Xavier Cortada, a three-time University of Miami alumnus and professor of practice, launched his newest socially engaged art project ahead of the 26th annual global conference.
World leaders are converging in Glasgow, Scotland, next week to tackle humanity's greatest challenge—the climate crisis. And, Xavier Cortada, a University of Miami professor of practice, will be there with thousands of artistic name tags to engage delegates and decision makers and amplify the voices of South Florida.
"Everyone in the world and here in South Florida will be impacted by what they do or what they fail to do," Cortada explained Wednesday at PortMiami, where Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava launched the county's updated Climate Action Strategy ahead of her participation at COP26.
As part of Cortada's participatory art project "HELLO," thousands of name tags will be distributed to conference participants, who are to fill them in, not with their names, but with their fears, hopes, purposes, futures, or elevations. The idea is to spark conversations about the impact of the climate crisis on vulnerable communities around the world.
To bridge the 4,000-plus-mile distance between Miami and Glasgow, the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Art and Art History professor is also inviting South Floridians to fill out their own name tags at cortada.com/hello, so their messages can be shared with policymakers, business leaders, and other conference attendees.
With Levine Cava as the first participant, "HELLO" is designed to connect those on site with the global community online, a process Cortada hopes will reframe the way we see one another and humankind's collective vulnerability, specifically to rising seas.
"I want the delegates in attendance to understand that the decisions they make over the next two weeks will impact the lives of every single one of my neighbors," Cortada said. "I want to introduce the world leaders to them. I want COP26 to know what Miamians fear and hope for."
The project spins off of Cortada's celebrated "Underwater Homeowners Association," for which participants transformed political yard signs into markers indicating how high their homes sit above sea level. Similarly, on one "HELLO" name tag, participants can indicate their elevation, which in Miami averages about six feet.
Participants can choose to fill out four other name tags, introducing themselves by completing the statements: "My fear is…"; "My hope is…"; "My purpose is…"; and "My future is…." The background of each "HELLO" name tag features a painting from Cortada's "Antarctic Ice Paintings" series. He created these works using sea ice and sediment samples, which scientists in Antarctica gave him in 2007 when he was a National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Fellow.
"I am so honored to be able to use these paintings once more at this world stage, at this pivotal moment in human history, to try to bring attention to the urgency of the matter and the vulnerability we all face," Cortada said.
"My purpose is to use art elasticity to work across disciplines, to connect and engage individuals in bringing about a better future for others and for those not yet born. We need all leaders from this county to understand how high the stakes are right now," he added.