The Future Is Now: A Peek Into The 2030 Now Exhibition
In 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals, what the international organisation calls a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”
Earlier this year, Life Exhibitions published 2030 Now, a coffee-table tome uniting artists, scientists, celebrities and world leaders as advocates and ambassadors—including luminaries such as Jenny Holzer, Glenn Close and Michelle Yeoh—each sharing personal convictions and commitments to achieving the UN goals. This autumn, Life Exhibitions plans to mount 2030 Now as a showcase in Hong Kong.
“People are surprised and inspired by the level of optimism in the book—and I’m happy with that response,” author Susanne Sayers tells Tatler via telephone from Copenhagen.
“That’s important for me to get across. I’m by nature an optimist, but I’m not naive. I can see the huge problems towering before us, and I can also see the progress being made on these issues. I’m from Denmark, and 20 years ago in Copenhagen, if you fell into the harbour you’d expect to come up a fluorescent skeleton. Today we can swim in the harbour safely and we can eat the fish from the harbour—and that’s a blessing.”
Here Tatler features an excerpt from Goal 15, Sayers’ piece on artist Cai Guo-Qiang, whose installation Heritage is profiled in 2030 Now.
“Very frequently, this agenda is about things we’re losing,” Sayers says. “But I can see the things we’re gaining—we’re gaining public spaces that are nicer, clean air, health. There’s so much to gain if we do it right. I really wanted to show that this 2030 vision is possible. It’s a question of will and collaboration—and really hard work.”
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Create: Cai Guo-Qiang
“I am still interested in the unseen spirituality. I am not thinking more about the Earth, our surroundings, and the physical world.”
It is a moment of complete silence and serenity. In a curiously solemn manner, 99 animals bow their heads before a pool of almost perfectly still water, untouched by either wind or waves. The only thing to disturb the mirrorlike surface is a single drop of water from the ceiling.
The scene instantly evokes a vision of paradise. It brings to mind the verse in the Bible about the wolf and the lamb grazing together. But you soon start to feel unsettled. Why are all these animals from different continents gathered around the same waterhole?
What are predators and their prey doing side by side? Are they dying of thirst? Have they learned to live together amicably? Or will they tear each other apart as soon as they drink their fill, lift their heads and catch sight of one another?
Are they really animals at all, given that they are made of synthetic materials and covered in dyed goatskin? Or are they symbolic representations of human beings and the reality of our existence—the fact that we may be enemies at times, but we also fight to survive together?
The installation Heritage by the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang provides ample scope for interpretation but offers no easy answers. His works usually revolve around the spiritual, the divine, the cosmos… but with Heritage he has returned, in his own words, to our planet, our heritage—a heritage that we will one day pass on.
Nonetheless, there is a spiritual element here. According to Cai, the work expresses a kind of longing for the spirituality that is palpable in the ink drawings of the scholars of ancient China, from a time when man lived humbly and in harmony with nature—in sharp contrast to our modern world.
Heritage was inspired by an experience that he had while visiting the subtropical Australian island of North Stradbroke.
“As the clear blue waters, the white sandy beaches of Stradbroke Island, and the rich palette of colours on the bottom of Brown Lake took my breath away, I came to realise that this paradise highlighted the serious problems on our planet. Everywhere on Earth should have been just as beautiful.”
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- Words Susanne Sayers excerpted from 2030 Now