Art of Change 21 Interview

Interview: Art of Change 21 at COP28

Stefano Vendramin
Stefano Vendramin, Director of Programmes, Art of Change 21.

1. Tell us about Art of Change 21 and the vision that led to this organization’s establishment

In the face of the accelerating climate emergency, Art of Change 21 is a UN Observer NGO that believes in the power of artists and creativity in enabling the environmental transition. It was founded by current chair and president Alice Audouin, a specialist in both contemporary art and sustainable development, in 2014, just ahead of COP21, under the patronage of the artist Olafur Eliasson.

Our principal missions are: to support and promote the work of environmentally-engaged artists; to catalyse change through exhibitions at major environmental events such as COP; to mobilise the general public through art and creativity; and to reduce the environmental impact of the arts sector.

Al Serkal Art Of Change Opening Photo
Al Serkal Art Of Change Opening Photo.

In order to achieve these ambitions, Art of Change 21 engages in various modes of actions, including exhibitions, art prizes, panel discussions, artist-led campaigns, events during COP, and “Impact Art News”, our online publication in English & French dedicated to news and exhibitions linking art and environment. These actions have been led in collaboration with numerous major environmentally-focused artists, including Tomás Saraceno, Mark Dion, Julian Charrière, Minerva Cuevas, Romuald Hazoumé, and Janet Laurence. 

2.  Tell us about the organizations that support your activities

Our historical partners are the French Ministry of Culture, ADEME (French Environmental Agency), Maison Ruinart, Maison Guerlain, Schneider Electric Foundation, and the Norsys Foundation. For our actions at COP28, we were supported by R3 Group, Ruinart, and the Fondation LAccolade.

3.  Tell us about the Caire Game initiative

One of Art of Change 21’s first actions, at COP21 in 2015, was a co-creation event called the “Conclave,” which brought together artists, social entrepreneurs, and environmental leaders from across the world to come up with new ideas for how to mobilise the public for the environment. Two solutions that came out were «Maskbook» and «Caire Game».

Caire Game is an online tool that informs and provides easy, everyday solutions to help with climate change, adapted to each individual’s lifestyle. One of the weakest links in the fight against climate change is informing people what they can do in an everyday scenario to reduce their consumption and carbon emissions. For all the CO2 emissions that you save, you win “points,” which are in turn used to finance fuel poverty programs in France and Europe.

Artist Yann Toma came up with the name “Caire,” which is the combination of “care” and “air.” The premise was that if everyone takes care of the air we breathe, this benefit will be bequeathed to future generations. 

It has also been presented at major environmental events in the form of a "Caire Game Wheel” to raise awareness and engage the public. These include COP21, COP22, and the International Forum of Weather and Climate in Paris in 2016. It is now discontinued, but given how effective it was, we would love to make a new version, if we find funding for it.

4.   How long have you been exhibiting at COP

Art of Change 21 has played a key role at each annual COP climate conference since COP21, alongside some of the world’s leading environmentally engaged contemporary artists, such as John Gerrard, Hassan Hajjaj, Wen Fang, Lucy Orta, and Jérémy Gobé. 

For example, at COP26 in Glasgow, UK (2021), Art of Change 21 inaugurated John Gerrard’s monumental video artwork “Flare (Oceania)” in front of the University of Glasgow, a powerful image showing the dangers of fossil fuels and the importance of intra-country collaboration to resolve our climate crisis. 

For COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, Art of Change 21 organised BALAD_E, a far-reaching cultural event that invited the public to workshops, round-table discussions, exhibitions, artistic performances, and gatherings around art, innovation, and sustainable development in different emblematic locations in Marrakesh, from the Riad Yima, home to the renowned Moroccan “upcycling” artist Hassan Hajjaj, to the UNFCCC Green Zone or city hotspot Cafe Clock.

Maskbook - Save the World.
Maskbook - Save the World.

Maskbook, both an international, collective work of art and an environmental citizen action campaign - has been held at every COP since COP21, with over 8,000 participants from over 30 countries. At COP27 in Egypt, workshops held in 4 different cities around the country culminated in an exhibition of the strongest masks and messages at the heart of the COP27 Green Zone. 

5.  Tell us about your COP28 programming

For our “ART AT COP28” Programme, Art of Change 21 is collaborating with the internationally-renowned artist Julian Charrière and Alserkal Initiatives to open the climate-oriented exhibition “Melting Point” in Alserkal Avenue’s Project Space.

Melting Point - COP28
Melting Point - COP28.

The show brings to light rarely-seen perspectives of our planet’s Polar regions. Centred around three large video works, Julian Charrière has transformed the site into an immersive experience depicting the glacial realm, providing a first-hand account of the consequences of climate change on these distant but significant landscapes, whose ever-accelerating melting risks becoming an important tipping point that could derail the remaining global climate equilibrium.

Secondly, we held a roundtable discussion at the COP28 France Pavilion, entitled “The Power of Art to Respond to the Climate Crisis,” in collaboration with France Muséums, which invited voices from the art and culture community locally and internationally to be heard at the heart of COP, including Talin Hazbar (Artist based in the UAE), Vilma Jurkute (Executive Director, Alserkal Initiatives) and Alison Tickell (Julie’s Bicycle Founder-CEO and member of the Climate Heritage Network).

Art of Change 21 Chair and Founder Alice Audouin is also speaking at the Louvre Abu Dhabi during their event on “Sustainability in Museums.”

Finally, Art of Change 21 is a founding member of the Climate Heritage Network-led “Global Call to Action to Put Cultural Heritage, Arts. and Creative Sectors at the Heart of Climate Action”, signed by thousands of cultural institutions and individuals and which aims to be signed by as many countries as possible during COP28.

6.  Anything else you would like to add

To use the words of our founder Alice Audouin, we must not forget that the ecological transition is above all a cultural transition.

7.  How can artists get involved with Art of Change 21?

At the start of 2024, we will be launching the second edition of our Eco-design Art Prize, in collaboration with the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

This annual art award brings together for the first time both artists and experts in “eco-design” to accelerate and promote the culture and practice of environmentally sustainable production in artistic creation and help artists to reduce the environmental impact. Despite growing demand from artists, a lack of knowledge, resources, and clear methodologies remains a large barrier to greater adoption, which we are trying to resolve.

Julian Charrière, Towards No Earthly Pole
Julian Charrière, Towards No Earthly Pole, 2019 Copyright the artist; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany

Last year, 12 laureates were chosen by a prestigious jury, including artist Julian Charrière, Palais de Tokyo President Guillaume Desanges, and Director of l’Ecole des arts décoratifs de Paris, Emmanuel Tibloux, and each finalist was invited to take part in three intensive workshop days run by recognized eco-design experts from the art sector. Two finalists also benefited from a full life-cycle analysis of their practice.

For now, the Prize is only open to French or France-based artists, but the objective is to enable a global dynamic around this subject through further, more wide-reaching editions, as well as online resources. This prize is just the first step in a wider ambition to equip artists with an “ecological” mindset that will enable them to adapt and anticipate the major changes to come.

We will also soon be launching a membership program for artists to become part of the Art of Change 21 community. Stay tuned via our newsletter or Instagram.

10.  What is your contact information
Stefano Vendramin, Director of Programmes Art of Change 21.

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