by Shraddha NairJan 03, 2023
The sky betrays its blue colour to appear pink and green in the hyperreal photo-digital collages by the Los Angeles-based photographer, Luciana Abait. The shift in the hues of the sky indicates climate change, the theme which has remained consistent in the works of Abait, who migrated from the place of her birth in Argentina to the US in the 1990s. The latest installation of the iceberg series at the exhibition A Letter to the Future by Abiat, in the Los Angeles International Airport, Terminal 7, talks about the alienation and dispersal, a corollary of human-led disturbance in the environment.
The plaque with the label A Letter to the Future, written by Iceland’s acclaimed writer, Andri Snaer Magnason, when the majestic glacier Okjokull in Iceland melted in 2014, inspires the title of the exhibition. This episode coincided with the time when Abait was preparing for the iceberg series, displayed at the current exhibition. Furthermore, her tryst with the environment and nature could be traced to the times when she was living in Miami. The pristine blue of both sky and water triggered her interest to develop works that would epitomise nature in its purest forms. Later, when she settled in Los Angeles, its rich diversity of landscape and vegetation prompted her to critique the human interventions that have turned the environment into a state of fragility.
In an interview with STIR, Abait mentions, “I am strongly committed to creating art that celebrates nature while raising awareness of environmental and social issues. California’s strong commitment to the environment has impacted me significantly since I moved to Los Angeles 15 years ago and started developing a series of works to address climate change in a very direct manner. My artworks have always been inspired by the natural world that surrounds me. My work imagines alternate (or perhaps future) realities marked by adaptation, assimilation and hope. Through manipulated photographic landscapes, installations and photo-sculptures, natural landscapes and human-made objects are impossibly adapted to new roles where they coexist in a magical reality.”
One finds isolated billboards, giant wheels, and theatre seats placed in the photo-based manipulated landscapes that, if they evoke a sense of surrealism, also transport the viewers to the familiar dream landscape. Abait notes, “These out-of-place elements refer to a sense of isolation and displacement as well as assimilation and adaptation. They serve as a reflection on the intrusion of humans on the natural world – even in the most remote places on earth.”
The artist working on the issues of Anthropocene and climate change performs intensive research work to the remotest of places to document the condition of the environment. “As an artist,” Abait echoing the same thoughts says, “I can travel throughout the world, even to the most remote places on earth to document the condition of our environment.” But she is quick to share, “I can simply step out of my house and see the deeply concerning changes that are happening in my city. I believe both casual observers and scientific researchers can see the damage that humankind is inflicting onto nature anywhere and everywhere. It is so painful to see. My tool to create awareness of our destructive ravaging of nature is my artwork, and it is also my contribution to finding a solution.”
The photo-digital collages by Abait carry a unique quality of photography and painting. The collages have been printed on the material such as wood panels, canvas or paper. To dismantle the boundaries between the two genres of art – photography and painting - she uses acrylic paint, pencils and soft pastels to offer a lyrical touch of beauty over the printed material. If for this series Abait has iceberg as its visual and conceptual subject, the photographer has created artworks that have been centred on the themes such as water and road trip to visually narrate the multifaceted reality of nature. Once the theme of the series is decided, Abait states, “The human world is inserted to talk about the destructive power of men into the environment. I then choose which element from civilisation is symbolic and visually enticing to carry all that meaning and power. After that, I consider what kind of mood the artwork will have; some of my works have deep dark skies, presenting sci-fi, surreal scenes where others are extremely colourful, bright and lively. Still, these bright artworks in which skies can be pink or green talk about a world we no longer know, a world that has changed beyond recognition, due to climate change.”
Soon after the opening of the show in November 2019, the global lockdown due to the pandemic left the art space deserted. But now, the exhibition achieves a new significance in the times when the selected pockets of the world are turning into a new normal. Abait rightly states, “Icebergs in my work take on a universal and timely meaning. They can easily be interpreted to represent every single human on the planet who has gone through isolation and confinement. The vast oceans and dark skies can easily symbolise our homes or rooms in the last year while the colourful surreal skies talk about a world that we no longer know. A Letter to the Future presents a vast universe where all humans are immigrants in an unknown new world, still challenged by the precarious state of our beautiful environment.”
Abait ensures the visual lexicon of her works puts forward thought on the human responsibility towards nature – not just as an observant, but as an active participant.
The exhibition 'A Letter to the Future' runs at the Los Angeles International Airport until July 31, 2021.