Feeling the Heat

Feeling the Heat

Using thermographic cameras that “see” heat, this visually arresting 3-screen video artwork asks how climate scientists respond to the climate crisis on a personal level

Sydney | Started on 01/01/2020

Feeling the Heat explores how climate scientists, working on the front line of a problem that’s often imperceptible, respond to it as human beings, as citizens of this planet. Anonymised by their own thermal imagers, they address us passionately, as fellow citizens. The work attempts a new approach to climate change communication, freeing these normally objective professionals and students to talk to us subjectively, even passionately. How do the disturbing implications of climate change affect those tasked with studying it, on a personal level?

The multi-channel video installation forms part of Adam Sébire’s PhD research into aesthetic visual representations of climate change. He collaborates with Australian climate scientists to borrow their clunky, cantankerous thermographic cameras (normally used to measure leaf temperatures during heatwaves). The infrared interviews ‘cloak’ the scientists visually as heat data, allowing them to speak both candidly and personally. It gives voice to scientists who must otherwise remain dispassionate in their work, according to the Scientific Method. Meanwhile the video’s other screens feature stunning thermographic natural and built environments, suggesting a non-human perspective on anthropogenic changes.

Scientists’ recommendations follow the Precautionary Principle, hoping for the best while preparing for the worst; yet the science is all too frequently eclipsed by politics. The temptation of some is to shoot the messenger; expression of subjective responses remains taboo. Climate science communication is therefore often confined to probabilities, tables, graphs and data. Scientists, for their part, often assume that given enough of the right information people will modify their behaviour accordingly. But climate change psychology research suggests that an effective response takes more than scientific consensus: an emotional connection is necessary. And so this work offers viewers a new, personal point of entry.

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Editor’s Note: All information published as submitted by the author(s). Minor edits may have been made to increase readability and understanding.