Five Years – A world in crisis

I made this mixed media piece for an exhibition by the Meniscus Textile Artists, entitled “Poetic Licence”. Each member of the group based their creative work on a piece of poetry or prose that was important to them.

I chose a song by David Bowie called “Five Years”. Released in 1972 on the album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”.

The lyrics break the news that the Earth only has five years left before it gets destroyed by an impending apocalyptic disaster.

The Idea

For this piece I wanted to illustrate the damage that we humans have done to the planet over thousands of years, and to demonstrate how the acceleration of those damaging actions over the last few hundred years of industrialisation and exploitation of resources have led us to the current crisis.

The Design

I decided to depict something like a vertical cross section of the earth in order to illustrate this damage at every level:

  • in the skies above us
  • in our overcrowded urban areas
  • in the rural areas, green spaces and forests
  • in our waterways, oceans and polar areas

And then below all of these in the deeper earth

  • in the immediate subsoil, polluted by our throw away society, and
  • in the deepest areas of the earth where we extract so many irreplaceable resources.

The Construction

I started by piecing fabrics together for each of the imagined strata. I created many of these fabrics from white cotton or calico using natural dyes; snow dyeing; tie dyeing with indigo; ink printing and screen printing. I supplemented these with a few commercial fabrics, notably for the grey in all the buildings.

Next I backed the whole piece with cotton wadding and cream polycotton and machine stitched all the buildings onto the top section.

Separately I made small motifs, symbols and text to stitch onto each of the sections to add detailed information about that layer, and I added some more text directly onto the quilt using free machine embroidery.

To separate the different strata, I then prepared brown cotton strips using stabiliser, ready to embroider some of the lyrics from the song onto the strips and apply to the piece at a later stage.

The finished quilt is about 110cm by 95cm

The Detail

Polllution of the atmosphere by things like industrialisation and the burning of fossil fuels.

Damage to the environment by acts such as deforestation and soil ersosion caused by over working of the land

Damage to the polar ice caps by greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and the pollution of our fresh waters by intensive agriculture, for example

Pollution of the subsoil from landfill and the leaching of industrial and other waste which is not biodegradable. And damage to the deepest areas through mining activities.

Song lyrics

Pushing thru the market square, so many mothers sighing
News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in
News guy wept and told us, Earth was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying…….

We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
We’ve got five years, that’s all we’ve got

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