Waterlicht is a public art piece using light to create a water-like environment. Using projections and LED technology, it creates light waves over people's heads that are meant to make them feel like they are underwater. It was originally shown in the Netherlands, in the Dutch District Water Board Rijn & IJssel, which is the regional water authority district.
The piece is pointing at an interesting and unusual feature of the Dutch topology. As explained by the website gizmag.com,
"A remarkable 26 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level. A series of dikes, dams and waterworks are used to keep the country from being submerged. But what would happen if those defenses weren't there?" (http://www.gizmag.com/studio-roosegaarde-waterlicht/37492/)
Waterlicht then aims at showing what the Dutch landscape would be like without human intervention. Dutch landscape is particularly altered by humans, as the construction of many dikes was required to prevent cities from being flooded. But behind the eerie and poetic connotations of the piece, it also contains a powerful statement about ecology and the human footprint on the planet. The Dutch landscape is still above water because of human intervention. However, the piece also hints at the fact that sea levels might be rising because of global warming, which is likely also due to human activity. In this way, Waterlicht can be seen both as a praise to human engineering and ability to influence its environment for positive outcomes, but it can also be interpreted as a warning regarding the negative consequences of human activity onto its environment by showing, in a speculative way, cityscapes that would be flooded due to global warming.
A similar piece by the same studio called Windlicht materializes wind-generated energy by linking windmills with green light beams. Just like Waterlicht, Windlicht has a very poetic and eerie aesthetic. Another similarity with Waterlicht is that it highlights, both physically and physically, the intervention of men onto their environment, here the building of these gigantic structures. Finally, both pieces have a strong ecology-oriented connotation. Windlicht materializes green energy with green light beams, and make this eco-friendly energy source more visible and tangible to the public. Where Waterlicht suggests the possible catastrophic consequences of the human footprint onto the planet, Windlicht highlights a possible solution to this same problem.
Another ecology-oriented project using light is 1 Heart 1 Tree by Naziha Mestaoui. This is an app for smartphone that allows - through projection - to "plant" a tree onto the Eiffel tower. Users contribute to the project by planting their tree through the app. They are able to see their tree grow in sync with their own heartbeat on the Eiffel tower, while their name and positive message is also being projected onto the monument. Each "planted tree" has a real-life consequence: for each virtual tree, a real tree is planted in areas covered by reforestation programs around the world. It then becomes an activist, participative piece that allows for real-life positive consequences, as ecology is becoming such a time-sensitive issue. This project was launched during the Paris COP21, where an historical agreement was signed between world leaders in an effort to join forces and drastically slow down climate change.
Art is a powerful and effective way to touch people's consciousness about ecological issues as it has a great potential for emotional impact. This potential, combined with new technologies, is a great asset that can be a change factor regarding our planet's conservation, as new media ecology-oriented art has the power to raise awareness of this issue, but also tangibly contribute to its solution.