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Arts & Entertainment

Arlington Museum of Art Debuts Two Must-See Nature-Inspired Additions

The chill of the Arctic Circle and a futuristic digital archive mark the grand opening of the Arlington Museum of Art’s new location.
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Fung hopes the film creates a “veil-like, kind of hazy space” that “mimics the memory” of his trip to the arctic. Jennifer Garza-Cuen

Adam Fung never thought he would go back to the Arctic Circle. A painter and an associate professor of art at TCU, Fung originally saw the Arctic Circle as part of a 2016 residency that took him around the Svalbard archipelago, home to the Global Seed Vault and one of the northernmost towns on Earth. “It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it was also kind of precious to me,” Fung says.

A friend eventually persuaded Fung to apply for The Arctic Circle residency program again, and the artist returned to Svalbard in June 2023. With the benefit of updated gear and more experience, he set out to create a follow-up film to the uncommon, a three-channel work he created during his first trip using drone footage and submersible cameras. He was eager to try filmmaking again after his initial experience in 2016, which came in addition to the images he collected for paintings and the abstract pieces he worked on during the residency.

During his 2016 residency, he was “really the only person who had a drone,” but he found himself helping several other drone pilots during this journey. He even took over the controls to steer one away from landing in the water. The added responsibility also came with added trust from the tour guides, giving Fung more freedom in his own filming.

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The film followed Fung's second trip to the Arctic Circle. Adam Fung

The resulting four-channel film, fathom, will debut at the Arlington Museum of Art (AMA) as part of One Point Five Degrees, the first exhibition at the Immersive Galleries in the museum’s new location in the Arlington Entertainment District. The exhibition, slated to open March 30, takes its name from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report that analyzes the impacts that a 1.5-degree Celsius increase in global warming would have. The museum will pair Fung’s film with Montreal-based artist Sabrina Ratté’s digital artwork Floralia, a series of pieces that similarly relate to the fragility of the natural environment around us, in the exhibition.

“Inspired by the new era of digital art, we’re elated that One Point Five Degrees will be the AMA’s first immersive exhibition. Artists Adam Fung and Sabrina Ratté are creating incredible digital works with deep meaning that connect with current issues in our community and world,” AMA Director of Exhibitions Kendall Quirk said in an emailed statement. “The AMA’s new immersive galleries are spaces to engage and interact with artworks, inspiring the next generation of museum-goers.”

Fung explained that the exhibition will present attendees with a branching path at the end of a hallway. If they venture to his side of the exhibition first, they will walk through a series of three rooms, the first two of which include a single channel of his film while the third features two channels shown together. Accompanying the film is an original score from composer and multi-instrumentalist John Paul Thompson. Fung hopes the film creates a “veil-like, kind of hazy space” that “mimics the memory” of his trip to the arctic “moving through these landscapes and going ashore and working in these environments that are very harsh and transient.”

The opposite route takes attendees to Ratté’s four-channel piece first, a massive single-room experience simultaneously showing each of her Floralia videos. Ratté uses a range of digital techniques and software in her artwork, including programs like Blender and Cinema 4D, with Floralia representing a “new chapter” for the artist. She used 3D scans of pictures of the natural environment and devices like video synthesizers to create Floralia along with accompanying sound design by musician and composer Andrea-Jane Cornell.

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The interactive, digital art experience showcases now-extinct plant life. Sabrina Ratté

Ratté found inspiration for the artwork in the science fiction and environmental works she was reading while living in France during the pandemic. She says that Floralia represents her “own process of understanding” environmental issues and facing the fear and denial that goes with confronting those themes. She credits writers like Donna J. Haraway and Greg Egan for inspiring her, with the latter’s descriptions of the digitization of the human mind and the sum of human knowledge particularly resonating with the artist.

The four videos that comprise Floralia represent a possible future where our experience with nature consists of virtual archive rooms of different now-extinct plant life. “I was just imagining this world where we are being digitized and our approach to nature will be through this 3D archive,” Ratté says.

Fung believes the pairing of Floralia and fathom in “One Point Five Degrees” can be an impactful “one-two punch.” Depending on what order you experience the art at the AMA, Fung sees the exhibition as either examining a place affected by climate change before seeing a potential future for our natural world or a travel from the future to the past that poses the question, “Can we change things?”

Ratté views One Point Five Degrees as a “way to keep nourishing this dialogue” about global warming and the environment rather than something that tells attendees what to think or how to approach the subject. It’s a sentiment echoed by Fung, who says he’s “more in the business of, like, putting this imagery out there and having people confront it and dwell on it rather than trying to tell them what to do.”

“Beauty and aesthetic can really talk to you in a different way than words…and maybe idealistically, I believe in this language that can reach further than just the intellect,” Ratté says.

Author

Brett Grega

Brett Grega

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