Christina Seely - Next of Kin: Seeing Extinction Through the Artist's Lens

Christina Seely​- Next of Kin: Seeing Extinction Through the Artist's Lens
December 17, 2016 - June 6, 2017
Harvard Museum of Natural History

Wednesday. February 22nd, 2017,  6pm-9pm
Located at the Harvard University's Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street
Free parking is available at the 52 Oxford Street Garage. This event is free and open to the public.

We live in a time when an alarming number of species are going extinct in a world increasingly dominated and altered by an exploding human population. How do we fully understand such an overwhelming topic?  Perhaps an emotional understanding of the issue is just as crucial as the facts. But how do we arrive at that? How do we feel connected? How do the sciences and the arts work together?

The artist, and Assistant Professor of Studio Art, ​Christina Seely has been deeply engaged with these questions for many years, particularly as they relate to climate change and the biodiversity extinction crisis. For the exhibition Next of Kin, Seely worked with the arts collective The Canary Project and the Harvard Museum of Natural History to create an immersive experience that evokes a profound sense of empathy with our “next of kin”— particularly those that have already gone extinct or are currently threatened with extinction.

Over a year of research inspired the production of multiple works including the Next of Kin portraits, a set of large-scale kinetic reflective portraits of endangered species found in the museum’s collection. These light boxes, fitted with a two way mirror, brighten together at a barely perceptible rate, causing the faces of endangered species to slowly reveal and replace that of the viewer. They then slowly disappear leaving only a reflection. In the exhibition these works are accompanied by Species Impact, a set of ten daguerreotype portraits of species impacted by climate change photographed by the artist in the wild between 2012-2016, as well as a set of discrete sculptural installations and an audio piece designed and created in collaboration with the Canary Project. These installations, set in conversation with the portraits, focus on the last traces of extinct species using specimen drawn from the archives in the Museum of Comparative Zoology. In a dimly lit space they are displayed in unusual ways, allowing their emotional impact to unfold as they are considered from new perspectives as part of an experiential empathic dialogue with the topic.

Through the use of novel photography techniques, lighting and sound design, as well as the curation of objects from the museum collections, the encompassing exhibition creates an emotional bridge between art and science and a considered look at the fate of our next of kin in the animal kingdom.

Please join for a panel discussion and opening reception for Next of Kin on Wednesday, February 22nd at 6pm at Harvard University. This interdisciplinary panel discussion will explore important questions within the context of the exhibition, such as; the ways we work in contemporary culture to understand complex ecological issues such as climate change and species extinction, the role that the arts play in this understanding, compared to—or in collaboration with—the sciences, and what role empathy or belief, as opposed to knowledge plays in this discourse. The discussion will be followed by an opening reception and a tour of the exhibition.

Christina Seely, Artist + Assistant Professor of Studio Art at ​Dartmouth College
Ross Virginia, Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of the Institute of Arctic Studies at ​Dartmouth College
Carrie Lambert-Beatty, Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies and Director of Graduate Studies in ​Film and Visual Studies​ at ​Harvard University
Moderated by: Edward Morris, Assistant Professor in the ​Transmedia Department at Syracuse University and Co-director of the Canary Project/La​b​