February 2016, Volume 20, Number 1

Cultural Spotlight

Otherworldly Visions of the Future

In the first week of December, as Art Basel bustled through Miami and world leaders met for the U.N. Climate Summit in Paris, MDC Live Arts brought a provocative work to Wolfson Campus that tied together the seemingly disparate worlds of art and politics in a very visceral way.

For six-hour stretches over four consecutive days, Holoscenes stopped people in their tracks as they walked through Kyriakides Plaza at the heart of the College’s downtown campus. There, trapped in a crystal-clear, elevator-sized aquarium, were performers conducting their everyday affairs as water filled then escaped the 4,200-gallon tank. The artists completed dozens of routine daily tasks, from getting dressed in the morning and reading the newspaper to buying fruit  and dancing the tango, all while swimming upward for air and diving downward to complete their work.

Lars Jan, the arts visionary and TED Senior Fellow behind Holoscenes, created the work to “make people feel climate change in their gut, rather than just understand it.”

The son of émigrés from Afghanistan and Poland, Jan is the founding artistic director of Early Morning Opera (EMO), a genre-bending performance and art lab whose works explore emerging technologies, live audiences and unclassifiable experiences.

Holoscenes is his latest cross-disciplinary project, which grew out of the widely shared concern that humanity’s troubled relationship with water will become the central issue of the 21st century. Driven by a custom hydraulic system, the aquarium had hydrophones giving audiences access to sounds inside the tank, which then became part of Holoscenes’ otherworldly soundscape. The dramatic performance installation drew media interest from across the nation, including  The New York Times.

To deepen the project’s impact, MDC Live Arts organized public discussions to stimulate collaborative thinking around climate change. Real-world perspective was added when MDC’s Earth Ethics Institute placed blue tape on buildings around Holoscenes showing the 6-foot sea-level rise anticipated in Miami this century.

Holoscenes launched the new Live Arts In Focus series, which offers programs tackling today’s pressing topics. Next in line is Camille A. Brown’s Black Girl: Linguistic Play, which explores black female identity through dance and rhythmic play, on Feb. 20.

— BK

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