12 Artists On: Climate Change


A dozen artistic responses to one of the greatest threats of our time.

By Zoë Lescaze
Aug. 22, 2018
Human-induced climate change, which certain politicians deny and many of us choose to ignore, threatens the survival of every species on Earth. If emissions continue at their current rate, scientists anticipate widespread coastal land loss, agricultural and economic collapse, food and water shortages, frequent and severe natural disasters, and unprecedented refugee crises. For the third installment of our series T Agitprop, we asked 12 contemporary artists, including Alexis Rockman, Mel Chin, Erin Jane Nelson and the members of the collective Dear Climate, to contribute works, most of them new and created exclusively for T, in response to this global emergency. Here are their pieces and statements.

Xavier Cortada’s “Underwater HOA, Marker 8,” 2018, part of a site-specific, participatory art installation.
Credit Portrait by Josh Liberman. Artwork photographed by Guido H. Inguanzo, Jr., courtesy of the artist.

Xavier Cortada

Born in Albany, N.Y., in 1964.In response to South Florida’s vulnerability to rising sea levels, the village of Pinecrest, Florida will encourage its 6,000 households to install an “Underwater HOA” yard sign (similar to the 18- by 24-inch “Home for Sale” yard signs used by realtors) on their front lawns during the first week of December. I numbered each yard sign from 0 to 17 feet (the municipality’s land elevation range) to show how many feet of melted glacial water must rise before a particular property is underwater. The backdrops of the signs are watercolor paintings I made in Antarctica while a fellow with the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artist & Writers Program in 2006. These paintings were created using water from the very glaciers that threaten to melt and drown Miami.

By mapping the impending crisis, I make the invisible visible. Block by block, house by house, neighbor by neighbor, I want to make the future impact of sea level rise something impossible to ignore. By asking participants to join the newly chartered group Underwater HOA, I hope to engage my neighbors as problem solvers who will learn and work together now to better prepare themselves and their heirs for the chaos to come. Our inaugural meeting is scheduled to take place a month after the signs have come down, on January 9, 2019 at 7 p.m., at my studio in Pinecrest Gardens. We will elect officers and ratify the bylaws. One vote per household. Only individuals bringing picture IDs and proof of elevation will be allowed to vote.