Saturday, June 16, 2007

Environmental E:vents

It has taken many years and some still dispute the science but since the Stern Review of 2006 there has been an increased awareness of climate change and the need for environmental sustainability, our politicians now accept that inaction is not an option. It seems the effects of climate change are accelerating and increasing, despite a reliance on economic doctrines and conventional market wisdoms as a method for justifying our unwillingness to accept the inevitable our political classes are aware that changes to human activities are necessary to halt the damaging effects of our actions on the environment.

The general public are slowly accepting the need to alter their lifestyles to accommodate more environmentally sustainable practices, many choose to disregard the warnings but most of us to varying degrees understand the correlation between our actions and the consequent damage to the environment. Scientists are continuing to monitor the sites of climate change and study the evidence, 10 years ago this evidence was gathered from more marginal, less populated parts of the world but climate change is happening closer to home, it is no longer subtle changes to sea temperature, or minor seasonal fluctuations in the polar climates. The damage is done and the evidence is piling up on our doorsteps, new 3 bedroom, detached house in the Thames gateway floodplain anyone?, no I thought not.

So how have artists reacted and responded to environmental issues? Through the 80’s and early to mid 90’s political art was dismissed by many artists, curators and critics, too much exposure to 70’s art that seemed like propaganda, too preachy. In recent years the concept of the ‘political’ has slowly been reintroduced into art practice, our concepts of what political really means has broadened, as formal political ideology has given way to a more reactive pragmatism in our political classes, it is very difficult now to determine what the core political values of any party are, without a clear view of where the interests of the political classes truly lay the masses have seen issues of global economic and environmental concerns overlap far more with issues of community, society and the individual. In this political environment artists are now beginning to respond to issues often left untouched or only skirted round by our polticians, for an artist responding to the environment what may have once seemed like campaigning has now become much more documentary or narrative based.
The E:vent gallery is currently showing the work of three artists who have been asked by curator Brian Reed to respond to themes related to human interaction with nature and the global climate, the three invited artists have produced three very different responses but one thing is very clear, for these artists climate change and environmental destruction is real and of concern.

Monica Biagioli’s video shows slowly changing indeterminate shapes that move through a variety of colour changes, sharp piercing white shapes turn to a softer green, yellows and browns move into a more vivid and harsher blue and purple. These abstracted video animations are taken from footage of grazing sheep but with Biagioli’s manipulations the original pastoral scenes become more reminiscent of rapid and unstoppable bacterial growth as seen under a powerful microscope.

Michael Trischberger
’s architectural intervention into the gallery space shows numerous branches piercing the walls and protruding and intruding into our human environment. It is a reminder that we share our place in the world with all its other living forms, as climate change alters our planet I am reminded that the changes we see are perceived in our human arrogance as negative, the forces of nature that alter our environment and threaten our current lifestyles are natures adaptions to our arrogant and unsustainable actions. We have altered life on the planet by our intervention in the climatic fabric of the world but if these alterations and natural adaptions continue we may have caused the means by which nature can reclaim the planet from us.

Katherine Eastman’s photos of her slowly defrosting freezer are a simple but captivating metaphor, the photos are shown as a series of slides which appear at short intervals. As one photo follows the other the lumps of ice melt and change, this change is noticable but not rapid, the impression is one of subtle transformation and slow inevitability. However much the same as the changing polar landscape the inevitable is also uncertain, we recognise the altering scene but it’s slow progress is strangely engrossing whilst at the same time the uncertainty and slow inevitably holds us to observe rather than react. Eastman’s slides appear on screen as isolated photos but also as a series documenting a process, perhaps Eastman is suggesting that an intervention in this small process we recognise and understand will help us to recover from that other process that we recognise but whose consequences remain uncertain.

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