Arts & Culture

“WeatherProof” explores climate change through multidisciplinary lens

Programs host scientists, artists, researchers to collaborate, promote enironmental issues

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Throughout the first half of April, five programs at Brown are partnering to discuss, teach and learn about the environment through a range of perspectives with a focus on collaboration. Through the initiative “WeatherProof: Arts, Humanities and Sciences Explore the Environment,” these distinct programs will weave across barriers to examine environmental issues with a multidisciplinary lens. Each of the events is free and open to the public.

The Bell Gallery

The latest exhibition at the David Winton Bell Gallery, “33˚,” focuses on the melting polar ice that is a result of climate change. The keystone of the exhibition is Jacob Kirkegaard’s sound environment, “Isfald (Icefall),” an immersive sound experience housed within a curtained-off section of the Bell Gallery. Produced through the use of tools such as contact microphones and hydrophones, the piece captures the sounds of melting ice caps, ranging from the soft drops of water to loud, booming cracks.

“He’s literally trying to help your ears physically engage with the sound of cleaving ice in the Arctic,” said Ian Russell, curator of the Bell Gallery. Russell added that he hopes “that Jacob’s work touches people, and that maybe it makes people feel like the problem isn’t quite so far away.”

Works by contemporary photographers Olaf Otto Becker and Camille Seaman are on view throughout the List Art Building to accompany the “Isfald.” “We prefer to show groupings of work or series,” as the artists are better able to “communicate the extent to how they are viewing or engaging an area or region,” Russell said. But the exhibition extends beyond the walls of the gallery. Five large prints hang off of various campus buildings’ exteriors as public art murals, featuring images by Becker and Seaman as well as photographs by Iain Brownlie Roy, Jean de Pomereu and James Balog. The print located on the List Art Building depicts people standing and posing for photographs on waves of bright white ice.

The exhibition, curated by Director of the Bell Gallery Jo-Ann Conklin, was developed alongside the Brown Arts Initiative’s three-year theme of Arts and Environment, a coordination that Anne Bergeron, managing director of the BAI, said “was very purposeful.”

Kirkegaard will be speaking at the opening reception of the exhibition April 6, and will present his sound concert “Labryinthitis” April 7. The exhibition will show through May 27.

The Brown Arts Initiative

The Brown Arts Initiative symposium, “Polar Opposites: Creative Interventions in the Arctic and Antarctica,” will gather artists, scientists, scholars and musicians, among other experts, to the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts.

“We are bringing together artists and scientists and researchers who are working in a kind of cross-platform way to address something of a great deal of significance to contemporary society,” Bergeron said of the focus on polar regions.

The keynote speaker, filmmaker David Buckland, is the founder and director of Cape Farewell, a multidisciplinary, international effort to culturally respond to climate change. Bergeron said that the program was founded after Buckland came to the realization that the combination of efforts by artists and scientists would allow for a better understanding and approach to the issues of climate change — a mindset similar to the core values of the the BAI and the WeatherProof programs. 

“This is … one of the things that Brown does really well — it has porous borders in terms of disciplines and it … regularly reaches out beyond. One of the things that we are trying to do through the construct of WeatherProof is to make that visible,” Bergeron said.

The Polar Opposites keynote address and panels, “Knowing Ice” and “Art, Polarities and Politics,” will take place April 5 and 6 at the Granoff Center.

The Cogut Institute

“Earth(ly) Matters: New Directions in Environmental Humanities,” hosted by the Cogut Institute for the Humanities, will assemble over a dozen speakers in an effort to coalesce multiple fields, ranging from new media arts to the social sciences. The theme of this year’s season at the Cogut Institute is environmental humanities, a theme that has been studied before at the Institute, and that represents a “conjunction of energies” among Institute scholars, said Damien Mahiet, associate director of the Cogut Institute.

“The environmental humanities is really a conglomerate of researchers trying to tackle questions that have to do with how to better live on this planet” from fields beyond those that directly affect life on Earth, said Iris Montero, a postdoctoral fellow at the Cogut Institute. “We’re basically trying to think from our different standpoints about all the ways that we have engaged with nature in the past, how those ways have been communicated through different means in literature, in the different arts, and what those representations … can tell us for future directions,” she added.

While the Cogut Insitute considers today’s issues, its focus extends to the “longer history and broader history of the environment … and the relationship between humans and non-humans,” Mahiet said.

The conference serves as an opportunity for scholars to come together and exchange notes, Montero said, while also offering them the opportunity to relay this information to a wider audience.

Earth(ly) Matters will take place April 6 and 7 at the Cogut Institute in Pembroke Hall.

IBES and the John Carter Brown Library

“Water’s Edge” is this year’s rendition of the interdisciplinary program “Earth, Itself,” sponsored by the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. The theme of water marks the final element in the fourth year of the series, following the inaugural themes of earth, air and fire.

“The advantage of the classic elements is that it’s accessible in terms of how you think about issues and how ideas have moved forward,” said Lenore Manderson, the director of “Earth, Itself” and visiting professor of anthropology. “I really used a particular element as a theme around which to build questions about the environment, environmental change (and) climate change,” she added.

Following a tradition of connecting scientific discussion with related specific art forms, this year’s program focuses on text through two days of poetry readings, as well as discussions around water as an inspiration for writing, Manderson said. A film by Wendy Woodson, “Sourcing the Stream,” was also shown at the opening program April 3 hosted by the John Carter Brown Library, and is now showing in the lobby of the IBES building.

The interdisciplinary approach of the “Earth, Itself” program gears its message toward the general public, Menderson said, while also giving scientists, artists and writers the chance to reflect on each other’s work. She added that this was exemplifed at the opening film screening and its corresponding panel event.

“What has been so exciting has been the capacity for people to collaborate or to share a space and to recognize that each reflects on what the other is talking about,” she said, adding that the interdisciplinary approach “gives a legitimacy to the insights that artists provide.”

Water’s Edge will host events through April 13, including a film night, flash lecture competition, poster competition and various panels. The next seminar, “Writing on Water,” will take place in two sessions over April 12 and 13. The John Carter Brown Library exhibition, “Fluidity: Knowing Water in the Americas,” will show from May 1 to June 30, following the opening symposium that took place April 3.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the theme of this year’s season at the Cogut Institute for the Humanities is environmental humanism. In fact, the theme is environmental humanities. The Herald regrets the error.

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