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CONSERVATION through art The power of creativity to raise awarenessAuthor: Bruce Coetzee One of the defining features of art in the 21st century is its ability to transcend traditional boundaries and create a sense of interconnectedness among diverse audiences. In addition, many contemporary artists are using their work to address urgent social and environmental issues. Climate change, in particular, has become a central theme for many artists as they seek to raise awareness about the urgent need for action to address this global crisis. Through their work, these artists are documenting the effects of climate change and calling for greater action to mitigate its impact. The definition of what we perceive as art has changed significantly over the last few centuries. Some argue that the imperative emotional response to work done by artists in the 21st century has assisted in hastening human interests centred around social and cultural issues, but more so, the dire state of our natural world.
Unsurprisingly, art has become a means to not only transgress language barriers but has proven to speak, amidst all our confusion, directly at the human soul. A host of works created by progressive and deeply talented artists has helped build a tangible reality for many that have claimed ignorance, and those who chose to remain silent, about the damage our species has wrought on a planet home to myriads of complex plant and animal species. Engaging the attention of an audience, who have become accustomed to a multitude of varied media distractions, is a task which hinders transcription, other than the antidote many parents now face when attempting to gain the attention of a teenager whilst they have a phone and a Wi-Fi connection. An idea or message that can be filtered through the mechanisms of an art piece and emotionally cause an effect on another human with purpose goes far beyond the ability of science to explain. There are a select few who, as artists, re-write the dialogue of art and viewer to voice the urgency of conservation and, in some cases, bolster the struggle our planet faces under the weight of population increase and climate change specifically. Agnes Denes is undoubtedly one of our century's most recognised environmental art activists. Her work encompasses the detail of a powerful message whilst providing a stark contrast, in many cases, of the paradox between nature and the opposition brought about by humanity's hand of influence. She is most well known for her dramatic exhibition pieces. However, her progressive work, like that of Wheatfield - A Confrontation, first initialised in 1982, truly speaks of her commitment towards repairing the damage we have wrought on nature. Where many artists aim for the solidarity of a final piece, Dene’s work process, which in every sense captures the significance of her profound message, inflates the resounding and sometimes bitter truths that accurately describe our world's general state. Denes also captures the natural and social balance in her works by incorporating the elements of time and change as a tool, which aims to keep a sense of relevance to her work. Olafur Eliasson is a resounding conceptual artist. His efforts, transcribed through his work, aim to expand the human narrative and diminish the selective views we project onto essential issues facing the natural world and humankind. His work is sometimes considered raw and unwavering, regardless of how brutal the message may be. However, in some of his more advantageous installations, like Ice Watch, we find once again the hand of the natural world slowly melting the 14 blocks of glacial ice that Eliasson and geologists transported to the Paris Climate Change Conference. Many choices will soon be cast before our species, and the most life-altering will result from our own doing. The one planet capable of supporting human life is fast receding under the weight humanity bears upon the natural resources and systems nature freely provides. Words have little effect, as information saturates our lives in every way, yet we still ignore the warnings. Artists share the responsibility we all carry as custodians of planet Earth. However short-lived, we have been tasked to ensure not only the survival of life but also a sustainable future to pass on to the next generation. By challenging conventional notions of art and engaging with pressing environmental issues, artists are helping to create a more just and sustainable future for us all. "Where music is the language of life, art must then surely be the breath of it." Anonymous.