April 10, 2020

A collage of protest photos, an aquarium brimming with plastic, a man walking his dog on a floor of circuit boards, with wires crawling over them.

These are some of the scenes at SPECTRUM | The Climate Emergency Experience, an art exhibit in uptown Waterloo that includes the work of two Conestoga College students.

Art display E-waste, by Abigail Tanner and Brittney Ellsworth
E-waste, by Abigail Tanner and Brittney Ellsworth. (Caleb Burney/Spoke Online)

“I hope that when people come to see our artwork that they leave with the realization that it isn’t just plastic that is polluting our planet and ending up in our landfills, it’s our old earphones, extension cords and cameras that contribute to our Earth’s current crisis as well,” said Abigail Tanner, a second-year visual merchandising arts student, by email.

“I want people who visit our install to be aware that if we continue down this destructive path that there will be no definitive line between Mother Nature and motherboard.”

SPECTRUM’s series of local and international art is an outpost of the ALARM climate exhibition by THEMUSEUM in Kitchener. It opened Feb. 12 in The Shops at Waterloo Town Square, 75 King St. S.

Climate Action display at SPECTRUM: picket signs and climate strike photos
Signs from local protests, photos and video make up the SPECTRUM climate action room.
(Caleb Burney/Spoke Online)

The location is part of THEMUSEUM’s public engagement strategy, CEO David Marskell said in an interview.

“It’s … really important that we’re involving our brand and we’re getting out of the museum and having a new audience who don’t know we even exist down there (in Kitchener) see what we’re up to and that museums can be fun and the experience can be immersive and a fun experience and at the same time (come) with a very, very important message, in this case of climate emergency.”

Flood/Rain, by TheMuseum
Flood/Rain, by THEMUSEUM. (Caleb Burney/Spoke Online)
Save Underscore, by Jonathan Rosen, a mirror with phrases beginning with "Save" rapidly projected on it. The photographer is reflected.
Save _, by Jonathan Rosen. (Caleb Burney/Spoke Online)

A hall of lights and umbrellas symbolizing rain, an interactive wall of found-object percussion instruments and a canoe immersed in a cascade of plastic bottles number among the displays. Photography is encouraged.

“Presenting Instagrammable content — we’re hoping that people share their experience and have fun with it; it’s playable as well,” said Laura McKellar, senior director of exhibitions and program development, in an interview.

“But then because we’re talking about the climate emergency, it’s important to take away something from it and maybe create some change in your life or take action (in terms) of what you can do to address the climate (emergency).”

Over Our Heads, by Rebecca Jane Houston: a canoe lists, suspended in a cascade of plastic bottles
Over Our Heads, by Rebecca Jane Houston. (Caleb Burney/Spoke Online)
Detail from E-waste, by Abigail Tanner and Brittney Ellsworth: a mannequin walks his dog atop a floor of circuit boards, with wires running over parts of their bodies.
(Caleb Burney/Spoke Online)

Abigail Tanner and Brittney Ellsworth said they and classmates were assigned to imagine art installations themed around electronic waste (another set of finished works appears at THEMUSEUM in downtown Kitchener). THEMUSEUM gave them the wires and circuit boards, while the man and dog were intended as familiar elements that would help convey their message even to children.

“We were able to see a few installations while installing our own display, and they were incredible,” Ellsworth said by email. “The artists behind them are incredibly talented. I think that it’s very important that people are finally taking notice (of) the impact of humankind and how to fix the problems we’ve created.”

SPECTRUM, along with the rest of the ALARM exhibits, runs till Sept. 7. Admission to SPECTRUM is $14.99 for non-member adults. It’s open Wednesdays to Sundays.

"There is no Planet Bee" reads this wall art, featuring honeycomb patterns of gold on black and, of course, the image of a bee
Wall art by Connor Simpson/THEMUSEUM. (Caleb Burney/Spoke Online)

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