The title of Boston artist Stephanie Cardon’s public artwork “Unless”—installed in the main entrance of the Prudential Center shopping mall at 800 Boylston St. through November—comes from Dr. Seuss’s 1971 environmental fable “The Lorax.” And it signals the artist’s call to halt global warming.
In Seuss’s story, after the land has been trashed by a terrible factory and runaway consumerism, the Lorax, who has been warning about the dangers, flies away, leaving a pile of rocks with the word “Unless.” The fellow who started the whole mess interprets the message to a passerby: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
For “Unless,” Cardon—with help from the Boston independent public art curators Now + There, led by executive director Kate Gilbert—has hung 3,400-square-feet of repurposed construction site netting across the windows of the atrium entrance. The artwork is mainly orange with a blue circle, like a target or sun, as a focal point. The blue circle is repeated on the floor and main staircase.
The text taken from Roman Catholic Pope Francis’s 2015 statement “On Care for Our Common Home” is embroidered in rings curving around the blue circle in the windows: “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. … Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes in lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.”
“Climate change knows no borders or nationalities, but its effect will exacerbate the divisions we have drawn between peoples, fomenting xenophobia and racism,” Cardon says on the project website. “This is the time to come together across our differences to care for each other and to organize in defense of our common home.”
Cardon worked with some 30 people— members of the Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción community at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts in Boston’s South End as well as students at Boston’s Massachusetts College of Art and Design from Puerto Rico, displaced by 2017’s devastating hurricanes—to embroider the text and prepare the netting. (“Thirty percent of the netting used is upcycled directly from Boston-area construction sites,” according to organizers.) The tapestry was installed overnight from Sept. 18 to 19.
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