A Project by Ben Perrone and Hugh Levick
"Man's heart away from Nature becomes hard." - Standing Bear
By mid-century our grandchildren will be middle aged.
By mid-century, if we, the inhabitants of the planet Earth, continue on our current trajectory, 90 percent of the big fish will be gone, 75 percent of the forests will be gone, and the oceans will be 30 percent more acidic. Even as of now phytoplankton – plants in the ocean responsible for producing at least half of the oxygen in the air we breath – are rapidly declining.
In the life span of one tree, we've consumed most of our life support system.
The first decade of the 21st century saw 3,496 natural disasters from floods, storms, droughts and heat waves – nearly 500% more than the 743 catastrophes reported during the 1970s.
The escalating impact of climate-related natural disasters will profoundly impact the lives, health, and property of billions of people. Of special concern, the impact of climate change will be most acutely felt among the world´s poorest and most vulnerable people, but progeny of the more fortunate inhabitants of the planet will also exist in a world of scarcity and uncertainty.
ENVIRONMENT MAZE, conceived by Ben Perrone and Hugh Levick, is a multi-media installation that invites the experiencing visitor to interact with spaces, objects, sounds, and images of natural disasters.
Before beginning their passage through MAZE participants are gathered in a room and guided through a Virtual Reality experience. In the VR goggles the participant experiences him/herself in the midst of natural climate disasters. This introduction is not long but it is INTENSE, and the participant emerges from the virtual world shaken by a real sensation of what it could be like to live through the climate catastrophes which are more and more frequent on our planet.
When the participants then enter the corridors of the MAZE, which lead to different 'disaster' areas, they experience these areas –despite their ongoing intensity – as what remains once the worst of the storm has passed, they experience these areas as the aftermath, as the havoc which has been wreaked by the weather catastrophe.
The themes of each area will vary – representations of fire, tornadoes, floods, drought, mudslides, etc. Sculptural debris, abstract figures of frightened and confrontational people, children's clothes, toys, pictures in broken frames and broken cribs, and drenched clothing hanging from bushes and driftwood will create a visceral, cautionary tale.
In each site where ENVIRONMENT MAZE is assembled, local artists will be called upon to paint and/or sculpt their own versions of the climate catastrophe onto the gator board panels, which define the corridors and 'disaster' areas.
ENVIRONMENT MAZE has also received permission from the Washington Post and cartoonist, Tom Toles, to enlarge some of his environment 'cartoons' to the size of the panels.
Fans will generate winds and misting hoses will create clouds. Mirrors will augment a sense of disorientation.
Varying in intensity, an incessantly present soundscape of hard rain, thunder, rushing flood waters, tornado debris, fire, sirens and screaming victims will accompany the visitors as they make their way through the maze.
But we cannot separate what is happening to the natural world and the environment from many societal/cultural/civilizational business-as-usual practices.
Therefore, as the participants walk through the corridors, making their way from one area to another, they will hear a sound collage of politicians and powerful corporate leaders lying about climate, war, economics, police brutality, etc.
And, for instance, within a maze space representing drought and wildfires, an immense LED will be flashing the excessive volatility of the rising and falling prices of fossil fuels. Or, in the flood area a crawl naming elected climate change deniers and how much their campaigns received from different fossil fuel constituents will loop around the walls.
Security cameras will be omnipresent and operative: spectators/participants will see images of themselves as they pass through the installation.
Each participant in interaction with the installation is aware of the other participants walking through the exhibit. Each realizes the others are an integral part of the maze, and, like the participating subject, they could be playing the part of displaced and wandering survivors.
As participants leave the maze they enter into a room where once again assistants guide them through a Virtual Reality experience. This one, however, is animated and in the Virtual Reality goggles the participants now see the future of a world which has been saved.
Oxygenating algae proliferates at the bottom of the sea; people of all ethnicities are living peacefully and harmoniously together in urban spaces; electricity comes from the sun, the wind and the sea; every inhabitant of the planet earth is housed, has food and water, and medical care if necessary; human beings understand Nature as the source of all being; weapons and weapon systems are being dismantled; tolerance and respect for the other have become the way and a celebration of this new world.
THE INITIAL PRESENTATION OF ENVIRONMENT MAZE
A pilot installation of ENVIRONMENT MAZE opened at Artpark outside Buffalo, NY in July, 2017; in July 2018 the integral ENVIRONMENT MAZE installation began its inauguration at Artpark.
ENVIRONMENT MAZE is designed as a moveable structure that can be dissembled and installed in a variety of venues.
For future presentations of ENVIRONMENT MAZE discussions have been initiated with the Contemporary Art Museum in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the Laguna Museum of Art, California, le Parc de la Villette, Paris, France, the Oko-Institut in Freiburg, Darmstadt and Berlin, Germany, the Venice Biennale 2017 and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.