22 Jan 2020 Press release Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Biodiversity loss inspires global poster contest

  • The environmental category of the 16th edition of the International Poster Biennial, hosted by Mexico for three decades, will be devoted to biodiversity
  • Artists around the world are invited to submit their posters until 15 May 2020
  • Biodiversity is the theme of the World Environment Day 2020

Mexico City, 22 January 2020 – In the spirit of harnessing the power of art to raise environmental awareness and inspire direct action, the 16th edition of the International Poster Biennial, has announced a call for entries, inviting artists to submit posters under six categories, one of which is devoted to environmental issues.

The call for entries is open until 15 May 2020.

For the past 30 years, around 70,000 posters from five continents have been submitted to this exhibition, which takes place in Mexico City. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has partnered with the Biennial since 1990 to sponsor the environmental category.

This year’s edition will be devoted to biodiversity, which is the theme of World Environment Day 2020, the largest UN platform for environmental public outreach, celebrated annually on 5 June. Colombia will host the World Environment Day 2020 celebrations.

Contemporary artists from all over the world have participated in the International Poster Biennial, using their tools and creativity to describe our planet’s challenges in a way that feels relevant and urgent, and is often uncomfortable and difficult to ignore.

For instance, Maja Zurawiecka, a visual artist from Poland, used a grotesque poster of a severed human hand to portray the threats to the Bialowieza primary forest, a World Heritage site on the border between her country and Belarus.

“The message of my poster was simple: we are nothing without nature. When you cut down a tree, it is like you are cutting down your own hand. You are taking away a piece of our life on this planet,” said Zurawiecka, who won first place at the 14th edition of the competition.

Some of the pressing environmental issues artists participating in the contest have addressed include, among others, biodiversity; plastic pollution; global warming; green economy and the reduction of food’s carbon footprint. In the last edition of the contest, 1,645 posters were submitted to the environmental category. The Chinese designer Yongkang Fu won first place for his piece “Living Space”, which powerfully evoked the harmful impact of plastic pollution on marine life.

2020 has been labelled as a ‘super year’ for the environment, one in which key international meetings are expected to set the agenda for environmental action over the next decade, including the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in Kunming, China, and the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. The COP15 will discuss the bold proposal of protecting 30 percent of all land and sea on the planet.

One million species are at risk of extinction due to land and sea use change, pollution, climate change and overexploitation of resources, a landmark report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem (IPBES) reported in 2019.

The health of the ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever, according to Sir Robert Watson, former Chair of IPBES, adding that human beings are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life.

“This year, the theme of the biennial is more relevant than ever, since we are experiencing irreversible biodiversity loss at an unprecedented scale,” said Leo Heileman, UNEP regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “We are very proud to continue this prolific partnership with the International Poster Biennial, taking place in Mexico City, one of the most vibrant cultural hubs in the Americas.”

“It takes only three seconds for our brains to preserve the memory of a good poster,” said Xavier Bermúdez, Director of the Biennial since its foundation. “The International Poster Biennial, in collaboration with UNEP, raises awareness and inspires individuals to take action by changing their lifestyles. It’s not enough to show discomfort – a good poster should also motivate people to take positive action.”

The scale of the current biodiversity breakdown is unparalleled; the IPBES report warns that more than a third of all marine mammals, more than 40 percent of amphibian species and 10 percent of insects are threatened.

“Change starts with awareness. Awareness that we are not alone on planet Earth. Awareness that all our decisions and actions have repercussions on other human beings, animals and plants,” said Fatoumata Dravé, a Canadian designer who won second place at the Biennial in 2016. Her piece, titled “Toxicité”, dealt with the devastating consequences of aluminum´s production on marine life.

“I’ve always been concerned with how graphic designers could have a say on social issues,” she added. “I seized the opportunity at the Biennial to make a research-based poster on biodiversity with a message that could potentially have an impact.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

For more information, please contact:

María Amparo Lasso, UNEP Head of Communications for Latin America and the Caribbean, +507 305-3182

Xavier Bermúdez, Director of the International Poster Biennial, + 52 1 228 190 2142