The Early Warning Signs project was one of the outcomes of Ellie Harrison's period as artist-in-residence at Two Degrees festival: a week of 'art and activism, climate and cuts', which took place at Artsadmin in London from 12 - 18 June 2011.
A series of four rotating 'climate change' signs were produced for the festival and displayed for its duration outside Artsadmin on London's Commercial Street. They aimed to act as beacons for Two Degrees - utilising the brazen marketing techniques of capitalism, not as a tool to sell us more, but as a tool to simply remind us of the consequences of our consumption.
Whilst in residence Ellie Harrison began to acknowledge the contradiction inherent in producing such material-heavy permanent signs for the sake of a one-week festival, especially one that was meant to be addressing issues of sustainability. By the end of Two Degrees, it seemed vital for the festival's and the artist's integrity, that the four signs be allowed to continue to promote their cause long into the future.
And so the Early Warning Signs project was born. In the spirit of her new mantra ‘reduce, reuse, recycle your art' and in an attempt to address the responsibility the contemporary artist should have to the objects she produces, Ellie Harrison decided to become the facilitator of this lifelong project to continue to tour the four signs to different public locations.
Ellie Harrison's guest text for the Artsadmin website 'A Good Climate For Business' explores a lot of her thinking behind the Early Warning Signs project. She also discussed the project as part of her interview with James Smith for This Is Tomorrow, conducted during Two Degrees.
When the festival was over, the signs went into storage at Artsadmin for a few months whilst Ellie Harrison set up the Early Warning Signs project and began recruiting host venues. Before the first full year of the project began in 2012 two of the signs were put on short-term display - one as part of the Converse/Dazed Emerging Artists Award exhibition just round the corner on Heneage Street and one at Beacon Art Project in Lincolnshire.