Residents of New Zealand’s capital city were caught off-guard earlier this week when an iceberg was spotted floating in Wellington Harbour. As speculation began to mount regarding its authenticity, a group of anonymous artists claimed responsibility via email, saying:
We are not affiliated with any formal group. We’re just people who care, people who have children. This is an appeal to every New Zealander who sees this artwork to stand up and take action. It’s time to really do something about climate change, before it’s too late. We didn’t just talk, we did something. What are you going to do?
It seems as though the stunt has been met with favorable reaction from the city, which plans to let the iceberg remain until the end of the week. The public reaction, however, is somewhat inconclusive. The only published opinion I’ve seen is by a blogger for New Zealand’s Dominion Post, who—despite claiming to be a fan of public art (a la Banksy) and a supporter of climate science—said he liked the stunt, but was a bit turned off by the artists’ email:
It was all so holier-than-thou… There was no concept of nuance, no sense that some people might be more worried about paying the rent right now than keeping the Arctic shelf together. There was no feeling that the best solutions for this complicated problem were probably larger, more structural, than an individual light switch. And there was definitely no thought that the message might be undermining the artwork, which was message enough on its own.
Perhaps he has a point. Most public art is so direct as to not require an explanation. If it’s done right, the work should inspire or elicit the desired reaction. There’s a reason these artists chose a visual form. They clearly believed it to be the most powerful medium for their message. It probably would have been best to stick with it. Nevertheless, they deserve points for style.