Lemn Sissay at the Royal Academy in London

Lemn Sissay’s performance video of his poem WHAT IF? was, for me, one of the highlights of the Royal Academy’s current exhibit entitled EARTH – Art of a Changing World.

The exhibit “sets out to consider the impact of climate change, and our transition to a new world, on the practice of a broad range of contemporary artists, working in a wide-variety of media.”  It is encouraging that an institution like the Royal Academy has chosen to address environmental issues in a major exhibit and that it has showcased the work of so many contemporary artists addressing these issues. Chris Jordan and Edward Burtynsky were two of the artists featured in the exhibit.

However, for me, Lemn Sissay’s poem performed on video was one of the more powerful works in the exhibit.

You can view the video here and the text of the poem is reproduced below.

A lost number in the equation
A simple, understandable miscalculation
And what if on the basis of that
The world as we know it changed its matter of fact

Let me get it right. What if we got it wrong?
What if we weakened ourselves getting strong?
What if we found in the ground a file of proof?
What if the foundations missed a vital truth?
What if the industrial dream sold us out from within?
What if our unpunishable defense sealed us in?
What if our wanted more was making less?
And what if all of this wasn’t progress?

Let me get it right. What if we got it wrong?
What if we weakened ourselves getting strong?
What if our wanting more was making less?
And what if all of this wasn’t progress?
What if the disappearing rivers of Eritrea,
the rising tides and encroaching fear
What if the tear inside the protective skin
of Earth was trying to tell us something?

Let me get it right. What if we got it wrong?
What if we weakened ourselves getting strong?
What if the message carried in the wind was saying something?
From butterfly wings to the hurricane
It’s the small things that make great change
In the question towards the end of the leases
no longer the origin but the end of species

Let me get it right. What if we got it wrong?
What if the message carried in the wind was saying something?

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Cultural Response To Climate Change – David Buckland and Cape Farewell « The Third Ray

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>