ICYMI: There's a bloody big 'biodome' parked outside the Museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay.
This is ‘Dark Ecology’, a walk-in installation by New Zealand-born Sydney-based artist Hayden Fowler, and part of the MCA’s exhibition New Romance: Art and the Posthuman.
Inside the biodome is a sickly scene: towards the back stands a hollowed out and lifeless-looking tree trunk; in the foreground its companion lies surrounded by blackish branches, some partially submerged in stagnant pools of water. A soundtrack of extinct birds adds a haunting quality to the atmosphere, compounded by a quality of light that (thanks to the kind of horticultural plastic covering the dome) is unearthly. It’s almost a relief to see a single ant run along a twig – and tiny almost imperceptible shoots of grass pushing up at the fringes of the trampled earth.
Fowler describes the work as part “scientific experiment” and part spiritual zone. The aesthetic is inspired by post apocalyptic visions (particularly John Hillcoat’s film adaption of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road), as well as Fowler’s encounters with environmental devastation and his reading on climate change. The goal, he says, is to create an immersive space for people to grieve for the environment.
“We can’t really look at any part of the natural environment now without being aware of climate change,” says Fowler. “There are a whole lot of animals and plants existing now that are effectively extinct because in ten years time, there will be nowhere suitable for them to live. And that environmental devastation exists now: the Great Barrier Reef, obviously, and I visited rural NSW on a research trip last year and the land had just been entirely devastated by thousands of wild goats.”
Despite this, says Fowler, “In the mainstream media, everything is about economics and this sort of neoliberal fantasy of progress. Not much space is given to talk about the environment or climate change – to talk about it is almost seen as embarrassing. I wanted to create a space for people to think and have feelings about it.”