We are rotten food. We are building a raft. We are the ocean. The world is in trouble, and we are to blame. 97 percent of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet thawed over a four day period in the summer of 2012, the salinity of the oceans is changing more extremely and rapidly than predicted, and the frequency and intensity of severe weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy and Katrina, will continue to increase. These real and devastating climate-change-influenced events expose the impermanence of constants we cling to for reassurance and stability and engender fears that are as ubiquitous as they are amorphous. As Jeffery Jerome Cohen states in his book, Monster Theory: Reading Culture, "America creates and commodifies 'ambient fear'- a kind of total fear that saturates day-to-day living." While this fear is ever-present, it is never openly acknowledged. The anxiety that ambient fear creates, Cohen continues, “is born of the twin desire to name that which is difficult to apprehend and to domesticate (and therefore disempower) that which threatens." In an effort to neutralize these global warming threats, society creates fictions designed to exorcise, to relieve, or to ignore the anxiety caused by these fears. The novel The Road, the movie Interstellar, and the television series The Walking Dead are recent examples of such narratives, where the arc of the apocalyptic story is designed to lead the audience to solace. Threat is avoided in each instance because it is created and resolved within a short time frame. This gives the readers/viewers only a glancing and safely disengaged non-encounter with fear and, in the end, leaves them with the feeling of reprieve.
Unlike these fear-driven narratives, the purpose of my work is not to ask viewers to passively ignore climate change and its fear-inducing effects. Neither is it a call-to-arms to end carbon emissions. The goal is to create an experience that is both emotionally-complex and an alternative to the often confusing, numbers-based, phenomenon of climate change and its alarming products. My work attends to these ideas though concept-driven creative making. The ideas for these pieces dictate the materials and forms where, because of my desire to work directly with signs and not representations, I often execute my concepts in appropriation-based artworks. Through poetic sleight of hand, this work exemplifies the anxieties and fears surrounding climate change while also offering devious and psychological-cum-superstitious respite.
This body of work offers two related but distinct categories of work: fear and respite. Multiple types of fear are given voice in works such as Sieve, Vessel, Corpse and Mirror, and the ongoing series of commissioned sea level paintings (10.352ft (New Orleans, LA) and 11.428ft (Ocean City, MD)). Respite from the fears caused by climate change are represented in the talisman and magical objects of Mirage, Any Port in a Storm, Abracadabra and others. These pieces offer common and superstitious respite to these fears, but often at a cost of causing new anxieties: the object of superstition points the fact that there is a deep need that cannot be quenched by logic.
The presence of these two categories, fear and respite, is important because to present only one side would not accurately represent the full issue. Fears are always present and I am saying that a respite, or multiple types of respite, can also be present. Each fear has different causes and signs while each respite employs varied strategies and produces diverse negative side-effects.
 Jeffery Jerome Cohen. Monster Theory: Reading Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), viii.
Adam Farcus is a Chicago based activist, artist, curator, feminist, and teacher. He was born and raised in the rural town of Coal City, Illinois. He received his M.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, B.F.A. from Illinois State University, and A.A. from Joliet Junior College. He has exhibited his work at numerous venues, including Box 13, Houston; Vox Populi, Philadelphia; the American University Musuem, and A+D Gallery, Columbia College, Chicago. He has lectured on his work at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Performance Studies International 16 conference, among many others. From 2012 through 2015 he was also a co-curator, with Allison Yasukawa, for the Baltimore-based residential art space, Lease Agreement.