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Major new exhibition unveiled at the Eden Project

The Art of Cutting Carbon featuring Our Carbon Creatures highlights the huge amounts of CO2 caused by the manufacture of everyday materials

Exhibition features in a new BBC documentary The Art Of Cutting Carbon by the BBC’s Energy and Environment Analyst Roger Harrabin, available on BBC iPlayer now

The Art of Cutting Carbon

Our Carbon Creatures exhibition at the Eden Project

Our Carbon Creatures

A landmark new exhibition The Art of Cutting Carbon, curated by BBC Energy and Environment Analyst Roger Harrabin and artist Simon Bingle, has opened at the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK.

In a stunningly original way, a series of sculptures highlights the huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the manufacture of everyday materials – concrete, steel, plastic, paper/card and aluminium.

Each figure hints at the amount of CO2 emitted on behalf of every one of us in the UK every year.

Bringing the exhibition to the best stage has been a labour of love lasting more than a decade for Roger Harrabin and creative director Simon Bingle after they were inspired by the groundbreaking work of Julian Allwood, Professor of Engineering and the Environment at Cambridge University.

Simon and three fellow artists, Kedisha Coakley, Gina Czarnecki, and John Jostins made sculptures from these materials for The Art of Cutting Carbon.

The exhibition and the research that led to it is the subject of a BBC documentary, The Art of Cutting Carbon available now on BBC iPlayer.

Roger Harrabin has reported on the environment for the BBC since the mid-1980s, telling stories about countless issues, from acid rain to “forever” chemicals in breast milk, from fracking to farm subsidies, and from air pollution to plastic waste.

He said: “Each year the overarching threat of climate change has preoccupied me more and more. But one climate story has been consistently hard to tell – that’s the story of the carbon emissions embodied, or embedded, in materials we use.

“We worry about carbon emissions from our cars, gas boilers and flights, but in truth we are surrounded by everyday materials that have also caused huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Around 2010 I had the idea of commissioning sculptures of the five most carbon-intensive materials - based on work by Professor Julian Allwood. So, I was delighted when the Eden Project’s visionary Co-founder Sir Tim Smit said ‘Welcome to Cornwall.’ I can think of no more fitting stage for the exhibition than at Eden.”

Simon Bingle said: “Art is a uniquely powerful tool for communicating ideas to wider audiences. We had already decided that the story of embodied carbon and its impact on all our lives needed to reach as wide an audience as possible.

“So, we created an open call for artists to respond to in 2018. We finally selected Kedisha Coakley, Gina Czarnecki, and John Jostins. They bring their individual aesthetic, imagination and creativity to draw audiences into thinking about the issue. Eighteen years after our first discussions about how to tell the carbon story through art, The Art of Cutting Carbon featuring Our Carbon Creatures has found its home at Eden.”

Sir Tim Smit said: “Culture is itself an ecological force. No one fact will change the way we treat the world - one great story just might.”

The Artists

Simon Bingle

After finishing his degree at Camberwell School of Art in 1986, Simon worked as a scenic artist, prop maker, set builder and a costume prop maker in advertising, theatre and television. He has spent his career making paintings and sculptures for private and commercial clients all around the world.

His work can be seen in various locations, mostly in commercial buildings, and is motivated by the examination of belonging and our desire to be seen as an individual counterpoised by a need to belong.

Simon’s first of two sculptures, Concrete Truths, 2022, is a figure constructed from five separately cast blocks. He chose to represent concrete by making a figure whose block-like form and brutalist cast speak to the language of architecture.

The figure is made of a type of concrete that creates up to 70% fewer emissions than traditional concrete.

Simon’s second sculpture, Cardboard Catastrophe, 2022, is a cardboard ‘creature’ which glowers down on visitors below, emerging from a deluge of boxes and card.

The figure represents an avalanche of a problem made from a ubiquitous packing material that arrives at our doors and fills our bins. It has been produced solely from the boxes arriving at Simon’s house over a period of just eleven months.

Kedisha Coakley

Kedisha studied her BA and MFA in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University.

Her work challenges stereotype and often examines African Caribbean natural hair and its place in women’s lives. By working within the framework of a ‘social practice’ she brings a focus on the marginalised aesthetic of African Caribbean women, and how art and imagery can change perspectives, and be a vehicle for important conversation and change.

Using sculpture, photography and printmaking, her work provokes the premise of history, race, culture and conventions of curation by reframing objects and cultural symbols.

With her involvement in the exhibition, Kedisha wanted to provide an entry point for under-represented communities who often feel excluded from both art and political debate. With Mbulu Ngulu, 2022, made from recycled steel, she is pulling on our cultural differences by reinstating ingenuity, resourcefulness and repurposing through a material context and physicality.

Gina Czarnecki

Gina is a trans-disciplinary artist whose work is at the cutting edge of developmental technologies, research and processes.

Her work is about human form and function, developments in technology, and the intertwining histories of medicine, myth and ethics.

Plastic is the youngest of the five materials used in the exhibition. It has provided an unstoppable flow of cheap products and, marketed on the fact that it can last forever, has become synonymous with climate change.

Plastics are made from fossil fuels.  Emissions come from extracting fossil fuels and the energy-intensive processes to turn them into plastics.

Child Born of Oil 2022 is made of recyclable plastic. Of unspecified race and gender, it is taller than an adult, with its hands tied behind its back, emerging out of a shadow of black oil.

John Jostins

In the early part of his career John worked as a special effects designer and maker for film and television including Star Wars (maker of R2D2 for Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi 1980-83); Superman II (1981); Dr Who (1980s); Blackadder (1983-85); and Cold Lazarus (by Dennis Potter) Channel 4 and BBC (1995-6).

From 1999 John has been developing eco-mobility designs and prototypes, founding Microcab Industries Ltd. in 2004, which focuses on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Call me AL, 2022, expresses the way aluminium is used in helping with human motion but looks to the way that small electric powered devices, such as the mono cycle, are enabling minimal designs for human mobility.

In the artwork, the human is envisioned as a hybrid creature fused to its mobility device, able to traverse the cityscape with minimal effort and energy. The sculpture mixes new and recycled aluminium, with the so-called ‘new’ aluminium made partially of recycled material also.

For more images click here.