Of all potential casualties of climate change, I don’t believe anyone thought art would be one of them. While much of the Northern Hemisphere struggles through one of the hottest summers on record, Europe seems especially hard hit. Hundreds have died and thousands have become sick, as major cities mark record high temperatures where centralized air conditioning isn’t common in most homes. That’s on top of raging wildfires and severe droughts.
Amidst the chaos, a floating project headed down the Weser River towards Documenta – an art festival held every five years in Kassel, Germany – had to stop because the water level is too low. The project, called “Citizenship”, is a barge created from the upside-down former roof of the Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik, the headquarters of the Berlin-based art collective KUNSTrePUBLIK. It was supposed to travel from Berlin to Kassel over the course of 60 days, during which the boat would make scheduled stops to host events such as concerts, workshops, and “cooking evenings.” The boat is powered without fossil fuels and instead moves using sustainable propulsion, a pedal, and rowing systems, as well as “external traction from rowing clubs and swimming teams.”
Meanwhile in England, both the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum closed some exhibitions (or at least limited hours) citing “hazardous working conditions due to the unprecedented heat”. Officials moved some “temperature-sensitive” items from galleries to “cool storage until the extreme conditions dissipate”.
In Belgium, federal museums have been made free to people 65 years of age and older during the heatwave. Secretary of State for Scientific Policy Thomas Dermine noted, “Their spaces, which are effectively public spaces, must be made fully available to vulnerable people in the event of extreme weather events.”
The heat is set to intensify in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, before relenting next week.