22MIRRORS is a multimedia project of artistic research that presents a set of 22 arcana each representing one archetypical figure playing a role in the current climate emergency. The project uses creative writing as a tool to examine the selected arcana, producing then a manuscript with chapters dedicated to each figure. The figures were also represented visually in the form of cards. Both products, the manuscript and the 22 images, form the corpus of a grammar-generative bot which automatically responds to questions. Extracts from the manuscript, paired with their respective image, attempt to propose open answers to crucial issues of the climate crisis.
22MIRRORS is a commissioned project with the objective to explore artistic approaches at the moment of addressing the major urgency of the climate emergency. I was requested to produce an exercise of social activation and experimentation deep dive using artistic methodologies of witchcraft and mysticism.
The current climate crisis is a transversal problem, and the advice of the experts continues to be that this is a subject that should not be addressed only by those dedicated to environmental science. Research groups and global summits on climate are instances increasingly interdisciplinary, aware of the necessity of approaching the subject from a multiplicity of perspectives, geographies and cosmologies.
Artists, then, also emerge as actors capable of producing useful resources and insights to tackle this global emergency, especially in matters such as communication, ethics and community organising. And it is actually possible to see many examples of creatives releasing products related to this issue, from Hollywood films to murals and zines. In many cases, these works adopt an educational perspective with the objective of convincing the popular opinion of the seriousness of the problem. A project of mine, the Gatito newsletter, falls into this category of artistic developments centered on the topic of climate, with journalist Paz Peña I write a monthly dispatch to exchange thoughts on the relation between climate and digital technologies, we use methodologies of creative non-fiction as a way to connect with general audiences and to facilitate a productive dynamic between topics at the level of intimacies and large-scale issues, which is a key aspect of this specific problem of the climate emergency: a planetary problem that manifests in events of daily life. This perspective has actually been raised by other writers as well, that is the case of Zadie Smith in her essay An Elegy for Seasons in which she expands on the topic of how different weather used to be in past times, the evident and universal sense of changing weather when comparing temperatures today from those of twenty years ago.
Therefore, the different scales in which the climate emergency manifests, are a major aspect to address in an artistic experimentation, it is clearly one of the biggest difficulties to solve at instances of scientific research and policy making, since in both areas the spheres of intimacy and those of global geopolitics are hardly addressed at the same time, it is actually common to see that even totally different groups of specialists are dedicated to global-scale and individual-scale problems. This distance results even more problematic when considering the diverse scenarios and communities affected by the climate crisis, such as the distinction between urban and rural areas, old and young individuals, the many different effects of this crisis in different geographies.
22MIRRORS is a project focused on the systemic nature of the climate emergency, this is a focus that allows the creators to address the crucial aspects of the problem just described such as the need for interdisciplinarity, the importance of including different geographies and cosmologies, and the motivation for exploring the simultaneously intimate and planetary effects of the climate crisis.
A starting point of this project was a research trip to Glasgow, Scotland in October 2021 to attend the COP26 Global Summit on Climate, this instance appeared as an appropriate event to identify key actors working on climate related topics at different scales and from different parts of the world. The idea of performing scholarly fieldwork at a global United Nations conference has been done before and a particularly well executed case was Felicity Scott’s academic chronicle on the UNT in order to examine matters of architecture and the problems of the so called international development. A UN summit is a type of event that uniquely demonstrated the different forces interested in a specific topic, and the power relations between these forces. In the case of COP26, this dispute was very obvious in situations such as the many spaces available for lobbyists and executives of private corporations at the summit while activists being relegated to spaces in which global decision makers had barely any presence. This imbalance however was tackled by massive public demonstrations in obvious opposition to capitalistic logics of extractivism and accumulation.
My days in Glasgow informed the core part of 22MIRRORS, the curation of the final set of the 22 arcana. This was a delicate process in order to produce a group of archetypes able to reflect the climate emergency problem systematically and present different problematics with a sense of balance between different scales. Through desk research, some of the arcana were already being considered, this was the case of The Scientist, The Land Defender, Lithium. However, it was after COP26 that I produced the final list:
- The scientist
- The land defender
- The glacier
- Deep time
- The polar bear
- The child
- The policymaker
- The farmer
- The Amazon
- The CEO
- The bunker
- Space colony
- The cow
In several divinatory traditions as well as in psychoanalysis, arcana or archetypes, operate as figures that reflect on unconscious intensities at the individual and the collective level. The tarot for instance has recognizable symbols of this kind such as The Magician, The Wheel of Fortune, The Devil, and so on with their 22 arcana on the Marseille tarot. In Jungian psychology, scholars have isolated models such as The Eternal Child, The Anima, The Shadow, The Trickster, and others. In this proposal, archetypes were identified using those logics, an archetype is not something that need to be invented, it is a force that just needs to be unveiled because it has always been there. The role of the artist, in many ways is to do this unveiling, it is what Gilled Deleuze calls to be a “clinician of civilisation”, this is the act of detecting, with scientific precision a behaviour or a relation which, before the intervention of the artist, was “undiagnosed”. 22MIRRORS is then an attempt of that same kind.
Campagna, F. (2018). Technic and Magic. The Reconstruction of Reality. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Deleuze, G. (1990). Logic of Sense. New York City: Columbia University Press.
Jodorowsky, A. (2009). The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards. Montpelier: Destiny Books.
Koolhaas, R., & AMO. (2020). Countryside. A Report. Cologne: Taschen.
Morton, T. (2018). Being Ecological. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Scott, F. (2016). Outlaw Territories: Environments of Insecurity/Architecture of Counterinsurgency. Princeton: Zone Books.