DEN Project

‘London Futures’ at the Museum of London

On Saturday I was able to visit the ‘London Futures’ exhibition at the Museum of London.
The exhibition opened on the 1st October and runs until the 6th March 2011. Photos from my visit are available on the project flickr page, and you can also view the exhbition images at and on The Guardian’s pages.

The exhibition is made up of 14 provocative visions of the future by artists Didier Madoc-Jones and Robert Graves. Each image considers the potential impact of climate change on the city of London, showing how a warming climate may affect different aspects of the city. Visitors are asked to contemplate:

  •  ’London as Venice’ after flooding breaches the Thames Barrier
  • ‘Picadily Circus – a haven of calm’ as water levels continue to rise
  • ‘Hyde Park- palm oil’ plantation as more of the city’s green spaces are given over to industrial agriculture for energy production
  • ‘Notting Hill Carnival’ where carnival-goers are covered in blue sun-block for protection from the rising temperatures
  • ‘Glacial Thames’ as winters become unbearably harsh
  • ‘The Gherkin’ now home to refugees from equatorial lands following rising temperatures and the collapse of the global economy
  • ‘Parliament Square rice paddies’ as more land is converted to food production and rice becomes the staple diet of Londoners
  • ‘Trafalgar Square shanty town’ the new home for people previously resident of the tropics who have been forced to relocate further north
  • ‘Buckingham Palace shanty town’ showing the growing impacts of the climate refugee crisis
  • ‘Kew Nuclear Power Station’ as nucelar power becomes widely accepted as the only viable alternative to fossil fuels
  • ‘Camel Guards Parade’ where the traditional horses have been replaced by camels that are better able to withstand the heat
  • ‘Thames Tidal Power’ generating electricty for thousands of homes and businesses in the city
  • ‘Skating at Tower Bridge’ during a mini ice-age owing to a slowing of the Gulf Stream
  • ‘St Paul’s Monkeys’ who have replaced the traditional gargoyles
  • ‘Whitehall Tornado’ as extreme weather conditions become a regular feature of life in the UK
  • ‘The Mall – Royal Power’ as wind farms begin to fill our backyards.

Graves and Madoc-Jones explain their motivation for the exhibition in the following way:

“We want to create a space in which people can consider how climate change may impact on their lives.  We are committed to making beautiful and arresting images which tell their own story.  We have deliberately chosen ‘postcard’ shots of London, places that all of us are familiar with. By focusing our creative energy on these well- known panoramas, the images have taken on a life of their own. Even we were surprised by the way the story unfolded as the scene was created. Each picture has become a mini soap-opera, alive with colour, drama, triumph and adversity as our city is transformed and Londoners adapt to meet this change.”

The images certainly seem to have got people talking about climate change, and are a welcome attempt to visualise some of the likely (and also perhaps some of the not so likely) impacts of a changing climate on a city which many people are familiar with. The exhbition has also generated some criticism for exaggerating the potential impacts and being more likely to prompt further denial of the issue rather that positive mitigation action. Some have also criticised the images for being misleading and stereotypical regarding the movements of climate refugees through their depiction of immigrants swamping British culture. You can read more in The Guardian’s piece ‘Fantasy images of climate migration will fuel existing prejudices’.

The Museum of London also tackles the long term variation in the Earth’s climate in its permanent ‘London before London’ gallery which focuses on London’s natural landscape and the people who lived in it before the Romans arrived. A graphical climatic reconstruction shows how the climate in London has changed since 500,000BC and how the course of the River Thames (central to the city’s development) has changed. In the glass cabinets opposite the graph are numerous objects dredged from the river bed – among them bones of elephants, bear, hippopotamus and mammoth. You can explore the London before London gallery online.

'London before London'

'London before London'

'London Futures'

'London Futures' - Postcards from the Future


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