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Public art’s staging in accessible settings make it unique in its ability to engage people. Public monuments, such as statues to deceased soldiers and kings, populate urban parks with the intention of memorializing their work to present and future generations. Since about the 1970s, public art made a decisive turn towards engaging issues of social and community relevance. It started to become a tool for urban intervention to engage people about issues of public concern.


Phase Change can be understand in the backdrop of environmental public art, which rose in prominence during the 1970s and 1980s  During the decade between the 1970s and 1980s came a rise of environmental public art, where issues of nature and climate became a critical focus. The perceived environmental deficiencies in the cityscape were seen as the perfect backdrop against which to juxtapose issues of the natural world. Northern Spark 2016 is a perfect demonstration of this principle, assembling artists in the historic Mill City region of Minneapolis in order to address the issue of climate chaos.

Phase Change debuted during Northern Spark, an all-night art festival held in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 11, 2016. The theme for this year’s festival was “Climate Chaos | Climate Rising.” It was chosen in response to the increasingly apparent effect of global warming on our environment. Never before have the consequences of human activities been so plainly manifest in our natural surroundings: The current environmental situation appears bleak--the dangerous levels of carbon dioxide concentration in the air threatening the homeostasis of our global ecosystems; we have witnessed a sixth extinction of animal species; the lowered groundwater table has made acquiring potable water increasingly difficult; the rising sea levels threaten to submerge island nations; and extreme and extreme weather conditions are taking their toll on both the global harvest and on our towns and cities. The seemingly catastrophic climate changes have now become pervasive in our daily lives.


Northern Spark 2016 capitalizes on the power of art to reassure, to connect, to engage, to perturb, and--most importantly--to provoke its viewers. Through the projects displayed at the festival, visitors are invited to navigate issues of climate change that have now assumed a personal dimension. The festival lays the groundwork of public awareness, but also calls for the assumption of responsibility, for unity in the face of collective adversity, and for action--both collective and individual.


It is against this backdrop that Phase Change was conceived. Northern Spark 2016 presented Futures North with vehicle to create socially and environmentally responsive art. Not only does Phase Change echo the festival’s call to action, but it also invites visitors to confront the consequences of small choices that affect our environment--choices which we make nonchalantly on a daily basis. In doing so, Phase Change prompts visitors to question their lifestyles and how they can alter them to minimize their impact on our environment. Phase Change strives to stage a confrontation with reality and to create a space for visitors to consider their individual climate story.

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