About the Art of Resilience

The Art of Resilience brings together international artists, technologists, and makers representing Latin America, South and East Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the United States. Curated from a global call for entries, The Art of Resilience demonstrates how art can unite a range of disciplines—big data, scientific research, and community organizing—to further the understanding and communication of disaster and climate risk. The Art of Resilience aims to showcase how these new synergies can uniquely and directly support societal efforts to build widespread resilience to disasters and climate change.

Organized by the Labs team of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank Group Art Program, The Art of Resilience includes a wide range of the creative arts—from public art installations, data visualization, and analog photography to digital media, sculpture, and painting. This diversity of mediums, from the more traditional to the hyper-contemporary, highlights how art can be layered atop, placed alongside, or embedded within scientific research to communicate the lived experience of climate change and disaster risk.

The artworks you see here are those that have been selected for exhibition at the World Bank Group headquarters in Washington, DC, as well as pieces that speak to the theme at hand but were not included in the exhibition.

The Art of Resilience should inspire individuals, communities, and governments all over the world to incorporate art into their work on this pressing issue. Please view the guidance collated by GFDRR Labs and the World Bank Group Art Program on how projects aimed at building disaster and climate resilience can productively and meaningfully engage with artists and their work. These recommendations build upon many years of cumulative experience working at the intersection of art and international development. We hope that they will help development partners engage with art as a powerful, if too often untapped, approach for building a safer and more equitable world.

Please note: All images of the artworks on this website are the property of their respective artists.

Why Art?

Art is a powerful means to communicate complex ideas, inspire action, question received wisdom, and connect communities. In the 21st century, there is perhaps no more important set of challenges than understanding the impacts of disasters and environmental changes on our communities and societies, particularly in the developing world. As scientific and engineering knowledge about disasters and climate change has increased, so has the understanding that, in the oft-repeated phrase, “there is no such thing as a natural disaster.” In other words, the vulnerabilities that allow natural events to become disasters are ultimately social in their origin. They stem directly from political, cultural, and economic decisions about where and how human settlements are built, how resources are distributed, and what level of risk we are willing to bear.

By looking at disasters as social challenges as much as environmental ones, linkages to art become clear. Artistic expression has the power to synthesize complex stories and themes in ways that are immediately captivating. Emotions evoked by art can convey deeply felt urgencies and immediate needs.

Disasters have shaped some of the most influential works of art in history. Joseph Mallord William Turner’s sunsets and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein were both composed in the shadow one of the greatest volcanic eruptions ever recorded, that of Mount Tambora in 1815. The Great Wave off Kanagawa, the iconic image from the Edo period created by the 19th-century Japanese artist Hokusai, was inspired by the artist’s awareness of tsunami and rogue wave threats. The Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755 inspired numerous works, including Voltaire’s comical skewering of philosophical determinism in Candide, several books of philosophy by Kant, and a series of essays by Rousseau in which he raised vital questions about the causes of disasters and the inequities of their impacts.

Today, disaster continues to be a source of inspiration for musicians, painters, novelists, makers, and technologists from every part of the world, but it also raises an additional question: how do we go forward? Expanding their approach, contemporary artists use diverse means to communicate the multifaceted and interconnected effects of disasters and climate change—drawing on new materials and techniques, scientific knowledge of risk, and engagement with their communities.

The Process

To understand how contemporary artists are engaging with the themes of disaster and climate change in their work, the curatorial team put out a global call for entries targeted at artists defined in the broadest sense. For this exhibition, “artist” was defined as a creative maker: photographers, performers, musicians, innovators, technologists, cultural entrepreneurs, data visualizers, and scientists. Submissions in any medium were welcomed.

The global call yielded nearly 450 entries from 139 artists representing 53 countries. A jury consisting of curators, cultural institution directors, and resilience project managers from a range of organizations—the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Climate Museum, the World Bank Group Art Program, and the GFDRR Labs—evaluated all the pieces. Artists were judged on their creativity, conceptual engagement with the theme of resilience, artistic skill, and craftsmanship. Ultimately, 21 pieces from 15 artists were selected for the exhibition.

The Artwork

The selected artworks represent an incredible diversity of mediums, geographies, and artistic visions. The artists come from every corner of the globe. Their work includes custom-made predictive software, three-dimensional sculptures made from hurricane debris or recycled computer keys, abstract oil paintings on sheet metal, hand-drawn topographic maps, and large-scale public interactive installations, to name a few. The collection reveals a number of ways in which art can support societal efforts to build resilience, including serving as a call to action, collaborating with science to foster innovation and understanding of risk, and engaging with communities to meet the challenge of building resilience.

Art as a Call to Action

Art can captivate attention, and raise awareness; it can inform and motivate the public about the natural world and its changes. It is often used to educate people on the importance of building resilience to disasters. It can also motivate by stressing the urgency of responding to climate change or preparing for disasters. For example, photographer Yky creates works such as Shakes that change over time depending on light exposure, mimicking the constant process of change we experience in our environment. Through the delicate beauty of his images, Yky invites the viewer to be attracted to change, not afraid of it. Art can also inspire people to envision a hopeful future on an individual level, and take action to help realize that future. Pitsho Mafolo’s piece Redefining Life captures the creativity and courage of people seeking to rearticulate their relationship to the world around them in the aftermath of tragedy.

Art and Science Collaboration as a Resource for Innovation

Emerging technologies are providing incredible new ways to explore, visualize, and communicate disaster and climate data. Adrien Segal’s Tidal Datum, San Francisco creates an innovative and tangible representation of information contained in tidal records, collected over decades by government-funded scientists. Through collaboration with artists, risk experts can be inspired to think about their work differently, ask new questions, or find new solutions to seemingly intractable problems. One such collaboration is the Fresh Flowers Collective, an interdisciplinary team of artists, engineers, and scientists. Their piece Scrubland Map reimagines how a risk map might be drawn to better connect with its audience through native plant species that resonant with locals.

Engaging Communities through Public and Participatory Arts

Public art installations command attention, and when they are used to promote environmental awareness can help the public understand site-specific disaster risks. Carolina Aragón’s installation High Tide provides viewers with an immersive experience of the coastal flooding and sea-level-rise models for the cities in which it has been installed. Participatory art projects can help develop a common language for post-disaster reconstruction, one shared by experts and affected people alike. In this vein, Hanna Riyanto’s Resilience Kit not only offers a collaborative activity that engages communities in their own vision of recovery; it also creates a visual product that illustrates communities’ needs to anyone involved in post-disaster rebuilding.

Contributors

The Art of Resilience was conceived by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) Labs team and the World Bank Group Art Program. The exhibition features artists selected through a competitive process. Participation was open to any emerging or established artist using his, her, or their art to help build society’s resilience to natural hazards. Artworks of any medium were accepted, and artists included any person engaged in creative endeavors.

Project Team

The Project Team was responsible for the management of all curatorial, logistical, and communications related tasks for this exhibition from conception to completion.

Simone Balog-Way, Disaster Risk Management Analyst, GFDRR Labs
Juliana Biondo, Assistant Curator and Project Manager, World Bank Group Art Program
Robert Soden, Sr. Disaster Risk Management Consultant, GFDRR Labs
Emma Phillips Solomon, Sr. Disaster Risk Management Specialist, GFDRR Labs
David Tucker, Communications Associate, GFDRR

Exhibition Jury

Nora Atkinson, Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge, Renwick Gallery
Simone Balog-Way, Disaster Risk Management Analyst, GFDRR Labs
Juliana Biondo, Assistant Curator and Project Manager, World Bank Group Art Program
Marina Galvani, Curator, World Bank Group Art Program
Miranda Massie, Founder and Director, Climate Museum
JD Talasek, Director of Cultural Programs, National Academy of Sciences
Emma Phillips Solomon, Sr. Disaster Risk Management Specialist, GFDRR Labs
Robert Soden, Sr. Disaster Risk Management Consultant, GFDRR Labs

Research and Catalogue Entries

Juliana Biondo, Assistant Curator and Project Manager, World Bank Group Art Program

Editorial Coordination

Emma Phillips Solomon, Sr. Disaster Risk Management Specialist, GFDRR Labs

Catalogue Design and Layout

Miki Fernandez

Catalogue Editing

Anne Himmelfarb

Exhibition Communications and Website

Simone Balog-Way, Disaster Risk Management Analyst, GFDRR Labs
Juliana Biondo, Assistant Curator and Project Manager, World Bank Group Art Program
David Tucker, Communications Associate, GFDRR

Artwork Installation

Matthew Burke, Registrar, The World Bank Group Art Program
Carlos Luis Troconis Camacho, Art Handler, The World Bank Group Art Program
Richard Sukhu, Contractor, Global Corporate Solutions, The World Bank Group

Artwork Shipments

Global Corporate Solutions, Mail and Shipping, The World Bank Group

Acknowledgments

The team would also like to thank Marina Galvani and Laura Tuck of the World Bank Group, and Julie Dana, Vivien Deparday, Yoko Kobayashi, and Jocelyn West of GFDRR for their contributions to the project.

We extend a special thanks to all the artists who contributed their talent and expertise to this exhibition.