Preface — Seeing the Climate Crisis Through Everyday Objects

Pascal Glissmann, Selena Kimball — Co-directors, Observational Practices Lab, Parsons, The New School New York

It is well documented that we are living in a critical moment of climate crisis–the Anthropocene is often portrayed through images of catastrophic wildfires, ice shelves breaking into the sea, drought-stricken landscapes. But how is global warming embedded in everyday objects and transmitted through habits of perception? How can observational research from across the visual arts and sciences engender new insights into the climate crisis?

Initiated by the Observational Practices Lab, “Looking at Water” begins with a commonly overlooked object–a glass of water–and explores how artists and scientists use the tools and methods of their practice to observe it and document the results.

The Observational Practices Lab, Parsons School of Design, aims to provoke dialogue and instigate critical reflection about the very nature of observation across disciplinary boundaries. Observation is fundamental to ways of knowing, yet it is rarely investigated as a set of comparative methods and contingent practices. Initiated by questions arising out of art and design practice, the lab is driven by transdisciplinary and collaborative learning through experimental approaches to research. We aim to foster a non-hierarchical engagement with diverse modes of observation in order to investigate its past effects, present consequences and potential in creating the future.

We would like to thank The New School Provost’s Office, and our colleagues and staff in the School of Art, Media, and Technology. This research project was supported by the Fellowship in Transdisciplinary Research Fund Grant, the New School. We also gratefully acknowledge our interdisciplinary panel of researchers and our students for their generous participation in helping us launch the Atlas of Looking at Water.