Oil and water, central to Ursula Biemann’s ongoing research, have particular resonance for Canada.
Deep Weather (2013) is a nine-minute glimpse of the Alberta tar sands, juxtaposed with the watery world of Bangladesh. The whispered, confiding voice-over makes us feel immediately complicit in the actions unfolding here.
While human actions are paramount in what happens to the Earth in this Anthropocene era, we have little awareness of, or control over, fluid and invisible global interactions. The vast open-pit mines and steam processing of the oil-infused sand and clay of northern Alberta have drastically lowered Athabasca River flow to the Arctic Ocean; poisoned tailing ponds are replacing the boreal forests, altering ecology for an unknown future. Land is reduced to a commodity by multinational corporations with little concern for the planet’s future well-being.
In Bangladesh, rising sea levels – a result of melting Himalayan ice – are claiming inhabitable land, impacting large populations with nowhere else to go. Communities respond by sandbagging mud embankments and devising floating agriculture and convertible schools: manual efforts on a heroic scale against nearly impossible odds.
The two sections of Deep Weather reveal underlying links between these widely separated locations, asking that we know our place within planetary ecology, and think of the future we build through our actions today.