Art Show: Agency
Environmental artist Agnes Denes’ pioneering and multi-dimensional work, Wheatfield – A Confrontation (1982), encouraged engagement and empowered viewers to make change. This land-art piece, in which she planted a field of wheat in the shadow of Wall Street, revitalized an infertile landfill site. The work protested urbanization, climate change, and economic inequality. By growing food in the heart of the financial district, Denes called us to care for one another and the earth. As Manhattan office workers gathered in the field to pray with her for rain to nurture the seeds, they became active and engrossed participants in the project.
As I reviewed the submissions for the Broto exhibition, Agency, I was looking for works that, like Denes’, exert power or explore participation. For example, Environmental Performance Agency Collective (EPA) work Multispecies Care Survey, is an interactive website that encourages users to engage and consider their relationship with multi-species communities. By being pro-active, rather than re-active, participants become empowered to understand the intricate web of life.
By examining our relationship to non-human species, we engage with other ways of knowing. Susan Hoenig’s painting of migratory birds asks viewers to consider the earth’s magnetic field as a navigational tool and the ways in which this “unseen knowledge” can expand our understanding of the planet’s complex systems. In Paloma Marquez’ interdisciplinary work, Osseous Collaboration, we are invited to be active participants in a conversation with rocks – earth’s geologic archivists. By dynamically engaging with knowledge systems outside of our own, we empower other species and redefine the hierarchy currently leading us to ecological disaster.
Art objects are the indicators of the artist’s agency and are automatically infused with a certain purpose. As viewers, we are tasked with reading and interpreting the work within the current cultural framework. Like Wheatfield, the works in this exhibition have left me pondering several questions: What exists at the intersection of empowerment, the climate crisis, and radical empathy? What does agency look like in a post-human world? And, can it be ascribed to non-human species, rivers and/or ecosystems?
The way landscape photography historically has been aestheticized often excludes social-ecological concerns, contested histories, and conflict. In my photographic work, I try to expose photography’s broader potential. Thus, it can create links between the viewer and urgent social issues that connect to the collective body to the experience of climate change. My photographic work attempts to trace the fine line between hope and denial by looking at massive infrastructure projects meant to combat the inevitable of a rising water line. As We Play God is a visual investigation into infrastructure failure and environmental collapse in the fastest-disappearing land on earth: Southeastern Louisiana. I am interested in how our perception of place is derived from an ever-shifting river and the always constructed levee edge. These resource-intensive infrastructure projects attempt to combat inevitable flooding. My work traces the space for failure in the scientific reality that is present in these reliably futile efforts.
Life in the future
Caspar de Gelmini
Life in the future was a commission by Kino Club Helsinki in Finland. I created a video based on submarine Images by a diving robot from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar Research in Bremen. The work creates the illusion of space travel, when it is in fact it is a deep sea travel. My utopian aspect is the modulation of images, which creates a surrealistic atmosphere, from a unknown world. With the rise of the oceans, with the climate change, various regions are becoming water regions again. Life returns to the sea.
Acrylic paint on paper Dimensions: 20″x 14″
“An invisible force arises from the electric currents in our planet’s molten, metallic core. Birds are equipped with a mysterious ability to tune into these orienting forces. The Earth’s magnetic field, is the most reliable navigational guide in nature, constant even when neither sunlight nor starlight is available or landmarks fail to guide the way.”
A Bird’s Eye View of Quantum Entanglement, Katherine J. Wu
View from Tomorrow mimics what it was to experience Orange Sky Day in the Bay Area on September 9, 2020. While Bay Area residents may viscerally remember that day, the population at large could not understand the collective anxiety of not being able to find breathable air in a global pandemic. We asked ourselves, “Will it be like this tomorrow?” In collaboration with Wildfires to Wildflowers, viewers are invited on an interactive audio experience in Golden Gate Park to learn how restored ecosystems sequester and store carbon better than degraded ones and how to identify ecosystem imbalances. In the audio, listeners learn about the native species in Golden Gate Park, indigenous land stewardship practices, and native habitat restoration. Viewers leave the piece with agency to share what they learned, observe the details of the natural world around them, and the joy of planting native plants.
Dimensions: 8.5” x 11”
The passive individuals stare astonished by the world’s condition. They represent the shallow settlements humanity is willing to make: those that do not interfere with their personal interests. The intention of The Observers is to confront the human delusion of superiority, that in which we feel exempt of the consequences of climate change.
Se Jong Cho
Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 24″x24″ Instagram: @sejongee
I am a hybrid agent. I am a painter who paints in the intersection of landscape and abstraction; I am a scientist who studies the intersection of science and policy. I blend scientific inquiry into creative desire to develop a hybrid vocabulary with my paintings to tell a story about human alteration of natural environment that has grown pervasive and systematic. (Lake Oroville was formed by a dam impounding the Feather River.) I was compelled to paint the altered places on Earth because visual interrogation into the ways in which humans transform the world may stir the audience to broaden their perspective with an inquiry into the consequences of human actions. And with this broader perspective, our understanding of the world may become more comprehensive. With a more comprehensive understanding of our place in the world, we may change the way we choose to exist on Earth.
HD video, 1920x1080px, 3:54 Instagram: @iangibbins52
“I am still watching ghosts, eyes rimed with salt, homesick… this was never our natural state, our true inheritance… we should not be here…” This video explores the disastrous consequences of colonialization on the environment and unceded lands of First Nations people.
Fire and Ice Series: “Fire, Water, Nests”
Photomontage, archival pigment print
24″ x 36″ (edition of five) and 32″ x 48″ (edition of three)
This series begins with NASA satellite images of wildfires; glaciers, glacial calving; hurricanes and floods. There is an extraordinary formal beauty to these photographs even when they depict catastrophic or life-threatening weather or events. I am motivated by the current global catastrophe of climate change and rising sea level and the failure to take serious remedial action. All the other photographs and physical material in these pieces is my own work and attempt to reference geological history. The birds’ nests are a suggestion of their descendancy from ancient reptiles. There are physical objects in other pieces in this series, such as the shells and tails of horseshoe crabs (which have endured unchanged for over 350 million years), as well as fragments of whale bone, an animal we once hunted and now seek to save from extinction.
In the Shelter of Each Other
Cast glass, wood, branches, latex and acrylic paint
Dimensions 94” x 36” x 36″
The last human desire – a meditation of the present. The shift in global power, the conquer becomes a victim of own progress. How to relate to nature in the future? The video is filmed on a small reef close to 79` north in Spitsbergen. A rock in the water, no human has ever seen or stood on before. It emerged because of recent glacier melting caused by global warming. Everything has a relationship to everything. The violent silence spreads across the globe as nature disappears. The noise of people will keep getting louder as our living areas diminish. To possess this knowledge is to live in the violence we inflict on ourselves and our surroundings.
Single channel with two tracks
Witness addresses environmental disruption and humanity’s role in global degradation. In this Age of the Anthropocene with so many experiencing ecological grief – feelings of loss and/or anxiety – it can leave us feeling helpless and lacking in agency. This work was undertaken with generous support from the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation.