London Futures – Exhibit at Museum of London

January 2nd, 2011 by | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Nestled in the basement of Museum of London, is an extraordinary exhibit called “London Futures,” which is being held from October 1, 2010 until March 6, 2011.  Illustrators, Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones, created a series of photographic images of what London could become in hundreds of years down the road as long as if climate change continues to make an impact and the global population continues to grow.

Recognizable views of the city depict possible dramatic possible changes.  For instance, one photo illustration shows an overview of the city, in which it resembles Venice.  In the picture, water towered six meters above the ground, leaving portions of buildings and only the top part of the bridges visible.  According to the artists’ statement, tides could surge through the Thames Barrier every spring.  Then in another photo illustration, which presents a very different climate scenario, a bird-eye view of the London Tower is depicted in a frigid winter scene as the Thames River is frozen and people skate on the frozen river, which had become a new tourist attraction.  According to Graves and Madoc-Jones, because the gulfstream has slowed down due to the Arctic air warming up, winter can be harsh, but a relief to heat-weary Londoners.

While many people, myself included, acknowledge that climate change is occurring, it is very hard to visualize its extent on our planet.  Graves and Madoc-Jones help the viewers like me gain a better understanding of how changes can affect the human beings, both culturally and physically by displaying images not only of the environment itself but also of people in it.  The images are so surreal and believable that I feel as if the events recently occurred, and I am viewing them as if I were reading a newspaper filled with photos.  Because the images are so arresting, they encourage me to think about the possible consequences of our behavior, including our addiction to oil.

As evident in the artists’ statements, these photographs were indeed created based on scientific studies of how climate change can impact the landscape and human beings.  For example, a photo illustration of Trafalgar Square is viewed as a shanty town filled with refugees from those who moved from the equatorial belt as it became uninhabitable due to rising temperature, according to Graves and Madoc-Jones’ scenario.  The illustrators explained that the problem is not merely a visual change of the scenery but also a political and social transformation:

“This is the political dilemma of the day for all European countries. The numbers are overwhelming. London’s strategy is to cluster the new arrivals in the historic centre, rather than spread them through the suburbs, where most Londoners now live.”

A photo illustration of a close-up view of the Gherkin depicting curtains in various colors and clothes hanging by the windows also presents a view of social change in London.  Gravels and Madoc-Jones both explain that because of the possibility of the collapse of the global economy, the iconic City office tower could be transformed into a luxury high-rise housing and then into a slum as refugees continue to move into the city.   The illustrators state concerns that the social scale of the area could dwindle as it could potentially become a slum.  Native-born Londoners would be driven out of the city and move into the suburbs.

Additionally, some of the photo illustrations depict the changes in obtaining resources for energy.  For example, a photo illustration presents wind turbines lining up on both sides of the British driveway The Mall.  The illustrators questions whether The Mall can preserve its notion of “Britishness,” as the wind turbines tower over the flags.

Believe or not, Graves and Madoc-Jones say that they were even as surprised as I was to see the impacts on London:

“By focusing our creative energy on these well-known panoramas, the images have taken on a life of their own.  Even we were surprised by the way the story unfolded as the scene was created.  Each picture has become a mini soap opera, alive with colour, drama, triumph and adversity as our city is transformed and Londoners adapt to meet this change.”

At the end of the day, these photo illustrations present a thought-provoking question:  Do we really want to live in nearly unbearable conditions by living with the slums, floods, overcrowding, high temperatures in the summers and frigid winters? Even if people do not believe in climate change, we still need to alter our uses in resources of energy, as fossil fuels are non-renewable.

This exhibit runs until March 6, 2011. Click here for more information on the exhibit.

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