Plastic jellyfish, giant whales: art at heart of Madrid climate march

Madrid (AFP) –


"Tonight no sleep for us," grins Paula Rubio, a 23-year-old activist who has spent two weeks working on a vast model of a whale that may well make a splash at Friday's climate march.

Pliers in hand, she and a fellow activist wrestle with bits of wood to try and solve a problem with the skull of the beast, which when finished will measure a full seven metres (23 foot) in length.

"People in the street are the ones who have the power to change things," she said, her long dreadlocks roughly pinned on top of her head.

"If you capture people's attention, more people will get involved. And in the end, I think the politicians will have to do something."

And that's the hope of many of those hard at work inside a huge building in downtown Madrid, where an army of people are hammering, painting and stitching artwork for Friday's march on the sidelines of the COP25 climate summit.

"We are criticising what they are doing in the (COP25) summit, where the big companies are, speaking with empty words and doing nothing and polluting just as much as ever," said Rubio, a tattoo artist from Madrid.

Things won't change overnight, but that doesn't deter her.

"We will have an impact and that's important."

Down the corridor, others are poring over three giant papier-mache heads, all painted to look like Chile's Sebastian Pinera, who had been due to host the UN summit but was forced to pull out after the country was swept by a violent wave of social unrest.

Each one took three days to make and the Chilean activists working on them are making another three more to ensure that the crisis gripping their nation will not be forgotten.

- 'Jellyfish workshop' -

"We want Chile to be in this march. Things are happening over there, they are killing people," said Francisca Chacon, a 25-year-old referring to the 23 people killed in weeks of social unrest.

And the crisis itself is "absolutely" linked to climate change, she says, pointing to the fact that water is privatised, with much siphoned off to feed vast plantations of avocados as world demand soars.

In a room off to the side, 39-year-old American artist Angeline Pittenger is leading a "plastic jellyfish workshop", working with a group of volunteers to make 30 glow-in-the-dark models from bubblewrap, ballons and plastic waste.

"I got involved with social justice really early and the latest permutation of that has been climate change because it's related to everything else," said Pittenger, who is working her third COP summit and whose work has a strong feminist message.

As night falls, another team has been hard at work on a sort of different art -- chopping and dicing vegetables to feed up to 80 people who will be working into the night.

- The art of cooking -

"We wanted to come to Madrid and thought it would be great to cook here, but I don't really have any experience with cooking," grins Annik Farber, 18, who is on a gap year and came from Switzerland with a group called The Kitchen Collective.

"We only cook vegan, organic food.. and on the first day, the Spanish group cooked a lot of lentils, so we’ve been trying to use up the leftovers," she says, stirring a large pile of chopped Swiss chard frying gently in an enormous paella pan.

"First we made soup then we made burgers out of it. And now we’ve stuffed peppers with lentils!"

Fellow volunteer chef Tiziano De Luca, 19, says they are expecting to cook some 2,000 meals on the day of the march.

"People have come here from all over the world to do stuff and cooking and eating is something we can all do together," said De Luca, who is studying philosophy and linguistics.

"It's something very nice and it strengthens solidarity."