Images: Lars Jan submerges performers into water, recalling havoc and devastation while exploring our precarious relationship with water
The image, captured by Daniel Berehulak in Pakistan during the devastating flooding there, depicts about thirty men struggling through chest high water and white caps — created by whirring helicopter blades above — to reach the sinking aid packages which had been dropped, broken apart, and begun to sink in the water. Reminiscent of a Rafael painting, the half-submerged men wear brightly colored shalwar kameezes, the traditional clothing of the region, which stand out amidst the mud colored water that otherwise filled the wide frame.
HOLOSCENES is a large-scale performance, video and photographic art work driven by Lars Jan’s concern that our troubled relationship to water will become the central issue of the 21st century.The project was sparked, in part, by a photograph that circulated widely in 2010 (above).
Lars had traveled alone to Pakistan in 2000 to hike in the north, and to visit the homeland of his Pashtun ancestors. Through the photograph, he instantly empathized with the people he had otherwise felt increasingly alienated from during the radicalization that intensified in many parts of the region post-September 11th. The image of bodies struggling amidst the churning water triggered something primal in him.
The core of HOLOSCENES is a large-scale performance installation intended for urban public spaces. Three custom-made aquariums — elevator-sized cubes of transparent acrylic — set proximate to one another and viewable from 360 degrees, are each inhabited by a single performer looping an everyday behavior — e.g. making ramen, putting on an abaya, repairing a fishing net — while around them water fills and drains, driven by a hydraulic system capable of pumping fifteen tons of water in one minute. The performance installation, which runs 24 hours a day over a full week, will premier at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco) in 2015.
Lars captured these images while Early Morning Opera — the performance + art lab he directs — was conducting a prototype workshop for HOLOSCENES at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC; Troy, NY) in July 2013.
A Saudi woman in an abaya, buying flowers in a mall.
The everyday behaviors were gathered from a global, open-call video submission process.
A hunter in Colorado watches the sunset from his porch.
The performer doesn’t acknowledge the water rising and falling, but continues looping and adapting his everyday behavior to the changing environment, swimming to the top for air when necessary.
A young woman in LA who still uses a land line.
The water is a lens in itself, but a very mutable one—alternately crystal and chaos.
This 1500 gallon water tank fills to a 10 foot depth in 2 minutes. New tanks are being designed for twice the volume and twice the speed.
A man taking pictures on a beach.
A woman practicing for her ballroom dance class.
A woman in rural Russia, wearing a babushka and galoshes, stumbles home in the evening, drunk.
Depending on who you ask, this prototype water tank alternately looks like a: planet, snow globe, petri-dish, space-uterus…
These still images counterpoint the performative, time-based components of HOLOSCENES which are concerned with continuum.
The sale of archival prints supports continued development of the performance through 2015.