Layers of Bangladesh by SRG Bennett

Layers of Bangladesh is a three dimensional artefact enabling an interactive exploration of data relating to climate change in Bangladesh. It takes as a reference point web-based data visualisations where data overlays can be toggled on or off. It plays with this digital functionality by rendering Bangladeshi data on recycled greenhouse panes donated to the artist by a Walthamstow allotment holder. The panes slot into a horizontal rack and can be reordered, exchanged or removed by the viewer.

Each pane shows a different data map: projected sea level rise (2050), projected increase in monsoon monthly rainfall (2090), projected increase in hot season temperature (2090), historical instances of drought (1991-2010), current vulnerability to natural hazards, percentage below Upper Poverty Line (2010), population distribution (2019). By enabling tactile exploration of these panes, the artwork allows the viewer to reach their own conclusions about the relationship between climate factors and more socio-economic drivers of climate vulnerability.

The kinaesthetic and material nature of the piece serves other functions. It clarifies that the participant is fundamental to the experience of data. This includes not only their physical movement around the piece, which alters the way the information is perceived and understood, but also the beliefs, values, histories and knowledge they bring to the experience.

It also creates an embodied relationship which includes the participant, the glass and the data. The glass in itself brings a host of connotations and metaphors. It has been created through a highly industrialised process causing pollution and emissions which disproportionately affect countries like Bangladesh. However, a tactile exploration of Layers of Bangladesh reveals that the glass is chipped and weathered, the result of having been baked by the sun and frozen over countless seasons in its previous life as part of a greenhouse. Picking up the panes of Layers of Bangladesh not only underlines the fragility of the glass, but also the craftwork involved in engraving and colouring countless borders, roads, rivers and units of data.

In summary, Layers of Bangladesh aims to combine materiality, metaphor, craft and information to provide a more embodied understanding of climate change, based on the data.