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Portrait Of Climate Change: Flooding

Above image is printed onto Sintra and then mounted into a free-standing display (42″W x 72″H) of silver metal uprights. Learn about my fantastic printer/fabricator, GSB Digital, at the bottom of this page!
Peter H Van Demark is the initiator of the “Artists for the Great Marsh” (just north of Cape Ann, MA); an art-sci public awareness project. They just launched an “audio trail” with an original music score of string instruments.

Portrait of Climate Change: Flooding is a working prototype of an art-sci public engagement strategy. Its purpose is to test my hunch that interactive conversation starters offer non-intimidating and intriguing ways to get people talking about and taking action on climate change. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication’s annual polls document this need. And psychologists tell us people must talk about difficult issues before they will take action. That is why creative engagement strategies are so critical today! They’re designed to pique human imagination, curiosity, and involvement.

A visitor to Sawyer Free Library in Gloucester, MA, who attended my event, uses the QR-Code Reader on her Smartphone just as my public engagement strategy intended, to dive beneath the surface for learning about the four types of floods in our country.

When you build physical participation into a design, the experience presented gets reinforced in our brains. In addition to sparking a conversation, the embedded QR-Codes invite visitors to use their smartphones for on-the-spot discovery. And, by selecting a “climate slogan” (via a quick Internet search, or by composing their own), visitors personalize their experience. Hopefully, they will share a selfie of themselves in front of Portrait of Climate Change holding their chosen “climate slogan.” For many people, this might be their first climate action-step, which can be very empowering!

Presenting a new perspective on an issue is what artists do naturally. Since the goal of most contemporary portraiture is to “capture the essence” of a person, I decided a digital portrait was a fitting conceptual framework for capturing just one of climate change’s many faces!

As I learned about flooding from reading online news articles, its complexity revealed itself — there are actually four types of flooding: coastal storm surges (exacerbated by sea-level rise), river/stream over-flowing (from extended/slow-moving storms), “flash” flooding from sudden intense rains, and “sunny day/King” tidal floods (no rains required!). Therefore, one image could not capture its essence.

I consider this working prototype as a “proof-of-concept” — an experimental learning process to determine its “effectiveness” in various locations with different demographics. It therefore had to be lightweight, portable, and able to be quickly assembled. This reminded me of the itinerant photographers in the U.S. (1880s-1930s) who set-up in their subject’s homes using painted canvas backdrops to create a mood and to avoid visual distractions — much like the optional digital backgrounds available for today’s Zoom meetings!

1) Michael Dwyer/AP Photo
2) (no credit given) from KETV video footage
3) Mark Steil/MPR News
4) Scott Olson/Getty Images
5) Jeff Bundy/Omaha World-Herald, via Associated Press
6) (no credit given)
7) Mark Moran/NOAA
8) no credit given/ (U.S. government website)
9) Lynne Sladky/AP Photo
10) Andrew Krueger | MPR News
11) Rosanna Arias/FEMA
12) David J. Phillip /Associated Press
13) David J. Phillip /AP News
14) Christine Burns /N.C. King Tides Project UNC-IMS
15) Barbara Gauntt/Clarion Ledger
16) unidentified Nebraska State Patrol officer
17) Scott Olson/Getty Images
18) Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News
19) Ryan Soderlin/Omaha World-Herald via AP
20) Mimadeo /Getty Images & iStockphoto