Thursday, October 15

Blog Action Day: Climate Change

The artists I've chosen to represent this year's blog action day theme of climate change are Janet Koenig and Greg Sholette, specifically their installation piece 'Surviving Paradise'. As described on Greg's website:
In Surviving Paradise Janet Koenig and Greg Sholette create a miniature "epic" theater in which botanical survival and human desire are linked to the repeatedly war-torn landscape of the Middle East.

Five dioramas represent the successive impact of human invasions in the region first by the Persians in 539 BC, followed by the Greeks in 331BC, by Arabs in 640 AD but not represented in the piece, then by the Mongols in 1258 AD, the Ottomans in the 1500s and finally by the British in 1918 whose discovery of oil radically alters the geo-politics of the region throughout modern times. A process of desertification intensifies with each military conquest beginning with the uppermost tableau in which impressive irrigation systems that once transformed the arid land between the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates into a paradise are visibly disappearing, to the bottom diorama revealing a virtual wasteland.

In each scene a miniature wooden easel implausibly holds a small painting showing one of five plant species originating from the Middle East --the pomegranate, date palm, cedar, grapes, and lotus flower-- all of which are found today at Wave Hill Gardens. (A nearby key provides the actual location of each specimen in the gardens.) The miniature stage sets are framed by an archway that incorporates ornaments inspired by Assyrian and Persian designs which are also based on these plants, as well as images reflecting the invading Persian, Greek, Mongol, Ottoman, and British warriors. The word Babel is visible in Arabic as a pattern immediately surrounding the diorama tableaus alluding to the fantastic, and most likely mythical Hanging Gardens.

Surviving Paradise is a study in contrasts. The mythical and the real, the ancient and the modern confront each other at the intersection of botanical survival and geopolitical interests.

This piece demonstrates, on a smaller scale, the impact humanity has on a landscape. Though this piece covers a vast historic span of time it's important to remember that our actions as a society can, and do, impact the planet even more rapidly than this. Our actions are rapidly changing Earth, and it is up to us to cease unhealthy treatment of the planet; we are responsible for leaving a healthy planet for future generations. In the words of Pogo:

If you would like to take action please go to this page to add your name to the list of people who want to make it clear that we want America to be active in the effort to end climate change.


alexae said...

Neat find KB! It's so rare you see dioramas used like this. I like it!

Anonymous said...

One if our favorites. DOD

Kelly Visel said...

Well Dad, it is certainly clear who my environmental educators were growing up ; ) I'm sure Pogo pops into my head more frequently than it does for most twenty somethings.