A sigh of the times

By giving nature a voice, the immersive and the earth sighed highlights humanity’s impact on the environment.

Josephine Starrs and Leon Cmielewski’s and the earth sighed is an immersive video installation at the South Australian Museum presented as part of this year’s Adelaide Festival. It re-imagines the relationship between nature and culture through images of landscapes and seascapes shot on drones at various Australian locations that are in crisis environmentally.

“We are looking at that relationship between nature and culture and trying to collapse that divide,” Starrs says. “We put ourselves outside of nature and think that nature overbears and that we are here and we are culture. It’s this nature/culture divide we are trying to lessen.”

Like Starrs and Cmielewski’s many collaborative projects over the years, and the earth sighed presents the land and oceans as living organisms while showcasing the impact of human intervention on the environment.

When and the earth sighed originally showed in Melbourne in 2016, Starrs and Cmielewski developed a space where audiences could experience the brutality of our harsh landscape, as an audience member might be standing in a desert and then suddenly a wave comes in and there is a flood.

“We want people to experience [and] play with the work but also to contemplate and think about our relationship with the land,” Starrs says. “We are trying to create a pleasurable, playful, poetic piece but also keep up the consciousness that we have to do something soon or things are going to get worse and there will be more landscapes in crisis.”

By incorporating text and symbols into the images of the landscape, the artists are giving nature a voice. “We are thinking about climate change, we are thinking about various attitudes that human beings have towards the planet Earth and then imagining how it would be if the Earth could speak back and have a voice,” explains Starrs.

The pair is particularly excited about presenting and the earth sighed at the South Australian Museum, as they like the idea that it will be shown alongside scientific and analytical work.

“The museum pushes a strong opinion on the future of the planet from a science point of view but it’s also an emotional issue,” Cmielewski says. “The artwork is more emotional and less analytical and we think the two things need to go together for us to contemplate the future.”

Josephine Starrs and Leon Cmielewski: and the earth sighed
South Australian Museum
Saturday, March 2 to Sunday, March 17
adelaidefestival.com.au
samuseum.sa.gov.au

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