Friday, August 15, 2014

Back to the Future

The threatened land of South Louisiana is one of the entities where the frailty of our environment can be physically felt and where Dawn Dedeaux found inspiration for her series MotherShip, a reflection on our planet earth and our future.
Following Aboard the MotherShip part 1: Postulations of Myth and Math which took place at the Centre for the Living Arts in Mobile, AL, the latest exhibition at the Acadiana Center for the ArtsMotherShip 2: Dreaming of a Future Past is displayed in a large space, allowing DeDeaux's work to take its full breath. At first sight, the somber colors give a sense of the prevailing bleak mood. The display can be viewed as a whole installation built from stories told in different media, each occupying a dedicated area like Test Tubes, 2010, related to water contamination and its effect on species, Chimes: Burnt Timber, 2005-2013, made with pieces of burned wood from Dedeaux's own studio or Step Home, 2007, a glowing minimalist sculpture symbol of Katrina's aftermath followed by Falling Junk Space with Shoes, 2013 and Back Pack, 2013, relating to recent terrorist activities carried out through everyday objects. If we feel somewhat touched by the allusions to events that concern all of us, our emotions are stirred by Souvenirs of Earth, 2014, a collection of worn out dusty objects which have lost their function but have gained a symbolic value. An old violin case, a broken toy, damaged photographs, the accumulation of  "things" filled with memories evoke abandonment and loss, allowing melancholy to seep in. Should they be left behind? Should they be part of our future? Questions we had to answer too many times following the Katrina disaster.
Hovering above abandoned farm equipment, rings of metal refer to the now defunct airships Zeppelins. In response to the drought and the subsequent food shortage, MotherShips offer an escape to a few so are the fragile ladders made of charred wood or clear glass spread throughout the exhibition. Wall pieces include figurative portraits like Guardian at the Levee Gate or landscapes like Evangeline, dark digital drawings on metal which heighten the eerie atmosphere reinforced by a few splashes of red, color of fire and drama adding to the apocalyptic vision offered by DeDeaux. Comments along the works help the visitor decipher the symbols: rings for the alliance of man and technology, ladders to reach higher consciousness, horse signaling the end of earthly time and triumph over evil... Our gaze is drawn to the centerpiece, a towering life-size sculpture of a horse perched on a high pedestal, vigorous, dynamic and free. A kind of a conclusion to a stirring exhibition which can be seen from a bird view point looking through the glassed mezzanine.
At the present rate of growth the earth will need to sustain nine billion inhabitants in 2045. DeDeaux brings a sense of urgency, an anxiety born from the numbers and the threat of cataclysms looming over our planet. Future Past resounds like a warning, we already have lost control over our future and there is a sense of inevitability in the artist's gloomy premonitions. Confronted to our powerlessness, her answer is a scenario of escape and abandonment.
A century ago, Futurism was a cry for change, action, filled with enthusiasm as opposed to the recent  statement from the philosopher Félix Guattari: "The future has lost its zest and people have lost all trust in it: the future no longer appears as a choice or a collective conscious action, but is a kind of unavoidable catastrophe that we cannot oppose in anyway."
Is there any hope according to DeDeaux? Is the artist describing realities we choose not to see?

photographs by the author:
Views of the exhibition at the ACA

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