Adam is an Australian artist-filmmaker whose works have been shown everywhere 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 currently completing his PhD at the University of New South Wales Faculty of Art & Design.
His research explores the visual representation of climate change.
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Feeling the Heat (2019) EMBARGOED — PLEASE DO NOT SHARE
Thermographic video triptych for exhibition spaces.
3 HD screens, 3x Lūpa video players, stereo audio, dimensions variable (previewed here as split-screen).
Made by Adam Sébire (PhD student, UNSW Faculty of Art & Design)
How do climate scientists, working on the front line of a problem that's invisible to most of us, respond to it as human beings, as citizens of the planet?
Feeling the Heat is presented as a visually spectacular triptych with thermographic imagery of natural and built environments and, in between, the scientists, interviewed with their own thermal imaging equipment. They’re literally feeling the heat of the moment.
The work explores a new approach to climate change communication, freeing normally objective professionals to talk to us through a subjective, passionate lens. How do the disturbing implications of climate change affect the scientists tasked with studying it on a personal level? Despite the existential dimensions of their research they’re usually expected to eschew their emotions, adhering to detached, dispassionate modes of the scientific method lest it taint their empirical assemblage of evidence. But even when they do so, they may find themselves targets of those who would rather not hear their rational conclusions.
The artwork forms part of Adam Sébire's PhD research into aesthetic visual representations of climate change. He collaborates with climate scientists to use a thermographic imager normally employed to measure leaf temperatures during heatwaves. The infrared thermal interviews ‘cloak’ the scientists visually as heat data, allowing them to speak candidly and personally, minimising potential repercussions whilst heightening aesthetic engagement for a wider audience.
There is increasing literature documenting their despondency ('climate-related depression’). Clive Hamilton describes them as “modern-day Cassandras” whose warnings go unheeded. Their research often requires them to “think the unthinkable” as they venture to the far end of probability curves. Their recommendations follow the Precautionary Principle — hoping for the best while preparing for the worst. Yet the science of climate change is all too frequently eclipsed by its politics and the temptation of some is to shoot the messenger. Any expression of an emotional response to a problem which threatens to make the planet unliveable for many of its species therefore remains taboo, and climate science communication is largely confined to probabilities, tables, graphs and data.
Scientists often assume that given enough of the right information people will modify their behaviour accordingly. However climate change is proving that a response takes more than knowledge of the scientific consensus. Climate change psychology research suggests an emotional connection is necessary. For a problem with such major implications, a dispassionate presentation of the evidence may not help its societal acceptance. This work offers viewers a different point of entry.
Below: various thermographic research stills.
AnthopoScene III: Hellishei∂i; or, the Post-Modern Prometheus.
Video triptych, 2018. 1x4K + 2xHD screens (or 2 plus actual core sample in lit vitrine). 2.1 stereo audio. Duration: 3 mins. Above: Split-screen preview.
The Climeworks / CarbFix2 project at Hellisheiði, Iceland is the world’s first industrial-scale "carbon scrubbing" experiment that captures carbon dioxide (CO₂ ) directly from Earth's atmosphere. This CO₂ is mixed with water and pumped through domed injection wells into the volcanic basalt below, where it soon mineralises, petrified as rock.
Most climate change policy tacitly assumes the success of such geoengineering experiments — despite their unknown long-term consequences.
At COP21 in Paris, December 2015, the world’s leaders stated their “aspiration" to limit global warming to an upper limit of 1.5ºC this century. On the planet's present greenhouse gas emissions trajectory there is no way to achieve this without what is sometimes termed climate engineering: using technology — most of it unproven and with unknown potential side-effects — to “engineer" our climate.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is arguably the most benign of these technologies. But despite being both difficult and expensive it has proven politically attractive as a “technofix”, delaying decarbonisation. Indeed all forms of climate engineering potentially come with what ethical philosophers such as Clive Hamilton identify as “moral hazards”. Certain other forms of geoengineering essentially propose that we "hack" into the Earth's systems.
Hellisheiði in Iceland is the other-worldly site of the CarbFix2 & Climeworks projects. Since October 2017 this test site has been capturing carbon dioxide directly from the surrounding air. It mixes the captured CO₂ with water, injecting it via domed wells into the basalt rock formations surrounding Hengill, an active volcano, where it mineralises: anthropogenic carbon dioxide sequestered as rock.
Australian video artist Adam Sébire is drawn to this site for its modern-day alchemy and for its Promethean overtones: an unshakeable faith in the technological mastery of Homo sapiens.
In the video triptych, one of the three screens investigates the experiments at Hellishei∂i (the injection wells of CarbFix and Climeworks’ white cube “carbon scrubber” module). In another, a core sample of the sequestered CO₂ — now mineralised as calcite within the basalt host rock — appears as a quasi-mystical object. The third screen is more ambiguous: also set in Iceland, but in a future geological era where complex lifeforms have disappeared and where the planet appears to be correcting an atmospheric imbalance. Now, geological processes reverse. After only a few hundred thousand years, equilibrium — homeostasis — will have returned.
More details available in a virtual exhibition featuring the work, curated by Rachel Carson Center, Munich, May 2019.
AnthropoScene IV: ΔAsea-ice (2019)
Multi-screen video art work for exhibition spaces, duration: 8’05"
• Video diptych (2ch) version: 2x 4K screens, 2x media players, stereo audio. Split-screen preview above.
• Video triptych (3ch) version: 1x 4K screen; 2x HD screens, 3x Lūpa media players, stereo audio. Split-screen preview below.
What if you could see your individual contribution to climate change?
Climate change event attribution looks for the "fingerprints" of anthropogenic global warming on an occurrence. Using a groundbreaking formula from scientists Dirk Notz & Julienne Stroeve (published in the respected journal Science*) the filmmaker-artist calculates and saws off the exact amount of Greenlandic sea-ice that will be destroyed by his carbon emissions (5.23 tonnes of CO₂e) flying economy return from Sydney to document it. In visualising responsibility and complicity the work touches upon the disconnects that underly our psychological responses to climate change. Disconnects that have kept the problem comfortably abstract for us — until now.
The full equation is ΔAseaice = dFnonSW,in / dECO₂ x ΔECO₂
(This states that the area of sea-ice lost equals a constant — derived from research into energy flux at the ice edge — of 3.0 ± 0.3 square metres per metric tonne of carbon dioxide emitted, multiplied by the sum of emissions, some of which may remain in the atmosphere for over 1,000 years).
Inserting the artist’s own 5.23 tonnes of CO₂ into the equation, this works out at 15.69 ± 1.57 m² of sea-ice that will not regenerate naturally in northwest Greenland come winter. With less sea-ice to reflect sunlight back into space the oceans warm faster, which in turn melts more ice. This creates what climate scientists term a 'positive feedback loop'.
A video polyptych from the Arctic at a tipping point, the work’s soundtrack comprises æolian sounds from an empty water tank at the artist's house in Upernavik that 'sang' when it was windy.
An article exploring the ideas underlying the artwork, Adrift: Attribution & Responsibility in a Changing Climate, has just been published in Flugschriften:
Sébire, A. (2019). Adrift: Attribution & Responsibility in a Changing Climate. Flugschriften, 4 (Dispatches from The Institute of Incoherent Geography Vol.1), 27–38. (Download complete publication from Flugschriften else view a PDF of just this article here).
* Notz, D., & Stroeve, J. (2016): Observed Arctic sea-ice loss directly follows anthropogenic CO2 emission. Science, 354, 747–750.
Filming location: 72° 55' 53.84” N 56° 3' 34.19" W (Google maps)
raise | retreat | rise (2013)
(excerpt only) 3 HD videos, each 8hrs05mins at 24fps.
We are presented with three porthole-like apertures which take their cue from various spheres of the Earth sciences: in this case, the atmosphere, cryosphere, and hydrosphere. Through them the viewer encounters three shots of extraordinary duration. Each shot, recorded at 60 frames per second and played back at 24, runs simultaneously and continuously for eight hours and five minutes. They are recorded using digital technology unencumbered by the need to swap film-rolls or videotapes.
The duration references another work which plays with the idea of imperceptibility: Andy Warhol's 1964 film Empire also runs for 8hr05min. A single shot (but for film-roll changes) of New York's Empire State Building as it disappears into the night, Empire was filmed at 24 frames per second but is slowed to 16 during projection to further the imperceptibility of the on-screen changes.
In raise | retreat | rise each shot appears essentially unchanging but for waves, passing clouds and periodic lens-cleaning by the artist. Yet in the time taken to view the work once from beginning to end, peer-reviewed science tells us anthropogenic atmospheric CO₂ levels will be raised by approximately 14 million metric tonnes; Switzerland's mountain glaciers will retreat an average of 20mm; and the world's oceans will rise by at least 0.003mm. These changes — though disturbingly rapid in geoscience terms — lie beyond the perceptual limits of both the medium, and our senses.
RORSCHACH ISLANDS & ICEBERGS
Drawing on the famous psychological “ink-blot test”, how do we respond to these inexorably disappearing forms?
Stills from various projects 2003-2018 including the photographic series Below the Line (2016) documenting the submergence of Venice beneath rising water levels and the Roads to Nowhere (2013) study of empty multi-lane highways ringing Dubai after the Global Financial Crisis.
This page is hidden from searches — please do not link to it • all works © Adam Sébire • firstname.lastname@example.org • last updated March 2019