Juanita Schlaepfer-Miller

Monotype prints, mounted on aluminium
14.8 × 21.0 cm / each
Courtesy of the artist, 2011

These images are cyanotypes, shadow images formed by UV light on photosensitive paper, and were taken in the Climate Hope Garden, an installation in the research climate chambers at the ETHZ in 2011, timed to coincide with the publication of the downscaling of the IPCC global scenarios for Switzerland (ETHZ/Meteoschweiz CH2011).

Juanita 7 copy

The project aimed to bring the climate scenarios to a temporal and spatial scale that people (the general Swiss public) could relate to. It has been argued that climate scenarios are based on a concept of time which organizes the data into a time structure that is precise, but too distant for the immediate timescales on which most people base their decisions (Hulme 2009). This project aimed to develop an opportunity for social learning and to relate these concepts to a human scale and at a local level.

This was conducted by investigating what a future garden would look and feel like, based on the downscaled climate scenarios and by using plants which currently grow well in Switzerland. The RCP3PD scenario plot, a scenario which requires cutting global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050 relative to 1990, could be termed as the “best case scenario” and was set at 24.9°C and 30% humidity. The A2 scenario plot or “business as usual” for emissions, up to the year 2085 was set at 21°C and 45% humidity. It was not possible for technical and financial reasons to have increased levels of CO2 as a variable. The modelling for precipitation in the CH-2011 had the most variation, ranging from 5-30% less rainfall in summer. The value of 30% less rainfall was chosen as the system would not have been accurate enough to record smaller differences than that.

This installation could be described as a public experiment and although carried out within the framework of science it was art, and therefore the data produced were not measurements of biomass or stomatal conductance of stressed plants. Rather the knowledge gained was cognitive, a shift in the perceptions of the visitors who made a connection between the conceptual and the physical, the present and the future.

Juanita 3 copy

These images are my personal artistic readings that I made on every visit to the garden. Each print took 3 minutes to create, by holding the light-sensitive paper up to the growing plants I made an image of the changes I had noticed in the plants that day. This created a personal connection to the plants and was also a measure of light, as the more sunlight there was, the darker the print. These formally aesthetic images, are traces of plants gone and those to come. This type of print is where the term blueprint comes from, which has come to mean -a basic design. In this context these cyanotypes become a play about the uncertainty of designing our future.

Juanita Schläpfer-Miller

Reference: Hulme, M (2009) Why We Disagree about Climate Change, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Thanks To: Peter Edwards, Andreas Fischlin, Angelika Hilbeck, Jake Alexander and Miluse Trtikova


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