Ursula Biemann: Deep Weather

Ursula Biemann: Deep Weather


January 17 to March 22, 2015
Opens: Friday, January 16 at 7 p.m.

The 2013 video, Deep Weather is a nine-minute glimpse of the Alberta tar sands, juxtaposed with the watery world of Bangladesh. The whispered, confiding voice-over makes viewers feel immediately complicit in the actions unfolding here. Deep Weather explores the devastating consequences of oil extraction. Aerial images of the scarred landscape of the Canadian tar sands give a sense of the vast scale of the damage: ashen contours, littered with the occasional digger, stretch over an area the size of England.

While human actions are paramount in what happens to the Earth, we have little awareness of, or control over, fluid and invisible global interactions. The enormous open-pit mines and steam processing of the oil-infused sand and clay of northern Alberta have drastically lowered Athabasca River flow to the Arctic Ocean; poisoned tailing ponds are replacing the boreal forests, altering ecology for an unknown future. Land is reduced to a commodity by multinational corporations with little or no concern for the planet’s future well-being.

In Bangladesh, rising sea levels – a result of melting Himalayan ice – are claiming inhabitable land, affecting large populations with nowhere else to go. Communities respond by sandbagging mud embankments and devising floating agriculture and convertible schools: manual efforts on a heroic scale against nearly impossible odds. The two sections of Deep Weather reveal underlying links between these widely separated locations, asking that we know our place within planetary ecology, and think of the future we build through our actions today.

Ursula Biemann, an artist, writer, and video essayist, is a senior researcher at the Zurich University of the Arts. Deep Weather was recently featured in the Montreal Biennale, L’avenir (looking forward), curated by Gregory Burke, Peggy Gale, Lesley Johnstone, and Mark Lanctôt.