INUNDATION refers to both the watery disasters of climate change and the overwhelming emotions they evoke. The layered meaning of the term offers a way to reflect on the work of the nine contemporary artists in this exhibition. Based in the Pacific, they all experience the climate emergency not just as a dramatic new reality, but also as the accumulation of long-term colonial, extractive and development forces that have made their communities especially vulnerable.
With communities forcibly displaced by sea-level rise and storms, islands bombed, coral reefs mined, and local and indigenous environmental knowledge lost, resiliency seems difficult to imagine. And yet, communities around the Pacific are responding first and foremost by offering compelling images of our relationship to water and to the climate.
The aesthetics of water is a dominant feature in the art of INUNDATION. The experience of being surrounded by water, the experience of wading in lo’i kalo of being moved by ocean currents, shifted in its tides—and thriving—can open new conversations about what inundation means.
This exhibition began as a conversation with artist and colleague, Mary Babcock. We both had a strong sense that Hawai‘i needed to host these amazing internationally-recognized artists and to learn from their approaches to climate justice issues. The artists bring not only environmental knowledge about the climate crisis in very different and disparate places across the Pacific, but they also bring their mixed emotions, historical knowledge and present experiences.
Their positions offer very different perspectives than those of cosmopolitan Americans. To see the climate change situation through the eyes of these artists is to see climate change beyond the “green economy” of recycling, electric cars, solar panels and smart city retrofitting. Their experiences of the history of global climate processes that have affected islands—processes of colonization, extraction and development in the Pacific—now offer the most important lessons we need to learn. These lessons will help us all make the right choices, finding solutions that will honor the environment and honor each other across transnational boundaries, connected by one ocean.
At the invitation of these artists, we can engage in our complex emotional responses to climate change—not just overwhelming frustration, sadness, and anger, but also active hope and connection.
Jaimey Hamilton Faris, Curator
Angela Tiatia, Holding On 2015
courtesy of the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney I Singapore
Chris Gibbon, Palm Magazine, Issue 11 (Spring 2020).
Noe Tanigagwa's HPR planet808 series on Inundation airing Jan. 14, 2020: featuring Jaimey Hamilton Faris and Kealoha Fox
Chip Fletcher and Jaimey Hamilton Faris, Low Lying Islands at the Forefront of Climate Change," Civil Beat, Jan. 10, 2020
Susan Hoffman Fishmann, review, in EcoArtSpace (March 2020)