Monday, March 18, 2019

Environmental Art Delivers a Sobering Message at Ecoscape

Environmental Art Delivers a Sobering Message at Ecoscape

by Klaus Bereznyak

EcoScape opened March the 3rd in a dedicated setting at Asmita Duryanjaya's InterstellART sim. Environmental Art installations from 8 Second-Life artists treat a variety of issues from the threat of biosphere collapse to human survival strategies in a polluted future scenario. The exhibits are impactful and informative and well worth experiencing up close.

One of the contributing artists, Elle Thorkveld explained to me how she'd been inspired with the seed of an idea while participating in an online class in Environmental Humanities. She highlighted a rare interview with the artist Gustav Metzger in AnOther magazine which talked of a need for artists to speak up about the issues the earth is facing.

"I mentioned an environmental art exhibit as a possibility for a different venue to Asmita Duranjaya. She liked the idea and offered to host it at her interstellART sim.  I would like to credit Asmita for all the great work she has done refining the concept, curating, organizing and creating installations herself for the exhibit. I have done much less in comparison.

Beyond the initial idea and some support, my contributions have been limited to creating an installation."

In spite of it being a difficult topic and far from cheerful, the project has been well received. It attracted a full sim for the opening event, and the level of interest has been encouraging.

The exhibits are stationed in a desert environment. Visitors can use teleport stations to get around or walk over the dunes on foot. There is information available in notecards at each station as well as in a dedicated information area, where a book about the show and some comfy chairs are free to pick up and take home.

Asmita, in a notecard, outlines the overarching intent of the exhibition:

"As artists we can neither influence necessary political decisions (except of voting for the parties and politicians, who care), nor reverse some negative developments of the industrial growth.
But we can warn, issue a statement beside trying our best in personal life to behave ecologically responsible."

I asked Elle what she thought artists can do about environmental problems:

"I think that they can raise awareness of the problems through presenting aspects in their work.  Artists have the freedom to look at issues in imaginative ways which I think can raise the public's consciousness of issues. They might even offer new solutions."

Some of the stations make use of the virtual environment to immerse the viewer in alternative visions of the future.

June Clavenham's "Overpopulation" features a city burned out and ruined, embedded with interactive media stations and leading to a brightly painted garden that could represent a better future.

Our choice is also emphasised in Duna Gant's "You Decide" and Alosio Congrejo's "To Be or Not to Be."

The diversity of approaches artists have taken to the subject is worth appreciating, both in their choice of issues and the techniques used to create their installations.

Melodie Heart has collaborated with Erico Lecker in creating "Armageddon in the Biosphere" to highlight the frightening consequences of the destruction of insect life through pollution, habitat changes, overuse of pesticides, and global warming.

It must have been challenging for artists to zoom in from all the possible environmental issues they could underline.

Elle Thorkveld's contribution, "No Ark in Sight", calls our attention to rising oceal levels and the plight of polar bears with imagery that melts together arctic scenes and open ocean, demonstrating the transition. She explained why she chose the bears:

"I like bears in general and I think polar bears, being so specifically adapted to an environment that is being dramatically impacted by climate change are sort of a canary in the coal mine for all animals and the mass extinction going on. They are beautiful animals, it is very sad."

The beauty of trees and the artists' evident love for them is poignantly presented by Lalie Sorbet on an island with cutout organic forms and by Asmita Duryanjaya in her tree-hugging trail.

Asmita's trail invites the visitor to ponder a series of quotes in a short pilgrimage and homage to trees, then to go and hug a tree in RL.

Overlooking the exhibit, Asmita has also composited an inspiring build with a focus on survival strategies, using mesh creations by Silas Merlin. It asks what kinds of alternative technologies humans might need to survive after a catastrophe.

All the contributring artists have more permanent exhibiting areas on the main part of the InterstellART sim, which can be reached by teleport from the landing area.

This exhibition is a bold foray into the ways virtual art can be used to inform, confront and offer some answers while emphasizing the worrying state of the planet. The challenge of using a virtual world to create a uniquely immersive branch of environmental art has been creatively entertained by the participants, and Asmita has done a great work in initiating and assembling the experience for Second life avatars. The exhibit remains open for visiting, and it has only been possible to mention a few of the details.

It seems fitting to end with an afterthought that Elle Thorkveld offered in our discussion:

"We have a focus on finding new life in the solar system, as a great search, yet we are participating in mass extinction of thousands of living species right here on our own planet. It is ironic and rather sad, we humans are strange creatures.  I think simply shifting our attitudes towards other species, to respect them and see that they too have a right to exist, live and raise their families, to be treated with kindness, would help greatly.  As Asmita said in her installation, Hug a tree."

Gustav Metzger: "We Must Become Idealists or Die" -
About the Environmental Art Movement -

Klaus Bereznyak

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