Bright lights,
rising tides

Bright lights,
rising tides

Words: Anne-Marie Hoeve

Photos: Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho

Image description Image description

Global warming means rising sea levels. We know this, but it remains hard to register. That’s where Finnish artists Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho come in. Their illuminating art installation gets the message across loud and clear. And in raising awareness, hopefully their work can help turn the tide.

The Uist islands in the Scottish Outer Hebrides feel a long way from the troubles of the world. But when it comes to future sea level rises, there’s no hiding – and low-lying coastal communities like this will be the hardest hit. It is here that artists Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho have created an art installation that calls attention to the threat using an unusual tool: sheer brilliance.

With every incoming tide, glowing beams of white light up in the fields, across the shore and even on buildings, to reveal projected sea levels. The beams are like beacons, keeping the darkness at bay. At the same time they invite us to see what we can no longer ignore: global warming is on our doorstep. This is no serene spectacle; it is a stark call to action.

As Pekka Niittyvirta says: “Art has the potential to convey scientific data, complex ideas and concepts in a powerful way, when words or graphs may fall short. Also, LED-light resonates with the contemporary consumer society at an individual level, and perhaps, through this work, people can better visualise what might come.”

The work, called Lines (57° 59’, 7° 16’ W), was commissioned by the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre in Lochmaddy, which is already confronted with recurrent flooding and coastal erosion. Some 6,600km away, on the other side of the Atlantic ocean, the artists installed a similar exhibition in Miami Beach to highlight the global scope of this issue which affects us all. It is through iconic works like this, seen and shared by millions, that awareness breeds change. Why not spread the word and amplify the impact?


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