Local artists explore climate change worldviews

Courtesy of Amy Snider

Fifth Parallel Gallery Exhibition focused on the environment

The Fifth Parallel Gallery in the Riddell Centre is hosting an incisive and provocative exhibition focused on environmentalism and climate change. The exhibition, “House on Fire,” which will run until Feb. 14 and features works by 12 different artists, addresses ongoing emergencies and increasing risks related to environmental damage.

Curator Amy Snider, who is also showing art in the exhibit, says this show is an opportunity for her to start conversations with other artists and with a wider audience.

“I have been doing work that addresses climate change, or is a response to climate change, and I wanted to get it out there in public as a way to start conversations about that issue,” she said. “I have been doing work that addresses climate change, or is a response to climate change, and I wanted to get it out there in public as a way to start conversations about that issue.”

Some of Snider’s motivations have to do with combatting the hopelessness and despair – and, therefore, inaction – that often arise when people are confronted with the impacts of climate change.

“I know that there is a tendency for responses to artwork like this to be ‘okay, yes, I know that we’re fucked’ […] and then just go on wishing to avoid thinking about it because it’s such a burden to really let the pain of this situation with climate change but also with other environmental issues represented in the show,” she said.

“It’s just painful to allow those issues to actually affect us, and so the tendency is to avoid thinking about them as much as possible. And unfortunately, that also goes hand-in-hand with avoiding any action to make them better. I’ve read that, often, art about climate change – images, visual images about climate change – either make people realize the seriousness of the situation, or inspire people to take action. And very seldom do visual representations of climate change do both – make people understand that yes, this is a problem, but also push them to do something about it.”

The artworks featured in the show use a variety of mediums, from Styrofoam and discarded plastics to painted works, sculptures and photographs. “Saskatchewan Glacier,” a piece by Snider, is a series of cut and reshaped porcelain cups placed on shelves all along one of the gallery walls that represents glacial loss.

One of the most striking pieces in the exhibition is “Tears of Humanity,” a sculpture of thirty red teardrops hanging from the gallery ceiling by Tiffany Favreau.

“If we continue on this path of destruction, our last tears will stain the earth’s soil red,” Favreau said. “We will be the first species to cause its own extinction. … It is an extreme statement, but we are facing an extreme situation.”

Other pieces include “Cradleboard,” by Margaret Orr, a multimedia sculpture of a bear.

“Cradleboards are used in Indigenous society to keep babies save and warm,” said Orr. “Bears need to be protected from environmental disasters; this is why I put the bear in the cradleboard, which also symbolizes the land. But still, the land of Indigenous people continues to be destroyed, which is why the cradleboard is held up only by a thin piece of leather and a couple of screws. Anything can upset its balance.”

One of the ways the show worked to motivate action rather than despair was by providing resources on ways to get involved in environmental activism outside of the gallery space – including information on how to reach out to EnviroCollective and how Fridays for Future are continuing to protest outside the legislative building from 12-1 P.M. every Friday. According to Snider, if people who attend this exhibition are inspired to engage in even a few small actions to help the environment, that will be a victory in her books.

“If there’s one more thing I’d like people to know after seeing the show, it’s this: we all have an impact on the planet no matter what we do, yet having an “all or nothing” mentality about one’s own behaviour is only going to result in nothing improving,” she said. “If everyone started to consider how each component of their behaviour affects the environment and started to make even just a few very easy changes, the cumulative effect would be substantial. One may even realize how easy these small changes are, and this may build momentum and a sense of empowerment – that one is at least doing what one can. It’s possible to face our challenges and build our resilience instead of feeling despair, or worse, denial. We need to see a cultural shift away from thinking of ourselves – our comforts and conveniences – first, and the health of the planet second (if at all). We cannot go on believing that we are somehow separate or even better than “nature.” Everything in this world is connected, and these connections are now being made obvious.”

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