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Lars Jan’s Human Aquarium Brings Performance Art to Climate Change Awareness

Curators’ corner

Lars Jan’s Human Aquarium Brings Performance Art to Climate Change Awareness

In a debate often littered with political agendas, hundred-page studies and monotonous rallying cries, artist Lars Jan illustrates the long-term seriousness of climate change through performance art.

The founder and artistic director of Early Morning Opera shows us what everyday tasks would look like underwater in Holoscenes / Quaternary Suite, a captivating multimedia installation now on display at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA). Jan offers a nearly hour-long video triptych in which three different channels are looped and projected onto 90-inch circles on a gallery wall. Within the circles, performers attempt to complete “exercises of habit and absent-mindedness,” such as dressing and undressing, while being overcome with surging water. The resulting imagery is elegant, graceful and unsettling all at once.

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Holoscenes debuted at the Scotiabank Nuit Blance Festival in Toronto with a 12-hour performance in a sculptural public installation. Essentially a human aquarium, the 13-foot-tall piece uses a hydraulic system pumping 15 tons of water in less than a minute to simulate flooding. The space is inhabited by a single performer who must adapt to the water, which “responds directly to streams of real-time and historic environmental data relating to the global story of water and climate change.”

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During development of the performance tank, Jan captured images for the Quaternary Suite. He then partnered with Chessa Ferro of GUS Group Inc. and Duggal Visual Solutions to bring another element to the exhibition, a collection of eight LED “light circumferences” with images of the performers. The frameless, backlit acrylic pieces required months of fabrication and prototyping before the final product was delivered, a challenge that Jan describes rather simply.

“Our world just doesn’t work that well in nothing but curves,” he told the Creator’s Project.

Despite the degree of difficulty, Jan and Duggal were able to create flawless spheres of light. Take a look:

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The beauty of Holoscenes is that it mirrors the underlying complexity of a hot-button issue with equally complex artistic brilliance.

“Artist Lars Jan has done that rare thing: created something that feels entirely new,” Los Angeles Magazine says. “Jan’s goal is not only to create unforgettable art but to capsize our attention, before we are literally capsized.”

Holoscenes is on display at the PMCA through May 2015. The exhibition will make an additional appearance at the Ringling Waterfront Park in Sarasota, Fla. – a location that is predicted to be submerged by the end of the 21st century – March 25-28. For more information on everything Holoscenes, click here.

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