Wrecks, which opened on Monday, March 7th, is the concluding element of a two-part immersive art installation created by Gem Preiz, the master of the high-resolution fractal landscape. It’s a piece, together with the initial part of the installation, Vestiges (which you can read about here), is presented under the over-arching title of Heritage.
“Heritage is the theme of the two exhibitions,” Gem explains of the pieces. “The heritage passed to us by our predecessors, and the one we shall bequeath to our descendants in the endless fight of life against Time.”
Vestiges, which opened in January, examined the first part of this statement: looking at the heritage passed down through the ages. We were cast into the role of archaeologists examining past (or perhaps even alien) civilisations; those which had come before us, as who influenced our existence. With Wrecks, Gem poses a question to us: what are we going to bequeath to those generations that follow us?
The inspiration for Wrecks comes from the recent global summit on the threat of climate change held in Paris at the start of 2016, and what will happen if we continue to ignore the warnings nature is giving us as to the consequences of our continued abuse of the planet’s ecosystem, presenting one possible future our descendants might face.
Thus we are taken on a journey into the 22nd century, and a vision of a world which has come to ruin directly as a result of our failure to act responsibly. We become a part of the crew and passengers aboard what is perhaps the last vessel capable of leaving Earth in the hope of finding a new home far out within the Kuiper Belt.
This voyage takes the form of a physical journey through 15 rooms, each one with one of Gem’s magnificent fractal pieces standing together with a journal entry. Some of the latter appear to be from passengers, other are clearly from the crew. All make soulful reading: personal fears, anguish, melancholy, even despair, at all that has come to pass, founded on a lament for an Earth thoroughly ruined by the hubris and folly of humanity.
What if, as one entry hints, as the space vessel Orpheus transit the Moon, we had heeded the gentle warnings of the first astronauts to stand on those desolate plains, only to look back at Earth and recognise it as a fragile, precious jewel of life suspended in a coal-black sky?
Meanwhile, the images serve to both underline and also counterpoint the essence of the text. While the landscapes and scenes presented may appear desolate and shattered, so to do they remind us that humanity and nature are powerfully creative forces: what might come from us combining our inane abilities with those of nature, rather than simply putting our needs before those of nature?
If this sounds an overly dark piece, rest assured it isn’t. Rather it is a layered, nuanced piece which aims to get us thinking about matter of ecology, climate change, and our relationship to this one cradle of life we have: Earth. Yes, there is the warning that if we don’t mend our ways, if we fail to act responsibly towards this fragile environment surrounding us, then we are ushering in the potential of ruin and heartache for future generations.
But so to is there a message of hope; a reminder that it is not yet too late. Just as the crew of the Orpheus, in the final chapter of their voyage, find the means to return to Earth, to reunite with those left behind and offer a way to recover and restore the planet, so to are we reminded that there is still time. We can still take the firm, committed step of ceasing our self-centred denials, excuses and procrastinations and decide we will act more responsibility towards this planet, and in doing so lay the foundations by which we can bequeath a rich, vibrant and healthy world to our children and those who follow them. All it takes is a little collective courage.