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Immerse yourself in a 360-degree wake-up call.

Rising sea levels, floods, fires, droughts, deforestation, wars, persecution — there are many, many reasons why hundreds of millions of people around the world have been forced to flee their homes during the past 15 years.

And EXIT, a digital installation commissioned by the Foundation Cartier, Paris, now showing at UNSW Galleries as part of Sydney Festival, makes sure you can't ignore them. For 45 minutes, this immersive work surrounds you with 360 degrees of frankly terrifying statistics, presented as mesmerising images, text and sound. Prepare to leave wondering how on earth the Earth will possibly cope, yet compelled to do something — anything — about it.

That said, the work is in no way didactic. Rather than telling what to think or laying any blame, it simply provides hard, cold facts. Since 2008, natural disasters have displaced one person every second — an average of 26 million per year. Of the 6700 languages spoken today, 50 percent are in danger of extinction by 2100 — one of EXIT's most moving moments is the playing of recordings of 16 endangered languages. For the first time in history, there are as many people living in cities as there are in rural areas, and cities create about 70 percent of the planet's greenhouse gasses.

"I think it's a bit of a wake-up call, really," says Felicity Fenner, director of UNSW Galleries. "I love that the work isn't political. It isn't telling us what to do. It's just data, just numbers ... but they're incredible designers. It's presented in such an elegant way that it's really hard to stop looking at. So, it's overwhelming, yet engaging."

EXIT was a group effort. Based on an idea of French philosopher Paul Virilio, the work was created by NYC-based designers Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Laura Kurgan, Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, in collaboration with Robert Gerard Pietrusko and Stewart Smith.

Published on January 16, 2017 by Jasmine Crittenden

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