The ‘awesome’ and other environmental art clusters with potential to inspire the climate movement – Laura Kim Sommer


A global festival of cultural activity on climate change, called ArtCOP21, took place parallel to the 2015 UN climate summit in Paris. It included 163 artistic events and the idea was that art and creativity inspire change and involve the public into a global climate movement.

The goal of this study was to investigate what kind of psychological effects the artworks had on their spectators, and in case they had one, which characteristics of the artworks were responsible for it. In order to answer these questions a survey was conducted.

874 random spectators of 37 artworks responded to a questionnaire on their perception of one of the artworks. Cluster analysis of the artworks assigns them to five clusters. The clusters were named after the emotional profile they elicited (“the awesome”, “the surprising”, “the positive”, “the negative” and “the neutral”).

The results furthermore showed that the perceived importance of having climate change on the political agenda was influenced by whether the spectators rated the artwork to be relevant for them personally, whether the artist was perceived similar to them and if participants perceived themselves as global citizen.

The effect of a number of psychological variables like environmental attitude and intention to act were analyzed, however those variables were not significantly influenced by the artworks.

Finally, we suggest for climate change communication via art and to overcome climate change denial that environmental art should aim to elicit a sense of awe, surprise its audience, be participatory and relevant for daily life.


Laura K. Sommer

Psykologisk institutt


You can find out more about this research at the Feeding the Insatiable summit later this year



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