"Holding On," 2015, Angela Tiatia. Digital still. Courtesy of the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf.  © Angela Tiatia 2015.

Transformative Currents

Sep
7
2024
Jan
19
2025
Ecology and Environmental Justice

A Curatorial Perspective on Two Objects

Transformative Currents: Art and Action in the Pacific Ocean examines the historical causes and ongoing effects of the cultural and environmental devastation of the Pacific Ocean and harnesses art’s potential to enact positive ecological change, both planetary and local. Each project in the exhibition addresses a specific issue affecting the oceanic environment, including plastic pollution, toxic waste, commercial fishing, and deep-sea mining, among others. These two works by Fran Siegel and Angela Tiatia address the concern of sea level rise, albeit through different media and approaches.

Fran Siegel’s multimedia installation In-flux (2024) charts the Southern California coastline, highlighting four wetland environments between Los Angeles and the Mexican border: Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Upper and Lower Newport Bay Nature Reserve, and Border Field State Park - Tijuana Estuary. Collaborating with scientists from Cal State Long Beach and Fullerton during her research, Siegel investigates the role wetlands play as a boundary—mitigating sea-level rise and filtering pollutants—by cataloging native plant species, analyzing patterns of restoration, and mapping layers of history within these areas.

Angela Tiatia’s video performance Holding On (2015) focuses on a singular location on Funafuti, the main atoll and capital of Tuvalu, an archipelagic nation in the Pacific located halfway between Australia and Hawaiʻi. Funafuti’s highest point is only a few meters above sea level. The video shows the artist lying uneasily on a cement slab as the surrounding ocean washes over her, the waves sometimes lapping against her body peacefully and others more violently, to the point where she struggles to keep her grip. The complex nature of Pacific Islanders’ deep relationship with the ocean—as a connector and lifesource, but now also as an existential threat—is central to Holding On.

Whereas Siegel utilizes creative mapping techniques to highlight ecological mechanisms through which coastal wetlands can be protected against sea level rise, Tiatia focuses on how sea level rise threatens generational cultural connections to land and ocean. Both of these works address a similar concern in distant regions, raising questions regarding how we are linked to others through the ocean, as well as how certain peoples and places are disparately affected by the impacts of climate change in the Pacific.

Exhibition page. 

Oceanside Museum of Art

704 Pier View Way,

WED-THU:11am-5pm
FRI:11am-8pm
SAT-SUN:11am-5pm
MON-TUE:CLOSED

For group tours:citli@oma-online.org
"In-flux” (detail, installation in progress), 2024, Fran Siegel. Photographer: Gene Ogami. Courtesy of the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles. © Fran Siegel 2024.
"In-flux” (detail, installation in progress), 2024, Fran Siegel. Photographer: Gene Ogami. Courtesy of the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles. © Fran Siegel 2024.
"In-flux” (detail, installation in progress), 2024, Fran Siegel. Photographer: Gene Ogami. Courtesy of the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles. © Fran Siegel 2024.
"Holding On," 2015, Angela Tiatia. Digital still. Courtesy of the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf.  © Angela Tiatia 2015.
"Holding On," 2015, Angela Tiatia. Digital still. Courtesy of the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf. © Angela Tiatia 2015.
"Holding On," 2015, Angela Tiatia. Digital still. Courtesy of the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf. © Angela Tiatia 2015.

Discussion Questions

  • Compare and contrast the visual components of these works. What does their chosen media allow us to consider in terms of time, space, and perspective?
  • In what ways does each artist elicit a kind of bodily engagement with the ocean?
  • How do these artists evoke the coastline as an environment that is equally social, cultural, and ecological?
  • What are some of the major concerns regarding sea level rise in Southern California? How are these concerns similar or different in other places in the Pacific, specifically low-lying states?
  • What historical factors might influence different peoples' and places' abilities to adequately respond to climate change and consequent sea level rise?
  • How does the ocean offer a shared space that links those of us in Southern California with the rest of the Pacific world? How are we responsible to each other on a local and global scale?
  • What choices have these artists made to evoke a response from the viewer? How do they make you feel—Hopeful? Concerned? Worried?
  • Do you believe our personal relationships with the coastline and ocean can help encourage political action and, if so, how?

Bibliographic References

Rosanna Xia, “In the face of sea level rise, can we reimagine California’s vanishing coastline?” Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2023.https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2023-08-22/the-california-coast-is-under-siege-how-can-we-save-it-from-sea-level-rise
Jaimey Hamilton Faris, “Gestures of Survivance: Angela Tiatia’s Lick and Feminist Environmental Performance Art in Oceania,” Pacific Arts 20, no. 1 (2020–21): 6–22.https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8z45x79s
Craig Santos Perez, "Thinking (and feeling) with Anthropocene (Pacific) Islands," Dialogues in Human Geography 11, no. 3 (November 2021): 429–433.https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/20438206211017453