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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Below: various thermographic research stills.
AnthopoScene III: Hellishei∂i; or, the Post-Modern Prometheus.
4K video triptych, 2018. 3 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 the unknown long-term consequences of "hacking" the planet.
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”.
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.
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.
How do we know if we’re seeing the "fingerprints" of anthropogenic global warming on an event?
Climate change event attribution is a relatively new field of enquiry. Using the formula from scientists Dirk Notz & Julienne Stroeve (published in Science*) the artist was able to calculate and saw off the exact amount of Greenlandic sea-ice that would be destroyed by his carbon emissions (5.23 tonnes of CO₂e) flying economy return from Sydney to document it. The work thus touches on the cognitive dissonances that underly our climate change psychology.
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 surface 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 emitted into the equation, this worked out at 15.69 ± 1.57 m² of sea-ice that would 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 refer to (somewhat confusingly) as a 'positive feedback loop'.
The soundtrack comprises æolian sounds from an empty water tank at the artist's house in Upernavik that 'sang' when it was windy.
* 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
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 Anthropocene-related 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