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MCAD puts spotlight on environmental issues with “Adaptation: A Reconnected Earth” exhibit

MCAD’s latest exhibit unfolds the harsh realities of current environmental controversies portrayed through impactful and immersive art forms from notable artists.

By Nicholas Marquez | Tuesday, 11 April 2023

Raising awareness on the importance of protecting the Earth’s ecosystems, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD) kicked off its latest art exhibition, " Adaptation: A Reconnected Earth.” The event formally opened on Mar. 28 at the museum's ground floor, displaying a range of works that artistically showcase the impacts of man-made interventions towards nature. 


Curated by MCAD Director Joselina Cruz and James Tana, the exhibition features the works of esteemed global artists with shared ambitions of enabling viewers to become more conscious and aware of the present-day ecological crisis that has negatively impacted the Earth.


Through a public display of traditional and digital artworks, Cruz and Tana emphasize the urgent need to work in solidarity with the people in fostering care and concern for the current state of the environment. For them, it is important to become guardians of nature and to approach “re-entering” the planet by focusing on the present events of the world.


For the welcoming speech, Benilde President Br. Edmundo “Dodo” Fernandez FSC expressed his gratitude for the many attendees of the opening launch. Fascinated by the curated items and diverse art forms, he welcomed students and guests to explore and engage with the pieces. 


“[We] were walking through the [works], and I grew up with a very conservative mind. My idea of art was painting and sculpture, and when I am shown works like these, it blows my mind,” Br. Dodo shared.


Restoring a disparaging planet

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Starting off with the works of Hungarian-American artist Agnes Denes, two video presentations were shown focusing on green and sustainable initiatives for the benefit of future generations. Denes’ Wheatfield (1982) uses a 13-minute digital slide projection that features the artist’s attempt to clear the polluted Battery Park Landfill in Downtown Manhattan. Later, she planted 1.5 acres of wheat, symbolizing the value of food, energy, and economics. On the other hand, her documentary clip Tree Mountain tells the story of how 11,000 people from all across the world gathered together to plant 11,000 trees on an elliptically-shaped mound located in Finland.

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Projected through cardboard bifold panels, guests can view the two-part video clips of American performance artist and film director Patty Chang. Titled “Invocation for a Wandering Lake,” the first part presents the artist herself washing the body of a whale found washed up on the shore of Fogo Island, Canada. The second part shows her cleaning an abandoned fishing boat moored in the dried-up Aral seabed of Uzbekistan. Both clips evoke feelings of affection, remorse, and concern among viewers.


With the support of the British Council's Creative Commissions for Climate Action, four of the works of Filipino visual artist Derek Tumala were showcased. By connecting the notions of a changing climate to the pervasiveness of colonialism and capitalism, the artist used paper-mâché to expose how destructive open-pit mines are to the natural environment. Tumala's models are titled Unearthing of a Funny Weather (2023), What Looks Like Burning is Not Really Burnt (2023), Eating Gold Will Make Our Eyes Mutating (2023), and A Hairy Blob Washed Ashore, Doomsday Is Coming (2023).


In an attempt to uniquely convey the message of tackling environmental abuse and discrimination, Argentine drag queen Bartolina Xixa—a persona created by Coya artist Maximiliano Mamani—produced a dance clip called Ramita Seca, La Colonialidad Permanente (Dry Twig, The Permanent Coloniality) (2019) where the artist took inspiration from Coya dance to reveal the desperation and sadness behind living in the shadows of capitalism. The drag queen performed in her homeland in Latin America, where illegal land appropriation cases have been rampant.

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Moreover, Filipino artist Lui Medina introduces her exhilarating works as she merges a series of images that compares Philippine topographical landscapes with other regions worldwide. Named Untitled (Description of an Imaginary Island) (2023), Untitled (Land Studies) IV (2023), and Untitled (Bobbio II) (2021), she puts forth the essence of connection between distinct natural landforms of the Earth despite being separated from one another. 


Moving on to Adaptation (2019-2022) by American artist and curator Josh Kline, he directed a single-channel video projection of a fictional and dystopian representation of a near-future New York City consumed by the staggering effects of climate change. From building sea walls to relocating populations, the artist expressed through film the traumatic consequences of the current state of politics and economics.


Turkish filmmaker and multimedia artist Deniz Tortum, together with theater director Kathryn Hamilton, created a film essay, Our Ark (2021), that addresses the desire for technology to be used in favor of the present, as opposed to creating simulations of the future which can be detrimental to current global conditions. 


Lastly, to elevate the overall museum experience among visitors, the auditory track Song of Increase (2023) by Filipino visual artist Issay Rodriguez uses the sound data of local bees working in their hives. This represents a symbolic relationship between how people and nature benefit one another.


The exhibition is open to Benildean students, associates, and the public until July 23 at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD) along Dominga St., Malate, Manila.


Last updated: Tuesday, 11 April 2023
Tags: MCAD