Review of ICP’s Exhibit “Ecotopia”

How will history judge us?  Over the past several centuries, humanity has raked the land of its resources, threatening the balance of the natural world.  The diversified body of work constituting the ICP Triennial, Ecotopia, renders an array of unique perspectives and different approaches to the repercussions of the aforementioned. It’s interesting to observe how each artist responded differently to the concept of devastation, the environment, and their intrinsic relationship.  Mankind faces a time of impending consequence stemming from decades of disregard for the world in which we live.  The exposition at the ICP harbors a range of artistic solutions and reactions to this global crisis.

Interestingly enough, I was struck immediately by the disparity dividing those whose images triggered an immediate message and those who fabricated work that could only be appreciated once its meaning, explicated aside, was taken into account.  For instance, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s “Forest” series are, in my opinion, not compelling photographs.  However, upon realizing that the thousands of pine trees in the picture had been planted over a depopulated Palestinian village, I regarded the work in a much different light.  The image, seemingly serene, unveils the bloodshed stemming from the shifting borders of Israel.  The photo perverts our predisposed conceptions of the forest, which we are apt to equate with the idea of growth and peacefulness.

Yannick Demmerle’s series, on the other hand, appropriately named “Les Nuits Étranges”, portrays several skeletal trees enveloped with darkness.  The image itself expresses his intent without necessitating an explanation.  His work stands on its’ own and can be appreciated without a justification of the work’s meaning or purpose. I find that there is a sense of urgency and morbid lost conveyed by his photography, yet his implications are ultimately up for interpretation. The fact that he fails to articulate his artistic aim renders a sea possible rationalization free from constraints.
I’m torn in between the methodology of the two artistic approaches.  Visually, I was initially drawn to “Les Nuit Etranges,” however, aside from the composition, it proved to be far less powerful then that of the photograph presented by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin.  Although not as aesthetically procatative, the story behind the work sent chills down my spine and moreover usurped my initial reaction.

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