Plenty of people know about climate change, or accept that it is a valid proposition, but few really believe it. There is a circularity here: you have to believe your way into the trauma that is necessary to truly believe. In this sense, the subject of much art about climate change is not a clinical, lived trauma, or even a vicarious trauma. It is more the intimation of trauma and can never be wholly grasped. To become receptive to this intimation of trauma (literally ‘wound’ in the original Greek), we need an opening, a piercing. This certainly can come from art, and yet no art can guarantee it, for it also depends on the viewer. When it comes, therefore, to the question of representation, which in some sense remains the mandate of all art, no matter how ‘abstract’ or ostensibly detached, we must ask with respect to climate change: what exactly is being represented? Is it the ‘facts’? Well, what are those? How do you represent a hyperobject, a statistically created research object? As artist and theorist Emily Eliza Scott has pointed out, there is no one way. It is a mosaic and a group effort, but the most accurate representation will include some picture of this non-visceral, imagined, but nonetheless actual, trauma.

Defined by Edward Morris and Susannah Sayler

Image: Johan Huibers Ark, The Netherlands, 2010, archival inkjet print. Sayler / Morris for The Canary Project.