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KLIMA_X – an Exhibition on Communicating the Climate Crisis

Prologue at the entrance area / Copyright Museum für Kommunikation Berlin, Yves Sucksdorff

 

Katja Weber, founder of freelance network, Reflekt, shares the work that she has undertaken with KLIMA_X – an exhibition about communicating the climate crisis in Frankfurt and Berlin. As a curator, sociologist, process facilitator and cultural scientist, she tells MuseumNext how this interactive tour has been shaped to help people explore their feelings in the face of the climate crisis.

KLIMA_X – an exhibition on communicating the climate crisis was first displayed at the Museum für Kommunikation in Frankfurt in October 2022. At its core, KLIMA_X helps visitors to check the state of their knowledge and ask how the issues affecting our planet make them feel. As an interactive and participatory exhibition, it also looks to debunk some of the excuses that are often used to avoid making necessary changes. It also touches on issues such as climate denial and so-called “apocalypse fatigue”.

Wheel of Fortune excuses / Copyright Museum für Kommunikation Berlin, Yves Sucksdorff

Katja says, “The exhibition encourages visitors to draw comfort from some of the successful changes that have been identified over the course of history and gain some confidence in our ability to make meaningful changes that will have a positive impact on the planet in the future.

“It asks, ‘What if we don’t fail? What if we are no longer part of the problem but instead become part of the solution?’”

Shifting the way that we communicate is an important part of the process of achieving positive change, according to Katja. Thinking more carefully about what we say and how we say it in the context of the climate and the environment plays an essential role in driving people’s willingness to change. She adds,

Call the future / Copyright Museum für Kommunikation Berlin, Yves Sucksdorff

“We engage people through doing: asking them to participate and take control within the exhibition. We also feature an exchange station where people are encouraged to share their views and experiences because that can be a powerful tool in its own right.”

Throughout the exhibition, other examples of how meaningful change has been implemented in the past are presented – helping visitors to understand the role that communication and united voices have driven progress. These include changes in views and responses relating to the AIDS crisis and smoking addiction.

The exhibition itself is made with sustainability in mind, of course. Constructed from spruce and cardboard honeycomb panels, it uses few materials and is easily transported. In Autumn of 2023, the exhibition travelled to Berlin where it will spend the next 12 months on display.

At Reflekt, Katja works with museums and galleries to realise exhibitions, implement participatory processes and support teams to implement their own solutions for climate-friendly action. In the case of KLIMA_X, it is evident that the exhibition doubles as a coaching process for the visitors – a process that is self-driven. This idea of coaching by empowering learners and giving them a sense of autonomy, is integral to KLIMA_X. She explains,

“We were clear right from the start of planning this exhibition that we didn’t want to include any pedagogical finger-pointing – however hard that may be. Instead, we chose to focus on the impact of our own emotions on our willingness to take action.

“We really wanted to unpack the mechanics of communicating on this issue and the value of questions like: ‘What are we doing? How do really connect with people?’

Climate Animals / Copyright Museum für Kommunikation Berlin, Yves Sucksdorff

“One of my favourite quotes is: ‘There are no passengers on spaceship Earth, we are all crew.’ I think this is a really important message because we are all responsible and we all have a role to play in creating a more hopeful future.”

What if we don’t fail?

Perhaps the most essential ingredient to KLIMA_X is that pivotal question: “What if we don’t fail?” While much of the narrative around the climate emergency and environmental concerns focus on the problems, the exhibition takes the time to focus on what a successful outcome and a more sustainable world could look like.

As Katja suggests, this conscious effort to help people visualise a bright future is a powerful tool – and one that should perhaps be at the heart of the movement to achieve progress:

“Self-reflection and self-empowerment all develop through communication. So, within the exhibition we tried to encourage this in an engaging and sometimes humorous way.”

The Mach Bar / Copyright Museum für Kommunikation Berlin, Yves Sucksdorff

Essential to this, Katja says, is bringing the climate crisis closer to home and presenting people with changes that can be felt in their own local environment, rather than on distant icecaps or far-away continents.

A positive reception

Since the exhibition opened its doors in Autumn 2022, Katja says that the feedback from visitors and the press has been positive. Despite conveying the gravity of the topic, Katja suggests that KLIMA_X is intended to spread hope and give people courage for the future. She says,

“The message is that we can still do something. Being able to share this message is important.”

Asked how the exhibition is capturing responses and trying to ensure that people continue the dialogue going when they leave the museum space, Katja says,

In conversation with the Climate pioneers / Copyright Museum für Kommunikation Berlin, Yves Sucksdorff

“There are two simple questions that we use to help with this: ‘Which stories about the climate crisis are you sick of hearing? And Which stories about the climate crisis do you want to hear more about?’ This really gets people thinking and helps them to be more creative when assessing what and how they want to communicate on this issue in the future.”

Independent visitor evaluations, input from scientific experts and a visitor feedback book also help to capture what visitors want to say about the exhibition and will inform the direction of future exhibitions and future adaptations to KLIMA_X. Katja says,

“I am currently looking for the next venue for KLIMA_X as we think it should continue to travel to different areas and be adapted to other settings so that people can again think about the climate change conversation in their local area.

“Secondly, we have developed a programme called Green the Team – to bridge between cultural institutions and businesses – with the aim to provide the impetus for team development with interactive tours and workshops. It’s not an easy thing for organisations to do but I think there’s much that employees within companies can find during a day in a museum. It’s inspiring in a different way.”

Pillars and Polar Bear / Copyright Museum für Kommunikation Berlin, Yves Sucksdorff

These team days, Katja suggests, could help to inform how people communicate about environmental and climate issues effectively – in both a professional and personal context. With organisations around the world beginning to recognise and address their own environmental responsibilities, understanding the role that communication has to play in furthering progress could be particularly beneficial.

The hope with KLIMA_X, Katja explains, is that it will contribute to the movement of people towards taking action and being responsible. While the exhibition acknowledges that people can often feel like just a small cog in a very big wheel, it is noted that real change at governmental and multi-national level must begin with a groundswell of opinion from the general public. Without the weight of that societal change then progress cannot be achieved. She says, “My advice to museums and to those who are thinking about how they discuss the climate and environmental issues is: be courageous; seek advice from experts and the general public of all ages and backgrounds; give localised hope for participation and action; engage with stakeholders and think about the potential of every individual.

“Finally, give the gift of confidence that positive change can be achieved. Even if it sometimes feels unlikely.”

The MuseumNext Green Museums Summit will be held from 26th – 27th February 2024, and will feature inspiring ideas and case studies from those championing sustainability in museums and galleries. Click here to book your tickets now, to make sure you don’t miss out.

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