This sculpture speculates on the potential for climate sensor technology to be entwined with our own human senses. We experience our environment not just with touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing, but also with the mechanical sensors that act as extensions to our own bodies. These sensors gather massive amounts of data on the Earth’s climate and provide a networked global context for our local experience. However, these are not the pure machines of reason and hard facts that their chromed steel and grey plastic might suggest, they also carry the stories, emotion, hopes and dreams of their human makers.
This sculpture proposes a new weather station design influenced by the existential drama of our climate, suggesting a blurring of the boundary between human senses and mechanical sensors. The artwork explores the potential for machines that we use to measure our environment, to also become a handle on the hyperobject that is our global climate. In re-evaluating the aesthetics of the weather station, we can hope to devise new, entangled relationships between humans, machines and our atmosphere.
Twisting Metal With Earth
The animated climate sensors featured in Twisting Metal with Earth explore how weather stations might be useful beyond their mechanised function. It suggests their potential to also act as an aesthetic interface with the hyperobjects of big data and global climate. The video’s animated characters are voiced by interview recordings from couples discussing their experience of weather. One interviewee collected and shared data from his own weather station, others gave more experiential accounts. From the characters, a conversation emerges that blurs the boundaries between global systems and local experience. Holidays, plants and food are discussed as an expanded sensory network. The texture of personalities, relationships and emotions are folded into the conversation in a way that starts to give human scale to the overwhelming subject of climate change as experienced in the UK.
Artist and lecturer Harry Meadows is a doctoral researcher in Visual Art at the University of Westminster. He leads Critical Zone Observatory, a research framework exploring the intersection of climate data and art. Through partnerships with artists, musicians and scientists, he studies how our environment is interpreted through a mix of human senses and mechanical sensors.
His areas of research include: learning from citizen scientists’ and amateur meteorologists’ methods of recording their environment and what this can offer to contemporary art practice; exploring how scientific apparatus and technology act as extensions of our human senses; investigating the human-scale objects we use to interface with the massive hyperobject of climate data and the existential crisis it describes.
Meadows is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Arts University Bournemouth, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and member of Deep Field Research Studio.