Are you worried about the weather? Feel like the seasons are out of sync? Fretting about longer summers, strange storms, or rising sea levels? Fear not; the Bureau of Meteoranxiety (or BoMa) may have the appropriate therapy to calm your climate concerns.
Perth-based multimedia artists Olivia Tartaglia and Alex Tate will be running their ‘public wellness program trial’ at Blindside Gallery, Melbourne, from May 10 - 19, 2018.
Incorporating cutting-edge technologies including a virtual forest, an immersive storm simulation and an AI counsellor named Gail (developed by Howard Melbyczuk), BoMa offers its meteoranxious clients a means to manage their ‘symptoms’.
The Bureau of Meteoranxiety runs from May 10 - 19 at Blindside Gallery as part of Next Wave Festival.
How did the Bureau of Meteoranxiety come about?
Our original idea was definitely set more in the future, where climate change has happened, it’s devastated earth. But as we went through Next Wave’s artist development program, sincerity became more important, particularly present-day sincerity.
We were thinking about how we deal with this thing that’s already upon us. You could talk about so many different ways of how it will happen, but we thought it could be more interesting to look at how it is happening right now, and how we’re dealing with that, which, in some respects, is not very well.
I am curious about your choice of terminology: why meteoranxiety, and not ecoanxiety?
Ecoanxiety was a starting point. We were doing a lot of research and we discovered Glen Albrecht, who is a Western Australian ecophilosopher, and he coined the term meteoranxiety ... it just seemed like a more specific definition.
It’s the feeling of being anxious about weird weather, or suddenly-changing weather, due to climate change. Glen Albrecht talks about it as an anxiety we have but we wouldn’t necessarily know that we’re feeling it. The main point of the work is to make people aware of what they’re feeling, to put a word to the feeling.
The feeling of ecoanxiety is much more closely linked to climate change, whereas with meteoranxiety, even if climate change is real or not, you still feel it. The media will just say ‘weird weather!’ ‘strange weather event!’ ‘record temperatures!’. They avoid saying climate change, because they don’t want to politically-charge these articles, but they still want to get the clicks.
And of course, it’s a play on the Bureau of Meteorology. People already have that association with bureaucracy and government policy.
What are some instances where you have felt meteoranxiety?
I see it in the day-to-day. You see bananas on special because there’s a bumper crop, because of unusual weather. We just moved into a new place and watched the tree at the park shed its leaves three months early.
I think we’re hypersensitive to it now we’ve done this project. We were looking for articles and research to source material, so I kinda see it in everything.
To what extent do you feel growing up in Western Australia has informed this work?
I always would go down south WA, once a year or even more, and I think that’s why we featured the Boranup Karri Forest in the VR, because it’s so beautiful. We both love it there and have such a connection to that space; we want people to experience it.
In WA we have the Fremantle Doctor, and all these other features in our weather, that it was a given they’d be a part of BoMa.1 And in the southwest of WA, there’s so many unique plants and animals that rely on consistency, and exist because of it, that are at risk due to the weather.
We live on that point of the earth where we feel it. It will hit us closer to home sooner than other states, except probably the Northern Territory. When we get a 40°c day in autumn, I notice it, other people notice it.
It’s everywhere! On the news, social media, you talk about it to like five people you see, you can’t escape it.
Having created this work, what do you think: do we need to just accept these changes and adapt? Or should we still be pushing against it?
Of course we need to stop climate change but I also don’t think that’s going to happen. I think people are just going to try again and again to adapt.
The heavy use of technology in the work is a way of bringing up the common notion that technology will save us, that we can just use technology to solve the problem. It’s kind of a really sad waiting game, where something really terrible seems to have to happen before the government will do anything. And there’s an anxiety in that. But even once that happens, maybe it’ll be passed off as just an anomaly, just weird weather. Or even just a condition we can manage using technology.
But I really hope that BoMa serves as a starting point for people thinking about the real world ... if the Bureau of Meteoranxiety fails in one aspect - which it will, because these therapies are not real - and they don’t feel that it meets their requirements, then maybe they can relate it to our real government not meeting their needs, and see the connection there.
Interview by Jess Cockerill