The winds that blows -
ask them, which leaf on the tree
will be next to go.
— Kyoshi Takahama
An anonymous flag undulates in the coursing wind, its fabric unadorned and translucent. It appears exposed, almost vulnerable, on the asphalt expanse alongside Dock One of Port River. The cloths directional flow tells of a steady southern breeze. The shifting air pressure and the resultant winds are intangible forces made detectable through the billowing form of the fabric.
Winds of Increasing Magnitudes, 2015, is Matthew Bradley and Sundari Carmody’s collaborative contribution to Vitalstatistix exhibition, Climate Century. The premise of the exhibition is for the artists to respond to the prospects of climate change, with Matthew Bradley, Sundari Carmody, Sasha Grbich, Julie Henderson, Cat Jones, Tristan Louth-Robins, and Tristan Meecham taking part. Artist and curator Sasha Grbich states, ‘each of the works enters into a conversation without predicting an outcome. They enter into the emotion and sensation around the climate change discourse and draw others into this conversation’ (1). Grbich is interested in the experiential capacity of art and ‘sees the work in Climate Century as acts of ‘doing’ with places and communities’ (2).
Winds of Increasing Magnitudes is powerful in the way it draws its viewers into a sensory experience. The gusting winds move around the flag and its audience as they stand in the open site. Here the notion of collaboration is not limited to human interactions, as the fabric and the fluctuating winds become co-workers in enlivening the work. A symbol of human authority, the flag, is used as a means of declaring our vulnerability, as the artists poignantly offer the work up as a ‘final gesture’ (3). The phrase to ‘wave the white flag’ is called to mind as we are led to question our future realities in the face of increasingly tumultuous weather. The dawn of a world without humans is instinctively unsettling – particularly as it is entirely possible.
Grbich’s Small Measures, 2015, is a touchstone for the exhibition in its poetic exploration of human and non-human relationships. Grbich films choir members as they harmonise with sounds present in chosen environments - a reference to the bouncing of sound waves in ship sonography (3). Each vocalist selects the sites based on its perceived vulnerability and, in turn, are made vulnerable through performing on site (4). The technique of sonar is a pertinent metaphor for our position in today’s climate. It underlines our attempt to sense, and respond to, an environment that shifts in and around us as we move forward, without any certainty as to what lies beyond.