Exploring our Connection to the Environment Through “Purple” at the ICA Watershed

One of my favourite things about art is its ability to transcend demographics and open up dialogue about a range of issues. In this day and age few topics are more polarizing than climate change and the challenge we face as we try to understand our growing impact on the environment, and the impact our rapidly changing environment is having on us.

“Purple” by British artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah explores the the effect of climate change on the planet. Filling a room about the size of a high school gymnasium “Purple” is presented as a multilayered montage of film clips set to music and which evolve through six different stories and across six different screens. The viewer, encouraged to relax in the dark and expansive cinema style viewing room, has ample space to lounge on a couch, or sprawl across one of the large cushions on the floor.

The immersive experience of watching these videos somehow goes farther and says more than any roadside lecture about the importance of recycling or mindful consumption ever could. I would not call “Purple” uplifting, but I don’t think it has to be and perhaps that is part of its strength. What it is, is moving, emotional and visually stunning in a way that highlights the importance of understanding our interconnection to the environment and what is happening to our planet. “Purple” is open until September 2, 2019 and admission is free.

The ICA Watershed is a seasonal satellite exhibition space that is part of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. While the Watershed tends to host one new large installation per season it also has an exhibition space, and works with different local community focused arts organizations. Visiting the Watershed offered an series of unexpected surprises first in the water taxi, which let me wondering why Boston doesn’t do this more often, but also in the incredible view of the city I didn’t expect and was able to enjoy. Perhaps most importantly the evocative nature of the art felt exceptionally well timed and curated, especially considering the climate crisis and that Boston exists in an area that at times is at the mercy of the ocean, it certainly gave me a lot to think about.

The Watershed an 8 minute water taxi ride across the harbor from the ICA to East Boston. The water taxi ride is included with the price of admission into the main museum and you need to book your place on the taxi when you pay for your admission. The ICA Watershed is also accessible via the Blue Line, Maverick T stop, and is about a 10 minute walk from the station. Please plan accordingly if you intend to visit.

The ICA Watershed is located in a working marina. Please be respectful of the area and mindful of all the cars and activity happening. The ICA Watershed is open on a seasonal basis with a new exhibit each season. Please visit the The ICA Boston website for updated visiting guidelines, masking, ticket purchases, water taxi information, and COVID policies and guidelines prior to your trip.

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