Lovelock’s Gaia reflected the spirit of the times and was popularised, particularly outside the scientific community, at the same moment as photographs of planet Earth appeared taken from outer space.
The idea of a green glowing ball of fecundity – something like a world brain with the power to rid itself of elements that threaten its existence – became one of the popular mythologies of our time, especially among writers, artists, musicians and the humanist intelligentsia wishing to make a stand about climate change.
Gaia is a frequent theme for art exhibitions. The latest manifestation is at the Belconnen Arts Centre held in conjunction with the Australian National University Climate Change Institute. The curator of the exhibition, Visiting Fellow at the Climate Change Institute Ngaio Fitzpatrick, has brought together nine artists in the exhibition: Alexander Boynes, Sophia Emmett, Ashley Eriksmoen, Denise Ferris, Alexander Hunter, Simon Maberley, Anna Madeleine, John Reid and Marzena Wasikowska.
All of the artists involved can be described as cultural warriors who, through their art, wish to tackle questions related to climate change and ridicule the idea that coal has a real future in an ecologically sustainable Australia.
Boynes, in his striking, chromatically intense paintings on aluminium, draws a contrast between the landscape and the destructive impact of the fossil fuel industry.
Ferris, in her photographic images realised as large-scale inkjet prints, presents a sombre, quiet but dramatic lament for the vanishing and melting landscape around Perisher Valley, near where she lives.
Maberley, in some of the most memorable pieces at the exhibition, creates intricate constructions that ridicule the notion of «clean coal» and juxtapose the demand for fossil fuel with the sacrifices made in the destruction of supplies of drinking water and fresh air to breathe.
Reid, in subtle but provocative photographs, begs us to pause and to contemplate the destruction that we are inflicting on our environment, while Wasikowska in her breathtakingly beautiful photographs explores the chilling message of what the future holds for us.
What all of the artists in the exhibition hold in common is the conviction that the time for doing nothing is over and the artist citizen has the obligation to confront reality and report that an eschatological event is just around the corner.
One of the common extensions of the Gaia hypothesis is that the world, as an interrelated organism, may possess the power to rid itself of species that threaten its existence. In this case – human beings who are destroying the atmosphere and the environment.