An ongoing series of video art vignettes from this ‘brave new' epoch that we suddenly find ourselves in, the Anthropocene…
AnthropoScene I : Breakdown (2018)
The traffic just seems to be getting worse every day at Iceland's iceberg lagoon, Jökulsárlón...
Australian video artist Adam Sébire brings wry black humour to global warming’s visible effects at one of the fast-retreating glaciers, Breiðamerkurjökull, in Iceland's Vatnajökull National Park: its astonishing iceberg procession is here reimagined as a traffic jam of cinematic proportions.
AnthropoScene II : Tideline
The tideline on an island's black-sand beach is blown ever higher.
Dur: 2'30" / HD single-channel, stereo audio.
First exhibited as a work-in-progress at the SÍM Gallery in central Reykjavík during Nov/Dec 2017.
Filmed with a drone off remote eastern Iceland, reverse motion creates an eerie sense of prolepsis; a previsional prescience of ever rising sea levels.
Video © 2017-2018 Adam Sébire (AU) www.adamsebire.info
Music © 2018 Martin Franke (DE/NL) www.hethoutenhuis.org
AnthropoScene III : Hellisheiði
Video triptych, 2018. 3 HD screens (or 2 plus core sample in lit vitrine), 2.1 stereo audio. Duration: 3mins.
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 volcano 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 geoengineering (sometimes termed climate engineering): using technology — most of it unproven and with unknown potential side-effects — to “modify" 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”. Many forms of geoengineering essentially propose that we "hack" 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 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 new 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. Geological processes reverse. After only a few hundred thousand years, equilibrium — homeostasis — will have returned.
(This final screen may also be exhibited as a standalone vertical video, Homeostasis — see below left).
Shown as work-in-progress at SÍM Gallery Reykjavík Dec 2017
More details and a discussion about geoengineering are available in a virtual exhibition featuring the work, curated by the Rachel Carson Center, Munich, in May 2019.
Above: Stills from the CarbFix2 / Climeworks pilot project site in Iceland, 2017. © Adam Sébire
AnthropoScene IV : Adrift (∆Asea-ice) (2019)
The calculus of one’s own contribution to a warming climate.
Climate change event attribution looks for the "fingerprints" of anthropogenic global warming on an occurrence. Borrowing 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 his own 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:
(It 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).
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 will warm faster, which in turn melts more ice, creating what climate scientists call a 'positive feedback loop'.
Adrift (∆Asea-ice) is a video vignette 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 has just been published in Flugschriften volume 4:
Sébire, A. (2019). Adrift: Attribution & Responsibility in a Changing Climate. Flugschriften, 4 (Dispatches from The Institute of Incoherent Geography Vol.1), 27–38. (Download the complete publication from Flugschriften else view a PDF of just this article here).
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.
* 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 (map)
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Adam Sébire studied documentary filmmaking at Australia’s AFTRS & Cuba’s EICTV before before making films for the Australian public broadcasters SBS & ABC. Visiting the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu in 2003 for Film Australia his work began to focus on climate change, particularly sea level rise.
His works have shown at film festivals including Hotdocs, Montréal WFF, Paris FF, Havana FF, Flickerfest, St Tropez FF, Sydney FF and at the United Nations in New York. Australia’s Royal Flying Doctor Service & Sydney Opera House have commissioned numerous works from him. His Roads to Nowhere solo exhibition was presented as part of Head On & Vivid in Sydney’s Rocks district in 2012. Most recently AnthropoScene I: Breakdown was purchased by the UN’s climate change body (FCCC), while AnthropoScene III: Hellishei∂i was exhibited at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. Adam is completing a PhD which explores the problematic spatiotemporal dimensions of climate change through multi-channel ‘video polyptychs’. CV/Résumé (PDF).
All works ©2018-19 Adam Sébire