COP28 sees Land Body Ecologies research group partner with WHO to centre art, climate, and health in negotiations
Press release 1 December 2023
As part of Land Body Ecologies, arts studio Invisible Flock presents climate and health on a human scale through the curation of COP28’s Health Pavilion
Invisible Flock, co-founders of Land Body Ecologies (LBE) research group that explores the connections between environmental change and mental health, return to COP to design and curate the Health Pavilion at the UN Climate Conference taking place in Dubai, UAE, from 30 November to 12 December 2023. The Pavilion, hosted by the World Health Organization with support from the Wellcome Trust, will be one of the key locations to convene with the global health community to highlight the intersection of climate and health.
“The artworks in the Health Pavilion are an attempt to connect people to lived experiences of climate change in a different way, on a personal and emotional level. The works from global artists touch on their lived experiences of mental health, nutritional health, Indigenous knowledge, and connections to land. There are many challenges on how to adequately communicate the science on climate and health and the question of which experiences have historically been heard. I strongly believe this, in part, is the reason for our present reality,” says Victoria Pratt, Invisible Flock Creative Director.
Invisible Flock curated a series of artworks newly presented at the COP28 Health Pavilion. Artworks by international artists tell their stories of how land, health, and the climate are deeply connected. Throughout the 2-week programme, the Health Pavilion offers a space for visitors to consider different perspectives of climate impacts on health. The pieces include:
Yupirungáwa (2023), by Vandria Borari, an Indigenous leader and ceramicist artist from the Lower-Tapajos region in the Brazilian Amazon, is a sculptural piece that represents seeds found in archaeological sites in the Amazon rainforest, in the Lower-Amazon region, Brazil. The title of the piece means ‘origin’ in the Indigenous language Nheengatu, and this work highlights the agency of Indigenous people in both shaping and maintaining the Amazon forest as it exists today.
The Crying Place (2023), is a 50-minute audio work featuring the sounds of the harvest season of the Pgak’yau (Karen) community in Ban Nong Tao, Northern Thailand. This piece presents the Pgak’yau philosophy of slowing down for the earth and shows us how life lived on the land, the practice of traditional culture, and language are essential elements for the health of Indigenous communities. The Crying Place is produced by Invisible Flock with Joni Odochao, Siwakorn Odochao, Jennifer Katanyoutanant, and Land Body Ecologies, and mastered by Simon Scott; This episode is part of a podcast series available at www.landbodyecologies.com/podcast.
Teardrops of our Grandmother (2023) by Jenni Laiti and Carl-Johan Utsi, is a 14-minute video that tells a story of a melting Arctic land and body by Indigenous Sámi witnesses. The video raises awareness of generations of Sámi people living in the rapidly changing Arctic climate.
Paired with the story of Teardrops of our Grandmother is an extract from text-based piece Collective grieving to heal trauma in the land and body (2023), by Jenni Laiti and Victoria Pratt, about issues of adaptation, ecosystems, and healing.
Kasia Molga's installation How to Become Wholesome (2022) investigates how bodily waste may contribute towards the wellbeing of aquatic organisms. At the heart of the piece are 4 interconnected glass tanks where water fed with various bodily fluids mixes with seawater, influencing the growth and nourishing the development of specially selected aquatic plants. Research is presented alongside a series of records detailing the chemical composition of Molga’s tears, urine, and sweat accompanied by 3D-printed prototype tools for helping to harvest nourishment from the bodily waste. In this ongoing work, Kasia examines the interconnected chemistry of the human body and environment, questioning how to care for her body in order to nurture a healthy marine ecosystem.
“With health firmly on the agenda at the COP28 conference, the Health Pavilion will convene the global health community to ensure health and equity are placed at the centre of climate negotiations. Art prompts emotion and unique perspectives that can strengthen urgent discussions around health and climate. For the duration of COP28, we look forward to engaging the health community in strategically emphasising the compelling health arguments that underscore the call for climate action,” – says Dr Maria Neira, Director for Environment, Climate Change, and Health at World Health Organization.
Unsustainable development, including the burning of fossil fuels, is taking lives as well as driving the climate crisis. According to WHO, almost all of the global population (99%) breathes air that is polluted beyond WHO air quality limits, causing 7 million premature deaths every year. Extreme weather events, land degradation, and water scarcity are displacing people and impacting their health.
The COP28 summit is envisioned to mainstream health in the global climate change agenda with the first-ever Health Day. Focus on the political implications of the climate-health connections led WHO to commission Bodies Joined by a Molecule of Air (2022), a sculpture created by Invisible Flock and Jon Bausor that featured at the COP27 summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and once again frames the stage at this year’s Health Pavilion in Dubai. The 6.5 metre-long sculpture alludes to human lungs whilst taking the shape of trees colliding, drawing attention to the connection between human health and planetary health. It is a provocation to illustrate the price of climate change on our health.
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NOTES TO EDITORS
Central Sculpture: 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.
Indigenous-led studies and authorship
An example of Indigenous-led studies LBE advocates for is evident in the publishing of the recent first-ever Indigenous Batwa-led study on Solastalgia. Led by LBE member Sylvia Kokunda, CEO of Action for Batwa Empowerment Group (ABEG), the study analyses mental health implications of climate change, a health area still given minimal attention within the health space generally, especially for Indigenous communities in Africa. Further Information: www.journals.plos.org/globalpublichealth/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgph.0002129
Access to the Health Pavilion
COP28 Health Pavilion will be located in the Thematic Arena 2 in the Blue Zone located in Expo City Dubai. All in-person participants will have to secure their badges to enter the Blue Zone by being part of their national delegation or any other official delegation. It will also be possible to follow the events live-streamed online.
WHO at COP28
WHO participates in UNFCCC negotiations as a UN Observer organisation. The main objective of WHO activities at COPs is to promote health in the UNFCCC negotiations, through supporting the participation of national health representatives in national delegations and strengthening joint advocacy with NGOs, UN, academic, and private sector partners on key health and climate cross-cutting issues. WHO in close collaboration with the health community is preparing policy briefs, submissions, and statements to address key health relevant issues under negotiations at COP28 and provide support to negotiators on how to include health in different negotiating streams.
Wellcome Trust at COP28
Wellcome is a global charitable foundation based in London and Berlin that supports science to solve urgent health challenges, with the impact of climate change on health as one of its top priorities. At COP28, Wellcome will continue to make the case that the climate crisis is a health crisis by supporting numerous events which will bring the global health community together as well as working closely with stakeholders and partners to put health on the climate action agenda.
About exhibiting artists
Jon Bausor is a multi-award-winning international stage designer and creative director. He designed the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London and the kinetic sculpture to light the flame for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. He was recently nominated for an Emmy for his production design on the Redbull parkour film Human Pinball and designed a new sustainable theatre for the Arcola in London.
Jenni Laiti is a Sámi artivist, duojár (traditional Sámi craft maker), Indigenous rights and climate justice activist. Indigenous futurism, justice for all creation, and the love for her land guide her in her work to create worlds beyond.
Kasia Molga is an artist, creative director, and designer. Her work focuses on the ever-changing human relation with, and perception of, the natural environment, in particular oceans and marine environments through a range of mediums including objects, sculptures, audiovisual work, and immersive experiences.
Vandria Borari is an Indigenous leader, ceramicist artist and activist from the Borari Alter do Chão territory researching the relationship between peoples and plants in the Amazon's past. She holds a Law degree from the Federal University of Western Pará and is a part of the Indigenous women’s collective As Karuana as well as the Kuximawara Association of
Indigenous women artists and craftswomen from Alter do Chão.
Siwakorn Odochao is a Pgak’yau (Karen) farmer, founder of Lazy Man Coffee, writer, facilitator, and LBE collaborator from Ban Nong Tao, Northern Thailand. He holds a Master's degree from the Open University as well as qualifications from the ARI (Asian Rural Institute) and is committed to small-scale farming for sustainable development and beautiful living.
Joni Odochao is an Indigenous leader, advisor, legendary activist, and campaigner on the ongoing land rights of the Pgak’yau (Karen) community in Ban Nong Tao, Northern Thailand. Like his son Siwakorn, he is an advocate for traditional rotational farming.
Jennifer Katanyoutanant works with interactive mediums such as Virtual Reality, installations as well as with food to facilitate communication and co-create sharing and exchange systems. Recent fascinations include food-systems research through sensory interactions, playable critical thought, and virtual spaces for shifting power imbalance.