A dark and eerie atmosphere feels the boiler room of the nonprofit historical art landmark Westbeth, a residential and studio space for the art community in New York City. Environmental artist and photographer Anne de Carbuccia couldn’t have chosen a more proper place to use as the platform for her first American exhibition of environmentally conscious photographs, ONE: One planet One future. The raw infrastructure was one of the locations affected by the harsh devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Wall markings indicating the water level during the flood are visible throughout the space as a reminder of the ongoing catastrophic effects of climate change caused by mankind. The use of water in the presentation replicated the scene of the flood as a result of the hurricane.
De Carbuccia’s reinterpretation of classical still life compositions incorporates techniques use in vanitas art. The skull and the hourglass resurface throughout the photographs, serving as allegorical portrayal for vanity and time. Bones from poached elephants and weapons used by poachers sourced on location were some of the other symbolic elements that were incorporated in the temporary site-specific shrine installations.
“The photographs are an homage to their subjects—water, forests, endangered species—and an exposé on the ruinous effects of pollution and war. They record what is fast disappearing for future generations while also serving as a plea to reimaging a new world.”
“ONE harnesses the universal language of art to raise awareness and inspire individual action.” As part of the movement, limited edition water bottles and reusable shopping bags will available for sale at the site. The continuous use of these items will take us a step further to the protection and conservation of our environment. Keep in mind, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” -Lao-Tzu
Do you feel modern technology and the environment can coexist and mutually help each other in the future?
Absolutely! I believe we need to re-develop a report to nature. I don’t think it’s about going back, it’s about going forward. There are so many inventions and so many ways we can re-think our way of consuming and our way of living. The outside part of my installation is about urban rewilding. In the future we will be living in a more urban planet because there are so many of us. The reality of it is that we are going to be urbanized, so it’s about building or re-thinking cities for the future that are rewilded and have integrated nature inside of them. People living on daily basis with rewilding will learn how to appreciate and honor it. There’s a bunch of amazing people who are re-thinking and inventing new ways of consuming and getting rid of our trash.
Your point reminded me of the Governor’s Island latest addition The Hills, beautiful aesthetically pleasing to the eye but also built with a conscious purpose and for the future. The re-purposed sea walls are used to protect the island from future and potential damaging hurricanes and storms. The island is utilizing recycled materials and re-purposing them instead of discarding and creating added pollution.
That’s a very good point, obviously we are doing this because this used to be a sculpture room. Symbolically it was great for us to do this show in a place that has suffered and that has gone through the climate change. I’ve spoken to a few scientists and engineers, and there’s no doubt that New York today is more ready for the next hurricane. The issue is that there will be several of them, and more often. I am creating a time shrine for New York using urban archaeology with all the things I found in the five boroughs. The entire shrine will be surrounded by oyster shells because once upon a time, half of the oysters of the entire planet were in the New York harbor. Oysters are great for cleansing and filtering the water. The most interesting, obviously not confirm, but certainly positive solution, is that oysters grow vertically, so there are people out there who seriously think re-growing oysters all around the five boroughs will actually affect the wave patterns during storms. This comes back to the Hills and how they are thinking of natural ways to integrate natural solutions.
The shrines are all temporary installations, including this one. Do you consider yourself to be not only a photographer, but also a conceptual artist?
I definitely have a land art influence for sure. More than a photographer, I create installations and freeze them in time by photographing them. Every single one of my images is an installation that I’ve photographed. 100 years ago I would have painted them, probably. The digital world has helped a lot. When you look at my images you’re not exactly sure right away whether it’s a photograph or a painting.
You conceived the idea of the time shrine project while on an Antarctica expedition – How did that come to be?
It was the right time in my life. I got to Antarctica, and thought it was so beautiful; it was like being in another world, like a museum in the open air. So many people can’t go there, and most people will never go there, but it’s so fundamental to all of us. There are so many biological reasons. There is no doubt that both the North and South Poles are melting and it will have traumatic consequences in so many ways I didn’t know about. When I came back with six installations, suddenly I felt I had a series and I knew I can keep on going, and that’s what I did.
What do you say to people who say climate change is not real?
The people, who say that today, are people who don’t want to deal with the situation at hand. I don’t think today you can talk about climate change and say is about activism anymore, it’s about mainstream. What the governments have done and what Obama just did with Midway, is a pretty strong stand about the fact that it is an issue. People today who think climate change is not an issue, I wouldn’t know what to say them.
Right! It’s an obvious situation. How can they pretend this is not happening?
Since when did you get monsoon days in September, in New York? Do they remember ever having a monsoon day in New York? Maybe we can ask them that.
I know you have plans to take the exhibition on a tour around other parts of the country. What other cities do you have in mind?
We have to see who invites us next; I certainly would love to go to Detroit. I think Detroit today could be one of the cities of the future that I was talking to you about. There’s space, they have the buildings, they have all that can be rethought for the future, and into Phoenix. I would love to go to any city in America, but will probably focus on the bigger ones that can give the project a bigger exposure. But West Coast, Chicago, it’s a work in progress.
Do you live in New York? Or are you a modern Nomad?
I’m based in Milan, Italy. That’s where my son goes to school, that’s where I print my work and my studio is there. This adventure is probably going to take me too many places and cities, and every time I am in a new place or city, I learn something. What I really would like to do is create a movement.
Congratulations on a beautiful and powerful presentation. The space works so well with the images. I love everything about it; especially the water element and how it ties back to represent its association to the history of this place and hurricane Sandy. It serves as a red alert and example of what it’s unavoidable.
We are trying to bring the subject mainstream. Bringing it mainstream through beauty and art can communicate better than using shocking words. Making it in such a big scale is hopefully one of the ways we can do it.
During my visit I got to watch the ten minute short film which will be playing throughout the duration of the exhibition for the public to witness. Check out the preview below:
ONE is presented by Time Shrine Foundation, an organization dedicated to utilizing art to motivate people to make lifestyle changes that benefit the environment founded by Anne de Carbuccia. Through photography, film and art installations, the foundation highlights human-caused threats to the planet, including water scarcity, species extinction, and pollution.
“One Planet One Future” Will be on view at the Westbeth Center for the Arts from Sept. 16 through Nov. 21ST Click Here to plan your visit.
Photos By: JBS