Written by: Rebekah Lanae Lengel
With some projections putting significant swathes of South Florida underwater within the next 100 years, MDC Live Arts’ presentation of Holoscenes seems particularly prescient. Taking place on the Wolfson Campus’ Kyriakides Plaza over the course of Art Basel week, Holoscenes is a performance installation that explores life underwater.
Spanning the course of six hours, Holoscenes features performers floating and sinking in an elevator-sized aquarium that is continuously filled and drained with 3,600 gallons of water, through a specially created hydraulic system. Each performer represents a daily activity -- making the bed, selling fruit, playing the guitar, and each continues on with their task despite the ebb and flow of the water that at times overtakes them.
It is a performance art work that was inspired by the realities of climate change. For Holoscenes creator, Lars Jan, the inspiration for the work came from an image of flooding in Pakistan in 2010, which created an indelible impression on Jan. “I think the most important moment was just the visual idea that popped into my head, and it was this glass room with a person who is minding his/her business reading a newspaper.”
Over the course of developing the project, water became a character in and of itself. “We realized the water is this amazing puppeteer,” says Jan, who splits his time between Los Angeles and New York, two cities also facing threats from climate change.
“You can’t really work against the force of it because of the speed of it and the volume of it, you must adapt and adjust to it and that’s the essence of the piece, in terms of how it resonates with climate change.
“That’s one of the threads, the extent to which we adapt and what it looks like. And what it looks like in the aquarium is a bit fanciful in performance. But I think it does examine how we are adaptable creatures and how adaptation is a double-edged sword. Adaptation allows us to look the other way because we are confident in our ability to change our behavior.”
As an artistic installation, it invites audiences to view and reflect on the impact of water on their daily lives. “It’s not about virtuosic acrobatic water performance,” explains Jan. “It is the opposite of that, the starting point is going to be everyday and the mundane. I really wanted to collide the human body with this material.”
It’s a collision that MDC Live Arts Executive Director Kathryn Garcia hopes will generate conversation in the community. “I think that any time you can bring something to the forefront through art, it touches people in a different way than a statistic will, it gets to a real emotional core of what it means to deal with flooding and water, and that’s what this piece does -- it really touches you on terms of, ‘how are we going to evolve to deal with this?’ It’s just another way to talk about it and hopefully it makes an impact.”
Although the piece resonates with water and climate change strongly, Jan thinks that “there are a lot of ways to see the piece, so I’m always interested it that. …What I really like is, because it’s in public place, I really like when you have kids saying, oh it’s a mermaid story, or, it’s about dreaming, or to talk about how it’s about death and rebirth. It brings up a lot of other things too and I love hearing that conversations in a public space.”
MDC Live Arts presents ‘Holoscenes,’ Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.; MDC Wolfson Campus Kyriakides Plaza, 300 NE 2nd Ave., Miami; tickets: free.
More info: 305-237-3010 or mdclivearts.org.