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Review: LOOK Climate Lab 2024 at Open Eye Gallery

The biennial climate labs are back at Open Eye, and we’re in the final month.

When climate labs started, it was a programme focused on something that the art world cared about, but wasn’t doing much for. Now, every cultural organisation in the country is writing climate pledges, and working out how to be lighter on the earth without costing it.

Two days before the launch event, SHIFT, a sustainability-focused network of local galleries, theatres and producers met at Open Eye to coordinate their plans and make sure everyone was moving in the right direction together. It serves as a reminder that Climate Lab was, and is, pushing for change before many of the rest of us.

Slowly, the art world is changing for the better.

The exhibition that the labs are centred in is a celebration of some of the most inspiring work from universities, research institutes, and community groups around the North of England. Meaning that as well as being visually lovely, there are examples of best practice for us all to learn from.

And those lessons aren’t restricted to galleries. The outer walls of Open Eye are plastered with community projects from every corner of the UK, sharing stories of sustainable fisheries, climate-friendly garden initiatives, and community food schemes.

So regardless of who you are, who you work for, what you eat, or where you live, there are active lessons to pull from the work in and around the gallery.

But it doesn’t stop at example setting. Climate Lab is a biennial programme of labs, conversation, public learning, and listening. So there is an entire programme running until 31st March, packed with events to inspire change.

For example, on 7th March, John Davies, whose images of the contrail cirrus clouds, left in the wake of aeroplanes grace the wall opposite the entrance to the exhibition, will share a stage with Geoff Maynard, chairman of the Royal Aeronautical Society’s sustainability think tank, and Andy Morse, Professor of Climate Impacts at University of Liverpool.

The event exemplifies the trust we should give to the experts, but also their trust in the art world to demonstrate their proposals.

Similarly, Stephnie Wynne’s ongoing ‘Erosion’ project looks at WW2 structural waste in the familiar form of sea-beaten bricks and buildings scattered across the Crosby coastline. Her images are striking by themselves, creating curated photographs that represent not just the loss of life from the time the buildings were lost, but the recovery of a city from this level of catastrophic destruction.

João Medeiros, an expert researcher in bacterial self-healing, low-carbon concretes from University of Liverpool, joins the artist for a panel discussion looking at how we can avoid this level of waste in the future. And environmental geochemist, Kate Spencer, will talk about what is being done now to preserve and manage the Mersey, and similar estuaries.

Interdisciplinary art and science events run through LOOK Climate Lab 2024, culminating in a one-day visiting exhibition by the Tree Council, engaging visitors with tangible, tactile and audible interactions with nature.

The exhibition, which has travelled to Hampton Court Palace and 10 Downing Street before coming to Open Eye, gives its audience the chance to compose music by touching trees, emphasizing how we, as individuals, influence nature directly and independently.

Because Climate Lab has been around for so long, it presents that with some authority. We have singular responsibilities to nature. We can’t rely on collective action alone.

If you want to learn more about how you, personally, can make a difference, while being inspired by how others are doing it on a larger scale, you really shouldn’t miss this.

LOOK Climate Lab 2024 is open until 31st March at Open Eye Gallery

See the full programme at www.openeye.org.uk

Words, Kathryn Wainwright

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