Early Warning Signs

Spike Island

Spike Island

133 Cumberland Road

The green on black sign was adopted by Alice Motard, Curator at Spike Island and was displayed outside their building for the duration of Bristol's year as European Green Capital. From September - December 2015 it also formed part of the ArtCop21 programme to coincide with the UN Climate Summit in Paris. At the end of the year the sign returned to London for the first time since 2011, to take up residence outside Arcola Theatre for 2016.

End of Year Report

By Alice Motard, Curator, Spike Island


Well, let’s be frank, Ellie Harrison’s Early Warning Sign did not set us on fire and we adopted it on the basis that it seemed very modest in terms of input and complied with Spike Island’s mission to support young practices. It also seemed to be a good start into the ‘Bristol Green Capital’ year, a way of taking part at our level and in a slightly more visible manner than reducing our carbon footprint.


We knew the sign was heavy and therefore accepted to take it on only if we could secure it outside of the building (having read others’ reports, it seemed like a drag to carry it in and out everyday, so we wanted to avoid this by all means). We thus ended up chaining it to a post in front of Spike Island and didn’t pay too much attention to it until the welding gave way and it split into two during the summer of 2015 (see images below). One day it wouldn’t spin and the next it was on the floor. We started discussing how to fix it cheaply and quickly but the moment it collapsed was pretty unfortunate, corresponding to an upcoming install and some staff shortage. Eventually it was fixed and sent to its next venue in London.

Spike Island


Everyday, or almost, one of the Spike tenants would lock his motorbike onto the same post as the sign. When I think about the sign – especially now that it’s gone – I cannot help but picturing it with the motorbike parked right next to it, which is rather ironic if you think of the overall meaning of having a sign reading ‘climate change’ in close proximity to one of the reasons for the aforementioned change (on a more personal level, it was quite ironic too in light of the meaning of my surname – ‘Motard’ being the French for biker – me who adopted the sign, as it is written on this very website).

Further thoughts

Like everything it is a question of belief… I guess I did not take care of the sign because I did not believe in it as an artwork. And perhaps, I have failed understand this until I had to get this report out of the way. The sign is stronger than you: you have to take care of it whether you like it or not, much like a rotten planet.


• For me it didn’t feel connected to Spike Island or even seemed that it was an "art piece" at all – rather that it had just been dumped there

• I liked it, very pedestrian

• It looked very tatty and unloved, I think its time as an artwork could be up

Beautiful sunny day for sitting outside #_spikeisland #spikecafe Watching Ellie Harrison's Climate Change sign spin #climatechange #sunnyBristol #spring #Bristolart #BristolGreenCapital

A video posted by Spike Island (@spikeisland) on