In view of the advancing climate change, the exhibition Climate Capsules: Means of Surviving Disaster at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
poses the question: How do we want to live in the future? and draws attention to the socio-political consequences of coexistence under new climatic conditions. In view of the fact that the politicians are hesitant to enforce strict measures for climate protection and the citizens very sluggish about changing their habits, the change appears inevitable. The world community is accordingly confronted with the challenge of investigating various possible means of adapting to the climate change. This exhibition is the first to bring together historical and current climate-related models, concepts, strategies, experiments and utopias from the areas of design, art, architecture and urban development pursuing not the aim of stopping the climate change, but envisioning means of surviving after disaster has struck. More than thirty mobile, temporary and urban capsules intended to make human life possible independently of the surrounding climatic conditions will be on view from floating cities and body capsules to concepts for fertilizing sea water or injecting the stratosphere with sulphur. A symposium, film programme, readings, performances and workshops will revolve around the interplay between design processes and political factors such as migration, border politics and resource conflicts, and investigate the consequences for social and cultural partitioning and exclusion.
The public discussion on the climate change concentrates primarily on preventing change by reducing climate-damaging emissions. This reduction is to be achieved through new means of obtaining energy as well as the optimization of energy consumption. The consumption-oriented lifestyle of the industrial nations is also to become more environmentally friendly; the citizens are called upon to change their habits. Emerging nations are admonished to avoid the mistakes made by the West from the start. There is not the slightest guarantee, however, that enough nations and enough people around the world will participate in such reductions, and that a low-carbon culture will become the globally predominant lifestyle. Nor does anyone know for sure whether the reduction goals presently being discussed will suffice to delay or stop the climate change, which is already measurable today. In the search for alternative solutions, there is a category discussed substantially less often in public: adaptation. Here strategies are developed which aim not to slow or stop the climate change but to adapt to its expected consequences. They include protective measures against flooding and overheating as well as geo-engineering, i.e. large-scale interventions in the global climate.
These technologies are usually subjected only to critical discussion with regard to their technical feasibility. Until now, their possible socio-political effects have for the most part been ignored. Their impact on the structure of the global society, however, can hardly be overestimated: in the endeavour to make life possible independently of outward climatic conditions, these strategies encourage spatial, social and political isolation. Ostensibly motivated by climate-related considerations, they could well lead to inclusion and exclusion on all levels of life, from the interpersonal to the global. They create the conditions for social segregation and global polarization. The exhibition Climate Capsules: Means of Surviving Disaster will focus primarily on application-oriented projects for climatological capsules from the areas of design, art, architecture, urban development and geo-engineering. The show will reflect on the (political, cultural, socio-spatial) impact of these current adaptation strategies on society by means of contemporary artistic approaches and avant-garde concepts of the twentieth century. Historical projects in the context of the climate change will thus assume new meaning. The current artistic projects question the positivist perspective of their counterparts of the past, and offer the exhibition visitor a further level of sensory experience. The exhibition objects can be divided into five types: body capsules, living capsules, urban capsules, nature capsules and atmosphere capsules.
The exhibition begins with the interactive installation La Parole by Pablo Reinoso. Two visitors at a time can poke their heads into the inflatable textile construction and share the air they breathe as well as a common visual and audio space. The experience of this work raises the question as to how people can protect their bodies from contaminated air, pollutants, storms and aggressive solar radiation. Again and again in the course of the show, the visitor encounters body capsules addressing the topic of clothing as bodily protection from climatic conditions.
The objects belonging to this group extend the encapsulated space from the body encasement to the immediate living space. Utopian designs for mobile capsules of the 1960s such as the Walking City by Ron Herron (Archigram) still figured in the discussion emphasizing temporary and mobile structures as experimental free spaces after ideas introduced by such architects as Constant or Yona Friedman. Today mobility is no longer just a question of freedom the counterpart to voluntary mobility is flight, the spatial equivalent the temporary camp. The visitor thus stumbles across Michael Rokowitzs paraSITE, for example, an inflatable tent which the artist developed in collaboration with the homeless person Bill Stone. Like the other tents in the series, it is designed for use in an exhaust air shaft. It can dock onto a building as a temporary parasite. In this context of precarious modi vivendi brought about not least of all by global inequality (which is further aggravated by the climate change) and the resulting mass migration what were once visionary temporary living concepts appear in a new light. They are not spaces of liberation, but of isolation.
Cities are the largest energy consumers, and urbanization continues to increase worldwide. Zero waste, zero emission, zero energy are the creeds of the present. Already in the 1950s, Richard Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao sketched the utopia of a climatically self-sufficient reorganization of the city with their Dome over Manhattan. In this vision, a huge dome covers a large proportion of the island. Today, these encapsulations from the outside are already being realized in conjunction with the design of internal climate worlds, whether on the scale of large building complexes or energy-self-sufficient cities such as Masdar by Norman Foster. Other concepts show that, against the background of imminent climate disasters, the urban system is conceived of increasingly as an autarchic unit, sealed from the outside world, and confronted with the need for the self-contained management of its ecological resources. This debate is carried to the furthest extreme by Vincent Callebauts conception for a floating city Lilypad intended as a haven for climate refugees.
Just as the city is to be protected from the climatologically changing environment, nature is also to be elevated into a sphere of safe artificiality and preserved in nature capsules. Ecosystems are replicated by human hand on the micro level and sealed off from the outside. A concept which initially presents itself as a protective mechanism robs the flora and fauna assembled within it of their connection to the macrolevel ecosystem: Earth. The question arises: can that which is being protected inside such a capsule still be thought of as nature? Or is it a deceptively genuine human artefact? These considerations are made very vivid in Ilkka Halsos photo series Museum of Nature, consisting of digital montages which insert forests, lakes and rivers into imaginary museum buildings.
The maximum scale of adaptive design strategies is reached with geo-engineering. With chemical or physical interventions, attempts are made to control climatological, geochemical and biochemical systems actively on the global level, and thus to moderate the climate. The historical forerunners of this development are psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reichs para-scientific Cloudbusters and the U.S. Armys Project Cirrus, both of which sought to influence the weather technically by different means. Today, various well-known scientists and research institutes are working on large-scale interventions aiming to protect the global climate from negative influences. Utopian proposals are juxtaposed with feasible projects such as endeavours to reduce global warming through the use of reflective white paint on roofs and streets. To date it is impossible to calculate the consequences of such far-reaching interventions, and they are nowhere near realization. Yet the fact that they are discussed seriously indicates how close climatological developments have already come to the point where emission-reduction strategies become obsolete.
Participating artists, designers and architects: Anderson Anderson Architecture (US), Ant Farm (US), Archigram (GB), Richard Buckminster Fuller (US), Vincent Callebaut (B), Juan Downey (US), David Greene (GB), Tue Greenfort (DK), Ilkka Halso (FI), Haus-Rucker-Co (AT), Ron Herron (GB), Kouji Hikawa (JP), Christoph Keller (D), MAD Architects (VRC), Lawrence Malstaf (B), Gordon Matta-Clark (US), Gustav Metzger (D), N55 (DK), Lucy Orta (GB), Michael Rakowitz (US), Pablo Reinoso (ARG/F), Shoji Sadao (US), Tomás Saraceno (Planet Erde), Noah Sheldon (US), Robert Smithson (US), Werner Sobek (D), Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag (D), Matti Suuronen (FI), Ingo Vetter (D).