Voices for the Future: UN Summit in NYC

20 Sep, 2019
Voices for the future installation

AUT Artist in Residence and major New Zealand artist, Joe Michael is taking his video installation to the world today at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York.  Joe’s large-scale video installation of Antarctica icebergs is being projected onto the United Nations Buildings in New York as part of the global UN Climate Action Summit

His immersive video installation titled ‘Voices for the Future’ features a condensed version of his work Antarctica: while you were sleeping with powerful visuals of an iceberg slowly crashing down the sides of the UN building.  The installation, in collaboration with Project Pressure, also features the voices of six youth advocates speaking in the six official UN languages and expressing their hopes and fears for the future in relation to climate change.

The images are appearing on 19-20 September, prior to the Climate Change Action Summit next week which will be attended by 193 UN member states and world leaders.

Joe’s large-scale projections of icebergs brings the remoteness of the Antarctic to the core of urban New York and the 155m height of the buildings mean the installation will be seen from many vantage points across the city. The enormous scale of installation will make the viewer acutely aware of their own relative smallness while experiencing the immense, colossal size and beauty of an iceberg up close.

“The Antarctic visuals help to create a conversation, not confrontation, but at the same time challenges the human-centred worldview and brings into stark focus the consequences of our treatment of the planet,” says artist Joe Michael, “we have all the tools, we understand the science, now we need world leaders to act on the climate crisis.”

AUT is also giving 3rd year Design and Creative Technologies student Matt Newick the opportunity to assist Joe in New York with the on-site creation of the work. Matt, who has a special interest in working with sonic art and sound design, was told by Joe that he’d been selected for the trip and said "even for me to be considered for this was crazy for me. This is the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me and I’m so grateful to AUT for this opportunity.”  Matt plans to use his time in New York to learn as much as possible about how the artwork is installed, “there are so many complex and different components to the creation of this artwork and being able to watch and learn from Joe firsthand, I know this experience will impact my own work in the future.”

AUT is proud to support Joe Michael in bringing his installation to the world, alongside other New Zealand organisations such as The Joyce Fisher Trust, Weta Workshop, Air New Zealand, The Oceans Foundation, The Wallace Foundation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“The projection on the UN building is a massive effort from a clever team of Kiwis and Project Pressure. I am one of many collaborating to pull off what has been a mammoth undertaking.  We couldn’t have done this without the support of and generosity of many people and organisations in New Zealand,” says Joe.

Check out the latest images of the installation

The world premiere of Antarctica – while you were sleeping saw over 20,000 visitors surround Auckland’s War Memorial Museum where a life-size iceberg was projected onto the entire exterior of the 8,800m2 surface area.  The installation was the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Watch the film

Watch Joe and the Voice for the Future project on TVNZ Seven Sharp

Joseph Michael Instagram: @joemichaelmedia

Website: joemichael.co.nz /
Bio:  https://www.joemichael.co.nz/about

Special thanks to:

  • Auckland University of Technology
  • The Joyce Fisher Trust
  • Perpetual Guardian Trust
  • Helen Klisser During
  • The Oceans Foundation
  • New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Weta Workshop
  • Koha Trust
  • Air New Zealand
  • The Wallace Foundation
  • Chapman Tripp


VOICES FOR THE FUTURE is an immersive video installation lighting up the UN Building in New York. An artwork in two parts created by Joseph Michael in collaboration with Project Pressure. Leading up to the opening of the UN Climate Action Summit and coinciding with global school strikes on 20 September 20, large scale projections will cover the outside of the UN building with images of a massive iceberg crashing. This sets the scene for the voices of Greta Thunberg and five other young advocates, about the nature of the climate crisis and the urgent actions that can and must be taken to minimize the consequences of climate change.

The site-specific installation opens with an iteration of Joseph Michael’s artwork Antarctica - while you were sleeping with powerful visuals of an iceberg slowly crashing down the sides of the 155 meters tall UN building. The enormous scale of the installation makes the viewer acutely aware of their own relative smallness and provides a humbling experience. By bringing Antarctica, one of the most remote areas of the world, to the urban centre of New York, Michael challenges the human-centered worldview, and brings into stark focus the consequences of our treatment of the planet. The artist invites the public to slow down and revel in the beauty of nature, but also to stop and reflect on how their own actions affect our planet.

Part two of the installation is authored by Klaus Thymann, founder of climate change charity Project Pressure, and visualised by Joseph Michael and features the voices of six young advocates expressing their hopes and fears for the future in relation to the climate crisis. Each of the six voices speak in one of the six official UN languages and represent one of the world’s populated continents. The words from the voices will scroll the length of the building. In addition, part two features a pulsating light representing the increase in CO2 emissions since the pre-industrial era up until today.

In his desire to share his experiences of how icebergs crack, shift and breathe, Joseph Michael asked composer Rhian Sheehan to create a musical sound-scape that reflected not only their immense scale, but also their fragility.

The sides of the United Nations’ General Assembly and Secretariat buildings in New York are the canvases for the audio-visual installation. The audience can experience up close the beauty, size and sound of a colossal iceberg. Together with messages from the selected voices in Arabic, English, French, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish VOICES FOR THE FUTURE transforms the UN building into a glowing beacon highlighting the climate crisis, underlining the need to preserve our world for future generations, and the critical decisions to be made at the Summit.

About the United Nations Climate Summit

It is part of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters, 23 to 30 September 2019

The Summit will bring together representatives of Governments, civil society, local authorities, international organizations, the private sector and other relevant stakeholders, who have been working within nine multi-stakeholder coalitions to develop credible and ambitious initiatives in the following action areas: social and political drivers of change; transition to renewable energy; industry; infrastructure, cities and local action; nature-based solutions; resilience and adaptation; mitigation; finance and carbon pricing; and youth and citizen mobilization.

Each government will have one opportunity to speak on 23 September (national commitment and/or in support of one coalition initiative). Statements will be limited to three minutes for national commitments and six minutes for coalition initiatives.

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