Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison
IT CAME LIKE LIGHT OUT OF THE WALLS
evolve | ɪˈvɒlv |
1 develop gradually
• (with reference to an organism or biological feature) develop over successive generations as a result of natural selection: [no object] : Pink salmon are evolving in response to climate change in Auke Creek, Alaska, which is heating up .03 degrees Celsius (.054 degrees Fahrenheit) per year.[i]
early 17th century (in the general sense ‘make more complex, develop’): from Latin evolvere, from e- (variant of ex-) ‘out of’ + volvere ‘to roll’.
Things evolve, it’s what they do. True to the word’s Latin origin, they roll.
As such, our 15-metre wall collage, Ripples in the Open, exhibited at ArtSpace Realm, Victoria (2018–2019) in one ‘finished’ guise, has grown into It came like light out of the walls [ii], a series of collaged drawings for West Gallery Thebarton, South Australia. Unstuck from the wall, rolled, and kept, the landscape within Ripples in the Open has become a new work. We have cut into the salvaged pieces, reused and adapted elements to make use of what we had, changed previous reading in the process, and continued a pattern. Images are our narrative, and nothing is fixed.
As we worked, we thought about changes that are small and particular to us. And we thought about changes that are larger, and seemingly beyond our own control. Universal shifts, their very inevitability. That global pattern! Change — insert the common expression — is the only certainty.
The large drawings we have created from the very fabric of Ripples in the Open are a continuation, an evolution of an idea for us, personally. We are organisms working to maintain our own ‘adaptedness’. And, in a broader sense, the animals within the landscape of our drawings signify that “animals can react to climate change in only three ways: They can move, adapt or die”. [iii]
With our planet on the verge of another major extinction event [iv], the question is “whether plants and animals can adapt quickly enough to outpace climate change. We often think of evolution as something that happens slowly, but that’s not always the case. If the selection pressures are strong enough, evolution can happen over mere decades”. [v]
[i] “The salmon are now migrating out of the creek earlier, and scientists have shown that that change is genetic. Wild thyme (Thymus vulgaris) in France has evolved in response to fewer extreme cold events since the 1970s, producing more pungent oils to deter herbivores (at the cost of becoming less cold-hardy). Tawny owls (Strix aluco) can be light gray or brown, depending on the genes they inherit from their parents. As snow cover in Finland has declined since the late 1970s, the light gray owls, best camouflaged during snow, no longer have much of an advantage, and scientists have shown that brown owls are now much more common.”
Emma Marris, ‘How a Few Species Are Hacking Climate Change: Animals can be surprisingly adaptable — but can they change quickly enough?’, 6th May, 2014, National Geographic, https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140506-climate-change-adaptation-evolution-coral-science-butterflies/, accessed 2nd April, 2019.
[ii] The title of our exhibition is a line from Pinpoint, a poem by Laura Ulewicz, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/149536/in-a-foreign-land, accessed 28th March, 2019.
[iii] Renee Cho, ‘What Helps Animals Adapt (or Not) to Climate Change?’, State of the Planet, Earth Institute, Columbia University, https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/03/30/helps-animals-adapt-not-climate-change/, accessed 10th April, 2019.
[iv] Tony Hiss, ‘Can the World Really Set Aside Half of the Planet for Wildlife?: The eminent evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson has an audacious vision for saving Earth from a cataclysmic extinction event’, Smithsonian Magazine, September 2014, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/can-world-really-set-aside-half-planet-wildlife-180952379/, accessed 2nd April, 2019.
[v] Helen Thompson, ‘Ten Species That Are Evolving Due to the Changing Climate: From tropical corals to tawny owls, some species are already being pushed to evolve — but adaptation doesn’t guarantee survival’, 24th October, 2014, Smithsonian.com, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/ten-species-are-evolving-due-changing-climate-180953133/#vW0EYl6zpd8GT4uT.99, accessed 13th April, 2019.