Global warming exposed through “Canary Project” photo exhibit in Sheehan Gallery

by Mike Sado
STAFF WRITER

When “The Canary Project” opened on Jan. 13 of this year, a 300-pound block of ice was brought in and placed in a large pan. If anyone visits today, the huge block of ice that once occupied that pan is now nothing more than a puddle of water. The melting of the ice summarizes much of the exhibit’s subject effortlessly.

“The Canary Project” explores the dangers of global warming on the environment through photographs. The husband and wife team of Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris (along with collaborating artists Joshua Kit Clayton and Jon Santos) wrote that they chose the title because it warns of the severe changes to come, “like the canaries once used by miners to warn of deadly methane levels.” Given the disagreement among the American public regarding global warming, the artists believe that in order for people to understand and recognize the existence of global warming, they need to see it.

The pieces range from “Fires in the American West,” which shows how higher emissions of carbon in the atmosphere from forest fires means higher temperatures, to a subtler representation of rising sea levels in the city of Venice, Italy. The work that conveys the artists’ intent most evocatively is “Extreme Weather Events I: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.” The decayed remains of a horse hang from a tree in the photo to show the aftermath Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Anyone who remains on the fence about global warming will probably be convinced about its effects on the environment after seeing this picture.

Another piece, “Moment,” is more simplistic in design but no less effective in its staying power. It is the exhibit’s only interactive experience. Described as an “astroboscopic acceleration meditation room” by collaborating artist Clayton, visitors enter to find themselves shrouded in darkness. There are four lights placed in each corner of the room. All four lights are set to turn on and off at various intervals of time. The rate at which they flash quickens until their sporadic behavior eventually culminates into the room returning to its darkened state. The process makes observers the subject of the piece and, as Clayton writes, provides an “opportunity to consider one’s own role in the process of climate change and the rate of acceleration at which it proceeds.”

Other works include a video projection of environmental locales, such as coral reefs and glaciers, morphing and rotating so as to illustrate to viewers the changes occurring in those areas.

The exhibit will be in the Sheehan Gallery until Feb. 16.