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Act from the P.T. Barnum Era Mirrors Holoscenes

From Wednesday, March 25 – Saturday, March 28 you are invited to the Ringling to experience Holoscenes by artist Lars Jan. As a conceptual artist, Lars, has devoted his career to creating art that he hopes will transform lives.

In 2005, the entire world was watching their television screens as the surging waters of Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf coast. New Orleans’ levee system failed, and flooding waters moved inland causing a terrible national disaster.  The media images presented on every news station and website were almost unbearable to view. These pictures of humanity facing the swelling waves caused by this massive storm captivated artist Lars Jan and inspired him to begin the research that lead to the creation of Holoscenes.

Lars’ goal to communicate climate change in a way that would “make people feel it in their gut, rather than just understand it” became a reality with this public art piece in which a single performer simulates an everyday behavior inside a large aquarium. 

While this performance piece will be brand new to the 2015 Sarasota audience…audiences of the New Great Pacific Circus in 1881 observed a serene version of “life beneath the waves” first hand. Performers were placed in small tanks of water, described as seven feet long by three feet wide and only four feet in depth.

Circus Water Act In the circus, these exhibitions would have been shown in one of the museum or sideshow tents, where audiences could get close enough to examine the tank and observe the show, in which a performer would accomplish chores of the everyday underwater. Even P.T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth in 1879 featured Wallace and Idaletta, also known as Man Fish and Water Queen, who would take turns in the tank where they would perform routine tasks as eating, writing letters, playing cards, or even smoking.

While these 19th century performance pieces were staged for several hours each day with the goal of showcasing the athleticism of the performers and their ability to hold their breath for extraordinary lengths of time, Holoscenes hopes to remind people that humanity cannot in fact survive underwater. Lars’ challenge was to communicate the oversaturated topic of climate change in a way that would speak to people. He met that challenge with an enthralling piece that evokes a direct and instinctual response from its viewers. 

It is recorded that one of the female circus performers was regularly able to remain underwater for as long as three minutes and 45 seconds.  If the most agile and athletic human can only hold their breath for a little over three minutes, what does that mean for the rest of us?  This is one of the messages of Holoscenes.

Visit The Tibbals Learning Center where the exhibition “The Evolution of Commercial Printing” is now on display. Look for the poster featuring Man Fish and Water Queen in the midst of a performance, then come back  to experience Holoscenes.
 

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