Downtown Anchorage seen with the Alaska Range to the north.
Ken Graham

New Art Installation Focuses on Relationship Between Climate Change and Trees

Monday, February 24, 2020

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – Feb. 24, 2020 – Building exteriors and parking lots around Anchorage, Alaska, are sparking conversations about the natural world thanks to a traveling art installation that projects illuminated images of boreal forests, glaciers and other natural forms onto them at night.

“Borealis,” featuring images by Dutch photographer Jeroen Toirkens, is an art installation that will project images of the boreal forest in the form of photography and video. The images are projected onto building facades, beginning with the façade of the Anchorage Museum through March 1. This project highlights the rapidly changing landscape within an urban setting. 

Borealis is a project of SEED Lab, which is both a physical space and a series of public art projects, conversations and gatherings for envisioning possible creative responses to climate change. SEED Lab is one of the five winners of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge, partnering the Anchorage Museum with the Municipality of Anchorage.

Borealis is a continuation of SEED Lab’s “nature, projected” and features images by photographer Jeroen Toirkens. Borealisfollows Cloud Chamber, which featured glacial images by Kerry Tasker and was projected onto the façade of the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts (and which will return to be projected onto SEED Lab in April).

“The aurora borealis—the northern lights—are a defining feature of Alaska, so it’s more than fitting to celebrate our boreal forests through light and images,” said Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. “This project provokes thoughts about this place and the ever-changing environment we call home.”

For the last three years, Jeroen Toirkens and Moscow-based journalist Jelle Brandt Corstius visited the boreal forest regions of the globe. A chiefly coniferous circle that extends across Europe, Asia and North America, this forest is also known as the taiga. The boreal forest is the largest vegetation zone (biome) on earth and makes up around 29% of the total forested area. With a total surface area of over seven million miles, it is considerably larger than the Amazon rainforest. Deforestation has accelerated rapidly, particularly in Russia, which holds 73% of the zone.

Boreal forests convert carbon dioxide into oxygen on a massive scale. The average tree produces enough oxygen over a 100-year period to allow a human being to breathe for 20 years. Together, the tropical rainforest and the boreal forest act as the Earth’s lungs. With climate change, the tree world is in a state of transition. For the boreal forest region, change is complex. During the last 55 years, trees have been growing more rapidly as a result of increasing temperatures, which means that wood production can be accelerated. Some countries, such as China and Qatar, are planting trees to counteract the greenhouse effect or soil erosion. Climate change may make way for other kinds of vegetation as well, but it is simply too complex to predict what the future holds for trees.

In 2020, the work from the Borealis project will form an exhibition at The Hague Museum of Photography (NL) and will travel to the Anchorage Museum in 2021. A publication will accompany the exhibitions.

 

Read About the artists and project
Borealis Project Blog

About the Public Art Challenge: 
In February 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies invited mayors of U.S. cities with 30,000 residents or more to submit proposals for temporary public art projects that address important civic issues and demonstrate an ability to generate public-private collaborations, celebrate creativity and urban identity, and strengthen local economies.

More than 200 cities applied for the 2018 Public Art Challenge with proposals reflecting diverse artistic mediums addressing a range of pressing issues and social themes such as community development, environmental sustainability, cultural identity, and immigration.

Five cities won the Public Art Challenge: Anchorage, Alaska“SEED Lab,” Camden, New Jersey “A New View,” Coral Springs in partnership with Parkland, Florida for “Inspiring Community Healing After Gun Violence: The Power of Art,” Jackson, Mississippi “Fertile Ground,” and Tulsa, Oklahoma for “The Greenwood Art Project.”