Resonance has become difficult to produce in the increasingly de-sensitized 21st century. Media and news headlines tell the stories of statistics instead of lives. We interact with numbers and not people, and it is hard to feel resonance to an intangible figure, which due to its impersonal nature fails to create a true emotive response. Without this emotive response, it becomes hard to forge a sense of understanding, responsibility, and awareness of the world around us. Böhler and Orendt’s The Carrion Cheer, A Faunistic Tragedy juxtaposes child-like novelty with their characteristic dark humor to striking effect. Their theatrical approach to the issue of animal extinction is both moving and educative, creating a profound impact on its viewers.
That the title of the exhibition includes the word “tragedy” helps lend the work to a theatrical nature. From its roots in Greek plays, through to Shakespeare and contemporary playwrights, we are no strangers to finding moral code and moments of self-reflection in tragedy and more specifically, the theatre. Theatrics immerse us, allowing us to depart from our day-to-day lives and become fully engrossed in something which we can both recognize and feel removed from. Böhler and Orendt emulate this immersive nature of theatrics in their current Halsey exhibit. The tents are designed in such a way that you become cut off from the space around you, heightening your senses and producing a focus which is free from the distractions of the outside world. As each extinct animal sings its song of forgiveness the extent to which the viewer becomes immersed creates the feeling that they could reach out and touch the animal. The mere fact that they can’t is the crux of the concerns that the artists wish to raise.
The use of such an immersive installation is poignant, as it highlights not only the issues raised in the exhibit but issues that plague our lives and society. Living in a digital age we are faced with the constant bombardment of new cycles and the endless stream of social media. This constant access to facts and information is removing us from reality, creating a distance and lack of awareness. The tangibility of the effects of our actions is being lost. The result of this is a relative de-sensitization and hyper-normalization, causing a devastating lack of awareness of the consequences of our actions both long and short term. By creating an immersive and theatrical experience, the artists are confronting us with a quasi-reality, forcing us to engage with our consciousness and forging an awareness for our actions. By utilizing the very thing that has catalyzed our increasing hyper-normalization, technology, it is presenting us with something that we know, something that is comfortable for us to engage with, thereby making the message it seeks to convey more easily digested. The educative role that technology is taking on, made evident through the continually evolving use of technology for children’s education, is speaking to a way forward. A way where technology is used effectively, creating awareness rather than cutting us off from the world around us.
When stripped away from its theatrics The Carrion Cheer is simply a plea to humanity, to have a greater recognition of its actions and the effects that we create in the world around us. It is not accusatory, nor does it serve to lecture us. Rather it presents us with our own reality. If one thing is to be taken away from this exhibit, it is that we all should be more present and aware. Having an awareness and consciousness of our actions is the only way we can ever have the whereabouts to effect change.
By Emma Watson, Halsey Institute intern