John Ruppert’s LAB: Empirical Evidence at UMBC examines our relationship to climate change in physical and psychological ways
Writing this review for Bmore Art, I approached John Ruppert’s exhibition, Lab: Empirical Evidence, at UMBC, as I would any exhibition, as a new experience: with an open mind, and heart – because the environment has a very special place there for me.
But this time I was also ready to write. Not just things of interest – I always carry a notebook with me – but the whole thing, my step-by-step experience of the work. Writing down my observations, of the work, but also of my feeling towards it, my relationship like any new relationship morphed and changed as it grew, as the work answered everything I asked of it.
I wrote a first draft that accurately reflected my notes and emerging conscious experience and waited eagerly to see what my editor thought of it. This was my first review and my first time working with an editor. She appreciated the personal walk-through, the real-time thoughts and feeling, my sensitivity and curiosity, and vivid descriptions. Oh dear, I thought, such praise can only be followed by a very large BUT……
The list of questions and ‘what?’s along the margins was staggering. Is my writing really that intelligible? And of course it is, or it can be, as writing for me is a way of working through something, trying to untangle the knots in a necklace that I know is underneath, I just don’t know what the pendent looks like or how long its chain is – yet.
When I start writing I have no idea where I’m going let alone where I will end up. My notes were really just a stream of consciousness and my writing-up nothing more than a first response to this consciousness, drawing it out, seeing where it might lead.
I reviewed all my editors extremely valid and insightful comments one by one, happily clicking the resolve button. There was nothing to comment on because I agreed with her entirely. But it got me thinking about the response that will be published, because in this editing process my experience of the work changed. My thoughts towards the exhibition become not just clearer but different, in some cases completely turning feelings on their head. And there is something in this transition that seems apt, relevant to the issue of climate change.
We all think we know how we feel about climate change, from both sides of the fence. It is happening/it is not happening, we need to do something/there is nothing to be done. But when we delve beneath the surface the reality and our feelings towards it are not quite so clear. They are subject to change as we find out more. Its like a never-ending jigsaw puzzle where just as the pieces fall into place they change their character and form, creating a new image in pieces for us to sort out, again.
I now feel like this about John Ruppert’s exhibition. It perhaps requires many visits to get the full experience of our relationship to climate change. To get it at once, to come to a conclusion, leads us into a false hope. Climate Change is something we need to keep talking about, working through, if we are to get anywhere close to a resolution.