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Installation at ACAG reflects on the Australian bush fires and other world crises

Reviewed by John Dasly-Peoples

Alicia Frankovich: AQI2020

Auckland Art Gallery

Until November 8, 11.30am–3.30pm daily

Late night performance. Friday 6 November  from 5-9pm

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Alicia Frankovich’s work AQI2020 at the Auckland Art Gallery is a three dimensional installation /performance referencing the bush fires  which raged on Australia’s east Coast last summer. The artist uses imagery, personal stories and news media accounts to create this tableau about the disaster. In particular, she uses an image showing a group of people trapped in thick orange smoke on a  beach.

Frankovich says of the work  ‘The title, AQI2020, refers to the Air Quality Index, a scale to measure air pollution and associated risks. AQI2020 stems from my first-hand experience of sustained, severe smoke levels that infiltrated my Canberra apartment where I was living and rose to alarming levels, with one notable occasion over New Year’s Eve 2020. The region was surrounded by smoke – from the Orroral Valley and Currowan fires – which lingered for more than 60 days. Over the evening of 31 December 2019 and into 1 January 2020, the Air Quality Index in Canberra peaked at levels 26 times those deemed hazardous.’

The work consists of a large a large, transparent orange box that echoes the  orange smoke-filled sky. Inside, half a dozen performers engage in surviving, a  hostile environment with just a few clothes, backpacks, a torch a  small boat and their water bottles.

Moving about the space sometimes aimlessly, sometimes with purpose,  sometimes as if in a dance they: engage with each other, supporting  and comforting. At other times they seem to ignore each other.  They also try to communicate with the outside world with one performer holding up an article about the fires to the wall, inviting the audience to read it.

While this tableau takes its inspiration from the bush fires it can be read as a metaphor for many of the issues plaguing contemporary society. These individuals can be seen as being in  cells, camps or  hostile environment which imprison them physically, socially and emotionally, they  are individuals  at the mercy of outside forces imposed by Man or Nature.

Many of the performers hold up their arms in helplessness, surrender or supplication. They could be refugees, demonstrators or people caught up in the fog of war. We become aware of issues around oppressive regimes, the refugee crisis,  climate change, the lack of water resources, the lack of human interaction and  kindness

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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