With your year long Carla subscription, you will receive a new issue right to your doorstep every 3 months.
Our advertising program is essential to the ecology of our publication. Ad fees go directly to paying writers, which we do according to W.A.G.E. standards.
We are currently printing runs of 6,000 every three months. Our publication is distributed locally through galleries and art related businesses, providing a direct outlet to reaching a specific demographic with art related interests and concerns.
To advertise or for more information on rates, deadlines, and production specifications, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In Track 16’s gallery space, a creature emerged as if from a rainstorm. It had tentacles and cilia and crawled on 10 legs. Its back was a swirling, exposed membrane of news clippings and sliced vinyl, all smothered in glossy resin. Entitled Diversity of Voices, Re-hydrating. Resisting Contamination. (all works 2021), the sculpture looks like a new link in the evolutionary chain, a strange life born from the amalgamation of trash Alicia Piller reanimated in her recent exhibition Atmospheric Pressures.
A concern for the climate, waste, and humanity’s role in the world’s decay is evident from the materials Piller uses to create her sculptures, constructions crafted from salvaged items like discarded warehouse flooring, plastics, laser-printed paper, flora, geodes, mirrors, and electronic parts. Piller’s use of a seemingly infinite supply of garbage activates a basic understanding of society’s ability to produce trash, but it also attempts to quantify the unimaginable. While it’s easy to find alarming global statistics about solid waste—for instance, the Environmental Protection Agency states that landfills received 27 million tons of plastic waste in 20181—there’s a cognitive gap between processing the numbers and being able to visualize them. Atmospheric Pressures gave us a taste of what we’ve unleashed into the world.
Piller’s sculptural works are collections of “hyperobjects,” a term Timothy Morton coined to describe immense, unseeable objects like the man-made masses of stuff that have overtaken the human population and will far outlast any individual lifetime, or even that of an entire generation. Atmospheric Pressures’ most commonly used material, vinyl fabric, portrays one such hyperobject: the over 4 million metric tons of plastic sitting in global landfills as of 2018.2 Another hyperobject, the 50 million tons of e-waste generated each year,3 is represented via the latticed wire and broken computer part adorning the spiraling vinyl sheets that make up Tectonic Plates, Shifting, Polls. The numerous sculptures across Atmospheric Pressures that were molded into the form of a natural phenomenon—an acid rain cloud, the eye of a hurricane, a cresting wave—encapsulated a more looming, conceptual hyperobject: climate change and all of the cumulative human actions that have set it in motion. The exhibition began with modestly sized works mounted on the wall or perched on a pedestal, and by the final room in the gallery, the sculptures had grown to take up entire walls—our own refuse easily overtaking the available gallery space.
Piller often brings the human form into her works, emphasizing our role in creating these harmful products. Figures appear in laser prints, like the people attending a Trump rally collaged into Clouded Thoughts, Drowning Conversations. Deepening Fissures., or as a glimpse of our own reflection caught in the glass embedded into the center of Eyes of the Storm, Shifting Systems, Removing Barriers. By reflecting ourselves back to us, Piller’s surreal forms illuminate our complicity in making them come to life.
This is taken quite literally in works that anthropomorphize the sculptures, like ominous creatures that feel alive despite their composite plastic forms. Hydroponic Solutions, Atmospheric Changes. hangs bird-like from the ceiling. To create a beak and long tail, Piller bound a palm frond with recycled tape, tightly wrapped wire, and strips of vinyl. The work is garish and disturbing, and it loomed above us in the gallery as if implying that we only have ourselves to blame for its creation.
Yet, despite my cynical outlook on the exhibition, I was surprised to hear the artist discuss the works with a hopeful tone. In a talk she gave during the run of the exhibition, Piller said that her works begin with the obsessive collecting of discarded objects, a way of cataloging trash. Eventually, an object, like the old cue ball at the center of Stabilizing Temperatures, Break Cycles, Curb Disasters. inspires an entire artwork. In this work, the image of a woman whose son was murdered by the police in 2009 is woven through the mass of destructive materials. “I kept having this vision of these weeds growing through the cracks,” Piller explained. “If you have cement and there’s this beautiful flower coming through, it made it. It lived through this concrete.”4 For Piller, a focus on resilience to the impacts of climate change becomes a gateway towards a broader narrative of survival within unjust systems of oppression.
Each sculpture’s title stitches together to form a poem that elucidates Piller’s optimistic outlook. It begins with depictions of turbulent weather and briefly references “polarized” and “deep-seated divides,” but quickly shifts to reveal more hopeful imagery—“hidden horizons” emerge from “smoldering” skies and “ashes and dust”—and eventually lands on the optimistic future depicted in Stabilizing Temperatures, Break Cycles, Curb Disasters.
With the poem in mind, I returned to the 10-legged creature crawling out of the rain cloud. Its title (Diversity of Voices, Re-hydrating. Resisting Contamination.) suddenly became illustrative of a future emergence from the ravages of climate change—in the exhibition, the work appeared to crawl out of the sculpture it was placed next to, Acid Rain, Dissolving Emissions & Old Ideologies., which quite literally references poisonous precipitation. In this light, rather than a harbinger of death and decay, the sculpture evolves into a lifeform that heralds the beginning of a new world.
Maybe the Earth will survive climate change, but if so, it will be unrecognizable from the environment we now know. Instead of dirt, perhaps everything will be embedded in a stratum of rotting plastic. Creatures might swap blood for petroleum and thrive on toxic foam. The hyperobjects will be so large that the entire Earth itself might fuse into one mutated organism, resembling Piller’s creations. But, if Piller’s visions of resilience manifest, this new life could be the key to a vibrant future.
This review was originally published in Carla issue 28.