Laumeier Sculpture Park hosts virtual Conversation Series


Jenny Kendler is an environmental activist and ecological artist. She recently took part in Laumeier Sculpture Park’s virtual Conversation Series.

Laumeier Sculpture Park hosted the most recent installment of its “Virtual” Conversation Series with Jenny Kendler on April 1. Kendler is an ecological artist, environmental activist, naturalist and wild forager whose work is recognized both nationally and internationally.

The series features conversations with artists from all around the world who took part in Laumeier’s “The Future is Present: Art and Global Change” exhibit.

For the past 10 years, Laumeier has hosted its Conversation Series. In the past, the series has been done in-person and has been designed as a Coffee and Conversation or Cocktails and Conversation. Laumeier had to adapt as the pandemic began, however, and moved to a digital format.

“Our hope is that while the artist cannot be here in person, that we can still connect with people and provide quality programming for the public and an atmosphere to interact with the artist, ask questions and create a discussion as it relates to our exhibitions and collection,” Dana Turkovic, curator of the Conversation Series at Laumeier, said.

This year’s series is focused on art and how it intersects with global climate change. The main examination of the exhibit is the insights of each artist. The artists filtered environmental conversations through their work. Their work highlights how visual pieces can reflect the world back to us.

“Artists have a unique ability to devise narratives that analyze the relationship between human accomplishment and ecology. They can connect with people through ideas, visuals and storytelling. They can make learning about these topics and issues experiential through conceptual art projects,” Turkovic said.

“The Playhead of Dawn” was displayed at the Arts Club of Chicago in 2018. The project was made up of four custom LED panels, outdoor speakers, media players, amps, waterproof cases, power conditioners, cables and hardware. Photo contributed by Jenny Kendler.

Kendler’s art has been curated at the Laumeier in the past.  Her collaboration with Brian Kirkbride, “The Playhead of Dawn,” is shown in the current exhibit. She hopes art pieces, like the ones being presented now, can inspire and accelerate change.

“Our governments, our institutions, even our economic systems emerge from the choices we as individuals and groups make as informed by culture. We understand who we are’ through a narrative that has to emerge from somewhere. Art and artists have the ability to add to and shift this narrative,” Kendler said.

“The Playhead of Dawn” is a sound and software project that reproduces the sound of birds. These sounds were crowd-sourced through citizen scientists from around the world. The piece does provide a schedule so viewers can hear a specific region’s sound. The sounds that are presented are used to remind people of the interconnected nature of the ecosphere and how an individual’s actions can impact society.

“Art is an important driver of cultural change. The choices we make as a society, in a very real way, ‘trickle-up’ from the base engines of culture, literature, media, music and art, among others. We cannot inhabit a world that we can’t imagine or envision, so there is a real role for artists to help us see the world as it might be otherwise,” Kendler said.

While Kendler’s conversation in the series has been completed, her piece still remains at Laumeier. The Conversation Series has not concluded yet either. “The Future is Present: Art and Global Change” will close on May 9.

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