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D12 Paris Climate Demos Recap: Art and Activism

December 29, 2015

My first recap post about the Paris climate demonstrations looked at Jardin d’ Alice – the art build space in Montreuil. This post looks at some of the activist art projects that took place throughout the city during the COP 21 conference. I stress the word “some” for this is an incomplete list. There were far too many projects taking place to highlight in a post, let alone see. These are just a handful that I either came across or was inspired by.

Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing, “Ice Watch”

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photo by Josiah Werning

First on my list was the installation by the Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and the geologist Minik Rosing who placed a dozen icebergs in front of the Pantheon in Paris. These icebergs were shipped from Greenland and it was aimed at the conscious of those at the COP 21 conference and anyone who came across the 12 icebergs as they slowly melted away. I visited the installation at night and it was fascinating to see how people reacted to the icebergs with a sense of awe and loss. Some people – myself included – were connecting to it on a deep level. It put Andy Goldsworthy’s “Midsummer Snowballs” to shame. Read more about the project here.

The Illuminator

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photo by Josiah Werning

Sticking with The Pantheon theme is the projections by the Illuminator who aimed their light cannon at the famous facade on a number of occasions, along with the Eiffel Tower. I have been a longtime fan of this crew and much like the Overpass Light Brigade this project has found the perfect medium for extending agit prop art into the hours after dark. These images are made for social media.

The Truth TriJektor

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photos by Noel Douglas

I was introduced to this project when Noel Douglas from Occupy Design rolled his bike into the main work room at Jardin d’ Alice. I knew immediately what his bike was all about and how absolutely epic it was. This is taking mobile nighttime projections to an all new level. The bike set up was so well thought out and so bad ass that I am now 100% convinced that our side is going to win! More about the project here.

Climate Games

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The Climate Games was dubbed as “the world’s largest Disobedient Action Adventure Game” which gives you an indication of its scale and its intent. It was an international call to action for anyone and everyone to intervene in public space. Many of the 100-plus actions took place in and around Paris during the COP 21 conference, but other actions took place in Australia, N.America, and S.America. Many of the interventions targeted the worst corporate criminals with creative disruptions at their offices or stores. An example was a public “mooning” of VW and their egregious act of rigging their emissions detectors. Other actions were more subtle like the beautiful moss graffiti pictured above. UK activist John Jordan is one of the creative minds behind Climate Games which is one more reason why our side is going to win. Learn more here.

Protesting the Museum-Industrial Complex (The Louvre Action)

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photo by Nicolas Lampert

This action was one that I witnessed and it was incredible. A large coalition of groups organized a demo at the Louvre to expose the role that big oil has in culture – in this case the role of the oil giant TOTAL has with the Louvre. This type of sponsorship takes place everywhere. Corporate power using culture to try to give themselves a good name AND public institutions resorting to private funding to finance their bottom line in an era of austerity and little funding for the arts. The result is that large corporations help underwrite the museum, sit on the board of directors, and assert influence on what is seen and what is not seen in the museum. Thankfully many groups have now targeted the corporatization of the museum. Think Liberate TATE, Occupy Museums, G.U.L.F. Labor, etc. The Louvre action called for a demo at noon on Dec. 9th just outside the pyramid entrance at the Louvre. It called for people to bring umbrellas to hold in symbolic protest. What unfolded was a police state. French police showed up in mass, gated off the entrance, and searched everyone for banners and the umbrellas that they so feared. Perhaps this was all a decoy because the real action happened inside the museum where a handful of courageous activists poured a small amount of oil on the floor and walked around in a circle in protest. They were arrested and somehow filmed a video interview in jail – a video that went instantly viral.

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The People’s Climate Summit

The People’s Climate Summit took place in Montreuil for two days during the weekend prior to D12. It was essentially a street party with hundreds of booths set up that showcased everything from renewable energy to local activist groups. Highlights for me was a large Statue of Liberty sculpture spewing smoke with the words “Freedom to Pollute” on it. Other hightlights were seeing the Beehive Design Collective presentation and a “Exxon Vs the People” presentation where Naomi Klein, Bill Mckibben, and others put Exxon on “trial.”

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photo by Nicolas Lampert

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photo by Nicolas Lampert

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photo by Josiah Werning

Art 104 Space

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photo by Nicolas Lampert

The Art 104 space in Paris – which served as a convergence space for the D12 demos – was proof positive that despite the austerity measures in Europe over the past two decades the Europeans still support the arts about a thousand fold compared to the crumbs that we get in the U$A. The Art 104 space was – if I am correct – a huge arts complex that the French government underwrites to support the arts. And for the COP 21 week it was a key meeting place for general assemblies, workshops, and skill shares. I visited a number of times and was blown a way by the scope of the place, not to mention what was on display. Highlights for me was the Climate Ribbon project (pictured below).

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photo by Josiah Werning

Other highlights included seeing a mobile library housed in a mini shipping container:

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And witnessing the general assembly on Dec. 11th – the day before the D12 action. This was the first time we learned about the plans for D12. I must say it felt very Hunger Games-esc. (District 13 on the eve of taking the Capital!). Next post will be on D12 itself.

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photo by Nicolas Lampert

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