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Artists Illuminate the Catastrophic Future of Rising Sea Levels

Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta activated three synchronized lines of light to illuminate the future’s projected high tide if climate change progresses at its current pace.

Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho, Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W) (All images provided courtesy of the artists.)

Though science is a go-to discipline for facts and figures, sometimes art is required to really drive a point home in tangible terms. Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W), an outdoor installation in coastal Lochmaddy, Scotland by artists Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta, uses sensors to detect high tide, which then activates three synchronized light lines illuminating the projected high tide of the future if climate change progresses at its current pace.

Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W), installation view
Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W), installation view

“The installation explores the catastrophic impact of our relationship with nature and its long term effects,” the artists said in a statement provided to Hyperallergic. “The work provokes a dialogue on how the rising sea levels will affect coastal areas, its inhabitants and land usage in the future.”

Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W), installation view
Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W), installation view

Though rising sea levels are a condition that threatens to affect human society in many ways and locations, it is particularly relevant to low-lying islands, such as the archipelago of Uist in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, where the installation is located. The Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre in Lochmaddy, which hosts the work, can no longer develop on its existing site due to predicted storm surge sea levels, and its clear that the facility will be mostly submerged by the rising tide in the coming years, unless society collectively finds a way to reduce the environmental impact of human existence on the planet.

“During our research we went through various articles and papers on the topic of the global warming and sea level rise,” Aho and Niittyvirta wrote in an email to Hyperallergic. “IPCC being the most relevant perhaps. Since projections varies between the studies, there are not exact height or time we are referring to. The artwork visualizes the possible highest storm surge levels combined with the high tide (hence the interactivity with the high tide), in not so distant future.”

Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W), installation view
Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W), installation view

Beautiful time-lapse and drone footage by Andy Mackinnon, who curated and commissioned the work for the Taigh Centre, shows Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W) in situ, and visualize the impact of this relatively minimal intervention is striking, creating a glowing line that turns environmental cataclysm from abstraction to harbinger. Islands have long played host to lit beacons, serving as a warning to ships at sea about the dangers of land; Aho and Niittyvirta’s installation, by contrast, uses the same power of light to warn the land, in no uncertain terms, of the coming incursion by the sea.

Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W), installation view

Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta’s Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W), curated by Andy Mackinnon, continues on display at the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre in Lochmaddy, Scotland through August 31.

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