WHO and Land Body Ecologies partner at COP27, using art to highlight climate change risks to human health
Press release 6 November 2022
As part of Land Body Ecologies, a research group that explores the connections between environmental change and mental health, arts studio Invisible Flock designs and curates COP27’s Health Pavilion
Invisible Flock has designed and curated the Health Pavilion at the COP27 UN Climate Conference, taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, from 6–18 November 2022. The space, hosted by the World Health Organization in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust, will convene the global health community and its partners to ensure health and equity are placed at the centre of the climate negotiations.
Taking centre stage is Bodies Joined by a Molecule of Air (2022), a new sculpture created by Invisible Flock and Jon Bausor that will be unveiled during an official ceremony. The picturesque 6.5 metre-long piece alludes to human lungs whilst taking the shape of trees colliding, drawing attention to the connection between human health and planetary health.
“We chose to explore the shape of fractals as these biological patterns, found in human lungs, are mirrored in various scales in the bodies of plants, trees and so many of our more-than-human relatives. The fractals show us how the land and the body are one,” says Victoria Pratt, Invisible Flock Creative Director.
Invisible Flock is the co-founder of Land Body Ecologies, a transdisciplinary research group working at the intersection of mental health and ecosystem health. The group’s research is rooted within marginalised, land-dependent communities who are at the forefront of the environmental crisis, but often ignored in spaces where negotiations are held and decisions are made regarding policies that affect them acutely. By including creative practices in its approach, the group believes it can help widen the space at COP 27 to more meaningfully include the lived experiences of marginalised communities experiencing climate change impacts.
“The Health Pavilion is a reminder of how our health is impacted by climate change and environmental factors. As we strive to ensure health and equity are in the focus of discussions at COP27, bringing art into our space can propose new, unexpected ways into themes that are so important and so urgent, which could benefit from the sensitivity that art has to offer,” says Dr. Maria Neira, Director for Environment, Climate Change and Health, World Health Organization.
According to WHO, climate change is the single greatest threat to humanity and its effects on human health are already being felt. For instance, over 90% of people breathe air that exceeds WHO air quality limits and threatens their health, which causes 7 million premature deaths every year. Extreme weather events, land degradation and water scarcity are displacing people and affecting their health. The artworks presented at the Health Pavilion offer a different way into witnessing these experiences of health impact.
In addition to the creation of Bodies Joined by a Molecule of Air (2022), Invisible Flock has curated a wider series of artworks on display at the Health Pavilion, which attendants can see throughout the two-week programme. This includes the following pieces:
Bivdit luosa máhccat // Asking the salmon to return (2022), a 5-minute video by Jenni Laiti that raises awareness to the cultural and ecological importance of the Atlantic salmon to the Sámi people, in light of the species' detrimental decline due to the impacts of climate change across the Arctic. The word ‘bivdit’ in Sámi language means to catch something, but also to ask for or request something from someone, alluding to the Sámi approach of ‘asking for permission’ as opposed to extractive approaches to the environment. Laiti is an Indigenous rights activist, a climate justice advocate, and a Duojár (Master of Traditional Sámi Crafts).
Death by Pollution (2021), by black & brown films, is a 9-minute video about Ella Roberta Adoo Kissi-Debrah, a 9-year-old girl who lived in London and was the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as the cause of death, in 2013. During her life, nitrogen dioxide emissions where Ella lived, exceeded both EU and national legal limits. Her mother, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, now fights to make clean air a human right. Directed by Usayd Younis and Cassie Quarless, this story shows how communities of colour can be worst affected by the levels of toxic pollution that plague our air.
Kasia Molga’s installation How To Make An Ocean (2019) presents twelve tiny glass bottles, each containing the artist's tears and an algae from the North Sea, detailing a date, a reason for crying and the name of the hosted algae.
Honey (2022), a 33-minute soundscape featuring the biodiversity of the Mau Forest in the Rift Valley, Kenya, where populations of honeybees have declined in recent decades due to deforestation, forest encroachment and logging. Honey is produced by Ogiek People’s Development Program and Land Body Ecologies, and is part of a podcast series available at www.landbodyecologies.com/podcast.
Paired with the sounds of Honey, Claire De Waard’s Honey Bees (2022), incites a more visual and tactile experience with 200 jewellery-like handmade embroideries of the little beings.
Invisible Flock is an artist studio and the co-founder of Land Body Ecologies (LBE), a transdisciplinary global research group working at the intersection of mental health and ecosystem health.
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Design: Invisible Flock and Jon Bausor
Lighting: Azusa Ono
Exhibiting artists: black & brown films, Jenni Laiti, Kasia Molga, Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program, Claire De Waard, Invisible Flock.
Bodies Joined by a Molecule of Air (2022)
Artists: Invisible Flock and Jon Bausor
Fabrication: MDM Props Limited in Lebanon
Manufacturer: MDM Props Limited in Lebanon, represented by Architect & Engineer Karim Attoui.