Climate Mismatch, Paolo Cirio’s solo show at Sale Docks in Venice

Paolo Cirio’s solo show at Sale Docks addresses the discrepancy between climate data and climate justice.

Conceptual, interventionist and digital art on the fossil fuel economy and its consequences is presented as visual art works and installations in the huge Sale Docks space at Magazzini del Sale in Venice.

This overview of more than 10 works of art created by Paolo Cirio in the last two years is the result of his research and the advocacy of climate justice, which he began to explore back in 2010. These works deal with the perception and portrayal of the climate crisis, for which Cirio seeks to outline a climate aesthetic that can integrate the politics, economics and ethics of the current epochal planetary crisis. Using a research approach, Cirio looks at the semiotics and philosophy of climate aesthetics, intertwining them with legal action and policy making to build justice for people, species and ecosystems.

Cirio created the idea of ​​a climate tribunal against fossil fuel companies in 2021, creating a series of artworks based on his extensive research into the climate crisis. Cirio highlights concrete evidence that proves the legal liability of fossil fuel companies, using color, notation and composition, creating greater public engagement on this complex topic. Using prints on canvas, fabric and paper, Cirio’s visual art includes scientific and economic data, legal documents and geopolitical analysis, graphs and photos, biological research and satellite imagery. The climate tribunal at Sale Docks features artwork presented as evidence, plaintiffs and defendants, climatologists and activists speaking as witnesses, and visitors to the exhibition either participate as jury members who evaluate the evidence or identify themselves as the injured party.

Semiotic, the Climate Mismatch exhibition examines the discrepancy between the object/subject of research and its representation/perception. This problematizes how data and science have long pointed to how fossil fuel economy was the cause of climate change, and yet the meaning of this data has no concrete reference. This discrepancy between facts and actions has led to misrepresentations and misunderstandings, generating confusion that still persists in the world of culture and society.

It is not only the disinformation spread by oil companies and the greenwashing of the business world that has led to the rejection of global warming. Today, the same institutions that claim to be at the forefront of climate defense don’t even mention the global fossil fuel economy. Universities, cultural institutions, the art world and the media are increasingly running special programs on climate change, but without investigating its causes, the fossil fuel industry, which often even finances such institutions.

The exhibition questions the ethics of representing a climate catastrophe, examining the discrepancies between data and agency, the discrepancies between facts and cognition, the discrepancies between rhetoric and reality. These discrepancies are challenged by Paolo Cirio, who aims to change perceptions, turn data into action, and promote public order and justice. Cirio criticizes the use of bland phrases such as sustainable development, renewables, decarbonization and net zero while the real culprits, their profit, investment and carbon history data, are still hidden. Moreover, Cirio also questions the mismatch of representation in the cultural sector through direct institutional critiques in the art world and advocates a more effective climate aesthetic.

In particular, Cirio is focusing on the new forensic discipline “Scientific Attribution”, which is able to establish links between weather anomalies and greenhouse gas emissions. The quantification of fossil fuel production can indicate the legal and ethical responsibilities of Carbon Majors. But they are too big to fail. Studying and calculating greenhouse gas emissions without including them in the global economy policy equation will only lead to data failure because computers and data do not measure and model schizophrenic capitalism.

In this new era of denial, it is not the climate crisis that is being denied, but rather its causes and culprits. To overcome this cognitive mismatch, Cirio turns information into art to generate knowledge, agency, and change while exploring financialization, weaponization, politicization, data processing, and normalization of the climate crisis.