Exodus: Canaries Fleeing the Coal Mine

Exhibit Dates: 
Aug 19, 2013 - Jun 15, 2014
DCCA Atrium

I have long been fascinated by the movement and organization of flocks of birds. In the fall and early winter they sweep over my home, combing the sky in long graceful ribbons. At other times they arrive in tight three-dimensional formations which morph, turn and swoop. These birds in flight are like ant colonies or swarms of bees. Not only do they seem to have a distinct form, but also a sense of organization and purpose. These animals aren’t following a single leader; they are self-organized. The swarm’s organization comes from the individual exchanges between creatures. One individual communicates with others in closest proximity. Small changes in speed and direction disperse through the group like a gracefully choreographed chain reaction. This phenomenon seems to happen both on the micro level with birds and bees, and on the macro level in human contemporary culture. In our ever present Internet communities, there are no dictators. We build networks and groups through individual exchanges with other people. We swarm around news flashes or current trends, and then respond with blogs, tweets and comments. To a certain extent, our culture is taking shape through exchanges between individuals…organizing itself… finding purpose. 

My site specific installations behave like swarms. Suspended mixed media elements form swirling volumes which float through a space. The effect is created by an accumulation of repeated shapes on geometrically arranged lines (monofilament). Like real swarms my works are ephemeral. Because they are constructed from impermanent materials and installed for a restricted time, their life span is limited. The obsessive and excessive construction suggests an attempt to achieve a sublime level of illusion. 

Exodus: Canaries Fleeing the Coal Mine explores the idea of sentinels for the environment. People have long observed animals for signs of impending hazards or evidence of environmental threats. The canary was used as a sentinel for coal miners, giving advanced warning of the presence of hazardous gas. As we observe changes in the world around us, are we paying attention to the sentinels?  - Erica Loustau