Miami Murals Show Climate-Impacted Futures

Nov 20, 2018

Sea-level rise can feel like a far-away problem.

Some artists in Miami have been working on an augmented reality project depicting how climate change and sea-level rise could impact Miami, depending on the decisions people make today. 

 


An app, created by the nonprofit “Before It’s Too Late,” brings murals to life and shows viewers alternate futures. The first mural is located at 1800 N. Miami Ave., and a second one is being painted at 299 NW 25th St.

Linda Cheung leads the project and recently spoke with WLRN’s Alicia Zuckerman at a sea-level rise town hall. Here's an excerpt of their conversation:

LINDA CHEUNG: Art takes you out of your current perspective to consider things from a new perspective. People just enjoy art, and sometimes you need something like that for a topic like climate change — which can be very hard, or you just want to avoid it, or it's very factual.

How do you add that new lens to it — empathy — but also not make it so negative. Make it beautiful. Make it hopeful and about the future vision. I really wanted to get into using art and technology, merging the two. At first, I was working on virtual reality, and then I realized when I was working with virtual reality, most people didn't have access to virtual reality. So that was a huge limiting factor.

WLRN: You ended up with augmented reality. What's the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality?

It's really the same sort of platform. The main difference is virtual requires a headset, so it's supposed to take over your reality virtually. Augmented reality augments your current reality, which you can easily access through the smartphone. Pretty much everyone has a smartphone. So I really think AR is going to take off much faster than VR.

And in terms of the murals, coming into Miami, I dabbled a lot in many different projects. But there's two places in Miami people come to see: the beach and Wynwood. There's a whole mural culture. I wanted to create my own project. It's called Miami Murals, but these murals have augmented reality and there is a real message here, which is around climate change and is the most important and urgent issue here in this region.

There's another project, which is a collaboration with the Miami artist Reinier Gamboa. When you told me the name of that project, it gave me chills in not a great way, I have to say. What's it called?

It's called Remembering Miami. Memory is very emotional. It also has a sense of time, which is really what it is. Climate change is all about time, and it's a very abstract issue that moves slow. That's why it's so easy for us to ignore it. This whole idea is, if you could just think about everything from the perspective of time ... We're doing this whole storytelling series as if we're archaeologists from the future looking back on today. If we don't act correctly, all of this could be underwater by 2100.

How would you talk about today from the lens of time? When you look at things from the lens of history and time, the important things come to the top and all the other clutter that distracts you in life fall away, because they're forgotten.

But we don't know what the future will be. It's not necessarily going to be negative. There is still a hopeful path.

Alexander Gonzalez contributed to this report.