Art appreciation

Chicago artists collaborate with Art on theMART for spring program; focus on climate change – The Columbia Chronicle

Spectators look across the Chicago River at the corner of Wells Street and Wacker Drive as the Merchandise Mart transforms into a vibrant coral reef with projections on Saturday, April 9. Sam Tucker

The Merchandise Mart lit up as projections of dancers slid through the building, their dance moves flowing effortlessly together. Their blue shirts turned into water as the dancers engaged with each other to create ocean waves and motion. The natural sound of water could be heard as the dancers talked about the albedo effect, rising sea levels and the challenges of climate change.

Crowds gathered and watched on the Chicago Riverwalk near Wacker Drive in the form of vibrant colors formed from corals and other forms of an underwater world.

Art on theMART, the world’s largest permanent digital art projection – according to the exhibition’s promotional materials – has returned for its spring program at the Merchandise Mart, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza. Art on theMART, in partnership with the Shedd Aquarium, will present two screenings on the theme of climate change.

Projections started to be displayed every evening at 8:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. and will continue until June 29.

Patrick McArdle, a young film and television student, attended the program on its opening night. McArdle said he was impressed with both screenings.

“Just the thought of projecting something like this onto such a tall building, I was blown away,” McArdle said. “And how they were able to edit around the building and use the building to improve the performance of it all was really, really cool.”

Choreographies highlighting climate change and the human body are projected throughout the evening for onlookers and pedestrians, some stopping to find out what it’s all about. Sam Tucker

One of the two projections, entitled “Choral”, focuses on marine life. The natural sound of ocean life brings the projection to life, with psychedelic noises adding to the background audio for floating sea creatures. It was created by localStyle, a collaboration founded in Amsterdam by artist Marlena Novak and composer Jay Alan Yim, with the collaboration of researchers from the Shedd Aquarium.

“The habitats created by corals are fundamental to a quarter of the sustainability of all marine species, as well as the livelihoods of 500 million people around the planet. These ecosystems are in crisis,” Novak said. “We hope the public will be drawn to the beauty and charisma of these creatures, and this will then lead to greater appreciation for ocean conservation efforts.”

This year marks the “Year of the Chicago Dance,” an initiative of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

“Throughout 2022, we’ll be unveiling additional dance-based works for the Chicago Year of Dance that celebrate the legacy and future of dance in Chicago,” said Cynthia Noble, Executive Director of Art on theMART.

According to Noble, “Floe” created by Carrie Hanson – adjunct faculty member of Columbia’s dance department and artistic and executive director of the Seldoms – will kick off the celebration of Chicago’s Year of Dance.

The “Floe” choreography highlights climate change, extreme weather events, bodies of water, disappearing ice and the human body. “Floe” is performed by Dee Alaba, Sarah Gonsiorowski, Damon Green and Maggie Vannucci.

The Chicago Riverwalk near Wacker Drive and Wells Street fills with huddled Chicagoans awaiting the spring return of Art on theMART, the world’s largest permanent digital art screening. Sam Tucker

The Seldoms — a dance company founded by Hanson — has does many works that have environmental themes. Past productions include references to climate denial, plastic pollution and landfill, as well as pieces reflecting human consumption and plastic disposal.

“Floe is kind of like a water space, a water world – which we love because the merchandise [Mart] is just over the Chicago River,” Hanson said. “[The Seldoms] wanted to keep referring to both the Chicago River and Lake Michigan because Chicago has its own particular challenges with climate change, as Lake Michigan is already rising.

The Art on the Mart will be the longest and most public performance The Rares played.

Hanson said The Seldoms have been working on “Floe” since 2018. His inspiration for the audio work come from interviews with people affected by Hurricane Harvey. The insights of climate activists, academics and scientific researchers helped ensure the accuracy of the interpretation. We hear the dancers talk about the albedo effectthe amount of light or energy reflected from a surface.

“We liked this idea, to remind us all how interconnected the human population is when it comes to climate change,” Hanson said. “People tend to think that… Miami is flooded all the time with rising tides, or what happens in the Arctic only affects them. But, it really is an ecosystem. We wanted to arrive, through choreography, this notion of interconnectivity.

Griffin Smith, Audience Member at the opening night of Art at theMART’s spring program, said she was concerned about protecting the climate.

“I studied environmental science and politics, and I like to think my work will help fight the effects and reduce carbon dioxide,” Smith said. “I think any opportunity to collectively talk about something important is wonderful for the community.”

Visit the art on theMART’s website for more information on the artists and projects presented and on the city of Chicago website for upcoming Chicago Year of Dance events.