The Pop-Up Museum with a Mission
An immersive art installation in Manhattan highlights how the smallest changes can have the biggest impact on global warming.
Two years ago my then 10 year-old daughter banned plastic straws from our lives. Her earth science curriculum covered the current state of our oceans and explained how much damage a simple straw does to a sea turtle. And that was the final straw, so to speak.
A few weeks ago, a fellow writer and designer sent me a list of experiential art installations currently running in Manhattan. He has an incredible eye for the most interesting, immersive experiences. As I read the list, Arcadia Earth jumped off the page. The interactive exhibit is a multi-sensory display of art with a message: even the smallest change in our own habits can have a big impact on the Earth.
As you enter Arcadia Earth, you are greeted by some very cool stewards of the exhibit. They explained how to use the iPhone app to move through the exhibit. There are icons on the wall and when you point your phone at the image and view the exhibit through your screen, you are suddenly surrounded by fish or animals or a swirling vortex of garbage. It was intense and beautiful to experience.
While the visual technology certainly enhanced the experience, it was the facts shared that were truly stunning. Each room was an artistic interpretation of part of the Earth. As we entered the first room, we were at the bottom of the ocean surrounded by fish and sea turtles. You could hear the quiet sounds of the ocean around you with a voice over playing in a loop. Each room started with, Did you know? What followed were facts about the damage being done to Earth’s resources through plastic, garbage, overfishing and animal agriculture.
I have only recently realized the impact of factory farming on the environment. Years ago, I saw the documentary Food, Inc. It left me with sympathy for animals and farmers and concern for what I was putting in my body. But only recently have I learned about how bad the practice has become for the Earth. As I stood there, I heard the voice-over stating that we cut down 50,000 acres of forest a day for animal agriculture. A day.
I recently picked up Jonathan Safran Foer’s brand new book We are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast. He is the brilliant author of Eating Animals. In it, he examines the global nature of our individual decisions. And this exhibit falls right in line with his thinking. Each of us, as individuals making the smallest decisions can have a huge impact on the health of our planet.
The featured room is the “cave” created from 44,000 plastic bags highlighted under color-changing lights. That number is significant. It is the amount of plastic bags we use in New York State alone, every minute. The room was enormous and covered two floors. While the experience of Arcadia Earth was beautiful to move through, the facts made you stop and look again. What initially looked beautiful quickly became disturbing.
And while Arcadia Earth highlights our role in the problem, it takes a gentle approach to how we can help. If everyone gave up eating meat just one day per week, the global impact on the demand for animal agriculture products would be severely reduced. I have been guilty of taking the plastic bag at the store. What is the difference? It is here already. It’s not like I am creating a plastic bag. Yes, it is. When I take a plastic bag I am creating the demand that produces that bag. No more. I am done with that.
The exhibit closes in the most compelling room…the vow room. Arcadia Earth closes by asking you to make a promise. Can you make just one change to improve the Earth, its oceans and your health? The kiosks mounted on the wall display a list of choices.
Can you give up disposable cups? Cut your meat consumption? Eliminate bottled water? Everyone has one small change they can make. And each of those can have a huge impact. What would happen if we all made just one small change?
ARCADIA EARTH IS A LARGE SCALE MULTI-SENSORIAL JOURNEY THROUGH UNDERWATER WORLDS, FANTASY LANDS, AND INSPIRATIONAL ART INSTALLATIONS. POWERED BY AUGMENTED REALITY, VIRTUAL REALITY, PROJECTION MAPPING, AND INTERACTIVE ENVIRONMENTS, YOU, THE EXPLORER, WILL LEARN HOW SMALL LIFESTYLE CHANGES WILL HAVE A MASSIVE IMPACT ON THE FUTURE OF OUR PLANET.