It is not the end of the world – a visit to Cisternerne in Copenhagen

When we visit a new city in Europe, I tend to seek out sustainable/alternative/weird/hipster things to do. After all there are only so many churches one can look at before they all kind of blur together.

Our visit to Cisternerne (or the Cisterns) in Copenhagen ticked all those boxes. The Cisterns used to be an undergound water supply reservoir, but since the early 2000s has been used as an art exhibition space.

This was definitely a highlight of our trip to Copenhagen. After all, what could be better than a (literally) underground arts venue? One that has an installation exploring the impacts of climate change and how we are causing our own demise.

Exploring the installation required pulling on gumboots (or wellies for British readers). I’m glad we did because we were soon ankle deep in water. It was disorienting wandering through dimly lit tunnels towards blinding spotlights.

We soon came across cubes with shafts of light coming out of them. On closer inspection they were flooded bathrooms that seemed to have been hastily abandoned in the middle of cleaning (I read afterwards that they are exact replicas of the bathrooms at offices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).

“It Is Not The End Of The World” might seem like a bit of a confusing name for an installation about climate change. A cause for optimism perhaps? Not quite!

Climate change is not the end of the world. If we continue along our current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions, we will destroy life as we know it. But the world itself will continue to exist (albeit in an altered state). A pretty intense theme for an art exhibition to address, but very thought-provoking.

I absolutely love arts initiatives that bring environmental and sustainability issues to a wider audience. I am optimistic about the part art can play in spreading messages and improving accessibility and engagement with topics that might otherwise be academic, uninteresting and even depressing. I have to say this was one of the more abstract sustainability-related arts installations I have explored, but the brochure (see above picture) was very handy in highlighting the issues. In any case, it was super fun to wander about in gumboots for a bit!

Related links:

  • You can read more about the installation on the SUPERFLEX website. They give a far more eloquent explanation of the meaning behind the different parts of the exhibition.
  • The exhibition is a partnership with Art 2030, a non-profit organisation that aims to help people engage with the UN Sustainable Development Goals through art.
  • Climarte has been running in Melbourne for almost a decade. They have an interesting video on the role of arts in responding to climate change.
  • Last but definitely not least! One of the most exciting collaborations between an artist and a climate activist hit the airwaves today. In case you missed it, the 1975’s latest track features Greta Thunberg. It is an inspiring and energising 5 minutes, as you would expect! Listen here now!
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