Experiencing Cool Stories for When The Planet Gets Hot at Socrates Sculpture Park

May 11, 2016 7:19PM

by Corinne Erni, Co-director, ARTPORT_making waves

Last Sunday May 8, the first sunny day after weeks of exceptionally cold and rainy weather, Socrates Sculpture Park opened the season's new exhibition, LANDMARK, which also marks the Park’s 30th anniversary. As part of the site-specific commissions and projects, ARTPORT_making waves was invited to present an anthology of Cool Stories for When The Planet Gets Hot, a biennial competition of short art videos that engages the public's imaginations about climate change.

Art in public space, and in particular in a park that is used by the neighborhood's residents to go for a stroll, take a break from a bike ride, or catch some fish, is most relevant and meaningful if it engrosses the family, the biker, and the fishermen as much as the art professional and art lover.

They all turned up in great numbers on Sunday to enjoy the interactive art installations, from Meg Webster's Concave Room for Bees, an amphitheater of plants waiting to be pollinated; Abigail DeVille's Half Moon, a sculpture built of found materials, reminiscent of a shipwreck, to address migration and immigration; to Jessica Segall’s Fugue in B♭, an audiovisual sculpture consisting of a piano harp’s cast iron string chassis enclosed in wood and plexiglass hosting a beehive.

Cool Stories drew many visitors to the shipping container in the center of the park, where people stood or sat for quite some time to watch the looped video series. It was remarkable how many attempted interpretation, opened up more questions, or simply voiced spontaneous gut reactions.

A child who had been sitting on the floor in rapt attention through several loops started swaying to the Tango rhythms of Avelino Sala's “Fire Walk With Me” as football players kicked around a globe on fire, and made the cross when a house was collapsing into a river in Celeste Fichter's “The Top of the World.” Many seemed to recognize a part of themselves in Joshua Frankel's animation, “Just in Case,” where a little boy tries to warn a complacent adult who chooses to ignore all signs of global warming. Laughter erupted at Richard Jochum's video in which he cuts himself off a tree branch, and at Tricia McLaughlin's “History of the World” where the things that apes create—motorbikes, airplanes—lead to their very demise. Portent silence was felt at Danushka Marasinghe's “Anthology,” a four-channel video simultaneously showing a cow grazing, rice cooking, wheat fields swaying in the wind, and a tree engulfed in a fire that eventually takes over the other scenes. Many wanted to know the technique behind Rob Carter's “Metropolis”—images printed on paper and meticulously filmed as stop animation, representing the sped-up urban planners dream that may turn into a dystopian future.

A biker, his helmet still on, said that the punch line was missing in Christian Niccoli's “Untitled,” in which a helicopter approaches a desert to drop off a disoriented human who staggers around as the helicopter flies away, but he totally got Baptist Coelho's “NO GO,” the unraveling of a crocheted landscape revealing bare rocks. Iván Puig Domene's “Tierra y Libertad” (“Land and Freedom”), a commentary on Latin America's power mechanisms of land ownership and abuse thereof, seemed to resonate with Latino visitors. More children started dancing to Sergio Sotomayor's “Wood II,” an ode to wood in which square blocks fly through the sky, defying gravity in choreographic synchronicity.

The Cool Stories' interaction extended beyond the visitors, with the screen at times reflecting the lush, green park in the background. The park was saved 30 years ago from being a landfill by the visionary artist Mark di Suvero. Today, it faces another challenge: having been flooded during Hurricane Sandy, it remains vulnerable to future water level rise from climate change. It couldn't be a better moment or location for showing Cool Stories.

LANDMARK will be on view through August 28, 2016


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