Arts and Culture

Exhibition 'Artists Responding to Crisis' highlights the challenges facing humanity

'Artists Responding to Crisis' exhibition highlights issues facing our world, such as mental health, sustainability, displaced women and natural disasters.

'Artists Responding to Crisis' exhibition highlights issues facing our world, such as mental health, sustainability, displaced women and natural disasters. Image: Yaman Yamsonite Okur.

Joseph Fowler
Head, Arts and Culture, World Economic Forum
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Arts and Culture

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • 'Artists Responding to Crisis' exhibition highlights issues facing our world, such as mental health, sustainability, displaced women and natural disasters.
  • It features works of art from the following artists: Krista Kim, Benjamin Von Wong, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, and Yaman Yamsonite Okur.
  • The event will be running daily throughout the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in the Congress Centre's Gallery.

It is important to recognize the value of art in addressing and responding to situations of crisis, both on an individual and collective level. By embracing art as a means of expression and healing, it can be a catalyst for social change, encouraging dialogue and promoting healing and resilience in the face of challenging circumstances.

Artists and their art have played a vital role in humanity’s experiences with hardship. Throughout history, artists have illustrated the unique challenges the most vulnerable members of our societies face in times of global, national, and communal crisis. Major crises often result in the rise and fall of political ideologies and shifts in the balance of power between nations.

Artists play a crucial role in helping societies express the emotional complexities of collective experiences where words and data fail. With the ability to create works that interpret and reflect the emotions, struggles, and resilience of communities affected by crisis, artistic expression can foster empathy, raise awareness, and promote healing and unity.

Artists Responding to Crisis

Artists Responding to Crisis is an exhibition that focuses on mental health and wellbeing, forced displacement, natural disasters and product consumption and pollution.

'Continuum' by Krista Kim

In 2005, Canadian-Korean contemporary artist Krista Kim had an artistic epiphany when she encountered the Ryoanji Temple Garden in north-west Kyoto, Japan. Whilst in the temple garden, Krista entered a Zen state of consciousness while meditating. This was the catalyst which triggered Krista to start creating Zen digital art with a focused vision and mission to bring Zen into the metaverse for the mental well-being of future generations.

'Continuum' by Krista Kim.
'Continuum' by Krista Kim.

Premiered in Times Square in February 2021, Krista Kim’s Continuum is a soothing visual meditation that draws from a massive database of LED light photography, Photoshop, binary code and dynamic software along with leading digital printers and progressive engineers to produce the vibrant colourscapes of Continuum.

Celebrated for its ability to draw people back into the present moment by creating a bridge between the physical and the digital worlds, the shifting landscape of ever-changing colour and emotion of Continuum invites viewers to travel into a visual meditation and healing journey – a digital zen garden that explores the depths of consciousness and well-being through sound and colours.

'Trashtopia' by Benjamin Von Wong

It’s just one straw, said 8 billion people.

Benjamin Von Wong is a hidden gem in the climate movement, seamlessly blending artistry with catalytic action and collaboration.

'Trashtopia' by Benjamin Von Wong.
'Trashtopia' by Benjamin Von Wong.

Trashtopia is a profound exploration into the heart of environmental crises spawned by overconsumption: fast fashion, ocean plastics, and electronic waste. Harnessing the emotive power of art, blending the stunning and the sombre, inviting viewers to confront the opulent decay birthed from our consumptive practices, urging us to feel the weight of the world's silent screams beneath the surface of aesthetic allure.

Through Benjamin's visionary lens, art transcends mere visual impact; it becomes a catalyst for change, intricately weaving startling statistics with captivating visuals, transforming cold data into a powerful narrative that resonates with the soul. The paradoxical nature of this exhibition, and its ability to present grave truths through breath-taking artistry, echoes the very essence of our times: the beauty and the devastation of human progress.

'Home' by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

Throughout history and across the globe, countless women have weathered the harrowing experience of displacement, enduring a myriad of challenges unique to their gender. Whether fleeing from armed conflict, environmental disasters, or economic hardships, they confront a multitude of adversities while navigating dangerous journeys filled with uncertainty at every step.

'Home' by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.
'Home' by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

Despite these challenges, displaced women are not passive victims and have refused to be defined by their hardships. Instead, they have channelled their experiences into something positive, utilizing art and other mediums as a means of healing and empowerment.

Home created by two-time Oscar winning Pakistani-Canadian journalist, filmmaker and activist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy brings to life the first-person experiences of three remarkable women who have been displaced across different corners of the Global South. Their narratives unveil the trials and tribulations they faced while traversing the landscapes of armed conflicts, environmental disasters, economic hardships, and other life-altering events.

Have you read?

'Kaygan' by Yaman Yamsonite Okur

In 1999, award winning French-Turkish breakdancer, choreographer and photographer Yaman Yamsonite Okur experienced a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that devasted his home in Turkey.

For the past 24 years Yaman has taken striking self-portraits all over the world which feature him suspended in mid-air. As if he was attempting to fly, capturing the moment he is airborne and suspended above the ground.

'Kaygan' by Yaman Yamsonite Okur showcasing at the Artists Responding to Crisis exhibition.
'Kaygan' by Yaman Yamsonite Okur showcasing at the Artists Responding to Crisis exhibition.

“I believe that unconsciously, I jump and take flight to observe the earth from above which one day slipped from under my feet. Each jump is a tribute to one of the souls that took flight that night in 1999. So, I fly.” Yamon Yamsonite Okur.

In a series of commissioned photos and a short film Yaman articulates his personal and artistic response to the earthquake he experienced and engages with nature in a poetic and powerful physical dialogue. It is a profound visual insight into the relationship between natural disaster and artist expression, examining the relationship between the two.

The power of art

By providing a means to express complex, and at times unspeakable emotions, Krista Kim, Yaman Yamsonite Okur, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Benjamin Von Wong offer solace, healing, and a sense of empowerment. These artists and their work play a crucial role in raising awareness, fostering dialogue, and promoting social change by shedding light on important issues and challenging societal norms.

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