by Rana Asfour
It is remarkable how one artist has managed to turn a catastrophic act of nature into ‘scenes’ of compelling beauty thereby setting the stage for internal meditation as well as meaningful timely global conversations on climate change.
Lars Jan, artistic Director at Early Morning Opera, has been registering the onslaught of floods around the world since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of America in 2005. When - again - floods were to cause severe damages in Pakistan in 2010, Lars decided that he had to act. It was eventually a photo made by the photojournalist Daniel Berehulak that finally focused his attention on an installation that would relate the evolving story of water in the 21st century. And so, four years on, Holoscenes was born; ‘a piece with no words’ as Lars described it last night to an audience of volunteer docents at Abu Dhabi’s New York University where the installation is scheduled to go live for its UAE premier this afternoon.
Holoscenes is essentially a large human-size aquarium that floods, drains and floods again inhabited by a rotating cast of eight performers conducting everyday behaviors. The exhibited behaviors reflect or even mirror human everyday behavior – from making the bed to cleaning the house. Scientists argue that these mirco-cycles that constitute the predominant patterns of our life indicate that cognitive and behavioral science is also about CO2 and melting glaciers. In layman’s terms: the decisions we make and the way we live our life through small daily patterns that interconnect with the patterns of others leaves no doubt that ‘we are collectively responsible for climate change’.
‘As a species we have shown a great capacity to respond and adapt to crisis and I have made sure that this comes across in the installation; you’ll notice that none of the performers are struggling with the fact they are being submerged under gallons of water, in fact they seem to be relaxed and making the best of their environment,’ explains Jan, ‘We need to take action and be innovative to make real change. So, even green solutions are not enough if we do not take ownership for our industries and activity and demand that others do the same. Climate change is fast, long-term, complex, and therefore requires immediate long-term solutions’.
‘What offers hope is that we are an empathetic species and we must harness that fact and appeal to each other’s emotions in a positive way to harness the needed change. I understand that people change slowly but what we must all understand as well is that the world is changing at a very fast rate’.
Lars Jan hopes that his installation will inspire a conversation, a story even, on a topic very close to his heart. This has already happened. One of the scenes depicts a woman with bucket and sponge at hand, busy at work cleaning the inside windows of the aquarium as the water in the tank slowly rises until she is eventually submerged and she and her tools, hang as if suspended in water. And yet, completely unfazed by what is happening around her, the woman continues to hold her sponge and wipe away at the windows as if nothing is happening. A female spectator standing by the side of the aquarium when it was on exhibit in the US, turned to Lars and commented that to her it felt that the woman was possibly ‘drowning in her own tears’, while a much younger spectator commented that the woman in the tank was most assuredly ‘a mermaid’.
‘It is stories like these that I want the installation to draw out of people. I want everyone to see their own story and to share their thoughts and ideas with others. I am not here to tell people what to think or what this is about. I want them to feel and think on their own, and to strike up a conversation with each other on how they feel their actions affect climate change and how they can be part of the solution too. You never know how a conversation can change your life’.
The installation runs from Today until Saturday November 19 from 4pm-9pm, Central Plaze Campus. I will be a volunteer docent so stop by to say hi! Admission in free.
For more information, click HERE
Make the most out of your visit:
Begin your day with a visit to the Invisible Threads exhibit at The Art Gallery before heading over to watch the performers take to the Holoscenes aquarium. From there visit Above Below and Below Below an exhibit by John Torreano, NYU Professor of Art. Top it off with Rooftop Rhythms poetry open mic night (Friday, Nov 18 @ 8pm).