Interview :: Into Thin Air
June 20th 2013
The world is ending and we are to blame!
Daunting messages about climate change are pretty hard to avoid these days and have actually been linked to increasing trends of loneliness and emotional distress. No matter how directly they affect us, environmental disasters, scientists say, can have a deep impact on the human psyche.
This effect has been given a number of names, like ‘eco-anxiety‘ or ‘global dread‘, and is the emotional state that has inspired the art practices of sisters Lauren and Hannah Carroll Harris.
Through their different styles, the sibling artists both explore the human relationship with the environment or more specifically, as Hannah describes, ‘the strange feeling that comes from living in the age of ecological despair’.
‘I think often, we hear so much bad news about our environment that we feel like it’s all too much to deal with. Sometimes I feel like we separate ourselves too much from the rest of the natural world and that, in turn, separates us from feeling the need to do anything about it. By making interesting and visually engaging art, hopefully people will be more willing to embrace these ideas.’
Their exhibition, Into Thin Air, will transform Newtown’s Archive Space gallery into beautiful, apocalyptic landscapes created from a mix of living and man-made materials.
‘Hannah’s works have been grown, or alive at some point’, Lauren explains. ‘Mine are pointedly dead.’
‘I choose artificial materials to render abstracted natural landscapes. The floating glaciers I’ve made are stitched from nylon, a glittery, industrial imitation of silk and installed using super fine string. There’s a disconnect between the subject matter and the materials used, creating an eerie, natural/unnatural vibe’.
A self-described ‘closet pessimist’, Lauren believes art should explore contemporary issues, like environmental degradation and ‘should make you feel less alone, not confused or alienated from the insider art clique’. She hopes wider audiences ‘who haven’t been to art school and are suss of art-speak terms like “materiality” or “performativity”’, will be able to engage with her installation and explore their own feelings of isolation and loneliness that result from a detachment from nature.
When asked if her art, which involves weaving freshwater algae on a loom and growing crystals on fabric, has altered her on a personal level, Hannah is in two minds. ‘It’s made me anxious about the state of the world and the way we’re reacting, or rather, not reacting to it and think the research that’s gone into the works is probably what induces that anxiety.’
‘At the same time, these works have been created through studying natural forms and observing patterns in daily life, which has given me an eye for noticing beautiful intricacies in the natural world and made me feel closer to the small snippets of nature that we find in our urban landscapes’.