The ghosts of our future climate at Storm King

Indicators: Artists on Climate Change, a group exhibition at Storm King Art Center featuring work by almost 20 contemporary artists on display in 2018, implicitly asked what type of indicator visual art might be with respect to anthropogenic climate change.

A selection of artworks that point back in time evinced a strong sense of historical conscience. Allison Janae Hamilton’s The peo-ple cried mer-cy in the storm (2018) — a precarious installation of Jenga block-like stacks of black-and-white tambourines sited on a small island on the Center’s grounds — stands as a testament to African-American perseverance in face of actual and metaphorical storms. Steve Rowell’s film Midstream at Twilight (2016) — a helicopter’s-eye survey of petroleum pipeline pathways in winter — offers an icy vision of, in the artist’s words, “a fossil fuel industry in decline.” Alan Michelson’s film Wolf Nation (2018) — eerie, purple-tinted security camera footage of a wolf sanctuary — serves as a ghostly reminder that Storm King occupies Lenape, or Wolf Tribe, territory. A trio of Tavares Strachan works deconstruct whitewashed narratives of early 20th-century arctic discovery.

Jenny Kendler’s crowd pleasing “Birds Watching” (2018) takes a particularly imaginative approach. Across the length of a 40-foot steel frame, the artist has affixed 100 images of variously sized and colored birds’ eyes — all species imperiled by climate change. At a glance, this cluster of concentric color looks like a whimsical shooting range or a floral bouquet. Upon further inspection, the viewer finds her or himself being viewed by a quizzical and accusatory collective stare. This horde of disembodied eyes, each printed on shiny reflective film, reverses the customary human-bird watcher/watched dynamic to incarnate something like an interspecies conscience.

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