Embodying Nature in the Time of Climate Change
Earth First
Thumbnail for Greenhouse Effect & Global Temperature ChangesGreenhouse Effect & Global Temperature Changes
“I can shape-shift and embody various scales of consciousness as a shadow silhouette in the worlds of my animations: the just-forming fiery Earth, life’s first steps out of the ocean, the biosphere’s panic as an asteroid strikes.” -Miwa Matreyek
Miwa Matreyek
Miwa Matreyek's unique medium of animation and superimposed shadow silhouette powerfully illustrates her understanding our humanity’s relation to our changing climate. Her performance inspires students to identify systemic root causes of climate change, its local and global impact on communities and their greater ecosystems, process environmental grief in creative ways, and learn more about ways people are taking collective action to defend one another from harm, demand systemic changes, and help heal our planet for a sustainable future.
http://www.semihemisphere.com/

Date

April 1, 2021

Grades

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Social Justice, English Language Arts (ELA), Environment, Film/Mixed Media, Science, Theater Arts, Visual Arts

Overview

Matreyek discusses her creative process and the relationship she has crafted between science and art, always asking herself: “How can art be an impactful way to emotionally move an audience?”  

Using excerpts from two longer works titled Glorious Visions in Animation and Performance and Infinitely Yours, Matreyek takes viewers on a deeply emotional, visual journey as she grapples with what it means to be alive in the time of climate change. Additional resources include information on how the greenhouse effect works, its connection to global temperature changes, plastic pollution, and the movement for climate action. 

Video 1: Visualizing Scientific Ideas (Part 1 of 2) (8 minutes) 

Miwa Matreyek explores the geological history of our planet and our relationship with its transformations through scenes titled, Myth and Infrastructure and This World Made Itself. Her silhouette shifts between a more nature-based environment and a dense, urban one, highlighting the lived experiences of this stark contrast, such as exposure to pollution and our complex, removed relationship with food. At the same time, Matreyek re-centers and returns to our inseparable bond to this living planet. After all, we are but organisms made of the same elements that have always existed on Earth and amongst the stars. 

Video 2: Visualizing Scientific Ideas (Part 2 of 2) (~5 minutes) 

Scenes from her featurette film, Infinitely Yours powerfully illustrate the effects of industrialized societies’ impact on Earth and the impacts of our resulting changing climate. These segments show how Matreyek processes her own climate grief through artistic expression. In response to exposure to an increasingly alarming and overwhelming news cycle of climate catastrophes, her shadow flips between being the destroyer and the destroyed amid scenes of floods, wildfires, and hurricanes. Miwa spotlights climate change’s root causes of fossil fuel extraction, perceived dependence, and overconsumption, as well as its subsequent impacts on human health through scenes of displacement and migration, famine, stress/frustration, and exposure to pollutants. 

The message Matreyek aims to communicate is clear: “When we contaminate the planet, we contaminate ourselves. When we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves.” 

Artist Bio

Miwa Matreyek is an animator, director, designer, and performer based in Los Angeles who has a long relationship with FirstWorks. With a background in animation and collage, Miwa creates live, staged performances involving both handmade and computer visuals in which her shadow silhouette interacts with animation. Her work lies at the intersection of the cinematic and theatrical, fantastical and tangible, illusionistic, and physical realms. Matreyek’s dreamlike visual spaces make invisible worlds visible, often weaving surreal and poetic narratives of conflict between man and nature. Miwa shares her shadow performances all around the world, including, but not limited to, animation/film festivals, theater/performance festivals, art museums, science museums, and tech conferences.  

Additional Resources

Watch: FirstWorks Virtual Learning with Miwa Matreyek, Pt. 1
Watch: FirstWorks Virtual Learning with Miwa Matreyek, Pt. 2

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