Adam is an Australian artist-filmmaker whose works have been shown from the Sydney Film Festival to the Deutsches Museum in Munich;
from ABC TV to Al Jazeera International and the United Nations in New York.
He is currently engaged in doctoral research at the University of New South Wales Faculty of Art & Design.
This PhD explores the visual representation of the unique spatiotemporal dimensions of climate change.
I grew up in outback Victoria, Darwin and Canberra before moving to Sydney to study documentary filmmaking at UTS, Australia’s national film school AFTRS and, on exchange, the Cuban International Film School, EICTV. When not making videos I can be found behind a bass trombone, running the Vertical Film Festival, or working at Sydney Opera House.
In 2012, I undertook a Master of Fine Arts at Sydney College of the Arts (USYD), and produced a dissertation exploring a form I call the “documentary polyptych”. In 2015 I received another scholarship to continue my research as a practice-based PhD at the University of New South Wales, Faculty of Art & Design (formerly CoFA).
My doctoral research looks at the problem of visual representation of climate change. Can multi-screen video art — taking the early Renaissance polyptych or moveable multi-panelled painting as its predecessor — offer a form with which to explore the problematic dimensions of climate change; its displacement in space and time that make it so difficult for us to comprehend, let along engage with? (Detailed synopsis below).
A sub-theme of my work investigates the Anthropocene, and anthropogenic warming using thermographic imagers loaned from UTS climate scientists. You can read an interview with Adam at Climate Conversations (July 2016).
Taking a transhistorical approach I suggest that artworks comprising more than one spatially-interrelated frame may enable aesthetic access to ideas occupying time & space beyond everyday human perception. I then apply this idea to the problem of aesthetic representation of climate change, understood as ‘hyperobject', as proposed by Timothy Morton. How might 500-year old moveable diptychs, triptychs and polyptychs — updated as the 'video polyptych' — speak to us in our era of tactile, quasi-devotional engagement with screens? And can spatial montage between multiple screens help us come to terms with phenomena whose spatiotemporal dimensions are so great as to verge on the imperceptible?
My thesis posits multi-channel video installation as the contemporary descendant of the early Renaissance polyptych, beginning with the form at its most elemental — the diptych — before working up to the multi-panelled works of Jan van Eyck (1432) and Isaac Julien (2010); see examples, left.
As entire island nations verge on submergence our befuddled society craves meaning but drowns in information. Our dominant visual culture struggles to represent climate change with a limited range of images distant to everyday lived experience (oil wells, polar bears, coal-fired power stations, Al Gore, coral bleaching, etc). And so my aesthetic experiments will create documentary polyptychs in which kinaesthetically-engaged spectators navigate moving images exploring cause/effect, here/there, past/present/future, across multiple screens.
To discuss the form’s affective potential, I borrow Gilles Deleuze’s movement-image & time-image as key concepts with which to provide an account of the potential of spatialised montage on both practical and philosophical levels. I then follow his leads — into Eisenstein’s dialectical montage, Vertov’s kino-eye, Gance's Polyvision, Proust’s stéréoscope intérieur, and even Francis Bacon’s triptychs — to discuss simultaneous presentation of multiple images across time and space ... at a time when a reliance on 'visible evidence’ is failing us profoundly and, more than ever, we need to view the world with fresh eyes.
— Adam Sébire 3/2016