While the jury is still out on whether the global agreement made in Paris at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will combat the rise in overall temperatures, one thing we can do now is review our own relationship with water to see how we impact this resource. Houston Center for Photography’s newest installation, In the Wake—which merges with FotoFest 2016 Biennial’s theme, Changing Circumstances: Looking at The Future of The Planet—illustrates this topic masterfully.
“While scouting the nation at different conferences over this past year we noticed that the majority of artists were talking about water or some form of water, and how climate change has impacted either the water cycle or the water itself,” says HCP Director of Exhibitions & Programs Caroline Docwra. “As a result of climate change, what are we looking at, what are we seeing today?”
The installation aggressively highlights climate change in a multimedia platform featuring aerial photography sailing over bodies of water, video scenes from Monterrey Bay, abstracted landscapes using LED imagery, and portrait photography using melting glaciers as a subject.
One of eight exhibiting artists, Pittsburgh native, Lori Hepner, shows her abstracted landscapes from the Arctic, including Finland and Iceland, using homemade LED lights. The long exposure photos depict Hepner dancing in front of the camera for up to half a minute with her lights in hand, creating abstracted imagery of the landscape.
With a desire to see parts of the world that would be changing in her lifetime, Hepner spent a total of seven months in Finland, over the past 18 months. Through traveling and taking solo hikes and photo trips photographing landscapes and speaking with locals, Hepner found what the people who live there were saying about climate change to be fascinating. “They were talking about how they think their memories might be changing, as climate change alters their landscapes,” she says. “They were telling me how the ocean didn’t freeze last year, but it usually does, so they couldn’t walk across between the islands. Things like that were really astonishing to me.”
Other exhibiting artists for In the Wake include Bigert & Bergström, a collective duo from Sweden who has worked collaboratively for 25 years. Their focus is on geoengineering and how humans try to control living conditions by using technology to affect the climate. Using stark contrast imagery, including spherical photography from a desalination power plant at the Llobregat River outside Barcelona in Spain, to crystal structures from the salt pans on the Adriatic coast of Italy called Margherita di Savoia, these images show how one facility in the Mediterranean subtracts salt and another procures the surplus of salt from the sea.
“I guess this is what we artists can do, we can create this sort of symbolic gesture about this whole question of talking about climate change, which has been all over,” says artist Mats Bigert. “I think everyone has to be reminded all the time, but you then have to use different imagery because there is, I would say, climate change fatigue among the general public.”
Thru May 8. Houston Center for Photography, 1441 W. Alabama. 713-529-4755. hcponline.org