Paolo Cirio’s solo show at Sale Docks addresses the mismatch between climate data and climate justice.
Conceptual, interventionist, and digital art about fossil fuel economy and its consequences are presented as visual artworks and installations in the massive space of Sale Docks at Magazzini del Sale in Venice.
This survey of over 10 artworks created by Paolo Cirio in the last two years are the result of his research and advocacy around climate justice that he already began investigating as early as 2010. These works address the perception and representation of the climate crisis, for which Cirio seeks to outline a Climate Aesthetics that can integrate the politics, economics, and ethics of the current epochal planetary emergency. Using an investigative approach, Cirio looks at the semiotics and philosophy of such Climate Aesthetics, intertwining it with legal actions and policy-making, aiming to build justice for humans, species, and ecosystems.
Cirio established the idea of a Climate Tribunal against fossil fuel companies in 2021 by creating a series of artworks informed by his vast research on the climate crisis. Cirio highlights the specific evidence that proves the legal accountability fossil fuel companies have using color, notations, and compositions, creating greater public engagement with this complex theme. Using prints on canvas, fabric, and paper, Cirio’s visual art features scientific and economic data, legal documents and geopolitical analysis, graphs and photos, biological studies and satellite images. The Climate Tribunal at Sale Docks unfolds with artworks presented as evidence, plaintiffs and defendants, climate scientists and activists speaking as witnesses, and visitors to the exhibition either participate as jury members that assess evidence, or identify as an injured party.
Semiotically, the exhibition Climate Mismatch examines the discrepancy between the object/subject of research and its representation/perception. It problematizes how data and science have been pinpointing for a long time how the fossil fuel economy has been the cause of climate change, and yet the meaning of this data lacks a concrete referent. This mismatch between facts and actions has resulted in misrepresentation and misunderstanding, generating confusion that still lingers in the cultural world and in society.
It hasn’t only been misinformation spread by fossil fuel companies and the greenwashing of the business world that has led to the dismissal of global warming. Today, the same institutions that claim to be at the forefront of climate advocacy don’t even mention the global fossil fuel economy. Universities, cultural institutions, the art world, and the media increasingly run special programs about climate change, but without examining its cause, the fossil fuel industry, which often even funds such institutions.
The exhibition questions the ethics of representation of the climate emergency, looking at the mismatch between data and agency, the mismatch between facts and cognition, the mismatch between rhetoric and reality. These mismatches are challenged by Paolo Cirio who aims to shift perception, turning data into action and promoting public policy and justice. Cirio criticizes the use of bland wording such as sustainability, renewables, decarbonization and netzero, while the real culprits, their data on profits, investments, and history of carbon emissions are still disguised. Further, Cirio also challenges the representation mismatch in the cultural sector through direct institutional critique in the art world, and he advocates for a more effective Climate Aesthetics.
In particular, Cirio focuses on the new forensic discipline of “Attribution Science” that is able to establish links between weather anomalies and greenhouse emissions. Quantifying the production of fossil fuels can point to the legal and ethical accountability of Carbon Majors companies. Yet, they are too big to fail. Investigating and computing greenhouse emissions without considering the politics of the global economy in the equation will only generate a data crash, as computers and data fail to measure and model schizophrenic capitalism.
In this new era of denialism, it is not the climate emergency that is being denied, but rather the causes and the culprits that are mystified. To overcome this cognitive mismatch, Cirio turns information into art for generating knowledge, agency, and change, while investigating the financialization, weaponization, politicization, datafication, and normalization of the climate emergency.