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I have a new piece in the The Apocalypse Project series currently exhibited at the DEPTH exhibition of Science Gallery Detroit.

Overview

Ice Chess examines the Arctic crisis and inspires viewers and participants to reflect on the situation up north. A map of the Arctic with its indigenous peoples is printed on a chessboard with pieces cast out of ice. Inside the pieces are toy soldiers and that represent the players in the emerging “battle” of the Arctic—the political and industrial figures that have big stakes in oil and shipping that stand to gain from melting ice and the emerging maritime routes as a result, and the pawns that represent the countries that will be affected by sea level rise and that are sacrificed in order to achieve these goals.

In these urgent times, now is not the time to romanticize the Melt. In a game with high stakes, who is responsible? On the edges of the board are freestanding soldiers and figures that represent observer countries and other affected nations, and anonymous figures that represent globally concerned distributed people. The battle is on, and we are all watching with bated breath. Ice Chess uses art and science to interrogate, to speak truth to power, to point to the powerful entities who are primarily responsible for what is affecting the whole planet.

Why Chess?

Chess is one of the oldest skill games in the world and has been played for over 5000 years. Chess spread around the world through colonization and trade. The objective of chess is to trap the king—to checkmate him—and it wins the game. Chess is historically played by the wealthy. In this project, it references wealth inequality, one of the systemic causes of climate change.

Chess is metaphorical of how humanity has treated nature—as a game of strategy where we seek to exploit it and each other. It takes this further by actually melting the project with the aid of the players—a reference to how we collectively have caused the Arctic to melt and how we can also put a stop to it.

This game does not intend to pit one human being against the other (or one country against the other), which risks oversimplification. Rather, each player represents a set of alternative possibilities that, when the game is played, clash to produce permutations of consequences. In the game, players and the audience are allowed to view the many entanglements that a wicked problem such as the Arctic crisis can provide.

A primary reason for economic interest in the Arctic is the emerging Northern Sea Route, which will connect Western Europe and Asia. This could make shipping up to 14 days faster than the southern route via the Suez Canal. In 2018, the Venta Maersk, owned by Maersk Line and carrying 3,600 containers, successfully set sail from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg—the first container ship to tackle the Arctic sea route north of Russia.

The Chessboard & The Pieces

The board is a map of the Arctic labeled with indigenous communities, seas, emerging shipping routes—all of these will be names we would hear more about in the coming decades. This map represents the battleground where a literal and figurative cold war is already happening.

The Arctic Council Nations

The powerful row of pieces—the king, queen, bishop, knight, and rook—represent the Arctic Council nations: Russia, USA, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Canada, and Denmark. The row of pawns represent countries around the world that are and will be most affected by sea level rise. Surrounding the board are Arctic Council observer countries, other nations affected by sea level rise, and anonymous figures that represent globally distributed concerned people.

Climate Change & the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes contain 5,500 cubic miles of freshwater, one of the biggest freshwater resources of the world. It supports more than 34 million people who live within its Basin. These people rely on the lakes for drinking water, fisheries, recreation, and industry. Climate change is already affecting these ecosystems through extreme weather, decreased crop yields, heat waves and consequent poor air quality, stress on water quality and infrastructure, affected navigation and recreation, and impact on wildlife.

Thank you to curators Mark Valentine Sullivan and Antajuan Scott and the rest of the Science Gallery Detroit team!

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C-Platform, a culture and art research and curatorial organization focusing on current trends and future concepts in the realm of mixed media based in Xiamen, China, profiles The Apocalypse Project series. Many thanks to all the residencies and grants that have supported this work. I trace my Chinese half from Xiamen so this is quite special for me, indeed. Xie xie!

Article in Chinese and English: https://www.c-platform.org/event/%e6%9c%aa%e6%9d%a5%e5%90%af%e7%a4%ba%e5%bd%95/?lang=en

The Planetary Renewal Spa

The Planetary Renewal Spa (2018- ) is a series of self-care performance rituals that illuminate the effects of climate breakdown. The spa currently offers two services: Back Massage to Simulate Hurricanes and Disappearing Honey Facial.

The Planetary Renewal Spa: Back Massage to Simulate Hurricanes

Back Massage to Simulate Hurricanes takes clients on a sensory experience of a hurricane, from light feathery touches of the coming storm to a full catastrophe.

 

The Planetary Renewal Spa: Disappearing Honey Facial

 

Disappearing Honey Facial gives clients a relaxing facial massage using raw honey while the artist narrates the story of bees disappearing because of climate change.

 

The Planetary Renewal Spa: Back Massage to Simulate Hurricanes

 

The Planetary Renewal Spa was first performed at Red Gate Gallery in Beijing as part of my residency as the 5th Crystal Ruth Bell resident of China Residencies.

I’m honored to contribute an article to the October issue of Vienna-based springerin – Hefte für Gegenwartskunst, a quarterly magazine dedicated to the theory and critique of contemporary art and culture. Entitled “A Different Shape of Progress” (Fortschritt in anderer Form), I write about contemporary art and social inclusion through the context of my interdisciplinary art practice.

Order the issue here: http://www.springerin.at/en/2018/4/

The article is in German but send me a message if you want the original English article.

From the editor:

Issue 4/2018

#Progress

Is our society developing further? “Further” in the sense that efforts are made, in real practical terms, to remediate circumstances recognised as unjust and to actively set in motion processes that aim to promote balanced modes of living together? Is progress, which has so long determined the narrative of modernisation and social redistribution, still a significant category today? Are aspects of progress or more viable approaches to overcoming unjust, non-egalitarian relations perhaps to be found in the cultural realm rather than elsewhere? And should we give credence to ideologies of progress that locate such progress above all in the technological realm, possibly harbouring as a hidden agenda a conviction that societal mechanisms will somehow or other come into play in the wake of developments on the technological front? Contemporary art may perhaps always be one step ahead of all this, in that it seeks to impact on an irksome Here and Now from the perspective of the future, of a vision drawn with idealised or utopian brushstrokes. The fall issue unfurls scenarios that engage with this impact, asking to what extent it offers a viable means of working toward (also social) progress that genuinely merits this designation.

Hello friends! The online voting polls for the Best Climate Solutions Award are open from September 24 until October 15 (5:00 PM CEST). The Apocalypse Project is in the running under “Education and Media”. I’m hoping to fund a future series of projects benefiting an indigenous rainforest community in the Philippines, and to create an arts-led curriculum that outlines the frameworks of the climate change adaptation projects and workshops I’ve been leading in all of these places around the world you’ve seen me in. If you can please take a few minutes to vote and/or share with your friends, that would be great. Thank you very much!

HOW TO VOTE: Sign up or log onto http://www.bestclimatesolutions.eu/solutions/ and search for The Apocalypse Project. You can also visit http://www.apocalypse.cc for everything this project has done in the last 5 years.

Bestclimatesolutions.eu is a new platform to showcase the most innovative and compelling efforts from around the world to build a climate-smart and resilient future, and engaging with local developers, innovators, business operators, and researchers to support the scaling up of tools, technologies and business models that can generate tangible impacts.

Best Climate Solutions builds on the unique experience of the Best Climate Practices observatory, an initiative developed by ICCG in partnership with the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC). Since 2012 the Best Climate Practices observatory has collected and promoted a wide range of concrete actions for dealing with climate change challenges such as energy access, water management, climate finance, disaster risk reduction.

I’m delighted to announce that The Apocalypse Project is in the running for the Best Climate Solutions 2018 Award for “Communicating Climate Change Threats and Opportunities”! I’m hoping to fund a future series of projects benefiting an indigenous rainforest community in the Philippines, and to create an arts-led curriculum that outlines the frameworks of the climate change adaptation projects and workshops I’ve been leading in all of these places in the world you’ve seen me in.

The online voting procedure will be open from September 24, 2018 until October 15, 2018 (5.00 pm CEST).

View the entry here.

A tale of two Amazons, past and present

I’m concurrently exhibiting two editions of An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest in Dublin and Manila. These editions were selected for the exhibitions to fit their themes, and it’s been fun making them for these two very different cities. The one for Science Gallery Dublin’s In Case of Emergency exhibition features scents I smelled during my residency with LABVERDE in Brazil. These are things I encountered in the forest that are at risk from climate change and other human impacts.

The other one at the Manila Biennale which just opened is an edition that interprets the olfactory memories of 18th & 19th century explorers such as Alexander von Humboldt and Henry Walter Bates. I’m uncomfortably aware that these are narratives of a bunch of white guys as they were all I could find, though I intentionally picked those of naturalists. I’m still on the lookout for records that show a diversity of perspectives if you know of any (language doesn’t matter) as this is an ongoing project that is one of my favorites.

(Hey, at least the one in Dublin is based on the account of a woman, of color, from the developing world and is mixed and multi in most things: me.)

Check these out in Dublin and Manila, and
follow the next steps of this project and other works of The #ApocalypseProject on http://www.apocalypse.cc or #OlfactoryAmazon

Image credits: Science Gallery Dublin (top) and Studio CSY