Thursday, July 8, 2010

When Art Foretells the Future…of oil spills

Iconoclastic artists and intellectuals often have their ears to the ground, nostrils sniffing the wind, and eyes scanning the horizon…or sidewalk for pennies.

It is often an uncomfortable lifestyle. But it does serve a useful societal function.

Image-makers in a digital age can readily communicate their unease, anxieties, speculations to a global audience through the internet. It is a truism that highly creative people often view the world through childlike eyes and are prone to state the obvious.

In the classic childhood fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” it was a little boy (not the prosperous and serious courtiers) who yelled “the emperor is naked!” Perhaps truth telling is connected to arrested social development and not knowing when to shut up.

Nearly four years ago, I was at a wonderful concert at the Palladium Theater in St. Pete featuring pianist Paul Wilborn and his sizzling songstress. Their rendition of “You Give Me Fever” just about burnt the house down.

It certainly got me to thinking about sex…and the burning of fossil fuels…and perhaps doing a slightly titillating video on the subject of global warming.

The legal complications and expenses of trying to use Peggy Lee’s hit standard of “Fever” put it out of bounds for an indie artist/producer like myself. It was easier and a lot more fun to hire my longtime music mavens Phyllis Chapell and Dan Kleiman in Philly to make some new music. I chose a hot Latin sound and name (Mundo Caliente: It’s a Hot World!) for the project.

My video-magician in Rochester Dave Puls and digital print guru Brad Erickson in St. Pete also jumped into this hot creative world.

We created an award-winning video that was screened at numerous international film festivals over the last several years, as well as a series of 30 striking digital prints.

In the print series, I never liked nine of the images and refrained from exhibiting them. They made me genuinely uncomfortable. There was a hellish quality to them.

Likewise, there is a hellish quality to our national addiction to Gulf of Mexico deepwater rigs and despotic Middle East oil. The out-of-control spills and fires, resource wars, episodes of epic corporate and governmental incompetence, and the global reality of smog-choked cities together create a devilishly depressing vision.

I look at the images at the side of this blog and am genuinely surprised what my unconscious mind painted years ago. These images are evocative warnings of today’s predicament.

As the great cartoonist, Walt Kelly, said through his alter-ego Pogo character over 40 years ago:

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Below are links to key articles and imagery about the BP gusher-oil slick:

Top Florida Marine Biologist does Q&A
(Florida Thinks website)

Controlled burn of BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

View of oil slick from low flying airplane

Is Climate Change Worth Tackling? A Reply To Jim Manzi
(The Atlantic magazine)

Deepwater Explosion and key photo

Action is the Antidote to Despair: A photographer confronts the BP oil disaster
(YES! Magazine)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Blog Homepage