The conceptual artist Adam Chodzko has made a hypnotic film to help us get our heads around the reality of climate change. The 30 minute movie—elegantly named Deep Above—takes us on an adventure into our own minds that feels like waking up after a wild and fascinating dream. The plan is that by clearing out our heads in this way, we could be able to absorb the reality of our predicament, and maybe come up with a more proactive response to it than, “er, yes … scary.”
This week, 17,000 global delegates are gathered together at COP21 in Paris to try to hammer out a deal for reducing carbon emissions to levels low enough to make a future for human life possible. Back at home, it’s probably more a question of thinking and talking about climate change like it’s actually real (because, um, it obviously is). But first, advises Adam, try “switching on Vimeo HD, setting it to full screen, and plugging in a fantastic speaker system.”
Why did you make this film?
It’s weird. It’s like when you feel like there is a storm is coming: there’s something odd about the light, and the sky is dark, and everyone is becoming introspective. There’s a trepidation but we can’t quite articulate whether it’s inside us or outside us. So the film is a psychological work out, a deep unconscious recognition of where we’re at. It’s difficult to still our chattering minds, but we need to develop a super consciousness that can reflect on this thing—climate change—that we keep trying to avoid.
Why do we try to avoid it?
We’re hard-wired to only deal with local threats, so people get obsessed with mobile phone masts in their area, but find it difficult to get angry about this other giant thing. Also it’s so much bigger than us and that bothers us. In the same way that we love thinking ahead to our children and grandchildren, there is something terrifying about it too, because it makes us less consequential. It’s the same for the future of the planet: it makes us feel small. But what happens if we’re the last generation of humans?
Why did you choose hypnosis as your method?
I am increasingly convinced that we have been hypnotised already, by capitalism. Generally, we have become very dopey, but with a vague sense that someone—or something—might be laughing at us behind our backs. The film is to help us come out of that trance.
There are so many ideas packed into just a half hour. Where did you pick them all up?
I accumulate them, like collecting nice little pebbles from beaches. Over the years I think I have got better at knowing how to recognise when I see or hear something odd and special.
Climate change is our fault. Do you think we’re destined to always feel guilty about how we live?
Not at all. In her book This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein writes about how everything is connected; so we’re facing an opportunity to transform so many things, like poverty, at the same time as mitigating the worst effects of climate change. Of course that’s still terrifying for some people, because it means a massive overhaul of the way we do things and they wonder if it will require that we live like Buddhists. She thinks this would actually an amazingly positive change though, and I agree.
I watched your film and afterwards, my mind did feel sharper. Do you think digital media makes our minds fuzzier?
It’s a massive question and we don’t know the answer to it yet. Our memories, our bodies, our sexuality, our emotions, are all being vastly modified but the process also contains a system of forgetting who we used to be, so we lose track of how much our perception has changed.
And after watching it, and getting their psychological work out, what do you want people to actually do?
It would start with all of us being more honest about where we are at with it – particularly if we consider ourselves politically aware beings who like to eat organic. I think there is a certain amount of self-delusion about how good we are; so a great starting point would be for everyone to be more honest about why they don’t give a shit, or are scared to think about it. Instead of floating around in this bubble of being really nice people.
You must be proud of this film. How does it fit in with your other work?
All my work is about looking, hoping, and trying to perceive a reality that is sensed, through the everyday, but always slightly out of reach.