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Ecotopia at ICP
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New York Worldchanging local blogger, David Leon, tells us about the Ecotopia exhibit at the International Center of Photography.

"In recent years, nature has become the focus of increasing cultural anxiety." So begins the brochure for the "Ecoptopia" exhibit at the International Center of Photography.

The text continues, "Catastrophic tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes have provided powerful reminders that the natural world commands devastating and potentially lethal forces. At the same time, however, there is a growing alarm at the disastrous consequences of human attempts to harness or exploit nature." At this point, you may be asking, "where does the -topia part come in?" This is what I was asking myself after a stroll through this smallish gallery near Bryant Park.

Although the ocasional piece evoked the awesome, serene and romantic themes of the natural world, like Clifford Ross' "Mountain XIII", more often the works depicted the disturbing sense that there is a "crisis that has resulted from the disruption of the fragile ecological balance between humans and nature," like Alessandra Sanguinetti's series of photographs taken on an Argentinian farm, which include dead animals of various sizes and an abosutely mephistophelean portrait of the farmer.

The exhibit ranges from the absurd, like Harri Kallio's replica dodo birds photographed in their former habitat on Mauritius, to the thoughtful, as with Simon Starling's "One Ton," a series of five black & white platinum prints of an active quarry, named for the amount of raw ore it took to produce the five prints.

The most indellible images, though, are Wang Qingsong's triptich "Come, Come" depicting a vibrant Chinese rural protest and the vibrant trash left in its wake, and Yannick Demmerle's large-scale black & white photos of ghostly tree trunks amid an otherwise dark forest. Both of these leave the viewer wondering about the future of the natural world -- specifically, whether it can retain any of its mysterious and magical qualities in the face of increasing human material use and consumption.

While the man-versus-nature dichotomy may strike readers of this site as old fashioned, the fact that the gallery, with funding from United Technologies and JP Morgan Chase, thought this theme was worthwhile -- and perhaps profitable -- is somewhat encouraging. More encouraging still, the ICP bookstore has on prominent display the WorldChanging book.

Ecotopia is showing at ICP though January 7, 2007.

Image: ICP

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Just a note: the link to the International Center of Photography seems to be incomplete.

Posted by: gpc on 3 Dec 06



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