In the fall of 2017, American visual artist Heather Theresa Clark presented DISSONANCE with The Yard, as a one-hour live performance-based art intervention off the coast of Cape Cod to an audience on shore. To create DISSONANCE, Clark teamed up with The Yard’s resident dance collective, Dance the Yard, who choreographed this original piece; photographer & conceptual artist Gretjen Helene; musician Christen Lien; cinematographers Daniel Cojanu and Scott Jansson; and over 50 volunteers who desire action on climate change. Clark originally conceived of the piece, while artist-in-residence at Woods Hole Research Center, which is ranked the world's leading climate change think tank.
Photography and film, produced in collaboration with Gretjen Helene, is a new body of work that has grown from this performance-based art intervention. The photographs and film are a result of this collaboration to produce a stand-alone conceptual photographic piece that exists beyond the live event. They hope to stimulate conversation around the climate crisis, our struggles, our reliances and the greater possibilities that exist.
Gretjen Helene is an American Visual Artist who primarily works in Photography and Integrated Media. Her work spans many visual based mediums as well as sculpture, new media, interactive installation, curation and fine art photography. Her interest lies in increasing awareness of important issues that face our community and humanity today. While collaborating on Artistic interactive installations that ask viewers to contemplate alternative realities she also works as a Professional Photographer for non-profit organizations in order to generate marketing and promotional materials that will enhance the Rights, Skills and Enjoyments deserved by all, but underserved to many. www.gretjenhelene.com
DISSONANCE was originally conceived by visual artist Heather Theresa Clark, while artist-in-residence at Woods Hole Research Center, ranked the world’s leading climate change think tank. The piece emerged from the unsettling emotion Clark experienced while interviewing over 20 climate scientists at WHRC and other leading science institutions on Cape Cod. During the interviews, her world view shifted and she felt pained by the climate data that measures and forecasts our climate crisis - the effects on humans and nature are catastrophic. However, in parallel to the interviews, she was enjoying an exquisite summer with family and friends on the beaches of Cape Cod. With a team of collaborators, including photographer/conceptual artist Gretjen Helene, she transferred the experience of cognitive dissonance into the work’s visual cues. How could climate change be happening in a landscape that looks this pleasant?
In DISSONANCE, dancers are confined to a platform that appears suspended from a marine crane. Dwarfed by the crane and the scale of the barge at sea, identically clad dancers become small and anonymous. DISSONANCE embodies the psychological barriers of addressing climate change and the emotions that many of us experience, because of the overwhelming scale of the crisis - troubled that our fossil fuel-based economy could be permanent, yet yearning for solutions.
Dancers are rowed to a barge at sea, where they are overshadowed by its industrial limitations (framed and staged by the marine construction barge, crane, platform, and cables). They move within a system they cannot control. The actors have accepted the constraints of old industry and consented to its limitations, despite the broader possibilities that are available from their surrounding environment (wind, water, sun). If we look closely, we see the dancers’ individuality, relationships, emotions, and humanity. The dancers are vulnerable humans existing, interacting, and shifting balance according to the structure of industry that holds them up. Dories that transport the dancers to and from the barge serve to remind us that the objects we use in daily life for entertainment and enjoyment are elsewhere being used in survival emergencies, as climate change takes effect on our world.
While the dancers are trapped within the confines of their situation, Clark hopes that we are not. “DISSONANCE is meant to signal some answers to climate change – physicality, art, science, exploration, and the beauty of humanity and nature, which is worth preserving.” While an artist-in-residence at WHRC, in addition to learning about the science, Clark also became aware of real solutions to stabilize the climate crisis. Although not directly referenced in DISSONANCE, Clark says “There is opportunity to reinvent the places where we live to power themselves, cleanse themselves, transform waste, provide wildlife habitat, produce food, and enhance the lives of people.”
Since the original performance, the work has grown through a collaboration on photography and film with Gretjen Helene to produce a stand-alone conceptual photographic piece that exists beyond the live event. They hope to stimulate conversation around the climate crisis, our struggles, our reliances and the greater possibilities that exist. “These large-scale scenes can serve to stir the emotions around climate change on a visceral level by demonstrating the relationship between humans and the industries we depend on, and delivering a view of humanity struggling on a tipping, swinging, unbalanced structure,” says Helene.
Bringing a modern perspective to a time-honored craft, Fire Tower is an enterprising firm specializing in the engineering and design of timber structures, including light lumber, heavy and curved timber, timber frame and post & beam structures. Founded in 2006 by Ben Brungraber and Mack Magee, Fire Tower has successfully fostered the creation of new and refurbished projects across North America, in the United Kingdom and the Caribbean.
UnderCurrent Productions is a Cape Cod-based creative media company serving scientific, non-profit, and editorial clients. We specialize in sub-surface storytelling: a full spectrum of media services that inspire viewers to look and listen. With decades of experience in video production, photography and journalism, we amplify our clients’ message through each stage of production and distribution.
Dr. Paul So is a physics professor at George Mason University and the co-director of the Center for Neural Dynamics at the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study. So is also the founder of the Hamiltonian Artists in Washington DC, a non-profit art organization with a mission to build the next generation of innovative artists and effective visual art leaders by providing them with professional development opportunities and by advancing their entrepreneurial success.