The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, a multi-day conference where some of the most privileged and insulated people on the entire planet gather together to convince one another that they are “committed to improving the state of the world,” to quote the WEF’s motto, begins today. At the event, artist Olafur Eliasson will give a talk, with Carol Becker, the dean of faculty and professor of the arts at Columbia, about “design that changes lives and communities.”
In the past, Eliasson’s work has included running a small art school, as well numerous pieces that have addressed climate change, including turning Tate Modern ‘s Turbine Hall into a giant representation of the sun and sky on a humid day and installing a portion of a melting glacier at MoMA PS1. In addition to the talk, Eliasson will also receive a Crystal Award, which honors “artists whose important contributions are improving the state of the world and who best represent the ‘spirit of Davos.’ ”
Another art-related event at the meeting is a press conference called “How Can We Preserve Our Cultural Heritage?” that addresses the rising destruction of archaeological and heritage sites, with speakers including Richard Kurin, the under secretary for history, art, and culture at the Smithsonian, artist Lynette Wallworth, and Peter Salovey, the president of Yale University.
Other talks include “Staying Human,” “The Internet of Things Is Here,” What If: Robots Go to War?,” and “What If: You Are Still Alive in 2100?” (To address the latter: I would, of course, take my mostly robotic body and finally make that long-planned trip to Davos.)
Besides Eliasson, notable speakers in Davos include Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, actor Kevin Spacey, and Bono. Leonardo DiCaprio, an arts patron and actor who had a strong supporting role in Critters 3, will receive a Crystal Award alongside Eliasson.