By Caleb Portnoy
On Nov. 10, 2021, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the United States and the People’s Republic of China agreed to accelerate climate action and cooperation. Throughout history, artists have moved society forward on gender issues, environmental protection, race relations, human rights, and much more. In an effort to build public support for cooperative bilateral action, Consulate General Guangzhou and a local artist collective put out a call for American and Chinese artists to collaboratively design murals with a positive vision of the climate future. Thirty-two teams of one American and one Chinese artist worked together to create 16 designs, which were then put to a vote. More than 5,500 netizens participated in the selection of the two designs that were installed on the consulate’s walls.
The two murals inspired visions of a future world in which humanity has surmounted the climate challenge through behavioral and technological change. The American and Chinese artists who worked on these murals had never met before and worked on the project while on opposite sides of the world, using translation apps to communicate across languages. ConGen Guangzhou introduced the project in a video posted to Chinese social media site, Weibo.
In one mural, “Rainbow Wonder,” Chinese artist Jiang Wenxuan and American artist Valerie Rose, who is the child of a deaf adult, portray the American sign language symbol for equality. Their work emphasizes that a sustainable future can only be built when everyone respects each other as equals, celebrates their differences, and protects the planet. The artists described their design in a video that was shared on Weibo. In the other mural, “Land Light,” American artist DISTORT and Chinese artist Chen Siyu depict a vision of the future that incorporates old and new technology in service of the coexistence of humans and nature. The artists also introduced their work in a video shared to the embassy’s Weibo account.
Caleb Portnoy is director of strategic content coordination at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou.