Sarita Zaleha, under/currents, 2017
“. . . under/currents invites a tension between the immediacy of climate change and its accumulated effects . . . “
Lives and works in Minneapolis
Mentor: Christine Baeumler
Human perception of the environment—natural and mediated—affects how we understand climate change. My creative research aims to shift perceptions of natural resources and climate systems like wind and weather in order to attune viewers to the agency of the natural world. My work creates networks and patterns of connection related to climate change awareness and action. How do we see the history embedded in the landscape while remaining present? How does the environment affect us and how do we physically and emotionally respond to environmental changes?
My art typically combines found objects with digital technologies (photography and video) to allow for alternative contexts and scales. As found objects are laden with personal and cultural histories, I use found objects in my work to explore our personal relationship to things that can be difficult to see and understand, in particular the global scope of climate change. My use of video installation allows for an immersive experience that emphasizes environmental temporality. My work allows space for viewer-participants to recognize unexpected emotions related to the natural world and to create connections and take action with these emotions.
Global warming is changing wind patterns. Due to warming temperatures at the poles, the jet stream has weakened, resulting in increased extreme weather events. This project explores the interaction between the Arctic as a specific place impacted by rising temperatures and human attempts to observe, control, and preserve the environment.
In under/currents, visitors are drawn to aspects of experience that are often overlooked: movement in the air, temperature shifts, alterations in smell, and the perception of time. A twenty-foot line of live arctic thyme spans the gallery wall, glowing under the artificial life support of grow lights. In a video projection, a hand holds a piece of wild arctic thyme. In an adjacent gallery, a network of helium balloons hovers in the space, detecting drafts and making the moving air visible. Nearby, cool air flows from an open refrigerator and global jet streams weave across a video projection. A mass of digital clock radios blink 12:00, as though there has been a blip in the power and the time needs to be reset. Gathered from a Google search data-collecting program, the radios’ speakers emit whispers of Google autosuggestions to questions drawn from different combinations of who/what/where/when/why/how and terms such as “the environment,” “climate change,” “the weather,” and “the wind.”
This project endeavors to dig into certain layers of human experience of the environment through encouraging a hyperawareness of anxieties around climate change and attempts to self-soothe through encounters with the natural world. While attuning visitors to subtle sensory perceptions in their surroundings and simultaneously prompting them to think about the geographic area where the most dramatic of these changes are occurring, under/currents invites a tension between the immediacy of climate change and its accumulated effects.
David Kaminski, technical assistance
Sarita Zaleha has a multidisciplinary creative practice that includes installation, photography, video, printmaking, fiber arts, and social practice. Her current work explores international perceptions of and emotional responses to climate change. Zaleha recently received her MFA in printmaking at the University of Iowa with a minor in intermedia. She has bachelor’s degrees in biomedical engineering and religion from Case Western Reserve University and master’s degrees in art history and religion from University of Minnesota and Harvard University, respectively. Zaleha has exhibited her work extensively across the US as well as in Canada, Germany, and Iceland.