Every cloud has a silver lining, but sometimes that silver lining is a teachable moment made from dead birds and covered in shiny black sludge.
Although not nearly as catastrophic as 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, the Rena shipwreck off the coast of New Zealand last October was the worst maritime environmental disaster in the country’s history. The Bay of Plenty, and all its attendant wildlife, absorbed over 350 tons of oil in the wreck. Greenpeace workers assessing the carnage left in its wake, however, managed to come up with a solemn warning for the future, thinly veiled as art.
The Oil on Canvas project, literally the saddest project you will hear about all day, is a traveling art show created by New Zealand agency Publicis Mojo. Each piece looks like a Rorschach test, as seen through the eyes of someone particularly preoccupied with birds. These aren’t just an artist’s renderings of birds as inkblots, though; these are imprints of dead birds, dipped in the oil that killed them.
“Rena did this,” reads the caption on the accompanying dead-bird posters Greenpeace papered walls with around New Zealand to underline the project. “Deep sea oil drilling could be 1000 times worse.”
The video below shows the creation of Oil on Canvas, accompanied by the appropriately forlorn tones of Radiohead’s “No Surprises.” It’s an abrupt, macabre reminder of the helpless victims of the Rena disaster. As viewers raise tissues to wipe their eyes, though, Greenpeace successfully raises awareness for a looming issue–deep sea drilling–that threatens to claim even more such victims. You will need a hug after watching.