Currently on display at STATE Studio is a group exhibition, HYDROSPHÄREN, involving a variety of artworks centralized around the differing concepts of water. STATE Studio is a fairly new space that welcomes artists to explore the connections of science, society and art. Participating artists include Gabriele Neugebauer, Stefan Wischnewski, Nathan Kensinger, Christian “Mio” Loclair, and others which can be viewed on the STATE Studio Website.
As a student involved in both environmental studies alongside of photography, it was interesting to see an exhibition that included both areas of science and art as one. Most exhibitions or gallery openings I have attended in the past have never touched upon issues such as water resources or general environmental issues, despite how crucial the discussion of these topics is. I found it very refreshing to see artists aiming to bring awareness to topics such as these for once.
Overall, most of the works are successful in relaying the message of water as a non-renewable resource as well as overall water consumption. On the other hand, some weren’t quite as successful, such as Narciss (2018) created by Christian “Mio” Loclair. There was a wide variety of mediums being used by the artists such as video, installation and virtual reality, each touching upon their own concept related to water or general awareness. Personally, particular pieces are more drawing than others. Specifically work by Nathan Kensinger and Christian “Mio” Loclair.
A short documentary created by Nathan Kensinger is one work that particularly resonates. In Managed Retreat (2018), Kensinger focuses on three New York City neighborhoods that faced severe effects from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. According to the artist, these neighborhoods dealt with constant flooding as well as rising sea levels ever since Sandy. In this, the state of New York bought the neighborhoods and reverted it to its natural state. Throughout the film, Kensinger shows the dismantling of houses and other buildings as well as general decay from natural disaster. He does this by simply cutting from scene to scene with no dialogue, allowing viewers to become witnesses to this process of nature being restored.
Kensinger’s goal for the film is to show nature slowly returning to areas that were once human inhibited, thus “challenging us to rethink our impact on nature” (STATE Studio, 2019). Pulling from my prior experience in studying environmental science, climate change is also causing sea levels to rise drastically, meaning many coastline cities or towns will be underwater within the next few decades. With this, I was able to understand the importance of what was happening within the film and think about my role within environmental issues. What I worry about is that if someone doesn’t have some minor knowledge in environmental issues currently happening, a viewer may not be able to catch the issue being portrayed within the film. However, Kensinger was able to capture the act of demolition and rehabilitation in a way that will still startle viewers in one way or another.
Pulling from my prior experience in studying environmental science, I am aware climate change is also causing sea levels to rise drastically, meaning many coastline cities or towns will be underwater within the next few decades. With this, I was able to understand the importance of what was happening within the film and think about my place within environmental issues. What I worry about is that if someone doesn’t believe in climate change or simply doesn’t understand environmental issues, they may not be able to catch the issues being portrayed within the film. Managed Retreat (2018) is a film that is mainly accessible to those who already believe or understand issues of climate change. What would happen if a denier watched this film?
Narciss (2018), an installation created by Christian “Mio” Loclair, is another resonating piece from the exhibition. Much of Loclair’s work deals with the concept of human identity. With his piece Narciss (2018), he aims to create a representation of “…the minimum configuration required to execute algorithms of self-exploration” (STATE Studio, 2019). Loclair worked with both Artificial Intelligence as well as Machine Learning for this installation, just like work shown within his studio Waltz Binaire. With this particular piece, it is able to become aware of its physical presence and be able to relay its thoughts through the front screen for viewers to read.
Although this piece is very drawing, it doesn’t fit in with the theme of water that is present in other works in the exhibition. One way I could possibly see it relating to the rest exhibition is connecting its play on lack of self awareness humans tend to have with exploitation. With lack of awareness, exploitation of resources becomes quite easy and unrecognized, thus creating negative environmental situations like depleting fresh water resources. Although this piece doesn’t directly refer to water, possibly making it unfit for this exhibition, I believe it is still an important topic to touch upon. Realization of your own environmental footprint and willingness to change negative daily habits can only come along with adequate self-awareness. Again, I worry this connection is difficult to grasp for those who don’t fully understand the severity of climate change. Even with my understanding of the topic, it is a still very broad connection I am forming in my head.
Overall, I do recommend checking this exhibition out before it is taken down on June 30th, 2019. Although some of the works don’t seem to quite tie into the theme of water in my eyes, many of them do bring forward key concepts and issues related to water availability and general environmental implications created by human disturbances.