Marina Zurkow, Una Chaudhuri, Fritz Ertl and Oliver Kellhammer
powerHouse Books window display
41 Main Street, (DUMBO) Brooklyn, NY 11201
Text & Photo by K. Cecchini @tonightatdawn
Images by Marina Zurkow, Una Chaudhuri, Fritz Ertl and Oliver Kellhammer who encourage you to freely distribute them.
“It’s really interesting to be next to something that really engages people’s narcissism,” Una Chaudhuri observed. We had met in front of the powerHouse Books window displays on the DUMBO art festival’s first night for our interview; her collaborative project was in the righthand window and the left case held a video camera. The camera captured people on the sidewalk and projected their movements into a kaleidoscope above it.
Chaudhuri mused about it, “…people can’t resist making faces and gestures and so on because it’s going to turn them into an artwork…but our idea has been to see how people might be invited to feel and think and…orient themselves in new ways to ecological issues, to climate change; difficult questions and so on.”
A professor of English, Drama and Environmental Studies at NYU, this Renaissance woman, along with her collaborators, understand the need to bring the public’s attention to climate change in fresh ways.
And then keep it for longer than a Sunday afternoon march.
One of the issues in maintaining interest is that the discourse and the associated images have become somewhat static and tend to inspire more helplessness than ingenuity; it feels like it’s “…kind of a guilt trip, it’s kind of depressing and it’s kind of ‘we fucked up’…and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Fortunately, Chaudhuri, Zurkow, Ertl and Kellhammer felt there was other, more creative frameworks for looking at and exploring climate change. In order to forge a different path, the group considered how the subject is typically broached and realized they wanted to push beyond the “3rd grade level we’ve been talking about ecology” with the oft-repeated “recycle more” refrains. Instead they believe “…it (climate change) deserves to have all kinds of both imaginative and emotional and intellectual explorations” which will lend it to as many possibilities and dialogues as possible.
“The weather was just supposed to be the weather.”
Not only did the artists decide they wanted to expand the conversation, they also wanted to acknowledge the emotions implicated in climate change and present these emotions in familiar vehicles to help people acquaint themselves with the strange, new and unnerving way we are now contemplating our weather. For example, Chaudhuri speaks to the sense of betrayal we may feel towards our new normal, “‘This is not supposed to happen, the weather was just supposed to be the weather…and now I’m supposed to be worried about the weather in this other new way?”
So “what do we do when we are confronted with something new in our lives?” We get to know it.
Insofar the project has been shaped into “3 Movements of Mind” to help people ‘get to know’ climate change; “Meet Climate Change”, “Befriend Climate Change” and “Become Climate Change”.
It may seem paradoxical to ‘befriend’ climate change, but the idea is to explore it and our relationship to it; “it’s here, we’ve done it,” now let’s adapt.
“Dear Climate” acknowledges all of the emotions we as humans may have regarding the climate in letters to it and advertisement-like images. These images reflect everything from anger, sentimentality, self-pity and humor.
If we do not make jokes about climate change, Chaudhuri believes that “…it will never be ours and it has to be ours or we’ll never be able to live with it in a good, healthy, creative way.”
“Climate Change: Will it make me look fat?”
This is the tag line on one of the 70 posters in the series and Chaudhuri was delighted to see folks respond to it as they walked past it. Myra Valencia’s friend was taking a picture of her in front of her, and I approached her to seek out her feedback.
Valencia laughed, “A lot of people make fun of me that I’m vain so I just thought it would be really funny to take a picture of.”
Una probed her further, “How do you react to putting these 2 together? Does it seem like a such a mismatch?”
Mulling over it, Valencia said, “…obviously climate change affects everything…obviously you see that first, it (the tag line) just pulls you in its funny because you wouldn’t normally think of the 2 together…but it does tie in.”
And there you have it, folks, a conversation starter.