Photo Credits – Gretjen Helene; Scott Jansson (drone)

DISSONANCE: Psychology of Climate Change, An Art Intervention at Sea

​During the fall of 2017, the community of Woods Hole, Cape Cod, USA came together for this performance-based art intervention at sea.  DISSONANCE was a community effort, supported by over 50 volunteers, including all the artistic contributors, who desire immediate action on climate change. The Yard’s resident dance collective, Dance the Yard, choreographed this original piece with music by Christen Lien. The region is an especially relevant location for climate change artwork.  The area is home to many top tier scientific institutions.  Woods Hole is also situated on the coast, and like most coastal communities, is susceptible to sea level rise.

DISSONANCE is meant to embody emotions that many of us experience, because of the overwhelming scale of the climate crisis – troubled that our fossil fuel-based economy seems permanent, yet yearning for solutions. In this performance-based art intervention, American visual artist Heather Theresa Clark confines dancers to a platform that appears suspended from a marine crane at sea. Photography and film is produced in collaboration with photographer and conceptual artist Gretjen Helene.

DISSONANCE emerged from the unsettling emotion Clark experienced while interviewing over twenty leading climate scientists, as artist-in-residence at Woods Hole Research Center, ranked the world’s number one climate change think tank by the International Center for Climate Governance (ICCG).  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.  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 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).  The dancers are vulnerable, 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.

While the dancers are confined to 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 the artist-in-residence at WHRC, in addition to learning about the science, Clark was introduced to real solutions to stabilize the climate crisis.  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.”

This artwork is supported by the generous contributions of W.S. Shultz Co., South Mountain Company, NORDIC Structures, Architect Chris Warner, Fire Tower Engineered Timber, Bensonwood, Marine Safety Consultants, Inc., Peter Bumpus, The Valle Group, Gretjen Helene Photography, UnderCurrents Productions, Scott Jansson Photography, Boston Photo Rentals, Paul So, Specialty Builders Supply, Notus Clean Energy LLC, Wood Lumber, and Falmouth Climate Action Team.