Behind the scenes, Environment, Photojournalism

Empty Chairs

The differences is clear: a community with a history of fighting for survival and one where apathy, so far, reigns.

A strategy meeting organized by the Villages community and attended by the local MP

A Heathrow Airports Limited organized meeting to engage with the public in Windsor

The two meetings I’ve attended in the last few months have been vastly different in terms of engagement with the local communities. The first – part of the traveling itinerary of the airport’s community relations department – was poorly attended, while the most recent had a real sense of spirit and fight.

Central to the theme of the night at the latter was the need to spread the word to those not present, and strategies which might be deployed to that end. A particularly creative one mentioned was a set of speakers mounted on a van which roamed around the leafier districts of southwest London blasting out the recorded sound of an aircraft landing on a potential, future runway.

I’ve always thought of this project as being connected in a larger context to man-made global warming. To that end, I’ve been on the look out for artists looking at the subject from many different points of view and perspectives. In other words, strategies for engaging with those empty chairs.

A colleague recently introduced me to the work of the artist Chris Jordan who uses statistics as a starting point to create highly detailed images of objects collected and photographed to form enormous canvasses. A number of the pieces retain their enigmatic impact through abstraction, others reveal their message on a macro level. Each image deals with excess, and of particular interest to this author, excesses within culture which go unnoticed but have an exponentially large impact on the wider world.

Much of the science behind global warming suggests fossil fuels need to remain in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic changes to the climate. A rise from 480,000 to 740,000 flights a year with the proposed expansion does not seem to tally with this heightened awareness of our collective global impact.