Finnish artist-duo IC-98, Visa Suonpää and Patrik Söderlund, are behind the animated films displayed at the Beaconsfield gallery. In a black and white colour scheme, in a dark setting, surrounded by loud Wagnerian music, large-scale screens invite the viewer to contemplate the decay of a shredded world, ruined by human-kind. The title of the exhibition reflects the gravity of the depictions, the Anthropocene being the geological age we currently live in. As human beings alter The Earth, irreversible changes occur within the geological layers and these are the modifications the artists have chosen to condemn.
Both installations inhabit large spaces, one in each room, and challenge our senses. Our vision is immediately drawn onto the black and white drawings, whose features gradually evanesce in small particles, or in a black background. The first installation is entitled “Nekropolis”. An imposing cloud floats in the midst of a natural landscape composed of mountains, a forest and what appears to be a lake. It hides the light coming from the rays behind, transforming brightness into gloom. The presence of this cloud confers to the peaceful scenery an underlying obscure tone enhanced by the loud, heavy sound coming from the audio. It fills the empty space of the room and swathes us like strong winds, so strong we almost feel like we are moving. The profound legato sounds accompany the movements both within and outside the cloud. A circular inward motion inhabits the cloud’s body and contrasts with the outward movement of the fine particles disseminated from underneath it.
I am under the impression that the skies were ruptured in half to let this creature reach the surface of the Earth. Although the imagery is beyond beautiful, fine in details, and goes perfectly with the powerful score, I wonder if this cloud, which represents our doom, has been in fact created by human-kind?
The animation is inspired by The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century by John Ruskin, in which he describes in metaphors the intensifying smog caused by industrialisation. This leads me to comprehend that what I am watching, hearing, and sensing are the consequences of my actions towards a planet which I am only using temporarily, but which I do not own. Although I am not aware of its immediate consequences, I have before me our present. Is it too late to reverse the process? I feel conscious that I can change and behave differently. Although the cloud, the smog, and the Earth are symbolic images, the entire installation strikes with its accuracy and its severity.
Upon entering the arch downstairs, a few steps away in the gallery, all sorts of different feelings emerge. Uncertainty, curiosity, and fear, all at the same time, come rumbling and disturbing my current emotional state. I stand alone in the dark, with only the screen to keep me company and tell me its stories. Watching “Abendland (Hours, Years, Aeons)” is reminiscent of opening the wounds of our sorrows, diving into it and feeling comfortable within. This installation describes the life of a tree going through time and undergoing transformations in our current ecosystem.
In the beginning, the tree blends into the landscape before its branches become frail and dark. As time goes by, nature evolves around the decomposition of the tree, the latter becomes obsolete, dying gradually to melt into the galaxy. All that is left are twinkly stars.
Up until this moment, the passage from life to death is expected and therefore I am able to watch with ease. Time freezes when the sky and the stars appear, as it means that only two options are available: either the end, or the renewal of everything. And so, I witnessed the rebirth of the tree, and I appreciate the cycle of life for its continuity, for its consistency, and for not letting us down. I compare our actions to the gift it perpetually gives us, and realize how we are failing it, increasingly.
The Beaconsfield gallery has transformed into a temple of reflections. In a dismal setting, the animated drawings wake up both intense half-explored introspections and most likely never tackled before contemplations on the outside world. The setting, music, and shadowy drawings certainly made me travel to those spheres. I enjoyed delving into darkness. The artworks are not directed at inner introspection, they aim to question external causes and although it feels familiar and comfortable to meditate in the dark, I cannot help but feel the throbbing freeze and wonder whether it will stay ice forever.?
Meditations on the Anthropocene, IC-98 at Beaconsfield (28 January – 23 April 2017)