Milena Carbone is an artist who is constantly pushing at both the boundaries of her own creative means of expression and what might be regarded as the bounds of comfort of her audience. Through her work, she has encouraged us to consider the world around us and challenged us to face up to the harm we, as a race, appear hell-bent on doing to it – even though that harm may ultimately bring about out own demise. She has also often held up a mirror to humanity’s arrogance and poked us with the conceit of gods created in the image of Man, and she has dared to encourage us to face the failures of religion, the threat of climate change, and more.
Almost all of this is touched upon and / or embraced in Africa, her new exhibition of art opening on October 31st, 2022 at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated and operated by the marvellous Dido Haas; a complex and layered exhibit, comprising images, interactive 3D elements, and external elements that present further depth to the installation, which takes as its central (but not exclusive) focus the subject of climate change.
The most obvious elements in the exhibition are the images. These are framed within the continent of Africa – a place of both unparalleled beauty and bio-diversity, and which has perhaps suffered more than most thanks to the uncaring hands of the so-called “developed” nations, and is set to do so even more unless those same developed nations are willing to actively work to reduce the global threat of climate change. They present two interwoven stories, those of Grace and Abel, which unfold as an almost Biblical journey from creation (symbolised by In the Beginning, located on the Gallery’s east wall to the right of the café building), to the end times and the fall of mankind, couple with latter-day plagues.
These are stories we can enter into by clicking on the title plague for each image, located just below its lower left corner. These can be used to open “chapters” on Milena’s website which both offer narratives on Grace and Abel and their respective journeys, and offer-up broader food for thought -notably on the realities of climate change – for consumption.
Within the images themselves – which are also hybrid art pieces, utilising background generated via the Midjourney AI art generator combined with avatar images – can also be found reflections and dualities. Take Deluge for example. In title and tone, it echoes the story of Noah and the flood, and the destruction of all that went before; but even as it does so, it suggests more of a foreshadowing then a look back: because as climate change increases, the people of Africa – as noted in the preceding Burn Them All! – will face some of the greatest outfalls, prompting a mass migration – a literal deluge of peoples that could wash away our comfortable civilisations to the north and east of that great continent.
Running along the centrelines of the gallery’s two arms is a series of plinths mounting models of African animals. Each bears a label which may at first appear nonsensically humorous, but in fact offers commentary on the nature of our global society, where the divide between humanity and nature is becoming ever wider and more harmful, thanks to the former’s self-indulgent demands for instant gratification in all things. These models also carry additional subtext on both the issue of climate change and on the nature of “god” – whether seen as an independent consciousness or as a construct formed in our own image -, and our relationship with it. To appreciate this, it is essential that visitors to Africa approach each of the plinths in order to trigger its transformation.
(There is also a further interactive element to the installation in the form of a dance video displayed at one end of the gallery, complete with dance positions visitors can use to join in with the performance.)
Further examination of our relationship with “god” can be found within the constructs of the images and the characters within them. Milena herself notes that “Abel” is drawn from the Biblical tale of Cain and Abel, whilst “Grace” is a name and a term often associated with “god”. The story of Cain and Abel is perhaps one of the clearest demonstrations of “god’s” fickleness whilst also presenting a metaphor for man’s inhumanity to man – something for which Africa, as a continent both straddling the equator and containing some of the world’s poorest and more in-need nations will perhaps pay one of the highest prices.
From the above, it is hopefully clear there is a lot to unpack and interpret within Africa, and that it is an installation where interpretation should be guided via the artist’s words, and not an “interpreter” (or interlocutor) like me. As such, I will leave you with a recommendation that you visit Africa and allow yourself time to be immersed within the stories and flow of ideas lying within it.
- Nitroglobus Roof Gallery (Sunshine Homestead, rated: Moderate)