Hot For A Cause: Activist Art Using Massed Candles

Few things are more fragile than a candle in the wind, but assemble thousands of candles to form complex pictographs and you’ve got something powerful enough to move the hardest hearts. Art For Earth, organized and headed by artist Jorge Pujol, has set up delicately beautiful candle-powered installations around the globe, each one delineating a powerful political or environmental message in gently wavering, softly glowing light. Wax on!

Rwanda Genocide Commemoration

(images via: Aegis Students, Huffington Post and CBS News)

Candles have long been a symbol of hope and perseverance in the face of adversity – consider Amnesty International’s logo, which features a stylized candle wrapped in barbed wire. As such, a massive installation composed of 10,000 candles was designed by Art For Earth to be lit inside the national stadium in Kigali, capital of Rwanda.

(image via: Articlesbase)

The project was activated on the evening of April 7th, 2009, as part of the official commemoration of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Set in place by 400 young volunteers, the 10,000 candles formed the shape of a memorial flame with the word “hope” spelled out in Kinyarwandan, English and French.

Let Them Be

(images via: Art For Earth and Benmay)

Think global, act local? Thanks to worldwide media and the power of the Internet, location is less important than it used to be. Take this September, 2007, project to protest international whaling, conducted at Hervey Bay, Australia. Local interest in the project was high since Hervey Bay is a renowned whale-watching center and there was no shortage of volunteers available to set up the 5,000 candles required.

(image via: Art For Earth)

Hervey Bay’s own Ben May graciously offered the use of an 88-acre field on the outskirts of town for the project, which demanded a flat, cleared surface to best display the artwork. Though rain threatened to put the kibosh on the event, Mother Nature thankfully withheld the waterworks so the fireworks could take center stage.

Here’s a video from Art For Earth showing how the “Let Them Be” project took shape:

Jorge did it!, via Artforearth

Botnia Papermill Statement

(images via: Art For Earth)

For the better part of the last decade, the neighboring nations of Argentina and Uruguay have been at odds concerning the construction of a pulp and paper mill on the Uruguay River separating them. The plant, owned by the Finnish corporation Botnia and located in the Uruguayan city of Fray Bentos, is located just across the river from the Argentine city of Gualeguaychú. The statement performed in 2008 was intended to show that large-scale environmental pollution knows no borders, and was designed to show how the actions of one nation can have profound deleterious effects upon the people of another.

(image via: Art For Earth)

The people of Gualeguaychú were neither consulted by Botnia nor compensated for any present or future suffering attributable to the pulp plant. As the project illustrated, a simple change in the prevailing wind will blow pollutants across the river. The Botnia plant opened in 2010 though picketing of access roads and cross-border highways by environmental activists continues.

Remember, Reflect, React: Holocaust Centre, UK

(images via: Art For Earth)

This monumental memorial project was commissioned in 2008 by the Aegis Trust, an organization that monitors and reports on ongoing instances of genocide around the world while also highlighting the abuses of the past. Art For Earth asks, “Will we continue to look away from the genocides of today and be complicit through our inaction as we have always been?”

(images via: Art For Earth)

The project involved recreating in candles the stylized flame that is the focal point of the Holocaust Centre. As night fell and the metal sculpture faded from view, thousands of candles flared up to form a much larger flame along with the theme of 2008’s memorial event, “Remember, Reflect, React.”

Ongoing Memorial to Julio López, Argentina

(images via: Art For Earth)

Julio López was a bricklayer in the Argentine city of La Plata who disappeared on September 18th, 2006 after testifying against a police official who was eventually convicted of genocide. López was a survivor of Argentina’s 1976-83 “Dirty War”, which left over 30,000 people unaccounted for and believed killed. The fact that López vanished during Argentina’s post-1983 democratic era has made him a symbol of the unresolved issues from that very dark time.

(images via: Art For Earth)

Art For Earth, in cooperation with local and national human rights groups, has staged a number of candle-lit exhibitions in the memory of Julio López. Shown here are images from the 3-month, 18-month and 2-year anniversaries of Julio López’s disappearance.

Candles for Peace: Dili, East Timor

(images via: People’s Daily Online and LIFE)

On April 11th, 2007, East Timor celebrated the nation’s first presidential election following independence from Indonesia with a joyous celebration in the new nation’s capital city, Dili. The centerpiece of the show was Candles For Peace, a mega-candle installation surrounding the central square’s focal point: the statue of the patron saint of East Timor.

(images via: Art For Earth and Daylife)

Art For Earth arranged for 13 lines of candles enclosed in tinted plastic bags to converge at the statue. Each line represented a different region of East Timor and their association with the statue was meant to symbolize peace, harmony and common purpose.

Save Gaza Now Candles: ACT, Australia

(images via: Art For Earth)

The Save Gaza Now project was a joint effort between Art For Earth and ACT, and was one of the more politically sensitive efforts contributed to by the former.

(image via: Art For Earth)

When Keyser Trad, President of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, decided to rally public attention to the situation in Gaza, he asked Jorge Pujol if Art For Earth would design an appropriate pictograph in candles. Pujol agreed, though stating at Art For Earth’s website that the group “does not involve itself with politics and believes that people with conscience should be concerned with unabashed bombing of civilian areas by whoever for whatever ideological reason or nationalistic rationale.” Make of that what you will.

Dok’ku: Tandora Homestead, Queensland, Australia

(images via: Art For Earth)

Local causes might not get mass media publicity but that doesn’t mean a large-scale candle array doesn’t get serious respect. Take tiny Tandora Homestead, for instance. Nestled in the mouth of the Mary River, Tandora Homestead is famous for its environmental diversity and several endangered species such as the Dok’ku (Mary River Cod).

(images via: Art For Earth)

In 2008, Art For Earth organized an “environmental artwork” with the goal of raising awareness of the plight of the Dok’ku Cod Fish. Several local associations dedicated to the preservation of the area’s land and marine wildlife took part and the finished project evoked comparisons to Australian aboriginal art.

Energy [R]Evolution: Cairns, Australia

(image via: Art For Earth)

Alternative energy depicted by mankind’s oldest form of tamed energy? Indeed, “candle in the wind” was never so true as on August 7th, 2008 when Greenpeace celebrated the finale of the 6 week long Energy [R]evolution ship tour of Australia’s eastern coastline. The climax of the tour was the twilight lighting of a 3,000 candle art installation depicting a wind turbine, complete with comic book style wind streamers.

(images via: Conservation Value and Greenpeace International)

How does one urge their government to give priority to alternative energy sources? Light a fire under their butts, of course… well, figuratively at least. The collaboration between Greenpeace and Art For Earth’s Jorge Pujol succeeded thanks to the assistance of the citizens of Cairns, Australia, who worked tirelessly to get each and every candle properly positioned and then lit.

Amnesty International

(images via: Art For Earth)

The world record for so-called “flaming images” was unveiled in 2006 at Brisbane, Australia. A whopping 11,809 candles depicted the iconic Amnesty International logo – AI commissioned the piece – with “Stop Torture” formed just beneath.

(image via: Art For Earth)

Amnesty International has commissioned a number of candle installations from Art For Earth, including those constructed at anti-death-penalty rallies in Brisbane and Canberra, Australia. The use of tinted plastic bags to enclose the candles adds more yellow, orange and red to the the trademark flame, especially in the flame portion.

(image via: Art For Earth)

It can’t be denied that Art For Earth is more likely to lend their expertise to enlightening left-of-center causes: it’s doubtful they’ll be illuminating a Tea Party rally anytime soon. With that said, however, there’s definitely a case to be made when it comes to equating so-called “causes” with universal human values. Can you see the light?


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