By Jiata Ekele
As world leaders meet during the annual United Nations General Assembly to discuss global challenges, including the need to restore balance with nature and tackle the climate emergency, the organisation’s iconic building will light up with images of marine species to symbolise the relationship between humans and the world’s rich biodiversity.
The Interspecies Assembly, a public art project commissioned by ART 2030, a non-profit organisation which unites art with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the world’s blueprint for a healthier, safer and more equal future – will project the filmwork, Vertical Migration, onto the northern façade of the 39-storey UN Secretariat building.
The film work, to be projected nightly from 22 to 24 September, was created by SUPERFLEX, a Danish art collective. It shows the movement of Siphonophores in the ocean’s deep sea.
The marine creatures, which function not as a single, physically connected body but a colony of organisms keeping an underwater society alive, illustrate the necessity and impact of working together, and in harmony with nature.
As such, the symbolic presence of non-human species coming together at the United Nations during such a critical time will highlight the need for world leaders to also work in harmony for the well-being of all species on the planet, protecting the world’s diminishing biodiversity and redefining our relationship with nature.
In her statement, Melissa Fleming, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications said that: “Interspecies Assembly reminds us of our inherent responsibility to protect the planet and its rich biodiversity.
“It is a symbolic interpretation of nature’s message to world leaders that the decisions they make must reflect that responsibility. We all share this planet, and we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature.”
The creative call for solidarity and collaboration comes when the United Nations and its partners have issued rallying cries to urgently strengthen the conservation, restoration and preservation of natural resources and biodiversity.
Recent studies have shown that one in eight plant and animal species are at risk of extinction – many within the next few decades due to the triple planetary crisis – climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
The UN Environment Programme says that today’s environmental crises are directly linked to human’s unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. Consequently, the decline in biodiversity is undermining progress toward the SDGs and the Paris Agreement for Climate Change – landmark agreements adopted in 2015 to set the world on a more sustainable and healthier path by 2030.
There is also an urgent need to agree on a new set of goals for nature over the next decade, which will be the goal of the UN Biodiversity Conference in October 2021 and April 2022.
Luise Faurschou, the Founder and Director of ART 2030 highlighted the art communities’ drive to open people’s hearts, minds and imagination to inspire action for a healthy planet.
He stated that: “Engagement with planetary challenges such as biodiversity loss goes beyond a scientific understanding of the phenomena; it requires the cultivation of care and an emotional connection.”
“Great art can make us feel and connect to these complex issues: it can be the agency of change. Great art can affect the course of history for all lives. And the time is now.”
In 2019, the United Nations worked with ART 2030 to showcase a multifaceted public and participatory art installation called Breathe with Me, which was featured in the lobby of the UN General Assembly building as well as in Central Park, to remind people to work together to share the world.
Interspecies Assembly will include two public works simultaneously – the projection of Vertical Migration onto the UN building, and a sculptural installation entitled Interspecies Assembly, in Central Park’s Naumburg Bandshell across 21 to 24 September.
In addition, to celebrate the first such showing of the Interspecies Assembly, ART 2030 and SUPERFLEX have collaborated with Google Arts & Culture to create a virtual experience of the Siphonophore delegation in Augmented Reality.