indestructible language — Monumental Red Neon Artwork to Illuminate the Glasgow Skyline During 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26)
The work is on view from 30 October 2021 to 31 January 2022
The monumental neon artwork, indestructible language, by New York-based conceptual artist and activist Mary Ellen Carroll/MEC studios will launch at 7pm (GMT + 1) on Saturday, October 30, on the eve of UN Climate Conference in Glasgow (COP26)
indestructible language consists of three meter high illuminated red neon characters made of lead-free glass, powered 100% by renewable energy, spelling out the phrase: IT IS GREEN THINKS NATURE EVEN IN THE DARK. The artwork is situated on the roof of The Schoolhouse, an historic Victorian building in the centre of Glasgow, visible from COP 26 and the M8, the busiest motorway in Scotland, where it will be seen by millions both locally and virtually (see diagram below).
The installation – that also acts as a beacon – uses language to highlight the multiple meanings and areas of concern around the climate emergency, challenging viewers to respond to the work, to reflect on its many readings alongside their own actions around climate change. “IT IS” immediately states a condition, that the climate emergency is one of extreme relevance and a scientific fact; “GREEN”, a complimentary colour to the red neon letters, can represent plant growth, environmental campaigning, and the green economy. “THINKS” reinforces the human capacity to engage in cognitive acts to make informed decisions based in science, while “NATURE” signifies itself, earth, atmosphere, ecosystems and the outside. “EVEN” reminds us that the issue is nonpartisan and envisions a rebalancing to carbon neutrality. “IN THE DARK” is a formal declaration: the artwork is only visible in the dark and this reflexive statement questions the viewer’s decision to choose to engage with or ignore the issue.
indestructible language is supported by Kind World Foundation, Love, Tito’s,MCM, Stardust, TransArt Foundation, Turtle Conservancy, Urban Office and Urban Office and private donors including, M. Asselin / J. Meltzer and Melanie Shorin / Greg Feldman, and others who are committed to climate action.
Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, comments: “Arts and culture have a centre stage role in our discussions on climate change, helping make it meaningful to people. While global leaders are meeting at the SEC, Mary Ellen Carroll’s work and its landmark location can trigger conversations about the climate crisis amongst our citizens and those tuning in from across the planet. I’m looking forward to seeing how Glaswegians and visiting delegates alike respond to this prominent and provocative work.”
“Collectively we need to ethically imagine how the actions to combat the climate emergency that we commit to in COP 26 and for the future can be accomplished,” said Mary Ellen Carroll/MEC studios. “Illuminating indestructible language in Glasgow during COP 26 aims to amplify this moment and highlights the urgent need to commit, think and work together as stewards of nature to take responsibility for the future of our world.”
“indestructible language is a testament of Glasgow’s commitment to sustainability, and our city’s rich heritage and its value of culture,” said Councillor Philip Braat, The Lord Provost of Glasgow. “I am thrilled that this important artwork is in our city, and as a beacon it will inspire and amplify the necessity for ambitious actions by everyone in the race to become carbon neutral.”
“As a public work of art indestructible language is a siren to commit to thinking acts. Stardust supports art as a activator for sustainable change and social justice, and it is important to see work this in Glasgow,” said Molly Gochman, the founder of Stardust. “Mary Ellen Carroll’s work of art is a foundation for the public’s commitment to act in the climate emergency.”
“indestructible language will be much more than a symbol of COP26, it will be a powerful icon and legacy for Glasgow,” said Lesley Logan, Urban Office
Media Contacts (interviews and other media requests):
Sarah Greenberg, Evergreen Arts,
Kate Burvill, KBPR,
For images (HD renderings and installation photographs), please contact:
For image sheet, please click here
Saturday, October 30, 2021 @ 7 pm (GMT+1) by invitation only
indestructible language will be illuminated on the eve of UN Climate Conference in Glasgow (COP26) with a welcome by Joe Logan / Urban Office and Michael Grieve /SubClub and
comments by Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council and Mary Ellen Carroll / MEC, studios.
The School House, 101 Portman St, Kinning Park, Glasgow G41 1EJ, UK
Instagram / Twitter: @mecstudios #indestructiblelanguage
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Mary Ellen Carroll (MEC, studios) – Conceptual artist Mary Ellen Carroll / MEC, studios lives and works in New York City. Carroll’s work stands at the intersection of conceptual art, social activism, urban legislation, and economic processes, and is frequently durational (prototype 180, Federal, PUBLIC UTILITY 2.0), occupying public policy, architecture, technology and areas of civic life. Carroll’s work affects and impacts systems in its use of policy and infrastructure as a material to make policy blind spots visible.
Carroll is the recipient of numerous grants and honors, including the 2022 Prix de Rome, a Graham Foundation Fellowship for prototype 180, IASPIS, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Pollock/Krasner Awards, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, and a Rauschenberg Fellowship. Teaching, lecturing and public presentations in architecture and policy are an important part of Carroll’s work at institutions such as Rice University, Columbia University, Yale University, and the DIA Art Foundation amongst others.
Carroll’s work has been exhibited at numerous U.S. and international institutions and galleries, including the Whitney Museum-New York, Generali Foundation-Vienna, Austria, Johann Jacobs Museum-Zurich, Busan Museum-South Korea, the Renaissance Society Chicago, ICA-London, Museum für Völkerkunde-Munich, and MOMUK-Vienna. Her work is held in numerous public and private collections.
Background and History for indestructible language
Originally commissioned by the Precipice Alliance in 2006, indestructible language appeared on the Pulaski Skyway in New Jersey. The current work is a completely new fabrication.
For the Glasgow installation, indestructible language, was fabricated by SOLAS Neon in Edinburgh, Scotland. The renowned type designer Chester Jenkins / VLLG Type created the font and lettering specifically for the artwork. The site location for the installation in Glasgow, fronting the M8 motorway, is atop The Schoolhouse, a Victorian building that is owned by the firm Urban Office, who provided additional support for the installation of the artwork. The colour red was selected for the neon because of its high visibility and the fact that it is universally understood as a warning sign, in addition to being the warmest colour in the visible spectrum. indestructible language was originally commissioned in 2006 by The Precipice Alliance an organization founded by the photographer Joel Sternfeld and the publisher Donna Wingate to produce high profile, large scale public works of art on existential crises.
A limited edition print created by BRANDX editions and a limited edition neon of indestructible language will be available through Galerie Hubert Winter (www.galeriewinter.at). There will be a donation to Terra Firma for each copy sold. Terra Firma is doing work at the intersection of medical/mental health and legal support for children and families displaced by climate.
The illumination of the artwork coincides with the announcement of RSVP— a global art and policy programme
initiated to address climate migration and mental health through the built environment in a partnership between
Dr. Alan Shapiro-Terra Firma, Mary Ellen Carroll/MEC, studios, Jessica Marshall PhD, and Suchi Reddy-Reddymade. indestructible language and associated climate actions are fiscally sponsored by the Storefront for Art and Architecture.
indestructible language, 2006-2007
The inaugural commission in 2006 for the Precipice Alliance, the first international organization to commission high-profile, large-scale works of art on pressing issues, and the first subject was global warming. The Precipice Alliance was founded by the photographer Joel Sternfeld and publisher Donna Wingate. Carroll elected to appropriate the form of the neon sign, emphasizing the concreteness of language while assuring that the commission retained its identity as a work of art. As material, neon recommended itself for its historical references to industrial signage, for its sheer visibility—important for this first Precipice work, so that it might garner maximum attention—and because the latest technology would make it carbon neutral.
For indestructible language, the Precipice Alliance secured the site with Carroll at the defunct American Can Company along the Pulaski Skyway, a landmarked roadway in New Jersey that heads to and from the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan. (At this location, American Can developed the flip-top closure for cereal boxes.) The piece stretched across five buildings parallel to the skyway, with the final words rounding the corner of the north side of the fifth building so that they were visible as a solitary phrase when heading toward New York City. The area surrounding the site is an industrial wasteland, which might corroborate the common belief that New Jersey lacks a strong environmental policy. But in fact the state’s policy is in the top four in the United States.
The scale of indestructible language necessitated collaboration with and permissions from numerous state agencies, from Governor Jon Corzine’s office to Jersey City’s Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s office to the traffic division for the state. The sign was visible at this temporary location for a period of six months from distances of up to four miles, including to airplanes flying into Newark International Airport, to commuter trains and rail lines running along the eastern seaboard, and to automobile traffic on the Pulaski Skyway, the New Jersey Turnpike, and other roadways. The sentence Carroll chose for the piece, from the more than 200 she generated in Excel spreadsheets, issued from the basic premise taken from the media that global warming is a moral issue when in fact it a scientific fact.
An exegesis of the final version might run as follows. IT IS—pronoun and verb: it exists, versus ought; we know the condition exists, it is so. A great deal of philosophical discussion, Wittgenstein and beyond, takes up the idea of action and intention, with Elizabeth Anscombe in particular focusing on the scenario in which one ought to do something, implying moral obligation, but where one does not respond unless the condition is seen or known firsthand. GREEN—noun, verb, adjective: color, that which is visible; the neon is red, green is the complement to red, plant growth as the effect of greenhouse gas, green as the sign for environmental issues that has been coopted; reference to Five Words in Green Neon by Joseph Kosuth and Carroll’s own piece Flashes of Consciousness, Every Five or Six Words in Green Neon. (2001);green as money, the colloquial word for value, it can be profitable to invest in environmental technology; the philosophical basis of evil, Nietzsche’s On the Geneology of Morals, envy. THINKS—verb: what distinguishes humans beings from animals but the ability to engage in cognitive processes? NATURE—noun: man, earth, the atmosphere, outside, inanimate being, “the thing.” EVEN—adjective: the issue is nonpartisan; to be carbon neutral. IN THE DARK —idiom. The stand-alone phrase reflects back to the viewing of the artwork, given that the sign is only visible in the dark. If the intention is to not see the issue, the language ends where it began, with it not being a moral question, but an ethical one of one’s choosing collectively.