Art in rising temperatures


“Soon it would be too hot.” The first line of JG Ballard’s 1962 sci-fi novel, The Drowned World, reads like a premonition of our current climate crisis. In fact, it is already too hot, and extreme weather is part of what makes contemporary reality feel like something straight out of speculative or dystopian fiction.

And, as Saskia Scott points out, in times like these we need art more than ever. The Canberra-based curator has been working on a project called Heat Map with Bernadette Klavins and Anna Madeleine, two artists who consider the ramifications of rising temperatures. Scott says that science and data aren’t enough to communicate the urgency of the problem.

“The reality is that the graphs aren’t working,” she explains, “because if they were, we would have taken the action needed to avert the climate crisis.

“Addressing climate change is a moral imperative, and it is becoming increasingly clear that it is going to take a myriad of different approaches to address this crisis.”

Klavins, who is based in Adelaide, has been working on an installation titled Melting Act that highlights the impact of heatwaves on the built environment and seeks to disrupt an anthropocentric attitude. Madeleine’s ongoing project, Controlled Burn, is particularly poignant in the wake of the recent catastrophic bushfires. The Canberra-based artist is using burnt matchsticks to visually record ever-increasing Australian temperatures over five consecutive leap years.

Anna Madeleine, Controlled Burn (Canberra, Adelaide, Alice Springs: leap years since 1999), 2020, burnt matches and pencil on paper, 59.5 x 42cm each. Image courtesy of the artist.

As Scott puts it, “Both Bernadette and Anna ask us to connect with the realities of the climate crisis in a speculative space.” And while the space may be speculative, the need to address rising temperatures is both very real and very urgent.

Heat Map
Bernadette Klavins & Anna Madeleine
Watch This Space

This article was originally published in the May/June issue of Art Guide Australia.

Please note that due to COVID-19 restrictions, Watch This Space is currently closed and Heat Map has been postponed. Continuing our commitment to covering the arts Australia-wide, Art Guide Australia will continue to share articles and stories on artists and exhibitions during this time, encouraging viewers to experience art online. 

Preview Words by Tracey Clement