raise | retreat | rise (2013)
Three HD videos, each 8hrs05mins at 24fps.
HD monitor. Wooden housing 100 x 100 x 9cm with three circular apertures.
Adam Sébire’s video triptych deals with the sensory imperceptibility of climate change in our day-to-day existence, postulating it as one explanation for our collective inaction in the face of an existential threat.
We are presented with three porthole-like apertures which take their cue from various spheres of the Earth sciences: in this case, the atmosphere, cryosphere, and hydrosphere. Through them the viewer encounters three shots of extraordinary duration. Each shot, recorded at 60 frames per second and played back at 24, runs simultaneously and continuously for eight hours and five minutes. They are recorded using digital technology unencumbered by the need to swap film-rolls or videotapes.
The duration references another work which plays with the idea of imperceptibility: Andy Warhol’s 1964 film Empire also runs for 8hr05min. A single shot (but for film-roll changes) of New York’s Empire State Building as it disappears into the night, Empire was filmed at 24 frames per second but is slowed to 16 during projection to further the imperceptibility of the on-screen changes.
In raise | retreat | rise each shot appears essentially unchanging but for waves, passing clouds and periodic lens-cleaning by the artist. Yet in the time taken to view the work once from beginning to end, peer-reviewed science tells us anthropogenic atmospheric CO₂ levels will be raised by approximately 14 million metric tonnes; Switzerland’s mountain glaciers will retreat an average of 20mm; and the world’s oceans will rise by at least 0.003mm. These changes — though disturbingly rapid in geoscience terms — lie beyond the perceptual limits of both the medium, and our senses.
Adam Sébire is a filmmaker & photographer whose documentaries have been shown at festivals and on television worldwide. His solo video & stills exhibition Roads to Nowhere was exhibited in Sydney’s historical centre as part of the Head On Photo Festival, The Rocks Pop-Up and Vivid Sydney, from May to June 2012. He is now using multi-screen video art (“documentary polyptychs”) to explore issues posed by climate change-driven sea level rise for a Master of Fine Arts research degree at the University of Sydney.
Surrounded by desert, the city-dweller feels small and exposed. There is an uneasiness at such immensity, and intensity, of nature. The desert resists perspectival representation — until it is penetrated by that icon of ‘progress’, the Highway. It arrives pre-packaged with its own vanishing point and sculpturally minimalist aesthetic, inscribing the sandy void with the familiar markings of civilisation: dotted white lines, roadsigns, streetlights and roundabouts.
With these symbols we attempt to tame the desert, to insist on perspective, to prove we are bigger than its expanse. A desert highway need not have cars; it has just to offer potential: to lead us, in our vehicular isolation, to civilisation at high speed, from even the furthest reaches of nature. Which is precisely what makes a highway that runs out so disturbing. What happened, we ask? What does it mean? Do we turn around and go back? Or do we motor onwards? And so off with bravado we head toward the horizon, confident in our technology, yet secretly fearful of being swallowed by the sands.
The symbolism of desertification hangs heavily over our species as our addiction to fossil fuels slowly cooks the planet. Our car culture leaves its mark on the world not just by upwards manipulation of the global temperature, but in these asphalt and concrete monuments to excess that it leaves behind.
A timelapse journey revealing a metropolis seemingly devoid of human presence.
During the Vivid Sydney after-dark festival, this piece was rear-projected from inside the exhibition space onto a large shop window coated with Greek yoghurt in Sydney’s old Rocks district, providing an ephemeral screen by night.
Part of Adam Sébire’s Roads to Nowhere (2012), a solo exhibition of photographic stills & video art shot in and around Dubai after the global financial crisis. Deserted, fully-signposted multi-lane highways cut swathes through the sand, only to end equally precipitously in the middle of nowhere; monuments to excess and the money that ran out.