AUGUST 30, 2021
This week we recognize the work of artists Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris.
Featured is their installation work Eclipse, installed as a part of an exhibition titled Cross Pollination at Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Catskill, NY, May 9 – November 1, 2020.
Eclipse is an act of commemoration for a lost species: the passenger pigeon, whose once massive population went extinct 100 years ago. As of the mid-19th Century, this dove-like bird was the most abundant bird species in North America and flew in flocks of millions that would literally darken the skies for hours when passing over. Audubon likened their appearance to a noonday eclipse. The last known passenger pigeon, Martha, died in captivity on September 1, 1914.
Inspired by historic accounts of the flock movements, this video installation and soundscape evokes the once overwhelming, even frightening, numbers of the birds, as well as their delicate beauty, the sadness of their loss and irreversible disappearance. An accompanying artist publication by Sayler/Morris extends the content of the installation.
The original installation was designed specifically for MASS MoCA and was projected onto a wall and 50-foot high ceiling. The birds traveled over the heads of viewers, traveling a full distance of about 100 feet. The piece has since been re-configured for other spaces, including as a single monitor piece at the David Brower Center and also as a towering array of eight monitors extending into the atrium of the Berman Museum. The piece was originally conceived during a series of conversations with the author Elizabeth Kolbert about extinction—how to memorialize it and what such memorials can accomplish.
Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris (Sayler/Morris) work with photography, video, writing, and installation to examine our changing notions of nature, culture, and ecology. Their work is often place-based and focused on historical research.
Their work has been exhibited broadly in the U.S. and internationally, including at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Belvedere Museum, the Museum of Capitalism and the Southeast Center for Contemporary Art. They have been awarded numerous fellowships including the New York Artist Fellowship, the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, the Center for Art and Environment Research Fellowship, and the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard Graduate School of Design. They are currently teaching in the Transmedia Department at Syracuse University. Their archives are collected by the Nevada Museum of Art / Reno, Center for Art and Environment.
In 2006, Sayler/Morris co-founded The Canary Project - a studio that produces visual media and artworks that deepen public understanding of climate change and other ecological issues.
Above: Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris/Photo from https://cstms.berkeley.edu/research/artscience-in-residence-program/
Featured Images: ©Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris