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Shadows of the Giants

 

Mixed Media Installation by 

Diran Lyons

July 7  – July 24, 2022

ArtHop Reception: Thursday, July 7, 5 – 8 PM

Gallery open Saturdays-Sundays, 12-4 PM

Diran Lyons' latest installation, Shadows of the Giants, is a classic example of

ecosophically-driven activist art that challenges prevailing technocratic and statistical

solutions to the interrelated problems of capitalism, globalization, and industrial

pollution. Ecosophy - a radical hybridization of ecology and philosophy - is derived

from Félix Guattari's seminal work, The Three Ecologies (1989), where he argues that

'only an ethico-political articulation - what I call ecosophy - between the three

ecological registers (the environment, social relations and human subjectivity) would

be likely to clarify these questions.' Guattari, in turn, also owes a considerable debt to

the work of the English anthropologist and cyberneticist, Gregory Bateson, who

deconstructed ecology into three interconnected trajectories: the material

(encompassing ecology and the biophysical); the social (the cultural and human); and

most importantly for our understanding of Lyons' work, the perceptual, which treats

the human body as an interactive system characterized by a resonant exchange of

information-images, sounds, hapticity, movements, and odors - which are

transmitted within and between the different components of the exhibit.

Thus, in the center east wall of the gallery, Lyons presents a grid of 80 images of

burned giant sequoias, manzanitas, and pine trees, each documented with the specific

details of its environmental catastrophe, while to the right he showcases ten live pine

trees with one carefully sunken into a pedestal with a securing berm of granite rocks.

On the opposing west wall he presents three installations of five images featuring

more charred trees - this time from Converse Basin in Sequoia National Park and

Shadow of the Giants Trail (close to Yosemite), each framed by charred wood and

hung horizontally against vertical bars of burned redwood, so that the ecological

damage recorded in the photographs is both measured by, yet also engulfs and

overrides, the bars' graph-like, statistical role, as if scientific data were just another

ineffective inoculation.

Seen as a whole however, the ecosophical affect of Lyons' combination of images,

data, and smells - the latter creating a rich confluence of life (pungent pine) and death

(the smoky odor of charred wood) - produces the ultimate affective connection

between concept and affect, what the film scholar Adrian Ivakhiv, inspired by Andrei

Tarkovsky's Stalker (1979), has called an entry into 'The Zone,' a meeting ground of

different perceptual and conceptual responses, a territory where nature, the human,

and the aesthetic forge a new ecosophy-as-becoming (significantly, Lyons plans to

release the ten pine trees featured in the exhibit out into the world so that they can

start a new life beyond the functional confines of art). In short, Lyons' works are

particularly rich examples of a recurring by-play between optimism and pessimism,

setting up an affective counterpoint (but also incongruity) between the natural and the

man-made as a unified, albeit constantly changing, ecological whole.

- Colin Gardner

 

ARTIST STATEMENT

In 1995 and 1996, I worked as the gardener of a summer camp in Sierra National Forest. Shadow of the Giants Trail was a little under a mile away. I encountered a certain type of quiet there, bordering on silence, when isolated in this grove of Sequoia trees. While visiting Converse Basin in 2019, I experienced it again as I surveyed the graveyard of Sequoias. This time it was accompanied by strong sentiments of anger and anxiety.

 

The experience prompted me to visit groves and mountain ranges destroyed by the increasing presence of wildfire. Borrowing from the traditions of documentary, landscape, natural, and pictorialist photography, I would like my images to encourage an audience to consider more radical - in this case ecosophical - positions beyond the aesthetic ambitions of these historical precedents.