Larger Than Life

Aaron Labbé
March 28, 2019
3 min read
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Climate change. A controversial topic these days. Despite the mounting evidence of our faults in the matter, some people seem to be in an uproar over whether or not we should be actively taking care of our planet. I never really understood the counter argument against being good to our environment. Even if global warming turns out to be a ‘hoax’, what is the harm in avoiding the destruction of our home? While it’s easy to spew out hatred towards the people who disregard climate change , we should first consider our responsibility in helping them see. Our default is to educate through linear means; with text, documentaries, speeches, etc., but this isn’t exactly the most effective way of raising awareness. A toldstory can easily go in one ear and fall out of the other but an experienced story has a much more profound effect.

With changes occurring at an incredibly slow rate, the situation is quite difficult to illustrate through standard storytelling methods? It’s hard to demonstrate how serious this phenomenon truly is and to foster a sense of urgency. Here, experiential works can have an impact. Such is the case with the projects reviewed below.

"Support" by Lorenzo Quinn

Support by Lorenzo Quinn (pictured above), presents a massive sculpture of two hands dragging the Ca’ Sagredo Hotel into the Grand Canal in Venice. Presented at the 2017 Venice Biennale, the piece makes a statement on the rising sea levels that threaten the city’s very foundation. By using the destructive imagery of two large hands dragging the building into the deep, Quinn evokes a sense of urgency surrounding this gradual change. He strategically uses human limbs in the piece, thus holding humanity accountable for the damages it has caused to the environment. It’s simple, powerful, and effective. Support creates a larger than life spectacle that to speak to this larger than life issue.

Another project that does a great job of putting this topic into perspective is Isaac Cordal’s Waiting for Climate Change(pictured below). Cordal depicts a sea of businessmen drowned by sand and water as they struggle in an attempt to maintain business as usual. These men have in common a passivity towards their environment. This representation reminds us of our own attitudes of passively waiting for someone else to do something about it. As such, the piece beautifully portrays a century’s worth of climate change in a single moment.

"Waiting for Climate Change" by Isaac Cordal

Although these pieces are incredible in their ability to highlight the urgency in the situation and get us thinking about our behaviours, they seldom reform them. Human nature dictates that without a firm kick in the ass, people tend to not change anything.

Media theorist Antonin Artaud spoke to this best in his manifesto, The Theatre of Cruelty. He states that admittedly or not, conscious or unconscious, a transcendent experience of life is what the audience is seeking. In other words, we need to create experiential stories that are so real that they move people to not only think but act too. Artaud proposed a genre of theatre dedicated to creating real-life experiences before the audience, pushing them to have personal epiphanies that could potentially change their lives forever. An abstract concept when it was first published in 1938, it is now the basis of participatory and interactive media. These mediums enable narratives to demand action from audience members, thereby allowing for potentially life-changing effects.

"Labyrinth of Plastic Waste" by luzinterruptus

The art collective, luzinterruptus, has gained global recognition for creating large-scale public works that speak volumes to the carbon footprint we have on our environment. Often highly participatory works, they create powerful dialogues that have pushed many people to action. Labyrinth of Public Waste was a commissioned work by the City of Madrid for the 4th Centennial Celebration of the Plaza Mayor. It was constructed out of plastic bottles that the team collected from a months worth of waste from within the square. Each of the 15,000 plastic bottles were outfitted with a single LED and rigged to a metal frame that was shaped into a labyrinth. Once a person entered the space, they were forced to continue walking through 170 metres of plastic placed along walls 3-metre tall. The path seemingly narrows as the maze goes on; a purposeful claustrophobic and discomforting design. luzinterruptususes audience participation as a powerful tool, leveraging an in-person experience to create something real and unavoidable. The audience member becomes surrounded by the narrative and fully integrated into the conversation, allowing for a very profound connection.

"Close-up of Labyrinth of Plastic Waste" by luzinterruptus

Whether it be observatory pieces like Support or Waiting for Climate Change or giant plastic mazes, by commanding space, experiential pieces inspire people far beyond the confines of thought. So keep this in mind, as much as you may try, negativity doesn’t usually sway people, effective storytelling does.

Read More :

Antonin Artaud’s The Theatre and Its Double | Chapter XI. The Theatre of Cruelty (Second Manifesto)