You can find plenty of VR in the Blue Zone, whether you're cruising the Colorado River in the United States pavilion or hovering 40 feet above the Sahel at the Great Green Wall virtual technology booth (click the buttons on the top left to get a 360-degree view):
Below, at the Grand Palais off the Champs-Élysées, visitors at "Solutions COP21" don headsets and travel through various ecosystems around the globe:
Just this morning, Greenpeace International brought Aurora the Polar Bear to visit with reporters in the Blue Zone. Aurora has many friends already, including Emma Thompson, who marched with Aurora outside the British headquarters of Shell this September. The bear's chin is adorned with prayers and "wishes" from around the world—one today reads, "I wish for the Arctic and all its beauty not to die."
Here's Aurora earlier this year in London. It takes over 30 people to operate him:
And, in case you missed them, here are activists from Green Korea United:
...and Avaaz's installation of 20,000 shoes at la Place de la République last Sunday:
What did we leave out? Send your favorite pieces of COP21 art to Ted Scheinman via Twitter.
"Catastrophic Consequences of Climate Change" is Pacific Standard's year-long investigation into the devastating effects of climate change—and how scholars, legislators, and citizen-activists can help stave off its most dire consequences.