What will the world’s biggest cities look like as climate change progresses? In a series called Postcards from the Future, U.K. artists Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones imagined future scenes from London, transforming familiar city views according to different scientific projections.
“We were hearing a lot about the potential impacts of climate change, but everything we were hearing about was just words, or very two-dimensional graphics in magazines,” says Madoc-Jones. “The only imagery we were getting was pictures or reports from places like Bangladesh…the trouble is that when you live in London, when you hear reports of people suffering in other parts of the world, you can easily forget about those things and put them to one side.”
In one scene, rising sea levels have turned London into a Venice-like city that has to be navigated by boat. In another, Buckingham Palace is surrounded by sprawling slum housing climate refugees from other countries. Other images explore temperature extremes–a mini ice age if melting Arctic ice alters the path of the Gulf stream, or a desert if climate change alters rainfall.
“We had to think about what story we could tell with each view,” says Madoc-Jones. “In a scene of rice growing in front of the House of Parliament, we’re looking at the value–what’s more valuable, the idea of growing staple crops or politics? It’s also to do with the idea that the U.K. might have to become more self-sufficient as global systems might start to collapse.”
The series was first exhibited at the Museum of London four years ago. “They were exhibited at a very large scale, so you could almost feel you were walking into them. We did them very realistically to make them as tangible as possible,” Madoc-Jones says. “But the images seem to be more and more relevant now. We hope they have an impact.”