CHRIS FREMANTLE

What art have I seen? Eco-Visionaries

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on January 30, 2020

Eco-Visionaries at the Royal Academy. Quite a mix of work, old and new; video, sculpture, performance, architecture; addressing energy, interspecies communication, extinctions, pollution, waste, and other ‘ecological’ issues.

The final element was a performance – we entered a room and sat facing a mirror. We put headphones on. We were addressed and asked questions about our perception of our own mortality. Then the light changed and the mirror revealed itself to be a tank containing jellyfish with another group sitting on the far side. There was some discussion of how they were also experiencing the same performance, albeit ‘offset’ so our actions were seen by them, and then their actions were seen by us.

However the most provocative element was the jellyfish who are doing very well as a result of climate change – I know this because I see a lot of big ones washed up on Ayr beach. The elements that asked us to consider our lives and the changes we might need to make, in juxtaposition with the jellyfish and their thriving, were powerful. The two audiences was a bit ‘over egging’.

Overall the exhibition demonstrated the many ways artists, designers and architects are to a greater or lesser degree succeeding in wrestling, some for more than 50 years, with the issues of the climate and biodiversity emergency. Each work makes sense as an attempt to grapple with all the complexity that Timothy Morton highlights in Hyperobjects – the nonlocality, the phasing, the stickiness and so on. As an exercise in curation I’m not sure it made sense beyond ‘look at all the ways…’ It also didn’t quite address the lameness and hypocrisy that Morton also highlights.

 

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