In the Czech Republic, one artistic intervention made the invisible visible, by laser “tagging” a coal-fired power plant with the damage it does to our planet’s fragile climate.

Live visuals are in many ways the perfect protest – visible, large scale, and able to intervene from a distance without harm. That opens radical and political possibilities for their message, even as media art tools are often the domain of corporate gigs.

The scene here takes us to the industrial central Czech Republic, and the Chvaletice power plant, where North Bohemia’s brown coal is burned for power production. Coal, of course, is dirty stuff. That makes this power plant a major carbon emitter and climate change contributor, as well as a devastating threat to health, belching mercury and other toxins into the air. And while Europe may seem a haven for environmental policy, Czech is set to fail its Paris Climate Agreement obligations, if it can’t kick the coal habit.

There’s reason to single out this plant. The Chvaletice plant was given an exemption that lets is continue to operate even with a coming 2021 cap on carbon dioxide and mercury. Those caps in turn are necessary to incentive alternative energy sources for meeting Czech electricity consumption. So this isn’t just a random target – it’s on the front lines of breathable air and climate change policy in a material way.

Media artist Gabriela Prochazka and Lunchmeat Studio (who also produce Prague’s Lunchmeat Festival) made statements by running lasers on top of the cooling towers and its exhaust. That included messages like “STOP COAL”, “#NOFILTER”, “NOT COOL”, and, in a reference to rising planetary air temps, “+2°C.” (If those cooling towers remind you of nuclear plants, not coal, well, that’s because both methods basically run on steam – but I digress, you can go to Wikipedia for that.)

Limity Jsme My (We Are The Limits)
Greenpeace CZ

Petr Zewkak Vrabec, Martin Janousek

Something like a power plant can easily fade into the background of the world around us. This seems an effective way to use our tools to transform that perception.