In the heart of Poznań, Poland, artist Alicja Biała and architect Iwo Borkowicz have installed Totemy, a series of giant sculptures designed to raise awareness about climate change and environmental issues. Located beneath the MVRDV-design Baltyk building, the massive totems derive their bold patterns, vibrant colors and shapes from statistics on pressing environmental topics, from deforestation to air pollution to plastic production. Each sculpture features a QR code that passersby can scan to access a website explaining the meaning behind each sculpture.
Measuring nearly 30 feet tall in height, each timber Totemy sculpture was constructed and painted by hand by Biała with help from local wood workers and community members. During the design process, Biała opened her workshop to the public for weekly open studios where the community could contribute their ideas to the project. Given the amount of community involvement, the sculpture location beneath the Baltyk building was fitting: the building, which was formerly a cinema, had long served as a place where people would gather to discuss political ideas.
“The two designers aimed to use public space as a direct confrontation with facts and statistics, able to reach a wider public than would typically be afforded by museums, galleries and conventional art spaces,” the Totemy press release noted.
“We wanted to address the public at large and at an everyday level,” Biała explained. “Passersby on the street and tram will catch out of the corner of their eye a flash of strong colors and be reminded of the current state of our world.”
The popularity of the Totemy project in Poland has garnered interest in other cities and abroad. Biała and Borkowicz plan to take the concept to other countries to spur dialogue about climate change and environmental issues.
Images via Alicja Biała