Now open at Frank Atisso’s Artsville, and seeing out 2022, is another provocative art installation by Milena Carbone entitled The 5th Season. Perhaps best described as a trilogy, it comprises three individual but inter-related exhibitions: Blind, Africa, and Heroes. Two of these offer a reflection of previous installations Milena has presented, and they should preferably be visited in the order given, although whether you opt to visit all three sequentially in a single tour, or visit them each as an individual visit (whilst keeping their linked themes in mind) is entirely down to you.
To define the core themes present through The 5th Season, it is perhaps best to start by quoting Milena directly:
The 5th Season … questions our tendency to follow a path of self-destruction. It is related to the imminent threat of dramatic consequences for all living species as a result of climate change. It tries to dig deeper into the roots of our denial.
The “fifth season”, is an imaginary season, which will replace the four seasons we have known. One season in a year, chaotic, devastating. A foul beast that humanity will have created.
– Milena Carbone
The important point to note within this description is the term “it is related to the imminent threat … of climate change” (my emphasis). I highlight this because, whilst climate change and our response (or lack thereof) to its existential threat does offer the foundational thread of theme linking all three parts of this installation, bound within two of them are references to a greater malaise that has affected humanity throughout time: wilful self-destructiveness – be it on the purely personal level or through religious and / or political indoctrination, or national / racial fervour.
To achieve this, Milena uses the three elements of the installation to present images and stories to prompt us not so much on an emotional level, but rather intellectually, asking us to dissect what we are seeing and reading and look beyond. As such, these are stories and images that might be taken literally (e.g. George and Martha, and The story of Daphne (both found within Blind) – the first being a direct commentary on the destructiveness of the demands placed upon all of us to be “successful” and “happy” through acquisition and idealisation (such as through the insidious nature of television programmes ad ads) rather than by simply communicating with one another; the second a pointed reference to the artificial use of war and bloodshed in order to maintain the status quo of a decades-old corrupt regime).
Other stories are more metaphorical (e.g. The Story of Antigone (also in Blind) or the entirety of Africa); still others utilise elements of history or mythology. Some of the stories are reproduced on the walls of the three exhibition spaces, but most are accessed via links to Milena’s website – and I recommend reading all of them there, as several contain further links to help gain familiarity with the subjects offered (after all, how many of us are familiar with the myths surrounding Tiresias?).
“A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, “you are mad, you are not like us.”
– From The Sayings Of The Desert Fathers, a quote which eloquently
encompasses the polarised nature of modern society, which Milena also touches upon
As the first element in the trilogy, Blind – I believe I’m correct in saying – originally appeared (at least in part) within an exhibition Milena presented in June / July 2022 (I admit to being hazy on this, as it is not an installation I managed to see). It’s core arch is that of our aforementioned denial – our blindness – to the realities of climate change; a blindness that exists, again as noted, as much among those who acknowledge the threat but who go on to do nothing, however small the move, to play their part in trying to lessen the impact, as it does among those who persist in denying it, despite the weight of evidence before them.
In this, I found the inclusion of Tiresias particularly fitting as a double-edged sword; his gift of foresight might be aligned with the the mountains of data gathered over the last 30-40 years relating to climate change. On the one hand, just as Tiresias offered help and counsel to Odysseus in his quest, so too might the data we have gathered offer us the means to avert the coming global crisis; on the other is that just as Tiresias was stuck blind by Hera due to his ability to divine the future and truth, so to are those who seek to raise greater awareness of the the threat of climate change all too often vilified by those unwilling to hear their message.
Within Africa – which Milena originally presented at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery in October (see: Milena Carbone’s Africa at Nitroglobus), the theme of climate change and its impact on the cradle of humanity is further explored through image and commentary. Here, in addition to the story elements are 3D models of various African animals; these should be approached directly to reveal further elements of this part of the installation. As with Blind, the stories and elements offered in Africa also contain broader themes, some of which (notably colonialism) link back to Blind and The story of Daphnie.
Heroes, the final part of the trilogy, offers a more hopeful chapter for viewing. As a race, we are too rooted in the past – up to and including the view climate change deniers have on the historical nature of this planet’s biosphere – claiming it is no more different to other periods of heating and cooling that have occurred in the planet’s long history. And while that may be true to a point, it nevertheless ignores two inconvenient truths: the first is that for the last 250 years, humanity has been pumping out increasingly huge amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere; and the second is that for the last 50 years, we’ve been busily decimating the natural means by which the Earth regulates its atmosphere to help purge it of those gases, such as the Amazon rain forest.
Thus, if we are to survive, we need to stop looking back; we need to focus on the future. And this not only includes how we husband this planet and its resources, but in how we look upon ourselves as a global society. As Milena notes, too much of our history and our “mythology” is rooted in the past in – dare I say it – a patriarchal, hunter-gatherer history.
If we are to mature as a race, we will need modern heroes, modern myths founded on respect, understanding and care, which foster the belief that we can all, regardless or creed, colour, gender or personal belief, aspire to do better, to be better. Through the presentation of the 12 modern-day fictional tales, complete with their tabloid-style headlines (be sure to sit in the chairs before each of them to see more), Milena challenges us to leave this exhibition with a willingness to do just that: look to the future and play our own role, howsoever small, to bring about the changes we as a people – as a world – need.
- The 5th Season at Artsville (Caribbean Ocean, rated: Moderate)
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