The artwork engages the audience on the possible futures we face if we do – or don’t – change our attitudes towards the environment. It is informed by a famous study which concluded that people’s beliefs about climate change are closely tied to the temperature they’ve recently experienced – in other words, people sitting in warmer rooms are more likely to say that ‘global warming’ is a problem.
We turned this insight into an impactful artistic experience to raise questions around responsibility, participation and action. Since we couldn’t crank up the heat in COP27’s plenary rooms, we invited decision-makers to experience two competing scenarios for the future in our public art installation.
From the outside, its two rooms looked entirely identical. Before entering, each visitor was given a page from a gamebook (printed fiction that invites the reader to participate in the story by making choices).
Based on their choices, and respective sustainability score, visitors were guided to enter either ‘Heaven’ or ‘Hell’ – where all their senses were targeted by very different sights, sounds, temperatures, and smells.
The work at COP27 was met by general excitement, enthusiasm and praise. Word-of-mouth generated perpetual lines of people waiting to engage with it. During the two-week conference, over 3100 delegates experienced our installation (2097 went to heaven, and 1019 went to hell). We always encouraged participants to visit the other room as well.
The installation was widely covered by more than 30 international media, including the Washington Post, Artnet, Forbes, Yahoo News, and many outlets in the MENA region, earning critical acclaim and reaching hundreds of thousands. In addition, we reached over 70 000 people through our social media accounts.
Heaven & Hell in the Anthropocene will be made replicable under an open license – with its key characteristics and aesthetics published online in a DIY manual, so that movements and collectives around the world can recreate it in their cities to initiate conversations around climate change.