This is a short story about a strong vision, lack of time, and how a good story overcomes the gap between the two.
The Extinction Thermometer is an art installation I designed and Dana Waldman hand-sculpted to highlight the connection between Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss. If you know the Doomsday Clock, the concept of the Extinction Thermometer is similar. The Extinction Thermometer shows the average global temperature and how far it is from a 1.5ºC rise. This seemingly small temperature change risks “losing the wildlife and biodiversity that make this planet all our home“.
Embedded within the Extinction Thermometer are the bones of keystone species from all across North America we stand to lose – the Caribou, Grizzly, Sea Otter, Prairie Dog, Moose, Mountain Lion, Wolf, Snowshoe Hare, and Beaver – ending with our own extinction.
How is the installation lit
We designed the art installation to glow from the inside using Bluetooth-programmable LED lights. This brand of neon LED’s is great because it allows us to program different sections of the LEDs to different colors. Additionally, unlike traditional LEDs, the NEON LEDs give a continuous strip of color, giving a more natural look and feel.
To make sure that the lights weren’t distracting and really looked like they were glowing “from within”, we made sure that they were recessed within the structure.
Even though the glow from the LEDs isn’t particularly bright, they still look great in daylight indoors because it adds depth and mystery to the piece.
What was it like taking the hero photograph?
We just barely finished the art installation one day before it was set to be unveiled – this meant that we had no time to do any fancy set-up to capture the press imagery.
Our original plan was to go outside to take some photos. Sadly, because of time constraints and the challenges of lugging around a 10-foot-tall installation, we quickly scouted out a photogenic corner within the building where the studio was housed.
My original idea was to have a couple of lights and a smoke machine behind the art installation, but unfortunately for us, the piece was located directly under a smoke detector – so we ended up with something a little less mysterious.
Ultimately though, the red of the walls and the red of the thermometer went together beautifully.
Special thanks to Gi Quo Vadis for letting us take these photos in their space!
What happens to the piece after?
We’re toying around with different thoughts. One goal of mine is to put this in a public place and invite/challenge photographers to go and come up with different concepts to take photos in front of it. I think of it like those selfie-rooms but with a purpose, message and mission.
If I successfully get it up and running, I’ll make sure to post about it on extinctionthermometer.com
About the Author
Benjamin Von Wong’s work lies at the intersection of fantasy and photography and combines everyday objects with shocking statistics. It has attracted the attention of corporations, like Starbucks, Dell, and Nike and has generated over 100 million views for causes like ocean plastics, electronic waste, and fashion pollution. Most recently, he was named one of Adweek’s 11 content-branded masterminds. You can see more of Ben’s work here.
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