A Quirky Animation Follows a Determined Cactus Farmer as She Tracks the Man Destroying the Environment
A cowgirl named Rose and her eccentric pals embark on a mission to find the man damaging their local environment in the clever and fervent short film “Spell of the West.” Created by Los Angeles-based Sam Lane during her third year at CalArts, the animation follows the group’s wayward journey through the roving hills and sentient forests as they search for the ax-wielding tyrant who’s chopping down trees and demolishing their cactus farm.
Simultaneously witty and sincere, “Spell of the West” is imbued with magical undertones and a message that there’s more to environmental destruction than the loss of ecosystems. Lane explains to Short of the Week:
Most scientific work falls short of capturing the emotional aspect of human/nature relationships. In order to protect our natural surroundings, it’s important to know the dry facts, but it’s also important to establish an emotional human connection. Narrative is a prime rhetorical tool, and I was interested in re-framing the environmental conversation with a deep respect and poetic appreciation for the natural world.
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After embarking on both permitted and illegal ventures into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, British writer and photographer Darmon Richter was able to document the ghostly ruins and abandoned structures throughout the hazardous region. He captures eerie Cold War-era relics in a series of mysterious photographs, including a paint-curling mural venerating Soviet heroes and the room where the initial malfunction, which decimated an area now part of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, occurred in 1986. Decades later, the nuclear disaster still is considered one of the worst catastrophes throughout history.
Published by FUEL, Chernobyl: A Stalkers’ Guide encompasses Richter’s unprecedented access to the mysterious zone in its 248 pages. The volume is available from the publisher or for pre-order on Bookshop. Keep up with Richter’s travels on Instagram, and check out his blog for further dives into abandoned history. (via Hyperallergic)
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A decade ago, Catherine Nelson compiled hundreds of photographs of barren, snow-covered landscapes and autumnal forests for her project Future Memories 2010. The Australian artist, who lives and works between Ghent and Amsterdam, recently revisited that series to create a new body of work with similar world-building techniques. “With the tumultuous events of 2020 still unfolding and the undeniable links to the destruction of the natural world by mankind, it felt timely to return to the themes from that series, which talk about our planet and the importance of protecting what we have,” she says.
Composed of photographs captured during three years and across four continents, Future Memories 2020 spans “from the lush, tropical flora of Costa Rica and Far North Queensland and the fertile, volcanic mountains of the Azores, to the rolling hills of the Greenland tundra,” Nelson writes. Many of the orb-like digital assemblages feature thick brush and foliage around the outside, while the less-populated centers appear to bulge out. The organic spheres hover effortlessly against a cloudy backdrop, highlighting the rich colors and incredible diversity of every environment. Each piece serves as a reminder that “it is in the flourishing variety of the local that the fate of the world resides,” the artist says.
Nelson’s work is on view through September 22 at Michael Reid in Sydney and will head to Gallerysmith in Melbourne early next year. Those unable to experience the complexly assembled worlds in person can see more on her site.
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In late January in Salinas Grandes, Jujuy, Argentina, artist Tomás Saraceno (previously) launched a black air balloon powered only by the sun and air, forgoing lithium, helium, or fossil fuels. By absorbing ultraviolet rays to heat the air and allow it to raise, the balloon can hold 250 kilograms, or about two people. The project, titled “Fly with Aerocene Pacha,” became the world’s first sun-powered flight with a pilot and was exhibited as part of Connect, BTS, an arts initiative organized by the South Korean boy band. The global project has connected five cities with 22 artists who have helped fulfill the mission of redefining “the relationships between art and music, the material and immaterial, artists and their audiences, artists and artists, theory and practice.”
Breaking six records with the World Air Sports Federation, Aerocene Pacha eclipsed previous markers in altitude, distance, and duration for both men and women, thanks to pilot Leticia Marques. During its flight, it reached an altitude of 272.1 meters above ground and crossed 2.56 kilometers. The longest flight lasted an hour and 21 minutes.
In a statement, Saraceno added context to the project that falls at the intersection of art, culture, and environment, speaking to the abundance of lithium in the area that’s being mined for use in batteries. “This extractivist attitude is evidenced in the Salinas Grandes by the recent rush to mine lithium, furthering the man-made violence that incites climate change and mass extinction, the race to colonize space and disturbed balance of interconnected ecosystems,” he writes. The ballon prominently displays the phrase, “El agua y la vida valen más que el litio,” or “Water and life are worth more than lithium.” Activists from indigenous organizations attended the launch of the balloon, protesting the extraction process.
The Kirchner Cultural Center in Argentina is hosting a special exhibition, which includes video of the historic flights, devoted to Saraceno’s work through March 22. To see more of the artist’s ethically minded projects, check out his Instagram. (via Hyperallergic)
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German photographer Tom Hegen, who specializes in aerial photography, recently traveled to the Netherlands to document the country’s LED greenhouses. The greenhouses were developed as a response to the small country’s growing need for food both within its own borders and to the international market. Dutch exporters are second only to the U.S. industry for global food exports as measured by value. Although the greenhouses offer incredible efficiency in their design, cultivating food year-round through high temperatures and humidity levels, their round-the-clock use also gives off a great deal of light pollution. Hegen flew in a helicopter at night to capture the yellow and purple glow that the greenhouses give off, their geometric planes of illumination standing out from the dark atmosphere.
The photographer tells Colossal that his work centers around the topic of the Anthropocene (the era of human influence on Earth’s biological, geological, and atmospheric processes). “In my photography, I explore the origin and scale of that idea in an effort to understand the dimensions of man’s intervention in natural spaces and to direct attention toward how humans can take responsibility.” Hegen explains that aerial photography in particular helps convey the Anthropocene because it shows the dimensions and scale of human impact more effectively.
“I am also fascinated by the abstraction that comes with the change of perspective; seeing something familiar from a new vantage point that you are not used to,” Hegen tells Colossal. “I use abstraction and aestheticization as a language to inspire people and also to offer the viewer a connection to the subject as they need to decode what they are looking at.”
In 2018 Hegen published his first aerial photo book, HABITAT, and next year he will start working on a follow-up, the artist shares with Colossal. Keep up with Hegen’s travels and latest projects on Instagram and Behance.
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REWILD: A Short Film by Splash and Burn and ESCIF Chronicles Rainforest Restoration Efforts in Sumatra
To draw attention to the ecological devastation wrought by palm oil farming in Southeast Asia, the Splash and Burn project (previously) creates and documents large and small-scale art activations. The initiative’s most recent endeavor, titled REWILD and executed with Spanish artist ESCIF, involved carving a rewind symbol into a palm oil plantation in Sumatra, Indonesia, and creating a short film documenting the effort. ESCIF explains, “the idea of going back, of rewinding, is an invitation to reconnect with ourselves; to recover awareness and respect for the earth, which is the ecosystem of which we are a part.”
The land art intervention took place on an acquired plantation within a new forest restoration site made possible by the Sumatran Orangutan Society. After clearing the palms, diverse vegetation has been re-planted. In a release about the project, Splash and Burn explains that the restoration site is located on the borders of the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Sumatra’s forests—and the wildlife populations within—have shrunk by 40% in the past two decades, replaced by palm oil, paper pulp, and rubber plantations. Though not commonly known in the U.S. as a cooking oil, palm oil is the most widely consumed oil on the planet, found in everything from chocolate and instant noodles to lipstick and laundry detergent.
You can watch the trailer of REWILD below. It features an abstract soundscape by Indonesian composer Nursalim Yadi Anugerah. If you are interested in contributing, head to moretrees.info, and follow Splash and Burn (comprised of Ernest Zacharevic and Charlotte Pyatt) on Instagram.
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