Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is the Sky Falling? - Criteria at Leviton A+D Gallery


Jason Middlebrook, APL (American Pipeline): detail, 2003, drawing installation

Emiliano Godoy and Jimena Acosta, the curators of the exhibition Criteria, want us to embrace the system. They want us to reject individualism. What is going on here?

The group exhibition Criteria at Columbia College Chicago's Leviton A+D Gallery is about the urgency of reevaluating how we live in the world. Sustainability can no longer be a clever idea that we wait for our civic leaders to enforce in our communities. Godoy and Acosta are giving the clarion call for us all to stop, rethink and start being aware of our own actions as if our lives depended on it.

“We are part of a natural system and it is important for people to be aware that you cannot live as if you are separate from this system,” says Jimena Acosta. “We have been taught that individualism and competition is good. These things will make us better in the world, but not for the world.”

Aylin Kayser & Cristian Metzner, Ikarus, 2007, wax and stainless steel
(This lamp melted away and after two weeks finally fell onto the floor)

The big question I had for the curators was what do we make of those people who think that global warming is a liberal conspiracy? Why are there people who still think that they can brush the issue of sustainability aside?

Godoy, owner of the design firm GodoyLab in Mexico City, is unshakably certain that we are moving toward an unsustainable world on every level; air quality, temperature, economic health, population growth.


image: Maximo Gonzales, Torres de petroleo, 2006, out-of-circulation bills, 200x300

“The change is so large that it goes beyond the uncertainty of the data,” says Godoy about the ongoing sustainability studies conducted by economists and scientists. “You can argue about parts per billion and global warming. You can look at data from decades ago. You can look at the problems from other generations, but when you see the changes in the large scale and you see the enormous difference between how the world is today and how it was in the 1800s, the difference is so large that the uncertainty of the data doesn’t really matter. Its just such a changing scale that if you have 10% or 20% error in the data, it doesn’t matter. The direction things are going in is so clear. If you get caught up in the argument that the data scientists have recorded even over the last five years is somehow suspiciously skewed, you are missing the point completely.”

Ricochet Studio, Best Before, 2008, Bone china

Godoy goes on to explain that in the 1800s there were only a few million people in the world. Now there are almost seven billion people. To serve this vast number of people, we have had to take from our resources and the clear direction in which we are moving spells disaster. If you just take the fish population, for example. According to scientists who have been measuring fish populations, we have eaten 90% of the tuna and the overall large fish populations. It doesn’t matter if the numbers are 70% or even 50%, it is such an unthinkably vast amount of fish. These numbers cannot be replaced in our lifetimes because the demand continues to grow as the population grows.

Edward Burtynsky, Oxford Tire Pile No. 5, Westley, California, 1999

Scientific facts aside, Godoy and Acosta want to show us that if we do stop caring and the human species can no longer tolerate the biological conditions of global warming, it would be very sad. There have been previous global cataclysms over the millions or billions of years that the earth has been around. Countless species have become extinct. The earth has frozen, broken apart and warmed before.
Craig Zucker, Tap'd NY, 2008, NYC Municipal Water (and plastic bottle)

“The dinosaurs were unable to do anything about their situation,” says Godoy. “Global cataclysms are not that bad in planetary terms. It’s a cyclical process, but it is evident that unlike the dinosaurs, humans can actually intellectually bring order and take preventative measures to fix the problems of saving ourselves and other species. Yes, if we don’t take control of the situation, there will be suffering and we will have wars about water and access, but the real drama is that if we don’t try to change, we won’t be here to reflect and take joy in the world.”


Ariel Rojo, Cerdo ahorrador (Piggy Bank),

Thoughout history there have been people who have told us that the sky is falling, but they never had any hard evidence to back it up. Godoy and Acosta, unfortunately, have done their homework. While the news isn’t great, they believe that the tide can turn.

“We must go beyond thinking of ourselves as one person, one state, one country,” says Acosta. “In all of our actions, we must think of others and how it effects people in Sau Paulo, Paris, Mogadishu, Mexico City…everywhere.”

In the final analysis, Godoy and Acosta might be challenging us, with science on their side, to love our neighbor as ourselves. I think that is a good place to start, but they also say that the corporate world had better start investing in energy…and fast.


Installation shot of Leviton A+D Gallery

Also, view the Ted Talks of Hans Rosling, a doctor and researcher, who has greatly influenced Godoy and Acosta: Debunking Third World Myths with the Best Stats You've Ever Seen.
Plus: I will have a virtual tour of the gallery up in a day or two.

1 comment:

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