The (Snow) Migrant is an installation that uses gesture and metaphor to explore the connection between migration and a changing climate. A dreamlike narrative is offered featuring a character who tries to navigate a frozen but melting world. A simple kayak is her insufficient transportation. An animated life preserver floats around her over sandbags that hug the border walls.
This project was prompted by two journeys. The first was to southern Chile, where I had the opportunity as an artist-in-residence to explore an ecological preserve and also fly over Cape Horn. I worked in the presence of ecologists and climatologists, who left southern Chile for expeditions to Antarctica. They spoke often about the melting glaciers that were causing water levels around the earth to rise. The other sojourn was a three month stay in Italy. Envisioning the migrant path through southern Italy into Europe was a daily reality, as immigrants sold wares on the streets and stories of deaths during crossings of the Mediterranean were prevalent in the news.
These two experiences have come together in this piece. It combines concerns about the ever-present climate emergency with a focus on the human cost of that devastation. Through it we can consider the human migrant and the migrating climate with empathy and action.
The performer in the video is Balinda Craig-Quijada, with whom I share concerns about the perils that immigrants face. This collaboration has generated two more projects under this title. The first is a short experimental film, and the other is a group work choreographed for dancers at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. My video scenography combines imagery from both the film and this installation at the Gund Gallery. The music for the dance project is by Charlotte Malin and is amplified by audio from various bodies of water that I have recorded, from the Indian Ocean to the Southern Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea.
– Claudia Esslinger
Balinda Craig-Quijada is Professor of Dance at Kenyon College.
Charlotte Malin is an independent composer based in Northampton, Massachusetts.